A Reflection Upon The Terms Of A Looming Divorce



Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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172 Responses

  1. Avatar Marchmaine says:

    Polydystopoi. I like it.

    I’m not sure I see it as a lifecycle divorce, but I could see full lifecycles of different flavors played out in different regions.

    Maybe the old addage that good [yuge border walls] make good neighbors is true.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Marchmaine says:

      Well, there are (at least!) a handful of ways forward from the (banal) observation that one person’s utopia is another’s dystopia.

      1. “This society that you think is a utopia is really a dystopia! We need to change!”

      2. “This society that you think is a dystopia is really a utopia. You need to change.”

      3. “I’m outta here.”

      Might be a couple others but those are the big ones.

      The thing that I noticed in thinking on this sort of thing is that the utopia of my early 20’s would be a dystopia to me now (and vice-versa).

      The best solution is the ability to travel between ‘topias as one desires and find the ‘topia that is right for “U”.

      I didn’t intend to write that pun when I started the sentence but then it sort of got away from me.

      The goal is to find your own personal utopia and stay there until it’s time for you to find a new one. Then you can go to that one.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

        I understand; I’m just not sure that having smashed federalism on the rock of race based slavery we can put humpty back together again.

        Which is to say that federalism is also a learned civic and we’ve unlearned it.

        Also, I think that the observation that we’re all rather intermingled is valid, though the flavors of Liberal I encounter in North Carolina cities are definitely different than the flavor I encounter in New Jersey. If the steam were released slowly, I could see North Carolina Rural/Urban gap closing in ways different than the gaps in other areas.

        But, as I say, I’m not particularly sanguine about our chances of slowly (re-)building regional culture.

        Another idea to consider might be something of a free-city model. Historically we’ve had them in the past, and they might fit the challenge today better than the federal model. The Cities basically have to buy their autonomy from their governing State (which they already do in practice if not in law), and while that autonomy would be expanded in some ways, it would be curtailed in others – namely regional influence.

        Maybe not a perfect solution either… but something to throw in the hopper.

        In any approach, the only hope I have is for incremental changes to allow the pressure to release to manageable levels. In any approach someone somewhere will be living a horrible dissolute no-good life.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Marchmaine says:


          There was an article in the Atlantic recently about why the Democratic Party and liberals have a hard time with Federalism. The two second answer (which strikes me as largely rights) is that if you believe in some sort of universal and positive human rights, stating minority group X in California and New York gets more liberty/freedom than Minority Group X in Alabama is fine and dandy.

          Somethings just need to based nation-wide or they create huge disparity and can lead to civil war.

          States’ rights and Federalism were used to defend slavery and I don’t see how we can have a nation where such things are okay.Report

          • Avatar Damon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            Perhaps you should do more travelling Saul. Travel broadens the mind, and apparently rigid morals.Report

          • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            I assume you mean to say, *isn’t* fine and dandy… but yes, I understand your point.

            My counter-intuitive point for the day is this: among Catholic ethicists, the brittle universality of liberal Rights Theory is often discussed as a well know bug in that system. We’re not the universalists you think we are.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Marchmaine says:

          We can certainly rebuild regional culture, if we’re willing to accept that certain regions will engage in utterly horrible bigoted racist transphobia.Report

      • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird says:

        Maybe every society is actually a dystopia. That’s what I’m beginning to suspect. I guess the answer is finding the dystopia least intolerable to yourself.

        (And of course, Utopia is a cynical name, coming from a made-up but ancient-Greek-sourced word for “no place”)Report

  2. fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

    I can see the stereotyping thing. I ALREADY see it when I travel (I live in what is, culturally, the South – I thought it was more Southwest-y when I moved here, but most people think of it as the South).

    I once had someone sneer at me: “OMG, how can you LIVE there?” and my response was “My job is there, and there are actually a lot of good people there. And the cost of living is about half of what it is on the coasts.” (I own a house here. Most other places I’ve lived I could not do that, or it would be in such a hell-hole of a depressed neighborhood that I’d be afraid to live there)

    I dunno. My big concern would be having to take a passport and all my “papers” and crap (and maybe even get something like a visa) to go visit family. Or have to have an identity card to go shopping in what is now the next state but might someday be another country.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to fillyjonk says:

      At least you don’t get the “Why, you don’t stink at all!” comments.Report

      • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Kim says:

        Yeah, but there was the one time when I got the sense of “You are voluntarily living THERE so therefore you must be suspect in some way….”

        It was almost enough to make me state some extremely theologically-conservative position that I don’t actually agree with, but then again – I don’t like to lie.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to fillyjonk says:

      OMG, how can you LIVE there? You know that their PBS channels still play Les Mis, right?

      The wacky thing is that there are people in the world that I do *NOT* want to be my Representative, Senator, Mayor, Governor, or President that would make one hell of a good next-door neighbor… and vice-versa.

      So much of everyday life is just pleasantly interacting with people and smiling and nodding as you see them in the grocery store just like you saw them in the grocery store last week.

      Even if the fancy date restaurant *IS* a Texas Roadhouse.Report

      • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird says:

        That’s it. There’s stuff in my state that would make me crazy if I let it (and I just said to someone this week, in re: the state of small businesses/places that are not Wal-mart to shop at here, that were it not for my job and owning a house, I’d move). But most of the time I’m too busy with work or housework or hobbies or worrying about aging relatives to get too bent over what some idiot state senator said.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:


        “OMG How can you live in New York and/or San Francisco.”

        This is then proceeded by observations on crime that are about 40 years out of date and possibly have more in common with Escape from New York than any thing based in reality. Insulting comments on various minority groups usually Blacks, Jews, Latinos and LBGT people. “New York values” is still a great dog-whistle for “Jews. Look at the Jews.”

        Comments on the expensive nature of both areas are accurate.

        Yet again, you seem to have endless sympathy for the butt hurt of right-wingers while not holding them to an equal standards.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          “Butt hurt”

          Saul, do you realize what you sound like when you use this term?

          Jesus Christ. You sound like someone who has never even been to San Francisco.

          Anyway, to deal with your post, I was sympathizing with what Fillyjonk was saying. I was sympathizing with *HER* butt hurt.

          Would you like me to sympathize with yours? Here, I’ll try: It must suck to live in a place where the rent keeps going up. It must suck to live in a place that has an average age that stays the same while you keep getting older. It must suck to live in a place where you have to run as fast as you can just to stay in the same place and, god help you, if you stumble you will find yourself behind by blocks and then miles if you stumble again.

          It must suck to live in a place where positional goods are the most important goods you can have and everybody is really, really good at getting them.

          But, hey. Museums. Culture. Tennessee Williams said that there are only three real cities, New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans and everywhere else is Cleveland. It’s nice to not live in Cleveland, right?


          • Avatar Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

            Cleveland’s the Mistake on the Lake.
            And that’s from the people what live there.Report

            • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Kim says:

              “I can insult the place because I live there, but don’t YOU (outsider) dare do it”

              That’s an aspect in our culture I’ve seen as well. (Also applicable to sports franchises.)Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to fillyjonk says:


                I don’t mind criticism if it is based in some sort of reality or aesthetic. If someone says that they like waking up to the sounds of nature or don’t like Bay Area weather or harsh NYC winters, that is fine. If they don’t like the price, fine and reasonable. The price can be stressful and I am starting to see the charm of country life.

                But I don’t like criticisms which feel trapped in the past or are based on bigotries like too many Jews and minorities (l am Jewish and take an aggressive stance in defending my people.) And there are a lot of people who seem to think NYC is trapped in the bad old days when every subway was covered in graffiti and the city was broke.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to fillyjonk says:

      ““OMG, how can you LIVE there?””

      The funny thing is, people say this to me about living in NYC.

      And, even more specifically, living in a predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhood.Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to fillyjonk says:

      I have lived in both red and blue states. I currently live in a red part of a blue state. You are certainly right that in many respects it doesn’t matter on a day to day basis. This is even more true today than it was ten or twenty years ago. It matters much less, for example, whether or not I have a good local bookstore. I take aesthetic pleasure in browsing a good bookstore, but if I end up buying from Amazon I still get the book, and probably more cheaply. If fine dining and live theater were my things, this would matter a lot more, but they aren’t and so it doesn’t.

      That being said, there are considerations beyond the aesthetic. Consider those states that ban or restrict municipal broadband. The proximate reason is that the legislators were paid off by Comcast and Verizon, but the underlying reason is that those legislators are ideologically predisposed against government doing anything useful.

      Also, I am white and middle class. The authorities have no reflexive inclination to fuck with me for walking down the street. This makes for a lot of lifestyle flexibility, including where I can comfortably live.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        Also, I am white and middle class. The authorities have no reflexive inclination to fuck with me for walking down the street. This makes for a lot of lifestyle flexibility, including where I can comfortably live.

        This underestimates the reach of the authorities. Stop and frisk isn’t endemic in wealthy white neighborhoods. It happens where the targets of stop and frisk live. It happens in the big blue coastal cities, which are also the places with some of the highest levels of housing and education segregation in the country.

        I am not going to pretend that there are not places where it is easier to be different than it is in other places, but the reasons for that almost all have to do with population. It’s easier to find a community of like-minded folks in a city of a million than it is in a town of a thousand. Community is important, so I won’t attempt to downplay it. However, I will note that a certain percentage of these conversations about which places and which types of places are more open-minded and/or accepting are really just conversations about which places the right type of white people feel most comfortable being the right type of white people.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to j r says:

          You forget “driving while not white”.

          I’ve got a friend who is Native American. His rants on a great swathe of the middle of the country are freaking epic. He used to drive a lot for his work (he was a consultant, and he preferred driving to flying) and drives a pretty nice truck.

          There are states where he gets pulled over at least once an hour, and forced to sit through at least 40 minutes of “suspicious cop”. Because that truck is CLEARLY too nice for a native american, you know?

          I wish I could remember what state he claimed was the absolute worst (Ohio? One of the Dakotas?) and has taken to driving AROUND.

          Then there’s some of the more high profile cases — I was reading about a US Circuit Court judge who routinely gets stopped, for instance.

