Five Thoughts

(1) A friend commented that Biden’s victory becomes more impressive after you contemplate the enthusiasm gap: Trump’s base believed that Trump was sent by God, whereas Biden’s base believed that Biden probably wasn’t a terrible human being. I replied that what we call the “Enlightenment” was precisely this, the switch from cowering before leaders who were sent by God to demanding leaders who probably aren’t terrible human beings.

(2) I would love for Twitter to deactivate Trump’s account—not for any ideological reason, simply for Trump’s hundreds of past violations of Twitter’s Terms of Service, and for there no longer being a compelling public interest in what Trump has to say that would override all his Terms of Service violations.

(3) When Biden appeared last night, and then again tonight, it wasn’t merely that he came across like a President-Elect of the US, but rather that he came across like a President-Elect of the US who’s filling a vacant position. Until Biden starts, there won’t be a president of the US; there will only continue to be the president of those who voted for him.

(4) Now that Trump has gone this far in shattering all the norms of succession, part of me wants to see him go the rest of the way … to being physically dragged out of the Oval Office by Secret Service agents on January 20, in pathetic and humiliating footage that would define how future generations remembered him.

(5) I had an idea for something that could make a permanent contribution to protecting liberal democracy in the US, and that anti-Trump forces could implement unilaterally for a few tens of millions of dollars—no need to win another election. The idea is to build a Donald J. Trump Historical Museum in Washington, DC. But, you see, this museum would effectively be the opposite of a presidential library. It would be designed by professional historians; they might solicit cooperation from former members of Trump’s inner circle, but would never depend on it. It would, in fact, be a museum that teenage students might tend to be taken to on the same DC field trips that also brought them to the Vietnam Memorial and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). Obviously, the new museum would be different from those bleak places; it would (thankfully) have a little less tragedy and more farce … and that’s precisely the role that the new museum would fill. To show the kids on the field trips that it’s not always unmitigated horribleness, that here was a case where we Americans took a gigantic stumble backwards, seeming to want to recreate the first few rooms in the USHMM exhibition, the one where the macho-talking clown thrills Germany by being serious rather than literal. But then, here in the US, we successfully stopped it before it got to the later rooms. Sure, the victory wasn’t as decisive as we would’ve liked, it came at a great cost, but it was victory nonetheless. A 244-year-old experiment in self-governance is back in operation.

105 Responses to “Five Thoughts”

  1. Arul Says:

    Congratulations Biden and Harris victory. A monument to Hitler is still a monument. It was a close shave scraped together by 0.03+% margin in three counties in three states. Trumpism is finished (never again). Pretty amazing things turned brighter.

  2. Daniel Bilar Says:

    Prof. Aaronson

    Kindly do not mislead your readers, also from abroad, because of your personal preferences
    Joe Biden is not the president-elect just because some media outlets declares him so (though they seem to think that )

    There is no official winner until every legal vote is counted accurately, the states certify results, and all legal challenges are resolved.

    Dozens of serious anomalies have been recorded in PA, GA, NC and other locales. Multiple lawsuits are launched to investigate. The election is not over – this is not a personal opinion like your blog post, but what the actual law states in the United States.

    Here are the official dates that matter:

    December 8: States are expected to resolve controversies at least six days before the meeting of electors.

    December 14: Electors meet in respective states to certify their votes for President and Vice President.

    Daniel Bilar

  3. DeservingPorcupine Says:

    I feel you’ve gone off the deep end. I’m not a Trump fan, nor have I ever been, but you’re acting like he was way worse than he was. You radically underestimate how bad other presidents are just because their awfulness is better disguised and their behavior less crass. Bombing Libya, destabilizing it, and breaking our public agreement with Gaddafi was worse than any single thing that Trump did.

  4. Jon Awbrey Says:

    I had to switch off the TV the other night because some bleary-eyed talking heads were going on about how XLV is not going away and will still be a force to (w)reckon with for years to come. Sadly, it’s true, the Trump International Crime Syndicate will not magically disappear — not unless the Democratic Party grows the gumption (and maybe it will have to be New York standing alone) to get his whole gang’s taxes, prosecute them for their crimes, and put them away for good.

    P.S. Do they have Twitter in prison? Asking for a fiend …

  5. travis Says:

    there are a lot of things in the back of my mind which pull away from this week’s victory: undetermined control of the senate, the feeling that biden probably won’t be that progressive, the knowledge that trump was only a symptom, and so on.

    but this weekend, damnit, I’m allowing myself to just enjoy all the silly internet memes where pennsylvania, michigan, wisconsin, the abstract concept of mail, etc. team up to take down trump.

  6. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Daniel Bilar #2,

    Come on Dan, get serious

  7. duck_master Says:

    Jon Awbrey #4: I’m hopefully not the worst kind of fiend (did you mean “friend”?) but apparently John McAfee has access to Twitter in his prison (which is in Spain), and his account is pretty entertaining.

    In other news, Joe Biden is planning on cancelling Donald Trump’s order against wokeism, which will basically allow woke stuff everywhere where it was formerly prohibited (i.e. in the American gov’t and in its contractors). I am even more pessimistic.

  8. James Picone Says:

    The DHS under Trump has performed hysterectomies on illegal immigrants at the Mexican border without consent, and also split apart families, sending the adults back and keeping the kids. Very few past American presidents are complicit in genocide.

    Also pulling out of the Paris agreement; defecting on the Iran deal; happily violating approximately all the democratic norms to the point where he’s refusing to concede and claiming that the Democrats cheated so people like comment #2 can bullshit around; engaging in stochastic terrorism; approximately all the shit around the epidemic; embezzling millions from the US government; etc. etc. This is just the stuff that came to mind now!

    America has never been a saint geopolitically but claiming other presidents have been “just as bad but less crass” is absurd enlightened centrist bullshit.

  9. Domotor Palvolgyi Says:

    Sadly I must agree with #2 on one point: according to predictions, Trump still has a 5% chance to be the next president.

  10. penttrioctium Says:

    Daniel Bilar:

    Yes, it is indeed technically possible for Trump to pull off a legal, constitutional coup against the President Elect Joe Biden. But make no mistake, that’s what it would be.

  11. Raetihi Says:

    An ocean away, I too feel relieved that the clown’s presidency is coming to an end. Unfortunately I don’t believe that this solves any of your, i.e. the USA’s, main structural problems. Certainly many ruthless intelligent people in your country are right now planning their presidential runs in four or eight years. They will follow Trump’s playbook to get into the White House; since you are not learning your lessons, that’s the easy part. Once they are there, their main interests will not just be playing golf, watching Fox News, eating fast food, and tweeting moronic messages in the middle of the night. Where Trump would have loved to become a fascist dictator but was much too lazy and incompetent to pull it off, they will succeed. Then you, and the rest of the world, will look back to the Trump years in the same way many of you are now looking back to the G. W. Bush presidency: Ah, the relatively good old times.

    Don’t waste your time with plans for a Donald J. Trump Historical Museum — solve your damn structural problems! Let me foreignsplain the main ones to you:

    1. The first-past-the-post voting system. Get rid of it! At the very least, switch to ranked-choice voting everywhere. Far better would be a truly proportional representation of parties at least in the House of Representatives. The constant pressure to choose, or align with, one of only two “sides” makes almost everyone in your country hysterical or outright crazy, unwilling to compromise, and unable to adopt other viewpoints even for a second. As a consequence, you have hardly any media left that seriously try to report all relevant facts in an impartial way. Hence nobody gets non-cherrypicked, reliable information. Which further increases the hysteria and divisiveness. If you don’t break this vicious circle, things are guaranteed to become even worse.

    Of course, for those who have lots of money and hence influence, the current situation is a boon. When the “divide” part of “divide and rule” sustains itself, the “rule” part becomes so much easier. It just remains to steer the DNC and the RNC to where big money wants them to be. Everyone else then has to align with one of these two positions, right?

    2. Campaign finance and everything connected to it. The nomination process for US presidential candidates, which takes more than a year, is byzantine and in parts outright bizarre. If it is not intentionally designed to make campaigns as expensive as possible, then it does at least a very good job of giving that impression. There is no cap on how much money can be spent in a campaign. Hence ridiculous amounts are actually spent. As a result, most newly elected presidents owe their rich donors a lot of favours, or — the latest trend — are even billionaires who fund themselves. In any case, democracy is replaced with plutocracy. Unsurprisingly the results piss off large parts of the general public. Then all it takes is a candidate who looks and talks differently, and promises to drain the swamp.

    Change this crazy system. An eight-week nomination process is long enough. All primaries should take place on the same date. Put a severe cap on the total amount of money that can be spent in a campaign; how about 5% of the amount spent in the current presidential election? Do similar things with the campaigns for each other public office: House, Senate, etc.

    If these two structural problems are solved, then I predict that the US political climate will within 15 years or less settle into a relatively calm state, similar to, say, large parts of Europe. On the other hand, if you don’t solve these problems, darker times are coming.

  12. Israel R Says:

    Thank you for making my day!

