Creeps or Idiots?

My immediate reaction to this election was succinct:

Almost half of American voters are creeps or idiots. It’s not polite to say so, but that’s how it looks from here.

I wondered at the time whether I should change it to “creeps and/or idiots”, since that would have been more accurate, but decided to leave it alone.

Alex Guerrero, a philosophy professor at Rutgers University (the state university of New Jersey), offers a similar analysis, but more detailed and nuanced. He ends up at an interesting, although implausible, place:

Four years ago, I wrote that whoever won, half the country would feel “some combination of anger, alienation, shame, sadness, despair, fear, impotence, rage, and hopelessness.” We—the millions of members of the two parties—were far apart then and have moved even further apart under Txxxx.

If you are one of the almost 77 million Americans who voted for Biden, what should you make of the almost 72 million Americans who voted for Txxxx? Let me distinguish two broad views.

The first is to see Txxxx supporters—or at least many of them—as bad like Txxxx: as people who are racist, or xenophobic, or sexist, or don’t mind that Txxxx is; people who spent four years saying “fuck your feelings”; people who don’t mind Txxxx’s willingness to make up electoral fraud and to disregard norms of law and democracy; people who ignore or embrace Txxxx’s cruelties, collusions, corruptions, and crimes. These people might be Txxxx die-hards who worship him, quasi-nihilistic fans who enjoy his talent for enraging the left, or pragmatists who see Txxxx as a cruel but effective means to their ends.

Whichever category they fall in, they are morally culpable for supporting Txxxx—particularly once it was clear exactly who Txxxx is and how he would govern—and likely to be what we might colloquially call bad people. Furthermore, this is not something that is easily changeable. These views and values are now deeply held and unlikely to be modified, at least not in the near future, at least not for the vast majority of them. Call this the moral deplorables view.

The second is to see Txxxx supporters as not nearly as bad as Txxxx himself. These 70 million Americans might be people who have been misled into viewing Txxxx in unrealistic ways: as a patriot, a leader, a staunch ally of Black and Latina/o communities, a religious person who cares about all people, a skilled businessman who can support employment and economic recovery, an ally of freedom and justice. These are people whose values—we are to imagine—are not that different from our own. They are not racists, bigots, or sexists, or not deeply so, and perhaps not much more than many of Biden’s 77 million supporters.

But they have a large set of false non-moral beliefs about Txxxx himself, and another large set of false non-moral beliefs about the views and character and positions of those on the left, including Biden. Let us imagine, further, that those false beliefs themselves are not culpably held—they result from the evidence they have encountered in the echo chambers that they find themselves in, and that they find themselves in these positions is not their fault [Note: in many cases, that’s hard to imagine]. There are more modest and more extreme versions of this view—maybe people are somewhat morally responsible for their false views, rather than being completely off the hook. But the basic view suggests that Txxxx supporters could be productively engaged, that they could change their views. Call this the epistemic reformables view.

(I will leave aside the view that asks us to think that Txxxx himself is not as bad as he seems to be, although of course that is what Txxxx supporters would urge us to think.)

The first view focuses on the deep moral character of Txxxx supporters. The second view focuses on the contingently bad epistemic situation of Txxxx supporters. The correct view probably involves some complex mixture of these.

Many who support Biden will see the moral deplorables view as correct and see the epistemic reformables view as misguided and naïve. The idea of trying to empathize with and constructively engage Txxxx supporters—something that they almost never do for us—is pointless and morally misguided. We are done with the countless thinkpieces that try to understand the disaffected white Txxxx voter. If you support Txxxx, we don’t support you, we aren’t going to try to understand you, we aren’t going to go out of our way to engage you, we are going to fight you tooth and nail, and we are going to defeat you. What that means is not entirely clear. More on that in a moment.

On the epistemic reformables view, we assume that many of Txxxx’s supporters are not as bad as supporting Txxxx would seem to require. Something else must have gone wrong. Many put blame at the doorstep of the misinformation ecosystem that exists on the right, led by Breitbart, Infowars, Truthfeed, OAN, Gateway Pundit and others at the extreme edge, and Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller, Fox News, and others at something somewhat less extreme—all of this swirled together and shared by the output from smaller operations and individuals through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter . . . This is how people end up believing QAnon, how they end up seeing Biden as a “child sniffing, demented liar,” and how they end up thinking everyone in the Democratic party is secretly a socialist (indistinguishable from a communist) hellbent on destroying America. 