          You don’t need stop and frisk to harass the different in nice neighborhoods. The cops stop you and harass you in a different way.

          I mean come on, what’s a black man doing in that neighborhood? And driving a BMW? Gotta be stolen..Report

          • Avatar j r in reply to Morat20 says:

            I mean come on, what’s a black man doing in that neighborhood? And driving a BMW? Gotta be stolen..

            Eh, that idea is overstated. It doesn’t really work that way and certainly not so much in 2016. And more relevant to this conversation, that’s just as likely, if not more likely, to happen driving on I-95 in New Jersey at is to happen in Tennessee or Montana. Henry Louis Gates porch is in Cambridge, MA, not Cambridge, KY.

            I get why it’s important to a many white progressives to believe that the places they live and frequent are obviously more open-minded and tolerant than the places that those other kind of whites live. I’m just not sure how much that belief stands up to real scrutiny.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC in reply to j r says:

              I get why it’s important to a many white progressives to believe that the places they live and frequent are obviously more open-minded and tolerant than the places that those other kind of whites live. I’m just not sure how much that belief stands up to real scrutiny.

              That sorta assumes that white progressives live in ‘those sort of places’. 😉

              As one who doesn’t, but who instead lives in small-town north Georgia…this place doesn’t seem particularly racist, or at least it seems less racist than other people assume.

              But I think the truth of the matter is: There are actually all sorts of racism, and different sorts exist in different places, and white people are very bad at seeing non-obvious sorts of racism, and everyone, even minorities, find it hard to see racism in places they are not at, in ways they are not used to. (They might be able to remotely identify racism they *are* used to, I am unsure.)

              Or, to put it another way: The only people really capable of identifying how racist a place is are minorities that live in said place…which really does make it hard to compare places. You sorta have to find a minority member that has lived in both places, and even that doesn’t account for time, or even different sorts of racism, with different targets.

              And now, I shall ignore all that, and point out that where *I* keep seeing racism make the news (Which might be a relevant indicator for the amount of racism in an area, or might not.) almost always involve places that have slowly turned minority majority (Usually black), but somehow the *authorities*, either the government, or the police, or, most often both, have *not* changed demographics.

              A bunch of entirely, or almost entirely, white people with authority over large groups of black people seems almost a recipe for disaster. (This group of black people might be all the people they have power over, or just a specific region.) It’s something about that power structure that seems to bring out the worst in the white people.

              And, sadly, that basically describes the power structure in *a very large number of US cities*.Report

  3. Avatar Pinky says:

    If the states were 100% one tribe or another, you could have a divorce. If counties or regions were 100% one tribe or another, you could have a more complicated divorce. We’ve got 60/40 counties and 40/60 counties. Divorce isn’t the right analogy. If you want to write a dystopia story, don’t think divorce. Think Partition of India.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Pinky says:

      Yeah, there are a number of things that have been eating at me since I submitted this.

      One thing that would make it easier to just up and move: ubiquitous high speed internet. Hey, if you’ve got Fiber, you have all of the culture in the world at your fingertips.

      Maybe it doesn’t work that way for extroverts, but you can get past the 50 yard line with introverts with sufficiently fast high-speed. (Video chat with people left behind in your old country, if you miss stuff like culture, you can get a livestream of culture directly into your VR headset.)

      Stuff that gets in the way: moving. I don’t know about you, but I have something like five or six thousand books and I would rather burn down my house than box them up and unbox them again. Moving is a pain and that’s not even taking into account the magnificently stressful process of buying/selling a house. So we need to figure that out too.

      There’s probably something we need to do for extroverts when it comes to stuff like their cultural requirements but I can’t really speak to that.

      For this future to work, it requires few ties to wherever you are and an easy way to find and make a home.

      And that probably sounds like a dystopia to anybody who wants to buy a house and live in it until it is time to burn it down because you don’t want to move your books.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Jaybird says:

        A problem: farm land doesn’t move. And maybe that’s where some of your dystopia comes from. The Nation of California outlaws anything that causes environmental damage, including agriculture. Heartland gets into a trade war with Bostonia.Report

      • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird says:

        I contemplated the need for a move last year when it looked like my job might become untenable (serious budget cuts). Books were one issue, I may well own as many as you do. The pain of buying and selling a house was the other one, especially since my house is older and small and has some deferred-maintenance issues. I was actually telling myself, “You need to divest yourself of half of your crap” but that was just painful to contemplate.

        I think, given some horrific dystopian outcome, I’d be a lot more likely to bunker down (Canned goods. I have lots of canned goods) than actually leave.

        The biggest issue with a true violent dystopia that I think would make it a moot point for me: I’m not part of a “tribe,” really, here. I don’t have a family. I don’t have friends so close that I think they’d take me on as an extra mouth to feed even given that I’m strong and not afraid of manual labor. I’d be one of the leftover people without a tribe to help protect me. I’d probably wind up as cannon fodder in the first week, and you know? If civilization was totally shot to hell and wasn’t coming back any time soon, I’d pretty much be OK with that. And anyway, it’s my own damn fault as an extreme introvert for not trying to make myself part of a tribe, so….Report

        • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to fillyjonk says:

          I last moved about ten years ago. That was before I had a Kindle. Nowadays most of my reading is in that format. I buy in paper only after asking myself if I will still care about this book in ten years. Books within my area of early baseball history I regard as reference works, and so buy in paper. This is the main body of what comes in that format. My old hobby, for much of my adult life, was heraldry. That is very picture-centric, which favors (expensive) paper books. I keep them mostly for sentimental value. The chances of my taking up that hobby again are minuscule. I would give them away were I to move. As it is, I expect my heirs will have that pleasure. When we moved in, I told my wife that I was going to dig a six foot hole in the backyard and never move again.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to fillyjonk says:

          for the love of god, it doesn’t take much. be nice to your neighbors, do something that helps ’em out (doesn’t need ta mean talking. We trim the greenspace of a particular noxious weed).

          Be at least the person people say “I remember him. Quiet, but crazy.”Report

          • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Kim says:

            I have rental houses on either side of me. I am nice to the neighbors (in as much as I see them; they seem to leave for their jobs after I do and arrive back home after I do) but they change every couple months, so it seems hard to actually build much of a relationship.

            I am assuming people would have to have a real investment in me and a real desire for whatever I could contribute to make me a part of their “tribe,” and I just don’t assume that would happen in a major-bad situation. I may be being needlessly pessimistic here, I just kind of see myself as someone who, by not marrying or having children and moving far from blood relatives, has kind of “edited themselves out” of any kind of clan. I figure people will do for family first, and then lifelong friends….and I am far from either.

            I am civil to all, friendly to many, but I only have one or two people I would call “close friends.”

            I’ve made my peace with that. First, because a major-bad situation is pretty unlikely (I am talking of something of the Zombie Apocalypse variety) but second, because if it did, nearly 50 years is a pretty good run.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to fillyjonk says:

          Starting a year or so ago, I began thinning the bookshelves. Fiction (well, my fiction, if not my wife’s) is largely epubs now. Paper has advantages, but having become used to reading on my phone, the conveniences generally outweigh those for text fiction. Textbooks and manuals are a different matter. I still run into occasions when I need two manuals open plus working windows on the computer monitor, and there’s just not enough real estate.

          The Russians have cracked most of the academic press publishers. They’re putting up what are obviously the master PDFs transmitted to the actual printers: a single file containing inside and outside of front and back covers, all of the proprietary fonts used, images in either vector form or 300 dpi pixmaps, perfect page-for-page copies. In one case where I know the author, the couple of typos that slipped past the editors.Report

    • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Pinky says:

      Exactly. Our electoral maps provide the misleading impression that there are red states and blue states, when in reality we all lives in varying shades of purple.

      Also, this piece strikes me as analogous to a couple talking about divorce during the middle of a knock down drag out fight, forgetting that they have made it though so much worse.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Gaelen says:

        Our electoral maps do confuse the issue, but most states have a sort of general political prescription to them. While there are very “Red” parts of CA (east part of the state), they aren’t really red in the same way that Alabama is.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Aaron David says:

          Cali’s red is red like Arkansas. Orange County and all that. Scotch Irish just kept walkin’.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kim says:

            You should hop on over to the California Secretary of State’s website and verify how Orange County voted this year. Might surprise you.

            I live in red-state California. People here call it “west Alabama.” They keep arsenals of deadly guns in their safes, listen to Travis Tritt, drink macro beer just as happy as they do that craft brew stuff, take pride in mowing their own lawns, and let just a little bit of country twang infiltrate their accents. They ain’t like them fashion-conscious, Volvo-driving, Chardonnay-drinking, Europe-vacationing limousine liberal yuppie sophisticates in Brea and Irvine, and they ain’t like the union-organizing, ethnicity-identifying, English-second-languageing, blue-collar working inner city dwellers of Santa Ana and Westminster. Them folks is all voting for Democrats.Report

        • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Aaron David says:

          That’s certainly true to an extent. It’s more that Kentucky or Alabama isn’t ‘red’ (other than the most rural and least populated regions).Report

        • Avatar Pinky in reply to Aaron David says:

          In their beliefs, or their personal Overton windows?Report

  4. Avatar North says:

    It should probably alarm me, considering how badly my predictive powers have functioned over the last 24 months vis a vis politics, that I find the scenario of disparate ‘topias you lay out so implausible.

    For one thing, the simple geographic divides you lay out; Midwest, east coast, southeast, west; belie the demographic reality that the people who might align with these lifestyles don’t actually live in those places. The east and west coast type people live in the Midwest and southeast too; they just live densely clustered in the cities. The southeast types live on the west and the east coast too, just more spread out in the rural regions. And of course the Midwesterners live everywhere, spread somewhat evenly out across both the urbs, the suburbs and ruralia.