  13. Niel Says:

    “here was a case where we Americans took a gigantic stumble backwards, seeming to want to recreate the first few rooms in the USHMM exhibition, the one where the macho-talking clown thrills Germany by being serious rather than literal. But then, here in the US, we successfully stopped it before it got to the later rooms”

    Don’t congratulate yourself yet.

    Trump merely seized opportunistically on a groundswell that was very obviously in evidence by 2009 in the shape of the Tea Party, and which had been brewing — or even stewing — for longer. If we’re using broad-strokes national caricatures, the problem exemplarised by Trump is not a top-down phenomenon (apart of course from the driving force of the Murdoch media), but one which has its spring in The People.

    America still has its deTrumpification work ahead of it, and I don’t mean removal of the current resident of 2600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or getting his supporters to accept that he lost. Trump is merely the avatar for a poisonous ideology which stems from a line of investigation which has its source in the story America tells itself, and overconfidence in its core institutions. Just as misappropriated archaeology and natural history led Germany down a dark line of investigation in the late 19th / early 20th centuries which devolved ultimately to Nazism, America needs to start rooting out the thought processes which led it down this path — the path it is still on, though it stops now for a moment of reflection — and ask itself if it is a city upon a hill, or just likes to imagine that it is by some sort of divine providence, and never mind the obvious signs of erosion.

    Well done stopping your slide down the slope of shale. Take a moment to breathe. Then work your way carefully back up.

  14. Matty Wacksen Says:

    With all due respect, Scott, I don’t think you are right on point (1). This point confuses Trump’s ‘base’ with fringe groups. It’s a little dehumanising of you to suggest the other side is just composed of primitive human beings who aren’t as englightened as your side. I mean take the Bayesian point of view – what are the odds that you were really born into the tribe whose enemies are mostly composed of bad people, when we know historically that tribes like this have always existed and have always thought of themselves as morally superior to the other side?

    To be honest, as a non-American I don’t get why Trump is such a big deal. In a democracy, you shouldn’t have a single “leader figure” who is able to control everything when they get in power. If your system allows this, it is already set up for failure. Secondly (and more importantly), the things Trump did pale in comparison to some of the things done by US presidents in the past. Outside of tribal squabbles, actions speak louder than words. To me, the worst things he did was (a) pardon of that war-criminal (b) the statements that terrorists’ families should be killed (c) the extrajudicial assassination earlier this year and (d) other extrajudicial killings we don’t know about yet. Now compare this list to other presidents, and it’s a bit funny to suggest that Trump merely “interrupted” a 244 year experiment….

  15. It's a start Says:

    But it’s wrong to assume that most Trump voters bought into him personally . There are probably roughly as many Trump voters who voted for him while suppressing disgust because they thought the alternative to be worse as there are the other way around.

  16. barry12345 Says:

    I’m not American, but I have to ask whether Trump was really such a threat to liberal democracy. He was certainly unconventional, but I don’t remember hearing of any journalist getting jailed or killed under him. And while some of his supporters are a bit coo-coo, they don’t seem like a violent bunch. He verbally bullied some journalists, celebrities and politicians, but people with that much influence deserve to be challenged.

  17. 1Zer0 Says:

    The US is a highly divided country nevertheless. Unfortunately, Not few people here in europe are celebrating that mere fact no matter who is president as they consider a weak US better for the EU. Russia and China certainly have a field day with the chaos that is about to emerge in the months and years to come. Maybe there is a slight chance that Biden can somewhat improve relations with other countries though.
    In the worst case the President wont accept defeat and starts a new civil war. He certainly has a considerable amount of armed supporters in society.
    Btw. is there an option to get automatic notification once there is a new post on this blog?

  18. Jelmer Renema Says:

    @ Arul 1: I don’t think this is anywhere near over, unfortunately. If there’s one thing the Republicans have learned from 8 years of Obama it’s that there are no negative electoral consequences to blocking everything in the Senate. After 4 years of McConnell-induced deadlock under Biden, another authoritarian candidate might just swing the handful of voters in key states needed to win the presidency. And you can be sure the Republicans will field such a candidate, given how far above expectations Trump performed even in this election.

  19. barry12345 Says:

    The people I follow on Twitter who supported Trump don’t believe in any of the QAnon stuff. They’re just against “globalism”, whatever that is.

  20. orkan Says:

    So you think that 4 years of Trump deserve a museum as one of the worst things in US modern history?

    I am not American and maybe I am missing something, but how exactly is the Trump term so much worse than G.W.Bush governance where US started wars that killed up to 1 million people, legitimised torture, allowed New Orleans to get destroyed, and then caused the worst Recession after the great depression?

  21. maline Says:

    I must say that I am pleasantly surprised by the good behavior of Trump’s supporters. Despite believing his screed about the election being stolen, they seem willing, overall, to let things be decided in court – which is as it should be. The fears of violence seem to have been ill-founded; I think that we have misjudged these people unfairly.

    Of course it helps that the courts are stacked with judges “on their side”. But perhaps that is for the best. I trust the Roberts Court not to baselessly throw an election, and so do most on both sides of the aisle. So a conservative Supreme Court may be a last bastion of bipartisan legitimacy.

  22. Francisco Says:

    With all due respect, the idea that “Trump’s base believed that Trump was sent by God to fight Satanic pedophiles” seems astronomically unlikely, and even dangerous. The guy got 70MM+ votes! Is it really the best explanation that we can find for his popularity that half of the voters are deluded and think he was sent by God? I doubt it.

    The biggest problem with this explanation, in my view, is that it is extremely self-serving for Democrats in particular, and the liberal left in general. It undeservedly absolves them from any responsibility, as if they had done nothing to alienate the poor/rural white America (like referring to them as a “basket of deplorables”). Doubling down on this type of discourse, only serves to further tribalize the two camps.

    If American politics is going to heal itself from the dysfunctionality that it currently suffers, it will require that both D’s and R’s not double down on their divisive discourse. Whether this is possible in the age of social media remains to be seen.

  23. Francisco Says:

    To barry12345:

    I think he totally was a threat to liberal democracy (though he is not the only threat). The reason is very well explained by Micheal Huemer in this blog post:

  24. Anon Says:

    @barry12345 #16

    If you aren’t here then I’m not sure you can really gauge how bad things have been here under Trump.

    We literally have groups fighting in the streets here, sometimes killing each other and people calling for Civil War, see the Charlottesville incident and the clashes between BLM protesters and far right groups.

    You easily dismiss the QAnon stuff but in my Facebook feed a good number of Trump supporters, people I know from H.S. parrot, this stuff every day.

    Trump is calling into question the legitimacy of elections. He has encouraged supporters to show up and intimidate vote counting at polling locations.

    Guns are flying off the shelves here. I purchased one and many of my friends have, also, for self-defense in case the shit hits the fan.

  25. Scott Says:

    Everyone: OK, I shortened the phrase “sent by God to fight Satanic pedophiles,” since I agree that the latter part characterizes the beliefs of only a small minority of Trump’s base. I now more carefully reflect the median member of Trump’s base, who merely believes that he was sent by God.

  26. Konstantin Says:

    Happy as I am by the Trump defeat, this is a sad reading. Don’t 70 million of US citizens having just voted for him prove there’s a compelling public interest in what Trump has to say?

  27. Jon Awbrey Says:

    After what feels like a Four Year Long Bad Acid Trip I’m making a concerted effort to stop thinking about XLV and his whole gang of Trumplodytes, but anyone who thinks his Trumpistas lack any potential for violence has simply not been paying attention. Here is just one of a host of similar stories.

    Feds charge extremists in domestic terror plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, create civil war

    Far from repudiating his incitees, or even expressing sympathy for what he keeps calling “That Woman From Michigan”, XLV later cheered on one of his superspreader Nazi rallies in their chants to “Lock Her Up!”

  28. fred Says:

    Do you believe that we live in a land ruled by laws, i.e. the constitution is above men, because men are fallible and can’t be entrusted with absolute power?

    Or do you think it’s okay to dismantle it all in order to force a certain set of policies because you believe they’re the right ones and not implementing them would be the ruin of the country?

    Or do you believe that everything is so corrupted anyway that there’s really no difference between one or the other?

  29. Stella Says:


    Trump was far worse than Bush on virtually every front. A full list of autocracies would take time to compile but to the specific things you mention about Bush…

    His treatment of PR after Hurricane Maria was far worse than anything Bush did in LA. He blatantly lied about the death toll and denied aid to PR because he said it was a Democrat lie to make him look bad. Seriously:

    3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000. This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!

    Trump obstructed aid efforts at every turn, until it was an election year (3 YEARS after the hurricane) when he suddenly decided it was worth helping people out.

    When it comes to war crimes and the US military, he has greatly increased drone strikes, carrying out over 2,243 in his first two years compared to 1,878 in Obama’s eight years in office. Solid numbers are impossible to come by because he ended oversight and reporting requirements. While the military is required to report to Congress on drone strikes every year, the numbers are no longer publicly available and the government no longer releases reports on it. Trump threatened to commit war crimes in Iran, actually committed war crimes in Yemen and Iraq, promoted the use of torture, and publicly advocated for the kidnapping and torture of relatives of suspected terrorists (it’s unknown if this actually happened because of how hush hush the US military is about its war crimes).

