Never, never, never normalize this

It’s become depressingly clear the last few days that even many American liberals don’t understand the magnitude of what’s happened.  Maybe those well-meaning liberals simply have more faith than I do in our nation’s institutions, despite the recent overwhelming evidence to the contrary (if the institutions couldn’t stop a Trump presidency, then what can they stop?).  Maybe they think all Republicans are as bad as Trump, or even that Trump is preferable to a generic Republican.  Or maybe my liberal friends are so obsessed by the comparatively petty rivalries between the far left and the center left—between Sanders and Clinton, or between social-justice types and Silicon Valley nerds—that they’ve lost sight of the only part of this story that anyone will care about a hundred years from now: namely, the delivering of the United States into the hands of a vengeful lunatic and his sycophants.

I was sickened to read Hillary’s concession speech—a speech that can only possibly mean she never meant what she said before, about how “a man you can bait with a tweet must never be trusted with nuclear weapons”—and then to watch President Obama holding a lovey-dovey press conference with Trump in the White House.  President Obama is a wiser man than I am, and I’m sure he had excellent utilitarian reasons to do what he did (like trying to salvage parts of the Affordable Care Act).  But still, I couldn’t help but imagine the speech I would’ve given, had I been in Obama’s shoes:

Trump, and the movement he represents, never accepted me as a legitimate president, even though I won two elections by a much greater margin than he did.  Now, like the petulant child he is, he demands that we accept him as a legitimate president.  To which I say: very well.  I urge my supporters to obey the law, and to eschew violence.  But for God’s sake: protest this puny autocrat in the streets, refuse any cooperation with his administration, block his judicial appointments, and try every legal avenue to get him impeached.  Demonstrate to the rest of the world and to history that there’s a large part of the United States that remained loyal to the nation’s founding principles, and that never accepted this vindictive charlatan.  You can have the White House, Mr. Trump, but you will never have the sanction or support of the Union—only of the Confederacy.

Given the refusal of so many people I respect to say anything like the above, it came as a relief to read a brilliant New York Review of Books piece by Masha Gessen, a Russian journalist who I’d previously known for her fine biography of Grisha Perelman (the recluse who proved the Poincaré Conjecture), and who’s repeatedly risked her life to criticize Vladimir Putin.  Gessen takes Clinton and Obama to task for their (no doubt well-intentioned) appeasement of a monstrous thug.  She then clearly explains why the United States is now headed for the kind of society Russians are intimately familiar with, and she shares the following rules for surviving an autocracy:

  1. Believe the autocrat.
  2. Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
  3. Institutions will not save you.
  4. Be outraged.
  5. Don’t make compromises.
  6. Remember the future.

Her important essay is well worth reading in full.

In the comments of my last post, an international student posted a heartbreaking question:

Should I think about Canada now before [it’s] too late?

As I said before, I have no doubt that many talented students will respond to America’s self-inflicted catastrophe by choosing to study in Canada, the EU, or elsewhere.  I wish they wouldn’t, but I don’t blame them.  At the same time, even in the darkest hour, human affairs are never completely exempt from the laws of supply and demand.  So for example, if Trump caused enough other foreign researchers to leave the US, then it’s possible that a spot at Harvard, Princeton, or MIT could become yours for the taking.

I can’t tell you what to do, but as you ponder your decision, please remember that slightly more than half of Americans—including the overwhelming majority of residents of the major cities and college towns—despise Trump, will always despise Trump, and will try to continue to build a society that upholds the values of the Enlightenment, one that welcomes people of every background.  Granted, the Union side of America has problems of its own, and I know some of those problems as well as anyone.  But at least it’s not the Confederacy, and it’s what you’d mostly be dealing with if you came here.

Finally, I wanted to share some Facebook postings about the election by my friend (and recent interviewer) Julia Galef.  In these posts, Julia sets out some of the same thoughts that I’ve had, but with an eloquence that I haven’t been able to muster.  It’s important to understand that these posts by Julia—whose day job is to run rationality seminars—are far and away the most emotional things I’ve ever seen her write, but they’re also less emotional than anything I could write at this time!

Naturally, my sharing of Julia’s posts shouldn’t be taken to imply that she agrees with everything I’ve said on this blog about the election, or conversely, that I agree with everything she says.  I simply wanted to give her an additional platform to speak for herself.

The rest of this post is Julia:

I’m seeing some well-intentioned posts insisting “See, this is proof we need to be listening to and empathizing with Trump supporters, not just calling them stupid.”

Generally I’m a fan of that kind of thing, but now… Jesus fucking Christ, we TRIED that. Did you not see how many journalists went to small towns and respectfully listened to people say stupid shit like “I can’t vote for Hillary because she’s the antichrist,” and then tried to figure out how that stupid shit was actually, maybe a reasonable argument about trade policy?

Sometimes the answer is not “People are astutely seeing things that I, inside my bubble, have missed.” Sometimes the answer is just “People are fucking morons whose brains are not built to see through bullshit.”

(To be clear, I think this applies to people in general, including Hillary voters. We just happen to have been a bit less moronic in this particular context.)

And fine, if you want to argue that it’s strategically *wise* for us to understand what makes Trump fans tick, so that we can prevent this from happening again — assuming we get the chance — then fine.

But if you keep insisting that we “just don’t understand” that Trump voters aren’t stupid, then I’m going to take a break from the blank look of horror I’ll be wearing all day, and flash you a look of withering incredulity. Maybe Trump voters aren’t stupid in other contexts, but this sure was a fucking stupid, destructive thing they did.

EDIT: Predictably, some people are interpreting my point as: Trump supporters are stupid and/or evil, Clinton supporters are not.

That’s not my point. My point is that humans IN GENERAL are bad at reasoning and seeing through bullshit, which caused particularly bad consequences this time via Trump fans, who made a choice that (if the human brain were better at reasoning) they would have realized was net bad for their overall goals, which presumably include avoiding nuclear war.


I realized it’s not clear to many people exactly why I’m so upset about Trump winning, so let me elaborate.

What upsets me the most about Trump’s victory is not his policies (to the extent that he has coherent policy positions). It’s not even his racism or sexism, though those do upset me. It’s what his victory reveals about the fragility of our democracy.

Trump incites violence at rallies. He spreads lies and conspiracy theories (birtherism, rigged elections) that damage the long-term credibility of the political process, just for his own short-sighted gain. He’s ruined [EDIT: tried to ruin] journalists’ careers for criticizing him, and bragged about it. He’s talked explicitly about his intent to pursue “revenge” on people who crossed him, once he becomes president. He said he would try to jail Hillary. He clearly has little knowledge of, or respect for, the Constitution or international treaties.

And half of our country looked at all that, and either said “Awesome!” or simply shrugged.

Maybe you assume Congress or the courts won’t let Trump get away with anything undemocratic. But did you see the way the Republican leadership swallowed their objections to Trump once he became the nominee, in the name of party unity? Why should we expect them to stand up to him once he’s actually the most powerful man in the world, if they didn’t before (and see earlier points about his love of revenge)?

I really do hope the Trump presidency turns out, somehow, to be not as bad as it seems. But even if that’s the case… we’ve already learned that America cares so little about democratic norms and institutions that it’s happy to elect someone like Trump.

How can you NOT be worried and depressed by that?


OK, first off, this is a pretty sneering article for someone who’s condemning sneering.

Secondly… this is the kind of article I was responding to, in my angry post a couple of days ago.

(The point of that post got misinterpreted by a lot of people — which is understandable, because I was simultaneously trying to convey #1: a nuanced point AND #2: a lot of strong emotion at the same time. I still endorse both the point and the emotion, it’s just tricky to do both well at once. This post is an attempt to just focus on #1.)

What I was trying to say is that I think electing Trump was a very destructive and stupid thing to do. And that I reject the implication, from people like this columnist, that we have to pretend that Trump voters had sensible, well-thought out reasons for their choice, because I do not think that is the case.

I ALSO think that most voters in general, not just Trump voters, do not have sensible, well-thought out reasons for their voting choices, and there is plenty of evidence to back that up. I think humans simply aren’t the kinds of creatures who are good at making sensible choices about complicated, ideologically-charged topics.

None of this means that we should give up on democracy, just that there are some serious risks that come with democracy. And I disagree with this columnist’s scorn for Andrew Sullivan’s suggestion that we should think about ways to mitigate those risks. Plenty of people over the centuries, including the Founders of the USA, have worried about the tyranny of the majority. That worry isn’t just an invention of the modern-day snotty liberal elites, as this columnist seems to think.

Finally, I just want to ask this guy: is there ANY candidate about whom he would allow us to say “Shit, the American voters really screwed this one up”, or is that not possible by definition?


Yesterday I argued that the worst thing about Trump was the harm he does to democratic norms and institutions.

From some of the responses, I don’t think I successfully conveyed why that kind of harm is *uniquely* bad — some people seem to think “harms democratic institutions” is just one item in the overall pro-con list, and it just gets tallied up with the other pros and cons, on equal footing.

Let me try to explain why I think that’s the wrong way to look at it.

There’s this scene in the movie 300, where the Spartan king, Leonidas, feels insulted by the demands relayed by the Persian messenger, so he draws a sword on the man.

MESSENGER (shocked): “This is blasphemy, this is madness! No man threatens a messenger!”
LEONIDAS: “Madness? This is Sparta!!!”
… and he shoves the messenger off a cliff.

I think Leonidas is meant to come off as some kind of heroic, rule-breaking badass. But I watched that and thought, “Jesus, what a shitty thing to do.”

Not just because murder is shitty in general, or because murder is a disproportionate punishment for a perceived slight.

No, it’s because the “don’t harm a messenger” norm is what makes it possible for armies to send messengers to negotiate with each other, to avert or end wars. Defecting on that norm is so much worse than harming a particular person, or army, or country. It’s harming our *ability to limit harm to each other* — a meta-harm.

Our species has worked SO. DAMN. HARD. to build up enough collective trust to be able to have working institutions like constitutions, and treaties, and elections, and a free press, and peaceful transitions. And basically everything good in our lives depends on us collectively agreeing to treat those institutions seriously. I don’t care what party you’re in, or what policies you support — that should all come second to warding off meta-harms that undermine our ability to cooperate with each other enough to have a working society.

I’m not going to claim that politicians were perfect at respecting norms before Trump came along. But Trump is unprecedented. Partly in how blatant he is about his lack of respect for norms in general.

But also in how *discrete* his defections are — he’s not just incrementally bending norms that lots of other people before him have already bent.

We used to be able to say “In America, presidents don’t threaten to jail their political rivals.” Now we can’t.

We used to be able to say, “In America, presidents don’t sow doubts about the legitimacy of elections.” Now we can’t.

We used to be able to say, “In America, presidents don’t encourage violence against protesters.” Now we can’t.

Even joking about those norms, from someone in a position of power, undermines them. If Trump was actually joking about jailing Hillary, I suppose that’s better than if he was serious, but it still deals a blow to the norm. The health of the norm depends on us showing each other that we understand it’s important.

And I just feel despairing that so many Americans don’t seem to feel the same. Like, I don’t expect everyone to have thought through the game theory, but I just assumed people at least had an intuitive sense of these norms being sacred.

… And most of all, I’m worried that those of us who *do* feel shock at those norms being violated will gradually lose our sense of shock, as the post-Trump era wears on.

Update (Nov. 12) Since I apparently wasn’t, let me be perfectly clear. The fact that Trump’s voters unleashed a monster on the world does not make them evil or idiots. It “merely” makes them catastrophically mistaken. Just as I did (and took a lot flak for doing!) before the election, I will continue to oppose any efforts to harass individual Trump supporters, get them fired from their jobs, punish other people for associating with them, etc. To do that, while also militantly refusing to normalize Trump’s autocratic rule over the US, is admittedly to walk an incredibly narrow tightrope—and yet I don’t see anything on either side of the tightrope that’s consistent with my beliefs.

Some readers might also be interested in my reflections on being on the “same side” as Amanda Marcotte.

349 Responses to “Never, never, never normalize this”

  1. John Gordon Says:

    My take on understanding the Trump voter and the context of our crisis.

  2. pku Says:

    My question is: What do you think us liberal-minded people should do to resist Trump? You said going out to the backcountry and respectfully interviewing his voters didn’t work, and I agree. So how do we convert some of them back to our camp? Trump’s mistakes will probably do part of the work for us, but what should we do?

    Also, I’m not sure I agree that we should resist him that hard. Democratic norms are already breaking down and giving way to partisanship. At this point I’m worried about a Colombia-style civil war within the next decade. Once democratic norms are gone, we can’t rely on laws to save us (see Russia). So how do we resist Trump without undermining democratic norms the way the republicans have?

  3. J Says:

    I don’t think Clinton and Obama’s responses are intended to normalize this. They are intended as a form of harm minimization. The truth about how awful trump is is somewhat irrelevant. What matters is making his transition into office and subsequent tenure the least bad it could possible be over the next 4 years.

  4. James Gallagher Says:

    Hi Scott

    I haven’t posted here much recently and I may have misinterpreted the mood, so apologies for the first post on this thread you suppressed which was just rude but I do wonder – are you going a bit mad in Austin?.

    Your usual lovely interactions with the comments section are not so common.

  5. George Dawson Says:

    The voting in American elections is seldom if ever well thought out. That’s the reason why the major parties campaign on all of the hot button issues like guns and abortion and no rational policy ever occurs. For many (most?) Americans voting is based on emotional reasoning rather than an intellectual analysis.

    The obvious proof of that is Trump appealing to working class rage (both parties are justifiable targets of that rage) and the working class believing that a multimillionaire will somehow represent them!!

    The other bias here is that Americans are left with whatever the major parties give them. They don’t have much of a say in who ends up on the ballot. The partisans in both parties are going to vote for whoever is on the ticket – even though that process maintains the status quo. The only way to register a protest is to vote for one of the status quo candidates and in this case a multimillionaire can be spun as an “outsider.”

    That said – I don’t think that you can fault Obama or Clinton for a typical transition. It is traditional. I is a peaceful transition of power that protects against anarchy.

    And deep down – both parties know it keeps the duopoly in power.

  6. Daniel Seita Says:

    You say:

    It’s become depressingly clear the last few days that even most American liberals don’t understand the magnitude of what’s happened.

    I do think I “understand the magnitude of what’s happened.” But what can I actually do about it? Especially since by myself I have virtually negligible power to influence things.

  7. komponisto Says:

    Just before this was posted, I made a comment on the previous post that bears repeating here: the system was designed for this. It may not turn out to work, because systems don’t always work, but this is exactly what the founders were thinking of when they worried about “tyranny of the majority” and designed a system of checks and balances, designed to obstruct governmental action (and which, in “good” times, endlessly frustrates technocratic elites who think that governments should be able to “get things done”).

    If we lived under a parliamentary system, it might be game over already. But we don’t, so it’s not game over yet.

  8. Sniffnoy Says:

    I’ve definitely been disappointed with the outraged response to Trump and the protests against him focusing largely on his racism and sexism. Yes, these are problems, but these are not by themselves exceptional problems, these are not meta-level problems like his contempt for liberal democracy.

    I think what’s going on is that the whole thing depends on distinctions that most people just don’t know or get. It depends on the distinction between mere democracy — which exists in America but also in Turkey — and liberal democracy, all the norms and institutions that keep things working beyond mere democracy. It depends on the distinction between just ordinary object-level bad policy, and bad policy that threatens the system itself. (And remember, that’s the implicit system, not necessarily the explicit one, to bring back the first point.)

    Trump is exceptional, but the focus on these lesser points makes it harder for one to make that claim without being mistaken for someone making a much weaker argument. There is a distinct lack of clarity on the left, of making fine distinctions, and it’s a real problem; as I just mentioned, even if you personally get it, it hampers your ability to act and have your intentions clear to all.

    This issue was visible well before Trump’s election. The dilemma is this — it’s generally a bad thing to escalate conflicts, but sometimes exceptional measures are necessary. The solution is to make it clear when you are deploying an exceptional measure and make it clear that it is exceptional, so that it does not then continue to degrade the peace. When such clarity exists, one can respond ordinarily and peacefully to object-level issues, and then pull out the big guns and fight dirty on the meta-level issues, with everyone understanding that it is indeed only for such a system-threatening issue and nobody needs to escalate in response.

    That clarity does not and did not exist in the population at large. I think much of the population of the US has, to be honest, never actually accepted liberal democracy, and don’t see it as a system distinct from mere democracy that can or cannot be preserved. Meanwhile, on the left, among the SJers, we had people demanding we pull out the big guns for essentially every single issue, system-threatening or not (again, they likely didn’t distinguish, and it seems they still don’t).

    Because of this, when I previously got into arguments about such matters, I urged not firing the cannon. If we lived in a world with the clarity I mentioned above, it would be safe to do so, without worry that it would just lead to general escalation. But the needed clarity had been so degraded (had it ever existed) that I thought it safer to instead practice deescalation, even for meta-level issues where in a clearer world one shouldn’t. Because it’s not like Trump was going to win, right?

    Trump as president, obviously, changes that. But I still worry that without the clarity I speak of — and your intentions must be clear not only to yourself, but to everyone watching, including those opposed to you — pulling out the big guns now, while necessary, isn’t going to go as well as one might hope. I don’t think we can expect things to go back to normal afterward. Not unless we can make absolutely clear why Trump is exceptional and why that merits an exceptional response — and that’s the threat to liberal democracy.

    (Mind you, I would hardly say that Trump’s racism and sexism are apart from his contempt for liberal democracy; indeed, I’d say they’re an aspect of it. But it has to be clear that we’re not responding to these individual offenses, but rather the meta-level threat they’re an aspect of.)

  9. Scott Says:

    pku #2: Your question may have been for Julia, but FWIW…

    If you visit the alt-right forums that formed the hard core of Trump’s support, and you read what they actually say (have you? I have!), they talk in terms like “DotR” (“Day of the Rope”). Let me explain: that’s the jubilant day Trump will soon usher in, when all the liberals, race traitors, globalist elites, Jews, feminists, etc. will be hung from lampposts for everyone to see. Trump, of course, infamously did next to nothing to dissociate his campaign from this sort of talk, and it evidently didn’t bother half the country very much.

    So, how do we “win back to our side” the people who think like this? It seems to me that the answer is: we don’t.

    After all, Trump made not the slightest effort to respect democratic norms, broaden his message, offer anything to the opposing side, etc. And he won. Let me repeat that: he won. He beat out like 10200 other Republicans who, if they weren’t history’s greatest defenders of the Enlightenment, were certainly better than he was.

    So, since a few commenters on my last post took me to task for “not making falsifiable predictions,” here’s one: that whoever manages to defeat Trump will be brazen and ruthless like Trump himself. It will be a Lincoln or a Churchill figure, who rescues democratic Enlightenment norms only by skirting around their edges. Let’s be on the lookout for such a person.

  10. Sniffnoy Says:

    komponisto #7: You’re right, of course, but it all seems pretty moot when

    A. Many of those checks and balances have been largely eroded (whether you blame FDR or George W. Bush, it makes no matter; the point is that they have)

    B. The Republican party — looking at currently serving politicians, rather than former ones or writers — seem to be just rolling over for Trump, for fear of popular backlash.

  11. Scott Says:

    Sniffnoy #8: Thanks for the thoughtful comments!

  12. Tinkle Says:

    Hi, Scott I am an undergrad applying in CS Theory for PhD from FALL 2017, from India. Despite Trump getting elected I don’t see any reason not to apply and study in the US, am i wrong to come to this conclusion. The only thing that worries me is that there are rumours of funding to be cut for NSF and other research organizations leading to less faculty and research positions in the future. However I am not too worried about this aspect since I won’t be searching for jobs for the next 6 years and i think a lot can change. So should a prospective student conisder Europe strongly now?

  13. Scott Says:

    James #4:

      are you going a bit mad in Austin?

    It’s my considered position that this is one of those times, which come along maybe once or twice per century, when anyone who’s not going mad is going mad.

  14. Scott Says:

    Tinkle #12: As I said in the post, I would understand if you didn’t want to come … but since that doesn’t seem to be how you’re leaning, please do come! Of course, if and when Trump gutted the NSF, one would need to reevaluate the situation.

  15. Richard Cleve Says:

    I disagree with your take on Obama press conference with Trump. The contrast of his eloquence with Trump’s style was itself a critique. And he did not say anything false. If he had followed your script, it would have backfired. It’s up to others to form the resistance.

    Have you followed the commentary of Michael Moore? He seemed to have understood the discontent in the non-urban areas of the rustbelt states, who have been economically screwed over during the past few decades and felt that they were being taken for granted by the democrats. Sure there were racists and other awful people who supported Trump. But there were other people who had voted for a black guy with middle name Hussein twice who switched their allegiance to Trump because they believed he knows something about business and will shake things up in a good way — “the candidate of change”. Moore claims that they might have been more inclined to support Sanders if he were a candidate. Please note that Moore is totally against Trump (as I am), but seems to have understood something that many others didn’t.

  16. Sniffnoy Says:

    Scott #12: Thanks, I’m glad somebody found interesting my thoughts on the clarity problem! I’d been meaning to say something like that for a while, since well before Trump was elected, but without this post it probably would have gone somewhere nobody would read it. 😛

  17. pku Says:

    I agree that we don’t recruit those guys. But they’re just the hard core – if there’s a hundred million of them we’re doomed anyway. Are there any parts of Trump’s voter coalition we do have a way to recruit?

  18. pku Says:

    On a more meta-level, the arguments I’ve heard for condemning all Trump supporters are disturbingly similar to the arguments Bibi Netanyahu (and more frequently his harder-right colleagues) make against trying to reach a peace with the palestinians: They want to kill us. It says on the national charter of their elected government that their goal is to destroy Israel and drive us into the sea, that they must never make peace. When we pulled out of Gaza, they responded by shooting rockets at us for a decade. But I still believe in trying to make peace with those guys.

  19. wolfgang Says:


    I understand that you are upset and I agree with you that Trump is an a**hole who should not be president.
    But now he is elected, so what do you propose Obama should have done? What exactly do you mean when you emphasize to “not normalize” Trump going forward.
    I think Obama is trying to minimize the damage and perhaps you have a better way to do this – but what is your proposal?

    The only legal option I see is for enough members of the electoral college to refuse to elect Trump.
    But in this case the matter would end up in Congress where the Republicans have the majority and would elect Trump anyways.

    The protests that are currently taking place in various cities may be of some symbolic value but will almost certainly not change anything.

  20. Sniffnoy Says:

    Oh hey, here’s Paul Christiano making similar comments on the matter of clarity:

  21. quax Says:

    Scott #9: For what it’s worth I think you are spot on. What is needed four years from now is an outsized kick-ass progressive candidate with a take-no-prisoners attitude.

    In the meantime let’s delegitimize this impostor by bringing up the Russian connection over and over again. Republicans don’t care about anything Democrats care about, but they should be able to wrap their mind around the idea that a Benedict Arnold in the White House is not such a good idea.

    If you want to keep your country then it is high time for Liberals in the US to play hardball

  22. quax Says:

    Richard Cleve #15 But there were other people who had voted for a black guy with middle name Hussein twice who switched their allegiance to Trump

    Actually, if you look at the data this didn’t happen (to any significance). Trump got less absolute votes than Romney or Mc Cain. It was missing turn-out of the electoral coalition that Obama drew to the polls. Fewer African American and Youth votes For Hillary. And the Latino surge couldn’t make up for it.

  23. Sniffnoy Says:

    Scott, again, could you do something about my comment that’s stuck in moderation (my reply to komponisto)? It’s screwing up my comment numbering. Thank you!

  24. Raoul Ohio Says:

    As for the student who asked: “Should I think about Canada now before [it’s] too late?”, you should tell her/him not to panic.

    This isn’t like the rebel army coming into town in “Blood Diamonds” firing rockets into the crowd and everyone has to run. This is more like long term future of the US. In the unlikely event that things get really ugly, it will take years to get there.

    The main people with something to worry about now are those in places threatened by Russia, China, or maybe …? The US and UK both are unlikely to be able to maintain the level of the past 70 years of protecting everyone from them.

  25. wolfgang Says:

    >> it is high time for Liberals in the US to play hardball

    But what exactly does this mean?

    If Republicans decide to end the filibuster rules in the Senate (and there is already talk about that) then there is not much that Liberals can do.

    Unfortunately for Dems this is what you get if you nominate an unpopular corrupt liar and hope that political correctness will somehow take care of the election outcome.

  26. Scott Says:

    Sniffnoy #20: Thanks so much for the link to Paul C.’s essay! Not surprisingly, it’s far more considered and reasonable than anything I could imagine writing this week.

    On reflection, I’m grateful that there are “adults in the room”: heroic utilitarians who will do whatever they can to appease Trump and his coterie in the coming years, giving in to them on the smaller stuff, preserving their status, etc., all in order to decrease the likelihood that this toddler we’ve put in charge throws a temper tantrum that destroys the world.

    In the meantime, however, I’ve already chosen my team. Mine is the team that tries to prove to the rest of the planet that “the banner yet waves,” that a large part of the US remains loyal to the Constitution and finds Trump as utterly beyond the pale as they do—the team that, through its total uncompromising rejectionism, will make slightly less strident opposition to Trump look moderate by comparison. 🙂

  27. quax Says:

    pku #18 – there’s alt-right and KKK, no reasoning possible with those guys, but then there are angry (mostly white) men who just jumped onto the hate express because it felt good (show those feminazis etc.). And then there is a large constituency that just sent Trump into the White House as one tall, slightly orange, erected middle finger to the elite.

    Trump may not be good for anything, but if you just want to send an outrages “Fuck You!” to DC, nobody is better qualified than Trump to deliver that.

    Some of these voters can be turned when the anger subsides, but it hardly matters, because they aren’t really a majority, it’s just that the Obama coalition of voters didn’t turn out in large enough numbers this time around.

    The only avenue to mitigate the damage is to create some space for Republican senators to cross the aisle. The only way to do that is to delegitimize Trump, and to keep driving up his negatives, so that resisting him on the most extreme measures won’t be political suicide for Republicans from sufficiently blue states.

    Scott is 100% correct – you have to resist normalizing Trump.

  28. Scott Says:

    Sniffnoy #23: Sorry about that! Fixed.

  29. pku Says:

    The Obama coalition is over; it won’t last without Obama. And even with Obama, it wasn’t enough to keep a house majority; it’s not like the house was remotely functioning in the last six years. We need to find a way to get some of those angry people to calm down and vote more reasonably, or we’ll just have an increasingly angry minority who votes against eight years of Trump. And loses.

  30. Richard Cleve Says:

    quad #22: OK, thanks for the fact check about not many Obama supporters voting for Trump this time. That was one of the recent claims of Michael Moore, so I should take his analysis with a grain of salt.

  31. JimV Says:

    I guess now I know how the racists felt when President Obama was elected.

    I’ve had more disappointments than not in my voting career. Couldn’t understand how Reagan pulled the wool over so many eyes, and GWB even less, and now this.

    I don’t know why it happened, but would go with Michael Moore’s analysis if I had to bet right now. The Rust Belt has been oxidizing for 30 years, and Trump stood in front of a Ford plant and said that if Ford moves all its union plants to Mexico (as it has announced it will), he will put a 35% tariff on all those cars than come to the USA from Mexico. I don’t think he could or would do that, but he told them exactly what they wanted to hear.

    As for being conciliatory to him now that he has won, that’s what nice, responsible people do – until he commits an impeachable offense. That might even be the Republican Establishment’s backup plan: impeach him and let Pence take over. If they investigate him as hard as they did the Clintons, I’m sure they’ll find the ammunition.

  32. Jay Says:

    @Scott Whatever your perspective be, this is a time for seriously introspecting about American politics in a bipartisan manner, and come to a common understanding on as many issues as possible. Because, even his supporters agree that he is bad. So your diagnosis of the situation as ‘People dont know how bad Trump is’, is not likely accurate.

  33. quax Says:

    Sniffnoy #19: Paul C. is a rational man who imagines rational actors who will be able to identify common causes and act on it.

    In my experience this is not how the world works.

  34. Lyle_Cantor Says:

    Trump’s nepotism is a terrible sign.

  35. quax Says:

    Richard Cleve #30, Moore is right that the Democracts lost the blue color vote, and if they had it still, it would have prevented this calamity, but these white rust belt voters have been abandoning the Democrats since Reagan. Obama didn’t need them. Maybe Hillary could have made a play for them but I doubt it.

  36. BBA Says:

    Honestly I’m stumped. I can’t think of any way to do anything against him that doesn’t make him stronger in the eyes of his supporters. Yes, I find him utterly contemptible and devoid of any merit as a human being whatsoever, but the fact that he causes this reaction in people like me is most of the reason for his appeal in the first place.

    But four years is a long time, and maybe the horse will sing.

  37. Yair Rezek Says:

    I think one point is missing from the analysis, namely that Trump won because the US wasn’t democratic enough. If the winner was the winner of the majority vote, Clinton would have won. If voter suppression wasn’t rampant, Clinton would have won. If the US had an obligatory holiday so that the poor wouldn’t risk losing their jobs if they voted, Clinton would have won.

    Trump still won-over about half of the US’s voters, so all what’s said above is true. But a big contribution to his win was the flaws in the US democracy. These flaws that only skew the edges of the majority’s decision but in this case this edge was what made the difference.

  38. Scott Says:

    Yair #37: Completely agreed!

  39. Lyle_Cantor Says:

    >None of this means that we should give up on democracy, just that there are some serious risks that come with democracy.

    What to you think of Robin Hanson’s rule-by-prediction market proposal? Vote on values, bet on beliefs.

  40. Ben Hoffman Says:

    Scott, I think you’re wrong to urge this:

    >protest this puny autocrat in the streets, refuse any cooperation with his administration, block his judicial appointments, and try every legal avenue to get him impeached.

    Trump has *said* things that violate democratic norms, and it was right for e.g. much of the Republican establishment to break with precedent and turn on him. Sadly, that failed.

    But Trump hasn’t yet abused his actual power as president. He hasn’t even been inaugurated yet, so he’s had no chance to do so. I think we should follow the advice of the #NeverTrump contingent and wait for him to do something wrong as president:

    t’s possible that he doesn’t actually intend to be as bad a president as he’s said he’ll be. I consider it quite likely, given his record on consistency and attention span. Trump’s most likely going to respond to his short-run incentives. So it’s crucial that our response make things worse for him, when he does worse things – and vice versa.