    For another thing, what are the divisions that we’re looking at here? Legalization of pot? Letting trans folk use the bathrooms of their choices? Religious freedom? Size of government questions? These divisions seem so… paltry. The ideologies seem so… feeble. Especially when viewed in the spray tan orange light of an ascendant Trump. Where is the triumphant ‘ism in our new world that shall drive the divisions? The socialcons? Literally being eaten alive by Trumpism who was embraced by Christians despite being near a living rebuke to their very core beliefs simply because of their dawning awareness of the magnitude of how badly they are being routed. The intersectionality left? Powerless, shrill and unappealing as they always have been. No electoral oomph, barely even token fealty from the ostensibly left wing party, magnified disproportionately by the internet and the media wings of their foes who find it convenient to project a feeble rabbits profile into a huge shadow beast. The small government libertarians? Perhaps never more marginalized now than ever- the party that paid lip service to them nominated and elected a man who casually rejected every small government shibboleth then went on to win (most likely BECAUSE rather than despite of that same heresy). Will the GOP even retain the paper thin veneer of small governmentism when they know-as a factual matter- that their voters don’t give a damn about it? The frustrated populists? Angry, incoherent, anti-status quos but bereft of any actual ideas to better their lot? What do they actually want to happen? Trade wars with foreigners? That’ll drive up the cost of their consumer goods but won’t open a 50’s era factory in rural Pennsylvania. Banning immigrants? That’ll dive up the cost of a nanny or a gardener but it isn’t going to reopen the coal mines in Appalachia. Neoliberal centrism? Unlovable, uninspiring and unanchored yet also unopposed on a substantive basis. Where’re the alternatives? The theocrats count barely a young person among their number. The Marxists daydream of living in a market socialist northern European state- not some post market workers’ paradise. No one longs to emulate the foreign kleptocracies or petty tyrannies or cobbled together party-command apparatuses that stand opposite the west on the foreign stage.

    So do I see divorce impending? No, happily. I just imagine the pendulum swinging again. Intersectionality gets its substantive merits pilfered by centrists and the idiotic chaff punted back to the academy just like what happened in the 90’s. The populists and the what’s left of the right flails and founders at the reins of power like they did in the aughts only without any of the trust and good will their electoral base once vested in them. The Clintons trudge off to obscurity. The center left shakes the bugs out of the carpet, picks better candidates and a few years; two? Four? Eight? The electorate, now with a more hungry and chastened left and a more disillusioned right hands it all back to them again.

    I should be alarmed that I think the union will muddle through just fine since I’ve been so very wrong the past couple of years but prior to ’16 I had a tolerable run. And the divisions seem so thin, so feeble which is probably why they’re so noisy and shrill but substantive.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to North says:

      You don’t know who listens to church anymore. You don’t know and can’t explain why megachurches exist.
      And then you want to tell me why they voted for Trump??Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Kim says:

        I’ve always made a point of watching what theocons like Dreher, the socialcon contingent at NRO, the various folks at Firstthings and the like say. I take them at their word.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to North says:

          Then you need to find more words and quickly.
          Until you can understand the schmanzy blackmail operation the Catholic Church had going on — and what exactly that has to do with gay marriage…

          Take mumbojumboers at their word at their peril. Money don’t lie.

          And so you have no idea of the realities on the ground, haven’t bothered researching it, and can’t really tell me why this hipster is glutenfree and what the fuck it has to do with the church.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Kim says:

            Kimmie, I have no idea what clown car ideas your cats have rolling around in your head on the matter nor have you shared what they are, nor would I likely give much credit to what it is. I have no doubt you will tell me you have a friend who’s a close confidant of the Pope and another friend who’s in post-death communion with Billy Graham but that won’t persuade me that you have unique insights into Catholic or Protestant thinking.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to North says:

              You don’t need unique insights to see when the gameplay’s gone to hell in a handbasket.

              The Catholic church had a real good racket going. It was the safe place to be gay, you realize? If you joined the church, you could even be poor and gay. But if you were rich and gay? Well, give the church enough money and those indulgences make the inquisitors happy.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North says:

      I hope you’re right… but I look at Trump and do not see a steam release valve but I see that something fundamental has broken.

      Maybe I’m reading it wrong and instead of it heading toward civil war or divorce, we’re finally shifting from incompetent Republic to competent Empire.

      Hey, this is something that happens to Republics as they grow older. Your society is going to go through a lot of changes and they’re going to be very confusing but I think that if you can stay out of jail or out of the hospital (or the morgue), you’ll find yourself in a much better, much more *ADULT* place in 20 years or so.

      And how we will look back at where we are now and laugh at the dystopia we constructed for ourselves.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’m still not ready to think of Trump as some modern day Julius Caesar.* Caesar had demonstrated some capability not to be distracted by shiny objects prior to seizing the republic and making an Empire of it. We’ll see what happens but my money is on a period of embarrassing commotion but not a lot of actual policy or political movement.

        My bigger worries are the left/Democratic party at a sub-presidential level. With Clinton out of the picture it looks like their coalition is probably pretty functional on a presidential level but what exactly is ailing the party nationally is a stickier problem and since I don’t fully grok it I can’t guess if it’ll be fixed or not.

        *Though I grant, considering my track record, that should alarm me.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to North says:

          Clinton is what’s ailing the “party” at a lower level. but making sure that she doens’t get prosecuted should help a lot (lotta bodies in that prosecution. zombies and all that).Report

        • Avatar James K in reply to North says:


          The thing about Julius Caesar is that he failed, he didn’t create an Empire he just destroyed a Republic, and that’s something that’s well within Trump’s capabilities. The real question is who or what Octavian would be in this scenario.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to James K says:

            Possibly @james-k though Caesar had legions of soldiers that were personally devoted to him. How many legions has Trump got? Though I suppose if you count Comey’s partisans at the FBI that’s enough right now to make me feel uneasy.

            Could Trump destroy the republic? I grant it’s possible just as it’s possible the man could let fly with a nuke on a whim. Probable? If required to bet I’d put my money on the republic but I grant you I’ll be watching closely in case I need to pack up and bolt to meet up with Maribou and Jaybird in Canada.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North says:

              Trump does have Mattis.

              From what I understand, the military might likely choose Trump if the only other reasonable option was Clinton, but if given a set of objectives from Mattis, they’d go through Hell and come out the other side if he asked them to do so.Report

            • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to North says:

              Caesar was a symptom, not a cause. He was in the middle of a series of strongmen establishing military dictatorships to control the state. We hear about Caesar but not Sulla for reasons only indirectly related to the facts on the ground: partly literary, and partly because Octavian, as part of the next round of civil wars, had propaganda reasons to present himself as Caesar’s successor. Since Octavian won all the marbles, Caesar was fixed in the official storyline. Sulla was relegated to a topic for specialists.

              The Republic was on the ropes before Caesar ever was a power. Why? The simplest explanation is that the Roman constitution was designed for a city-state. It, combined with Rome’s idiosyncratic cultural willingness to extend citizenship to conquered peoples, proved wildly successful. But once the Roman state moved past the regional power phase, it simply wasn’t set up to run things.

              This leads us to those legions personally loyal to Caesar. Why were they? Partly because he was a successful general, and nothing succeeds like success. But there was an underlying structural issue that the Roman state had long before delegated to its generals the responsibility for making sure the troops got paid. Soldiering for a winning general wasn’t simply more fun. It was more remunerative. Hence the personal loyalty. The problems with this system are, at least in retrospect, obvious. Much of the explanation for why the Empire eventually fell can be traced to this.

              The path of wisdom is not to look to Rome when analyzing modern politics. The analogies pretty much suck, and you can find whatever you want to find.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

                Yeah I agree with all of this. My thing is that I do not see Trump as so much a symptom of illness in the Republic so much as illness in the Republics two major parties. I suspect it’s fundamental cancer on the part of the GOP and that is was a serious flue in the Dems and one that I don’t think is replicable (the GOP’s experience with Obama has demonstrated that given a generally honest candidate as a foil they are no longer capable of branding him the way they branded Clinton*).

                *And yes Clinton made it easier in many ways. The point is Clinton is gone and done. There won’t be a Clinton on the ballot for a long time if ever.Report

              • Oh, but it is so very very much fun to play the parlor game of “Are we Rome?”

                In broad strokes, I think there is still some value to be had in the game. Professionalizing the military is exactly one such value: a privatized military was the strongest of the several catalysts to autocracy. But it wasn’t the only one.

                Another was the elevation of party over nation. Lepidus made deals with Mithridates of Pontus that were against Roman interests precisely so he could return that much faster to Rome, “victorious,” and face his political foes in the Forum. Caesar, especially later in his career, was overt about failing to distinguish between his own self-interest and the interests of the nation. It was simply a conceptual impossibility to him that the two might deviate. Moving past antiquity to the high Middle Ages, consider the struggle between the Guelphs and Ghibellines (coincidentally also in Italy) as one’s identification with the Pope’s party or the Emperor’s party escalated to be more important than the city-state from which one came. Other analogues of this can be found at various points in Byzantine history, but these are less useful as they get tied up in religious doctrine as well as political pressures (the Byzantines didn’t really distinguish between those two concepts FWIW).

                But in Rome, one did not forge a bipartisan coalition to address a serious generalized problem. One might be induced to switch parties, adopt a new set of friends and allies than before, but the inducement came with plums, not just the civic duty of solving a crisis. So forging coalitions to tackle tough problems (piracy, for instance) became expensive and resulted in the aggrandizement of a handful of strong men who collected allies in moments of crisis. I see parallels, or at least the potential for parallels, coming to fruition now. Watch this happen as Trump and his people try to keep the GOP under discipline.

                Another problem with the “party over country” ethic manifested in hypocritical policies: whenever the opposition party wanted to do X, it was a grave threat to freedom and the Republic itself. Then, when the opposition party fell out of power, the new majority party would dust off the idea that they criticized so harshly before, but because it was their people doing it, everything is perfectly OK. As the opponents of the Gracchi set up their own land reform commissions after stabbing the one brother out of the picture and showering the other with roof tiles, watch for Republicans to “repeal Obamacare” to “replace” it with something that is only trivially distinguishable from it. (But this is a symptom, not a disease. The disease is unthinking hyper-partisanship.)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

                We are not Rome but we rhyme with Rome. (Bome? Pome? Foam? Thome?)

                Our evolution is going to be an American version of what they did. Bigger, better, stronger.


              • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

                You hold that thought,@jaybird. My dystopia runs tomorrow.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to North says:

          My bigger worries are the left/Democratic party at a sub-presidential level. With Clinton out of the picture it looks like their coalition is probably pretty functional on a presidential level but what exactly is ailing the party nationally is a stickier problem and since I don’t fully grok it I can’t guess if it’ll be fixed or not.

          Losing so many state legislatures in 2010 is a pretty big one.

          Gerrymandering can’t affect the Senate, but it affects the House and every state legislature.

          Rural/urban divide might skew results a little, but some of the vote/seat splits are incredibly egregious.

          The GOP’s REDMAP program was an incredibly effective investment.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Morat20 says:

            Ya mind if I blame Clinton for that? (and obama too, he coulda fixed it if he’d wanted to).Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Morat20 says:

            For sure, but what cost the party so many bloody state legislatures and what can be done about it?Report

            • Avatar Morat20 in reply to North says:

              Pretty standard response to unified federal government, I’d suspect. I’d add in that the Great Recession was still a going concern.

              They were just quick to heavily solidify their gains, since it was a census term.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Morat20 says:

                That is reassuring so I’d love for it to be true. It seems to me it’s also testable in that we’ll be having elections in 2018 where the GOP has unified control of the Federal Government. All else being equal then we should expect a significant swing on the state legislative level back towards the Dems? I grant the test is biased because frankly it’d be hard for the states to go much more red.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to North says:

                Well…except for the fact that the GOP did actually build that incredibly effective wall of gerrymandering. I mean Democrats aren’t above it, but they’re amateurs compared to that.

                I’d watch that SCOTUS appeal on Wisconin’s gerrymandering.

                If SCOTUS adopts that test, you might see rather sizable results.

                If nothing else, we’ll read slightly fewer stories that boil down to “More votes, but fewer seats”.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to North says:

                The test would be if Dems win a bunch of statehouses in 2020 and then start winning all sorts of elections for the next decade.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Don Zeko says:

                Now *THAT* is a measurable outcome.

                We will be able to look at the numbers today and compare them to the numbers in 2020 and say “okay, these numbers are better/worse/in the same ballpark”.

                Here’s from googling “Democrat seats lost under Obama”:

                Overall, Sabato wrote, Democrats during Obama’s presidency lost 11 governorships, 13 U.S. Senate seats, 69 House seats, and 913 state legislative seats and 30 state legislative chambers. (Our analysis of legislative seats is off from Sabato’s by three. The small discrepancy is likely due to run-offs and recounts.)

                There. That’s our baseline.

                When I look at that, my immediate thought is “okay, some regression to the mean is inevitable” and so even if weird clone of Reagan and Eisenhower and Nixon and Dubya were president, we’d see 10% of that flip back to the Democrats.

                So, for me, the question is “how many of those numbers have to flop back by what point for us to say okay… Trump is doing to the Republican party what Obama did to his own party?”

                I’d say that, at the end of 2018, those numbers would look like this:

                3 governorships, 3 U.S. Senate seats, 10 House seats, and 100 state legislative seats and 4 or 5 state legislative chambers.

                That’s the line past which we can begin to say “okay, Trump is screwing up”. There is a *LOT* worse than that that can happen, of course. 10%+1 or +2 ain’t much.

                But… if it’s less than that, I think we have to conclude that it’s regression to the mean rather than successful strategy and thus it might be time to *CHANGE* strategy.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

                Again, you’re ignoring the gerrymandering changes in 2010. That was a big GOP year, and REDMAP was very successful.

                The US House isn’t the only legislature that has seen a minority party that got considerably more votes.

                If you want to use a benchmark without having to fiddle with accounting for gerrymandering of House seats and state seats, look to statewide offices is alone.

                Governor and Senate seats.

                House seats, state seats, and state legislatures..you’re running into that wall. (Now if that gerrymandering test gets passed by SCOTUS, that’ll be darned interesting…)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20 says:

                11 governorships, 13 U.S. Senate seats, 69 House seats, and 913 state legislative seats and 30 state legislative chambers is *NOT* gerrymandering.

                20 House seats? Maybe. 200 state legislative seats? Sure. Gerrymandering might be able to pull that off.

                But 11 governorships? 13 U.S. Senate seats? 913 (!) state legislative seats? 30 state legislative chambers?!?

                You’re in denial if you think that gerrymandering would be sufficient to pull numbers of that magnitude off.

                Even if Hillary *DID* win the popular vote.

                You know why? You pull California out of the numbers and we’ve got a completely different picture of the rest of the country. California is helping you maintain your denial.

                This is not helping you.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jaybird, you’re misinterpreting his point. He’s not saying the only reason for Republican success is gerrymandering. Rather, it will be hard to judge Democrats success in gaining back seats in the state’s and House because of the GOP’s effective use of gerrymandering.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Gaelen says:

                Thinking ahead to 2018, I have the following thought…

                Imagine two years of obstructionism by the Dems. Imagine calls to “Throw the bums out!” Imagine the Dems following the GOP playbook from 2008-16.

                Do they retake the House? The Senate?

                If not, why?
                A) Dems do poorly in midterms
                B) Dems are less willing to reward/celebrate/be excited by bad behavior? (I.e., Dems are morally superior somehow.)
                C) We’re a Republican/Trump nation

                These aren’t mutually exclusive, mind you. Nor exhaustive. My worry is #2 carries some weight and we reach a point where one side rewards bad behavior while the other does not and bad behavior becomes incentivized on one side in a way that becomes self-enriching.

                Wait… am I being smug here?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Gaelen says:

                Well, I apologize for misreading but that leads me to similarly ugly conclusions:

                1. The Republicans have more or less maxxed out their potential with regards to how many Republican asses now fill Government seats

                2. The Republicans have not maxxed out their potential with regards to how many Republican asses now fill Government seats.

                I suppose that 1 is less ugly than 2, but that leads me to the same conclusion: thinking that gerrymandering has more than a marginal impact on this situation at this point in the process is not healthy. Sure, Republicans gamed some stuff in 2010. But look at how many seats they switched over in 2010 *BEFORE* gerrymandering.

                That’s an indicator. And if they kept gaining seats every election after instituting gerrymandering, there’s more going on than just gerrymandering.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Jaybird says:

                They didn’t keep gaining seats. They gained in the wave mid-term of 2010 (Then gerrymandered to their hearts content). In 2012 the Democrats won more votes, gained seats, but were still a minority in large part because of gerrymandering. In 2014 the Republicans again won more votes and gained seats. Even in 2016, when Republicans lost seats, Democrats won 48% of the vote but only received 45% of the House seats.

                But this just shows what Morat was arguing. Republicans may be close to maxing out the the number of government positions they can win (for the positions we are talking about). But even with a wave Democratic election the House might not change hands because of the way districts are drawn. That, to me at least, makes it something that Democrats should certainly care about.

                Ed. To the original point, it also highlights why using state legislatures and the House for proxy’s of Democratic electoral success has some significant confounding variables. I mean in 2012 Republicans won 47% of the vote, but received 54% of House seatsReport

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Gaelen says:

                Don’t just look at national numbers. Also look at state numbers. Out of the 1000 seats that no longer hold Democratic asses, 90% of them were state level, not national level.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Jaybird says:

                I just used the House to illustrate the effect that gerrymandering can have. I don’t know why it would be less effective for state legislative districts. Also, (and more importantly) I don’t have hours to waste, and the House number are easy to find and I had looked them up recently.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

                Don’t just look at national numbers. Also look at state numbers. Out of the 1000 seats that no longer hold Democratic asses, 90% of them were state level, not national level.

                Did you think they just gerrymandered federal seats?

                You do realize that state leg seats are almost all district based? (There are some with at-large ones, I think). That, as I recall, almost all of them are redrawn based on the latest census — so they were ALSO redone in the 2010-2012 time frame?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20 says:

                Sure, but gerrymandering in such a way that seats are not only lost in 2012, but 2014, and then again in 2016 and as a pre-emptive argument for why we really can’t take the outcomes of 2018 not changing much as evidence for need to change tactics or anything like that?

                That’s some seriousl 3-dimensional chess, right there.

                Why, it’s almost as if gerrymandering is being used as an argument against considering whether any mistakes were made and whether anything should have been done differently, let alone could have been done better.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

                I can only conclude that you literally don’t understand how gerrymandering works.

                What you just said doesn’t make any flipping sense in the context of gerrymandering.

                At all.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20 says:

                One of the things that makes gerrymandering necessary is people from California giving up and moving to Colorado. After ten years of this, California loses a representative and Colorado gains one.

                This means that lines need to be re-drawn because of all of the new people who moved in.

                But, the wacky thing, the district that was drawn in such a way to dilute democrats in 2010 had hundreds of thousands of democrats move in from elsewhere… and the three 48%/52% districts that were so precariously drawn right next to the 70%/30% district are now 52%/48% districts based on nothing but immigration alone, right?

                But those gerrymandered districts, despite changing and changing and changing over the last 6 years didn’t get more democratic.

                They got *LESS* democratic.

                Indeed, 1000 fewer seats over the country.

                I know enough about how gerrymandering works to know that it can turn a 45/55 state into a fragile 51/49 state… but, as time passes and immigration takes place and people get born and people die, those new districts turn into completely different districts and you get wave elections.

                And the only reason to deny stuff like this is because you don’t think that your tactics failed and that your team needs to change because your team screwed up bad.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Jaybird says:

                Are those numbers actually base on anything? Because I think the more likely scenario, given a large democratic influx (which certainly isn’t true most places), is that 70-30% democratic districts turned into 80-20%.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Gaelen says:

                Nope. I was just giving some decent”how to make gerrymandering work” numbers for a precarious state like Colorado.

                Denver and Boulder did get a hell of a lot of California immigrants, but so did Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo.