    While the stock market did excellent until COVID under Trump, the wealth gap skyrocketed. After COVID hit, he prioritized bailing out companies and left Americans high and dry. A one-time payment of $1,200 (less than the median income for one month) certainly helped but he then proceeded to block all attempts at further payments and relief.

  30. DeservingPorcupine Says:

    There is no way that DHS engaged in forced hysterectomies. Just stop and say it out loud and realize how insane it is.

    Nothing else you listed comes within 1,000 yards of Libya, totally destabilized region for who knows how long. Betraying Gaddafi directly contributed to NK’s redoubled nuclear efforts.

  31. Tom H Says:

    duck_master #7
    Your link is to a twitter post with a screenshot of what looks like a slide presentation of early executive actions that says “Given Republican control of the senate, we can expect extensive use of EO’s by President Biden to advance his policy agenda from day one”, followed by a list of possible policy goals including rescinding the Trump EO on diversity training programs. There is no indication it represents anything more than a think-tank’s guess at what might happen and the person who posted it to twitter is not in the Biden camp. In fact they are a professional anti-woke campaigner with an interest in promoting the worst possible interpretation and have presented it to their followers as fact, thousands of whom are now retweeting it. Tell me, how is this any different than the distortions of reality the woke are (often accurately) accused of?

  32. HASH Says:

    “I would love for Twitter to deactivate Trump’s account—not for any ideological reason, simply for Trump’s hundreds of past violations of Twitter’s Terms of Service” Loved and Tweeted!

    Dear Future Quantum Supreme AI creators,

    Please do not give immortality chance to Son of the Bad Woman like Tramp like primitive life forms.

    Thank you,

  33. Jelmer Renema Says:

    I think this article in the Atlantic is a good overview of why we should be worried about a competent autocrat. Long story short: Trump showed how to get power on an authoritarian platform, but didn’t adequately cultivate the military, build patronage networks and seek alliances with existing political power blocks. Now that the trail has been blazed, it’s likely someone more competent will try the same trick in 2024.

  34. Alexis Hunt Says:

    “Biden’s base believed that Biden probably wasn’t a terrible human being.” might even be a bit of a stretch, as a lot of people believe he is, e.g. because he has never expressed remorse over regret over the 90s crime legislation that brutalized Black and other minority communities.

    For some segment of the voting population, they merely believed he was a less terrible human being.

  35. Raoul Ohio Says:


    Thanks for pointing out that the world is not perfect. Actually, some of us knew that already. If you find a place where things are perfect, kindly share.

    The reason for unfair things like the electoral college is not that no one noticed that it was unfair, it is because that is the way the constitution was written up for historical reasons.

    Changing the constitution, requires a super majority. Obtaining one would require those that currently get a big advantage to give it up. Not so sure that when they find out that they have a big advantage they will say “Oh, sorry, my bad, let’s redo it”.

  36. fred Says:

    Comments on the Biden win from the fringe:

  37. anon Says:

    “(5) … show the kids on the field trips that it’s not always unmitigated horribleness …”

    Let’s be very clear about what happened under Trump: 243,420 deaths at the time of this post, from a category 2 pandemic. That is unmitigated horribleness, and he got 70 million votes. Nearly half the people of the USA have shown that a quarter million deaths is considered okay and normal. Trump’s supporters have even said outright that only 2.2 million deaths would be problematic, anything less than that is totally fine. We are a nation who embraces death. No flags at half mast, no moments of silence, no national days of mourning for the dead. Death is okay. Death is welcome. Health is a commodity to be exploited for profit, not a right, not even a privilege. It is totally absent, crushed by our sadistic norms and beliefs.

  38. JG Says:

    Rahetihi #11, maybe you’re right, or maybe the social dynamic that led Trump to US presidency has something to do with the social dynamics that led to brexit, Berlusconi, the « gilets jaunes », Bolissaro, Duterte, etc. If the latter holds, fixing some flaws in US democracy is to miss the forest for the trees.

  39. Dan Staley Says:

    Daniel Bilar #2: Based on your post, you must be really upset at the Republicans for not passing any election security measures, huh? You know, those measures the Democrats kept saying we should enact, and that the US intelligence community said were necessary to keep our elections free and fair? Not only did the Republican Senate refuse to vote on any of the election security bills sent to the by the House, they didn’t even try to amend them out write any of their own.

    I expect you’ll now be writing to your Republican representatives to tell them you feel this way, and that they should be making election security a priority, right?

  40. David Says:

    Daniel Bilar: There were no “serious anomalies” in the recent election. I don’t know where you get your information but even Trump has produced no evidence of such. The outside neutral observers who were present have said the vote was “well managed” despite the coronavirus and the concerns they did raise were of “baseless allegations of systematic deficiencies, notably by the incumbent president, including on election night, harming public trust in democratic institutions.”

  41. statistics Says:

    There are some numbers that I just can’t explain, I wonder if anyone here has a reasonable explanation for what is going on here:


    Democrat Absentee: 1,704,817
    Republican Absentee: 625,766
    Independent Absentee: 303,355
    Total Absentee: 2,633,938

    Republican Absentee%: 625,766/2,633,938 = 23.75%
    Non-Republican Absentee %: 76.24%


    Biden Mail Votes: 1,942,596
    Trump Mail Votes: 582,430
    Jo Mail Votes: 23,996
    Total Mail votes: 2,549,022

    Biden Mail %: 1,942,596 / 2,549,022 = 76.20%

    The most pessimistic turnout of Trump’s votes is the upper bound that every non-republican mail vote was Biden. Anything worse suggests that registered republicans voted Biden even more than non-republicans voted Trump.

    What bothers me is it looks like Biden’s vote is actually kissing this upper bound at an incredibly close margin, with the biden vote % at 76.20 and non-republican at 76.24.

    When you add in Jo it’s even more incredible: non-Trump votes are at 77.15%
    This suggests that more Republicans didn’t vote for Trump with mail-in votes than non-party voters did vote for him. These statistics almost seems in huge contrast to everything we see.

    I’ve looked at other states and I did similar calculations and its nowhere near that. In all states, Trump got at least as much % of absentee ballots as the % of republican ballots. These mail in results statistics look suspicious to me. Anyone have reasonable explanation for these?

    (I also thought that maybe they aren’t uniformly distributed, and we’re about to see the republican absentee ballots soon in higher frequency – they just weren’t counted yet. Which means there are ~ 43,336 more votes for Trump at least. But why wouldn’t this be uniformly distributed?)

  42. Raimundo Barros Says:

    I completely agree with your statements in this post, however I think one of the most important things this election shows to the world, apart from Trump’s embarrassing behavior, is that your voting system (I’m not American) is an absolute mess and needs to be totally redesigned.

  43. Michel Says:

    After my initial elation (as a EU citizen) over the Biden win, I realized one important thing: If there is one thing every voter – democrat or republican – should be proud of, it is the turnout number of voters. More people than ever thought their vote important! Now that is democracy for you. Stand and be counted.

  44. Chip Says:

    Before you get too gleeful at the prospect of the Secret Service dragging a deranged trespasser from the Oval Office come Inauguration Day, it’s worth remembering that you’re talking about someone who between now and then is still in a position to, say, try to unilaterally launch a nuke or two at Iran or North Korea or anyone else he chooses to.

  45. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Considering Progressive rhetoric and realistic constraints, I thought about what potential initiatives of the Biden administration might be that I would support and jotted the following list-
    1) Large increase in estate tax
    2) Plugging tax loopholes used by the super rich
    3) Abolishing the limit on annual social security and medicare contributions
    4) Creating millions of new US jobs from renewable energy
    5) Ending state by state protections for health care insurance providers
    6) Allowing trouble free import of all medications by mail so US costs equivalent to international costs
    7) Expediting approval of over the counter access of low abuse potential medications similar to elsewhere in the world
    8) Supporting development of a more transparent and secure US voting system
    9) Establishing a tax regime for corporations more in line with personal tax regime
    10) Taxing capital gains as ordinary income in most cases
    11) Federal level decriminalization of drug possession
    12) Encourage the EU and Britain to enforce their Foreign Corrupt Practices Act equivalent on their corporations engaged in international business
    13) Encourage Britain to harmonize the City of London banking practices with their national bankingblaws
    14) No Forever War (props to Haldeman)
    15) Strictly limit surveillance of US citizens by intelligence agencies in some manner
    16) Pardons for Assange and Snowden

    In short, and considering realistic constraints, I would support leveling the playing field in a reasonable manner. I prefer a much smaller federal government but that is incredibly unlikely so not considered as reasonable subject to current constraints.

    I don’t think reasonable likelihood of any of the above being accomplished and therein lies my cynicism for the Biden administration. I expect the same rhetoric as previous decade ofter decade and with the same negative result. Biden and Harris are very wealthy from looking out for the “little guy” who in fact owns an ever smaller part of the national wealth.