There are other explanations, too. . . .  Their apparently racist and bigoted attitudes are not deep; they reflect lack of education, fear of what is unfamiliar, and being a bit behind rapidly changing social norms. . . .

On this view, the things to push for are reform of our institutions: educational, political, informational [Question: How does one go about reform Fox News?]. With those kinds of reforms, we will come to see that millions of Txxxx supporters are very much like us—people we cannot only tolerate and respect, but also love and embrace. . . . 

We will get more information about which view is correct in the coming years as we see how people change (or don’t) in response to Biden’s presidency and Txxxx receding (we can hope) into the background. But when I incline toward the second, one reason is because of the relatives of mine who I know both support Txxxx and, although not perfect people, are not like Txxxx—and I can see how they have come to believe what they believe, even when that seems like a mistake.

If one thinks the first view is correct, one must think about what other moral obligations come along with that view. Among other things, I think that view should come with a commitment to dissolving the United States political community.

If one is elected to represent a political community, one should be committed to taking seriously the preferences and values of the whole community, compromising with (and certainly not just ignoring) views held by large percentages of the population, and making law and policy that is responsive to the full electorate, not just 51% of it. But one should ignore morally deplorable views and citizens who hold such views. But one cannot do so if that means ignoring the views of millions of people in a systematic way. In that context, the options are either a kind of omnipresent moral paternalism or simple political domination—neither is compatible with basic democratic values, at least not if one expects that situation to be durable over time. . . . 

Txxxx got near 60% or more of the vote in the contiguous states of Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia. That deep red stripe can pick up other softer red states if they want to join. The Western and Eastern states could be two separate countries, or one. Maybe even raising the possibility results in some change.

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Of course, it is true that views do not go away if one simply divides the political community. What one faces then is the situation we are in with respect to many foreign countries with what we perceive to be serious problems—we try to influence them to change and open our borders to those who would like to leave their community and join ours.

To the extent that this response seems excessive, it is perhaps because we still have hope that we are in the epistemic reformable situation. But—I conclude once again, four years later—perhaps we should be more open than we seem to be to talking about whether and why we all want to remain in a country together.

Unquote.

We should keep in mind that preferring right-wing propaganda to reality-based journalism is revealing in itself. For most people, it’s not a totally innocent choice. Also, “informational institutions” like Fox News are not exactly susceptible to reform. I’m less forgiving and less optimistic about these matters than Prof. Guerrero.

As the map shows, the Electoral College result did create three contiguous zones, but for poor isolated Georgia (assuming we consider the Great Lakes more like wide rivers — as far as Georgia is concerned, we could do the same with the Atlantic Ocean).

Aside from the accounting complexity, the main reason against splitting up the United States is that it would condemn millions of people who aren’t creeps or idiots to living in a country run by too many people who are.  

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Why He Won’t Concede

In two words: Narcissism. Cash. (But mainly cash).

From Judd Legum’s informative newsletter:

Joe Biden is the president-elect. Biden won or has significant leads in states that represent 306 electoral votes — far more than the 270 needed to win. 

Biden leads by about 10,000 votes in Georgia and 17,000 votes in Arizona, the two most closely contested states. But even if Biden’s lead were to somehow be reversed in both states, Biden would still win comfortably. . . .

But yet, Txxxx has refused to concede.

Why? Part of the explanation is narcissism. Txxxx is having a hard time acknowledging that he lost, even though it is obvious. But another big factor is money. The proof is in the emails. 

After Election Day, the Txxxx campaign sent more than 130 emails soliciting campaign contributions, according to a tally maintained by the Twitter account @T____Email. Most of those emails appear to be soliciting funds to support the legal effort that Txxxx claims will reverse the results of the election. The increasingly desperate subject lines of these emails paint a clear picture that the money is essential to contest the results.