                Sure, the Western slope was going to be red, red, red. Limon? Fuggitabowdit. But the purplish part of the state got bluer. Even El Paso county (the county where I happen to live) got purpler.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Jaybird says:

                I mean here’s the thing. I’m all for judging the health of the Democratic party by their success in getting people to vote for them (or at least against Republicans) over the next four to six years. But I think you are discounting the effect of gerrymandering based on your feeling about how population distributions are possibly changing. I mean it’s likely that gerrymandering played a significant role based on the fact that if you allocated seats on percent of the vote in 2016 Democrats would have won 215 instead of the 194 that they currently have (Republicans go from 241 to 220). That’s twenty seats, a consequential swing compared to the numbers you’re talking about. Hell, Democrats could turn out in record numbers for an off year election, win more votes, and still not take back the House (just look at 2012). The same dynamic is true of state legislative races.

                The upshot is that if you use actual House or state legislative seats to determine if it is regression to the mean versus Democrats winning votes you are likely to severely discount Democratic support.Report

              • Avatar j r in reply to Morat20 says:


                What you just said doesn’t make any flipping sense in the context of gerrymandering.

                You have a lot of excuses for why Democrats keep losing. For arguments sake, let’s say that all of those excuses are valid. Let’s say that Republicans have gerrymandered their way to control of the House and state legislatures. Let’s say that voter suppression efforts keep the GOP in charge of a bunch of governor’s mansions and the Senate. And let’s say that the DNC leak and the Comey statements were the decisive factor in HRC’s loss.

                Why would any of that make me want to support the Democratic Party or have a clear preference for its candidates (as opposed to just making up my mind on a case by case basis)? All the right people agree that Republicans are idiots, at least that’s what Andy Borowitz keeps telling me. So, what do I make of the group of people who keep getting bested by idiots? Honestly, it just makes the Democrats sound feckless and ineffective.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen in reply to j r says:

                Jr. This gerrymandering discussion is in reference to not to how Democrats lost, but to what relative weight to give any democratic gains in state and federal elections.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Gaelen says:

                My argument was to take the numbers that have changed over the last 8 years and say that some of them will, absolutely will, revert back due to nothing more than regression to the mean.

                10% was my guess for the change that will be due to regression to the mean. More than 10%, we can say “okay, that is due to stuff outside of regression to the mean… either backlash to Republicans effing up or people embracing the democrats”.

                I provided hard numbers and everything.

                And the counterargument is that I didn’t take enough intangibles into account thus arguing… what?

                That regression to the mean might be as high as 15%? That it will be as low as 5% and so 10% should be seen as backlash rather than as regression to the mean?

                What impact does 2010’s gerrymandering have on the 2018 election with regards to the 1000 seats lost by democrats over the last 8 years?

                Is it just to make the point that those 1000 seats lost don’t necessarily represent a rejection of democrats because of the republicans gerrymandering?

                If so, I have good news: surely there will be a wave election in 2020 that will let the Democrats turn the tables and gerrymander *BACK* against the Republicans and they’ll be able to win those 1000 seats right back.

                And democrats won’t have to change anything at all.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:


                Jaybird: Using these elections, look how badly the Democrats have lost!
                Me: You should use a subset of those elections, specifically state-wide offices. Also add in the Presidency. You can keep the House, but I’d switch to total vote tallies not districts won. That way your numbers aren’t contaminated by the 2010 redistricting, which I think will mask trends.
                Jaybird: [arguments about how gerrymandering can’t effect that much]
                Me: So what? If gerrymandering doesn’t have that big of an effect, my suggested dataset will show the same trends. If you’re wrong and it does, you’ll be able to see a divergence.
                Jaybird: [gerrymandering can’t possibly cause a big effect]

                Seriously, I know what you think. So why are you so resistant to use the dataset without that as even a complication? Is there some reason that Governer’s offices, Presidency, US Senate, and House [by vote], would show a distorted trend?

                I literally don’t care if you believe gerrymandering is or isn’t a factor. It’s immaterial. I suggested using a dataset where nobody has to care because it can’t be a factor and your response has not been to argue data selection, but to reiterate what you think about gerrymandering.

                If you’re right and it has no effect, then switching to a different set of elected offices won’t change the trend. It’s cleaner, more convincing data.

                I honestly think you just like saying “1000 offices” and don’t want to give that up. Or you’ve run the numbers and my dataset doesn’t show the trend as well as you want.

                Either way, you’re exerting an awful lot of effort on yelling about how gerrymandering can’t POSSIBLY change the data — and yet you refuse to make a modest change to your dataset that would remove it as a variable entirely.

                For a man who lectures on empathy and listening, you’ve spent a lot of time lately arguing with things people haven’t said.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20 says:

                Great, you don’t like my numbers? Supply your own. Supply seasonally-adjusted numbers and explain how Democrats, technically, didn’t lose 1000 seats, but only 400, if you take gerrymandering out of the picture.

                And then we can argue about those 400 seats and whether any of the victories that I would consider to be “regression to the mean” qualify as one of those 400 gerrymandering-adjusted seats.

                Great. Let me know when you’ve put those numbers up and show the formula they used.

                As I said, I only googled what I googled and copied and pasted what I found. We can use your numbers as soon as you get them up.


                I’m *NOT* lecturing on empathy or listening!

                That’s what people like EJ Dionne and David Brooks are arguing.

                I’m arguing that there is a level of ineptitude beyond which you should not expect to win and Clinton rose to this level of ineptitude when it came to her demeanor, her messaging, and bled into her tactics, her strategy, and even her logistics.

                Now, there is *SOME* overlap between “show more empathy” and “jesus christ don’t go on national television and brag about how many miners you’re going to put out of work in a 2 second sound bite suitable for television, radio, and gif format” but, believe me, my emphasis is not on “you need to be empathetic” but on the “holy crap, even serial killers who specialize in focusing on mining towns winced when she said that”.

                Yes, yes. There was a broader context to her statement in which she bragged about putting a lot of coal miners out of work. And if I’d only spend 10 minutes reading her expanded comments, I’d see that what she was saying should be taken in the context of her broader technocratic points rather than seen as a jab that only really uneducated people would hear once and then reach conclusions about what kind of president she’d be likely to be.

                I get that.

                But I’m not saying “be more empathetic”.

                I’m saying “finding a sociopath who is easily led but gives good speeches would work too, it’s all good”.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

                You’ve spent the entire day arguing with positions you invented for me, instead of addressing the ones I actually have. I repeated my position a half-dozen times, and you persisted in pretending I was arguing about something else.

                That’s not good faith discussion. I have no interest in talking to someone who is not willing to make even a token effort to engage in good faith.

                I shouldn’t have to spend a full day and god knows how many posts just to get you to just acknowledge my point, no matter how insultingly. (“Seasonally adjusted”? Really? Talk about smug).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20 says:

                Great, I’ll go back to my original point, then.

                So, for me, the question is “how many of those numbers have to flop back by what point for us to say okay… Trump is doing to the Republican party what Obama did to his own party?”

                I’d say that, at the end of 2018, those numbers would look like this:

                3 governorships, 3 U.S. Senate seats, 10 House seats, and 100 state legislative seats and 4 or 5 state legislative chambers.

                That’s the line past which we can begin to say “okay, Trump is screwing up”. There is a *LOT* worse than that that can happen, of course. 10%+1 or +2 ain’t much.

                But… if it’s less than that, I think we have to conclude that it’s regression to the mean rather than successful strategy and thus it might be time to *CHANGE* strategy.


              • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Jaybird says:

                Have you calibrated those numbers based on the elections being held in 2018?

                Look at the Senate election map for 2018, the only possibility the Democrats have for taking a Republican seat is Nevada. Meanwhile they are defending Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida. If they gain a seat I will be very, very surprised.

                I’d agree they should pick up three or more governships based on where they will be fighting in 2018.

                If they can pick up more than a few seats in the House I would consider that a success (for the reasons discussed above).

                I don’t know enough about what’s in play on the state legislative level to make a prediction about what reversion to the mean would look like.

                Finally, all of this is confounded by the fact that Democrats normally do worse in off year elections.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                More voters wanted the Democratic candidate. Does that count for anything? Not in terms of election results but in terms of guaging the pulse of the nation?

                If more voters supported the Democratic candidates and yet we have total Republican rule, that can be painted as the failure of the Dems to know the game they’re playing. It can also be painted as evidence of a screwed up game. Or both.

                What it is really hard to paint it as is “Voters don’t like the Democrats or their ideas.”

                The game is rigged — some by design and some by accident — in favor of the current GOP. That is what it is, for now at least. Denying that is denying truth.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’d frame it as “Voters are sufficiently opposed to or indifferent to Democratic ideas that Donald Freakin’ Trump was in a position to win, Republicans got House seats and more votes there, and kept the senate against expectations.

                The Democratic philosophy of “As long as they hate the other side more, they in-effect like us” has fallen apart. They don’t have the majority they thought they had.

                As far as 2018 goes, look to the governorships. If the Democrats make gains there, then all is not lost. If they don’t, then sound the alarms. All of them.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                I’d say that falls under the umbrella of what I offered. They still preferred the Democrat to the Republican. I’m not advising the Dems just stay the course, but lets dispense with the nonsense that the current makeup of the federal government reflects the preferences of the voters as a group. It simply does not.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Reflecting the voters as a group is wacky, though.

                We all know what happens to the popular vote when California is removed from the vote totals, right? (If you don’t know, the vote flips.)

                You may say, “that’s not fair!” and, to run with the thought experiment, say that if we want a picture of the rest of the country without California then we should also take a picture of the rest of the country without Texas! So there!

                Well, what happens if you do that?

                (Spoiler: Trump still wins the popular vote.)

                We’ve been talking a lot about gerrymandering as a phenomenon of politicians gaming the system every 10 years, but there also seems to be a bit of self-gerrymandering going on where the California-type people all seem to up and move to California.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Jaybird says:

                Why does that matter?

                Should their votes count for less because they live in California?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Gaelen says:

                Well, technically, nothing matters.

                Should their votes count for less because they live in California?

                According to what? The electoral college? Let me check…

                Yeah, according to that, it says California votes count less than a lot of other states. Wow! Look at the Dakotas! Oooh! And look at Ohio! And, seriously, Michigan and Pennsylvania!

                I’d say something about looking at Wisconsin but there’s no reason for the Democrats to look at Wisconsin.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Jaybird says:

                You were discussing California voters with respect to the popular vote reflecting the will of the people. Whether their votes count for less in the EC is tangential to whether their votes should count for less when we are asking which candidate reflects the will of the people (assuming that is the same as the winner of the PV).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Gaelen says:

                Well, it’s an issue of “here’s a snapshot of the country, look at it”.