    I agree in principle with much of what Raetihi wrote above and can’t understand why so many find pleasing rhetoric necessary and totally sufficient. A Confucian saying that has application is, “When what is said is not meant then that which ought to be done remains undone”. I expect routine “not meant” rhetoric from this administration. They will provide a nearly debilitating dose of cognitive dissonance week after week and year after year. For those that require only pleasing rhetoric it will be grand.

  46. Bennett Standeven Says:

    @statistics: The problem is that you’re comparing percentages with different denominators.

    Long answer: I’ll use some more current figures instead; of course they are not very different, but I wanted a statistic that you didn’t give.


    Democrat Absentee: 1,705,393 = 64.7% of total ballots
    Republican Absentee: 625,946 = 23.75%
    Independent Absentee: 303,606 = 11.5%
    Total Absentee: 2,634,945 (2,580,641 counted, so maximum total error is 2.06%)


    Biden Mail Votes: 1,951,170 = 76.2% of total mail votes
    Trump Mail Votes: 584,145 = 22.8%
    Jo Mail Votes: 24,127 = .942%
    Total Mail votes: 2,559,442

    So, under your assumptions that every non-Republican ballot voted for Biden, and Republican ballots only voted for Jo or Trump, the lowest possible number of Trump votes would be 580,620, which is 22.7% of total votes, 22.5% of counted ballots, and 22.0% of total ballots. Meanwhile the corresponding highest possible vote for Biden is 2,008,999, which is 78.5% of total votes, 77.8% of counted ballots, and 76.2% of total ballots.

  47. Anonymous Says:

    I disagree with doing something like (5).

    Almost half of the voters elected Trump, and they won’t be convinced he was terrible next week just because he lost. For now, the election didnt change their current beliefs, or the state of the country [1].

    Paul Graham recently wrote on twitter how a history book might summarize the 2010s/2020s. It was something like “As China’s power grew, America was paralyzed by internal discord”. This seemed very astute to me. The root – and main – problem is not Trump, especially now that he lost. The problem is the internal discord.

    I do not think that having such a museum – built unilaterally by the liberal half of the country, in Washington – would contribute to alleviating the internal discord in the near future. Do you?

    [1] In Scott Alexander’s terms, “the election didn’t change the narrative”.

  48. Bennett Standeven Says:

    Oops, that “maximum total error” figure is nonsense; there wouldn’t be any error in the ballot percentages, only the vote totals. And the latter would of course be changed in both the numerator and the denominator.

  49. Israel R Says:

    A sobering thought:

    Barring catastrophic legal or personal problems, Mr Trump is likely to be the winner of the next Republican primary.

    After all, no other Republican is likely to have the brand recognition or the demagogic ability to sway the masses that he has.

    1. In an ideal world, this would tarnish the Republican brand beyond redemption.

    2. In a world where 50% of the voters have an IQ below 100, one must consider the possiblity that he might win the next US presidential election.

  50. Raetihi Says:

    @Raoul Ohio #35:

    You’re welcome. I don’t know a place where things are perfect, but I know lots of places on this planet where things are less acrimoniously divided and less plutocratic than in the US. I just wanted to point out what I regard as the two main structural reasons for this difference. Of course you are free to say: “Duh, we’ve known this since forever; that’s why it’s rarely mentioned in our political debates today. Also, it’s so incredibly hard to change these structures, they are written into the constitution!” I wish you all the best with that attitude. Seriously, all the best, because the rest of the world is scared of what your military power will do to us when the unsurprising downward trend in your political climate continues.

  51. JimV Says:

    Raetihi #11–Good comment. I think those are good ideas. I don’t have much hope they will be considered here, but on the other hand, most people I talk to realize the Electoral College is a bad procedure which should be reformed, so maybe someday it will happen. I hope so.

    Deserving Porcupine @30: Try googling “ICE hysterectomies”. You will find it has been widely reported. At the very least it deserved an official, bipartisan investigation which of course Trump was not going to pursue or even allow.

    Libya turned out very badly. During the Clinton administration, nothing was done to prevent the genocide in Rwanda, and the Holocaust survivor Eli Weisel met with the Clintons afterward and berated them for not intervening. According to reports I have read, that was what motivated Secretary Clinton to urge intervention in Libya, so as not sin/err by omission again.

    A 2016 Politico report referenced an interview Biden gave to journalist Charlie Rose in which he said that intervening in Libya was wrong. The Politico story said that Biden told Rose that he had “argued strongly” within the White House “against going … to Libya.” Politico reported that Biden in that interview also said the United States should not use force unless the interests of the country or its allies are directly threatened, and it can be done “efficaciously” and it can be sustained.

    (I was interested in these issues so I googled them and found out more about them. There is always the possibility of mis-information, but by reading several sites and points of view I at least feel I have tried to become informed.)

  52. Aaron G Says:

    Israel R #49:

    While it may be the case that Trump may win the 2024 Republican presidential primary, the question is: would he actually run again?

    Because Trump himself will only be able to serve one more term due to term limits set by the 22nd Amendment.

    My own suspicion is that his daughter Ivanka (who he is closest to) may try to run for the 2024 presidential nomination under the Trump brand.

  53. Raetihi Says:

    @JG #38:

    This is not the place to analyse your examples in detail; just a few thoughts: Brexit is at least partially a case in point, fostered over several decades by the political landscape in the UK, mainly in England. In several ways the British voting system was a factor in this. As in the US, it does not produce a proportional parliamentary representation of opinions and often forces people to choose one of two sides.

    Brazil (I assume you misspelled “Bolsonaro”?), the Philippines and for instance Hungary are relatively new democracies. The political atmosphere is quite different when everyone except the youngest generation still remembers the military dictatorship resp. Marcos regime resp. communistic government.

    The Gilets jaunes are a protest movement with no clear position on the political spectrum. They are not part of any government.

    Your best example is Berlusconi in Italy: a sleazy businessman, similar to Trump in many ways, always trying to bend the law in his favour. But, as far as I could tell from outside Italy, the political climate in Italy never deteriorated like the climate in the US during the Trump presidency. Unsurprisingly! No one could shout: “I am against Berlusconi, therefore you either have to agree with me or you’re a fascist!” Anti-Berlusconi voters always had many different options on the ballot. Their votes were not wasted when they did not vote for the largest opposition party, they resulted in proportional representation in the parliament. Even Berlusconi supporters had right-wing alternatives they could vote for: the Lega Nord and the Alleanza Nazionale. Therefore things never got as divisive as they are in the US today. Berlusconi came, Berlusconi went, the country was still essentially the same. Similarly things happened, and will continue to happen, in other democracies around the globe.

    In contrast, I hardly recognise the US today. Trump supporters like him more than ever; in absolute numbers, he gained support in this election (he got more than 8 million votes more than in 2016)! With the aim of preventing this, once more or less reliable media like the New York Times and CNN have become ridiculously partisan. Not only in my opinion much of their reputation went down the drain when they downplayed the riots after George Floyd’s death, downplayed allegations of sexual misconduct against Joe Biden and the way Hunter Biden cashed in on his family name, made a mountain out of the Russiagate molehill, and so on and on. I remember a time when “fact checks” in these media still deserved their name. The political climate in the US will not easily recover from this episode, and not only one “side” is to blame. I expect things to get even worse. In contrast to most of your examples, the main problems in the US are the structural flaws I mentioned. They cannot heal, they will not go away.

  54. Opinion Says:

    @JelmerRenema #18 Obama was a goof-up anyways. I do not consider Obama highly in presidential achievement scale. People like Nobel laureate Paul Krugman KNEW in 2008-09 that the amount of stimulus needed was more like $3 trillion. If had asked that amount in 2008 or at least split over two years the economy would have recovered faster and he would not have lost political capital. Obama knowing despite having a close to SUPERMAJORITY did not go to congress boldly. He was a naive leader and he knew it. He went and asked $1 trillion every year for three years and eroded his political capital. He got man-handled by the republicans BECAUSE he lost political capital. I really wished Clinton won in 2008. You would have got two presidents for the face of one and the political capital would have been preserved. Even if she had goofed up budget wise the health care bill would have been must stronger under Clinton. Obama had zero experience in congress and if Ted Kennedy did not endorse him or if he had succumbed to brain cancer earlier you might have already had a female president long time ago. He made so many false promises in campaign. You may be right orangina might win in 2024 given how close this election was. Nothing did anything. BLM, METOO.. nothing. Nihil. Orangina goofed up by agreeing to longer mail-in early voting window.

  55. Richard Gaylord Says:

    james piccone #8:

    America has never been a saint geopolitically but claiming other presidents have been “just as bad but less crass” is absurd enlightened centrist bullshit.

    the government lied to the American people about the Vietnam War for 30 years while sending drafted soldiers there to die (and in my case, the government drafted my ass to become fodder in Vietnam and friends of mine never returned home from Vietnam or did return permanently disabled).

    all the Presidents who were responsible for this are just as evil in their own way, as Trump.

