Substack cometh, and lo it is good. (Pricing)

Republicans buy sneakers too!

In 1990 Michael Jordan infamously quipped “Republicans buy sneakers too!” The issue here is that Jordan was a Democrat, and people wanted him to weigh in on North Carolina politics, which were racially polarized at the time. But Jordan was a national figure, whose cultural influence and reach is hard to explain to young people today. At the time I thought Jordan was being kind of a coward. He should have expressed his views, and not stressed too much about it.

I think about that more now because we do live in a very polarized society, and there aren’t unifying figures like Jordan who try to keep politics low-key.

Consider The New York Times. I still subscribe, but just barely. It has slowly and then more quickly turned into the journal of American wokeness. There are huge sections that I don’t even bother reading, because they don’t have any credibility with me. They’re written with a particular audience in mind, and I’m not that audience. It’s preaching to the choir masquerading as reportage. They’ve moved beyond the “view from nowhere,” and though it has been profitable, cultivating a deep and loyal subscriber base, it has reduced the paper’s broader cultural reach.

I thought about that when reading this article on Coinbase, ‘Tokenized’: Inside Black Workers’ Struggles at the King of Crypto Start-Ups Coinbase, the most valuable U.S. cryptocurrency company, has faced many internal complaints about discriminatory treatment. It was an interesting piece, and I read it out of curiosity. But it changed my views not at all. It was never going to change my views. The reason is that I feel that the journalists who work in the tech space are very biased, and of course, they were “out to get” Coinbase. If, for example, they couldn’t get sources, they wouldn’t have published a piece with the title “Coinbase faced accusations of racism, but that didn’t check out.” From the beginning, you knew there was only one conclusion that would sell copy, and they were going to find that conclusion. Coinbase has 1,400 employees now. It would be easy enough to find “sources.” The story writes itself.

A lot of my perception of the tech reporters at The New York Times is colored by Mike Isaac, who has a very obnoxious Twitter presence. He’s constantly showing his ass, and you get the feeling that he thinks non-woke people are subhumans who should be sent to reeducation camps. A lot of this is probably performative, and it sure gets him attention and followers. But, it colors my view of the “objectivity” of these reporters as a whole.

The motto of The New York Times is “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” But my view is that it’s some of the news that’s fit to print. And some of the other news, well, let’s just ignore that…

In the 2000’s many bloggers were behind the idea that the “view from nowhere” was a problem. But now that we have moved beyond that, it feels like a frying pan to fire situation.

There’s a similar problem with academia. I see many people in science saying things about coronavirus that I agree with. Their words and views are judicious, often cautious, and on the whole objective. But, there are other moments when they are not talking about coronavirus when they are highly partisan and engage in very harsh language about the tribal Other. For the purposes of coronavirus we are all “in it together.” But the people who are trying to guide the policy…they kind of hate half the population. Or at least they perform in this way in public on social media. It’s what’s expected for the tribe. So you can just scroll through someone’s timeline, and see them engaging in their tribal passions, and then try and flip into objectivity. But what is seen can’t be unseen.

I have no solution for this, but, I do know that friends who are public school teachers are careful what they say on social media. Or they were a decade ago. Perhaps it has changed. The reason is that they need to create a separation between themselves and their students, and putting too much of their personal life and views out there might puncture that distance.

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68 thoughts on “Republicans buy sneakers too!

  1. @Karl, I think it’s very hard to explain Left Wing / Progressive movements as simply or much about opposing power or authority, since different left strains obviously frequently stand with power and authority (and coercion and forced conformity) when it is allied to social revolutionary ideology, or even to “left wing values” like “openness”, cosmopolitanism, equality (particularly when there is fear that these values are threatened). But this is a time worn topic and we’re not gonna come to a new definitive conclusion here that suddenly solves it all.

    Biden clearly wants to do that. The question really is will enough of the GOP be willing to play ball.

    I’ll have to watch some non-partisan figures to see how much he’s willing to really trade and give the Republicans actively new things they want. Theres compromise either in the sense of trading and give-and-take, which might work, or in the sense of just present some less ambitious versions of things Democrats want and hoping the GOP feel some obligation to rubber stamp it, which probably won’t work. If they’re agreeing to things they can defend to their voters and lobbyists and donors as advancing their interest, it *should* happen.