  41. Etienne Says:


    *Is* Trump an exceptional problem requiring exceptional measures? I’m really not convinced at this point.

    Certainly, he has shown a worrying contempt for the institutions of what you call liberal democracy. But he has not actually *done* anything yet that I consider an existential threat to these institutions. As Komponisto said, the American system is robust. FDR is ranked as one of our best presidents thanks to his far-reaching legacy, but he concentrated power in the executive, attempted to pack the Supreme Court, and flouted the implicit institution of the two-term presidency, all of which alarmed his contemporaries. I have no doubt Trump will abuse his position to enrich himself and his cronies, and to exact revenge on his enemies. Will it be worse than the Ohio Gang, Credit Mobilier, the Alien and Sedition Acts, etc? Meh, for now unclear.

    By all means, we should stay vigilant, and pounce into action if/when Trump tries to dismantle the judicial branch, or signs an executive order decriminalizing the Day of the Rope, or starts jailing journalists, etc. But as you yourself argue, let us take great care not to mistake a local minimum for a true outlier requiring the exceptional action of denying a duly-elected president the right to govern, which would surely itself deal irreparable damage to liberal democracy.

    For instance, I find it telling that the Paul Christiano essay lists as examples of cataclysmic actions Trump might take
    – jailing dissident journalists;
    – threatening judges;
    – draining expertise out of the defense establishment;
    – reneging on our international treaties;
    and *I* would only consider two of these cataclysmic threats to liberal democracy. The rest seem well within the prerogatives of the executive branch, as delineated by past precedent.

  42. A Christian Professor Says:

    Here we see the immense self-righteousness of the insulated elite class pretending to be morally superior to the salt-of-the-earth original Americans whose ancestors built this country and whose lives you are relentlessly destroying. It amazes me how one minor interruption in the globalist elite’s plans to shit on legacy Americans and destroy Western civilization through mass immigration of hostile third-worlders has you people so emotional, cursing us as “racists” and comparing Trump to Hitler. This sort of propaganda isn’t going to work any more.

    You are working for the side of Evil. (Our traditional, Western, Christian definition of “Evil” is probably roughly the opposite of yours.) Hillary is a proven criminal whose wrongdoing and treason is a hundred times greater than anything Trump has done. We are not “racist” for opposing mass importation of criminal, low-IQ hordes; we are saving Western civilization from a nihilistic, Godless managerial class that is determined to destroy it. We are not “Islamophobic” for recognizing Islam as a genuine evil, utterly opposed to every Western value and seeking to violently subjugate us for 1,300 years (and still raping underage girls in Rotherham and throughout Europe this very minute); we are simply correct. We will fight you to the last man, and we will die for nation and God if necessary. The only way you can win this is to kill us or put millions of us in Gulags. And if you do that, what of your souls?

  43. Ashley Lopez Says:

    An aside – why do people want to put the ‘fucking’ word between ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’? In India (I am Indian) people would probably be prosecuted for such things. Respect, is important.

    I apologize for deviating from the topic at hand.

  44. Elliott Says:

    pku #29: “We need to find a way to get some of those angry people to calm down and vote more reasonably, or we’ll just have an increasingly angry minority who votes against eight years of Trump. And loses.”

    That’s easy, stop the left from being full of hate. Stop them from demonizing differing politics. Stop the “enlightenment movement” from becoming regressive. Why do you think the angry people are the ones who voted for Trump? Trump supporters wouldn’t have rioted if he lost.

    You should have started doing this 16 years ago, when I first noticed this trend. It’s too late now.

  45. Anonymous Says:

    @Yair Rezek#37

    “If the winner was the winner of the majority vote, Clinton would have won.”

    This is not necessarily true. If the win condition for the election had simply been to win the popular vote, both candidates would have taken different campaigning strategies. For instance, Trump might have campaigned in states that he normally could not possibly have won and picked up votes there. Same goes for Clinton. I’m not aware of any reason why this would automatically imply a Clinton victory.

  46. Elliott Says:

    @Stocc #9: “So, since a few commenters on my last post took me to task for “not making falsifiable predictions,” here’s one: that whoever manages to defeat Trump will be brazen and ruthless like Trump himself. It will be a Lincoln or a Churchill figure, who rescues democratic Enlightenment norms only by skirting around their edges. Let’s be on the lookout for such a person.”

    I agree. That’s actually one of the major reasons I voted for Trump. Enlightenment norms haven’t existed for 16 years, and they need to come back. The only way to get them back is for Trump to have won. And if Hillary won, and Trump didn’t run again in 2020, then there would have been a very high probability that a “literal Hitler” would run and win; and I wanted to avoid that at all costs. (that, and I wanted to avoid WW3 with Russia, and also an ideology war with “refugees”)

    I think, however, that Trump will prove to be a pretty good president, even better for the economy than Obama, and will win again in 4 years (because no reasonable contender will exist). Then 8 years from now, a “Lincoln or Churchill figure” will win, and will build something great on the strong foundation that Trump created.
    But since everything beyond 2022 is unpredictable to me, there’s a chance that the “Lincoln or Churchill figure” you’re looking for will be a fake, and will turn out to be a “literal Hitler”. I doubt it, but it’s possible.

  47. Barbara Terhal Says:

    The fact that Julia deals with her anger by ‘being done with those morons’ does not mean that this is the only correct response, or that any other response is one of naive optimism, cowardice and just giving in to a coming autocracy. I am extremely outraged at what people have done with their votes, but it makes me want to understand and talk to them as I see absolutely no future in creating further division (it is not just some asshole leadership in Washington that we are talking about, that one can fight, but it is deep alienation among people in the country).

  48. Scott Says:

    Christian Professor #42: I’m leaving your comment up, simply because it makes the case better than anything I wrote about why my fears are justified. If your feelings turn out to match President Trump’s policies, then those who you don’t consider to be “heritage Americans” indeed have no place in the country and should get out while they can, right?

    (And I’m guessing that I wouldn’t make your “heritage American” cut, even though my family’s been here since 1905, my grandfather cleared mines for the Army in WWII, I grew up saluting the flag and idolizing Franklin and Washington, etc. After all, we’re not Christians.)

  49. Detritovore Says:

    Sorry this is tangential to the above discussion, but I have been listening to Leonard Cohen all day and I couldn’t help reading the title of this post to the tune of “Lover, Lover, Lover”. R.I.P.

  50. Steven Says:

    “People are astutely seeing things that I, inside my bubble, have missed.”

    Bingo. I don’t need the right-wing to make caricatures of the left, I just need to open Twitter and see one dumb talking point echoed after the other in my own lefty circles, with people voting based on the most anti-intellectual of reasons.

    America lost the minute it became a contest between Clinton and Trump, and we have some pretty good evidence that that was Clinton’s doing. Pied Piper candidates, DNC manipulation, the relentless oppression-of-women narrative, dismissal as BernieBros, … All cheered on by a media apparatus that is incapable of self-reflection.

    The writing has been on the wall for a long, long time, and it is pretty mindblowing that the American left is still retreating more and more into the same behavior that got them here. Polarization, fundamental attribution error, toxoplasma of rage, and blind spots the size of Jupiter.

    A democratic president furthered the surveillance state, became the commander of drones, suppressed leaks and the free flow of information, started new wars and did all of this on a platform of hope and change. The new dem candidate was an influential member of that very same administration. It isn’t disturbing only because now a Republican is going to be at the helm, or because he’s aiming for a different sacred cow.

    Maybe you’re still nowhere near to seeing clearly, and maybe you’re still comparing the most demonic of “them” with only the most angelic of “us”.

  51. Anonymous Says:

    I think you’re giving too much weight to /pol/. Most Trump supporters don’t even know they exist, and wouldn’t agree with them if they did. (Personally, I even argued in favour of Jews once there, as futile as that might be). Even on the slightly more mainstream /r/the_donald, people cheer on gays + Trump’s support thereof, for example. So I don’t think we’re going to see any pogroms. As for Trump’s supposed contempt for liberal democracy and the enlightenment, I’m not so enthused myself so I can’t get too worked up about that. At any rate any serious abuses will probably be contained by the NeverTrumper Republicans.

    Also I’m emotionally inclined to agree with Christian Professor despite being an atheist. Push us too far and we’ll push back. And my side is the one that doesn’t hate guns (not that I own any myself…).

  52. Sniffnoy Says:

    Etienne #41:

    You realize nobody’s going to be able to tell you’re replying to me if you refer to me as “Harry” on here, right? 😛

    Anyway, let me address this out of order here:

    For instance, I find it telling that the Paul Christiano essay lists as examples of cataclysmic actions Trump might take
    – jailing dissident journalists;
    – threatening judges;
    – draining expertise out of the defense establishment;
    – reneging on our international treaties;
    and *I* would only consider two of these cataclysmic threats to liberal democracy. The rest seem well within the prerogatives of the executive branch, as delineated by past precedent.

    I’m basically in agreement with you here. Note that Paul is considering a broader class of things than I am; he’s talking about “cataclysmic” consequences, whereas I’m talking about something more specific. Whereas Paul says, we should focus only on the cataclysmic consequences to avoid looking foolish, I say, we should be even more tightly focused than that.

    (It’s not going to happen, of course. But that would be the right course of action, IMO.)

    Certainly, he has shown a worrying contempt for the institutions of what you call liberal democracy. But he has not actually *done* anything yet that I consider an existential threat to these institutions.

    He hasn’t, that’s true. But then, he’s not president yet. Given his past actions and personality, I’m not really seeing any reason to expect that he wouldn’t. I can’t help but go back to Rule #1 from the Gessen piece that Scott linked.

    By all means, we should stay vigilant, and pounce into action if/when Trump tries to dismantle the judicial branch, or signs an executive order decriminalizing the Day of the Rope, or starts jailing journalists, etc. But as you yourself argue, let us take great care not to mistake a local minimum for a true outlier requiring the exceptional action of denying a duly-elected president the right to govern, which would surely itself deal irreparable damage to liberal democracy.

    Again, this is why I think we should go by type, not intensity.

    As Komponisto said, the American system is robust. FDR is ranked as one of our best presidents thanks to his far-reaching legacy, but he concentrated power in the executive, attempted to pack the Supreme Court, and flouted the implicit institution of the two-term presidency, all of which alarmed his contemporaries.

    Is it so robust? It is supposed to be, yes, but it seems to me like that’s largely been eroded. As for FDR in particular, well, the two-term thing seems fairly silly to me, and his attempt at packing the Supreme Court ultimately failed, but his concentration of power in the executive (exacerbated by later presidents) is exactly the sort of erosion I’m talking about.

    FDR may have played the “good king”, but the problem with monarchy isn’t that there are no good kings.

    I have no doubt Trump will abuse his position to enrich himself and his cronies, and to exact revenge on his enemies. Will it be worse than the Ohio Gang, Credit Mobilier, the Alien and Sedition Acts, etc? Meh, for now unclear.

    Good question. The first two strike me as fairly ordinary corruption that we have pretty good means of handling; I honestly wouldn’t worry too much about that sort of thing. If he does, that’s bad, but it’s not really the sort of threat I’m worried about. Something like the Sedition Act would be, but of course that would get struck down rapidly these days. (Though the precedent set by Bush and Obama, with their abuse of the state secrets privilege, may make it so that much of what he does is hard for the courts to stop.)

    Something on the scale of the Sedition Act sounds about right in terms of what I expect, but then, the Sedition Act didn’t really do lasting damage. What’s something that did do lasting damage — the spoils system? He can’t bring that back. So that’s a reason to think I’m overestimating the danger. And he’s not going to do anything on the scale of cancelling elections, that’s for sure!

    So yeah, you might be right; it is possible I am overestimating the difference from previous presidents. But when it comes to Congress rolling over for Trump, here’s what I worry about: Trump, essentially, ran as an autocrat. If he governs as one, the Republicans in Congress won’t say, “This isn’t what we signed up for; on this we have to oppose you.” Because they know perfectly well that it is what Trump’s voters signed up for, and absolutely among the things those voters will punish them for.

    I will admit though even with that it is hard to say. I don’t have a good “threat model” here. But I think a lot of the problems he might cause are just unknown unknowns right now. Meanwhile I’ll place my bets on rule #1.

  53. Barbara Terhal Says:

    Scott, i believe your fears are justified, and we should let the past be the past (and past hurt be past hurt), i.e. not mix in ethnicity/religion.

  54. Dave Doty Says:

    Scott: I think there are deeper reasons for Obama and Hillary to “normalize” this than merely salvaging policy gains. If the institutions indeed suffice to reign in his power, then I think it is in our interest for them do so, rather than via the blood of patriots and tyrants. Why?… it’s a bit like the fictional value of money: once we lose faith in it, it loses its power. I think Obama is trying to maintain the useful fiction of a steady democracy that continues to work through the ages no matter which maniacs take the reigns for 4-8 years, a fiction whose value is recursively derived from itself.

    Will those institutions suffice to stop Trump from enacting the wave of awful ideas atop which he surfed for the past year? I wish I knew, and I’m scared to find out. Maybe if we wait for him to start breaking laws, it will be too late. Maybe he can irreversibly unravel the whole country without even breaking any laws, if he lawfully orders nuclear weapons launched, and/or uses executive orders to initiate mass deportations/arrests. His repeated suggestions that he intends these very things is alarming in the strongest sense.

    But if advisers talk him out of these ideas, or if he tries and is successfully reigned in by other branches of government (or an uncooperative military), then the system indeed works. Trump won by convincing people that the system doesn’t work. But if our actions to strip him of power implicitly concede that point to him, then we make it that much easier for the next incarnation of him.

    If you are unhappy with Obama’s response, since it legitimizes Trump’s election, and you think Obama should encourage people not to cooperate with Trump, and to impeach him immediately, then why not go one further, and just suggest that Obama order Trump to be arrested indefinitely, and a second election held? I’m sure you reject this idea, and why? Not merely because it wouldn’t be legal, or that he wouldn’t have the power to pull it off. It’s because you wouldn’t want to set a precedent, even a technically legal one. I think Obama is thinking the same thing in handing over power magnanimously.

  55. Jacob Steinhardt Says:

    This has already been mentioned above, but I think Ross Douthat makes good points that also explain why Obama’s actions are likely correct:

    Some thoughts of my own, which mirror Paul Christiano’s (though somewhat less eloquently):

    Summary of both: it’s important to focus on the unique threats posed by Trump, and dissociate those from standard liberal political stances (though it’s reasonable to fight for the latter as well, just make sure you fight for them separately). It will be necessary to work with republicans to curb possible excesses by Trump. And we should be most worried about low-probability tail risks, such as degradation of democratic norms.

  56. Yair Rezek Says:

    @Anon #45: That is entirely possible. If the US was a better democracy, Trump might still have been elected. It sure is very close, either way, it’s basically a tie between the contestants. That is worrying regardless of who won; but of course made much more poingant given Trump’s win.

  57. Daniel Says:

    I agree with Dave Doty, above.

    In quasi-defense of Obama and Clinton, I suspect there’s a decent chance they’re just as worried as you, and they hope that by acting as if Trump is a normal president, they make him more likely to be one. Given his pettiness, I think he’d be much more likely to do what he could to tear down democratic institutions if he thought that from the start he wasn’t given the credit he deserved for winning the election. Heck, Clinton may just be personally worried about Trump carrying through on his threat to jail her, which I suspect a more confrontational concession speech would’ve increased. I imagine that right now lots of people in Washington are hoping that by talking in soothing tones to this toddler, they can mitigate his tantrums. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t deeply worried about the tantrums.

  58. luca turin Says:

    My feeling from afar is that Trump will soon get bored with the nitty-gritty, will show up for work two hours a day three days a week and that we should rather be worrying about what is inside Pence’s head, not Trump’s.

  59. Jennifer Says:

    A snippet flicked up on the BBC news feed that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else, presumably because no one thinks it’s very interesting. 110,133 people in Michigan voted, but didn’t cast a vote for a presidential candidate. There were just 13,225 votes between Trump and Clinton there. Those people turned up (and the voting system really doesn’t make this easy), yet they didn’t vote for a candidate. Why?
    [, 10:37 on 10 Nov if you want to scroll down for it…]

    I think there’s a huge, unstated assumption going on in almost every discussion: That it actually makes a difference to the average person. For many, many people the consequence of one president or another on their lives is +/- epsilon of 0. Of course it makes a difference to some people, and on bigger picture things, but the direct difference to the average person who just wants to get on with life? Nope, not much. They’re not voting on the grounds you assume they are. “Better” is really something you need to define how you measure.

  60. Aubrey Kohn Says:

    Nobody but racists and loonies and the religious right voted for Trump. They are tools and will always be, but they are a tiny minority. Overwhelmingly, America voted against Clinton. And that is the fault of the DNC for imposing an incredibly awful candidate. Sanders would have won.

    Clinton was the candidate of the rentiers, the incompetent over-educated, the parasites and media tyrants, the criminal bankers, the .01% of interlocked corporate board members who hob nob at Davos, and the military-intelligence war party which is destroying human rights at home and around the world. Her corruption rose to treason, and her genuine compassion was blinded by greed and arrogance.

    The oppressed majority of the productive overtaxed hard working Rural backbone of America voted for the enemy of their enemies, because they lacked a genuine advocate. It was an unpleasant choice forced upon them by Hilary’s blinding ambition and the dynastic machine she commanded.

  61. Oleg S. Says:

    First, many talk about the threat Trump represents to democracy on the meta-level, but I don’t know if anyone has noted systemic problems with opinions in the liberal social bubble. It is belief that people, as Julia Galef puts it, “IN GENERAL are bad at reasoning and seeing through bullshit”. There is this idea that we should guard modern institution from degradation until some powerful and benevolent AI would be able to secure the future and sort out all our problems because people in general are too stupid to be trusted with important decisions. Somehow this mistrust is now a common knowledge, and democracy became just an emergent way for self-organization of economic agents. But you can never win hearts of people with such views.

    Liberal democracy works not because it’s more economically efficient, but because there are people who believe in each other abilities to make rational decisions, and we should never forget that.

    Second, as someone from the other side of the Arctic Ocean, I totally endorse anything Masha Gessen said, and would like to offer a few more advice for you:

    1. Never ever let anyone clump Trump supporters in one big blob. Always pick them apart. Remember that there are no such thing as Trump supporters, only individual humans, who voted for Trump for their individual reasons. As soon as you start talking about Trump electorate, it becomes very real, and it becomes very easy to manipulate other people by referring to an invisible but very frightening social class. Don’t dehumanize people who voted for Trump by merging them into one single media-controlled entity.

    2. Draw the line in the sand now. It’s easy to just let anything slip – independent media, justice, free speech – if changes happen gradually. Determine now in simple terms a condition that will make you go protest, resign from your post, emigrate, or take the rifle from the wall. Discuss it with your friends and family now, make a decision, and let it sink in.

    3. Fight, don’t flee. When Putin came to power in 2012, there was always an option to run to USA and live happily ever after. But there is no America to run from America, like there is nowhere to flee from global warming. If you believe in democracy, this is you fight.

    4. Don’t let the depression take hold. This is not the end of the world, but the a major challenge, it can and should be solved.

    5. Finally, don’t forget that you have friends, people all around the world who share your values, and who are ready to support you in difficult times.

    Good luck!

  62. Toon Alfrink Says:

    (just copypasting part of a facebook post I made)

    Trump supporters are right about their problems. Their quality of living has decreased substantially. They’re right to be angry.
    But they’re wrong about how they respond to their anger. Instead of electing someone that would solve the problem, they elected someone who could punch back at the system.
    Which is clearly an act of desperation. I’ve read some interviews that show that (at least some) Trump supporters don’t actually like Trump, but he’s their only hope for their current fucked up life to change. Any direction out of there seems like a good one.
    So, to prevent this from happening again, I’d suggest relieving Trump supporters of their pain (maybe by increasing equality), but not agreeing with their views.

  63. Sandro Says:

    Did you not see how many journalists went to small towns and respectfully listened to people say stupid shit like “I can’t vote for Hillary because she’s the antichrist,” and then tried to figure out how that stupid shit was actually, maybe a reasonable argument about trade policy?

    Seems like a pretty shallow analysis. Clearly they’ve convinced themselves of this for a *reason*, even if that reason is simply that Fox is their only source of news and they’re gullible. That, combined with widespread disenfranchisement, created the circumstances for Trump’s ascendancy [1].

    Much of the blame lies with Democrats. They had control of the house during Obama’s first term, and they could have done so much more domestically, but petty political squabbling once again screwed us all over. The stats also show that Hillary lost, not because Trump got that many more votes, but because liberals simply didn’t show up to vote.

    [1] I think Russel Brand got it mostly right,

  64. Adam Says:

    Scott #48, I’m not sure his definition of heritage American would even include me, despite having ancestors who served in the Continental Army and the Continental Congress.

  65. BBA Says:

    I suspect this will be making the rounds soon. (Note it’s from May 2010, before even the Boehner/Ryan gerrymander that ensured a permanent Republican Congress.)

  66. Jay L. Gischer Says:

    Scott, I just wanted to tell you that for me, you are one of the people that makes America great.

    I know this is pretty rough, but we can get through it.

  67. BBA Says:

    (HT Matt Yglesias who tweeted it last night)

  68. entirelyuseless Says:

    I know a number of very intelligent, ordinary decent people who either supported Trump or at least thought he was better than Clinton.

    You can say they made a dreadful mistake. But saying either that they are evil, or that they are idiots, is also a mistake.

  69. sf Says:

    Taking a pragmatic approach to the question of one person one vote democracy,,_one_vote
    its worth comparing to justifications of the Turing test in AI.
    Ultimately in democracy its the user who has to approve. The goal is not so much to make the best decisions, as to get acceptable decisions, avoiding built-up frustration that could lead to social explosions.
    Think of it as an early-warning system. Maybe the early-warning is already too late? Possibly it didn’t work.

    Another aspect of the pragmatic approach is viewing the function of democracy by analogy to theory of markets, that function by extracting or revealing information about its users desires or intents. Referendums usually force opposing sides to propose compromises or concessions to get past 50%,revealing just how far they will go. Most recent referendums end up with voting close to 50-50 showing they work. Ironically they can also then be criticized for taking a big decision on a narrow margin. If the opposing sides converge then its a success. But in a highly polarized situation this can be dangerous. The current situation in the US is unfortunately highly polarized. This has been developing for quite a while, why hasn’t the system functioned to defuse it?

    Dani Rodrik’s ‘inescapable trilemma’ of the world economy says that democracy, national sovereignty and global economic integration are mutually incompatible:
    this isn’t that new, and we may be staring just this problem in the face.

    Or there may be a dilemma at work here – capitalism vs democracy if markets leave behind half the population, neoliberals claimed it would take care of itself by creating new types of jobs, or maybe just by driving certain groups to extinction? But democracy is a safeguard against this latter risk. Otoh in a highly polarized nation it looks like the tyrrany of the stronger or more ruthless group is a big risk.

  70. Scott Says:

    entirelyuseless #68: Let me be perfectly clear. The fact that Trump’s voters unleashed a monster on the world, does not make them evil or idiots. It does make them catastrophically mistaken. Just as I did (and took flak for doing!) before the election, I will continue to oppose efforts to harass individual Trump supporters, get them fired from their jobs, punish other people for associating with them, etc.

  71. Semi-anonymous Says:

    I wonder whether it is possible for Congress and Obama to mitigate the bad effects of Trump by passing a series of laws limiting presidential power between now and inauguration day. It seems like a long shot but we are banking on longshots now. The remaining never Trump Republicans together with democrats as well as libertarian types who always wanted to limit presidential power on general principle might be a sufficient coalition.

  72. fred Says:

  73. Julian Says:

    Two comments:

    Sanders: it is your country, not mine, but do you really think that a socialist Jew stand a better chance than a white woman?

    Trump: an old womanising narcissist tycoon, a decaying Berlusconi. Not to be much afraid of inaugurating a dictatorship, not even having a coherent long term, or even short term, policy. Main risk is doing something really stupid, especially in the foreign policy arena. For now, the Paris treaty likely to go down the drain. This I worry about, enough selfish to wish next blunder far away from Europe …

  74. Vadim Kosoy Says:

    It seems like there is an enormous divide between the American Left and Right caused by each living in their own Internet bubble (IMO Patrick LaVictoire wrote well about this: This results in each side (i) failing to understand the reasoning of the other side and (ii) demonizing the other side. I think that at this point, an actual civil war is not an unimaginable scenario.

    Trump indeed seems like a danger both to democratic norms in the USA and global stability. However, IMHO using belligerent rhetoric such as invoking the Union and the Confederacy is not the right way to approach the problem. It seems more reasonable to follow the advice of Paul Christiano ( and construct a nonpartisan coalition against these dangers, least opposition to these most alarming aspects of Trumpism becomes inseparable from the usual Left-Right conflict.

  75. Lyle_Cantor Says:

    >Another aspect of the pragmatic approach is viewing the function of democracy by analogy to theory of markets, that function by extracting or revealing information about its users desires or intents.

    Voting for candidates seems to be a ridiculously inefficient means of doing this.

  76. Scott Says:

    Vadim #74: Paul C.’s project of building a nonpartisan coalition is certainly worth trying—and I commend him for trying it—but I don’t know whether it can succeed. I was unbelievably disappointed by the cowardice of the so-called Vichy Republicans (Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, John McCain…), who all fell in line behind Trump when it was politically expedient for them to do so. Indeed, the Republicans who have been steadfast and moral in opposing Trump have almost invariably been ones like Mitt Romney who are out of power. Also, it seems impossible to me to understand Trump’s rise without looking at the decades of more “conventional” Republican rhetoric (Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin…) that directly paved the way for it, eroding democratic norms to the point where something previously unthinkable became our nightmare reality.

    So, yes, let’s hope for the world’s sake that there still exists a significant faction of Republicans willing to put principle ahead of party, and resist Trump’s turning the US into an autocracy. But if that faction turns out not to exist, then we also need to be prepared to stand up for Enlightenment norms ourselves, without worrying whether that might cause someone to call us “partisans.”

  77. fred Says:

    I think there are a couple of pragmatic approaches with Trump:

    The guy is all driven by his ego and lacks any subtlety of judgement… he’s too trusting initially and resents forever any perceived betrayal (he’s already dropped Christie for not sticking with him enough during the last phase of the campaign).
    After talking with Obama for merely an hour, he’s already flip-flopping on Obamacare (and Obama has just announced he’s dropping TPP… coincidence?!).
    So he can be easily influenced, which is good and bad.

    2) It’s not too early to start exploring ways of impeaching him – the chances are high that he will do something that’s totally unlawful (given his lack of experience and lack of respect for institutions).

  78. Scott Says:

    Dave Doty #54 and others: Thanks for your well-considered points. My response is actually similar to my response to Vadim #74.

    Namely: I understand the strategy Clinton and Obama are pursuing, of treating Trump as a volatile toddler who needs to be praised and pacified, lest he explode and make the entire world suffer. On reflection, I don’t even necessarily blame them for pursuing this strategy: maybe it really does have the highest expected utility. But it’s not at all clear that the strategy will work. It, no less than the alternative, carries an enormous risk. So I’m glad there are also people pursuing the opposite strategy, of total rejection of this autocratic takeover of the US, and of taking the concept of “President Trump” no more seriously than Trump takes it himself.

    I often face the same conflict in the context of my 3-year-old daughter Lily. She’ll throw a screaming tantrum, saying that we need to go back and retrace our steps because she didn’t get to press the elevator button herself, or she changed her mind about which shoes she wants to wear, etc. And Dana, and my parents, are always urging that we give in to her, just to preserve the peace and prevent the tantrum. And I’m always the one putting his foot down and saying: where does it stop? If we give in to her now, she gets what she wants, her terrible behavior got rewarded, and she also reserves the right to throw a new tantrum at any point in the future if she doesn’t get what she wants then.

    Perhaps not coincidentally, these are exactly my feelings about Trump.

  79. Raoul Ohio Says:

    A reasonable take on how the fiasco unfolded:

    My guess is that future elections will be even worse. And it is not likely to be 50/50 left/right on random people getting elected, because the massively funded rightwing nut media is constantly demonizing any viable progressive candidate.

    Possible exceptions are highly charismatic progressives like Obama or a young Bill Clinton.

  80. Will Says:

    Scott, you may be slightly heartened to read Harry Reid’s statement about Trump. He doesn’t mince words:

    “White nationalists, Vladimir Putin and ISIS are celebrating Donald Trump’s victory, while innocent, law-abiding Americans are wracked with fear – especially African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Muslim Americans, LGBT Americans and Asian Americans. Watching white nationalists celebrate while innocent Americans cry tears of fear does not feel like America.”

    Assuming Republicans don’t get rid of the fillibuster, Senate Democrats are the only ones with both the power and the will to thwart Trump. I think they are up for the fight.

    I think Obama’s and Clinton’s comments were appropriate, but I think Reid’s comments were appropriate from the man who will be leading the opposition to Trump.

  81. Raoul Ohio Says:

    luca turin #58.

    Totally agree. And Pence appears to be as crazy a Christian fanatic as Ted Cruz, without actually looking like the devil. Hopefully Trump will keep him from doing anything. But, apparently Pence is in charge of handing out administration jobs, so prepare for the worst.

  82. Sanders supporter Says:

    Have a look at this:

    Stereotyping Trump voters is a bad idea. They surely are stupid idiots and racists and misogynists and … among Trump voters. But I for one cannot believe that half of the US voters and a big majority of Americans living in rural areas are like that. I don’t know how many times I have to repeat this: PEOPLE VOTE OUT OF SELF INTEREST! as they perceive them.

    Those first-time voters that voted for Trump see globalization and trade and illegal immigration as cause of their economic pain, they see immigrants from Muslim countries as a threat to their security. They don’t care if it is against human rights and the ideal of treating all people the same independent of their religion or place of origin. And off-course conservatives are also pissed off with social liberal policies, but that has a much smaller effect. They are tired of politics as usual with all the corruption that is going on. Is Trump going to fix these? I don’t think so. But that was his message to voters. Clinton on the other hand was perceived as dishonest who became the nominee with a lot help from media and DNC and it was perceived unfair to Sanders voters. So they stayed home in the states that were considered safe blue ones.