  56. aksu Says:

    Stella #29:

    How on earth can you claim that drone strikes killing hundreds of people [while horrible] are better than GWB’s destruction of Iraq with hundreds of thousands of refugees, tens of thousands of dead? Of course it started with sanctions that Madeline Albright supported saying, hundreds of thousands of starving Iraqi children were “worth it” to bring freedom.

  57. Mitchell Porter Says:

    One of the mysteries of a post-Trump America that has been perplexing me is, what will become of Trump himself. But now I think Florida is the answer. He’ll retire to Florida, there will be a competition among Republicans to see who is the heir to his legacy, he’ll remain extremely influential in Republican politics, and will also be a power behind the throne in Florida politics, and could even become governor one day.

    All that will begin to unfold in parallel with the Biden presidency, which will probably make coronavirus its top priority from the start. That might be the dominant theme until mid-2021. After that time, other issues (arms control, antiracism?) can really come to the fore. I suspect Trump’s political agenda will remain very influential for a few years, in that people will be defining themselves as for or against it.

  58. Scott Says:

    Mitchell Porter #57: Man, what a crazy timeline we’d be living in, if such an obvious fraud and huckster and reality-TV sadist as Donald Trump were able to become the governor of Florida! 😀

  59. ThirstMutilator Says:

    @ Scott

    I’m not sure what you mean by Trump’s base. I’m an atheist who supports Trump, so I don’t think he was delivered by a supernatural deity.

    Between this comment and those regarding Sam Harris, I wonder if you harbor any doubts when you make such claims. I mean, you seem to register confusion about why people would support Trump, and you appear to be looking for answers.

    But lots of people have told you. They’re against things like: normalization of unofficial or official racial quotas, racial discrimination against White and Asian applicants at top US schools, discrimination against tenure-track candidates that display insufficient woke-ness in the UC system, the redefinition of language where words are violence and the color-blind approach to racial disparities counts as racism, Title IX kangaroo trials, the notion that equality of outcome is something to strive for, bypassing US labor laws by off-shoring jobs, an immigration framework where between 25% and 40% of non-detained immigrants never show for their court date, getting involved in foreign wars, defunding the police, tolerating violent protests, the facade that the media are anything but nakedly partisan (examples include Covington, Michael Brown, defense of Antifa’s violence), and that’s just off the top of my head.

    Why can’t you accept those as motivators for the >70 million people who voted for Trump?

    You say you’re for “Enlightenment principles” and in the next breath suggest that Trump’s twitter account be shut down. I know, I know, it’s for violating ToS, right? Sure it is.

    It’s amazing, really. It looks like you’ve had the election in the bag for a few days, and already you’re labeling people who didn’t vote the way you did as Jesus freaks (or as otherwise awful people vis-a-vis Sam Harris) and trying to cut the only line that allows Trump to bypass the media.

    After all your talk about how you’re just a gentle misunderstood nerd, I guess we get to see the real Scott Aaronson: a bully.

  60. Anon Says:

    Statistics #41

    Trump told his supporters to vote in-person. Trump is also popular with people who don’t think Covid is dangerous. He held numerous large rallies

    Biden’s campaign was all about Trump’s mishandling of Covid. He appeals to voters who are concerned about the virus and encouraged voters to vote by mail. He did not hold many campaign rallies because of the virus.

    Is it really surprising then that Biden got more of the mail in votes?

  61. lewikee Says:

    To all those who still believe in Trump’s voter fraud narrative. Consider this: how much do you believe in it because you really want Trump to win, and how much do you believe in it because you think it’s true?

    Also consider this:

    1. He telegraphed he would use this narrative even before the election. This is what you call “insurance”.

    2. Look back on Trump’s behavior over the last four years. Do you see him as a man who would graciously concede an election? Even if you believe he is a man filled with virtues, you must see that he simply “cannot lose”. Once you realize the man will refuse to lose, even if he did lose, what do you think will be his argument for winning? Voter fraud. What is his current narrative? Voter fraud.

    3. How would you react if the situation was reversed: Trump clearly wins but Democrats yell “voter fraud” without evidence and promise that they will win this election not through votes but through courts?

  62. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Raetihi #53,

    The New York Times and CNN continue to be middle of the road, which only looks partisan by comparison to right wing nut propaganda machines such as Fox, which are funded by Koch, Murdoch, etc., to advance their viewpoint that transferring all the money to the wealthy is OK because they will build a wall.

  63. fred Says:

    lewikee #61

    also, a Trump loss and a Biden win isn’t evidence of a fraud from the Biden side either, one must also consider the possibility that most of the fraud (if any) was from the Trump side (since he floated the idea about fraud for a while), but they weren’t able to cheat enough to flip the election. Of course the Biden side has no interest in pursuing that theory since evidence of fraud wouldn’t change the outcome.

  64. Anon Says:

    lewikee #61: On the other hand, his untrustworthiness and previous false claims laid ground to a possibility of “the man who cried wolf”. The other hand is that the statistical bias of late mail in ballots is the perfect cover for voter fraud. Need to ask yourself, had the democrats cheated, how would you know?

    I was very skeptical at first, but the countless verifiable records of dead 118 year old people voting and 14 year old voting in the official Pennsylvanian / Michigan’s websites receiving and sending an absentee ballots, and after I hand-verified them, it started to look like at the very least, input verification was extremely lax when receiving ballots, and this should be everyone’s concern.

    You can still see 14 year old record in the official website of PA if you change the filter to include later birth dates, including the ballots send/receive.

    Then there are several statistics that while they don’t prove anything, they are pretty suspicious, such as incredible volumes of only mail-in ballots with Biden-only vote without down-ballot ticket (when remember, these people had entire months to fill in and send those ballots). And the mail-in ballot rejection statistics in PA just proves conclusively that no signature verification happened at all, because there’s no way signature verification has that low false negative rate. And remember, this is coming from official statistics.

    The whole behavior of PA is a disgrace, and this should be a bipartisan outrage because everything is indicating that PA literally did everything in its power to erode any sort of verification of the process, and pushed the boundaries to an extreme. If you’re receiving dead votes on the one hand and have non-existent ballot rejection rates it’s inexcusable. Even if there was no fraud, they tainted the process in unprecedented way, and if you care about democracy you should care about that.

  65. Thomas Larsson Says:

    Re Executive orders. My impression from Europe is that during the first two years of Trump’s presidency, some liberal federal judge in Hawaii struck down every EO as unconstitutional. Now when the shoe is on the other foot, why would not some reactionary federal judge in Alabama strike down every Biden EO?

  66. fred Says:

    anon #64

    “the countless verifiable records of dead 118 year old people voting and 14 year old voting in the official Pennsylvanian “

    But this mechanism was just as available to Republican voters than Democrat voters…
    When the alleged fraud mechanism itself is based on something that’s politically unbiased (e.g. having a dead relative), it would actually amplify the majority. In other words, it’s very hard to come up with an explanation that explains how a minority could flip a state based on something that would favor the majority more. And even if you find such mechanism, there’s no reason why the other side hasn’t also been using it.

    At this point Trump would be better off claiming that 10% of his voters have been hypnotized by main stream media to check the Biden box on their ballot…

  67. anon Says:

    fred #66: You miss the point if you think about the dead voters as ‘not very abusable’. PA vote counting was controlled by democrats, which is what matters here, so no, this isn’t a symmetric issues, democrats were in position to do it, but honestly this doesn’t matter.

    The point is that you need to be able to trust the system to validate votes are legitimate properly. When you have nearly 0 rejected mail-in ballots (while previous years, by the way, it was higher, around 1%), when your input validation is so flawed that a 14 year old can get through it and receive a mail-in ballot, it proves the process is corrupt.

    It’s not the 10 dead voters that matter, it’s the possibility of tens of thousands of voters that might not even exist or be eligible to vote sneaking in and changing the results. Votes without signature being accepted is also a real possibility because at those rejection rates it’s almost a guaranty they didn’t validate signatures. The dead voters are the canary in the coal mine suggesting lack of validation. They don’t prove fraud happened, but they do prove it’s possible and plausible, and in a functional election system, it shouldn’t even come to that.

    I can almost guaranty you at this point that when the audit happens, they will find thousands of mismatching signatures, because at the very least even benign mismatched signatures weren’t validated. (Again, just from the statistical impossibility that is their current rejection rate)

    Now what do you do with those votes if they were already mixed?

    Now nearly everyone knew Trump and Biden are likely to challenge the results in court, yet PA didn’t even bother matching signatures properly? Either gross negligence, or malicious intent. I can bet there’s going to be media headlines how they “forgot” to turn on signature verification “due to human error”, I don’t buy it.

  68. fred Says:

    anon #67

    in all fairness, the results are pretty tied.
    And I wouldn’t be surprised that more surprises are on the way (that’s the pattern for 2020).
    But it’s just impossible to tell for sure the outcome of various recount/recourse/politic biases of courts. At least not without details from dozens of specific situations (it’s not just PA, obviously).