                Now look at it when your thumb is over the bottom left part of the map.

                You get a completely different picture.

                It’s the fact that the picture is completely different that is interesting and notable.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Jaybird says:

                Is it? This seems like about the most arbitrary method imaginable to determine what the real America looks likeReport

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Don Zeko says:

                “If I ignore the inconvenient bits of data, the data is on my side!”

                “If you don’t count all the people who voted for Trump, no one voted for Trump!”

                “If I fold this map like one of those Mad magazines fold ups, Clinton dominated!”

                Note: none of those are real ways of evaluating election results.

                Jay, you’ve gone off the rails here and seem to be trolling. Later.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Don Zeko says:

                Well, the problem, of course, is that we have states.

                When I make noises, for example, of the Democrats having lost 1000 elected positions in the election of 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016, you may think that my thumb is on the scale because about 900 of those elected positions are state positions.

                If you want to just look at the seats that make it to national prominence (senator, house, um… governor isn’t really a national position, is it? we can ignore those too), then the Democrats only lost 50ish seats.

                That’s not even a problem, really. Anyone who says that that’s indicative of a problem is trying to get Democrats to shoot themselves in the foot.

                Hell, you look at those numbers and it’s easy to conclude that anyone who says that the Democrats have a problem and need to change is concern trolling.

                If you take into account gerrymandering, even those 50 “losses” are suspect. gerrymandering in a different direction could get that down to 30 or 40 and unfair gerrymandering in a completely opposite direction gets that down to the teens.

                Kinda makes you wonder about the hidden agenda of the people who think that the democrats have a problem, doesn’t it?Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m still struggling to detect a point to all of this other than irritating liberals.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Don Zeko says:

                I’m still struggling to detect a point to all of this other than irritating liberals.

                Let’s use alcoholism as a comparison point. (In the fine tradition of “Both Sides Do It”, I will point to this essay I wrote back in 2009 where I suggested that the Republicans follow the 12 Steps.)

                I see that the dems have a drinking problem. I’m saying “YOU HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM!”

                The liberals, as far as I can tell, are responding to this by asking me what the point is to me telling them that they’ve got a drinking problem. Am I just trying to irritate them?

                I am trying to point around the room and point to the stuff that has failed and… well.

                Maybe liberals haven’t hit rock bottom yet.

                2018 is just around the corner.Report

              • Avatar Owen in reply to Jaybird says:

                Does the fact that you were preaching this exact same sermon to the Republicans eight years ago cause you to question its validity at all?

                Or is it that you believe the GOP actually did engage in some serious soul-searching in response to their losses? That would certainly explain some of the disconnect here.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Owen says:

                Well, in the essay, I talked about how the pendulum swings and how it’s going to swing back.

                So, in the very short run, if the Democrats decide that they don’t need to change, they, seriously!, will start winning elections based on nothing more than how awful the Republicans are. So, I guess, technically, the Democrats don’t need to change if they want to start winning elections.

                Here’s what I said back then in the comments:

                If the Republicans don’t give people a reason to vote *FOR* them, the pendulum will swing back like it did in 2006… but if they give a reason to vote *FOR* Republicans, it will swing like it did in 2008.

                The question becomes “will this happen in 2016?” vs. “will this happen in 2020?”

                I guess the answer was that it swung back in 2016.

                Or is it that you believe the GOP actually did engage in some serious soul-searching in response to their losses?

                No, I believe that the Republicans completely and totally failed to engage in soul searching. Absolutely 100%.

                And that’s why they got blindsided by Trump and how some charlatan from outside of their elite circle came in like a wrecking ball and destroyed the careers of several prominent politicians.

                Because the Republicans cared more about winning elections than being healthy, they got taken over.

                Their immune systems were not even close enough to be able to handle the pathogen that is Trump.

                I don’t think the democrats are healthy either. I think that it is very important that they get healthy.Report

              • Avatar Owen in reply to Jaybird says:

                So you acknowledge that the “political pendulum” is a significant driver of electoral outcomes, but you think that relying on it is (for lack of a more descriptive word) bad?
                Do I have that right?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Owen says:

                Well, I like to think that I acknowledged the pendulum back in 2009 but, yes, I haven’t stopped acknowledging it.

                but you think that relying on it is (for lack of a more descriptive word) bad?

                I would use the somewhat more descriptive word “unhealthy”. But, sure.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Jaybird says:

                I suppose this may be the denial talking, but I would observe that when the Republicans were in crisis in 2009, they were in crisis because they produced catastrophic policy failures while in office and got a whole bunch fewer votes than the Democrats. Things aren’t exactly peachy for the Democrats today, but I would suggest that those are pretty meaningful things to be different from one case study to the next.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Don Zeko says:

                Given the 1000 seats lost over the last six years over four elections (2010, 2012, 2014, 2016), is there an outcome for 2018 that would make you say “okay, the time has come for us to actually consider that things are bad”?

                I’m willing to concede that, hey, things aren’t *REALLY* bad. They merely *LOOK* bad.

                Sure. Conceded.

                What would be an indicator of things actually being bad?Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Jaybird says:

                Who says things aren’t bad? I absolutely agree that things are bad, because the Republicans wield an enormous amount of political power and they’re a bunch of con men, supervillains, and chumps that are going to screw everything they touch up. What I object to is your causal argument, that this is entirely attributable to nebulous mistakes made by Democrats, and your prescription, which I think is to move to the center and be less smug, although it’s remarkably hard to tell at times.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Don Zeko says:

                Pardon me: bad enough that changing how things are done is required.

                Sure, we all agree that things are bad.
                I’m not sure that we agree that things are bad to the point where democratic leadership ought to change the way they go about doing things.

                move to the center and be less smug

                I assure you, it’s not, never ever, to “move to the center”.

                I’m a Revelation 3:16 kinda guy.

                As for being less smug… well, I honestly think that, at the very least, they should consider being a *DIFFERENT* kind of smug because this kind of smug isn’t working for them.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Don Zeko says:

                Well, let’s face it — there’s a lot of folks out there who think “If a political party just agreed with me 100%, they’d win everything”.

                I mean that’s the whole hilarious selling point for the occasional third way pitch — despite the fact that every version of that I’ve seen boils down to “America loves the most unpopular parts of both parties! Tax hikes and SS cuts for everyone! THE WAVE STARTS NOW”.

                They’re very serious about it.

                The Ivory Tower knows no partisan boundaries.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20 says:

                We’re not even to the “here’s what Democrats need to do!” part of the argument.

                We stalled the hell out in the “Democrats need to stop doing what they’re doing” part of the argument to take a step back to the “Democrats have a problem and need to change” part of the argument and when that got all hairy, we moved to the “well, what would it take for us to figure out whether the democrats have a problem, in theory, if they did have a problem that was bad enough for them to have to change” part of the argument.

                And we can’t even agree on what would be required for us to say “okay, with that, we now have confirmed that the democrats have a problem and need to change” part of the discussion.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:


                At this point I just have to ask… across all these threads and conversations… what exactly is it you are trying to accomplish? What exactly is your point?

                Because it increasingly seems like you just want us to say, “Hillary sucks, her campaign sucked, the Democrats suck.” Is that what you want? I’m sure you’ll say it isn’t what you want. But… I kinda think it is what you want. Like, exactly what you want.

                So… here ya go…

                Hillary sucks.
                Her campaign sucked.
                The Democrats suck.

                But ya know the funny thing? Sucky Hillary and her sucky campaign and sucky Democratic supporters *STILL* got more votes than Donald Trump, was still the preference of more voters than any of her opponents, and was still the more popular candidate among voters.

                Will you admit any of that? Will you acknowledge that more people who voted wanted Hillary to be President than wanted Donald Trump to be President? Will you say that almost 66M people wanted Hillary to be President either because of or in spite of all the suckiness in her and surrounding her?

                I bet you won’t. Not with any sincerity at least. Because California.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                what exactly is it you are trying to accomplish? What exactly is your point?

                I’m trying to get Democratic Partisans to agree that they might, in fact, have a problem. Like, a problem to the point where they should be doing something differently than what they have been doing because it hasn’t been leading them to the outcomes that they want.

                It seems to me that a pro forma:

                Hillary sucks.
                Her campaign sucked.
                The Democrats suck.

                Lacks… let’s say that it lacks part of the insight that I’d think would be necessary to change in a healthy direction.

                The point isn’t to say “Hillary Clinton sucks!”, it’s to say “there’s something going on in the country that a great stateswoman like Hillary Rodham Clinton would be rejected by traditionally Democratic strongholds like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania… did we not understand that something important had changed? Do *WE* need to change the way we approach things?”

                Instead, the answers come something like “the country is racist, the country is sexist, and, besides, Clinton won the popular vote.”

                But let’s look to the future!

                Let’s hammer out the circumstances under which we would both agree that the Republicans are really screwing up their new political victory.

                How’s this? They’ve recently, in the last 6 years over the course of 4 elections, won 1000 seats. Wrested them away from the Democrats.

                Is there a percentage of those seats that, if the Republicans lose more than that percentage, we’d be able to say “Man, they’re screwing that up!!!!”

                For me, I’d say that 10% of that number would be regression to the mean. Like, inevitable. So if the Republicans lose 15% of those 1000 seats, I will say “yeah, the Republicans are messing up and the democrats’ message is working.”

                If it’s 10% or less (or, god forbid, the Republicans actually *GAIN* seats), then I’d say that we are in a place where we would be forced to say “okay… maybe we need to change.”

                Do we need to change?

                Or does Hillary winning the popular vote give us an excuse that we don’t need to change?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                “I’m trying to get Democratic Partisans to agree that they might, in fact, have a problem. Like, a problem to the point where they should be doing something differently than what they have been doing because it hasn’t been leading them to the outcomes that they want.”

                Who here has denied that?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Oh, I’m not saying that they’re denying it, Kazzy. I’m not trying to get them to stop denying the proposition.

                I’m trying to get them to agree with it.