    Watch the debates again and listen carefully to their opening and closing statements. He addresses these issues. He appealed to Sanders’ supporters.

    For over a month Clinton camp took election for granted with arrogance and media amplified that. The signs were on the wall from the start.

    None of this means that Trump’s election is not a horrible for the USA. But the fault for this is mostly with HRC and those who insisted on making her the nominee in place of someone who was bringing huge amount of first-time voters to the Democratic side. Just for a second imagine if Sanders was the nominee in place of HRC and imagine how the turn out at the polls would be.

    This election was lost because of turnout and DNC and HRC supporters have no one to blame but themselves for the result.

  83. Braithwaite Prendergast Says:

    In so-called Hegelian Dialectic, a thesis generates its antithetical opposite. When radicals go too far, a reaction occurs. Eventually, though, a synthesis reconciles the two poles. This is a popular academic game which all professors enjoy.

  84. sf Says:

    Lyle_Cantor #75

    It depends; to the extent that people are in shock since the election there’s something important that’s been forced out front. Otoh, there’s alot of ambiguity in the interpretation that still needs to be clarified. The main administration appointments should be known soon enough, and reactions on either side will help us see where things stand. Of course there will be alot of smoke and mirrors too, where interested parties try to obscure the evident as much as possible.

    But i think you’re right, and maybe one reason is that what works well on a smaller scale is dysfunctional on too large a scale – especially with globalisation, heirarchies separate the top too much from the bottom, and opposing groups are too out of touch to resolve their differences.

    This leaves the question what could work better? Maybe something more organic or modular, where (iterating on levels) manageable size groups choose representatives who then form manageable size groups at the next level. I guess that political parties are structured this way, but not sure what political system is.

  85. FarAway Says:

    With all due respect, this is pretty close to what I think:

    Just as Wikileaks said(I do not endorse Wikileaks btw!):
    “The nightmares liberals have over Trump are nothing compared to the dictatorships they forced others to live under”

    Indeed when people talk about what happened as sth that could necessitate fleeing to Canada or … we can see the great political immaturity here … And Prof. Aaronson, with all due respect, thinking that you can cross off “that sense of trying to pursue the truth even in the shadow of an aggressive and unironic evil” off of your list is also a HUGE exaggeration of what will(or can), God forbids, happen to you and your people…

    I am not happy about what happened, but notice that FAR WORSE happened to people FarAway from US whenever you put someone in the white house and you did not do much(or anything in some cases like even raising your voice) when your government bombed the shit out of us and we were wondering, what the hell are they looking for at the other end of the world? Are they looking for “their infrastructure” here in the middle east? Are they looking for “their healthcare” here? Are they looking for …

    But I also know that this new administration is probably far worse than the previous one in matters of foreign policy and interventionism … The only “hope” that I have are some random statements from Trump’s mouth that he does not like wars.

    I am not happy … but I can tell you a LOT of people here are happy because they think … that what goes around … comes around … that he is going to make America “ruined again”. I hope that they are wrong … I hope that I am also wrong in thinking that we the people outside of the US will suffer the implications of your people’s decisions once more …

  86. Peter Gacs Says:

    I share all the outrage, but I don’t agree with the recommendation for action: in this, I am in closer agreement with the statements by Clinton and Obama. Without trying to “normalize” anything, one must keep in mind foremost the future of the country and the world. Someone like Trump as president may be completely unprecedented, but it is a fact that now must be dealt with. If he (and a lot of his supporters) are unpredictable especially if provoked, then one should not provoke them unnecessarily now that they have the real power to unleash a world war, an economic world depression, climate and environmental catastrophe, and further attacks on the pillars of democracy. Trump said a lot of abominable things but he is a person without principles and a personal ambition that now has been realized. The reactions (forceful) should be to his real policy steps when they come, and not before. It is impossible to maintain constant activist street protests for four years, fatigue and letargy would set in sooner or later. A lot of people supported him indeed who are ignorant, or racist, or misled. But the ones who will be with him in government are supporting him rather for their own reasons: not pretty either, but neither that irrational. They will be the ones to address whey the protests become necessary.

  87. Chris Says:

    So, given that it is indisputable that this changes the nature of American democracy, I think we should conclude that we can no longer call the United States a “constitutional republic” or a “liberal democracy.” But then this raises the question, what do you actually call it? Some have said “fascist” or “authoritarian” but for me these words don’t quite capture all of the unique and unprecedented properties of US society and government at this time. As far as I can tell the name you give this thing is up for grabs.

    So, Scott, if we are to accept that this is not normal (and I completely agree that it is not normal), then what do you call it? Taking inspiration from the phrase “socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics” perhaps this could be called an “authoritarian meta-democracy with American characteristics.”

  88. Lyle_Cantor Says:


    I think giving everyone Raven’s Matrices, pulling out the top 99th percentile, then using sortition to narrow down that pool of millions into a Dunbar’s number sized congress would be ideal. IQ is the best predictor of future job performance we have, and very hard to bias. Sortition would make gaming the test uneconomical. Using Raven’s Matrices keeps everything culture fair and makes it hard to corrupt the test into a test of ideological conformity. Most importantly, sortition helps us avoid adverse selection effects, where those who seek power a least able to rule or can be corrupted early in the selection process. Combining sortition with a non-verbal IQ test gives you a good proxy for potential competence while still allowing us to avoid selection effects.

  89. quax Says:

    With regards to the question what to do an individual level and to combat fear, I think the safety pin movement is a brilliant idea:

  90. reluctant trump voter Says:

    > Just as I did (and took a lot flak for doing!) before the election, I will continue to oppose any efforts to harass individual Trump supporters, get them fired from their jobs, punish other people for associating with them, etc.

    I have seen a lot of that from Hillary (or anti-Trump) people. Even some companies, like Grubhub. Before AND after the election.

    I have seen nothing of the sort from Trump supporters.

    People are rioting, breaking windows, to protest Trump getting elected.

    Meanwhile, every story I’ve seen about violence from a Trump supporter was fabricated.

    Maybe you should think about why this is the case.

    I can’t believe you keep drinking this kool-aid after stuff like this:
    You can make fun of Trump supporters all you want, but you’re allied with people like:

  91. quax Says:

    Will #81, unfortunately Harry Reid is retiring.

  92. Shmi Nux Says:

    Scotting A!

    So… I’m having trouble here. On the one hand I came to trust and admire your judgment not just in your area of expertise, but also in politics and social justice, from the way you navigated through some treacherous waters when expressing your views on Israel some time ago, to your “coming out” as a nerd, and the aftermath of it. Moreover, your views are similar to those of another Scott A I deeply respect, whose writings are eloquent and whose insightful posts are a revelation for me almost every time. Both of you seem to be pretty negative about Trump’s presidency.

    On the other hand, the 3rd Scott A, who writes well, and is an author of several bestsellers and one rather popular comic strip seems to disagree with you about Trump and has an excellent track record predicting his success, down to a suspenseful movie script-like ending.

    Given any two models, a unbiased observer would pick the simpler one that fits the data and makes falsifiable predictions that have been confirmed time after time. So, I ought to reject yours and Scott Alexander’s fears as biased and adopt Scott Adams’ model of an exceptional master persuader who will adapt to the office the way he adapted to winning the campaign while facing opposition from virtually everyone in the establishment, whether Republican or Democrat or independent.

    Yet… Scott Alexander is rarely wrong, and so are you. To quote Eliezer Yudkowsky, I have noticed that I am confused. And I don’t know how to resolve this confusion.

    Help? Anyone?

  93. Ghassan Says:

    I’m surprised to see that people think that American voters are a special in this world, meaning they vote in an astonishing way. Let me tell you that it happens all over the place, and not just in political elections. You can follow any election, in any community, even communities of what are supposed to be very intelligent people, like physicists, astronomers, computer scientists (I’ one), and you’ll see the same behaviour: otherwise bright people take dumb decisions. In fact, Voting results are usually inline with what the guy with the lowest IQ would take as a decision. If there’s a way to measure the ‘global IQ’ of any community, it would come out lower than the worst individual one in that community. This applies to an entire nation also. I may be exaggerating things a bit, but not by much.
    The other point I would like to make is that American people (I’m French), will survive this episode, as other countries survived worse ones, let’s just hope that the damage is not high.

    And one last point: if you think that the US is becoming a tough place to live in, I invite you to visit the Middle East, Africa, ….. Trust me, there are far worse places on Earth to be in than the US.

  94. fred Says:

    The good old days:

    “Well, it’s the first time in my life that the mood of the country has been this Democratic.”

    How did we go in a mere years from that to President Trump?

  95. quax Says:

    Fred, looking at the data this isn’t really all that puzzling.

    African Americans didn’t turn out like they did for Obama. Obviously a black president had a special pull there, and voter suppression efforts like in NC will have had an impact.

    The youth vote wasn’t there as it was for Obama, most likely due to residual primary hang-over, and Hillary’s less than stellar popularity.

    This could have been compensated by the high Latino turn-out, as well as the anticipated white women vote. But the latter never materialized substantially for Hillary.

    Republican voters fell in line for Trump, but he did not outperform Romney in absolute terms. So the whole story is really about the Democratic turn-out.

  96. null Says:

    Shmi Nux #92:

    Scott Adams predicted that Trump would win in a landslide. Trump did not win in a landslide.

  97. Jr Says:

    I think Scott’s course of action is likely to be the best one in these bad circumstances.

    I do think that Trump won’t have time to damage the democratic institutions too much before the next election, though he certainly might try. Even Putin seems to have had to become a dictator gradually and the democratic institutions of Russia were much weaker than the American ones. And with Trump’s personality, it seems more likely that he will lose interest in the job than that he will execute a master plan to make him president for life.

    As for the analysis of what the Democrats did wrong, I am a little skeptical of them. Did the people who are offering retrospective advice foresee Trump’s victory? If not, what have they managed to learn in these few days that means they can predict elections?

    Some left-wingers speak wistfully about nominating Sanders instead, on the grounds that he could reach the dissatisfied working class voters. Maybe that would have worked, but he would also have terrified middle-class and upper-class voters. Trying to appeal to the median voter seems a sensible enough strategy, which is what Clinton represented. And who is to say Sanders would have convinced the working class voters? I mean, what he honestly can promise them is welfare payments, but Trump can promise that too if need be. Sanders might promise employment, like Trump, but it is not obvious that the voters would believe his lies (and I think it is a total lie to suggest Sanders knows how to increase employment) more than Trump’s lies.

  98. Jennifer Says:

    All the talk about using IQ as a measure for voting rights etc. How does that require the people in charge to look after the interests of all? Including those who don’t get to vote? Democracy at least forces people to look like they’re not out to get most of the population. Whether they actually do a good job of it is debatable, but they forget the requirement at their peril. Intelligence just means that someone is more likely to do a good job; it does not make for a job description.

  99. pku Says:

    @JR 97: Also, Bloomberg said he would have run as an independent and siphoned a lot of Democrats off Sanders.

    @Elliot 44: Don’t blame me for sixteen years ago! I was nine!

  100. fred Says:

    quax #95

    What strikes me is that your response only involves the particulars of this election.

    You do not mention anything that has happened in those last 8 years in the world – never ending middle-east wars, further globalization, terrorist attacks in the West, rise of ISIS, rise of China as a super power, Iranian nuke deal, increase of North Korea aggressiveness, assertion of Russia on the international scene, state of the US economy and job market, social media technology pervasiveness, SJWs, wikileaks & Snowden, controversies over police shootings in the US, the Brexit, rise of the far-right in Europe, etc.

    Basically, if Hillary and Donald (and all the other candidates) had run in 2008, we’d have pretty much the same result?

  101. Gail Says:

    To the international student who asked Scott the question about leaving, if you’re reading this, I think you should take a look at this article:

    The article is terrifying (for ex-international students like me); it mentions that Trump’s transition staff is loaded with virulent anti-immigrant people like Jeff Sessions and another guy whose name eludes me at the moment. These people are not just against illegal immigration, but also *legal* immigration. Sessions, in particular, was involved in crafting Trump’s policies on immigration, and has been a strong opponent of the H1B program, the visa program that enables foreign workers to work here legally. The H1B visa is popular among international students here in the US, and is the usual path to the green card. Possibilities being floated involve ending or severely restricting the H1B visa (e.g. instituting a $110,000 salary minimum to dissuade US employers from hiring foreign employees). They are also planning to make it profoundly more difficult to get green cards.

    I’d advise you to follow developments very carefully but don’t freak out like Scott. Due to Trump’s unpredictability, it’s not clear how much of a hard line stance he will ultimately take against H1B’s and green cards, so I would strongly caution against panicking. However, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for opportunities in Canada, Australia, UK, etc.

  102. Sanders supporter Says:

    Jr 97:

    I would say nonsense. If you look at the list of donors to Sanders they are middle and upper middle income people. Lower middle class didn’t have money to support Sanders campaign, it was the educated middle and upper middle class that made Sanders’ campaign possible.

    That is the same baseless beliefs that made it possible for someone like Trump to win the election. HRC got 6 million votes less than Obama and you should keep asking yourself why till you understand that making HRC the candidate was a stupid decision. HRC had so many flaws as a candidate that if it was not for his widespread connections in media and political establishment she would have forced to drop early on. HRC got the nomination because she has been working on building that network with donors and political establishment since her time as first lady and that is the only reason she got the nomination.

    HRC supporters can keep telling lies to themselves. The numbers are there to check. Sanders would soundly defeat Trump with a wide margin. Those 6 million Obama voters who stayed home would have voted and he would have brought a large number of first-time voters in addition to them. This is the same kind of rhetoric that claimed that Americans would not elect a black person as president. You know in your gut why you lost this election so don’t go blaming others and claiming that Sanders would do worse.

    In my eyes DNC and those who used every dirty trick in the bag to give the nomination to HRC are as responsible for Trump’s election as those who have voted for Trump.

  103. Larry Wasserman Says:


    As someone above mentioned, the checks and balances
    are not there to prevent someone like Trump from being elected.
    They are there in case someone like Trump gets elected.

    If we had the limited government that the founder intended,
    it wouldn’t matter who gets elected.

    The founders understood minimax theory.


  104. quax Says:

    Fred #101, elections almost always pivot on interior politics. This is especially true for a country as navel gazing as the US, with a population where only very few ever left the country. It typically takes massive oversea wars (Vietnam, Iraq) to break that mold.

    Nevertheless, we still wouldn’t have had approximately the same set of circumstances in 2008, but that is not due to foreign policy, but the start of the Great Recession.

  105. BBA Says:

    What disturbs me most isn’t malice, because I don’t think he acts out of malice. It’s thoughtlessness, in the most literal sense of the word. I don’t think he thinks, I don’t even think he can think. He just talks, and acts, and if anyone’s offended, it’s “lol why u mad tho?”

    I act like that to blow off steam every once in a while, but someone who’s always like that – who thinks it’s hilarious that anyone ever cares about anything – I just can’t deal with it.

  106. Lead Sane Says:

    Just a thought, to see how consistent the current liberal dissent is: had Ted Cruz won the elections, beating by surprise Hillary, would you guys had accepted his victory? Or is it just Trump that sets you off?
    Because I think that Cruz is to the right of Trump. Perhaps he’s even more “authoritarian” even.

  107. Scott Says:

    Lead Sane #106: For me, that’s an easy question. If Ted Cruz had won, I would’ve been miserable (just like I was when Bush II won), but I would not have supported taking to the streets in protest. I disagree with almost everything Ted Cruz believes, but he never threatened to jail his opponents. He more-or-less accepts the norms of civilization.

  108. Daniel Seita Says:

    # 101 Gail

    Interesting comments on legal immigration. I’ve tried to raise this conversation with a few Berkeley grad students from China, but they mostly have not seemed concerned; their most common response is “I’ll just go back to China.” I wonder how many of them have considered the consequences of a Trump administration. I would ask them again, but I promised not to talk to them about politics the day after Trump won.

    # 106 Lead Sane

    If you define “right” the way most people define it, then no one will dispute that Ted Cruz is “to the right” of Trump.

  109. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Scott #106:

    If you think Bush II was as bad as Cruz would probably be, you need to get some oxygen. Bush II probably didn’t pay that much attention to anything. The problem is that he let some evil right wingers and neo-cons (primarily Chaney) have way too much influence.

    But Bush II did not start dismantling the institutions of the country.

    Trump might.

    Cruz would for sure.

  110. quax Says:

    BBA wrote … but someone who’s always like that – who thinks it’s hilarious that anyone ever cares about anything – I just can’t deal with it.

    It’s the 4chan way. The kind of Nihilism that would have made Nietzsche cry.

  111. quax Says:

    Lead Sane – what Scott said.

  112. Impartial Observer Says:

  113. Pierre Menard Says:

    Probably wishful thinking on my part, but on the issue of being nice to Trump:

    1. Trump will, almost certainly, break the laws in countless ways over the coming years (months?).

    2. Both parties would not mind impeaching Trump. Republicans because they’d prefer a president Pence, Democrats because of everything they have been saying over the past months.

    3. To successfully impeach Trump, it makes sense to be nice to him in the here and now. Being nice to Trump insulates you from the charge that you were out to get him all along.

    Is all of this true? Probably not, but I sure hope it is.

  114. amy Says:

    Scott, the concession speech and Obama’s reception were the only things they could responsibly have done. They aren’t private individuals; they represent institutions, and at this point, anyway, they must respect both election law and the office, even though it comes visiting so grotesquely in the person of Trump. It’s done in the hope that there will be a meaningful institution to speak with even after he’s done with it.

    I’ve been thinking the last few hours about Rhode Island, where I lived briefly. I lived there briefly because my Serbian friend was quite at home with the level of corruption there. To say that it was a goon-run shambles would be polite, and as I was on my way out, so was the mayor, in handcuffs. He died recently with people still afraid enough of him to throw bouquets in the Times. Buddy had a better sense of humor than Donald does, but otherwise they were the same kind of gangster.

    I haven’t been back to Providence, but I understand that at least some part of it has been recoverable. It’s had — uncharacteristically — some admirable politicians in charge over the last decade or so. The new mayor was reputed to be, for the place, a pretty good straight arrow.

    Rhode Island, of course, hasn’t got the world’s biggest military, nor has it got taxing authority for the whole country. But I’m not without hope that something will be left to work with after these guys are through. And they will be through, because the demographics say so. We’ve already passed the babies-born meridian, and those babies will be voters in a little while. My hope, as I mentioned to you, is that they won’t simply have been trained by these guys to be hopeless mobsters too. Although I recognize the irony given that in the end we’re still talking about politicians and that’s the nature of the game. I suppose it’s true that we’re talking about a matter of degree.

    It appears to me that the responsibility, beyond surviving, is to see that those babies know that there is something besides a mobster to be, and why, and how. That won’t be easy, but we’ll know it, and they won’t, so there’s the responsibility. And to teach the more foolish and anguished young people how to survive this, so they don’t do anything stupid along the way. And to recognize which ones are the natural fighters and to leave them alone. And to frustrate, as we can, all the corruptions that will come flooding in. And to maintain health, and to leave when and if it’s time. For you and a lot of your friends, anyway. I won’t likely be able to.

    I’ve been reading Vonnegut again, the last few days. Worth doing. The vets’ association here decided it’d be a good idea to dig him up along with a lot of other dead vets associated with this place and decorate them some more on what used to be Armistice Day. I’m pretty sure they never read any of his books.

    Beyond that, it’s not a bad time to think about how to get out of this electoral fix. It won’t happen while the thugs are in charge, no reason for them to give up the advantage, but it’s clear we’ve got a problem with the results of our Big Sort.

  115. Jr Says:

    Sanders supporter #97:

    Sanders may have some enthusiastic supporters in the middle and upper classes, but this hardly contradicts that he is toxic to many. He is proposing making US a lot more like Europe which does have some benefits for middle-class people, but also means a lot more in tax. Americans are more averse to taxes than Europeans, and even in Europe the large parts of the middle classes vote for parties that want to lower taxes, so I certainly think he would scare away many potential Democrat voters.

    I also see no evidence that Sanders is better than Clinton at crafting a version of identity politics that could appeal to Trump’s white voters without damaging turnout among minority voters.

  116. fred Says:

    My thoughts go to the Cherokee, the Cheyenne, the Apache, the Chinook, the Comanche, the Navajo, and all their brothers.

    They’ve been experiencing their Trump for the last 500 years – their country, culture and values were taken away from them, they never had anywhere safe to go “back” to, and they’ve endured.
    I hope they’re sitting back, watching all this is relaxed amazement.

  117. sf Says:

    A couple of interesting articles, with good discussions after, straddling election day:

  118. Aula Says:

    I had pretty much resolved that I wouldn’t comment on the election, but I can’t resist sharing this link. Here’s the first comment from that page:

    I didn’t think I would be reading one of the sanest explanations for the rise of Trump on a niche aerospace website.

    I think that just about says it all…

  119. jonathan Says:

    if the institutions couldn’t stop a Trump presidency, then what can they stop?

    I think the institutions designed to stop someone who says terrible things from being elected president are of a different kind than the institutions designed to stop a president from doing terrible things.

    The former are limited to (1) the press pointing out how terrible these things are, (2) the candidate being shunned by establishment figures, and (3) the voters repudiating the candidate in the voting booth.

    (1) and (2) happened (though perhaps they should have happened more), but not enough of (3) happened. But that’s pretty much democracy working — the people decided. That’s the foundational democratic norm of our society.

    But now that Trump is president, if he tries to actually *do* the terrible things he’s said — well, okay, some of them he could just do. But he would face an uproar from the press, and (in many cases) his decisions could be blocked by Congress (it only takes 3 Republican Senators joining with the Democrats). His ideas could be challenged in court. And some of his worst ideas are actually illegal, and could lead to his being impeached.

  120. fred Says:

    Aula #118
    Terrific link.

    “And what happens to corporations — addicted as they are to continuous growth — when the majority of people are living on subsidence incomes?”

    Answer: the Chinese market.
    Those corporations have got all they could get out of us already.

    Anyway most people in here seem totally deaf-tone to the fate of the middle class and the economy.
    It’s as if America is only about the embodiment of some high ideals and principles, and all those practical questions about jobs and security are just beneath all that.

  121. Scott Says:

    jonathan #119: Whether here or in Weimar Germany, you don’t get such an extinction-level catastrophic outcome without a whole bunch of institutions failing at once. In this case:

    – The Supreme Court eliminated federal review of voting laws, just in time for Republican-controlled state legislatures to push through racist new measures in swing states that may have disenfranchised several million people and changed the outcome.
    – The Russian government meddled in our election — yet our intelligence agencies basically shrugged, rather than throwing everything they had into fighting what in any other year would have been an election-changing outrage
    – Worse yet, and incredibly, the FBI under Comey conspired to hurt Hillary 2 weeks before the election with what they must have known was a baseless allegation
    – The “Vichy Republicans” (Ryan, Cruz, McCain, Rubio…) utterly failed in their moral obligation to the country, by endorsing a man they knew was dangerously mentally unstable
    – The media, including “liberal” outlets like the NYT, failed the country by their morally grotesque pursuit of “balance,” putting Trump’s unprecedented threats to jail his opponents, etc. into the same category as Hillary’s email practices

    For hundreds of years, if civilization continues that long (which is now more doubtful than before), scholars will be debating what had to go wrong for the nation of Franklin and Lincoln and Twain and Feynman to descend into autocracy. I’m guessing that, along with the obvious (i.e., the terrible values and ignorance of a significant part of the electorate), all the institutional failures above will form part of the story. But there might be additional parts that I’ve forgotten, or that aren’t even publicly known right now.

  122. Barbara Terhal Says:

    Can I make a recommendation for people who have ample time for commenting on blogs and threads and who are liberals: start discussing with people at, listen to them, ask questions, tell them what you think and why.

  123. fred Says:

    “institutional failures”

    But fundamental changes in the US never happened through the institutions, but in spite of them – not through peaceful voting, but through wars and revolutions in the streets.

    For decades the two parties have done to democracy the equivalent of putting the frog in cold water and bring it to a boil slowly.

    What’s happening now is the equivalent of throwing the frog in the boiling water. We just can’t ignore it.

  124. pku Says:

    @Barbara Terhal: I’ve tried. They seem even more immune to listening to anyone, on any ground, than the SJWs. At some point you have to accept that some people are never going to listen to you – and spend your time looking for those people who are not radicalized, and who are still open to discussion.

  125. Daniel Seita Says:

    # 122 Barbara Terhal

    I would be willing to do so in person, but not online where people can shield their identities and where arguments easily descend into flame wars.

    And I do (personally) know Trump supporters. The question is whether I should bring it up with the and risk losing relationships…

  126. mnov Says:

    Matt Levine, who writes an excellent daily column for Bloomberg View, wrote something that conveys a similar idea.
    (Everything that follows is a quote)

    The summer before I started law school, 15 years ago, I read a little book by Karl Llewellyn called “The Bramble Bush.” It’s basically a “Law School for Dummies” type thing from 1930, full of somewhat outdated advice on how to ace your classes and impress your professors. But Llewellyn was a leading thinker of the school of thought known as “legal realism,” and “The Bramble Bush” is also a major statement of that philosophy. In a famous passage, Llewellyn wrote:

    This doing of something about disputes, this doing of it reasonably, is the business of the law. And the people who have the doing of it in charge, whether they be judges or sheriffs or clerks or jailers or lawyers, are officials of the law. What these officials do about disputes is, to my mind, the law itself.
    He went on:

    And rules, in all of this, are important to you so far as they help you see or predict what judges will do or so far as they help you to get judges to do something. That is their importance. That is all their importance, except as pretty playthings.
    And then I went to law school. And I took the first-year course in Constitutional Law, and I learned about the fundamental principles that rule the United States. And I learned — or at least was given the general impression — that, while the country has not always lived up to those principles, in the long run, the Constitution has served as a wise guide and constraint on the power of our rulers, and the foundation of our system of government.

    But in the back of my mind I thought about Llewellyn. I thought about the fact that those principles can’t automatically enact themselves, that they only work if the human actors in the system choose to follow them and to demand that others follow them. They persist because the people constrained by them believe themselves to be constrained by them. The Constitution, separation of powers, religious liberty, freedom of the press, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, equality of all citizens: There is a complacent sense in America that these things are independent self-operative checks on power. But they aren’t. They are checks on power only as far as they command the collective loyalty of those in power; they require a governing class that cares about law and government and American tradition, rather than personal power and revenge. Their magic is fragile, and can disappear if people who don’t believe in it gain power.

    Anyway this is a financial newsletter, so I’ll tell you that S&P 500 futures were limit down at minus 5 percent overnight, before paring losses. The Fed probably won’t hike in December now. Foreign markets have had a wild ride. Treasury yields plunged, I guess an indication that default is not too imminent. Bitcoin rallied. The Mexican peso is … best not to look. Maybe everything will be fine!

  127. Dániel Says:

    As a progressive from Europe, I believe that American progressives were the victims of two evil propaganda campaigns.

    The goal of the Republican propaganda campaign was to convince the country that the deserving although uninspiring Democratic nominee is literally Satan. This campaign was quite successful, and your nominee has lost. The seemingly easier goal of the Democratic propaganda campaign was to convince the country that the horrible, awful Republican candidate is literally Satan. That campaign has failed to work on the Republican target audience, but as a secondary effect, it worked perfectly on progressives who were, obviously, more open to the message.

    But Trump is not Satan. Freaking out is okay, it’s a horrible outcome. But it’s Berlusconi horrible, not Mussolini horrible. Here is my testable prediction: 1-2-3-4 years from now, you’ll still believe that Trump is a disaster for the country, but looking back you’ll think you overreacted on Election Eve.

  128. BBA Says:

    I’m thinking about the line from Hamilton – “Jefferson has beliefs, Burr has none.”

    I want to say “Clinton has beliefs” but honestly, I know she doesn’t. She’d become Phyllis Schlafly if she thought it’d help her. And I don’t know that it matters so much. Ted Cruz has beliefs, but that wouldn’t make me vote him over Clinton.

    What she has, that her opponent lacks, is shame.

  129. Scott Says:

    Barbara #122: I’ve actually spent years reading alt-right blogs and magazines and forums—out of morbid curiosity if nothing else. (And, of course, because when I had my own run-in with the social-justice warriors two years ago, these were some of the main places where people defended me—not that I necessarily wanted all of their support!) I dare to guess that I’ve spent a lot more time reading alt-right folks than you have.

    In fact, my habit of reading them gave me a very early warning of what was going to happen, in the form of their strange, over-the-top adulation for Donald Trump—though alas, it’s not a warning that I took seriously. I imagined that the very fact I had to go to such dark corners of the Internet to find the stuff meant that it would always be consigned to the shadows.

    On top of that, of course there’s been no shortage of Trump fans right here on this blog. You haven’t even seen the half of it, since stuff that’s too nasty I don’t let out of moderation.

    In short, I really don’t think the problem is a lack of understanding of what the other side believes and why. I think you’ve completely misdiagnosed the problem.

    When I say that I’m scared, many of our friends at Breitbart and other such sites would be the first to agree that I should be scared. Many of them are positively jubilant about the idea of all the “academic globalist elites” (i.e., me) now scurrying around like frightened rats. The more strident among them, who are never stopped by the others, go further about the reason for their joy: namely, that soon they’ll at last get to finish what Hitler started, with the glorious “Day of the Rope” (DotR). If and when that were to happen, do I imagine that my own famous battles against certain leftists and social-justice warriors would cause me to be spared? Were the right-wing, German nationalist Jews spared the camps?

    To be clear, I’m sure only a tiny minority of Trump supporters actually want this. But even at the height of Nazism, only a tiny minority of Europeans actually wanted to exterminate all Jews. A much larger number probably only wanted to imprison or expel a few here and there, the really greedy and Jewy ones. The fear is that the tiny minority now has a free hand to do whatever it wants, and the majority can’t or won’t stop them.

    Basically, I know what they want. They know what I want. I know that they know, and they know that I know.

    I strongly support other people doing the hard work of talking to the other side, maybe peeling off wavering Trump supporters here and there, or people who genuinely didn’t understand what they were voting for.