  69. fred Says:

    Another thought I had this weekend…

    maybe it’s time to let states take their destiny into their own hand?
    Would that be so bad?
    It’s not like we need a union to fight back Canada or England…

  70. Scott Says:

    DeservingPorcupine #3:

      I feel you’ve gone off the deep end. I’m not a Trump fan, nor have I ever been, but you’re acting like he was way worse than he was. You radically underestimate how bad other presidents are just because their awfulness is better disguised and their behavior less crass. Bombing Libya, destabilizing it, and breaking our public agreement with Gaddafi was worse than any single thing that Trump did.

    Let’s not mince words. Refusing to accept his own defeat in an election is a candidate for the single worst thing any US President has ever done. And that’s merely what Trump did this week! It follows four years of nonstop assaults on democratic norms, any one of which (to my mind) should’ve been utterly disqualifying, even more so than the worst policy fiasco.

    With Trump now holed up in the White House like a third-world autocrat, rejecting a clear election loss on the basis of foamy-mouthed conspiracy theories, we’ve passed the point where gaslighting is possible. Even the space for intellectual discussion is rapidly shrinking. There is no possible reframing of Trump’s attempted coup that makes it normal or acceptable, or that makes Democrats the even worse bad guys. This ends in a defeated despot relinquishing power, or it ends in war.

  71. Scott Says:

    anon #37:

      Let’s be very clear about what happened under Trump: 243,420 deaths at the time of this post, from a category 2 pandemic. That is unmitigated horribleness, and he got 70 million votes. Nearly half the people of the USA have shown that a quarter million deaths is considered okay and normal.

    Hence my proposal—which I really hope gets taken up!—for some private group to build a MAGA Memorial Museum in Washington DC, so that schoolkids decades from now can visit it on the same field trips that take them to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. If the narrative of the MAGA Memorial Museum ends with Trump peacefully relinquishing power in January 2021, then despite the hundreds of thousands of pointless covid deaths, I hope you agree that the MMM would present a hopeful contrast with the USHMM regarding the resilience of liberal democracies.

    Anyway, the time to get started is now, while memories are fresh and artifacts are easy to find!

  72. duck_master Says:

    Tom H #31: Thanks for pointing out that the “platform” I linked to earlier was most likely the guesswork of a think tank; I didn’t notice that earlier. However, I can support most of Biden’s official platform (not all of it, partly because I fear Critical Race Theory and party because the font there is nigh-unreadable in large quantities), and I disagree with your characterization of the tweeter that I linked to (@ConceptualJames), finding him to be a reasonable defender of anti-Wokeness.

  73. John Says:

    bush killed hundreds of thousands of iraquis with nary a protest from both house of government. that murder i argue is much worse than anything trump did.

  74. Sniffnoy Says:

    Thirst Mutilator #59:

    See, these are largely legitimate concerns; but the problem is that Trump was a threat to liberal democracy, to the American experiment, and compared to that, none of what you mention matters all that much.

    I am once again really just repeating what I said here and here, but apparently it needs repeating, because people keep making arguments that don’t take this into account.

    You basically just raised a bunch of object-level problems. But Trump was a threat to the meta-level. Sure, he may have gotten some things right; but what matters isn’t getting some things right, what matters is getting things consistently right in the long term. For that, you need a good process. It is not worth wrecking a good process (liberal democracy) for any one particular policy, or even a bundle of them. That’s short-termism, and if followed it will destroy the country. (This doesn’t mean one shouldn’t fix flaws in the process, obviously, or even wholesale replace it with a better one, but there’s a big difference between improving a process, and wrecking it and replacing it with authoritarianism, which is what Trump was trying to do.) Between an authoritarian and a non-authoritarian, you vote for the non-authoritarian; their object-level policies are just barely of any import in comparison.

    I’ll skip making the argument at any more length because I’ve already written it down in longer form twice already, linked above.

    After all your talk about how you’re just a gentle misunderstood nerd, I guess we get to see the real Scott Aaronson: a bully.

    I’d hardly say Scott’s a bully, but, well, uh, Scott… I do think you have been a bit noticeably tribalistic lately. I’ve noticed some hero worship (Greta Thunberg, Scott Alexander), some being a little too quick to assume bad faith (sorry, don’t have examples to hand, I’d have to dig them up and it’s late at night)… you might want to try to cool it down a little.

    anon #67:

    PA vote counting was controlled by democrats, which is what matters here,

    In what way is this true? Trump has observers present just as much as any other candidate.

    Scott #71:

    Let’s not mince words. Refusing to accept his own defeat in an election is a candidate for the single worst thing any US President has ever done.

    Ding ding ding ding! Scott gets it. This here is the key point to understand. Focus on the system, not the individual outputs!

  75. Raetihi Says:

    @Raoul Ohio #62,

    you are right: NYT and CNN are not left-wing but quite centrist. For instance, they had a noticeable anti-Sanders bias during the Democratic primaries. But what I meant in #53 is something else: Since Trump’s election in 2016, they and many other media were in full anti-Trump mode. Every story against Trump was news — relevance (e.g. of the Stormy Daniels story) and verifiability and truth (e.g. of the Russiagate conspiracy theory) were at best secondary. Whereas, from Super Tuesday on, every story against Biden had to be kept under wraps or at least to be downplayed.

    Of course Trump lies on an hourly basis and the media have to set the record straight. But they went further: Minor things that could be used against Trump were blown out of proportion; whereas the worst things Trump did, for instance in environmental policy, seemed to me quite underreported. As if there wasn’t enough undisputable bad stuff to report about Trump, they focused for several years on the Russiagate conspiracy theory, based largely on unverifiable information they had gotten from sources in the intelligence sector. Sure, after the Iraq war fiasco, they had vowed to never trust such sources again — but now the information was bad for Trump, so it had to be true, right? Once again, most of it was false. Different standards were applied throughout (most blatantly with respect to the Christine Blasey Ford sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh compared to Tara Reade’s allegations against Biden).

    Pre-2016, if you wanted to get ideologically heavily slanted news reporting from US media, you had to go to Fox News. Now you get it everywhere, you can only choose the direction in which you want it slanted. As far as I can see, this is mainly the result of a political trend in US society that has been increasing for decades: “It’s first-past-the-post on election day, so you are either with us or against us!” Since most journalists want to be with their liberal friends and neighbours, they report accordingly. In times when the old media revenue models do no longer work, being ideologically pure instead of objective is even a winning strategy: just satisfy the political expectations of your loyal subscribers. The more aligned these expectations are, the more you win.

  76. Raetihi Says:

    @Scott #70:

    “Refusing to accept his own defeat in an election is a candidate for the single worst thing any US President has ever done.”

    Well, I don’t like to use a linear order relation where I see canonically only a partial order relation; are apples really worse than oranges? However, if I were forced to do it, then many other candidates would come to my mind first. Slaughtering Native Americans and violating treaties established with them? Personally owning hundreds of slaves? Bombing Vietnam and its civilians to smithereens? Chile 1973? The Iraq war? (Seconding DeservingPorcupine:) Libya 2011? I could go on. Of course, these and a few hundred other things rank worse only with respect to my personal, subjective linear ordering.

  77. anon Says:

    Scott #71:

    If you think not conceding is so bad, consider the following quotes of Hillary Clinton, advising Biden what to do:

    “One is messing up absentee ballotings, so that they then get maybe a narrow advantage in the electoral college on election day. Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances because I think this is gonna drag out, and eventually I do believe he will win if we don’t give an inch, and if we are as focused and relentless as the other side is”.

    If that’s Hillary Clinton’s advice to Joe Biden, it’s fair play that Trump would do exactly the same. You can’t pretend to have moral differences when your side clearly indicated that if it was switched, they would have pursued exactly the same strategy.

    I also find it pretty funny how she actually described the scenario that is happening, including the absentee ballots being the culprit of a narrow EC win.

  78. ThirstMutilator Says:

    @ Sniffoy

    “So, when evaluating the Republican party right now, the appropriate question is not, what do they think of gun control, or what do they think of healthcare. The appropriate question is, what do they think of the process of liberal democracy that exists in the United States, including the constitution that does much to specify it? … And the answer, it seems, is that they are actively opposed to it. They are throwing their support behind Trump, who is acting to undermine its legitimacy and dismantle it, and they’re assisting him in his doing so”.

    “See, these are largely legitimate concerns; but the problem is that Trump was a threat to liberal democracy, to the American experiment, and compared to that, none of what you mention matters all that much.”

    You’ve offered nothing but vague language about “liberal democracy” (bolded font is mine). I’d ask you to define it, but given your inability to do so in three posts, I’m not holding my breath. Seriously, what are you actually talking about? Be concrete.[1]

    But while you’re clutching your pearls, other people will indeed care about the actual issues, no matter the snobbish jargon of “object-level problems”. They care about wars, about their children’s educational opportunities, and about cities burning.

    Just like Scott, you seem to have this shtick where you complain about undermining democratic norms. So far as I can tell, it’s all puff. There’s no engagement with the actual problems that voters care about, instead you to pretend to be above it all with talk about “liberal democracy” (or “enlightenment values”, if you’re Scott).

