Retrospect

I have been reading a surprisingly good book by Sam Rosenfeld, The Polarizers. A phrase from it explains precisely how Biden won the nomination: “non-ideological patronage organizations.” In short, these are organizations that can deliver bloc votes, originally ethnic, now religious, or civil society. The DNC cultivated churches and neighborhood organizations for decades, gracing them with $1,000 there, $5,000 here. Then it was time to call in the chips, and these areas all miraculously turned out for Biden. There was no air left in the room for Sanders, Warren, or anyone else. It was retail politics at its rock-bottom — no adroit trickery — and it worked. Now we’ve got someone two answers away from Trump on the cognitive function test, and we’re going to have to work that much harder to dig ourselves out.

4 thoughts on “Retrospect

  1. The thing about political competition in a system with two dominant parties is that whatever A does, B is pretty quickly constrained to do, in one form or another, so as not to cede an advantage. I don’t like retail politics either, but should the D’s simply abandon that practice (apparently a rather effective one) to the R’s, and get trounced? Getting dragged into the mud is what it’s called, and it’s why decent people don’t usually go into politics. Competition in other fields, let’s say music or scholarship, is multi-polar (unless there’s a powerful Ministry of Culture to institute a single “front” on which all intellectuals must line up) and so there’s room for asymmetrical invention and the pursuit of niche publics. I hate to repeat what’s been said ever since Kant, but the arts do provide a model for social coexistence that is a lot more encouraging than what we humans have done in our societies.

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