    From my perspective, though, the main issue is simply that “our” side failed to mobilize a few hundred thousand more voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Talking it over would no more solve the problem than Northerners and Southerners having tea together would have prevented the Civil War.

    The entire question might be moot at this point: I’m not certain that the United States will have additional elections, as opposed to Putin-style stamps of approval. But the good news is that, if there are more elections (and no mass expulsions or executions), then the country’s demographics are ultimately on our side. Much like with postwar Germany and Japan, or the South during Reconstruction, the other side might finally be persuaded to want something else once there’s no possible chance of it getting what it wanted originally.

  130. Aaron Says:

    Scott #9:

    I would like to add that I share in the anger, outrage and disgust you feel in the election of Trump as US president. However, I have some issues in the proposal you give in terms of how to fight back.

    The argument you are proposing is that to counteract the worst that could befall a Trump presidency we need to look out for a ruthless figure from the progressive side a la Churchill. I disagree with that prescription, because in essence you are taking a passive approach in seeking salvation from a strong man. It’s that very mindset among a large segment of the population that has led to Trump being elected in the first place.

    In my mind, the place we need to start is for those in the progressive forces to realize the extent of disenfranchisement and alienation that exists in broad swathes of the American populace. And to actively work and fight at the grassroots level to do the following:

    (a) get the corrupting influence of money out of politics (the persistent corruption and legalized bribery that has the become the norm in American politics has laid the conditions for the people to be swayed by the demagoguery of Trump),

    (b) the Democratic party (or some other political party if the Democrats fail to do this) needs to completely rebuild itself from the ground up to become a true, progressive party that provides a real, tangible alternative.


    (c) for citizens to actively be engaged in the political process through peaceful civil disobedience, to send a message that their rights as US citizens cannot be ignored.

    In the case of (a), there are organizations like Wolf-PAC, founded by The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur to work to add a 28th amendment to the US constitution (thereby overturning Supreme Court cases Citizens United vs. FEC and Buckley vs Valeo) through a convention of the States, outlined in Article V of the constitution.

    In the case of (b), there are progressive leaders like Keith Ellison and Bernie Sanders that are actively working to bring the Democrats back to the progressive side, with the hopes of both winning back the House in the mid-term elections and ultimately in defeating Trump in the next presidential elections.

    And finally, for (c), we have already seen in the past few days protests in cities all over the US (both organized and spontaneous) in opposition to Trump. I am heartened by this, and these protests need to continue & intensify throughout the entire duration of the Trump presidency. If there is a silver lining that can be seen, it is in the engagement of the young people in the country who are demanding to have their voices heard.

  131. BBA Says:

    I like and respect you, but you’ve got a huge racial blind spot. The South got everything it wanted after Reconstruction, except for the literal reimposition of chattel slavery. They resisted banning lynching – never mind integrated trains or restaurants or bathrooms, lynching! – for decades into the 20th century. If that’s your model for how the red states will be, that’s a very dark future indeed. And if you think things will be okay for the Jews, go ask Leo Frank.

  132. Humility and Seeing the Bigger Picture | Entirely Useless Says:

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  133. quax Says:

    Dániel, it may look just “Berlusconi horrible” from the distance. The styles and personas are similar, but what may be easily survivable in a more homogenous society could quickly cascade out of control in a an actual multi-racial one, where there are many targets to act out your animus.

    Also this is not the Italian state, if Trump orders 3 million illegal immigrants rounded up it will be executed swiftly.

  134. Jair Says:

    I recently came across the following quote from Bertrand Russell in “Philosophy and Politics”. It gives me great hope at times like these:

    “Our own planet, in which philosophers are apt to take a parochial and excessive interest, was once too hot to support life, and will in time be too cold. After ages during which the earth produced harmless trilobites and butterflies, evolution progressed to the point at which it generated Neros, Genghis Khans, and Hitlers. This, however, is a passing nightmare; in time the earth will become again incapable of supporting life, and peace will return.”

  135. Respect: social status vs ability and character | Compass Rose Says:

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  136. Scott Says:

    BBA #131: So let me get this straight. Your criticism of my comment #129 is that it was TOO OPTIMISTIC?

    I suppose you might be right. After the Civil War, as you say, there was still horrible racism in the South, just “at least no literal slavery.” Likewise, after demographic changes (we can hope) make another Trump takeover impossible, there will still be horrible problems in the country and the world, not least of which will be how to survive on an overheated and degraded planet. Just not THIS problem.

  137. fred Says:

    Scott #129

    I’ve read and re-read your post(s), and I still can’t figure exactly what you’re scared about (I’m not saying there’s nothing to be scared about).

    You pepper everything in references to Hitler, the nazis, Vichy, the concentration camps… Which I thought was just an illustration on how democracy can get hijacked.

    But then the only explicit description is:

    “namely, that soon they’ll at last get to finish what Hitler started, with the glorious “Day of the Rope” (DotR).”

    If you think that DotR thing is the real end-goal, okay, but how exactly do you reconcile this with Trump having a Jewish grandson?

  138. dameprimus Says:

    @Scott 129

    >The entire question might be moot at this point: I’m not certain that the United States will have additional elections, as opposed to Putin-style stamps of approval

    I thought I was pessimistic but this is frankly the scariest thing I’ve read in the aftermath of the election. I was so taken in by Trump’s apparent modesty and attempt at putting on a professional persona, I assumed he was going to morph into a normal (if incompetent) President. But there is no reason to believe that if Trump played dirty this time, he isn’t going to play even dirtier next time and ensure that the next 4 years are his – specifically by questioning the legitimacy of his next opponent and actually having the power to undermine it. And it’s no consolation that Trump is old – if this is the new standard then another dictator will step up to the plate, which has happened many times throughout history.

    It still feels impossible to me, but then again so did a Trump presidency.

  139. BBA Says:

    I’m saying you picked a particularly bad example for your “optimistic” scenario.

  140. Scott Says:

    fred #137: As I’ve said many times, I’m certain that Trump has no personal desire to exterminate the Jews—or for that matter, even the Muslims or the Mexicans, who of course are in much more immediate danger. On the other hand, I’m also certain that Trump has damaged the machinery of liberal democracy, possibly beyond repair; and that some of his supporters do harbor these eliminationist desires, and Trump never seriously repudiated them, and those supporters will now jubilantly stream out from the margins into the mainstream of American life. (That process already started with the campaign.) I also expect Trump to lash out at intellectuals, whether that means ordering the Justice Department to investigate anyone who criticizes him, slashing federal funding for science, or other things that I can’t even predict yet.

    On a purely personal level, I’ll probably be fine for the next 4 years. But a lot of other people won’t be, and judging from its historical precedents, the process Trump has set in motion might eventually make it impossible for me to continue to live in the US. Do you agree that that’s a pretty big deal?

  141. pku Says:

    @Scott: I wouldn’t take too much comfort in long-term demographics providing a permanent democratic majority: minorities didn’t vote against Trump *that* hard, and if whites support him a bit harder (which could happen, if identity politics escalate), he could easily win reelection. Don’t forget, we got a liberal black president despite only 10% of the population being black. We could get a white authoritarian president even in a majority-minority country.

  142. fred Says:

    Scott #140

    I do agree that there’s plenty to be worried about.

    But there are also plenty of people, in every part of society, besides him and some of his radical supporters who wouldn’t stand for it either.
    Some encouraging examples:

    Putin was able to secure his grip on Russia because the country had been a dictatorship since WW1.

    The Weimar Republic was a blip following something that wasn’t a democracy – the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, ruled by the Kaisers… and all the other major European powers for that matter were still full fledged empires.
    Even France had struggled under turmoil and the Napoleonic dictatorship since 1789.

    In total contrast the USA, being isolated from the European turmoil, has had a way longer run as a “pure” democratic/republic experiment, build at its core on the ideal of freedom.

    But the most fundamental and practical attacks on American freedom we’ve ever seen have been set in place by Bush and reinforced by Obama (the abuse of secrecy and citizen surveillance, use of drones, …).
    That’s where our fundamental institutions have been the most perverted… and quite ironic and sad that Snowden actually had to find refuge in Russia.
    So, yea, there’s plenty to worry about, but also plenty to be hopeful.

  143. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Pierre Menard #113,

    Wow, you bring up a wild possibility: Republican will impeach Trump to put Pence in. I think Pence is about 0.9 on the Cruz “worst thing imaginable” scale, so this might lead Democrats to saving Trump from being impeached! Who could write a novel like that?

  144. Raoul Ohio Says:

    fred #116:

    You might give some thought to who they stole it from, and them before, recursively.

    You might get some insight by taking a driving vacation in the Northern plains states. About every 10 miles is a historical marker. I either stop, or slow down and take a picture for later reading. Many of them commemorate where one tribe (usually the Sioux) massacred another tribe. I don’t know if these signs are accurate and the Sioux never lost, or if maybe the Sioux marketing department runs the Montana highway department.

    In any event, you will figure out that not everyone was sitting around singing Kumbiah before the evil white dudes showed up.

  145. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Aulu #118:

    Thanks for the an excellent link.

    I will put forth a remark on: “The modern Republican Party is built on a handful of bedrock principles: small government, pro-business, anti-regulation, free trade, pro-military and traditional family values.”.

    Sure that is true. BUT, that does not get many voters. So the RP marketed to Christian extremists and Deplorables (Racists, Dummy, and Crazies).

    Hardly anyone in the Republician Primary is a traditional Republican, other than Ohio Gov Kasich. The rest were mostly Christian nuts and Trump, who successfully played the Deplorable card. No one has any clue what Chris Christie is.

  146. quax Says:

    Raoul Ohio – #143 It’s a pretty safe bet that Pence will run the policies at any rate. Without Trump the incoming was just to lose its wild authoritarian unpredictability and appeal.

  147. Sniffnoy Says:

    They resisted banning lynching – never mind integrated trains or restaurants or bathrooms, lynching! – for decades into the 20th century.

    This is perhaps nitpicking, but this statement makes no sense. Lynching is and always had been murder, i.e., illegal. The government failed to enact more specific anti-lynching laws that would have done more to address the problem, which they obviously should have. But the content of such laws would not have been “lynching is now illegal”, because it already was.

    Take a look at the (shamefully filibustered and never passed) Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. It would have done basically two things:

    1. Make lynching a federal crime, handing jurisdiction to people who would actually do something about it
    2. Allowed the feds to go after state and local officials who looked the other way when lynchings occurred

    I don’t think either of those can be considered “banning lynching”, for obvious reasons.

    (This is actually an instance of a more general mistake I’ve seen people making — assuming that if something bad is going on, then there must not already be laws against it, and that we need to ban it; when often what’s going on is already illegal, and other means are needed to address it (which may be new laws, but not of the form “the bad thing is now illegal”).)

  148. Sanders supporter Says:

    Jr 115:

    Actually there is strong evidence that Sanders would have done much better than Clinton against Trump. He had a much lower negative favorability and much higher positive favorability and he had a much higher margin against Trump than Clinton.

    You keep saying would Americans vote for Sanders. I tell you Americans just voted for Trump and he won states that no Republican has won for decades, so maybe you should adjust what you consider unlikely. Clinton lost because 6 million people who voted for Obama did not vote for her. Trump got more votes among white women without college degree than Clinton did in solid blue states. That is the reality that HRC supporters should face.

  149. quax Says:

    That was meant to say “incoming administration” in my last comment.

  150. Chris Says:

    Scott –

    Well, it looks like he’s setting aside the white nationalist rhetoric (we’ll see what he does on December 3rd), and handing power over to the Christian Conservatives.

    He said back in July to Kasich that the VP would be running the show, and he’d just be “Making America Great Again.” So it looks like Pence will be handling Foreign Policy and Domestic Policy. He’s assigned the chief of staff to Preibus, rather than Bannon, and he’s started calling non-criminal undocumented immigrants “terrific people” (which is actually kinda big, since many on the right would argue that since they’re undocumented, they are by definition here illegally, and therefore criminals).

    The safeguards are kicking in at this point, he’s being domesticated. So, this looks more like a distressed canary rather than a dead one.

    Still, the fact that he could fairly overtly court the KKK and alt-right scares me. The republicans are doubtlessly updating their Overton’s Window after this election, and the scum of humanity have been empowered.

  151. fred Says:

    Neil Blomkamp doing his contribution (with humour)

  152. fred Says:

    Raoul #144

    “In any event, you will figure out that not everyone was sitting around singing Kumbiah before the evil white dudes showed up.”

    Sure, man, but it was their land.
    Internal wars has always been a cause of weakness and an opportunity for outsiders to take over – The roman empire vs the northern tribes, the Europeans taking advantage of China and feudal Japan, the middle East, …

    If an outside power wanted to take down/weaken America, they wouldn’t do it with militarized invasion, they would do it by helping create deep irreversible social divides in the inside… sounds familiar?

  153. Joshua Zelinsky Says:

    Chris #150,

    Bannon’s selection shows that the alt-right and white nationalists are effectively going to be in force here.

  154. piscator Says:

    European. Right of centre and social conservative in academia. No fan of either Trump or Clinton.


    1. I have always admired your obviously sincere attempts to actually get inside the head of those with different politics to yourself. In contrast to many on the left, you really do seem to make a good faith attempt to understand those who disagree with you.

    2. One of the ways fascism grew was because it was appealing as a check on communism. A rational reason to vote fascist in the 1930s was because of the sheer murderous brutality of the various communist regimes – look at what Stalin is doing, this *MUST* be prevented from happening here at all costs…..

    3. So when there is a vote for an ugly strongman from one side, take a look at the other side as well.

    4. You fear the rule of strongman authoritarianism, and a failure of democratic institutions. But now look at ‘your’ side.

    5. You are familiar enough with the ugly intolerance of SJWs and various parts of the left – hell hath no fury like a liberal disagreed with.

    6. But also, on hot-button social topics, for a long time the biggest aim of the American Left has not been to persuade voters, but to persuade judges – so that *the people can have no say on the matter, which is imposed on them entirely irrespective of what the demos thinks*.

    7. You fear anti-democratic, strongman authoritarianism: but you *cheered on* Obergefell (for example) – when a grand total of *five* people, from a narrow background and none of whom were elected, decided what We The People could vote on.

    8. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. You want to make social change – great, take it to We The People, embrace the democratic virtue of persuasion, and you may well win. But as long as the Left seeks instead to impose, either via The Right Sort of Judge or through SJW bullying, then do not be surprised if strongman authoritarianism appeals as a counterweight.

    9. When you say that “the overwhelming majority of residents of the major cities and college towns… will try to continue to build a society …that welcomes people of every background.”,
    you forget that this majority (certainly in say universities) is also deeply and openly hostile to anyone on the right or who disagrees with them on social matters.

    9. Obviously, this is not a complete analysis and there are other causes to Trumpery. But when I see someone on the Left such as yourself, who seems to really, genuinely care about understanding how others think, and is *still* apparently blind to the strongman authoritarianism from his own side – well, my part to mutual understanding of the comedy of fools we inhabit, is to tell you this.

    10. As to how to de-escalate the situation, I don’t know. A pingback between right-wing and left-wing authoritarianism ends badly. But part of fixing it is to diagnose the situation properly.

  155. George Says:

    “The fact that Trump’s voters unleashed a monster on the world does not make them evil or idiots.”

    I understand that as soon as one implies something like this in public, the hurt feelings and pride of the Trump supporters demands people say something like this. I hear it over and over again–almost the same kind of so-called political correctness that these same asshats love Trump for resisting. F4ck them. Seriously.

    Those same Trump supporters are the ones who for a long time, and especially since Obama was elected, are the ones telling the children of slavery and mass incarceration and the KKK and a system designed to destroy their lives should “get over” their hurt feelings. But their “hurt feelings” over being called what they consider bad names are something we should all care about–f4ck them.

    In the very spirit of your post, I think it’s important to say that there is a good chance they ARE evil, they are idiots, they are evil idiots. Maybe some of them don’t know what forces they’ve unleashed. But as in Germany and Italy, the few who are idiots (ie don’t know those forces) will be overcome by the vocal minority who are evil (who know exactly what they’ve done). And unlike the 1930s, there are no allies to rescue us.

    This is the ONLY reason I am comforted by Obama’s reaction to Trump. By not making the conflict happen now, he is keeping his powder dry–saving his immense personal popularity (well over half the country) in the very likely case that the opposition to what the DotR people are planning even as we speak. This may well turn into the ugliest or second-ugliest period in US history, and Obama may be incredibly important to that. I think too many on both sides are imagining he disappears because he is no longer President, but I think his major role in US history may well have yet to have happened.

  156. Scott Says:

    piscator #154: Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

    The analogy I like is that voting for Trump as a check on campus SJWs and other left-wing authoritarians, is almost exactly like slitting your throat to relieve your high blood pressure. Can high blood pressure be a life-threatening problem? Yes: I even have some personal experience with that (well, with the SJW analogue). But the proposed remedy is still orders of magnitude worse.

    Even in the 1930s, I hope you agree that it turned out to be a serious mistake to vote for Hitler as a check on the power of Stalin. But then how much greater of a mistake is it to vote for Trump, and his band of goose-stepping alt-righters, as a check on the power of Amanda Marcotte? Like, I’ll be the first person on earth to affirm that Marcotte is a nasty human being … but she commands no battalions, and she failed even in her limited goal to ruin the life of a nerdy CS professor.

    And one could say the same about Mattress Girl, Sabrina Erdely, the Yale protesters, and all the other bogey(wo)men who populate the academic SJW left. Like, if I’m searching for the tiniest silver lining from a Trump administration, maybe he’ll rescind the 2011 Dear Colleague letter, which universities across the country interpreted as ordering them to dispense with due process for anyone accused of sexual harassment or assault, on pain of losing their federal funding.

    But even if so (and who knows?), that has to be balanced against the 10,000 horrible things Trump will do. I’m sure there were some bad laws in Weimar Germany that the succeeding administration got rid of.

    But there’s even a further issue. Namely, while I have trouble predicting exactly what Trump and his cronies will do, I have no trouble whatsoever predicting how the academic left will respond. As Scott Alexander explained in detail, faced with a complete loss of power over the direction of the country, SJWs will respond by consolidating their power over what they still do control (e.g., academia and various tech organizations), punishing the slightest dissent or heresy with a vehemence that made them look like Care Bears previously. If that’s not what happens, come back here in a few years and tell me I was wrong. 🙂

  157. DoubtDemocracy Says:

    Hi Scott,

    I do not understand your obsession with democracy. As you point out, democracy literally brought us Hitler. The fact that Trump is bringing democracy into question is fantastic, although it appears that people are doubting democracy for the wrong reason. Democracy shouldn’t be questioned because it wasn’t your guy/gal who won. Democracy should be questioned because it is absolutely absurd for one person to be in control of others because they won a popularity contest.

    If you want to start preparing for the 2036 election the best strategy may be to talk to all the friends with your political alignment and tell them to start cranking out babies. If we’re doing one person one vote and kids mostly vote in alignment with their parents breeding may be a viable strategy. If the democratic party can pump out 10,000,000 new voters in the right spots then they should be set. /s

    How much terror must be brought onto the world in the name of “fairness”? How many people need to die before we give up this notion that everyone should have a non-zero say in politics? The elections are reduced to a pissing contest with repetitive sound bytes that can fit on twitter since most humans have the attention span of a mouse.

    In all honesty, the federal government should be abolished. It has caused nothing but harm through massive financial fraud and getting us into pointless wars for the last fifty and probably more years. Collective security doesn’t make much sense with modern weaponry. If there is a foreign invasion that requires the states to make a temporary alliance to fend off the invaders, then that alliance should be made only when necessary. Having a standing federal army puts us in more danger, as other foreign governments may feel they need to strike preemptively.


  158. Scott Says:

    And piscator #154, to pick up another thread:

    Yes, I did support Obergefell, by the same basic logic that would’ve led me to support Brown v. Board of Education and other classic civil rights decisions of the 50s and 60s. Namely, human rights supersede states’ rights, the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution has enormous reach, and if you don’t support gay marriage then you don’t have to get one. (I should add that I strongly support the right of conservative Christian bakers not to prepare gay wedding cakes, etc. etc., although of course it’s possible that the bakers who make that choice will get punished by the marketplace.) Needless to say, the current Supreme Court has issued countless decisions that liberals consider to be horrific judicial activist overreach, but somehow the right never complains about those.

    In any case, do you really think Obergefell was a non-negligible factor in the election? For all the outrageous things Trump said, I don’t recall him ever once promising to appoint justices who would overturn Obergefell, or it being an issue at all—all I remember is Trump’s bombastic claim that he alone could protect gays from attacks like the one at the Pulse nightclub. So, is it possible that even the right has now resigned itself to gay equality (or, incredibly, sought to co-opt the cause as its own), and has shifted its attention to Muslims and immigrants and other things? If so, then I suppose that’s progress, of a sort.

  159. fred Says:

    Scott #157

    “So, is it possible that even the right has now resigned itself to gay equality”

    In 60 minutes it didn’t look like Trump had anything against gay rights (“it’s up to the states!”)…

    but the guy’s mind is like a perfect qubit wave function, you get a different answer with each measurement.

  160. Mike Says:

    What good is outrage? It just causes the person outraged suffering, and it leads to poor decisions that are based on emotion. Instead, if you think something is wrong or can be changed, then work to fix it without outrage. I don’t understand the clinging to outrage

  161. Scott Says:

    Mike #160: That’s an interesting question to which I can only give you a personal answer. There were millions of people (though not enough) who expressed outrage about Hitler, about Stalin, about Mao and Pol Pot, even when doing so was far from universal, and in some cases dangerous. Their outrage might or might not have contributed to saving lives—that’s debatable—but in any case, when I read history books, it’s one of the only things that gives me hope for humanity. Likewise, we might no longer have any power to stop Trump from whatever he wants to do, but even if not, we can at least keep the candle of Enlightenment lit for future generations through our outrage.

  162. fred Says:

    Mike #160

    The core fact is that the democratic party has lost the election.
    Its mission was to come up with a candidate that could defeat Trump and it has failed (Hillary losing eight years ago to Obama should have raised some red flags).

    Now the only thing that really matters is – what do they plan to do about it for the mid-term and then the next election in 4 years?
    I doubt that outrage and finger pointing will help.
    Just hoping for the other guys to do a terrible job isn’t a great idea – remember when everyone was equally outraged at Bush and then he won again in 2004?

  163. Aaron Says:

    Scott #140:

    I’m sorry that you feel that within 4 years you may feel that you need to flee the US. As it happens, I’m a dual Canadian/American citizen living in Canada (having lived in Canada most of my life), so in a sense I am protected from the direct effects of Trump, at least to a certain extent (of course, the US being as powerful a nation as it is, all nations will be affected).

    That being said, instead of concluding that the fabric of democracy has been damaged beyond repair, why not instead be part of a movement of renewal and to fight back? There are groups like the The Young Turks, Wolf-PAC and other progressives who are actively working to oppose the incoming Trump administration and bring the Democratic Party back as a progressive alternative. My attitude is to fight (through the political process), rather than flee!

    After all, Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement didn’t achieve their goals by fleeing, but in fighting against injustice. Similarly, consider the Bulldozer Revolution against Milosevic in Serbia, Velvet Revolution in the former Czechoslovakia as examples.

  164. Mike Says:

    Scott #161: I don’t want to stop you from feeling outrage – go for it. However in my own life I know Enlightenment can shine much brighter without it

  165. pku Says:

    Scott #161: This does bring up my comparison to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, though. Hamas commit plenty of atrocities on both us and their own people, but Israelis who say that our response should be focused on open outrage seem counterproductive. Palestinians who oppose Hamas, OTOH, are definitely praiseworthy.
    Which situation are we closer too? I’m not at all sure we who oppose Trump because it’s easy for us are closer to the palestinians than the Israelis in the above scenario.

  166. piscator Says:

    Scott #160:

    Right-wing popular nationalism, to a theme of national purity and accompanied by fear of minorities, is not the only way countries fall into evil though (although your history may make you most sensitive to it).

    The other 20th century method was through revolutionary progressive ideology, which then goes after everyone seen as holding back ‘progress’.

    And what I saw on my facebook feed – say – over the last few months was a hope that this would be not a Clinton victory but a Clinton landslide, allowing the full power of the federal government and all its institutions to be used to crush the ideologically incorrect on gender, sexuality, etc.

    When I hear a lot of talk about how certain people (e.g. me) are ‘on the wrong side of history’, I find it a bit scary – this phrase has too many totalitarian echoes.

    The US is not my country, although I have much affection for it. This was a lose-lose election for me. Trump was and is a narcissistic thug. But there is at least the consolation that he will take power watched like a hawk by both the media and by politicians on both sides of the aisle.

  167. quax Says:

    DoubtDemocracy #158, you seem to be confused about the concept of a liberal democracy. The devision of power and checks and balances are expressly in place so that the guy/gal who won the popularity contest is not in control of the free citizens, but can only affect incremental change (and only if he works with Congress).

    Scott has been very clear that his concern is not with democracy per se, but liberal democracy.

  168. piscator Says:

    Sorry, last comment was in reply to #156.

  169. piscator Says:

    Scott #158:

    The question is, where is the power? Who gets to make the decision? Who decides about the ‘enormous reach’ of the equal protection clause, or what ‘human rights’ are?

    And the answer given is: five People Like You (who are also People Like Me), that is five members of the well-off upper middle class, with fancy educations from a small number of elite universities, who probably read similar newspapers to you and enjoy similar cultural activities.

    And what they decide on – same-sex marriage – involves not technical legalia, but one of the universal frameworks of human society.

    This is the key point, more important than same-sex marriage itself (there are sensible arguments for this, I disagree with them, but living in a democracy involves sometimes being on the losing side).

    Why relevant to Trump? At a subliminal level (at least), it contributes to the sense that unelected, well-off cultural elites will decide fundamental matters on behalf of the supposedly ignorant cultural poor, on the grounds that said elites feel they have a better sense of what it is to be human.

  170. Joshua Zelinsky Says:

    Scott # 156

    “But there’s even a further issue. Namely, while I have trouble predicting exactly what Trump and his cronies will do, I have no trouble whatsoever predicting how the academic left will respond. Namely, as Scott Alexander explained in detail, faced with a complete loss of power over the direction of the country, SJWs will respond by consolidating their power over what they still do control (e.g., academia and various tech organizations), punishing the slightest dissent or heresy with a vehemence that made them look like Care Bears previously. If that’s not what happens, come back here in a few years and tell me I was wrong. ”

    Counter prediction: groups do things like that when they have few external enemies. With a serious and substantial set of threats, they won’t focus nearly as internally as they do. (Possible counterevidence: we’re already seeing people on that segment of the left arguing that white people wearing safety pins is terribad because it is really an example of privilege).

  171. Gil Kalai Says:

    I do not appreciate piscator’s comment (#154). The rationale piscator gives for supporting fascists in the 1930 (while often used then in fascist’s propaganda) is morally terrible, not only in hindsight, and historically dubious. And then comes the analogy between fascism vs. communism then to alt-right and Trump vs. the Supreme Court’s “tyranny” now. Again, this is a dubious analogy which is, again, morally terrible.

    Courts’ intervention applies to very limited and narrow issues, and, therefore, referring to courts as some sort of “authoritarianism” is absurd. There are disagreements, of course, about specific cases and specific rulings. But there used to be little disagreement about the authority of the Supreme Court to make calls based on the principles of the Constitution especially in cases where human rights, the rights of minorities and other weak parts of society are violated.

  172. Scott Says:

    piscator #166: In past threads on this blog (e.g. here), I’ve taken a great deal of flak for my firm insistence that Marxism (and its various offshoots, like “critical theory”) were terrible ideas from the beginning—not good ideas that were implemented incorrectly, but rotten to the core.

    But from my standpoint, here’s the thing: Hillary Clinton is not a Marxist. Like Obama, she’s a pragmatic centrist, who would actually be center-right in many European countries. Indeed, the real Marxists seem to have hated Hillary as much as they hated Trump, and often more (I guess because Trump will be more effective at “heightening the contradictions,” and thereby hastening a true proletarian revolution?).

    It’s true that Hillary never struck me as very thoughtful about gender politics (consider, e.g., her infamous statement that “women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat”). But on the whole, I see no reason to imagine she wouldn’t have continued the centrist policies of her husband and of Obama (that is, to whatever extent she could, with Congress blocking her every move). Those are policies that we now have considerable experience with, and they don’t seem to lead to anything like totalitarianism. We have no similar experience with Trumpism, and every reason to assume the worst, based on Trump’s statements during the campaign and the kinds of people who formed the core of his support.

  173. dameprimus Says:

    Piscator #166

    Do you also have the same objection to Brown vs the Board of Education? Here is an article on it since you are not American:

  174. John Stricker Says:

    I would like to respectfully submit:

    – The latest Bill Maher episode (post-election) (a right wing blog, certainly by shtetl standards, so be careful with the comment section) (Some of the posts there get taken down after a while, so if you wish to read it, you might want to be quick, or save it for later.)

    If you believe that Trump is a lying sexist racist megalomanic lunatic who cannot wait to get his finger on the button – you have been conned. Sadly; or luckily rather, since most of your worries will turn out to be unfounded! (“Are you nuts?! Mexicans! Wall! Muslims! Sexual assault! Global warming! All the evidence proves…!!!” I know, I know. I shall gladly elucidate, should there be interest .)

  175. Raoul Ohio Says:

    The Bizarro World aspects of Trump winning continue to esclate:

    Appointing White Power nut Steve Bannon to a position of power appears to be too much for the fraction of Conservatives who are actually conservatives as opposed to wind bag hypocrites. This raises the possibility of Progressive + Conservative resistance to Trump.

    In considering doomsday aspects of Trump winning the other day, I could not see any way for democracy to survive. I had not realized that lots of Conservatives are also appalled at Trump.

    Once Trump starts really screwing things up, whatever is left of the news media will stop regarding Trump as ratings increasing entertainment, and find that ratings will be driven by attacking. Wild times in store! Hold on to your hat!

  176. Raoul Ohio Says:


    I encourage you to get into some reality based theorizing.