                If you see the distinction.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jaybird, you do realize that ‘what,’ exactly, is the democrats problem is the major debate right now. People at this site have argued about it. Is it the social justice left, lack of empathy with the WWC, neo-liberal take over of the party, lackbof focus on state elections (obviously), etc.

                I honestly don’t know where you get the idea that no one will acknowlwdge that there is a problem. It’s a point you never explicitly made, which you then claim people disagree with because they argue against your comment on how to tell if the Democrats are successful.

                Also, the more I think about your 10% regression to the mean analysis the less sense it makes. You have obviously not thought of confounding variables or even which seats are in play. You said they should pick Senate seats in 18 without even looking at a map, and you have no idea which state legislative seats are up. But 10%regression to the mean is a nice round number so 10% it is.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Gaelen says:

                Gaelen, the main thing I’m looking for is a yardstick that we can look at and say “okay, this is good” or “okay, this is bad” or “okay, this is effectively within the margin of error for no real change”.

                That’s it.

                I want us to use something close to the scientific method where we can look at the situation, come up with a hypothesis for what the facts on the ground will be after we apply our strategy, apply our strategy, then look at the situation and compare the new situation to what we predicted.

                Yes, we don’t have a control. That’s a problem. It’s kind of baked into the cake, though.

                It seems to me that we’ve got way too much “we did nothing wrong, the electorate was bad, plus gerrymandering” and not enough “maybe we should do something other than what we did”.

                If I could see a theory as to how we’d know whether what we’re doing is working, I’d love to see it.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Jaybird says:

                I understand where you’re coming from, but it’s not about having a control. It’s about having a better understanding of the factorsat play. Which is why I think that judging over 4 or 6 years will give a better idea if Democrats have made appropriate changes. And if we are looking at 2018, our analysis has to include the state of play. This includes the states and offices in play at the federal and state level, Democratic constituency’s historical off year turnout, gerrymandering, and the fact that it takes time to build a bench for some these positions (off the top of my head). I gave my views above, though without knowing more I still can’t speak to how Democrats should do in state legislative races.

                Not taking these factors into account would lead to scenarios where you judge Democrats negatively even if they lost only one Senate seat (which would be great on the map we have), or if Democrats only gained a seat or two in the House (where you need to take into account Democratic turnout and gerrymandering). The last one is why we suggested using total House vote rather than seats won.

                Also you can’t analyze whether there’s a problem separately from what the problem is. The election happened two months ago, we’re still working on figuring it out 😉Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Gaelen says:

                Fair enough. Those are all awesome reasons.

                I’d be willing to ignore every single national-level seat for those reasons.

                The problem is that that leaves us in a place where, no matter what happens, we have reason to say “we’re still not doing anything wrong”. And, if we’re doing something wrong, then that’s bad.

                And that’s a recipe for losing 2020.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m trying to figure out if the (D) results in the West — gained enough state legislative seats to flip three chambers, held the Montana governor’s office — represent something that the (D)s could apply nationally, or if it’s just western demographic changes favoring the (D)s.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Jaybird says:


                And Democrats would have won in a landslide if I put my thumb over the middle of the picture.

                The fact of the matter is the actual country includes both California and the South/great plains.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to j r says:

                So, what do I make of the group of people who keep getting bested by idiots?

                Nonono. It’s the Republican *voters* that are stupid.

                The Republican politicians are *evil*.

                The Democratic politicians are, thus, bested by evil, not by stupid. They are dumber than evil, not dumber than stupid.

                I am not sure what the Democratic voters are. Masochistic?

                Honestly, it just makes the Democrats sound feckless and ineffective.

                You left out ‘cowardly’ and ‘gullible’.

                Why would any of that make me want to support the Democratic Party or have a clear preference for its candidates (as opposed to just making up my mind on a case by case basis)?

                Because they’re not evil, basically.

                And now I have no idea how much I’m joking here. The Democratic Party is pretty crappy at actually getting elected. And is often completely outwitted by the Republicans.

                Meanwhile, the Republicans are trapped by their own base into doing dumb things.

                I don’t even know what’s going on at this point. I’m halfway expecting that the Trump presidency is about to force the Republicans to actually do something about their ‘our base has been hijacked by right wing media and is causing us major problems like electing Trump’ problem.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

                That’s an indicator. And if they kept gaining seats every election after instituting gerrymandering, there’s more going on than just gerrymandering.

                You mean that parties can have good years and bad years too?

                You mean that gerrymandering might not be the ONLY variable?

                Good lord, Jaybird — there’s a freaking reason I suggested a metric that REMOVES gerrymandering from the data! It’s to take out it’s effects, whether big, small, or non-existent — in order to assess those other metrics.

                Do you think that US Senate seats and Governor positions alone is insufficient data to assess how a party is doing?

                I’m not picking those metrics because they’ve giving me the answer I want. I picked those because they’re the subset of your suggested metrics that don’t have to deal with gerrymandering as a complication.

                You can moot gerrymandering entirely and focus on what you were asking about.

                But your airy dismissal of it, well — it reeks of someone who doesn’t want his beautiful model contaminated with annoying details.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20 says:

                Dude, losing 1,000 seats over 8 years is not having a handful of bad years.

                There are fundamental problems that are failing to be addressed.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

                Why stop with gerrymandering? Load up the SCOTUS and reverse Reynolds v. Sims.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Golly, talk about unintended consequences there!Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to North says:

      “The intersectionality left? Powerless, shrill and unappealing as they always have been.”

      @north As an intersectional, feminist, leftist, I’m not really sure you mean who I think you mean by this statement. Because I’m pretty sure you don’t think of me that way.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Maribou says:

        Certainly not, I was on a roll and doing my best to paint the various losing factions of the last election with an unpleasant brush. I think there’s a core of truth, and often a big truth, at the base of every element of the social justice movement.
        Be that as it may Trump said to millions of people that “in intersectionalities world view you either have no seat at the table or a seat under the table as a despised untouchable.” And he won on those lines, in many areas unopposed. Just like he whupped my own clan by claiming we don’t give a fish about non-coastal working class workers.Report

  5. Avatar Francis says:

    It seems to me that a velvet divorce into 5 different countries is extraordinarily unlikely. Getting from here to there requires an agreement to dissolve the Union and I just don’t see that the constitutional convention of (say) 2021 would adopt an amendment reading “The Constitution is abolished and the United States is dissolved”.

    You would need to have something like “States may withdraw and may be expelled from the Union upon the approval of two-thirds of State legislatures.” Let’s say that’s ratified, and both New York and California submit a bill to each of the other 49 states requesting their approval to withdraw.

    Somewhere along the way, the uncertainty associated with this process is going to cause interest rates to soar and a global recession to hit very hard. With the economic powerhouses of the US seeking to withdraw, how can the US pay its bills? States with large retiree populations would be terrified of the loss of social security funds. How would that play out?

    Yes, the bill could pass the necessary number of states. But the global economic damage and bitterness caused just by the process of submitting the bill to the states would be so severe that I think war is the more likely result. Long before the 35th state voted President Trump would send tanks to occupy Sacramento and impose martial law.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Francis says:

      Well, it wouldn’t be *DISSOLVED* dissolved. More divvied into districts.

      If you’re down with America’s Hat, something more like “provinces”.

      These provinces would allow for Federalism For Real This Time.Report

      • Avatar Francis in reply to Jaybird says:

        Federalism is a doctrine that is deeply important to the Senate Minority Leader, the crowd at Volokh Conspiracy, internet libertarians, and virtually no one else. Most everyone else is far too happy to impose their views on the whole country, whether it be the legalization of SSM or low taxes on the ultra wealthy.

        Getting from where we are to what you want, without violence, will require an enormous shift in thinking by a supermajority of the American population. Californians will have to accept that Texas can ban all abortions, roll back environmental laws and restrict the franchise. Texans will have to accept that goods flowing through California ports are subject to a carbon tax. Everyone will have to accept that the Presidency no longer has any power and that real political power is vested in newly-created regional authorities.

        These are only a few of the thousands of critical issues on which all the states, and their electorates, would have to agree in order to wind down the power of DC. Add abolition of the income tax, dissolution of the military and allocation of military assets to the states, termination of Soc Sec and Medicare, and agreement as to which states go into which district.

        Sure, it’s possible. It’s just far more likely if we are under military rule (whether internally or externally imposed) at the time.Report

        • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Francis says:

          It’s a concept that nobody really believes in for a simple reason: state identities don’t really exist. With the notable exception of Texas, people’s state identities are far, far weaker than their national identity as Americans, because the cities and suburbs and rural parts of the various states are all pretty similar to each other. It’s just that each state has a different mix of those elements, so which intra-state faction has the balance of power makes it appear to outsiders that the whole state has the character of the dominant elements. There are exceptions and caveats here, but not enough to make disunion actually make sense.Report

          • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Don Zeko says:

            Well… this is something of the nub of the matter though.

            We’ve spent a lot of cultural capital over the past several decades to eliminate regional identities; on the one hand its been a smashing success, on the other hand, maybe the costs are only now coming to account; and on the third hand, maybe one final push is all it takes.

            One more push and the land is ours, boys.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Don Zeko says:

            Really? New Yorkers (by which I mean people from the City of New York) aren’t distinctively proud of being from New York? Not New Englanders? Southerners? (With the “South” writ large, penetrating up to some spots north of the Ohio River and maybe as far west as Oklahoma.) Am I really that unusual in being distinctly proud of my identity as a Californian, among my fellow Golden Staters?

            Yes, yes, the clam chowder in the bread bowl at Panera Bread is the same everywhere you go, even in Waco. But I do think people still have pride of region right there alongside of pride of nationality.Report

            • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Burt Likko says:

              I’d say they exist, but they’re vestigial. Certainly they’re vestigial compared to their strength the last time we tried a divorce. I’m not devoid of a state identity myself. I’m just extremely skeptical that thsee identities are the sort that people will fight and die for, while they will do so on the basis of being Americans. They also are probably weaker as a driver of behavior than our identities in the culture wars.

              p.s.: New York may belong with Texas in my list of notable exceptions. Perhaps California too. You don’t see the same distinct identity behind coming from Atlanta or Philadelphia or Minneapolis.Report

            • Avatar J_A in reply to Burt Likko says:


              Your pride at being from Ohio or Iowa or California, is not really different of your pride for the Giants, or the Mets, or the Rangers. You wear the t-shirt, you put the sticker in the car, you watch the game, and cheer or cry accordingly. People need a tribe and an identity, and you chose what it’s nearest.

