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Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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43 Responses

  1. Avatar North
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    says:

    Great analysis Burt, pithy and fun!Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    Good analysis as North said but I am in a cynical mode and think it misdiagnosis the situation. But the situation is much more dire than that. There are tens of millions of people who think everything they have been taught America is and should be is being taken away from them by antifa, or various versions of city dwellers from those people to the (((cosmopolitan elites))) or whomever else and they must stand against this.

    This is the convergence of a lot of events which can be both independent and intertwined. Americans under 45 seem to be the first group that largely does not go back to religion once they have kids. This scares the shit out of the still very large group of evangelicals who are finally seeing their pews start to empty after decades. The gambit of Michael Anton’s Flight 93 election wasn’t that Trump was not bad. Michael Anton fully admitted Trump had a lot of bad qualities and might not be reliable. But since we are talking pop culture, the essays statement was ”Perhaps is a good day to die. Prepare for ramming speed!” And the gig paid off for a while. Conservatives won a lot of victories during these years including ram roding the Federal Judiciary with young Federalist Society firebrands being chief among them. They can Four Horsemen progressives for years!

    But it was not quite good enough. Democrats became more engaged and outvoted the GOP in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.* So now they need to chose whether to fight for conservatism or accept democracy. In 2018, David Frum predicted they would choose conservatism and here we are now. Aided and abetted by useful idiots who claim not to be conservative but have worked themselves into a tizzy that some part of the Democratic coalition (usually “wine moms”) is the real evil and most be stopped/trolled and that shitposting memes on 4chan is the ultimate goal of all. Nothing about policy, just owning the libs for alleged and/or imagined hypocrisies and inconsistencies.

    Plus you have the grift machine which succeeds at separating so many people from so much money. That must be fed. So the claims of fraud and cheating will continue because if you grant the Democrats legitimate victory, you need to concede that maybe people like their policies, and that means telling the people who give you tons of money that they are wrong. And we can’t have such acts of honesty, can we?

    There are conservatives who realize that Trump was a bad hombre and the GOP made a terrible mistake in lying with it but these conservatives also delude themselves into thinking that low-government, low-regulation, low-tax Reaganism is still hugely popular like it is perpetually 1980 or 1984. They still follow “conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed.”

    And after that there is additional layer of aiding and abetting from the Green Lantern Corps that insists that if only Democrats Aaron Sorkined enough, it will be FDR shaking hands with a miner in a grand coalition of nearly everyone despite all evidence to the contrary. I imagine this delusion is kept up because the alternative is admitting that they will always be Democrats in deep red states and never have power. This means you might as well move or collapse to a heap of resigned depression.

    I appreciate all the snark that went into this. I think Trump’s biography was unique enough that it will be nearly impossible for there to be a smarter better more popular Trump 2.0 but the fact is that tens of millions of Americans think that their vision of America is going away and they do not like it one bit and will fight like tooth or nail to make sure it doesn’t happen. I think a lot of them would choose to destroy the United States rather than see the vision they learned in right-wing Sunday School not be right.

    *This doesn’t even bring up gerrymandering which creates huge issues like where the Democrats win a majority of the vote in some states but a minority of the seats. Green Lanterism has invented a cottage industry in pooh poohing the successful attempts at Apartheid rule/Herrenvolk Democracy because dealing with that is hard and uncomfortable and might mean tough conversations with friends and family. Screaming ”be Jeb Bartlett and give me grade A deux ex machina” is cheap and easy and avoids such difficult things.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      Saul, there is no deus ex machina, and no one is coming to save us. In fact, we’re doomed.

      But what we’re doomed to is power shifting back and forth from middle-liberal to middle-conservative and back. It’s not ideal and from time to time we’re stuck in gridlock when we really ought to be acting. And we may ultimately doom ourselves to death in the form of slowly roasting the earth because of it.

      But that’s who we are as a nation. We want our neighbors to agree with us about everything but at the end of the day we aren’t willing to pull guns on each other to get there.