    In #152, you appear to be under the impression that 500 years ago there was a unified Native American nation that had possessed North America with some internal discord before E.W.M. came along and ruined the party.

    I don’t think that theory fits the available facts very well.

    A much more likely theory is that EVERYWHERE in the world, history is a sequence of one group taking over from another, all the way back to when when we were chimps. There are plenty of studies of chimp tribes doing exactly that today. So anyone talking about the “rightful owners” of some piece of land is just marketing the view of the second last group to take over.

  177. Raoul Ohio Says:

    piscator #154:

    I like the way you state your view up front, and agree with some of your points.

    However, I think comparing Communist countries in the 1930’s with SJW nuts today is beyond a stretch. SJW’s (Social Justice Warriors) are primarily viewed as a joke. Generally they have some valid concerns, but are clueless in how things work. They are nowhere near as dangerous as White Power nuts and other Deplorables and AltRighters.

  178. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Will DoubtDemocracy:

    You are not the first to observe problems with democracy. But, what are the alternatives?

    A famous quote goes something like “The only good thing about democracy is that it is better than everything else”. Who wrote that? What is the correct wording? If John Sidles is not hiding on an island in the middle of nowhere, surely he knows.

  179. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Mike #160:

    Agree! What is needed is not a quick blowout of outrage, but continuing resolve to change things.

    The all time best example is the Christian Right WRT abortion. This is an unusual topic. No one is in favor of abortion.

    Many, including me, are in favor of letting those involved decide (The ancient men making these rules do not have to worry about getting pregnant).

    On the other hand, many are outraged by it for religious. I certainly understand this, although I do not agree with it. I must admire the resolve to hang in and fight for a half century or so.

    This allows many, such as Trump, to “jump in front of the parade” and claim to be a champion of “anti-choice”. It will be interesting to see how this will play out. Donald — Mr. “Pop a breath mint and grab them by the pussy” — Trump might turn out to be involved in a few abortions himself (comes with the territory with pussy grabbing). Presumably the media will soon tire of riding Trump for entertainment and start looking into more detail of his storied career, and might dredge up some dirt.

  180. piscator Says:

    dameprimus #173:

    thanks, I don’t need the link 🙂

    no, the obvious difference is that the Civil War was fought on grounds of slavery/race, and the 14th amendment was introduced as apart of the post Civil War settlement to give effect to the results.

    Gil: Whether you like it or not, or find it morally terrible or not, it is just true that many European countries did dance between extreme left and extreme right in the 1930s, and both were viciously brutal. Part of avoiding extremism is understanding why it becomes attractive, and why decent people see an extremist party as a rational choice.

    [And Scott has the Trump-as-Hitler meme running through his comments, so don’t accuse me of introducing the analogy]


    Hillary may be centre-right from a European perspective in some ways, but in other respects she is way out the left of the Overton window.

    The puzzle of political ground states in different countries….

  181. Geert Depuydt Says:

    No surprise you take a great deal of flak.
    If you are so concerned, why don’t you give up your priviliged position now Trump has been elected and move to Canada? I’m sure we can find someone as competent and happy to take your place. As a student, I don’t give a toss about your president. Opportunity and money, that is all. Also, If I where you I would keep my political convictions to myself as much as possible, or go into politics and leave academia. Now there is at least the strong impression of possible discrimination against people with other political opinions than those held by yourself. You have created a potential conflict of interest for many work situations that demand a certain neutrality position from your side. For example, I wonder how well a professor who openly supports Trump would fare at your department. dangerous times indeed…

  182. trollatlon Says:

    I am non-American but pro-Trump. Let me give you a very short explanation. What Julia writes about limiting harm is perhaps more directly expressed as limiting violence or potential violence. Human nature is all about struggling for dominance through violence and indeed slow, carefully evolved instititions were created to limit this harm.

    The problem is that this has been undermined decades ago. Not now.

    It was undermined by selectively limiting one kind of violence, but not another. To put it mildly, the violence certain minority groups can enact on the majority was not limited, but any potential violent repercussions got limited.

    Why do whites feel like they need to keep shotguns in their bedrooms to protect themselves from armed home invaders who are typically not of their kind? How is that a civilized, violence-limited society?

    Just because one side refuses to fight it, it does not mean it is not a war.

    (We in Europe experienced something similar with “refugees”.)

    The point is the basic requirement from a government to protect its citizens. It has to do so with violence, violence-limitation is something to be done after it is achieved, to the extent it is achieved.

    The basic requirement of a civilized, violence-limited country is that every citizen, especially the majority, is safe to walk anywhere anytime, even at night, because the government kicks everybody’s butt who would assault them. And sometimes it needs less violence-limitation, not more.

    My point is that all this lack of safety esp. of whites resulted in the general mood for less violence-limitation and more of a desire for an active use of force to restore peace.

    Granted, it can be raised that it does not seem very accurate, as violence and its limitation should be more surgical, but don’t expect that from a democracy, precision is the domain of kings.

    My point is that I highly sympathize with Americans who finally wanted the government to scare the BLM thugs shitless. And this is what it is really about – to end the one sided fight and excalate the violence back, reconquer the public space etc.

  183. Scott Says:

    trollatlon #182: For whatever it’s worth, as someone who’s lived in the US all but three years of his life, much of it in urban areas, I’ve never had the slightest cause to fear violence at the hands of “BLM thugs.” It’s true that African-Americans are disproportionately involved in violent crime (as both perpetrators and victims), but that’s been true for a long time, and is certainly not because of BLM.

    In any case, I’m leaving your comment up, since its basic structure—quasi-elevated reflections about human nature, leading up to “the government [should] scare the BLM thugs shitless”—might provide insight into the thinking of Trump supporters and their counterparts around the world.

  184. Scott Says:

    Geert #181:

      If you are so concerned, why don’t you give up your priviliged position now Trump has been elected and move to Canada?

    I prefer to remain in the US for now: this is where my family is, where all my childhood memories are, and where the convenience store checkout aisle has a familiar selection of candy. But I did live for two years in Waterloo, Canada, and had a wonderful time there, and have considered going back. And if eventually I did have to move to Canada, or Israel, or somewhere else, I’d be sad about needing to flee my country (with everything that entailed), but I wouldn’t feel like I was “giving up my privileged position.”

      As a student, I don’t give a toss about your president. Opportunity and money, that is all.

    I hope that opportunity and money for basic research in the US will survive our first president who might never have read a book. I genuinely don’t know what to expect.

      If I where you I would keep my political convictions to myself as much as possible, or go into politics and leave academia. Now there is at least the strong impression of possible discrimination against people with other political opinions than those held by yourself. You have created a potential conflict of interest for many work situations that demand a certain neutrality position from your side. For example, I wonder how well a professor who openly supports Trump would fare at your department. dangerous times indeed…

    You don’t seem to understand the purpose of academia. Academics in math, CS, and physics, in particular, are almost always people who gave up the opportunity to make much more money on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley, and who accepted a lot of bureaucratic drudgery in return, and for what? Freedom. Mostly, freedom to research the questions that interest them, but also freedom to express their opinions (including political opinions) without fear of being fired. At least in the US, protection of political dissent is what the tenure system is explicitly for.

    It’s ironic that two years ago, commenter Amy—who’s since become a friend, and with whom I now find myself in almost total agreement about Trump—leveled the same accusation against me that you have, but “from the opposite end of the political spectrum”! Amy argued that my thoughts about gender politics, and about the problems faced by shy male nerds, meant that I might, for example, discriminate against female students who made romantic choices that I disapproved of.

    My answer to you now is the same as my answer to her then. Namely, when mathematicians stand in front of a board to discuss a problem together, there’s a certain kinship, which might need to be experienced to be fully understood, that transcends all the differences of race, class, gender, religion, and political opinion. I invite you to ask my students and colleagues who are conservative Christians, or on the “opposite side” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or fans of football or of category theory, etc. etc., whether I ever treated them differently because of their beliefs or their private lives.

  185. Scott Says:

    piscator #180:

      Hillary may be centre-right from a European perspective in some ways, but in other respects she is way out the left of the Overton window.

    OK, I’ll bite. In what respects is she “way out the left of the Overton window”?

  186. piscator Says:


    The way I’ve already mentioned, in terms of the view of the extensive broad-reaching role of the judiciary as a means of implementing policy. I live in a country where same-sex marriage, abortion etc is also legal.

    But the idea that these could be imposed by the judiciary over the opposition of democratic legislatures – no politician would dream of suggesting it here.

    As a further, not quite related, thought on the judiciary and the presidency. One of the last strongman presidents in the US was FDR with his four-term presidency, etc, (who was a *good* strongman).

    But this ability to be a strongman can also be seen, in part, as a reaction against the right-wing judicial activism and overreach of the Supreme Court in the series of decisions from Lochner vs New York onwards.

    (BTW, I don’t want to sound like a nut on the Supreme Court. I don’t think it explains everything, or indeed anywhere near a majority of Trumpery – which, to be clear, I despise. But it is part of the story.)

    And also a link to the sort of attitude, from somewhere with more influence than Amanda Marcotte, I (and I expect others) react strongly against, see

  187. Esso Says:

    Scott, if you get a chance to talk with Eric Weinstein, ask him to explain immigration restrictionism from left/labour/citizen point-of-view. He gets it, and you don’t seem to.

    Ezra Klein and other extra-leftist journalists intimidated Sanders from using that platform in the primaries. If a democratic candidate would have advocated restrictionism, he/she would have (very easily and predictably) won against Trump and your present worries would be much smaller. Why is continued illegal and legal immigration and population growth so important that it was worth risking a Trump presidency?

    As an European nationalist I’m very excited (if a bit skeptical) about Trump, but I’m also sorry to hear you’re so upset. Have courage!

  188. Scott Says:

    Esso #187: I have talked to Eric Weinstein about these issues, and found him enlightening. But your comment touches on several questions that are probably best separated.

    (1) Could an otherwise-liberal candidate have beaten Trump by whipping up fears of immigration as Trump did?

    I have no idea.

    (2) Would I have supported such a candidate?

    If the candidate was otherwise preferable to Trump, then yes, of course.

    (3) Is illegal immigration really a pressing problem?

    While I’m not an economist or demographer, it’s hard for me to see why. For one thing, the number of illegal immigrants in the US is no longer increasing at all (!). For another, illegal immigrants are ineligible for almost all social services; they don’t “drain the system.” For a third, the jobs they do tend to be jobs that even struggling American citizens don’t want. For a fourth, Trump seemed unable to make the case without forehead-banging statistical illiteracy—e.g., lovingly dwelling on murders by illegal immigrants, without addressing what a minuscule fraction of all murders they actually are.

    (4) How much does immigration policy matter to me personally?

    Not as much as other issues, like climate change and the preservation of Enlightenment norms.

    On the other hand, I know from personal experience that a crucial prerequisite for American participation in the worldwide research community is the ability to get student and J1 and H1B visas and green cards for scientists coming from abroad. And Trump has given clear indications that he wants to curtail that, which I find incredibly frightening.

    Of course, if Trump does restrict the ability of foreign scientists to come to the US, it will be hypocritical, since his whole shtick was about attracting a higher “quality” of immigrants, and the scientists who come here on visas seem to me like about the highest quality there is.

    But this is just one instance of a general point: namely, once you’ve awoken the monster, it’s foolish to imagine that you get to direct it so that it spares the scientists, or intellectuals, or some other class that you might want to protect. The eugenicists of the 1930s learned the same lesson.

  189. fred Says:

    Scott #188

    ” For a third, the jobs they do tend to be jobs that even struggling American citizens don’t want.”

    To complicate things further, many businesses can only survive because they employ illegals at rates that are well below normal.
    If we were to either legalize all those illegals or deport them, those businesses would close.

  190. W. Ross Morrow Says:


    Quick note on the guest post: about 75% of America said “Awesome” to Trump or simply shrugged. Trump got half of half the eligible electorate.

  191. Tomas Says:

    Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any previous President. On this issue, as many others, a failure of communication on the Democrat’s part (or a failure of even wanting to listen on the part of the Media and the Trump voters).

    I share Scott’s sentiments, but think that Obama is being as professional and restrained as he possibly can in order to minimize harm. It is heartbreaking, for example, to hear his plea to not deport Dreamers, “young people, who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans.”

    It will be a long fight. There are many outrages to come. The American public will become familiar with the workings of a Banana Republic; we better not accept it as normal.

  192. amy Says:

    #190 – one could as easily say that about 75% of America said “Awesome” to HRC or simply shrugged. She got the popular vote, and the only reason she’s not president is the distribution of the votes plus an electoral system that failed to foresee an America in which only 15% of the electorate was rural.

  193. jack Says:

    As someone who voted for neither candidate. I would only join an opposition to trump if it was distinguished from the European style progressivism which many on the left have been promoting . I see Trump as a European style right wing populist opposing a European style progressivism. Perhaps the democrats need to also start returning to American enlightenment values instead of imitating the french revolutionary values. For example, Favoring Gay marriage in this country needs to be distinguished from forcing christian bakers to endorse it by making personalized cakes (thus violating both free speech and freedom of religious practice). (FYI I am most decidedly not a christian). To all who plan on opposing him: please separate promoting progressive causes from opposing his weakening of institutions so that many republicans, libertarians and others can join as well.

  194. amy Says:

    Scott, the 2011 Dear Colleague letter is the only thing forcing universities to collect and publicize data on reported rapes, sexual assaults, and other violent crimes on campus, and the only thing currently giving meaning to the Clery Act, which had been roundly ignored for years.

    I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here, but I was at college with Jeannie Clery when she was raped and murdered. Her parents later found that the university had not only tried to lie to them about how their daughter died, but had covered up over 30 other violent crimes on campus over the past few years. I certainly hadn’t known about them.

    The transparency is a good thing. People don’t en masse go to cops and report crimes that didn’t happen. I don’t doubt that the letter will be rescinded anyhow, but you shouldn’t be happy when that happens.

  195. wolfgang Says:

    @Esso >> nationalism

    My favorite definition: Nationalism means you take pride it things other people have achieved and blame your problems on people you never met.

  196. WhiteBoy Says:

    White boy from Finland here. I spent too much time following the elections (and DailyKos) for my sanity..

    First, I would never vote for Trump – he is simply awful.

    Second, Trump did not won but Hillary lost. Trump got the normal amount of rebublican votes, but Hillary could not replicate Obama’s numbers. Trump got ~30% (?) of adult population so it’s not like the whole country went mad.

    Third, Hillary won popular vote but lost electors. It was very close and nobody can claim that the result was obvious in advance, nobody.

    I want to be progressive, but I’m also proud of my heritage. White people have created some of the most advanced societies ever – look for any of the “best countries/least corrupted” reports out there and see who’s in top 10.

    Are we perfect – hell no! But we are trying harder than most. Do we get recognition for that. Hell no – White privilege! Racist!

    Sorry, but that privilege came from hard and smart work (and some wars but learn your world history – we are not unique in that). Are we racist? hell yes, but again learn your history, learn about others. At least we are trying to contain it unlike many.

    This time it failed. Not too surprised as I bet many whites just tuned out after being insulted a few times too many.

    My advice: forget the bottom 20% – they are bigots, racists and lost cause forever. Try to get best out of the next 20% by not insulting them all the time. And for liberals – go out and vote even if your candidate is not pure – the world is gray, not black and white.

    And be proud of your achievements.

  197. Jr Says:

    Amy #190

    The existence of the electoral college also changes the behavior of the voters and the campaigns. If the winner was decided by popular vote, Trump supporters in California might be more inclined to vote and Trump would campaign more in California. Of course, similarly the Democrats would change their behavior, but we can not be certain that the net effect would be a victory for Clinton.

  198. Scott Says:

    amy #194: I strongly support requiring universities to collect and publicize data about sexual assaults and other violent crimes. My objection to the Dear Colleague letter has nothing to do with that; it’s solely about the directive to universities to use a “preponderance of the evidence standard,” and otherwise completely to abandon due process (cross-examination, a right to appeal, a right to counsel, etc.) for accused students—that not only are universities allowed to treat accused students this way, but they must on pain of losing their federal funding (!). Many law professors sharply criticized the letter over those provisions, which seem to have arisen from political pressure to increase the number of punished students rather than from thinking through what would actually make good policy, or was actually required by Title IX.

    Two years ago, when we had the mega-threads about gender politics, I mentioned that one of my overriding fears was that, if young males felt, rightly or wrongly, like every available “legitimate authority” (universities, the government, academic feminists…) was stomping on their concerns and enjoying it, and like they were given no realistic choices besides celibacy or potentially breaking society’s rules, many of those males might eventually turn to the “Dark Side”—to the alt-right, to the misogynists and pickup artists—simply because no one else was listening to them.

    It gives me no pleasure to observe that something similar to that now appears to have happened, on a larger and more terrifying scale than I or just about anyone else imagined.

  199. lewikee Says:

    Scott: What would it take for you to change your opinion from “Trump is clearly an autocrat” to the more “normal” view that “Trump will be a very bad president but won’t willfully attempt to dismantle its most important institutions, as an autocrat would”?

    I ask this because I think that when one holds a minority view (which in this case might still be right!), then one should ask themselves “what do I see that they do not see, and is it reasonable for me to think this?”

  200. Esso Says:

    Fred #189

    “To complicate things further, many businesses can only survive because they employ illegals at rates that are well below normal.
    If we were to either legalize all those illegals or deport them, those businesses would close.”

    These businesses don’t have a priori right of existence, as you seem to imply. It’s about the boundary conditions we set for the markets: markets will accomodate for lack of cheap immigrants by automation or better (also known as more equal and fair) wages, and if that fails for a certain business, then it’s simply not an economically worthwhile undertaking given the boundary conditions.

    I think it is the right of citizens, who own the state and its premises, to set those conditions (as long as they don’t allow slavery or similar grave violations of human rights). And as they are self-interested people, they want to restrict immigration. Not only as workers and tenants, but also in wanting to reserve the land for their own posterity. All living things are selfish like that, no need to point fingers.

    Economists contend that immigration results in more global production and better global mean standard of living. But people in the developed countries would be worse off, and their ownership in their nations would be diluted and in a certain sense (see paragraph above) annulled. There would be less incentive to invest in public goods and participate in the common sphere (we still have nation states that function, no working global government). For these reasons I think raising global standard of living is a problem best solved “pointwise”.

    #188 Scott

    If you’re worried about something really bad, like ethnically motivated repression or hostilities, that’s a great reason to stand up for less immigration. I know I’m worried about Europe.

  201. Scott Says:

    lewikee #200: Obviously, what would change my view would be if, four years from now, Trump turned out not to be quite as bad as I’d feared. For example: if he didn’t gut federal science funding, didn’t pull out of the Paris accord, didn’t make it difficult or impossible for foreign scientists to get visas, didn’t deport millions of people who grew up in the US, didn’t threaten journalists, didn’t cause an economic crash by stupidly pulling out of trade agreements, didn’t use the Justice Department to go after his enemies, didn’t interfere with the 2020 election … basically, if he did few or none of the things his supporters expect him to do! 🙂

    I should say I concede that there’s an appreciable probability mass on Trump’s being “merely” a really bad president, rather than the last president. The reason for my terror is that it seems obvious, based on what we’ve seen, that there’s also an appreciable probability mass on the latter—as there wouldn’t have been with Romney or Rubio or Jeb Bush—and that this “tail risk” should completely dominate our expected utility calculation. Yet for some reason it doesn’t seem to dominate most people’s.

    What do I see that other people don’t? It’s probably just that I wake up every morning with the full reality of human horribleness weighing down on me—what’s the chance of thunderstorms this Tuesday? what’s the chance that the bullies, who’ve strangely left me alone for a while, finally march me to the forest and make me dig my own grave?—rather than merely intellectually knowing that various atrocities happened in some black-and-white past and they were bad.

  202. quax Says:

    Lewikee, looking forward to Scott weighing in on this, but FWIW not appointing a prominent alt-righ, Antisemitic, white supremacist to the White House staff certainly would have helped.

  203. Scott Says:

    quax #202: Can’t add anything to that…

  204. John Stricker Says:

    wolfgang #195: My favorite definition: Nationalism means you love your country, not that you hate that of others.

  205. fred Says:

    Esso #200

    It’s clear that an economy shouldn’t rely on such artificially cheap manual labor. The problem is that once it’s in place, it’s difficult to displace it.
    The restaurant industry in NYC is massive (750,000 workers, 34B$ in sales) but a lot of it relies on really cheap labor in the kitchen and food deliveries:

    “In 2007, 36 percent of restaurant workers were undocumented immigrants.[2] According to a 2008 estimate from the Pew Hispanic Center, about 20 percent of the nearly 2.6 million chefs, head cooks and cooks in the United States are undocumented immigrants”

    There is also a domino effect – many more legit/premium food/catering businesses rely on more basic food businesses that may only be viable because of cheap labor. The profit margins are so low, you knock those down and the effects propagate all the way up.

  206. Gil Kalai Says:

    One thing which is puzzling to me is that in many cases, for many writers, (and also to some extent here at the Shtetl Optimized) the very strong objection to Donald Trump was not accompanied by a strong enthusiastic rooting for Hillary Clinton.

    I personally feel that Hillary Clinton was a remarkable candidate with unprecedented depth of understanding of the many facets of American government, American society and international affairs, very good record for making things done, and great compassion and care for people (in the US and outside).

    I was surprised to see views of the kind: “Trump is terrible-beyond-terrible and Hillary is so-so (or “and Hillary is ‘Bad only within normal parameters'”) and therefore we must vote for her.” These types of mild endorsement were almost sufficient. But not quite…

  207. Michael P Says:

    Gil Kalai #206: to me too Hillary is ‘Bad only within normal parameters’. Here are some reasons:
    1. “Public and private position” – although these specific words became public only recently her history of misrepresenting the truth to the public was well-known for years.
    2. Her numerous “mistakes” or criminal acts, depending on whether you trust her (see #1).
    3. Her mishandling on foreign policies as the Secretary of State, from minor mistakes (such as “overcharge” button) to catering to dictators (such as offering said misspelled button to a rising dictator, etc.
    4. The lack of any tangible progress she would offer.
    5. The fact that she had to cheat even to get nominated (thus arguably handing the presidency to Trump instead of Bernie).
    6. The history of bullying not only her opponents but also private people, such as attempted intimidating women seduced by her husband into silence.
    7. Etc, etc, etc.
    She IS a terrible candidate. But, compared to Trump, ‘within normal parameters’.

  208. fred Says:


    you deserve a ton of credit for warning us all to not be complacent and trying to make a practical difference prior to the election with your vote-swapping initiative.

    I hope that you will soon be able to focus your mind again on your brilliant research while trying to deal (or not) with all this mess.

    As Prince said:

    Whatever you play, it’s okay to lose
    Ooh sometimes (sometimes…)
    As long as you learn from every game you choose
    If one thing is sure, you’ll always endure
    If you try your best at everything you do
    Say what you mean and mean what you say
    The price for a broken heart’s too much to pay
    And nothing is worth it, if you don’t have to try
    The higher the stakes, the higher the sky.

  209. Gil Kalai Says:

    Michael P., obviously I strongly disagree with all your seven points, which consist of a familiar combination of flawed logic, untruths, and nonsense.

  210. Michael P Says:

    Gil Kalai, I am especially delighted that you strongly disagreed with my 7th point as well. 🙂

    Would it be possible for you to address explicitly, oh, I don’t even know where to start, any of her alleged transgressions that were broadcast during and before the campaign, any of them, of your choosing?

  211. pku Says:

    Michael P. – I can’t speak for Gil, but I’d say something like:
    1. I give her major honesty points for this comment, actually. Everyone acts slightly different in public and private, and she was just admitting to that. She doesn’t seem less honest than other politicians (or non-politicians) in general – the reverse, actually, if you look at her positions and actions.
    2. Her “mistakes” are departing from theoretical protocol in the same way everyone else does, but then getting attacked over it by Fox News until it starts looking abnormal.
    3. Harder to speak on this one – she seemed tactically competent and on the ball in the state department, but you may very reasonably disagree with her strategic decisions.
    4. She was offering to continue the progress we’ve been making, which is pretty damn good – for example, 2015 had an unprecedented growth in income for the lower income percentiles.
    5. She did not “cheat”. She won three million votes more than her opponent. That people who had personally worked with them both almost unanimously preferred her is a point in her favour, not the opposite.
    6. Don’t know as much about the details of this, but considering how many accusations at her (e.g. Benghazi, the emails, the Clinton foundation…) turned out to be unfounded on investigation, I’m inclined not too take this too seriously.
    7. etc… most of the things you don’t mention are points in her favour. From the inside view, she has a long history of working with people and getting good things done. From the outside view, note that the people who approve of her most are the people who’ve actually worked with her.

  212. Sniffnoy Says:

    Raoul Ohio #175 and #178:

    Appointing White Power nut Steve Bannon to a position of power appears to be too much for the fraction of Conservatives who are actually conservatives as opposed to wind bag hypocrites. This raises the possibility of Progressive + Conservative resistance to Trump.

    In considering doomsday aspects of Trump winning the other day, I could not see any way for democracy to survive. I had not realized that lots of Conservatives are also appalled at Trump.

    One must be careful here. Lots of conservatives are appalled at Trump, of course — but the Republicans in actual government positions have basically just rolled over for him (largely, it seems, for fear of being voted out). Absolutely such a coalition must be put together — but don’t imagine that Republicans in Congress will be leaping to join it unless said coalition can put substantial pressure on them first.

    You are not the first to observe problems with democracy. But, what are the alternatives?

    Well, there’s futarchy, for one… 🙂

    A famous quote goes something like “The only good thing about democracy is that it is better than everything else”. Who wrote that? What is the correct wording? If John Sidles is not hiding on an island in the middle of nowhere, surely he knows.

    You’re thinking of Winston Churchill.

  213. wolfgang Says:

    @Gil >> Hillary Clinton was a remarkable candidate

    Yes, quite remarkable how she got from being “flat out broke” to 300 million$ by helping the poor. (You can read wikileaks to get an idea how they did it.)

  214. BBA Says:

    Futarchy – is that rule by anime hermaphrodites?

    Sorry. Sometimes you have to laugh, to keep from crying.

    The actual idea of futarchy seems like it would break down just as soon as a prediction market is obviously wrong, where “wrong” means either “predicting something that doesn’t happen” or “going against what the elected officials would much rather do.”

  215. Sam Says:

    “Never, never, never normalize this” sounds like what so many people were saying for so many years about same-sex relationships, doesn’t it.

  216. Scott Says:

    Sam #215: And they were wrong to say that, because unlike President Trump, gay people doing their thing don’t bother anyone else (as even much of the Right now seems to agree…)

  217. Michael Says:

    Scott# 156- I don’t think anyone’s disputing that Sabrina Erdley and Amanda Marcotte did everything in their power to set the discussion of the relevant issues back a century. But IF Mattress Girl was telling the truth about what happened to her, weren’t her actions more or less justified?

  218. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Maybe this is how it happened:

  219. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Follow up to previous remark:

    All the online aspects of Trumps win are unprecedented.

    And, the next election will probably have some even more bizarre turning points that have not even been guessed at yet.

    Not looking so good for democracy and civilization.

  220. dhaus Says:

    I agree he’ll be a bad president (worse than W, *especially* in foreign policy) but last president seems…a bit much?

    There’s a non-trivial chance that that happens now yes and the guy is petty and vengeful but as far as I can tell, he has no plan or desire to even govern much, let alone, try and plan for a permanent takeover…Maybe a future, more cunning and ambitious demagogue will succeed in doing that now that so many of the norms have been exposed as powerless but at least with Trump, imo, America got lucky in that he’s not such a person (ofc he prolly has a higher chance of accidentally trigger nuclear war so there’s that too).

  221. Jr Says:

    Esso #200,

    Actually many people in developed countries would be better off with more immigration from poorer countries, and most economists would assert that the gains exceed the losses for the country as a whole.

    If there is cheap labor in the restaurant industry for example, Americans who were planning on a career as a waitress or chef will lose out, but restaurant owners and consumers can all benefit from higher profits or lower prices. Really, it is no different from the invention of some labor-saving device in the restaurant industry. Would we be richer if we banned restaurants from using modern kitchen equipment?

    There is the cultural effect of immigration, of course, which economists are not very good at modelling. But America has traditionally been good at assimilating immigrants. Basically, they keep their religion, which makes them feel like they have preserved their identity, but in all other ways previous waves of immigrants have assimilated.

  222. fred Says:—-2ce4bbcf83bb—4&gi=7a2fd12b1962

  223. James Cross Says:

    I am slowly coming to the conclusion that we just had a coup in the United States and don’t know it.

    We have had the systematic effort to make voting as difficult as possible for minorities and the poor.

    We have had manipulation by hacking and leaking of emails probably by the Russians and probably with the assistance of the Trump campaign.

    We had the intervention of Comey and FBI, probably in coordination with Giuliani, in unprecedented public statements during the summer and just before the election.

    But there is more. It might be that votes themselves are skewed and being altered. It wouldn’t take much more than a small amount of change in the tabulation in key states – Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania – to change the outcome.

    Back even in 2012 there was concern about the “red shift” in Wisconsin during the Scott Walker recall.

    Systematically votes totals are off by several percentage points from exit polls and always in favor of the Republicans. Some people have said this is just people lying to pollsters or not wanting to admit they voted for Trump. I’ve never seen any Trump supporter who was shy about being one.

    “One of my favorite mathematicians is Richard Charnin, who on his website, using readily available public information, calculates the odds of the so-called ‘red shift” occurring from the 1988 to 2008 presidential elections. The red shift refers to the overwhelming pick up of votes by the Republican Party in recorded votes over what actual voters report to exit pollsters.
    In Charnin’s analysis of exit poll data, we can say with a 95% confidence level – that means in 95 out of 100 elections – that the exit polls will fall within an statistically predictable margin of error. Charnin looked at 300 presidential state exit polls from 1988 to 2008, 15 elections would be expected to fall outside the margin of error. Shockingly, 137 of the 300 presidential exit polls fell outside the margin of error.

    What is the probability of this happening? “One in one million trillion trillion trlllion trillion trillion trillion,” said Charnin….132 of the elections fell outside the margin in favor of the GOP. We would expect eight.”