  2. Mr. Zimmerman,

    Obama was actually really keen for some bipartisan cred in his first term as well, and went out of his way to attempt to get some GOP feedback/support for things like the ACA. However, the Republicans made a calculation that if Obama had a successful legislative agenda he would be more likely to win a second term, and thus decided to obstruct everything instead.

    Perhaps this might jog your memory:

    Elections have consequences.” It’s the political way for winners to tell losers: “Tough luck, you lost. Get over it.”

    President Obama infamously espoused this view shortly after his 2009 inauguration, during a meeting with congressional Republicans about his economic proposals. Mr. Obama was later quoted as telling GOP leaders that “elections have consequences,” and, in case there was any doubt, “I won.”

    Does that strike you as someone who is looking for a real compromise?

  3. Mr. Ford,

    Right, yeah. “He doesn’t run the country.” Right. Um…let’s try to not do that? This site is supposed to be different.

    Try not to do what? I agree with that commenter. If President Trump really ran the country, the “security establishment” wouldn’t have undermined his policies with “revolts”:

    https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/06/mattis-trump-protests-military-generals-george-floyd-lafayette-park.html

    If Trump actually ran the country, we’d be out of Afghanistan and there wouldn’t be continual sniping out of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the FBI (among others) and unending leaks designed to denigrate, degrade, and prevent his foreign and security policies.

    And this began long before Trump even set foot in the White House:

    https://www.politico.com/tipsheets/morning-defense/2016/03/gop-defense-establishment-says-no-to-trump-whats-in-the-military-wish-lists-carters-new-tech-initiative-213006

  4. Karl Zimmerman –

    That said, there have undoubtedly been changes over time to the U.S. since its founding, from Jacksonian Democracy to expansion of the franchise to cover women and nonwhites. Left-right politics didn’t really exist in a clearly identifiable form in the U.S. until the early 20th century, but a modern-day conservative would usually be somewhere in Thomas Paine’s camp (if not further afield) during the era of the Founders.

    But are any conservatives still fighting – to use your words – a “rearguard action” against the previous expansions of voting rights? Is there any serious movement among conservatives today to take away the vote from women or blacks? Do even one percent of Republicans fall into this category?

    Historically, there was a strain of southern conservatism that tried to justify and institutionalize an American version of class, but with race taking its place. But this ideology was never influential outside the south and it’s entirely gone from the public realm today. It was a regional ideology based on defending an obvious regional interest; it was not a broad political ideology.

    Most northerners and other civil rights advocates, both in the 19th century and more recently, used Constitutional and religious arguments to inveigh against slavery and Jim Crow.

    One of the most eloquent examples was John F. Kennedy’s 1963 televised address where he argued against segregation by saying “It ought to to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color. In short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. But this is not the case…. We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.”

    The most memorable line in the speech is the sentence I highlighted in bold. This appeal to Scripture and the U.S. Constitution is a very conservative argument. It is NOT an appeal to modernity, which is what you earlier claimed conservatives opposed. MLK’s best speeches made the same conservative appeals.

    But some of the more perceptive conservatives at the time did see problems with the Civil Rights legislation enacted in the nineteen-sixties. They understood that the new legislation, even while giving Constitutional rights to those who long deserved them, could still overshoot the mark and eat away at other people’s Constitutional rights by both creating a permanent reverse racial spoils system and undermining the right of free association. And indeed that has happened. But in the obvious moral rightness of the Civil Rights’ cause to undo a multigenerational injustice, those conservatives’ concerns were swept away.

  5. Historically, there was a strain of southern conservatism that tried to justify and institutionalize an American version of class, but with race taking its place. But this ideology was never influential outside the south and it’s entirely gone from the public realm today. It was a regional ideology based on defending an obvious regional interest; it was not a broad political ideology.

    Just to be clear, I’m not saying there wasn’t a lot of racism in politics outside of the south. I’m saying that a well-considered *conservative ideology* defending slavery in the John Calhoun sense was not influential outside the south.