DEFEND the integrity of the Election

The Election is under attack

STOP voter fraud

DEFEND THE RESULTS

Democrats will try to STEAL this ELECTION

STOP THE FRAUD

Joe Biden wants to count ILLEGAL ballots

Nothing matters more than the integrity of this Election

STOP COUNTING ILLEGAL BALLOTS

But if you read the fine print, money sent to the Election Defense Task Force will not necessarily be used to finance the Txxxx campaign’s lawsuits. Donors are actually contributing to the Txxxx Make America Great Again Committee (TMAGAC), a joint fundraising committee of Dxxxx J. Txxxx for President, Inc. and the Republican National Committee. 60% of the money donated to TMAGAC will go to pay the Txxxx campaign’s debt and 40% will go to the general operating account of the Republican National Committee. Money is only designated for recounts or other legal efforts if an individual donor reaches their legal limit or Txxxx retires his debt. . . . 

No one knows how much money Txxxx is raising from this gambit. But the campaign has tens of millions of email addresses. If even a small fraction of the list is responding to these appeals, the campaign is raising millions of dollars each day. 

If Txxxx concedes, that money would come to a halt. You can’t pretend to raise money for a legal challenge once you admit you’ve lost. 

The sorry state of Txxxx’s election lawsuits

Txxxx isn’t devoting this new cash to fund his legal challenges to the election results, and it shows. Most of the lawsuits the campaign has filed have been dismissed by the courts. In one case in Michigan, lawyers representing Txxxx made basic errors in submitting their appeal. The filing was rejected as “defective.”

The initial case was dismissed after Txxxx’s “legal team submitted a sworn affidavit by a designated poll watcher who repeated a rumor that she heard from an unidentified person about what some ‘other hired poll workers at her table’ allegedly told her.” 

“Come on now,” the Michigan judge said before throwing out the suit. 

In Pennsylvania, the Txxxx campaign continues to claim that its observers in Philadelphia were excluded from watching ballots be counted. In court, however, a Txxxx lawyer admitted there were observers in place. So who would make such a claim?

The first person Rudy Giuliani . . . called up as a witness to baseless allegations of vote counting shenanigans in Philadelphia during a press conference last week is a sex offender who for years has been a perennial candidate in New Jersey.

“It’s such a shame. This is a democracy,” Daryl Brooks, who said he was a GOP poll watcher, said at the press conference, held at Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Northeast Philadelphia. . . .

On Monday, “the Txxxx campaign unveiled a new lawsuit repackaging debunked claims that poll workers gave Txxxx supporters markers—knowing that those markers would bleed through ballots and that the ballots would not be counted, and all to help Joe Biden win Arizona.” 

The lawsuit is essentially the same as a lawsuit filed days ago by a group of conservative lawyers, based on a conspiracy theory known as “Sharpiegate.” The premise of the lawsuit, that using a Sharpie will invalidate a ballot, is false. 

Secretary Katie Hobbs @SecretaryHobbs

IMPORTANT: If you voted a regular ballot in-person, your ballot will be counted, no matter what kind of pen you used (even a Sharpie)!

That lawsuit was quietly withdrawn. The primary difference between the Txxxx campaign’s new lawsuit and the previous one is that, while the initial lawsuit focused on “Sharpies,” the revised lawsuit refers to “markers.”

In the evening, the Txxxx campaign filed a sweeping lawsuit in Pennsylvania that does not allege any fraud but argues the state should be prevented from certifying its election because it allowed people to vote by mail. 

Georgia’s Republican Senators call for the resignation of Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State

Georgia Senators Kelly Loeffler (R) and David Perdue (R) released a joint statement calling on Brad Raffensberger, Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State to resign. The statement claimed that Raffensberger “failed to deliver honest and transparent elections.”

They provided no evidence to support their claims. Moments later, Txxxx tweeted that he would win Georgia.

Unquote.

The Georgia Secretary of State said the two “senators” to mind their own business.

But, as many have pointed out, the Republicans are damaging one of the foundations of our political system — the premise that votes will be properly counted. They are also creating a new version of “birtherism” — the idea that the new president is illegitimate. Almost all Republican politicians will pretend to accept that lie for as long as it suits their interests.

Explanations and Actions

Yesterday, I cited election results showing how the United States is still divided by the Civil War and the western frontier: 

. . . Of the twenty-four states that stayed in the Union in the 1860s (the northern, border and Far West states), Biden won nineteen and lost five.

Of the twenty-six states that left the Union or weren’t fully part of the country in 1861 [i.e. the Wild West], Biden won seven and lost nineteen.

