Thursday, November 24, 2016

"Identity Politics"

Although I agree that we need to reach beyond our urban base to win elections, I hear some profoundly disturbing overtones in the "identity politics" election autopsy. I'm going to group the identity politics argument into several subpoints:
  1. That we lost the election by underperforming with white voters
  2. That (super paradoxically) we need to start treating white voters as a political identity and we need to improve our outreach to it as a constituency 
  3. That those of us who aren't straight white men should subsume our parochial concerns to a "post-identity" push and "educate [ourselves] about parts of the country that have been ignored."
Item 3 is wrong and dangerous. Women, minorities, and LGBT people really do experience power, inclusion/exclusion, and prejudice differently. That spike in hate crimes and harassment is real, and it isn't directed at straight white men. That line about how "America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals' damn bathrooms" is not only obnoxious and condescending, but also reveals a fetishization of the mythological white working class and a disregard for the social/economic anxieties of anyone else.

The whole identity politics critique also totally confuses a failure of outreach with a failure of policy. These are not the same things. The Clinton campaign famously produced detailed policy proposal after detailed policy proposal for everything from raising the minimum wage to reining in Wall Street and drug prices to job placement and retraining for the unemployed to treating opioid addiction to promoting unions. All were substantive and practical ideas aimed squarely at lifting up the working class.

Hillary Clinton might have lost the Rust Belt because she didn't spend enough time campaigning in the rural Midwest, but some on the left are using this to push their narrative that we lost a contest of ideas. We did not lose a contest of ideas We lost a contest of channeling blind ethno-populist rage.

The worst way for us to overlearn the lesson of this defeat is to think that we should ask marginalized people to take a backseat at the table of power while we reshuffle the chairs in search of Midwestern voters who won't vote for us even when our policies are better for them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Our airstrikes against ISIS are not motivated by oil

Yes, Iraq has oil. So does Venezuela.

But we didn't invade and occupy Venezuela with 160k ground troops for the better part of a decade. Because our actions in Iraq are not about protecting some slick business interests there. Our national security goals are more about fostering stability (and even if you're not a neocon, democracy is part of stability) in the troubled regions of the world. In a wide arc from the border of India and Pakistan across Northern Africa, it's a mess of failed states and mercurial friends.

Unfortunately, the Bush Administrations war in Iraq displaced a (relatively stable) dictatorial regime with a (kind of democratic) failed state. And with ISIS actively conquering territory and setting up a services and governance in the land it administers, Iraq looks more and more like it will crumble if we don't provide some air support. We fucked up in Iraq and we should fix it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Biggest Threat to Obamacare

The Obamacare website debacle is in many ways worse than people realize and it actually plays into one of the threats that can badly undermine the entire law. The success of the health insurance exchanges will be judged on their ability to provide low premiums to consumers. If the plans offered on the exchanges were to charge very expensive premiums, consumers would exit in droves - especially the young and healthy, who need insurance the least.

What's the quickest way to drive up premiums? Get the young and healthy to never sign up in the first place.

As I mentioned, the exchanges need a large number of healthy people to enroll if premiums are to stay low. This is because an insurance policy is a pooling of risk, such that what consumers pay in monthly premiums is more or less the same, and the level of benefits is also the same, across the entire policy. A very sick patient is rather costly to care for and looks like a gallon of red ink to the insurer; a healthy one is very cheap to insure and looks like dollar signs. So that's the insurance companies' calculus, and the insurers will have to jack up rates if they see that only sick people are signing up.

Getting sick people to enroll in Obamacare is easy. They're desperate for coverage and many have gone without needed care to scrimp for savings. Nope, the tricky part, unfortunately, is motivating young people to sign up. They have a calculus too, and it's the opposite one. A 25 year old guy in good shape has no real financial incentive to join a risk pool where the average member is sicker and costlier than him. He's just subsidizing someone else's care and is unlikely to receive as much of the benefits.

The bungled website only feeds into this dynamic. By throwing up an annoying barrier to enrollment, they're further dampening the likelihood that a young person will put up with the nuisance of buying something they didn't need very much in the first place. When the insurance companies reevaluate their pricing schemes for next year, they're going to have to take a hard look at their covered populations. It's not a pretty picture right now.

Monday, July 29, 2013

My (Least) Favorite Things

10) Republicans
9) Republicans
8) Republicans
7) Republicans
6) Republicans
5) Congressional Republicans
4) Young Republicans
3) Women Republicans
2) Gay Republicans
1) Black Republicans

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Right-Wing Scum I'd Like to Have a Beer with

Everyone knows I hate Republicans because they're ignorant, greedy, and politically, they're only incrementally more evolved than fascists. But there are some Republicans whose personalities I don't find all that repugnant:

  1. Ann Coulter, drag queen and an all-around horrible human being. Even if she's not a drag queen, she's at least got to be a fag hag. And she's such a fucking bitch that I kinda relate to her.
  2. Rick Santorum, self-righteous zealot with a pretty cool last name. He might have the moral beliefs of a neanderthal (er... Homo Erectus) but he's stubborn about what he believes and probably won't recant even under torture.
  3. Condi Rice, Soviet expert and Bush-era war criminal. For a woman whose job description was in her title, she didn't have the foresight as National Security Adviser to see any geopolitical downside to invading Iraq. She's cultured, sharp, and gives a mean RNC speech though. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Darling Barack

I can't bear the thought of losing you. It took me two years to get over Nancy.