  6. @ Matt,

    I think it’s very hard to explain Left Wing / Progressive movements as simply or much about opposing power or authority, since different left strains obviously frequently stand with power and authority (and coercion and forced conformity) when it is allied to social revolutionary ideology, or even to “left wing values” like “openness”, cosmopolitanism, equality (particularly when there is fear that these values are threatened). But this is a time worn topic and we’re not gonna come to a new definitive conclusion here that suddenly solves it all.

    I think it’s important to distinguish between pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary status, and the kinds of people attracted to them. As I’ve noted in the past, the natural evolution of communist states over generations seemed to attract the people who – in terms of general disposition – would be conservative in other countries. It just so happens the tradition and authority in their own state is a (purportedly) left wing one, so that is what they hew to. Plus of course cynical seekers of power become attracted to the ruling class no matter what.

    But my point was not that the liberal disposition is that authority is bad. It’s that those who currently have authority are bad. Again, this even translates into communist states, because if you look at the “political compass” results from such countries, social conservatives tended to be economically left, and social liberals economically right. Given the ruling class was purportedly pro-worker, people who would naturally be more open in terms of inclination were attracted to the opposite economic ideals.

    @ Twinkie,

    Does that strike you as someone who is looking for a real compromise?

    Obama had a very naïve idea about politics early in his first term – that somehow you could have a great persuasive talk with someone who disagreed with you and present enough facts and logic. He absolutely did engage in a lot of “pre-compromise” on issues like health care however. He desperately desired some level of GOP buy-in for the ACA, which is one of the reasons why it was constructed to be around as conservative/market based as something can be and still be a step toward UHC. If he had gone the route of reconciliation right from the start, he could have achieved something more expansive (like a partial expansion of Medicare) with just 51 votes.

    Biden is a different kind of politician. He comes from the old school of schmoozing with people across the aisle and trying to leverage personal relationships to craft legislation. In an establishmentarian era, this could be enough, but these days there are tremendous pressures from the base to show no quarter, so I am not sure that will be enough.

    @ Pincher Martin,

    But are any conservatives still fighting – to use your words – a “rearguard action” against the previous expansions of voting rights? Is there any serious movement among conservatives today to take away the vote from women or blacks? Do even one percent of Republicans fall into this category?

    I think you may have misunderstood my point? What I was saying was that each successive generation of conservatives would not be seen as particularly conservative by those of the past – and if you go back far enough, would be seen as flaming liberals. This is because conservatism is more a sentiment than an ideology – a desire to “tap the brakes” on rapid social change, or at most wind the clock back by a few decades. Hence why, as I said, modern-day conservative ideals are closest to Thomas Paine (minus perhaps his support for basic income), who was considered to be part of the radical “left” at the time of the Founders.

  7. Twinkie, etc.: you guys are Right Wing so you’re always just gonna respond with right wing comments. I’m a centrist. Not saying you guys are dumb but it’s all quite robotic to me. What’s the point of talking if you’re literally never going to change your mind?

  8. What’s the point of talking if you’re literally never going to change your mind?

    Are you talking about me or yourself?

    I used to be a conventional center-right conservative who supported legal immigration and tax cuts (and read the NYT, WaPo, WSJ, and the Economist avidly). I don’t consider myself a conservative today (though my instincts are Burkean), but a nationalist-populist.

    So, yes, I can change my mind and have, but perhaps not in the direction you’d like. And you can thank the corporatists and the Woke for that transformation. I suspect I’m not the only one who has changed thusly.

  9. Karl: As I’ve noted in the past, the natural evolution of communist states over generations seemed to attract the people who – in terms of general disposition – would be conservative in other countries. It just so happens the tradition and authority in their own state is a (purportedly) left wing one, so that is what they hew to. Plus of course cynical seekers of power become attracted to the ruling class no matter what.

    But my point was not that the liberal disposition is that authority is bad. It’s that those who currently have authority are bad.