Paul Krugman thinks these divisions aren’t that important anymore:

For a long time, the geographic battle lines in US politics were pretty much the battle lines of the Civil War. That’s no longer true. Trump won Ohio by more than he won Texas; Biden appears to have won Georgia. 

What we’re seeing is that the divide in US politics now is more about education and metropolitan growth than traditional regional orientation. Thx to Atlanta, GA now more educated than most of the “blue wall”.

But why did Dems take GA and still have a shot at its Senate seats, while losing NC? Two words: Stacey Abrams. Organization matters! Also why low-education NV is blue: it’s the unions.

A writer for The Atlantic agrees:

The economist Jed Kolko calculated that, as of midday yesterday, large urban areas remained staunchly pro-Democrat as inner suburbs moved hard to the left. In the Northern Virginia suburb of Fairfax, just across the river from Washington, D.C., Biden won 70 percent of the votes in a county that George W. Bush carried in 2000. Meanwhile, Kolko found, Txxxx held on to a 40-point lead in rural America and carried low-density suburbs, such as Ocean, New Jersey, outside New York City. From coast to coast, inner suburbs are voting more like cities—that is, for Democrats—and outer suburbs are voting more like rural areas, for Republicans.

Driving both the polarization of place and the depolarization of race is the diploma divide. Non-college-educated Latino and Black Americans are voting a little bit more like non-college-educated white Americans, and these groups are disproportionately concentrated in sparser suburbs and small towns that reliably vote Republican. Meanwhile, low-income, college-educated 20-somethings, many of whom live in urban areas, are voting more like rich, college-educated people who tend to live in the inner suburbs that are moving left.

Demographics were never destiny. Density and diplomas form the most important divide in American politics. At least for now.

As always, there is no single explanation for a complex event. The 67% of us who voted this time all had our reasons. So did the 33% who didn’t.

History professor Akim Reinhardt offers his own take:

More than 70,000,000 people just voted for [him]. Again.

After four years of observing, on a near daily basis, his presidential grotesquerie. The racism, the sexism, the vindictiveness, the endless vitriol, the knee-jerk authoritarianism and ceaseless attacks on and erosion of American constitutional mechanisms and democratic norms.

The number plagues us like a cancerous tumor unfazed by chemotherapy or radiation, and too large for a scalpel to carve away without disfiguring the corpus: 70,000,000.

The selfish, the nasty, and the naive: seventy million of them without enough savvy to notice his dictatorial yearnings, without enough empathy to recognize his racism and sexism. Or, if they perceive any of it, without enough decency to care.

Okay, well, they had their reasons.

If you’d like to support the two Democrats still running for the Senate in Georgia, you can contribute to their campaigns and Stacey Abrams’s voter mobilization effort. It’s definitely not a sure thing, but two more Democrats joining the Senate would make a very big difference. Vice President Kamala Harris’s job would be much more important (she could break tie votes) and odious Sen. Turtle Face’s new designation would be “Senate MINORITY Leader”.

Donate now to elect Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff and help Democrats take back the Senate!

You might also consider telling Emily Murphy, the Republican political appointee who runs the General Services Administration in Washington, to begin the presidential transition process. The votes have been counted, so it’s time for her to obey the law by transferring funds to the Biden campaign (and begin her boss’s return to private life). Her email address is emily.murphy@gsa.gov.

It’s Still the Union, the Confederacy and the Wild West. And Yet . . .

Assuming that the last few projections hold, Joe Biden won twenty-five states (plus the District of Columbia) and lost twenty-five. Our fifty states are split down the middle.

Back in the 19th century, however, at the start of the Civil War, the United States had only thirty-five states. They were all in the eastern half of the country, except for California, Nevada and Oregon in the far west.

Nineteen of those states didn’t allow slavery and stayed in the Union. They voted for Joe Biden this week fourteen to five.

There were also five “border” states that allowed slavery but didn’t want to or weren’t able to leave the Union (Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware). They split as evenly as possible this week, two for Biden and three for his opponent.

Eleven southern states left the Union in 1861, starting a civil war in order to protect (and expand) slavery. Two of them voted for Biden, while nine voted for the racist.

After the Civil War, the US added fifteen more states. Most of them were part of the “Wild West” — the home of assorted rugged individuals. Five voted for Biden, ten for the sociopath. 

Thus, of the twenty-four states that stayed in the Union in the 1860s (the northern, border and Far West states), Biden won nineteen and lost five.