              But in real life, you are not defined by being a Giants fan. In an alternative universe you are a Patriots fan, and everything is exactly the same. Because being from California is, at the end, not very different than being from Tenessee. The things that separate Californians and Tenesseans are pretty minor (*).

              Your attachment to your state identity is mostly a prior. Let’s do a mental experiment. God is telling you you are fated to be born in the USA, but it’s given you the chance to decide, if you want to, which state you want to be born in. Which one do you chose, and why? Does it really matter to you? If you weren’t from the Golden State, would you rather be Hungarian than from Tenessee?

              (*) much less separates a Tennessean and a Californian than what separates a Scott from an Englishman: different -and traditionally opposed- national histories, different religions, different development patterns. And even those differences are being eroded fast.Report

          • Avatar Francis in reply to Don Zeko says:

            Oh, I would add California and New York [city] to Texas as places with local identities that are as strong as national identities, for the simple reason that they are so strongly identified by both political parties as the core of the Democratic party’s power.

            But I agree that the vast majority of Americans self-identify as Americans way ahead of self-identifying as a resident of a particular state.Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Don Zeko says:

            I’d add Hawaii and potentially Alaska or Louisiana to the states with strong regional identities of their own but this is basically right. When most people give a non-hyphenated origin to the census bureau every ten years, they refer to themselves as Americans and not Alabamans or Vermonters.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Don Zeko says:

            I’m more curious about regional, or pseudo-regional identities than state ones, since as J_A and others have pointed out, most state boundaries are pretty arbitrary. Less “I’m a Mississippian or Alabaman” than “I’m a Southerner.” “I’m a West Coast person, not a Midwesterner.” My thinking is quite likely colored by my own experiences: individual Texans were fine, but as a group they were irritating; individual East Coast folk were fine, but as a group they were irritating. (I’m sure both groups find, eg, the Mountain West group, or the California group, irritating.)

            Pseudo-regional in the sense that “I’m a Mormon” is implicitly going to have a western flavor to it. Now that he’s retired from things and can live anywhere he wants, Mitt Romney has settled into the mountains above Salt Lake City.

            We have a front page post about the long-term trend in the US to move less and less distance. How does that play out in a generation or two?

            The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has thier own dystopian view up. One possibility they include is a rapid decline in the US’s ability to deploy meaningful military power on a global scale. How does a regional/national identity change for a generation that grows up with the US not trying to be the world’s policeman?

            I have a broad fuzzy picture in my head of two political parties, each becoming more geographically focused, that are determined to impose their view of right and wrong on people in the other party (hence in other geographical areas). Does another generation or two of that change things?

            Differences are magnified within the political classes. The vast majority of people in the US have never thought about, and will never think about, the US Forest Service budget. But US Senators from Rhode Island and Oregon will, quite possibly in terms respectively of “How can anyone spend that much on fire fighting?” and “Why won’t they pony up to pay for care for what they say is their property?” One of the lessons I learned from time on legislative staff is that the political class controls the shape of policy debates.Report

  6. Avatar Aaron David says:

    Couple things Jaybird. First, most people aren’t as political as we are here. We tend to watch politics like most people watch baseball or football. Second, most people live in areas that the zeitgeist appeals to them, at least mostly. If you are in CA and the gun laws are too restrictive, you will probably move. Or, you make tradeoffs, like everyone does, day-in and day-out. Third, society changes at its own pace. We had two women run for president this year and there was zero talk of not being able to run because of the gender. Likewise African Americans running. We will eventually get there in regards to Trans folk, but as I said, society moves at its own pace, we simply haven’t hit the tipping point. You push it too hard, it pushes back just as hard.

    Finally, have you ever read The Nine Nations of North America? To a greater or lesser degree we are already there with the divorce. The south already supplies much of the military force, Cali is the internet and entertainment capital, etc. And people move to where they feel comfortable at various points in their life. The only thing left is a SCOTUS open to the idea of CA choosing what TX rejects and vice-versa.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Aaron David says:

      My, how smug are you today? No, we probably won’t get there with trans people [edited by ye editors, again to remove a slur. it’s really unnecessary to use outdated and offensive terms unless you have some personal interest in reclaiming them for your own identity]. Not enough time, and more importantly, not enough people. If you take trans as being less than 1% of people — even if they’re more likely to be politicians, that’s going to take a while.

      We don’t have time for it.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to Aaron David says:

      “society changes at its own pace”

      Just exactly how can you validate that. I find it hard that you could do so by somehow removing the impact of all the “social changers” out there.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon says:

        Oh, of course society changes at its own pace. But liberals do have this disconcerting ability to forget that society can change backwards as well.

        Petroeconomy may have done wonders for the arc of progress, but when it snaps, so will the arc.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Aaron David says:

      I’ve not read that, but I’m somewhat familiar with the concept.

      The only thing left is a SCOTUS open to the idea of CA choosing what TX rejects and vice-versa.

      If we want to avoid a war, this is what we’re going to need.

      But at that point, the argument turns into this:

      “But you’re arguing for (whatever)!”

      “Fine. War it is.”

      “You just want people to die!”

      “Fine, we should choose Federalism For Real This Time”

      “Then that means that you want (whatever)!”

      “Fine, War it is.”

      “You just want people to die!”

      (and so on)Report

  7. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I’m another person who is skeptical about how a serious divorce can happen for all the reasons mentioned above.

    1. Most people are not political like we are. We breathe and eat this kind of stuff. Most people see it as a waste of time. The big problem with a lot of strongly ideological and political types is that we don’t understand how most people can function without an ideology and/or daily craving for politics and policy issues. I think this is part of why soft authoritarian regimes are palpable for many in the long run. They just don’t care.

    2. The financial and havoc (domestic and global) by some states splitting off could be huge. No one would really care when the more rural parts of Oregon and Washington talk about becoming the “State of Jefferson.” I think a lot of people would care if The coastal West and Northeast announced they were separating from the United States and forming their own nations. Why would the rest of the US allow itself to be denied access to the Pacific or the benefits of Wall Street money?

    3. I’m somewhere between North and you about the seriousness of the issues that are causing the current partisan divide and era of bad feelings. I think the issues are serious because they go to deep issues on how we want to live and highlight a difference between the usually secular and the conservatively religious worldviews. What I have wondered about for a while is whether liberals and conservatives just inhabit such different moral metaphysical universes that it inevitably leads to conflict. There are still many sincerely religious people on the left but it is usually not an Orthodox following of religion and is growing more personal and largely secular. So the left sees SSM as just rational and the right-wing sees it as welcoming God to bring down brimstone and damnation on the entire universe.

    I don’t think religious conservatives are correct but I don’t doubt the sincerity of their beliefs. I think a lot of people on the left do.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      They might see it as a waste of time but this not caring about this sort of thing was very recently weaponized by Donald Trump.

      Yes, yes. Clinton won the popular vote.

      That’s less relevant to the problem than you’d think.

      Why would the rest of the US allow itself to be denied access to the Pacific or the benefits of Wall Street money?

      I’d assume something very much like an EU freedom-of-travel/trade for stuff from the Pacific.

      As for the benefits of Wall Street money, there is a hidden dynamic where the scarcest goods are positional goods. While there is a floor for certain things, below which you start having problems, I’m pretty sure that the new economies of Flyover will still be above this floor. Which makes it just as possible to chase the positional goods without having to worry about injections of Wall Street cash causing all kinds of market fluctuations.

      a difference between the usually secular and the conservatively religious worldviews.

      I don’t see it as “secular” vs “religious”. I see it as “religious” and “differently religious”.

      whether liberals and conservatives just inhabit such different moral metaphysical universes that it inevitably leads to conflict

      Yes, see? Exactly.

      I think that SSM is not quite the problem that it was, oh, 10 years ago. I think that the “bake the cake” thing represented a problem and the whole “war on Christmas” (or whatever you’d want to call it) represented a problem but it wasn’t really based in Christianity unless we’re using the term the way we use “Islam” to refer to Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.

      It’s based in *CULTURE*.

      Religion as a proxy for culture is what we’re dealing with here.
      “Religion” and “Culture” referring to the same thing.

      When you see it like that, you see the term “secular” differently.

      The left isn’t “secular”. My god! They’re just as religious as the rubes! More so! They’re the Protestants to the Right’s Catholicism. The Right needs 95 theses nailed to their freakin’ doors so freakin’ hard, you wouldn’t believe it.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        Blackmail as culture? Well, I suppose I’ve seen stranger things.
        (Burning people’s houses down as a prank. Interesting culture you’ve got there.)Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

        The left isn’t “secular”. My god! They’re just as religious as the rubes! More so! They’re the Protestants to the Right’s Catholicism. The Right needs 95 theses nailed to their freakin’ doors so freakin’ hard, you wouldn’t believe it.

        Slow down Zwingli, your metaphors are mixing too far for the theologically literate to follow.Report

    • There are still many sincerely religious people on the left but it is usually not an Orthodox following of religion

      There is danger here of accepting the White American Evangelical Protestant narrative. They have been saying for the last forty years that the mainline Protestants are a bunch of apostates, but that doesn’t make it so. Orthodoxy doesn’t consist of keeping the gays in the closet and the womenfolk in the kitchen. Speaking both as a student of church history and doctrine and as a member of a gay-lovin’ church with a woman pastor, I am constantly struck by the heterodoxies that come out of the Evangelical churches. It is, by way of contrast, trivially easy to find an urban mainline church with a rainbow flag out front and hear a thoroughly orthodox sermon. It is also always worth remembering that opposition to legal abortion is, within the WAEP churches, a doctrine that is younger than the happy meal.

      Take a look at the Pew surveys on religion. Start here then take a look at this tab. Pew’s methodology is far from above reproach, but it gives a decent broad picture.Report