    One conclusion of this line of thinking is that perhaps the people of the left wing disposition – if defined as a disposition to oppose the current authority, but to not approve more or less of authority in general, and even to enthusiastically join authoritarian revolutionary movements – may form the base of the ex-Communist world’s stew of fascist neo-traditionalists…

    (I doubt that the upholders of Communism in the Soviet Union were in any sense dispositionally right wing. But seems like the above is that the logical outcome of such thinking, where people simply have pro-establishment and pro-insurrection dispositions, and in some sense the upholders of Communism were the same people as the upholders of the societies that came before, then you’d expect the anti-Communist fascists to be the same people as the previous left wing revolutionaries…)

  10. Karl Zimmerman –

    I think you may have misunderstood my point? What I was saying was that each successive generation of conservatives would not be seen as particularly conservative by those of the past – and if you go back far enough, would be seen as flaming liberals. This is because conservatism is more a sentiment than an ideology – a desire to “tap the brakes” on rapid social change, or at most wind the clock back by a few decades. Hence why, as I said, modern-day conservative ideals are closest to Thomas Paine (minus perhaps his support for basic income), who was considered to be part of the radical “left” at the time of the Founders.

    I think Thomas Paine would clearly be more comfortable with today’s left if he were alive today. I agree with Yuval Levin in his excellent book The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of the Right and Left that by the end of his life Paine had already transitioned to what modern leftists would consider a liberal point of view. You mention one reason, which was economics. Another, of course, was Paine’s militant atheism. It’s not a mistake that Christopher Hitchens admired and identified with Paine more than any other Founding Father.

    There are two Founding Fathers who modern conservatives resemble more than any others and they are two of the authors of the Federalist Papers: James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.

    From Madison, conservatives take his skepticism toward democratic factions and hence they keep his desire to preserve the particular Constitutional checks and balances that would prevent any faction from dominating. In the modern world, this often takes the form of conservatives defending what many liberals consider outmoded institutions like the Electoral College and the greater proportional power given to small states in the Senate as well as other “quaint” features that often seem to get in the way of liberal politicians getting something done.

    From Hamilton, modern conservatives take his focus on commercialism as the life blood of the Republic and empire. To the degree modern conservatives are comfortable with a strong federal government, they choose to be so for commercial and military reasons, which are Hamiltonian reasons.

    These models aren’t static. Conservatives, like liberals, often change their mind about how to approach governance, but they almost always do so by appealing to one of several U.S. political traditions that date back to the Founding.

  11. Robert Ford –

    Twinkie, etc.: you guys are Right Wing so you’re always just gonna respond with right wing comments. I’m a centrist. Not saying you guys are dumb but it’s all quite robotic to me. What’s the point of talking if you’re literally never going to change your mind?

    How can you speak so confidently about something you don’t know?

    I’ve changed my mind so often over the last twenty years that my political views hardly resemble what they once were.

    In 2000 and 2004, I voted for George W. Bush. Happily in 2000; far less happily in 2004. By early 2005, around the time Bush gave that silly second inaugural speech with its strident Wilsonian aspirations for remaking the world, I turned completely against Bush. I then spent almost all the time I divvy up for politics arguing with Bush supporters, trying to convince them that Bush’s policies were failures and that we conservatives needed to turn hard in a new direction.

    Around the same time, I also began exploring other issues besides the traditional GOP concerns of national security and taxes. That led me to take a closer look at immigration, education, and cultural issues. I also came to the belief that Bush showed Reaganism was dead as a viable doctrine that could motivate a winning national party. I loved Reaganism in my youth; I mourned its passing; but I decided it was time to move on.

    I did not support John McCain in 2008. I voted third party on the presidential ticket. The reason? I thought the GOP was going in the wrong direction by doubling down on national security issues instead of refocusing on domestic politics, and McCain was ill-suited to be any other kind of president than one who waged war. I also had come to believe that McCain’s strong suit was not nearly as strong as I had believed in, say, 2000, when I voted for him in the primaries.

    I voted for Romney in 2012, but with no warmth. I did appreciate that, unlike McCain, Mitt at least made some feints about going in a new direction on issues like immigration.