      We are now what we have been for 175 years, and we are likely to be that for a long time to come. It ain’t always great, that much is true. But it ain’t as terrible as it used to be, either.

      With any luck at all, we’ll soon again be living in ordinary times.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        I would be happy if we would shift should middle-liberal to middle-conservative based on various events and failures of parties in power. That is the platonic ideal of democracy! But right now the right-wing has moved very far from the center and I do not see them moving back anytime soon. I know there is no deux ex machina but I am very tired and very angry after a very long year of massive unnecessary errors and suffering because of culture war and I am one of the people who largely did okay!

        My hope though is that my theory on Trump being sui generis is correct and there are not any replacements for him and a chunk of his supporters go back to being non-voters.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw
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          says:

          Saul, the more people in the country that don’t feel particularly represented == A Bad Thing.

          It leads to, among other things, Trump.

          Trump was, all things being equal, Not That Bad. His aesthetics were appalling, of course… but he was a pause button on the left being able to move further from center and not a stop (or, God help us, a reverse) button.Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            Trump was a boon to the Left. It gave them a great and deserving target while they were getting nothing. What will defang the Left is meeting some of there reasonable points since this takes away some of their support. With the D’s having little to no power it lifted the profile of anybody who could breathe fire. Incompetent R’s officials just make any associated with them look like crap ( markets, etc) You want to weaken the Left, have a competent D admin getting some of their priorities.

            This is leaving aside the highly questionable idea that the Left has much of any actual power or is a danger.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            He’s a corrupt piece of shit with no concept that there is such a thing as the rule of law, whose refusal to lead, follow, or get out of the way on COVID killed God only knows how many people. His similar refusal on COVID relief threatens to cause God only knows how much avoidable misery.

            But that’s all aesthetics. At least he’s not something truly evil, like a liberal.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
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              says:

              Mike, he was a bullet dodged.

              When it comes to COVID, I’m one of the people who believes that there’s more to stopping it than merely trying to be more like France, Germany, or Spain (maybe we could have had more European outcomes if we had) but also remembers stuff like “the early months of COVID” where I was told that masks don’t matter, it’s bigoted to not eat out, and I should “get a grippe”.

              I remember people, here, complaining about lockdowns against people who were taking it seriously.

              Was he *BAD*? Yes.

              But he was also a bullet dodged.

              Is he awful on COVID? Yes. He is.
              But he is not particularly extraordinary.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Mike Schilling
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              says:

              I mean, granted, he’s a historically corrupt and bad President from every dimension and measurement. From the wide lens viewpoint of policy, specifically, it should be acknowledged that Trump has been an astonishingly unproductive president legislatively. His single legislative accomplishment has been a bog standard deficit exploding tax cut. All his other action has been in terms of executive decisions (which can generally be reversed pretty easily) or judicial appointments (any republican with a pulse would have nominated those judges).

              A competent republican President could have potentially done a hell of a lot more damage from a left wing perspective.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to North
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                says:

                He did not appoint mere Republicans. He appointed reactionary firebrands who think Lochner was decided correctly and will 4 Horsemen Democrats for decades to come.

                His malice and incompetence might lead to one million Americans dying unnecessarily of COVID. I would bet that the stuff we here about after he leaves will be even worse.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw
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                says:

                I’m not trying to diminish the import of Trumps judicial appointments. If you want to claim, however, that Jeb! or Lil Marco would have appointed different judges you will need to make your case and show you work and I have very serious doubts.

                I’ve already granted Trumps malevolence and general awfulness. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s accomplished virtually nothing in terms of actual legislation and legislation is where lasting change is generally laid down.