  224. Scott Says:

    James #223: I’m also extremely concerned about vote tampering—particularly since a third of Americans voted on electronic machines with no paper trails, which the experts have shown to be trivially hackable; and since we know for a fact that Russia (which has plenty of competent hackers) was indeed interfering in this election on Trump’s side; and since, if Trump and Putin and their allies thought they could get away with vote tampering, they obviously wouldn’t have the moral scruples not to.

    But we ought to be clear that we have no proof of this at present: given how close the polls were, it’s also perfectly within the realm of statistical plausibility that a slight majority of Americans in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—at least, among those who overcame the GOP-created obstacles to voting at all—really did choose white-nationalist authoritarianism.

    And I’ve encountered Richard Charnin before, when he was “proving” that there was only a 1 in 7 quadrillion chance or whatever that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin. He doesn’t understand probability, to put it mildly.

  225. hlynkacg Says:

    Re. Jr #221

    There is a fundamental flaw in your argument. The waitresses and chefs vastly outnumber the restaurant owners, so any plan that causes them to “lose out” is guaranteed to be a democratic loser so long as we’re sticking to the 1 person gets 1 vote model.

    Likewise, the sort of assimilation requires one to reject identity politics/intersectionality. Something that most of those advocating increased immigration have been reluctant to do.

  226. Scott Says:

    hlynkacg #225: From an economic standpoint, the obvious solution would seem to be to take the net gains to the country (from immigration, trade, or automation—the principle is the same for each), then tax the restaurant owners and redistribute the wealth to the waitresses and chefs, so that everyone ends up ahead. That’s basically what mainstream Democrats have wanted to do for decades. Had they succeeded (i.e. had the Republicans not blocked it with their ideology of tax cuts for the rich), it could have prevented the rise of Trumpism.

  227. Michael P Says:

    James Cross #223: “Some people have said this is just people lying to pollsters or not wanting to admit they voted for Trump. I’ve never seen any Trump supporter who was shy about being one.”

    I’ve seen a few who weren’t exactly shy about their support for Trump, but who wouldn’t respond to polls. Some of these people are deeply distrustful of anything related to government, and they view polls as something Big Brother-ish, regardless of who conducts the polls.

  228. Scott Says:

    Update: I’ve since learned that Wisconsin and Michigan do have paper records of all the votes cast—but no one will ever look at them unless there’s a formal challenge. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania has paper records in some areas but not in others. Of course, if serious irregularities were to be discovered in Wisconsin and/or Michigan, that would cast doubt on the Pennsylvania results as well.

    Those of us who had resigned ourselves to the authoritarian takeover of the US shouldn’t get our hopes up, but it does seem possible that we haven’t heard the end of this.

  229. hlynkacg Says:

    Re. Scott #226

    That’s a fair criticism, but at the same time I think you are seriously underestimating the cultural component. There is a strong antipathy towards “Free Riders” through out much of the US. So simply cutting someone a check is as likely to breed resentment as it is gratitude.

    Likewise, mainstream Democrats have generally focused their redistribution efforts on helping disadvantaged minorities. The same people who, from the working class conservatives’ POV, have been driving wages down in the first place.

  230. Scott Says:

    hlynkacg #229: Even before the catastrophe, I was warming to the idea of many of my nerdy friends that what we really need is a Universal Basic Income, which would replace the complicated patchwork of redistribution programs that we have now, and not impose cutoffs where only “really” poor people would qualify and ordinary working-class people wouldn’t.

    Then, hopefully, working-class men could accept the UBI and do as many manly jobs as they wanted (machining, woodworking, etc.) on a part-time or recreational basis, regardless of whether a high-tech globalized 21st-century economy really supports those jobs, and would be satisfied and wouldn’t feel the need to vote for Trump.

  231. James Cross Says:

    Scott #230

    Years ago I wrote this:

    Imagine this. Medical advances dramatically increase the possible human lifespan. Robotic technologies increase the amount of goods able to be produced without human workers. The free market system is based on each worker being able to sell in the market place his services and abilities, but if the production of high value products does not require humans than the worker has nothing to offer. We are left with large number of workers competing for the niche service jobs, driving down those wages, while the wealth is maintained by owners of the machines. Who will buy the products of the machines? And will the workers be able to afford the medical advances to extend their lifespan? The situation is perhaps even more dire outside the industrial world. Just as jobs in the industrialized world have been shipped off to the Third World, the workers there may within a few decades see their jobs disappear to robotic factories leaving those countries to return to subsistence.

    What alternatives are there for a world like this?

    Let’s look at some muddling through types of scenarios with little significant change except extension of the current direction. We might end with a wealthy elite owning the machines, trading goods among themselves, and living for 150 years while the remainder of humanity live short lives of poverty, perhaps on the government dole to prevent civil unrest. Or, perhaps material goods become so plentiful and so cheap to produce that no one can become wealthy owning them. The machines may become like public lands, held by all, and for the benefit of all.

    I don’t see either of those futures happening like that exactly. That would be a mistake similar to that of Malthus or Erlich – the mistake of simply extrapolating trends. But I do see these themes playing out sharply in the next decades. There will need to be some kind of fundamental reorganization of our economy and a reevaluation of the basis of economy when people begin to live routinely for over a hundred years and most goods and many services are provided free of human labor.

  232. Esso Says:

    Scott #226

    Of course, in a truly Pareto-efficient solution immigrants with productivity below the paying-your-way limit (somewhere below the 70th percentile in Finland) will become second class citizens: they cannot be given the health care and services that natives receive if the natives are not to have bigger insurance premiums and taxes. I certainly don’t want my country to have a class of visually distinguishable helots. Generally speaking, no country can raise it’s average standard of living by importing poor people.

    Before anyone brings up “complementarity”: Its effects are far, far too small compared to the welfare gap, and it’s too confounded with the rural-urban divide in development lately. I’m pretty sure everywhere in Europe the immigrant burden on welfare states is much bigger than any losses or gains resulting from labour market effects. (Please don’t quote any studies that ignore children of immigrants or completely discount their late life and retirement.)

    Jr #221

    “If there is cheap labor in the restaurant industry for example, Americans who were planning on a career as a waitress or chef will lose out, but restaurant owners and consumers can all benefit from higher profits or lower prices. Really, it is no different from the invention of some labor-saving device in the restaurant industry. ”

    Trump may be a very bad man, but I’m pretty sure that as a businessman he understands the difference between machines and human beings, and the ramifications of utilizing one versus the other.

  233. Michael P Says:

    Scott #230: I would agree with that. My 2 cents regarding the “cutoffs”:

    These cutoffs, most often proposed by Democrats, were one of the reasons I resented both Bernie and Hillary, as well as much of the DNC platform in general.
    These cutoffs show that DNC promotes not only on compassion toward the poor but also resentment toward the middle class.
    These cutoffs demonstrate the habit of the left of NOT treating people equally but instead dividing people into groups (by various criteria, not only income) and treating these groups very differently.
    These cutoffs disenfranchise the part of the population that keeps the country together.

    Here’s an example:

    Bernie suggests making college education free. I applaud.
    I understand that the proposal would increase my already high taxes, but I applaud.
    Educated nation is a successful nation, I want my kids to live in an educated nation, and I applaud.
    A few seconds later Bernie clarifies that college education will be free unless the parents make more then $125k/year. My hands freeze mid-air.
    The clarification means that the kids of many middle-class parents won’t be able to afford college.
    The proposal implies that:
    1. College tuition will increase (because the supply of money for college education would increase).
    2. Middle-class (and $125k is certainly middle-class where I live) will have to pay higher taxes and therefore save less for their own kids’ college.
    3. The kids of middle-class parents will face higher tuition with neither access to free college tuition nor college savings.
    Therefore the proposal that includes the cutoff disenfranchises from college the kids of those who would pay for other kids’ college.

    There are many proposals like that, most often coming from the left, that start by proposing a certain benefit that all Americans should have and than impose a cutoff that prevents millions Americans from said benefit. Somehow middle-class Americans don’t deserve the benefits that all Americans deserve.

  234. Sniffnoy Says:

    Regarding cutoffs: While this might not be the main issue with them, it seems really odd to me that so many things the government does / proposes suddenly cut off instead of gradually tapering off. That might not be a huge improvement, but seriously, it wouldn’t be that hard!

    Also, interesting explanation of the election in terms of the “idea trap”. (H/T Eliezer Yudkowsky)

  235. Nick Says:

    I think that it’s the responsibility of scientists and engineers everywhere to double down on their efforts to provide technological solutions to climate change. I’m not convinced it’s possible without government subsidies and incentives, but it’s clear that it won’t happen unless the economics are there. Trump’s appointment of climate skeptics to high positions is perhaps the scariest thing about his presidency; though admittedly there are plenty of other things to freak out about.

  236. Michael P Says:

    Nick #235, I don’t think long term projects related to climate change is the first thing we should worry about. There are more urgent concerns: the country just has been raided.

    Consider that Trump not only didn’t put his businesses in a blind trust by appointing his kids to run them, he also recently applies for top security clearance for them. This means that he can legally discuss with them his presidential actions that can and will move the markets. His kids, in charge of his investments, will know in advance which commodity will go up and which will go down. This is an unprecedented in human history power over exchange markets. Not only Trump businesses will have unheard of advantage over their competitors, his funds will basically own movements of all publicly traded stocks and commodities. He stands to make hundreds of billions.

    That’s assuming that he would only disclose info, as he more or less confessed his intent would be. If he would also act as the President on behalf of his businesses the consequences would be far worse. Imagine that his kids find out on Tuesday he’s going to start a war next Friday and acquire the appropriate stocks on Wednesday; suppose now on Thursday the circumstances change significantly and it’s no longer necessary to go to war. What are the chances he would act on behalf of the country and bankrupt his businesses rather than proceeding with the war?

    It looks like the country has just experienced a hostile takeover by a shrewd and utterly ruthless corporation which has about as much concern for the population as a corporate raider would for the employees.

  237. Sam Says:

    Scott #216: “as even much of the Right now seems to agree” BECAUSE IT GOT NORMALIZED

  238. amy Says:

    Michael P #233, out of curiosity, did you check on current numbers for college and other major expenses before banking that enthusiasm?

    At a HHI of $125K, you’re already screwed. Your kids won’t qualify for enough need-based aid to make college affordable many places, and the tuition you’ll scrape together will go at least in part to pay the tuition of kids like mine, coming in at sub-$50K HHIs. At the state universities, this situation’s already getting worse as statehouses try to back away from funding scholarships and push the universities to cover aid through gifts and tuition on the full-fare kids. So it’s hard for me to see how federal funding — meaning collecting taxes from the entire taxpaying population — of lower-HHI kids’ tuition would have made things worse for you. Quite the opposite, I’d think.

  239. Michael P Says:

    amy #238: I’m well aware of the problem, which was caused by the DNC policies to tax middle class into near-bankruptcy and cap off benefit qualifications so that the sin of generating income would haunt them and their kids until they die. I think these policies, as well as other populistic PC BS, was the reason this country finally get fed up with DNC and turned to whichever republican was nominated. By a horrible horrible horrible coincidence that finally happened when republicans nominated Trump.

  240. Calm Down Scott Says:

    It pains me to see you so upset about this and I think that if you would approach this rationally, you would calm down. I voted for Trump after long and careful deliberation and could make a case that HRC is by far the less rational choice. But rather than argue that directly I’ll try to calm your fears starting with your concerns about vulnerable populations.

    1. Jews: They have absolutely NOTHING to fear whatsoever from a Trump administration except in the WORST case we may spend a little less focus on Israel from a foreign policy standpoint. A public figure like you may have to deal with antisemitic trolls emboldened a bit for a while and that is unfortunate but not the end of the world. I remind you that Trump has Jewish grandchildren and the backing of some interesting Jewish intellectuals.

    2. LGBT: In the WORST case, which is unlikely, Obergefell would be overturned setting back gay rights to the ungodly year of 2014. What is much more likely, as Trump has intimated himself, is marriage equality will stand but gays may not be able to force people who hate them to participate in their weddings. I think you agree with that. Trump is the most pro-gay “republican” we have ever elected.

    3. Muslims: Peaceful US citizen Muslims again have nothing to fear from Trump. It is possible that Mosque surveillance will increase as it did in NYC after 9-11 but most will be none the wiser. It is also possible it will be harder for them to chain-migrate relatives from terror-prone countries. This may be sad but it is nothing to be terrified of . This Muslim woman agrees

    4. Undocumented Immigrants: This group does have legitimate concerns but they have brought this on themselves. For most law-abiding UIs they will have several years to prepare for what in the WORST case is returning home. Trump is going to focus on securing the border and deporting criminals first. He has stated that after jumping through a few hoops (paying back taxes etc.) UIs that return home might be able to apply for expedited return status if they have property and US citizen children. I’d say there’s a 50% there will be a path to legal status without returning home but again lets assume the worst. Illegal immigration is a serious problem and many Hispanics agree, that’s one reason Trump did not do so badly among them. Latino leaders like Cesar Chavez have historically been to the right of Trump on illegal immigration and it wasn’t because they were racist.

    So this hysteria is ridiculous and far more embarrassing for me as an American than electing a reality TV star. You have said that you were agonized as a youth over the fear of being sexist and that you were sick for weeks after Bush was elected. These are not rational behaviors, most smart,kind, healthy boys navigate their sexual and gender roles just fine and the worst thing W did was his disastrous invasion of Iraq which your candidate was wrong about not once not twice but three times! I suspect your reaction to Trump is of a piece with those emotions. BTW Trump was a critic of the invasion almost immediately after it started if not before it began.

    Your remarks with respect to Trump’s supporters indicate you’ve not thought very clearly about this either. You (to your credit) have had to repeatedly say things like “I don’t think we should destroy the lives of Trump supporters or those who associate with them”!!!! Think about that for a second I mean really think about it. It was by and large the Trump supporters who were attacked during the campaign some of it orchestrated by HRCs campaign. Some anonymous pro Trump internet trolls say vile things about minorities but Clinton’s campaign surrogate gloats about the extinction of white men.

    I could go on point by point to explain why I chose Trump over Hillary despite his numerous flaws there is no doubt that as an American he was better the choice this time around as appalling as that is. You’re a good and decent man Scott and I hope you can start relaxing a little and get back to writing and thinking about QC.

  241. The game of chicken... Says:

    …takes two to play, and they started it.

    I am not claiming that the ‘culture war’ was the reason Trump got elected, but it certainly was important in my corner of the world.

    And democratic norms have been hit big, from the left, in a blatant way. Due process was diminished in universities. In Canada, the madness has reached the courtroom. Free speech was threatened (as a norm, if not as a law. The principle is wider than ‘the government cant censor/punish you’). Equality was attacked (with much hate to ‘fucking white males’, and the much older hate of ‘rednecks’).

    The truce was important. It is important. But you don’t get to shoot first, and then remember the truce.

    I am just glad the ‘cis straight white male’ did not go without a fight… If we cannot get respect — and by that I mean just the same guarantees as anyone else, nothing more — by asking, well… It takes two to play chicken.

  242. quax Says:

    Trump voter “Calm Down Scott” would like nothing more than full cooperation, I suggest to rather follow this prudent advise which is rooted in actual experience.

  243. quax Says:

    Rule #4 of how to deal with autocracy seems espeocially pertinent:

    Rule #4: Be outraged. If you follow Rule #1 and believe what the autocrat-elect is saying, you will not be surprised. But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself.

  244. Nilima Nigam Says:

    The comment in #240 reminds me of an excellent movie by Peter Sellers: “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”.

    Yes, we should all chill out. Some citizens may have their places of worship be under surveillance (without evidence of probable cause); others may have some rights revoked; and good grief, being told by trolls to take your family to the gas chambers is upsetting but not the end of the world.

    Actually, I can’t even pretend to agree with any of this, even in jest. The day I am OK with fellow citizens having unequal protections under the law in a civilized democracy is not here yet.

  245. Jr Says:

    Calm Down Scott #240, I agree that Trump has not attacked Jews and gays much. However, gays can certainly be worried about Mike Pence who with some probability is the one who actually be running the show. His Christian fundamentalist views and the desire to enact them into policy will also be off-putting to most Jews, but I agree that they should not fear persecution from him. But given how irrational the prejudice Trump is appealing to is, and how popular antisemitism is historically, who is to say that Jews won’t be the next target?

    As for Muslims, if we take what Trump has said remotely seriously, they have reason to worry.

  246. Scott Says:

    Jr #245:

      But given how irrational the prejudice Trump is appealing to is…

    Yes, for me that’s the point exactly. Some readers might have seen Scott Alexander’s recent piece arguing that the charges of white supremacy, etc. against Trump are wildly overblown. My problem is that, in case after case (birtherism, refusal to rent to black tenants, consigning black employees to the back of the casino, the Central Park Five, Judge Curiel, Trump’s initial failure to disavow David Duke, …), one can clear Trump of the charge of racism, only by indicting him as completely terrifying and irrational in some way other than racism, or else as coldly appealing to terrifying and irrational prejudices in others.

    I don’t doubt that Trump has moods where he “loves Jews,” “loves Hispanics” (as in the famous tweet of him eating a taco bowl), and wants to be the best president ever for African-Americans. The trouble is that he also has moods where he says and does things that are absolutely horrifying, he surrounds himself with horrifying toadies and yes-men, and the entire country is now at the mercy of his moods and his terrible judgment.

  247. Michael Says:

    Re: the Central Park Five- MOST white New Yorkers thought they were guilty. Partly because in 1989 it was underestimated how often false confessions happened even without torture, partly because their supporters’ claim that they were mugging people while a rape just coincidentally was happening elsewhere in the park seemed like an implausible coincidence, partly because they and their supporters DID react with sexist demonization of the victim (claiming her boyfriend did it, saying she was in the park to buy drugs, etc.) and nobody could imagine an innocent man doing that. You’re right though that if you look at Trump’s career in total, it’s clear he’s a racist.

  248. Scott Says:

    Michael #247: The bigger problem is that he continues to insist even today that they were guilty and deserve the death penalty! A total inability to admit you were wrong—about which people deserve to be put to death, no less—is one of the most terrifying qualities imaginable in a president.

  249. John Stricker Says:

    I was going to link to Scott Alexander’s post, but seeing as Scott (Aaronson) didn’t himself, I decided not to, although I think it a tremendous (sorry…) voice of reason.

    Re Scott #246
    “only by indicting him as completely terrifying and irrational in some way other than racism, or else as coldly appealing to terrifying and irrational prejudices in others.”
    Personally, I am convinced (p>0.99) that you are as wrong about this as you are wrong about Trump’s alleged racism; and I will be extremely happy, even thrilled, once you will be proven wrong on Trump beyond all doubt. (I am german.)

    My best wishes to all of you.

  250. Scott Says:

    John #249: The only reason I’m not linking to the piece, or writing a more detailed response, is that Scott Alexander specifically requested that his piece not be publicized more widely, and I’d like to respect his wish.

    Briefly, though, if anyone could convince me not to worry so much about Trump, it would surely be the other Scott A! So I treat the fact that he apparently can’t as powerful evidence. I much preferred his earlier post, the one where he wrote about how he can’t imagine that the path to the Elysian fields of reason and understanding passes through chants of “lock her up!” And, while I understand his worry about crying wolf, it seems equally reasonable to have a converse worry: namely, if we in the rationalist community want to do the thankless work of exonerating decent people who were unjustly accused by SJWs of misogyny, racism, general white male douchebaggery, etc. etc., how many people are going to listen to us if we also tried to exonerate Donald Trump—the man who (as Scott A. pointed out himself) is basically a walking caricature of all the worst things SJWs have ever believed about their opponents?

  251. Scott Says:

    Shmi #92: Sorry, the discussion of Scott Alexander just reminded me that I’d never answered your comment.

    While I enjoy Dilbert, as far as I can tell from his writings, Scott Adams is an egomaniacal troll, who got excited about Donald Trump early on simply because he correctly recognized in Trump a fellow egomaniacal troll. Adams made one big prediction that now seems massively prescient—namely, that Trump would win the election—along with plenty of associated predictions that turned out to be wrong (that Trump would win in a landslide, that he’d win various state primaries that he didn’t, etc). Adams has also advocated creationism and other things that you and I presumably agree are obviously wrong.

    In any case, though, I never expressed confidence that Trump would lose the election! On the contrary, I quoted what the prediction markets said, but constantly reiterated that the probabilities they gave him seemed scarily high and that we needed to work harder to defeat him.

    It stands to reason that people who think like Trump does, or are his supporters or crypto quasi supporters, would get excited about him and foresee his rise earlier than the rest of the world would. I’m sure the same has been true of all sorts of rising fascists and autocrats throughout history. But why should that cause us to give those supporters more credence about an extremely different question, of whether the successful autocrat to whom they hitched their wagon will be good for the country or the world?

  252. Mayra M. Says:

    Dear Scott
    I agree with you in everything you wrote except one thing: I think Donald’s voters ARE idiots. They got duped by the con man and gleefully chose him over any other choice. I will not easily forgive my relatives and now former friends who though it would be fine to vote for him. I think that awful things are about to happen. Donald is intellectually, mentally, and physically lazy. He will freak when he starts to get briefed on issues. That means that Mike P, whom I consider even more dangerous, will be in charge, as will the unscrupulous minions. Nothing good can come out of this except for stronger unity in the liberal front. And a strong case for teaching civics over reading, writing and ‘rithmetic in school. Our educational systems have failed miserably.

  253. Clarence Says:

    Ok, Scott.

    I can see you are a dishonest concern troll, who never holds your ‘own side’ responsible for anything.

    If you were truly worried about fascism and crap like that you’d have been worried during the Bush Jr years as well. In fact, I’ve been increasingly worried about US democracy and the rule of law since we were lied into a war by Bush and he wasn’t impeached. I linked you to tons of stuff that should have convinced you that in some ways we are already experiencing a “Post Constitution” government, and your response was silence. Where were you the last 12 years?

    Anyway, I’ll give this blog a wide path from now on.

  254. John Stricker Says:

    Scott #250 Re your first paragraph:
    Acknowledged; oversight on my part.

  255. amy Says:

    Michael P #235: I can’t see how your remark makes any sense at all. I would guess that by any measure — pretax, after-tax, COLA-adjusted — my HHI is some unimpressive fraction of yours, and I’m not bankrupt, despite single parenthood and no generous family in the background, and never have been. I’m sitting here in my pleasant 3-br house, child off at school; in a few years she’ll go to college. I’ve had health insurance this entire time. My retirement will not be exciting, but assuming it’s not simply disappeared in the kleptocracy, I’ll probably be able to stop working for money well before I drop.

    (Admittedly, I very purposefully did not have more children than I thought I could afford to bring up on my own, if necessary, through college.)

    What your post does sound like is the sort of whinging I’ve grown accustomed to from the aggrieved grandsons of union factory workers, who wanted to go to their unskilled-labor jobs for eight hours a day and come home with so much money that they could not only support themselves and children, but buy houses, pay another adult human to raise their children for them and take care of their houses for them, and have a nice two-week vacation down the shore in summer, maybe get a little vacation house and definitely a boat of some sort.

    I can tell you that there’s no woman on earth who’s ever had that expectation.

    I’m finding it hard to gin up sympathy for the “taxed into bankruptcy” thing. How are you living that on $125K/yr you’re going bust?

  256. amy Says:

    Calm Down Scott: (Just trying to respond to you I’ve got Arlo Guthrie in my head going, “I mean…I mean….”)

    It’s like you never met a 20th century.

    Let me give you an example. Trump, Jews. Jewish son-in-law, etc. Loves the Jews. Know who else loved Jews and was married to Jews? Party officials under Stalin. I mean these were sophisticated people who’d got mixed up with the Party, some of them. Jewish wives. What happened to the wives?

    Nothing good. Which won, Party loyalty or love of spouse?


    That thing where a guy feels like his life is ending or he’s been betrayed and he murders his entire family? Happens with some regularity? With guys like Trump, this happens at a governmental level. But we call them “purges” when they do it.

  257. pku Says:

    Re: “If Trump isn’t a racist, the other explanations for his behavior are equally terrifying” – Yes they are. I also they’re true – that he’s an egomaniacal buffoon with an inability to admit when he’s wrong and poor communication skills (which explains his comments better than overt racism). The conclusion in either case is that he’ll be an incredibly terrible president – but he’ll be a terrible president in a different way, which is important to distinguish.

    Re: Scott #250:
    – “namely, if we in the rationalist community want to do the thankless work of exonerating decent people who were unjustly accused by SJWs of misogyny, racism, general white male douchebaggery, etc. etc., how many people are going to listen to us if we also tried to exonerate Donald Trump”
    I think there’s an important distinction here, in that when Scott Alexander says “we”, he’s thinking of newspapers/left wing media – and it seems true that they should try to focus more on Trump’s incompetence and other personal failing than on his alleged racism (which is easy to disbelieve if you were inclined to like him in the first place – note how many people here who hate him dispute it – and hence is not a good counterargument to aim at his supporters). When you say “we”, you mean “we rationalists who are trying to convince the media”. In this case I think you’re a lot more accurate – You Scotts have a lot of influence over the rationalistSphere, but not so much over the mainstream media/SJ left sphere. But there are exceptions – say, when talking to a a sympathetic mainstream liberal – where Alexander’s approach might be better.

  258. Scott Says:

    Clarence #253: I don’t know whether to laugh or cry that you call Bush Jr. “my side.”

    Like most Democrats, I bitterly opposed Bush Jr. both before and during his presidency. Like with Trump, I did what I could to prevent him from coming to power (donating money, advocating NaderTrading, etc); sadly it wasn’t enough.

    For Republicans to foist Bush Jr. on the world; and then to lay all his failures at the feet of the Democrats who are guilty, at worst, of not doing enough to stop him; and to use that as an argument for electing another Republican—granted, one who’s unlike Bush in some ways, but who’s similar and indeed worse in at least one crucial respect, his stupefying incuriosity, and who to a large extent is supported by the same sorts of voters for the same sorts of reasons—I wish I had one quadrillionth of the chutzpah you guys can muster. Where do you get it from?

  259. Jr Says:

    I did read the other Scott A’s post. It made me feel better for a while, but I agree with the point that he does not refute some of the most worrying racist comments of Trump. Mostly it shows that Trump is inconsistent on this issue as well.

    And the major danger of him not respecting democracy remains. Nor does it suggest that his opposition to Islam does not reach bigotry levels.

  260. Michael P Says:

    Amy #255, you probably misunderstood my quotation of the parental $125k income cutoff in Bernie/Hillary/Trump free tuition proposal for the statement that $125k is my income. I am discussing the proposed laws and policies as they apply to American middle class, not as they apply to me personally.

    And here’s what I can tell about people living on $125k income in Silicon Valley (in general, not me personally):
    1. They pay $30k/year rent or mortgage in areas with lousy schools or $60k/year in areas with decent schools; they cannot afford to live in areas with good schools.
    2. They pay approx 40% of their income in state, federal, and social security taxes.
    3. They pay numerous other taxes, including 10% sales tax, property tax, municipal taxes, HOA fees, etc.
    4. They don’t see most benefits from the taxes they pay because most benefits are capped off too low.
    They are most definitely not “rich”.

    Whether $125k is middle class or not is NOT my point however. I don’t think there should be ANY cap on parental income in the decisions regarding the kids’ right to access college education.

    IMO people should be treated equally, not grouped according to various criteria and treated differently according to whichever groups. I also believe people should not be discriminated for their ancestry. In particular you should not disenfranchise children of successful parents because you perceived their ancestors being too successful.

    If you dig into the history, in particular 20th century, you’ll see that the worst things started with precisely that: grouping people into categories and pounding on those whose ancestors you perceive (rightly or wrongly) being too successful.

  261. Scott Says:

    Just to expand on #258 a bit: just like Trump would do later, Bush Jr.—incredibly, given his background—campaigned in 2000 as a “Washington outsider,” as just a folksy regular business guy who would stick it to the intellectual elites. And voters, enough of them, actually bought it.

    It was only later, after they’d witnessed the spectacular failure of his presidency—in particular, the Iraq war and the collapse of the financial markets—that the Republicans, enocuraged in their shamelessness by Trump, retrospectively redefined Bush Jr. as a “Washington insider,” with Hillary as his co-conspirator.

    But I’d say to Republicans: anti-intellectualism is your brand! You made it yours, you used it to win elections, now you take complete responsibility for its disasters—both those of Bush Jr. and the almost certainly worse ones soon to come.

  262. David Kyjovsky Says:

    Scott, there is an easy way to hedge against those disasters: accept the “other Scot’s” proposed bets. In the worst case you can win some money…

  263. Scott Says:

    David #262: Even if Dana still let me place bets, betting against the other Scott A. about specific social-science metrics is like sitting down at the blackjack table with the best sharks in Vegas. Why would I do that? Even if I get the better cards, they’ll still figure out a way to beat me. 🙂

    Seriously, I’ve already implicitly bet my reputation. Given everything I wrote above, if Trump is judged by history to have been a great president then I’ll obviously look foolish.

    But while none of us can avoid sometimes placing implicit bets of that kind, at heart I’m a mathematician, not a Bayesian empiricist. I try to avoid situations where the truth or falsehood of what I say depends directly on the future or the behavior of other people, because the future and other people too often don’t make sense! (That’s why, for example, I keep my money in boring index funds, and don’t seek any sort of elected office, not even within the CS world.)

    What I’m sure about is that Trump ran the most shameful presidential campaign of my lifetime, one based on fear and anti-intellectualism and appealing to voters’ basest instincts. Logically, that doesn’t imply that he’ll be a terrible president. It simply means that if he isn’t one, then the world makes even less sense than I thought.

  264. sf Says:

    Trump as president risks creating problems that go beyond big issues that led to this mess, but I think that the biggest dangers are still those issues, not Trump per se. There’s a danger that by focussing too much on the person, we miss the most important underlying points.

    To summarize the issues, maybe to be taken more as a question than a statement, in case you don’t agree, Trump’s electoral success is a symptom of:

    1. economic instability and inequality, including rapid change due to globalisation and technology that has left many behind, combined with too much power of well funded lobbies, out of reach expensive justice, etc.

    2. values: social issues and conflicts over morality, latent racism coming to the fore, but also PC, LGBT, feminist issues.