    I did NOT vote for Trump in 2016. I thought he was a clown and said so at the time. But I did like Trumpism as an ideology for the GOP. Most of what Trump argued for on trade, immigration and cultural issues, I agreed with. But because of his failings as a man, I just didn’t trust him to do what he said he would do. I would’ve forgiven those failings if I thought he could be trusted, but I didn’t.

    In my arguments at the time I separated Trump the man from Trumpism as a future Republican political platform. My hope in the first half of 2016 was that Trump’s appeal to so many people would get the serious Republican politicians to take on issues outside the old Reagan formula – which was stinking of formaldehyde – of arguing for low taxes and a strong military.

    Not in a million years did I believe Trump would win the presidency. When he did, I had to completely reassess what I thought I knew about American politics. And for the first three years of Trump’s presidency, I watched him closely – the moves he made, the people he hired. I decided he was only mildly interested in advancing a Trumpist agenda and, in any case, incompetent at doing so. I was prepared to NOT vote for him again in 2020.

    And then 2020 happened, and the left went crazy. There were riots in the streets, serious talk of defunding the police and packing the courts, Biden sympathetically discussed transitioning children, etc.

    As a conservative, there was no way I was voting for a third party after that. Trump had my support. I expected him to lose, but I didn’t want him to lose so badly that the Democrats felt emboldened to advance their crazy agenda. So I became one of the 11 million voters who did not vote for Trump in 2016, but did cast a ballot for him in 2020.

    *****

    Now here’s a serious question for you, Mister Robert Ford: How can you read the above personal history and claim that I have “robotic” views or haven’t changed my mind? Perhaps, as Twinkie points out, the problem in perception is with you and your criticism of us would be more appropriately aimed at yourself.

  12. Dude, you even disagreed with Karl *when he was agreeing with you.*

    Anyway, I don’t know any liberals any more. Everyone’s chosen a Team and all of their opinions just so happen to agree with their teammates. When I hear Razib talking to Jonah Goldberg I hear two liberals talking. That is incredibly rare now, almost unheard of. I know a lot of people on team Left or Right, but no liberals. A nation of robots.

  13. Robert Ford –

    Dude, you even disagreed with Karl *when he was agreeing with you.*

    I don’t think you’re following the details of the discussion very well.

    Anyway, I don’t know any liberals any more. Everyone’s chosen a Team and all of their opinions just so happen to agree with their teammates. When I hear Razib talking to Jonah Goldberg I hear two liberals talking. That is incredibly rare now, almost unheard of. I know a lot of people on team Left or Right, but no liberals. A nation of robots.

    This does not respond to anything I wrote. Perhaps you’ve already staked out a position – that of Team Anti-Robot – and are now just reflexively defending your turf.

    I’m not a classical liberal. I never was. Even before Trump’s presidency I knew few Republicans who were classical liberals. Some might pay obeisance to libertarian ideology – because they felt some need to have an ideology and that was the only one they could think of – but they did not elect politicians who followed classical liberal thought.

    I’m a conservative. I respect the ideas that inspired the Founding of the United States and created the American tradition. Classical liberalism is one of those ideas, but it is not the only one, as the example of Alexander Hamilton shows. James Madison, too, was a more sophisticated political thinker than his friend Thomas Jefferson, who is the more closely associated with classical liberalism than almost any Founding Father. And where they had differences, I always agreed with the staid Madison over the revolutionary Jefferson.

    Does that make me robotic? I don’t see how. If anything, libertarianism, which is the closest modern ideology to what you’re calling classical liberalism, tends to be more predictable (robotic?). I almost always know what libertarians think about some political issue before I ask them.

    As for me being nothing more than a team player, did you not read anything I just wrote?

    At some point, Mister Ford, you need to engage with what’s written rather than continue pushing the prejudices you entered the discussion with.

  14. “…they almost always do so by appealing to one of several U.S. political traditions that date back to the Founding.”

    Sorry, Pincher, huge red flag here. Is this for real? Most conservatives watch OANN or Rush Limbaugh. Conservatism is made up, just like any other ideology. It’s just whatever….it’s meant wildly different things over the years. I think you touched on that a bit ago. you seem very well studied but, in the end, you’re lumped with a group of people who actually believe Sydney Powell and worship a guy who is a lifelong grifter so nuance doesn’t matter much.
    Perhaps if we change to ranked choice voting you could eventually cast a vote for the NeoWhig Party!