    And then you’re surprised that your model of a Trump supporter is inaccurate, that >70 million people chose to vote for him, not just a small minority of far right-wing individuals. When these people try to explain why, it’s dismissively met with:

    See, these are largely legitimate concerns; but the problem is that Trump was a threat to liberal democracy, to the American experiment, and compared to that, none of what you mention matters all that much.”

    and by incrementally worse models of Trump supporters in each of Scott’s postings.

    So, yeah, I consider Scott to be a bully. Not the physical type, of course. But the kind that likes to openly sneer at the other tribe, ignore their concerns in favor of vague rhetoric, and deliberately cultivate the most uncharitable view of the other side as possible.


    [1] And, no, contesting an election is NOT an example. Al Gore vs. Bush did as much in 2000, going all the way to the SCOTUS; that is “liberal democracy” in action.

  79. Scott Says:

    anon #77: Hillary should have said “Biden should not concede unless, obviously, he loses the Electoral College.” (She, of all people, knows the awful necessity of conceding then!) In context, though, it seems clear that she’s talking about the situation where Biden wins the Electoral College, and then Trump attempts to stage a coup by (e.g.) demanding that courts or state legislatures invalidate mail-in votes based on nutty conspiracy theories. In other words, precisely the surreal situation that, having crossed the Singularity, we’re now hurtling toward.

  80. Scott Says:

    Raetihi #76: All the things you listed are good examples of why I said that refusing to respect an election loss is only a “candidate” for the worst thing any US President has ever done. If it continues through Jan 20 and causes a total collapse of our system, though, it’s a pretty strong contender!

  81. Scott Says:

    Sniffnoy #74:

      well, uh, Scott… I do think you have been a bit noticeably tribalistic lately. I’ve noticed some hero worship (Greta Thunberg, Scott Alexander), some being a little too quick to assume bad faith (sorry, don’t have examples to hand, I’d have to dig them up and it’s late at night)… you might want to try to cool it down a little.

    I take that criticism seriously coming from you. But riddle me this: which “tribe” venerates both Scott Alexander and Greta Thunberg as heroes? Does it have more than one member? 😀

    I might never understand why other Scott isn’t as terrified about Trump as I am, and I might never understand why Greta isn’t pushing for nuclear power. But I care, with red-hot intensity, about the survival of a civilization that allows for rational discussion and debate. And despite their obvious differences, Greta and Scott have indeed been two of the heroes of that cause, with Greta emphasizing the “survival” part and Scott the “rational discussion” part.

    And it’s not an exaggeration, or a self-serving bias, to say that we’re right now in a fight for the future of liberal civilization, which future generations will study to whatever extent there are future generations, and which needs all the heroes it can get. I mean, look at the news; it’s just straightforwardly the case!

  82. Michael Says:

    @Scott#81-“But riddle me this: which “tribe” venerates both Scott Alexander and Greta Thunberg as heroes? Does it have more than one member? 😀”
    Well, they both have OCD, so I guess people with OCD looking for positive role models?

  83. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Scott #74

    Maybe an occasional guest column here would help close the gap between mass popular culture and nerd culture and promote general widespread understanding in a positive way. It would promote more widespread common understanding if you had Greta as a guest poster on climate science. Similarly Miley Cyrus on physics beyond the standard model would be helpful and maybe (oh I don’t know) a George Clooney post on quantum computing. The opportunities are endless.

  84. ultimaniacy Says:

    Scott #81:

    “But riddle me this: which “tribe” venerates both Scott Alexander and Greta Thunberg as heroes? Does it have more than one member? 😀”

    It has at least two members.

    But I do see Sniffnoy’s point when he refers to this as “tribalism”. It’s not hard for me to believe that someone who considers being a “weird nerd” to be an important part of their identity would (consciously or unconsciously) perceive two of the nerdiest figures in contemporary politics as fellow “tribe” members, regardless of their opinions on the issues.

  85. Tu Says:

    Scott #81:
    ultimaniacy #84:

    It has at least three members.

  86. Oleg S. Says:

    Raetihi #11
    Excellent comment. The polarizing effect of the first-past-the-post voting system is very close to a common knowledge. I’ve not heard any consistent arguments for the current system, just some handwaving that it’s impossible to change.
    So, how things like this get implemented? Do you thing an open letter from, say, a hundred of really well known and respected STEM professors would gain enough media traction to push the reform to the public attention?

  87. Sniffnoy Says:

    Scott #81:

    When I talk about “tribalism” I’m not talking about any specific tribe per se. I’m talking about, y’know… the thing that groups fall into over time if they’re not careful. Where skepticism is abandoned, truth is judged by how well something matches what the group already believes, etc, etc. Where the negative feedback loop of argument is replaced by a positive feedback loop and things become steadily more unhinged…

    You know, exactly the sort of thing you are contrasting yourself against when you talk about, say, Arthur Chu?

    I mean, if we’re talking here about the importance of method over results, then like — you should see how “well, they’re the right heroes!” is no more valid a defence of hero worship than “well, I like his policies” is a valid defence of Trump. This is exactly the path to the dark side! Take this far enough and you end up like the Objectivists. (As Yudkowsky memorably put it — “Like putting a sign saying ‘cold’ on a refrigerator that isn’t plugged in.”)

    I mean, Scott Alexander is legitimately pretty great, no question there. As for Thunberg… well, I’ll get to her below. And like, sure, I agree we’re in a fight for the future of liberal civilization; but I’m trying to warn you that I think at the moment you’re slipping a bit at exemplifying it.

    And then you go and do this…

    Note added November 11, 2020: As a patriotic American, I will no longer be publishing any comments supportive of the ongoing coup d’état against the President-Elect of the United States.

    Really? I mean, you can moderate your comments however you want, and honestly if I were moderating I’d probably get rid of a lot more in a purely numerical sense for simply being too annoying (although I probably would not have banned some of the things you have… like I said, I think you’ve been a bit quick to assume bad faith recently, but it would take me a while to dig up examples), but — really? “As a patriotic American”? This strikes me as exactly the sort of self-righteous crap that’s so dangerous. When someone sees you speaking like this, why should they trust that you’re going to apply this reasonably? If (notionally) someone wanted to politely argue that actually Trump’s election lawsuits are not as meritless as they appear to be, why should they expect you to listen?

    “As a patriotic American” is the sort of thing that can justify anything. This sort of self-righteousness is exactly the sort of thing you want to avoid if you want to keep yourself careful. Once you let yourself say things like “As a patriotic American”, well… yeah, I don’t think that leads anywhere good.

    You know, I was going to write a response to Thirst Mutilator #78 above, because (as obnoxious as that comment is) I do think it could do with one. But now? What’s the point of arguing, if they won’t be able to respond? I don’t want to participate in that sort of thing. If you’d banned it on all future threads that’d be one thing, but to do it in the middle of one like that is another.

    So to put down that point and return to a fairly tangential one — the reason why Thunberg would oppose nuclear power is actually something that’s been brought up before. I can’t find here the particular page of demands that got linked to before, but I mean, you yourself wrote earlier,

    Having now listened to Greta’s remarks, I confess that I disagree with the content of what she says. She explicitly advocates a sort of purity-based carbon absolutism—demanding that companies and governments immediately implement, not merely net zero emissions (i.e. offsetting their emissions by paying to plant trees and so forth), but zero emissions period. Since she can’t possibly mean literally zero, I’ll interpret her to mean close to zero. Even so, it seems to me that the resulting economic upheavals would provoke a massive backlash against whoever tried to enforce such a policy. Greta also dismisses the idea of technological solutions to climate change, saying that we don’t have time to invent such solutions. But of course, some of the solutions already exist—a prime example being nuclear power.

    Simply put, it appears that she is not the anti-global-warming-by-all-means-necessary activist you sometimes paint her as, but rather some sort of primitivist. Who says she can’t mean literally zero? It may be impossible to the point that she can’t actually have a coherent picture in mind that includes it, but it would seem to be consistent with her other rhetoric — not just anti-nuclear, but “no technological solution”. Oddly, solar and wind power aren’t counted as a “technological solution”, I guess? I don’t know that this truly an internally consistent position, so maybe “primitivist” was unfair there. Regardless, this is a set of positions you see all over the place regardless of its internal coherence (people frequently say things without having an actual consistent internal model that they would follow from!), so it’s not too much of a surprise that Thunberg would also subscribe to it. Unfortunate, but that’s public figures for you. The people who are the best at visibility aren’t the people who are best at being right…

  88. Raetihi Says:

    @Oleg S. #83:

    How to get such a constitutional reform implemented? As Raoul Ohio pointed out, it’s extremely difficult. I will offer an idea; see below.

    To your question: “Do you think an open letter from, say, a hundred of really well known and respected STEM professors would gain enough media traction to push the reform to the public attention?” This might give the reform idea public attention, but it would have a negative effect. The relatively conservative, not college-educated part of the population would react like this: “Now these crazy liberal academic elites are even coming for the constitution! We must stop them at all costs!” (STEM or non-STEM wouldn’t be a big difference from their viewpoint.)