    3. confrontation with Islam and terrorism, security vs basic rights.

    4. what else? is all this symptomatic of even deeper problems? Lack of traditional community? maladapted democratic structures? Western decadence? and is it worth talking about if there’s no way to change or reverse such things?

    Of these, “values“ only change slowly, through culture and education, but their potential to cause danger right now is exacerbated by frustration due to economic factors. If society is very stable, then confrontation with Islam and terrorism might be managed succesfully, but if society is overly fragilized by the economic and values factors, then terrorism can be alot more damaging, by provoking deeper internal conflicts.

    Likewise, the confrontation with Islam and terrorism may itself also have economic roots – in the poverty of regions concerned, which has transformed confrontations over values into a powder keg.

    But the most serious threat may actually be:

    5. the long term problem of climate change,

    which wasn’t as important a factor in the campaign. So this is where Trump himself, with GOP support, could end up being the biggest problem.

    Of course, its also possible that Trump will just make everything about the 3 preceding issues much worse, he hasn’t shown any signs yet of how he can possibly resolve the problems. There’s just a sliver of hope for now that he can get help from beyond the group of advisers involved in his campaign. His positive contribution was maybe to have moved attention to where it was needed, faster than it would have come otherwise.

  265. amy Says:

    Michael P #260 – oh, I’m in complete agreement that a decent university-level education should be available to all regardless of parental income. Also healthcare, a reasonably safe and clean place to live, food, and the other things that come complete with a nutritious social democracy.

    The problem with the SV example: what you’re saying is that these people cannot afford to live in SV and should go somewhere else. Now, you’ll find no argument from me when it comes to instituting all kinds of market-distorting arrangements like rent control and sales-price caps. I am after all a landlord who charges at the bottom rung of market on purpose, and would go lower if the IRS would let me. As things stand, though, your $125K family can no more afford life in SV than I can afford life in Manhattan.

    Which is why I don’t live in Manhattan. Or Boston, or San Francisco, or a lot of other places that, if I were a single person, might be fun.

    Has this made things more challenging careerwise, sure. Impossible, no. So I do my work and I live in a place I can afford, and it has houses around the $175-250K mark and nice public schools and lots of other nice things. My tax rate here, incidentally, is rather high for my region of the country, and that’s fine with me, even though I haven’t got so much disposable income that it doesn’t hurt a little. It means that we have nice public services, including schools. In fact we only have one private high school locally, and it’s a Catholic school. Nobody else sees a reason to take kids out of the public schools. That’s the effect of a redistribution.

    I do not mind that I pay much more in local taxes than does a poor immigrant family living in a small apartment, even if it the family’s kids have access to programs mine doesn’t. (Which is in fact the case.) I say good! Let them take advantage and get smart and get things they can’t get from their parents, and maybe in 20 years we all enjoy a generally better-off society. That I live in, that my kid will live in. That’s not a punishment.

    The reality, incidentally, is that your $125K kid who can’t get merit aid at Dartmouth can go to a UC school for a hell of a lot less money. It’s not as though the kid isn’t going to go to college at all, which is what I see here with kids who drop out of the state college because they just don’t have the money and their families have no money.

  266. sf Says:

    Off topic, but I just noticed that the book:

    The Once and Future Turing, ed. S. Barry Cooper, Andrew Hodges

    including – The Ghost in the Quantum Turing Machine

    finally came out, March 2016. I don’t think it’s been mentioned here?

  267. Michael P Says:

    amy #265, about your last statement regarding UC schools: my niece from CA just found out that her out-of state tuition in Maryland, UNC, and Minnesota will be a lot cheaper than in UC campuses.

    But, again, the discussion on the precise amount of the $125k cap proposed by Bernie/Hillary/Trump is not my point. Move that cap from $125k to $500k and I would make exactly the same thing: federal government should not differentiate between kids based on their parents’ income and instead treat them exactly the same:
    I don’t want an 18 yo kids estranged from his wealthy deadbeat dad be unable to attend college.
    I don’t want parents who struggled for years and just started to pay off debt from the recently increased income decide between their kids’ college and picking themselves up
    I don’t want Mormon parents with $200k income and 10 kids make Sophie’s choice which one or two of their kids will get education.
    I don’t want kids left out because of 100s possible reasons kids will be left out from any regulation of who’s eligible and who’s not which cannot possibly anticipate all circumstances.
    And, more importantly, I find it unfair and almost obscene that the government peeks into parental pockets to decide whether the kids are worth investing in.

  268. Itai Bar-Natan Says:


    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  269. amy Says:

    Michael P #267, before I posted, I actually looked up the tuition for that SV unfortunate who’d gotten into Dartmouth but wasn’t super enough to merit merit. UC Santa Cruz: $11K/yr. You could live at home and go to the satellite campus. You wouldn’t even have to go to Cal State. You wouldn’t even need your folks’ help; between a student job and loans you’d be set.

    I would like all the kids to be able to go, too. Here’s the kicker: somebody has to pay if the schools are going to exist. There are two choices: the money shows up privately in the form of gifts and megatuition paid by the not-poor, or the money shows up in the form of taxes paid by all, meaning that the $125K couple will pay more than the $45K single mom, who will in turn pay more than the $23K refugee couple.

    In other words, we will continue to discriminate on the basis of income. I am down with that.

  270. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Raoul channels Pollyanna:

    My estimate for the likelihood that Trump is not a total disaster has increased from 0.01 to 0.1.

    My reasoning is that while Trump certainly is a loudmouth buffoon swindler, etc., etc.; he is not a dummy. He probably never expected to win. My guess is that he got in on the race basically for laughs, ego tripping, and to promote a followup TV series or network.

    So now all the sudden he has won, and furthermore is the champion of the Deplorables. Trump probably does not actually know any deplorables, and would not be comfortable hanging around with any. Trump obviously does not have the patience to actually learn the stuff that a decent president would need to know to not totally screw everything up, and I hope he realizes you cannot actually run things making snap decisions off the top of your head just to hear the crowd roar.
    Also, the realization that historians might wind up putting him in the same chapter with Hitler must be sobering.

    It would be great if there was some adult supervision. And, it appears that Trump is actually is following the advice of his son in law, who is rumored to be a pretty sharp guy and a democrat to boot. So there is some hope that Trump will prefer to clown around acting like a rock star president, and let the son in law run things.

    Wishful thinking?

  271. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Scott #230:

    Universal Basic Income and legalization of Marijuana would lead to an awkward situation: 90% of the people wouldn’t do anything.

  272. pku Says:

    I’d consider that less unlikely if both his VP and his EPA director weren’t climate deniers.

  273. amy Says:

    Oh, Raoul Ohio #270, how I wish I could agree with you. But he’s actually a bona-fide dummy. You know how brains usually has to hire the muscle? With him it’s the other way around.

    He’s always been like this. I remember him in college with those stupid Sikorski helicopters and the same appalling rhetoric, only back in the day he was busy telling us to be scared of the gays, who wanted to give us AIDS. And his stupid mobbed-up restaurant. Nobody legit wants to deal with this guy, not just because he’s awful, but because he doesn’t know what the hell is going on.

    If you’ve spent any time out with the rich kids in any major city you recognize the type immediately. Essentially he’s a very sheltered mobster. Mobsters and associates, not famous for brains.

    We’re actually in trouble. What’s already happening and what will continue till someone locks it up is a bloodbath at the edge of the power vacuum. So we don’t actually know yet who’s going to be running the country, and short of them locking him up in his apartment, which I don’t see as an impossibility, I think it’ll be highly unstable because he’ll keep showing up and opening his mouth with absolutely no clue as to what’s going on around him.

  274. James Cross Says:

    “…people wouldn’t do anything.”

    Not true. Not there would be anything wrong with that.

  275. Alex Says:

    Scott #263

    “What I’m sure about is that Trump ran the most shameful presidential campaign of my lifetime, one based on fear and anti-intellectualism and appealing to voters’ basest instincts. Logically, that doesn’t imply that he’ll be a terrible president. It simply means that if he isn’t one, then the world makes even less sense than I thought.”

    This opens an avenue for an interesting hypothetical:

    If, say in 2010, an oracle had reveled to you:

    a) The identity of the indivudual most fit for US presidency in the eligible population.
    b) The credentials for an account containing a campaign worth of money for you to take
    c) The (now empirically proven) fact that “The Trump Strategy” would win the 2016 election.
    d) Some intel about Mr. Trump sufficient to blackmail him into not running.

    would you consider it moral to use these insights to install that individual as president using Trump’s Strategy?

  276. Scott Says:

    Alex #275: I find it hard to reason about what I would or wouldn’t do in a hypothetical universe with oracles that selectively reveal the future. Maybe kidnap the oracle and make it reveal more about the future? Or launch a crash program to understand how the oracle works so we can build our own.

    But yes: in retrospect, obviously, we all should’ve done more to stop this.

  277. Scott Says:

    Itai #268:


    No, sorry, Trump is non-normalizable: ⟨Trump|Trump⟩=YUGE, which is not a field element.

  278. Alex Says:

    Obviously I did a really bad job communicating my intentions with that question. Thank you for the answer anyways.

  279. jonathan Says:

    What I’m sure about is that Trump ran the most shameful presidential campaign of my lifetime, one based on fear and anti-intellectualism and appealing to voters’ basest instincts. Logically, that doesn’t imply that he’ll be a terrible president. It simply means that if he isn’t one, then the world makes even less sense than I thought.

    We agree on the nature of Trump’s campaign. In fact, even Scott Adams would (mostly) agree with your description. The question is what sort of evidence this provides.

    It fits the hypothesis that Trump is a deranged power-hungry autocrat. I think other evidence doesn’t support this (i.e. his business career and statements when not running for office), but not enough to eliminate this possibility.

    I think a much more plausible hypothesis is that he’s basically a con man. Yes, I don’t think he’s 100% faking everything — some of the things he said or ways he acted during the campaign are just his character. But basically I see him as mainly playing his supporters.

    The problem is that this hypothesis doesn’t provide much guidance on what happens next. Usually when the con man succeeds, he just walks away with the money; but now he’s left with a country to govern.

    Will he try to enrich himself personally? Govern as best he knows how? Maybe he was motivated by a true desire to help our society, and just conned to get himself elected. Maybe he was motivated by desire for attention and to feel powerful and successful.

    I think there’s a lot of uncertainty about what he does next. But what I’m fairly confident of is (1) this election was very bad for our democracy, whatever Trump does next; (2) Trump lacks relevant experience, knowledge, and skills in running a country.

  280. Michael P Says:

    amy #269: you are completely missing my point, which makes further discussion of this subtopic pointless.

  281. quax Says:

    jonathan, given his picks, Bannon, Priebus, Sessions, Flynn, Pompeo, Ebell he makes no difference between running a campaign or the country.

    These are all Trump loyalists of the most extrem bend.

  282. quax Says:

    Well with the exception of Priebus who is just a toady.

  283. amy Says:

    Michael P #280: As I understood you, you’re trying to say that taxes of various types on what you define as middle-class (and many in this country would define as quite well-off indeed) have so sunk the middle class that they’ve turned away from the Dems in outrage.

    I used your initial concrete example of this to show that in fact such people are generally bellyaching, something they would notice if they bothered doing the math with real numbers and considered that they’re not the only ones living in the society.

    Then you said you’d like for all to be able to [insert social good, such as going to college], regardless of parental success.

    I replied that those with successful parents almost certainly can and will go to college, though it might not be the fancy variety they want; also that while I agree that all should be able to go, someone has to pay, and that someone will, one way or t’other, be the relatively well-off.

    If your point was something else (such as outrage that the gubmint does the pocket-checking rather than the schools, though of course the schools investigate those pockets far more assiduously than the gubmint does), then yes, I’ve missed it. Otherwise, it doesn’t appear I’m missing anything, though I am disagreeing with you.

  284. lewikee Says:

    By the way, from my observations over the past week, it seems that not only is Trump being normalized by the left and right wing alike, but he’s being normalized at an accelerating pace.

    I liked Luigi Zingales’ article about how to resist Trump (sorry don’t know how to hyperlink here):

    He draws strong parallels with Italy’s Berlusconi and recommends, among other things, to give Trump political legitimacy and oppose him as an ordinary political opponent.

    The more I notice just how easily any of the personal and ethical attacks slide off of Trump (and even seem to empower him!), the more I think Zingales might be right.

  285. quax Says:

    lewikee, nothing about Trump is normal and that gives plenty of arguments that should resonate with people across the political spectrum who still care about American national security.

    After all, there is a non-vanishing probability that Trump was the ultimate Manchurian candidate.

    And now he just named somebody as national security adviser who celebrated the birthday of the Russian propaganda outlet RT with Putin in attendance.

    Honi soit qui mal y pense …

  286. Rick Mayforth Says:

    All you unhappy progressives should read what’s at the link below. Please don’t reject it because of the source. People vote in their economic interests. Huge government and socialist policies never deliver the goods. Look at the history of the 20th century.

    You all may feel embarrassed for the country after this election. I felt that way in 2012 after 4 years of what I see as destructive policies, alienating our traditional allies and empowering bad actors in the world, meanwhile at home hurting businesses and today leaving almost 100,000,000 people without a job. It cuts both ways.

    I’m no fan of Trump, but I could not imagine an unindicted felon (as described by the FBI director deliberately misinterpreting federal law to say he would not indict) with a long history of scandals, including leaving Americans under her protection to die in a foreign country, being elected president. I guess the majority in our representative republic agreed with that.

  287. Michael P Says:

    amy #283: very well, I’ll try one more time.

    Imagine that you visit MacDonalds, and order the Quarterpounder. The clerk asks you: “How much did you make last year?”
    You are taken aback, for that’s none of the clerk’s business, but he threatened to call police, and indeed the cops tell you that you must answer and show your tax return, lest you get arrested.
    So you show your $50k tax return and the clerk, who just charged 4 other people $1 each, charges you $25 for the same burger.
    “Why are you charging me more?” – you ask.
    “Because you made $50k last year, and those guys made only $10k each” – replies the indignant clerk – “You can afford it, and they don’t, so we overcharge you to subsidize the other 4.”
    Then the clerk brings 5 MacChickens.
    “Where is by quarterpounder?” – you ask.
    “The majority of the 5 customers voted for MacChicken, so you all get MacChickens” – replies the clerk.

    You mull the situation quietly, considering whether you should keep working so hard: no matter how much you make your income is always 100% of your income, and if they charge you not in dollars but in percentages of your income you have no incentive to work.
    Then it occurs to you that you’ve been charged $25 for having $50k income, or 0.05%, and the other guys were charged $1 for having $10k income, which is 0.01%. So you ask the clerk: “Why am I charged a bigger percentage of my income than the other guys?”
    And the clerk replies: “Because we have progressive tax, you should know that, you wealthy bastard!”

    While you are trying to absorb why having income of 2,000 burgers a year (at your price) is wealthy and the others with 10,000 burgers a year (at their price) are poor you see your son entering the joint. He comes to the register and orders a burger.
    You know that he makes only $2k/year washing dishes, so he surely will get his burger cheap. However, the clerk charges him $25 and justifies the charge by pointing out that, although your son didn’t make much YOU did. And YOU tax bracket is going to apply to HIS purchases.
    At that point you realize that by working hard and being productive and subsidizing this country you screwed up not only yours but also your family’s future.


    Now, the above may sound ridiculous generalization of income tax bracket and easily counteracted by the observation that progressive taxation is only a portion of your expenses, and for the rest you pay in the dollar amount. And I would buy that observation in the World where the government is small, the taxes are small, and most things you get don’t involve indexing by your income.

    Unfortunately, that is no longer true. Too many things you get are indexed by your income, and, what I find obscene, by your parental income, to which you have no direct access to. Your biggest expenses – taxes, your kids’ tuition, health care, and sometimes housing – all all indexed, and usually progressively so. Believe it or not, sometimes people do math and find out that they are being better off not working.

    I believe the reason the country turned to GOP was not social but economic. I know several people who voted for Trump. None of them has anything against Mexicans or gays or Muslims in general (although a couple of them are concerned about terrorism) or women’s right to choose. And none of them likes Trump.
    They rebelled against DNC for one reason only: they are tired of paying through the nose for benefits neither themselves nor their children are allowed to see and then being vilified and disenfranchised for that. They are not scrooges as far as I know; I’m certain at least some of them donate to charities.

    There is a huge difference between helping out with what you know you can and being robbed by bureaucrats who believe THEY can decide what YOU can or cannot afford.
    And, unless DNC stops biting the hand that feeds the nation (or GOP screws up royally) the productive people will keep voting for economic rather than social reasons, and that means supporting whoever GOP promotes as their front runner without paying much attention to his social rhetoric. I personally didn’t vote for Trump, but I would for approx half of the 11 GOP primaries candidates.

  288. pku Says:

    I really don’t understand how anyone can feel embarrassed about Obama after his last term, considering we’ve had an unprecedented streak of job growth and pay raises, which finally reached the lower income 50% as well. Like, if you’re a giant fan of Trump and believe all of his outlandish claims for some reason, you can say “things are decent, but they could be great!”. But you really can’t reasonably say things under Obama are less than decent, the evidence just doesn’t bear it out.

  289. amy Says:

    Michael P #287 – yeah, I got your point the first time. Your error is in treating the world as a series of consumer items, which it isn’t. You’re also telling me a story of abject and outraged selfcenteredness masquerading as a Harrison Bergeron story, and I’m no more sympathetic than I was the first time I heard it.

    Let’s shift your McWhatever example to something slightly more important: healthcare. Yes, you’re going to subsidize the hell out of healthcare for the poor, one way or another. It’d be nice if the explanation just had a sort of galactic sticky so I could point to it instead of typing it out for guys like you all the time, but it goes like this: despite the fact that you’re apparently blind to this, you live in a society with other people. In general, the more of them have a life that escapes misery, the better off everyone is, including you and your kids. Things that you may have no immediate interest in — schools, for instance, if you have no children, or publicly subsidized medical schools, or Medicare if you’re under 65 — are things that will either serve you indirectly later or serve people quite near you. In any such society, the wealthy pay disproportionately, and are compensated by not coming out as batshit crazy as the wealthy in banana republics who have to have their own private armies.

    Returning to the health insurance. You, perhaps, want unlimited hip replacements. Or infertility treatments despite the fact that you and your wife are nearing 50. Or treatment for a rare disease. You’re unlikely to get these things. Why? Because they aren’t things most people want or need. You want special, you’ll pay for special yourself — if it exists. Such is life.

    Returning to my school taxes example of a couple posts ago: yeah, I pay more than the refugee family does, which is fine. I’m paying for public school, seldom anyone’s idea of genius education. I could, of course, spend my days railing at the school board and the principal about the miserable selection in the school library and the fact that my kid’s brains are dribbling out her ears all day. But the schools are not built for the likes of my kid; she’s a couple standard deviations away from the kids they’re building the schools for. I recognize this. So she goes to school and draws on her hands with her friends, and her brains dribble out her ears, and then when she gets home I help her put them back in, and I say, “You’re done reading the crap in the school library as your language-arts work; here is a stack of books for you to choose from; you’ll read them in whatever order you please and then we’ll talk about them.” Then I email the teacher and say nicely, “Look, you have garbage there, I’m going to give the kid something better, let me know if I can do anything to make it fit your curriculum neatly.” Usually the teacher says, “Knock yourself out, lucky kid you have there.”

    In other words, if what you really need is that McChicken whatever, you can usually go home and make yourself your own McChicken whatever, if it’s that desperately important to you. Sometimes you can’t. My dad has a rare disease. He won’t be cooking up his own drugs for it, and it’s unlikely that anything experimental will be ready in time for him to use it. But very often, yes, you can go home to your nice house and make yourself that bespoke sammich. And in the meantime, other people get lunch too, and they get a lunch that’s useful to them instead of whatever the Great Laird happens to want today.

    As for whether abject and outraged selfcenteredness will carry the day politically: well, it has this time, on a technicality. It’s extraordinary, though, how little sympathy there is for it outside some pretty specific groups. I don’t see the shade-throwing constituency shrinking, percentagewise. So do I think it’s the future, no. I think we’ll go on wandering towards something that looks more like social democracy.

    There’s always Venezuela.

  290. Michael Says:

    @pku- Unfortunately, conditions in a lot of Midwestern towns are not so decent. The proper response to this should have been “Sorry, we can’t think of any way to solve your problem but it’s not Obama’s fault”. Unfortunately, what much of the Left responded with was “You’re privileged racist straight white males” and that made it easier for Trump to con whites who had previously voted for Obama.

  291. pku Says:

    @Michael: I agree with this (with the caveat that “much of the left” is probably truer as a percentage of volume than as a percentage of total people – the people who say things like this are a disproportionately loud minority.)
    That said – if you were running instead of Hillary, what would you say to these midwesterners? “We’re sorry some of you got left behind, but things on the whole are better and no matter what we do someone’s going to be left behind” is true, but not a vote-winner. Can you think of a way to spin that into good PR?

    @amy: There’s a model where the government provides services such as basic medicine/food/safety, and the rich pay disproportionately through graduated income tax, but that’s the only place where we differentiate by income. This seems incredibly preferable to have graduated income tax *and* shifting services, such as college pricing, by parental income. If you think the graduation of the income tax is insufficient and the rich still don’t pay their fair share, you should increase the graduation, not find other places to differentiate by income.

  292. Sniffnoy Says:

    Pretty good article on what seems the most likely big danger from Trump’s coming presidency:

  293. amy Says:

    pku #291 – I’m totally down with that model and think it tends to generate the second-sanest societies. In the sanest societies, it seems to me, the government provides services somewhat better than basic to all, and all pay, the wealthy disproportionately. The wealthy are entirely free to go buy something fancier, but frequently they don’t because what’s on offer from the government is perfectly adequate. That’s actually how the state universities where I am used to function until we started gutting them. You seldom saw promising kids volunteering to pay an extra $120K to go to a name-brand school when they could quite a good ed at Univ. of.

    As it happens, I am in the midwest, and “sorry you came out the losers, it happens” is in no way a winner. From the coasts it’s easy to forget, or just not to know, that there’s often not a very clear conception of what “contemporary winner” even means, out here. All many people know is lost farms and subsiding little towns. Family businesses tend to run to military and farming. Only 25% of the adults in the state where I live have gone to college; tell them to “go to college” and they don’t really know what that means, nor do they trust that the vast investment will be worthwhile. The distances out here are also tremendous — it’s not like the northeast, with colleges dotted all over the landscape. You might be 150 miles from the nearest university, might never have seen one up close by the time you get to 12th grade.

    When people imagine “winning” here, it’s very often in the form of economic fantasies of the increasingly remote past. You’d have to be able to paint them a picture of something feasible, not just supportable by the regional economy, but something they could actually envision themselves doing. That idea still very often comes in the form of a manufacturing plant.

  294. amy Says:

    From a student in the Times:

    “I am considering many grad schools in the U.S. for my master course next fall. Before the election, I only looked at the ranking, the alumni’s feedback, the requirements and the fee and campus life. Now, I really have to think about the safety. As an Asian woman, I don’t expect anyone to stop me in the street and tell me to get back to China (which I am not from). So now, although I was so sure about some schools in Texas and Wisconsin, I have to sit down once again, and closely look at the cities, and hope that they are not too red. This election changed my mind about America.”

  295. pku Says:

    Regarding the midwest, that sounds about right (you’d know better than me…). Again, if you were Hillary, how would you try to get them on your side?
    About your second comment – this seems like unfounded paranoia. Asian women are by far the least likely demographic to be victims of violent crime, anywhere in America. (see for example ).

  296. fraac Says:

    I wrote during the primaries that Clinton supporters needed to weight the expected value properly and appeared not to be doing so, as it seemed, to me, that Clinton came with a 50% chance of Trump while Sanders came with a 20% chance of Trump. The hysterical reaction we’ve seen since is not rational. It should have been priced in (“treat those two imposters just the same”).

    I think this result will come to seem like a market correction. Probably an overcorrection because the system isn’t very liquid. Personal story: my entire internet life I’ve used Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s scythe as my avator on forums because I love the anti-hierarchy symbolism. I’m a huge fan of Joss Whedon. When I saw his series of election adverts I felt a violent rage. They were smug, sanctimonious, written with an absolute belief that their in-group is superior. Jesus, for example, would not have approved. A correction is overdue.

    Also Trump means a far greater chance of society collapsing and awakening, which may be the only way our children can survive this:

  297. Scott Says:

    amy #294: Yes, that’s exactly why I thought it important to send a message to foreign students that, if they come to almost any city or university town in the US—in a red state, a blue state, wherever—they’re effectively entering a different country from the one that just elected Trump. Hard to believe, but both experience and the data bear it out.

  298. Scott Says:

    fraac #296: There’s a possibly-apocryphal story involving Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, which has stuck in my mind for a long time, and which this election in general and your comment in particular reminded me of.

    Russell had helped found a “Committee for Peace and Freedom,” or something like that. Wittgenstein found out and was extremely agitated about it.

    “Well, what should we have founded?” Russell asked him. “A Committee for War and Slavery?”

    Yes!” Wittgenstein shouted. “Rather that!”

    For Russell, the goal is to do something to alleviate actual human suffering in the actual world. For Wittgenstein, the goal is to avoid looking “smug” or “sanctimonious” at any possible cost—even if it means choosing war and slavery over peace and freedom.

    Among not only conservatives, but a significant fraction of liberals, the Wittgenstein position seems to have way more street cred nowadays than the Russell one: “let the world burn, as long as no one can accuse me of being less recursively ironic and self-aware than they are.” And, I confess, even I often I feel the tug of the Wittgenstein position when this conflict rears its head. But most of the time, at least when it counts, I try to be with Russell, and I like the part of me that’s with Russell much more than I like the part that’s with Wittgenstein.

  299. amy Says:

    Scott #296: I think about this one every day.

    Not very long ago we, like many other US universities, started recruiting heavily in China and Korea. No secret why; we charge those kids an arm and a leg to come here, and indeed we now rely heavily on their tuition.

    In the first few years of this recruiting, a problem grew up here that staff and admin were very slow to recognize: virulent and vocal “go home”-style racism against Asian students. Students of mine involved in fighting it — Asian-American students — had plenty to say about it when I asked. I’ve seen no reporting on it lately, and since I don’t wander around in student social media or hang around in dorms or go to the bars, I don’t know what remains. I’m sure it’s not gone completely; it was there all along. I had an undergrad boyfriend…er, many years ago now, his mother Korean, and he’d routinely get ignorant dormmates demanding to know where he was from — no, where he was *really* from.

    I know I’ve got Trump supporters in my classes. I know at least one grad student who voted for Trump for ridiculous reasons that were apparently more important to her than, say, science funding or protection of women in STEM. And while I expect none-to-few of them would regard themselves as racist, I have very little doubt that amongst drunk friends the racism comes out — as a joke. And that they laugh at the jokes, and take the whole thing as a joke. And that few of them would really be disturbed by the prospect of, say, internment camps.

    But then I was at Sachsenhausen once with a group of American college students. Most of them had never heard of concentration camps before. (Really.) It looked tidy enough, and I don’t think it quite came home to all of them what had happened there.

    The students here are the children of the people who voted for Trump. On balance they’re more liberal than the communities they came from…but a whole lot of them are not. I recently had a student who’d interned enthusiastically for one of the senators currently blocking Garland’s confirmation, and he wanted to go to law school, and there I was helping him become a better writer. He did become a better writer, too. Showed me his law-school app essay, and it was stronger than anything he’d have done when I first met him. I had and have continuous misgivings about the work I do. In the meantime, that is the job.

    In general the faculty are far bluer than the surrounding areas, though I can’t recall any faculty gathering spot I’ve ever been to that didn’t involve someone hissing at me about how muzzled he was by political correctness. In general the staff are also bluer than surrounding areas, though not by a hell of a lot. Most of them came from the surrounding areas.

    So while locally we are demonstrably Blink-182 blue, I think it’s a blue shot through with red. I think the liberality here is far more fragile than it appears when untested, and far more fragile than it was 25 years ago.

  300. Douglas Knight Says:

    Scott 228, this claims that always Wisconsin audits randomly selected precincts. It claims that Michigan does not. But this election official claims that Michigan will audit random precincts. He claims that it is routine, seeming to claim that it is not the result of formal challenge.

  301. Sniffnoy Says:

    In general the faculty are far bluer than the surrounding areas, though I can’t recall any faculty gathering spot I’ve ever been to that didn’t involve someone hissing at me about how muzzled he was by political correctness.

    Given the vast array of things the SJers will go after you for, that’s pretty weak evidence of being “red”.

  302. amy Says:

    pku #295: I think the worry is less violent crime than it is a generally hostile and threatening atmosphere. It doesn’t take a lot of hateful comments to make one of those, particularly if you’re far from home.

    If I were Hillary I wouldn’t have run such a thoroughly shitty campaign — not in the primary, not in the general. It is absolutely essential that candidates here show up, press flesh, stand in backyards, hold babies, talk seriously with people. Bill was absolutely brilliant at it, back in the day, and appeared to love it, and he was well-rewarded for it. But Hillary’s always tried to give this part of the world a miss, and it killed her here in ’08. This time around she did somewhat better but still fucked it up by:

    1. not letting the cameras follow her around
    2. pissing people off by showing up hours late, staying a few minutes and taking off again
    3. having a ground campaign composed almost entirely of children from what appeared to be the Hudson River Valley and Connecticut
    4. having a visibly shitty time
    5. failing to deliver even in the areas she claimed to stand for (where’s your caucus-night childcare?)

    When you campaign here, it’s not like in, say, major coastal cities, where normal people have no expectation of meeting a candidate. You have to *love* hanging out with folks and eating their garbage food. Love love love. You have to be a camera magnet while you do it. You have to agree with them that they live in the most wonderful place on earth and that the rest of the country has a lot to learn from them. You have to be a great retail politician, and your organization has to be visible, muscular, and polite. It does not hurt to be magnetic. You’re going to talk to people who actually know a lot about policy, but you can’t just be a nerd, and you can’t be remote, and you can’t just hit kitchen tables here and there and figure that’ll do the job.