Of the twenty-six states that left the Union or weren’t fully part of the country in the 1861, Biden won seven and lost nineteen.

In some ways, we haven’t progressed much from the 19th century. Divisions between the North, the South and the Wild West remain.

And yet . . . 

From Robin Givhan of The Washington Post:

As the country waited for ballots to be counted, it was Biden — not the occupant of the Oval Office — who was reassuring people that this democracy was intact, that the system was working and that the center would hold. He was the voice of calm optimism in the midst of tumultuous times.

When he became president-elect late Saturday morning, he did something far more herculean than accepting responsibility for a worsening pandemic and a struggling economy. He removed a terrible, suffocating weight from the back of this nation. . . .

His simple dignity and empathy are ballasts for a country that has been teetering between an openhearted, just future and a self-righteous, narrow-minded past. And when he addressed the nation Saturday night, he put his full heft as a statesman and a man of good will to that task.

“What is the will of the people? What is our mandate? I believe it’s this: America called upon us to marshal the forces of decency, the forces of fairness. To marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope in the great battles of our time. The battle to control the virus. The battle to build prosperity. The battle to secure your family’s health care. The battle to achieve racial justice and root out systemic racism in this country. The battle to save our planet by getting climate under control. The battle to restore decency, defend democracy and give everybody in this country a fair shot,” Biden said. “That’s all they’re asking for. A fair shot.”

Waking From A Nightmare

From Dana Milbank of The Washington Post:

. . . Americans have sent packing the man who made the lives of so many a hell for the past four years with constant chaos, unbridled vitriol and attacks on the foundations of democracy. There may be difficulty in the days ahead because of (gratuitous) court challenges and (baseless) claims of fraud. The rage he has induced in supporters and opponents alike will take time to dissipate. But for a moment, let us rejoice: Our democracy has survived.

Many of my colleagues in the press chatter about the disappointment Txxxx’s opponents must feel. The margin of victory wasn’t as big as polls predicted! Democrats didn’t win the Senate! Their House majority thinned! Divided America! Gridlock ahead!

But they don’t do justice to the historic victory that Democrats, independent voters and a brave few Republicans just pulled off. They denied a president a second term for the first time in 28 years — putting Txxxx in the company of Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover. President-elect Biden — just writing that brings relief — received more votes than any other presidential candidate in history, in an election with historically high voter turnout. A president who loves to apply superlatives can now claim a RECORD, HUGE and BIGGEST EVER defeat.

Biden likely will have flipped five states Txxxx won in 2016 plus part of Nebraska, and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris will be the first woman, first African American and first Asian American in that role.

Ousting a demagogue with the loudest megaphone in the land is not an easy undertaking. Txxxx’s opponents had to overcome an unprecedented stream of disinformation and falsehoods from the president, even as his party normalized the assaults on truth, on facts, on science, on expertise. Txxxx’s opponents were up against a strongman who used the Justice Department, diplomats and the intelligence community to harass political opponents, who used federal police to suppress public demonstrations, who engaged in a massive campaign of voter intimidation and suppression, and who used government powers for political advantage: enlisting government employees to campaign for him, sabotaging postal operations, putting his name on taxpayer-funded checks, using the White House for a party convention. And Txxxx’s opponents had to contend with a Fox News cheering section and social-media landscape that insulated millions from reality.

Over time, the damage done to institutions, to alliances, to elections, to the federal workforce, to congressional power and to courts should be reversible. Had Txxxx won a second term, we may not have been able to recover. “I feel very confident the United States can repair after one term,” Txxxx’s former national security adviser John Bolton has said. “Two terms?”

The vitriol won’t vanish, but we won’t have a commander in chief fueling it at all hours. Crises will still come, but we won’t have a president fabricating them for his own ends. The highest office in the land won’t be a nightmarish daily reality show of self-dealing, racism, cruelty, insults, coddling of dictators, antagonizing of allies and authoritarian flourishes. . . .

There may be hard days ahead, depending on what Txxxx does. But there is so far little evidence that Americans, including most Txxxx supporters, have any enthusiasm for him disregarding the results of a free and fair election. Had he been given four more years to dismantle our institutions, there’s no telling what might have become of us. But history will record that in a dark hour for democracy, Americans [note: a substantial majority of American voters] rose to the moment and preserved their republic.