  15. Robert Ford –

    Sorry, Pincher, huge red flag here. Is this for real? Most conservatives watch OANN or Rush Limbaugh. Conservatism is made up, just like any other ideology.

    Of course all ideologies are made up, but that doesn’t mean they are created ex nihilo. The common political ideologies today all come from previous ideas. For modern American conservatives that ideological pedigree is usually found in the less radical ideas of the Founding Fathers. More Hamilton and Madison than Paine and Jefferson.

    Edmund Burke’s British ideas about conservatism have also gained more U.S. adherents since Russell Kirk re-introduced them to American audiences around seventy years ago. Burke’s thought was too alien for most early Americans. He defended Church and Crown, and the U.S. had no established church or monarchy.

    But as American progressives over the past century have steadily chipped away at certain foundational rights at the same time they have added other rights to our understanding of the Constitution, more American conservatives have found wisdom in Burke’s gradualist approach. Those conservatives fear risking a rupture by trying to immediately return to the original constitutional approach that was last seen in the 1920s.

    As for your comment on OANN and Rush Limbaugh, the vast majority of Americans do not have serious political ideas, let alone an ideology. Their politics is instinctual and/or transactional. Ideology is at best an afterthought. This is true of the entire political spectrum, from liberals to conservatives.

    But to the degree an American conservative today uses some ideological justification for his political views, he either identities with what I described above or with the Libertarian tradition.

    I cannot recommend too highly Yuval Levin’s The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left. It’s a fascinating, fair, and well-written book on the West’s political ideological beginnings.

  16. Ok, fair points.

    Funnily enough, I just bought that book last week! I will move it to the top of my list, thanks.

  17. (I doubt that the upholders of Communism in the Soviet Union were in any sense dispositionally right wing. But seems like the above is that the logical outcome of such thinking, where people simply have pro-establishment and pro-insurrection dispositions, and in some sense the upholders of Communism were the same people as the upholders of the societies that came before, then you’d expect the anti-Communist fascists to be the same people as the previous left wing revolutionaries…)

    I don’t know why the first statement is really controversial. Putin was a KGB functionary (and briefly an elected Communist official) and comfortably slid into right-leaning nationalism in the post-Soviet political spectrum.

    Regarding the nationalist right in Eastern Europe (I presume you talking about the crypto-Nazis like Jobbik, not merely authoritarian parties like Law and Justice?) I think it’s important to note that they didn’t become prominent in the period immediately after the fall of communism, but took roughly a generation to gain a solid foothold. Indeed, the rise of illiberal nationalism in Eastern Europe is often considered to be in large part due to disillusionment with the post-communist social order. While the far-right never needs an excuse to be anti-communist, given communism was imposed from the Soviets, anti-communism clearly makes sense if you’re attempting to develop a national mythology, even if Communism itself is no longer really any sort of threat.

    On the question of whether some young fascists would – under other circumstances – be leftists, my answer is it’s situational. I remember years ago reading an interesting study which looked at the association of male bicep size to views on economic redistribution. It found that among working-class men, the stronger they were, the more pro-redistribution they were (they were alphas who wanted more money for themselves). In contrast, among wealthy men, strength was negatively correlated with left-leaning views on redistribution (they were wimpy altruists who wanted more power to go to other people than themselves). Pushing this analogy further, I could see some lower-income men who support far-right parties in Europe today being completely willing to support Communism if they thought they could personally benefit from it.

  18. @Karl, slightly trolling there, I guess I just find the non-symmetry often proposed funny and wanted to see how you’d react.

    (I.e. it seems like the Left often seems to propose that violent and authoritarian enforcers of the system under Left Wing Authoritarianism have Right Wing personalities, in some sense, but don’t seem to imagine that violent Right Wing terrorists under Left Wing authoritarian systems have Left Wing personalities… Instead the true Left Wing personalities under Left Wing Authoritarianism must all be cuddly liberals…)

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