    Kerry tanked here. So did John Edwards, who was weird. But Obama was damn good, and if Biden hadn’t been so loopy and Irish-bleak and disorganized, they’d have liked him and his family a lot out here. Robert Reich was a minor miracle. But Hillary’s flatlined from the start. She’s just not a good retail pol.

  303. fraac Says:

    Scott: I wouldn’t call Jesus more recursively ironic than Joss Whedon. That’s what got lost this election, our humility.

  304. amy Says:

    fraac #303: You do understand you’re talking about Manifest Destinyland.

  305. Peter Gerdes Says:

    The point of protest, criticism and sharing outrage is (or should be) making things better not merely expressing our emotions.

    How we should best make things better is a strategic question that has nothing to do with how bad you suspect Trump will be. Protesting now only strengthens Trump’s hand.

    Right now protests and criticisms won’t persuade anyone not already opposed to Trump and there is nothing new to raise awareness of. All they serve to do is depress people who agree with us and convince Trump sympathizers we are crying wolf.

    Like it or not many otherwise reasonable people voted for him and think it’s at least plausible he will do a good job. Thinking is hard and many of these people are good, decent individuals who simply got caught up in disliking Hillary/status-quo/partisanship but represent potential allies when Trump starts to screw things up.

    Nothing we say now will sway them it will only reduce the effectiveness of our criticism of what Trump does.

  306. amy Says:

    Peter #305: I don’t think you get how this works. Protests aren’t primarily about expression. Protests are networking and organizing events and a show of potential force.

    You ought to come to Chicago sometime. They’re the best I’ve seen at it in this country. And oh boy, are they going to get slammed in the next four years. It’s actually pretty hard for me to imagine a more direct way of losing the heartland, DC and NYC pummeling the hell out of Chicago. Especially if the Real Housewives refuse to live in the White House.

  307. quax Says:

    Peter Gerdes, IMHO the resistance to the normalization of Trump is not at all about the Trump voters, but the GOP establishment that isn’t fully on board with Trump. The senate is the best chance to obstruct the incoming administration, and reminding these senators constantly that Trump did not win the most votes, and is despised by large numbers, will help to harden their spine.

  308. James Minor Says:

    Dear Aaron,

    Thank you for finding a way to eloquently express my rage at and disappointment in Hillary Clinton. I was a supporter of hers through the primaries and on into the general. I canvassed for her, I phonebanked for her, and I donated to her campaign.

    She profoundly let us all down on November 9th, but looking back she let us down throughout the campaign. Yes, the deck was stacked against her, and yes, only one of any number of things going right could have changed the outcome. But ultimately, she herself failed as well. She was unwilling to break her habits of secrecy (defensive instincts learned over decades of witch-hunting) to right-foot Trump, and so never commanded the media’s attention. She could have pulled out an iPad during the debate, played Donald Trump’s support of the Iraq War back to him, and asked him to explain it. She could have brought her Goldman Sachs transcripts to the debate and offered to release them in exchange for his tax returns. She could have tried holding open-ended, never-ending live interviews with the press. She could have even released her personal emails to her daughter to demonstrate that her opponents were hunting nothing. (I recognize that this last one shouldn’t be required of any person, and would have been a gross violation of her privacy, but when the fate of the world is at stake, and millions of people will suffer when you lose, personal sacrifice is morally required).

    Most tellingly, Hillary Clinton failed to show up consistently for her own campaign podcast. She chose to prioritize fund-raising over talking to voters, and so in an era when it’s easier than ever to have a ‘fireside chat’ with the country — and in the face of ample polling showing that she dramatically improved her position when the voters actually got to hear her unfiltered, she avoided the spotlight.

    Ultimately, Hillary Clinton was someone who would have been a consummate policy expert as a president, but whose total lack of extroverted political ability denied her the presidency, and so she joins the long list of factors which would have been large enough to swing this election.

    When I next support a political candidate (and I hope an anti-Trump locus arises soon), I will do so based on their ability as a politician, not the assessments of their policy ability or the support of the Democratic Establishment.

    James Minor

  309. Scott Says:

    James #308: Thanks very much for your comment! Except my name is Scott (last name: Aaronson), unless you were addressing yourself to the earlier commenter in this thread named Aaron. Don’t worry, you’re extremely far from the first to make that switch. 🙂

  310. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Scott and Amy #297, #294:

    I think you are way overreacting. International students are highly unlikely to have any problems in big college towns. I work in a big college town in Ohio where any perceived incident is front page news, and so far haven’t heard a thing. We will see how it plays out, but I highly doubt such towns will be as dangerous as being in Chicago, or where ever most international students call home.

    Austin TX and Madison WI are also state capitols with lots of other stuff going on, but they are mostly progressive, they will be fine. Rural areas in the old Confederacy might be a different story. I think Trump voters in the Midwest (Big 10 states) are much more likely to have bought in on the “making good times return” fairy tale than to be racists. Most big cities have dangerous neighborhoods of various sorts.

  311. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Amy and James Minor:

    Totally agree about Hillary doing a mediocre job. If she was going to win handily, which everyone seemed to think, it would have been classy to not campaign at the dirt ball level that Trump did. But, …

    Anyway, in my lifetime, only highly charismatic Democratic candidates have won the presidency. That is why I was an instant fan of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama — I knew they could win. Before I could vote, there was Jack Kennedy. Harry Truman was a bit before my time, but he seemed to have some homespun, no BS charm.

    Al Gore might have won with at best a whisper of charisma, but he got Naderred and Chadded. Hillary had some modest charisma in 1992, but it was kind of shopworn from 24 years in the public eye. Plus, the RWNM (Right Wing Nut Media) was on her like white on rice from day 1, and that has an effect.

    Republicans have not been as dependent on charisma, just say Nixon, the anti-Elvis. Most Republicans since have been a bit of a “hired gun” for organized RWN interests. Reagan was pretty charismatic in this role. Bush I was the only Republican who won on talent, and he was actually pretty good. Don’t forget the most important civil rights legislation ever (decades earlier) was pushed through by Bush and Lyndon Johnson, two Texans. Bush II was a fairly likable, C+ student kind of guy, who was obviously hand picked to be a front man for RWN’s.

    And then there is Trump. Trump is the personification of the old line “all news is good news”.

  312. JASA Says:

    While a Trump administration is frightening, more so is the reaction I’ve seen from my friends and colleagues. A sentiment oft expressed by Trump supporters is the threat posed by extreme PC (or “SJW”) culture to democracy. I think this explains a significant source of Trump’s support (albeit, not all of it).

    Yet, this sentiment is typically dismissed as hysteria, or as signaling by racists/sexists. Indeed, I see this latest blog post has been similarly judged by some as overblown and signaling to the far left. Hopefully, this shared mischaracterization will encourage some in the audience to read on.

    There’s a myth that extreme PC culture doesn’t have influence beyond the internet, that its power is exaggerated, or that its proponents are loud but still a small, mostly harmless minority.

    But in many cases, the results of PC culture have been high-profile and damaging. Many voters would have been informed — in their personal lives or by the media — of events that, while not full-blown disasters yet, indicate a disturbing trend. Off the top of my head:

    — Asian and white students must score higher on the SAT in order to gain entrance to top universities. This is because top schools are now weighting SAT scores based on race.

    — Disputing faulty statistics supporting narratives of rape culture, wage gap, inherent bias, etc. threatens your job/livelihood.

    — Mandatory diversity meetings for employees. There is a whole industry based on providing speakers for such events. (If you can afford him, I believe Arthur Chu is available.)

    — Numerous high-profile banning of right-leaning invited speakers to university campuses.

    — University of Missouri protests, firings, violence against reporters, and the subsequent economic fallout.

    — The ridiculous Yale protests.

    — Arguments to erase historical symbols (far beyond the Confederate flag).

    — Accusations of racism/sexism against intellectuals who explore now-taboo topics. Sam Harris comes to mind.

    — Title IX overreach and resulting injustices on university campuses.

    — Riots in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting, prominence of BLM, and the insinuation of inherent bias in the police force.

    — Sexist statements by individuals like Saida Grundy, Anna Merlan, Amanda Marcotte. (it’s not the statements themselves but the lack of any substantive action taken to curtail such hateful comments that scares people.)

    — the Rolling Stone article by Sabrina Erdely and resulting damage to the individuals accused and UVA.

    These events are symptoms of proponents who hold extreme PC values taking positions of power, shaping policy and exerting influence on education, the judicial system, scholarship, the media, etc. The possibility of these values being normalized is alarming and this fueled a lot of support for Trump.

    And by support of Trump, I mean opposition to Clinton whose mantra of “We will celebrate our diversity” often left echoes of “or else!” in many voters’ minds. Many who voted for Trump understand that he’s horrible for many reasons (although, as Scott A. clarified, not for the reasons often claimed). But Clinton represented the continued encroachment by a movement whose effects are truly fatal to democracy. The potential for her to influence one or possibly more Supreme Court appointments was terrifying.

    So you can ignore the above and stick with theories that it was (1) “white rural voters”, (2) racists/sexists/alt-right, (3) idiots and their close cousins, the “catastrophically mistaken”, or (4) Clinton didn’t press enough flesh. But exit-poll data doesn’t support this.

    Instead, we see that whites (representing 63% of the US population) overwhelmingly voted for Trump, and even higher among white males. This is exactly the group that’s been the target of extreme PC culture. So when we dismiss someone who complains about this movement, we risk another Trump or someone worse the next time round.

    Finally, Scott, I agree that picking your allies because of your principles is moral. But you aren’t doing that. You’re picking your allies because of a single shared view: you both think Trump is dangerous (and rightly so).

    But your principles will dictate how you deal with his presidency. And, in so far as I understand them, yours are in direct opposition to your claimed allies who would pursue shaming campaigns, curtailing of free speech, sexism, narratives supported by faulty statistics, etc. In this regard, your allies share much in common with Trump, and that’s not going to help anyone in 2020.

  313. Zork Says:

    On the topic of the electoral college, I agree with many here that its overhaul is something worth considering. But I think the electoral college is far better than a simple majority-wins rule.

    I think the real value of a democratic system is not that the majority is satisfied, but that it prevents a situation where the only avenue for change is through violence. Having a slim 51% blue majority elect some or all of the leadership every 4 years is a recipe for violent revolt from the other 49%.

  314. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Will there be effective organized resistance to totally screwing up the country? I certainly hope so. It will really require people from across the political spectrum. Any chance Bush II, after a life of being a privileged loafer, will stand up and be a leader? Probably wishful thinking.

    Well, there is always the Beastie Boys. They have reformed and are putting on concerts to protest racism and Trumpism. Not sure if the “Beastie Fogies” can still rock out or not.

    From here on out, it may be all celebrities running for office. Maybe Justin Bieber can pretend he is an American and challenge Trump! Next election, I am backing Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for Pres. Just picture the debates with Trump!

  315. Scott Says:

    Zork #313: The Republicans have stayed in power by exploiting at least 3 different types of “electoral affirmative action”—in the Senate, the fact that they get 2 Senators from each tiny-population red state; in the House, gerrymandering; and in the presidential race, the electoral college, which has now made a dramatic difference for them twice in 16 years. Your argument is that such affirmative action is justified because otherwise the Republicans might violently revolt. This strangely parallels the arguments from the 1700s, whose basic result was to give more power to the slave states (with the bicameral legislature, 3/5 rule, etc) in order to prevent the slaveholders from revolting or leaving the Union. In that case, of course, the appeasement policy worked for about four score years, then broke down with the bloodiest war in US history. Today, too, presumably the various tricks used to decrease the power of the Union, and increase that of the Confederacy, will eventually get swamped by the country’s changing demographics. So what happens then?

  316. Nachiket Says:

    Can someone please point me to good articles that could make a case _against_ Clinton ?
    (ref: from wolfgang’s comment it seems many had doubts about her integrity)

  317. James Cross Says:

    To everyone complaining about Hillary.

    Hillary Clinton’s national popular vote lead now stands at 1.677 million votes or a 1.3 percentage point margin.

    She would have likely won the electoral college without the James Comey shenanigans. It might not even have been close without the persistent and continual demonizations of Obama and the Clinton in collusion with the media.

    Trump is not my President and I hope Democrats do everything they can to make the Republicans and their agenda fail.

  318. Zork Says:

    @ Scott #315

    — I agree that gerrymandering and senate bias are problems that benefit Republicans more than Democrats.

    — I didn’t claim that the electoral college is good (“it’s overhaul is worth considering”). I only claimed that a majority-wins rule is worse because it leads to tyranny by a slim majority where 51% can repeatedly elect the leadership.

    — I’d never suggest a new bicameral legislature or 3/5 rule. That’s different than abiding by a long-established electoral process (a process I’m open to changing, but not to a majority-rules mechanism).

    — “Today, too, presumably the various tricks used to decrease the power of the Union, and increase that of the Confederacy, will eventually get swamped by the country’s changing demographics. So what happens then?”

    I’d hope that our electoral process, whatever its implementation, has provided time for the best ideas to promulgate and for the populace to be swayed without resorting to civil war. This has happened with highly divisive issues such as women’s suffrage, desegregation, and same-sex marriage.

    I’d even argue that in a *slim-majority* situation, settling elections with a coin flip is preferable to a majority-wins mechanism since the latter:

    (1) requires substantial faith in the infallibility of slim majorities. On a similar note, in your interview, you advocate against noise. In contrast, I believe a small amount of noise is good (a little diversification vs 100% intensification).

    (2) further polarizes society by removing incentives and time for the best ideas on both sides of an issue to be disseminated. The 51% have no incentive to debate the upset 49%. Well, unless they’re worried about revolt, but then every divisive issue only gets debated under threat of violence.

    (3) entails believing 49% of the populace cannot make moral decisions, or that certain issues demand such expediency that removing 49% from the voting process is necessary. Probably slavery is one rare example of this. Can you think of others?

  319. Douglas Knight Says:

    Zork, that sounds backwards to me. I don’t see any reason that direct election would lock in a popular majority more than the electoral college locks in an collegiate majority. In both cases, the parties rearrange their coalitions to remain viable. The difference, the part where your claim seems backwards, is the population changes slowly, so the attentions of the parties might change slowly, while the discrete nature of the electoral college may make attention jump abruptly, say from purple Florida to the purple midwest. A popular vote would probably lead to less abrupt moves. But the Solid South moving from D to R is a large rearrangement of the coalitions that could have happened just as much with a popular system as with the college.

  320. jonathan Says:

    My understanding is that gerrymandering is only partly responsible for the GOP’s structural advantage in the House. The larger problem is that Democrats are disproportionately concentrated in dense urban areas, and thus most reasonable partitions would leave Republicans with an advantage.

  321. Anonymous Says:

    I found the observation that Trump did best in the midwestern districts with the highest rates of home foreclosures as solving the mystery of how he won. The Democrats simply failed to deliver on their economic promises, so they got thrown out for somebody different. The stuff about Hillary being Satan was a rationalization or smoke-screen or whatever. Greenwald’s articles saying that Democratic presidential candidates who have actually won ran as outsiders, while the insiders (Gore, Kerry, and now Clinton) lost to Republicans.

    I also see a silver lining in that progressives have much more sway on the Democratic side than before. I said before the election that both candidates sucked (Trump worse than Clinton, admittedly) and whichever became president would be unpopular in office and probably not get a 2nd term. So if climate change doesn’t kill us first, Trump will likely be succeeded by a progressive Democrat, while Clinton might well have been succeeded by an even worse asshole than Trump (yes those exist: Pence is one of them). Rating Clinton as +2, a potential progressive candidate like Strickland as +5, Trump as -6, and Pence/Cruz/whoever as -7, we get +2-7=-5 for Clinton followed by Pence, vs -6+5=-1 for Trump followed by a progressive. So there’s a progressive argument that Trump+X is a net win over Clinton+Y.

    Climate change is the main reason I can see to think that the successor monoid in the category of presidents doesn’t necessarily commute :-O.

  322. Raoul Ohio Says:

    What does PhD comics have to say?

  323. Sniffnoy Says:

    My understanding is that gerrymandering is only partly responsible for the GOP’s structural advantage in the House. The larger problem is that Democrats are disproportionately concentrated in dense urban areas, and thus most reasonable partitions would leave Republicans with an advantage.

    This seems to assume that “reasonable” partitions can’t account for population / density. But one could use, say, the shortest splitline method for districting.

  324. Douglas Knight Says:

    Sniffnoy, your link says

    the shortest splitline algorithm will fail to create majority-minority districts…if the minority populations are not very compact

    But Jonathan’s point is that Democratic strongholds are compact. There is a separate issue that the Democrats and/or the Voting Rights Act gerrymander specifically for the purpose of producing majority-minority districts, which is pretty much gerrymandering for the Republicans.

  325. quax Says:

    zork – don’t know about Scott, but when you ask::

    (3) entails believing 49% of the populace cannot make moral decisions, or that certain issues demand such expediency that removing 49% from the voting process is necessary. Probably slavery is one rare example of this. Can you think of others?

    This comes to my mind: The life of a woman that could be saved by an abortion. And pls don’t pretend that this isn’t what it’s about for most evangelical voters. Always makes me laugh when the old trope is rolled out that the Democrats try to impose their values on the red states.

  326. Hank S. Says:

    One of the most disgusting things about this election was that many Republicans apparently voted for Trump not just to repudiate Clinton but also the GOP establishment, but instead they’ve empowered people like Paul Ryan more than ever. The GOP now wants to use the Trump presidency to ram through policies that were never prominently debated during the election and will be harmful to most of the population except the very wealthy, like privatizing Medicare.

  327. amy Says:

    Raoul #311, maybe you missed what I said. International students have *already* had problems here to do with xenophobia and racism — and we are a blue county with a 30K-student campus.

    We are already having problems with Trump-emboldened bigotry in our high schools. There is a $1K reward being offered for information about a “go home terrorists and niggers” note left on the door of a high school janitor’s home; I think he’s a Somali refugee.

    SPLC notes over 700 hate incidents since the election. Those are the reported ones.

    If I were a non-white student looking to study in North America, I would certainly be looking preferentially at Canada. If I were also very savvy and in STEM, I’d be taking a hard look at Canadian research funding. Because nobody here knows what’s going to happen at NSF and NIH, and it looks as though a polite description of the next two years is “volatile”. Even people who’ve been funded know that they have a best intention, not a contract, and that money sometimes vanishes after it’s been awarded. My guess is you are safest if your money’s coming from Defense, Energy, or…well, that’s it, really. Though if your Energy money’s about greenness, I hope you’ve got another angle.

    I would also be wary about American cities, again if savvy, because of the fight brewing between the mayors and DC on sanctuary-city status. It’s going to make life tricky for anyone walking around looking non-USian in those towns, particularly if the feds make good on cutting off federal money.

  328. Gail Says:

    @ Amy 327, there have been rumors circulating that many of these ‘hate incidents’ are hoaxes. As much as I loathe trump and the motley band of deplorables, morons and self-haters who voted for him, I have to say, the people acting crazier in the aftermath are liberals.

  329. pku Says:

    @amy: I’m an international student (half-white, if that helps), and I’ve had run-ins with intolerance that left me feeling threatened and alienated since moving here. They have, without exception, come from the PC/SJW elements of the school. I don’t want to generalize to all of society and say that SJWs are the only intolerant faction – but in liberal college campuses, they’re definitely the dominant one.

  330. Sniffnoy Says:

    Douglas Knight #324:

    But is there some reason to think that no reasonable method can solve this problem? My point is just that yes, it is possible to take population density into account when designing a method.

  331. anonimous Says:

    My big question: morally, how can we compare the undermining of due-process promoted by the democratic party (in the form of Title IX recommending a preponderance of evidence standard to judging campus rape complaints) to the undermining of the freedom of religion principle (the presumed spying on muslims without warrant) under trump.

    Really big question, for me. Why does the threat of this action against muslims is so much bigger that the concrete action taken against young men?

    If you want to go to the less concrete: how does trump saying the process (media+elections) is corrupt compare to clinton always saying ‘blacks, hispanics, lgbt, women’ and never ‘white, straight, men’. Which does a worst job of undermining democracy? Saying it is broken, or saying its job is to help just a part of society? I am very unsure, and somewhat surprised that you, Scott, are yourself so sure.

    I do not seek to accuse, but there are very few places online that make me feel (as a white straight cis male, christian heritage) safe. That do not seek to reduce my legitimacy and minimize my concerns. So, how do we rationally put weights to these injustices? To these underminings of democracy?

    Your help in understanding your position would be greatly appreciated. I might be dense, but I was dilligent, having read both your post and all of the over 300 comments.

    Really hope we can get out of this mess with everyone’s rights still working.

  332. dameprimus Says:

    Does Scott or anyone have an opinion on arguments that the electronic voting machines may have been hacked? I feel guilty for bringing this up given the discussion about the importance of societal norms, but I find the arguments compelling. I don’t know what should be done about it though – a recount would probably be shut down, and even if it went through there could be violence or worse.

  333. amy Says:

    Gail #328 – when municipal police are giving interviews about an incident, there’s a photo of the hate note in the paper, and there’s a reward for info put up by local Crimestoppers, odds are good it’s not a hoax, no matter how hard you may wish for it to be one. Consider also that you’re talking about people who are here at DHS’s pleasure and have been trying either to get an education in the US or are here as refugees, and it’s rather unlikely, again, that we’re looking at some pack of hoaxes.

    We do in fact have a considerable history of racial-hatred-related violence in this country, and it’s not as though this is suddenly coming from nowhere. If you’d like reference to histories on the topic I can certainly provide you with some. There’s a large field of scholarship devoted to it based on non-imaginary source material.

  334. Douglas Knight Says:

    If you simply want to “account” for population density, you could use a cartogram. But this doesn’t create symmetry between D and R. You still have islands of blue in a sea of red. The only change is that the islands are big. Also, I thought that Democrats had greater density in urban areas than Republicans in rural areas, but that map of counties looks symmetric (it saturates at 70%).

    If you want a canonical cartogram, you should define a metric proportional to population density and apply the Riemann mapping theorem and cut only by a geodesic. Which geodesic should you cut on? The one which minimizes real-world length? Or some hyperbolic property, such as margin?
    There is still a lot of choice in the metric, because you have to smooth the characteristic function of humans into a population density construct. And I worry that the result might not be robust to these results.

  335. James Cross Says:

    More suggestions the voting machines may have been hacked.

  336. James Cross Says:

    Regarding my previous comment Nate Silver seems to think the evidence is weak. However, he hasn’t exactly been on the mark on much of anything recently.

  337. James Cross Says:

    Nate Cohn not Nate Silver. Probably need some more coffee this morning.

  338. James Cross Says:

    In Georgia we use a Diebold system which has been banned in several states.

    It seems it is easy to hack in several ways and there is no audit trail.

    The simplest idea (maybe not even a hack) is to prepare sets of memory cards with the desired vote counts, then just swap them for the actual cards from the machines. Or put into the machines before the election preloaded cards.

    Wisconsin and Pennsylvania use a paper ballots and DRE system.

  339. Michael Vielhaber Says:

    I am with JASA, #312:
    Extreme PC/SJW is the darling of worldwide media, certainly here in Germany (in US, Fox “news” is one exception). We “normal” people are somewhat fed up with it. On top comes the idea of “hate speech”, promoted by “liberals” to enforce “Brave new world/Newspeak”-attitudes in places where the media journalists (leftists to radical l.) do not yet reach. In Germany, the Ministry of Justice (Mr. Maas) pays, of all people, the ex-Stasi informer Anneta Kahane to comb through Facebook etc. for “hate speech”. Judging from #312, things in the US are not much better.

    I thoroughly dislike, what Merkel did last year against this country by inviting hoards of illiteral Muslims, we will never again get rid of. It is basically “verboten” to citicize this, except of course by voting AfD, which still is possible, watch out for 2017!

    You then have got Trump. Congratulations! At least you avoided war-mongerer Clinton. Without Clinton’s (and Bush jr, Obama etc.) attacks on Iraq, Libya and Syria, there would be no fugitives in the Middle/Near East and far less murdered people in the last 12 years. Clinton is directly responsible for this mass-murdering, Trump afaik did not kill anybody yet, directly or indirectly.

    Get down from your “we are elite, them rural stupids should not vote anyway”-attitude. You governed the public discourse, you no longer govern government – a partial relief!

  340. Michael Vielhaber Says:

    @#317 (James Cross):

    This election was won in the swing states, and only here (both!) candidates invested heavily. With the public vote counting, the campaign would have been completely different, and thus the public vote as well (like no Republican in CA was very compelled to vote at all now, CA being dark blue). Just forget the “public vote”.

    On James Coney, I agree.

    On the media: That is of course ridiculous. The media (Fox news the exception) was and is unanimously on Clinton’s side.

  341. amy Says:

    Vielhaber/JASA – You guys are too late. Genie’s out of the bottle. The next admin can go to war against these things on your behalf, but half the babies born here now are already nonwhite and a huge proportion are poor. Public schools are already far more diverse than the population at large is; the young kids are growing up cosmopolitan and have little interest in white supremacy. Girls have been going to college in droves since the 1980s, and expect to work and get paid for it. The youngest generations have no particular interest in marriage: cool if it works for you, but they don’t see it as necessary, and the girls intend to support themselves. Girls and women under 30 or so have absorbed the message that their bodies belong to themselves.

    Even in the evangelical heartland, a large minority voted for HRC. On the coasts, it was overwhelmingly for HRC.

    It looks to me like your “fed up with SJWs” contingent (indeed the only people using the term) are mostly older, mostly white men. Seems to me the best you can hope for is a sort of 1980s South African look. I don’t recall that that one was a winner in any sense of the word.

  342. Jon K. Says:


    Whether the voting tallies for this election are contested or not, I think it’s important to consider what technologies or mechanisms could be incorporated into the voting process to make future elections more transparent, protected, and valid.

    For instance, if you felt there was a chance that a Russian hack turned your Hillary vote into a Trump vote, is there a mechanism that could be put in place to protect against this happening again? One possible solution would be to give each voter an anonymous verification number so they could audit their vote on a public website afterwards and verify that their vote was registered in the column of the candidate that they had intended to vote for.

    On the surface, this suggestion might seem to make sense, but implementing this idea might actually lead to unintended consequence such as an increase in voter intimidation. (e.g. A husband could pressure his wife to vote a certain way and demand to see her verification number to verify she voted obediently.)

    So coming up with ideas to improve the validity and transparency of our voting process is not a trivial task… but maybe it’s something that this group of commenters could weigh in on. Hopefully suggestions won’t require quantum verification technologies since there will be more important elections coming up soon 🙂

  343. QinXuan Says:

    Hi Scott,

    Sorry for the off topic comment, but I visited the blog hoping to find a dummies explanation for why the new Eldar-Shor paper is so hot. Can you please help put it in perspective?


  344. dameprimus Says:

    Jon 342

    I agree that this is the correct takeaway. This election is decided, but future elections could be made more secure. I would suggest abolishing electronic voting only systems, and perhaps electronic voting entirely. How would anything be advanced politically though? States have the ability to determine their voting system I believe.

  345. quax Says:

    Michael Vielhaber, fellow German here, while I live in Canada, I can confidently state, that your definition of what passes as “normal” in Germany is anything but normal.

  346. Michael P Says:

    JASA #312: Bravo!

    I tried to explain the roots of GOP support from the viewpoint of economic policies that hurt middle class (although some, at least Amy, were either unable or unwilling to understand me); you have explained the social policies roots of GOP support.

    I would add anti-Israeli hysteria, in particular the BDS movement, that also comes from the left.

    It’s very unfortunate that Americans finally stood up against anti-middle-class economic policies and PC BS of the left at the worst possible time: the year when GOP nominated Trump.

  347. JASA Says:


    As usual, you’re strawmanning. I have no problem with a diverse population, girls going to college, whether people stay single or get married, etc.

    Anyway, back to the topic Michael and I were actually raising… I don’t mind extreme PC on tumblr, twitter, private forums — that’s the cost of having free speech on the internet (even that gets ugly, as we saw with Scott’s ordeal). But just like most bullies, its proponents keep pushing and they long ago stopped being confined to the internet.

    My US friends have young children and, of course, they’re already thinking about college opportunities, saving money, and so forth. But some of these colleges now have policies that will reduce their kids’ odds of acceptance because they have a particular color of skin. Never mind that this skin color doesn’t correlate with their cultural values, their socioeconomic standing, or intelligence — it plays an important role regardless.

    That’s one example of how racism becomes normalized. Not Trump, not white supremacists, just the ideals of the left (to which I belong) being pushed to such an extreme that people like my friends, and others on this board, have had enough.

    Trump doesn’t give a hoot about balancing these issues, I’m sure. But Hillary? “Race still plays a significant role in determining who gets ahead in America and who gets left behind”, comments on systemic racism, etc. It’s clear which candidate was going to continue to normalize extreme PC culture. Obviously, my friends did not support her.

    Another example is right here on this board, where amy can make sexist comments with little to no pushback. From amy in comment #204, July 4th:

    “I do actually think that men have a hell of a lot of work to do with themselves, as a group. And that probably the most helpful thing that men who don’t make a fulltime career of variously screwing over and using other people could do would be to stop playing the rankings game and refuse to offer it any sort of legitimacy. Because that, if you ask me, is the source of a great deal of the world’s misery: men fighting to be on top, men determined not to suffer humiliation in the eyes of other men. But the only reason it’s a thing is that guys actually do pay attention to whatever some bonehead has designated as importantly scorable. Walk away from it and it’s not important anymore.”

    Replace “men” with “women”, “blacks”, “Jewish people”, etc. and the group of people who find this to be a prejudiced remark expands greatly. But it’s okay to say this about men. That’s the kind of normalization that worries me, worries my friends (who have a son), and I think it worries a lot of people who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary.


  348. Douglas Knight Says:

    I was wrong. My source checked and MI does not do automatic recounts of sample precincts. But I still think WI does.

  349. Predictions for 2017 | A bunch of data Says:

    […] 1) Some people think Trump be more presidential once he takes office. Some point to Checks and Balances in the System – but the Congress is ruled by his party. Some point to the media as a watchdog. e.g: here. A more accurate picture is due to John Oliver here. Some say Trump is a closet liberal. But I doubt his true beliefs, if he has any, matter. Its going to be bad. I second Scott Aaronson’s call to not normalize this: here. […]