                A politician who married Trumps corruption and malevolence with actual competence would have accomplished a hell of a lot more (and worse). So Jay is correct that on that measurement we did actually luck out with Trump.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to North
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                says:

                I don’t think they would have approved the younger appointments with non-existent trial experience but great partisan credentialsReport

              • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw
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                says:

                No? I’m shocked Saul, we’ve found an area where you have a higher opinion of the GOP than I do! Hanukkah Sameach.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to North
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                says:

                I really wish people would stop saying that Trump has been an unaccomplished President policy wise. Trump through Miller, Barr, and others have managed to basically make the United States immigration system a lot crueler and tougher than it was in the past. Even during the dying days of the Trump administration, they are doing everything they can to destroy asylum and other forms of immigration relief in the United States, Trump also managed to appoint a lot of Federalsit society hacks through the judiciary, destroy environmental regulations, etc.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to LeeEsq
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                says:

                I don’t deny the damage he has done Lee, but can the next President not simply reverse Trumps policies as unilaterally as Trump imposed them?

                There’s no denying the importance of Trump’s judges. The point, merely, was that a competent Trump would have accomplished everything Trump accomplished and added legislative victories on top of it. Let us not forget that Trump had unified control of the government for 2 years after 2016.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to North
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                says:

                I think the issue is not that trumps orders can’t be rescinded, they can. But the harsh treatment of immigrants and performative cruelty has lessened our appeal as place for people to come to. Can we be trusted? Can immigrants get into Canada or Australia? Some will choose other places.

                Certainly actually legislative accomplishments could have made permanent real changes. But our brand is off. It will take a long time for that to change.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to greginak
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                says:

                Agreed. I’m not claiming that Trump was in any way not a calamity- just that a Trump with, say, an Orban level of competence would have been far far worse.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
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                says:

                DID SOMEBUNNY MENTION IMMIGRATION?!?

                Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                LOL. I’m so owned. Like pwned and owned. Yeah so. I heard that. The biden admin will be much friendlier to immigrants and refuges. The performative cruelty will go and we’ll start taking people in again.

                You do know that blowing up every small picture statement into everything is box of rocks level insight.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
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                says:

                Maybe we’ll return to the kindness of Obama’s presidency.

                And we can tell ourselves that, hey, our moral stance worked. We’ll never have to think about kids in cages ever again.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Libertarian contranianism cannot fail, it can only be failed.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                I still have the viewpoint that I had here, for the record.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to greginak
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                says:

                The other thing is that Trump emboldened the most actively harsh immigration officials through out the system. He turned the entire thing into a giant deportation machine. Biden is going to reverse a lot of this but besides taking time, there are still going to be many immigration officials that do their jobs according to Trumpist understanding.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
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                says:

                Is there a point at which we’ll be able to say “okay, this is now Biden’s government”? 2022?Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to North
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                says:

                In the second two years, after many of the grifters had left their Secretary or agency head positions, the replacements actually knew how to do rule-making. Many of those will take a couple of years to reverse, because they have to go through the same procedure.

                What’s scarier is that the make-up of the SCOTUS has changed, and they may hold that replacing rules with something more stringent oversteps the authority granted by Congress. Gorsuch wasn’t installed to overturn Row v. Wade; he was installed to roll back the whole regulatory state.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Michael Cain
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                says:

                That sounds alarmingly plausible and is an excellent point. We’ll see what happens.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Michael Cain
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                says:

                “he was installed to roll back the whole regulatory state.”

                Trump’s presidency, in my view anyway, is best understood as a semi- to in-competent attempt to (as Steve Bannon put it) “dismantle the administrative state.” The extent to which the admin was successful will take time – probably many years – to evaluate.

                (The best way to understand Trump personally is as a sociopathic malignant narcissist.)Report

  3. Avatar Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    comment in mod. it seems to be a length related issue.Report

  4. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    says:

    I think there is a tremendous complacency in these comments, as the Trump presidency winds down.

    There is a base of around 75 million Americans who have decided that democracy and the rule of law is their enemy. It’s comforting to imagine that people like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Power are outliers and freaks, but they aren’t.

    Again, listen to the dog that isn’t barking, the vast 77 million strong voting base of the Republican Party, all of whom would be perfectly happy to have the election overturned by any means possible. None of them are quitting the party, none are trying to expel Trump.

    And after Jan 21?
    What, does anyone here think that they will just stuff their hands in pockets and surrender? Like the Ben Domenechs and Charlie Kirks and Jim Hofts will just, somehow magically disappear?

    The trajectory of the past 4 or 5 decades of American conservatism is one of increasing radicalization and fixation on identity politics. This isn’t a temporary spell or isolated quirk. It is a persistent pattern with no end in sight.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      Quickly! Call for more gun control!

      Maybe, if we promise to strengthen police unions, we could get them on board with us. Maybe give them bigger budgets? Para-military equipment?Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      For my part, I think Trump leaving office diminishes his role as a cultural leader significantly. That will, I’m hopeful, make room for other kinds of leaders to step up and start guiding Republicans. I don’t imagine I’ll like why they do, either, but maybe it’ll be in more traditional sorts of directions as opposed to Trump’s crass nationalism and reflexive contrarianism.

      Doesn’t mean we are certain to get back to normal, but I think it does mean that’s more likely.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        To this point the longer he feuds with Fox News the more he’ll diminish himself long term, even among conservatives.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        “Doesn’t mean we are certain to get back to normal”

        “Normal” is what brought us Trump though. 🙂Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        I hope so.
        My argument for pessimism is that the 75 million Trumpistas don’t have a political agenda but a kulturkampf.
        By definition, this is not amenable to conventional politics where people argue and compromise.

        Notice how even when they win elections, their rage is not abated. Their rage has no political solution.
        So long as there exist powerful women like Jill Biden, or open gay people, or drag queens somewhere reading stories, so long as there are black people demanding to be treated with dignity by the cops the Trumpistas will be in a frothing rage.

        And the more their rage continues, the more desperate and illiberal their solutions will become.

        I would love for this comment to be archived and dug up in 5 years or so and we all have a good laugh at how Chip was so wildly wrong.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Chip Daniels
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          says:

          I’ll play Pollyanna to your Cassandra Chip. Absolutely this group of voters is real, they’re contained mostly within their own custom media ecosystem and they’ve been further poisoned by Trump which is simply a continuation of the degraded bargain the GOP has been upholding for decades now (at least since Gingrich from my own point of view).

          All that being stipulated this population has some general characteristics that suggest some cautious optimism is warranted: they’re generally well off materially and they’re much older than the general population. Old people don’t usually riot and commit to violence and generally neither do people who’re well off. The typical movers for mass political violence- the young and/or the poor are generally left leaning.

          So, I don’t doubt we’ll continue to see the right devolve deeper and deeper into ever higher acts of internet madness where they’ll no doubt find plenty of leftists eager to match them kooky statement for kooky statement but I’m somewhat confident that that attitude will only spill over into meat space occasionally.

          That doesn’t mean that the left shouldn’t continue to seek ways to address what actual genuine grievances the right has- especially the poor among the right who have genuine problems that they need help with. They are obligated to both as political common sense and moral necessity, but if the left can keep things in order and deliver modest improvements and stability they can, in theory, wait those 75 million Trumpistas out. Especially as, sans Trump, there’s a very high chance that the Trumpistas will schism into competing charismatic camps.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        I think I agree with this.Report

  5. Avatar Burt Likko
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    says:

    Post-publication revisions by author: cleaned up an ambiguous reference to Trump’s disinterest in governing in the 14th paragraph; revised a reference to the effects of Wisconsin not having a gubernatorial certification of the names of Electors within safe harbor deadline in the 23rd paragraph (previous iteration stated that all 50 states had turned in gubernatorially-certified Electoral votes; as previously drafted this read ambiguously as to the identity of the slates of Electors, which is a separate document that bears a separate certification).Report

  6. Avatar Fish
    Ignored
    says:

    Excellent post, Burt; thanks for writing it. If I had one complaint, it would be how you dared to profane the 1st Edition masterwork that is “Keep on the Borderlands” by putting it in that goblins hands!Report

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