    I suggest a different, much more difficult approach. Before you go to the media, you must form a group of, say, a hundred prominent persons, some but not all of them professional politicians, who support the general idea. (They don’t have to agree on a detailed proposal.) This group must be culturally and politically diverse, representative of the general population of the US. Each US citizen should find someone in the group they know and like. The proposal cannot work if the group contains overproportionally many academics or liberals (or conservatives; but the problem of having too many conservatives supporting a constitutional reform would probably not arise).

    The idea that the first-past-the-post voting system is the (or at least one important) root of the extreme political polarisation in the US should seem plausible or even obviously correct to many people: left-wing, centre, right-wing, academics, not college-educated ones, etc. Therefore I expect that such a group of prominent people from all areas of society could be found.

    Then, in the first step, this group presents the reform idea to the general public: by sending its liberals to interviews on MSNBC, CNN etc., its conservatives to Fox etc., its Rogan-affine people to the Joe Rogan podcast, and so on. Everyone in the group emphasises: “We may not agree on many things, but we all agree that our electoral process must be reformed!” Let the idea spread and sink in for a while.

    The most powerful (corporate) groups of the country will not support the proposal. As I alluded to in #11, they form the small minority who profit massively from the current extreme polarisation, because it maximises their influence and thereby their revenue. Since the reelection chances of most members of Congress depend heavily on support from this minority, very few members of Congress will support the idea. Good arguments and even very favourable opinion polls would not change this. No matter whether the majority in the House and/or Senate is Democratic or Republican, it will oppose reform of the voting process vehemently. If you want to get the reform done, you must do it without them.

    As you cannot convince the two major parties, you must convince the general public first. Let’s assume we are at a point when your PR offensive has managed to do that: opinion polls show that large parts of the US population support reform of the electoral process, away from first-past-the-post. Congress will still oppose it, because “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”.

    At this point you form a new party; that’s the second step. Let’s call it “Together for Change” or so. Its stated goal is to get its members elected to House and Senate and White House, do the reform, then dissolve itself. No elected member would run for reelection afterwards. “We’ll do this one job together, then everyone goes their own way again!” The party promises that each of its elected members would preserve the status quo in all political areas except constitutional reform of the electoral process. In this way, no voter favouring the reform would have a strong reason not to vote for the party (provided opinion polls show that it is a serious contender, not a waste of one’s vote).

    Before the decisive election, people will ask for the details of your reform. The powerful groups opposing reform will try to divide your movement at this point. Your answer should be that everyone knows the outline already, and that if your party gets the necessary majority, you will let the US citizens decide in a referendum which of a number of pre-selected detailed proposals they prefer.

    If your party gets close to 40% nationwide, and does this by cutting about the same percentage from Democrats and Republicans, then you’ll have your supermajority for the reform.

    That’s my rough idea. Very difficult to carry out, but in my opinion still the best chance to implement such a reform.

  89. Scott Says:

    Sniffnoy #87: I won’t deny that I’m flirting with the Dark Side here. If we learn anything from Star Wars, it’s that even the greatest warriors for the Light Side often feel the pull of the Dark Side and vice versa. 🙂

    Lincoln, as you know, suspended habeas corpus and otherwise ran roughshod over American laws and liberties to win the Civil War. I’ve temporarily suspended some freedoms of commenting at Shtetl-Optimized. The way I think about it is: if a US President refusing to step down after an election loss, promulgating insane conspiracy theories, replacing the military with loyalists like a Third World dictator, etc. etc.—stuff that would’ve sounded like dystopian fiction just six years ago, but is now our actual reality—if that’s not an appropriate occasion for this, then what would be?

    I’m not interested in airing the views of the people who support this attempted coup—I’m interested in defeating them. My stance toward them is like SneerClub’s stance toward me, or Scott Alexander, or Steven Pinker, or Peter Singer. The difference, of course, is that SneerClub draws the line in a ludicrous place: for them, anyone who deviates from a microscopically narrow orthodoxy, no matter how much they’ve done for progressive values, is a “masked fascist.” But they’re not wrong that there is a line. I don’t know exactly where the line goes, and I’d tend to draw it more generously than most of my colleagues. But I feel pretty confident that supporting the effective end of peaceful, democratic transfer of power in the US—not as an abstract proposition but as an actual event that could plausibly happen in the next month—falls on the other side of it. Of course there’s still a whole universe of issues passionately to disagree about here in SaneWorld, and anyone who doesn’t like it has the entire rest of the Internet!

    Incidentally, I agree with what you say regarding Greta. Maybe the closest comparison would be Gandhi: a primitivist-leaning ascetic who’s trying to change the world less through argument than through sheer force of example. It’s not my personal cup of tea, or yours, but presumably we agree that Gandhi made a positive contribution to the world and is worthy of admiration?

  90. Vampyricon Says:

    Scott #70,

    Surely there are worse things? Owning slaves? Though now that I think about it, how would you even compare the two?

    But on #1: Couldn’t one just as easily argue that people see Trump is the anti-Christ, and therefore people are enthusiastic about voting him out, not Biden in?

  91. Oleg S. Says:

    Raetihi #88
    > The relatively conservative, not college-educated part of the population would react like this: “Now these crazy liberal academic elites are even coming for the constitution! We must stop them at all costs!”

    I agree, this is a likely scenario. However, the electoral college maybe is not that bad — it has its flaws, but essentially it delegates the power down one level, to the States. So what if instead of going for constitutional amendment to eradicate the electoral college, you go to each State and get rid of the first-pass-the-post voting? Initially it won’t get you all the way to the representative voting, but it’s a step in a right direction, and it probably won’t have too much objections from hardcore constitutionalists. With these measures implemented in several states, anyone will see true popularity of alternative parties or candidates, and it will be a constant reminder to US citizens of what fair electoral system should look like.

  92. Jelmer Renema Says:

    @ Oleg 91: Something like that exists. It’s called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. CGP Grey did a video on it if you want the details. The idea is that states sign up to a compact that say that as soon as 50+% of the electoral college votes are on board, those states agree to vote for the popular vote winner of the national election irrespective of the preference of their own populations.

    Note, however, that this wouldn’t get rid of the two-party system, since even if the president were elected by popular vote, it’d still be optimal for two power blocks to form. I think if you want a multi-party democracy you need a parliamentarian as opposed to a presidential system, and that would certainly require overhauling the constitution.

  93. ThirstMutilator Says:

    @ Sniffnoy

    “You know, I was going to write a response to Thirst Mutilator #78 above, because (as obnoxious as that comment is) I do think it could do with one. But now? What’s the point of arguing, if they won’t be able to respond?”

    I’m sure that, with all the threats posed by Trump to “liberal democracy”, you can come up with concrete examples that don’t involve potential election fraud. Alternatively, make the response at The Motte (culture war roundup thread) or DSL, I’ll likely see it. And I will try to be less obnoxious in any response…

  94. Jelmer Renema Says:

    @ Sniffnoy 74, 87

    While I think that you are 100% right in saying that maintaining democracy should be our overriding concern, I strongly disagree with you that it is possible to make that argument objectively, by the kind of separation between meta-concerns and object-level concerns that you propose.

    To start, let me repeat back your argument to you, to see if I’ve understood it correctly: what you are saying is that the ‘operating system’ for making decisions (i.e. liberal democracy) is so important that anyone messing with the operating system should be opposed regardless of their object-level policy positions. The point of guarding the meta-level is to maintain the quality of the decision-making process. Did I get this right?

    The problem with this argument is that it presupposes that it is possible to make a value-neutral distinction between what is meta-level and what is object-level. What counts as object-level and what as meta-level is part of someone’s political stance, and an essential part at that. After all, what is a political stance but an ordering of conflicting priorities?

    To give a few examples:
    -> the anti-abortion people who were discussed in the other thread would say that the concern of keeping unborn people alive is the meta concern that overrides the concern of democracy, since keeping them alive is a necessary precondition for them ever participating in the democratic process in the first place.
    -> The old argument from the far left is that since democracy is impossible as long as inequality exists, we should fix that meta-problem first before we bother with democracy.
    -> The US Founders would argue that a good political process requires citizens invested in their communities, i.e. property owning males of good standing.

    While I agree with none of these, my point is: these are political not factual disagreements. Identifying which concerns are meta completely depends on the political viewpoints of the person making it. You say that your opponents confuse object and meta, while the more charitable view is that they have a different opinion on what is meta than you.

    Does any of this mean that we should roll over and accept Trump? No, of course not. We should oppose him with everything we’ve got. But even people fighting the good fight should be doing so for the proper reasons. I think that by claiming that this objective reason exists, you are undercutting the true reasons to oppose Trump, which are ultimately moral and political (in the most exalted sense of that word), not factual. And as I have said before, I think there is an absolutist streak in liberalism of which you have unfortunately (as much as I respect and agree with your viewpoints otherwise!) given an example.

  95. Sniffnoy Says:

    Scott #89:

    I mean, censoring such things here doesn’t itself bother me so much. As you say, you have to draw the line somewhere, and I’m pretty OK with drawing the line there simply due to tiresomeness if nothing else. Such people can always go argue their case elsewhere, after all; you’re under no obligation to host such crap here.

    What bothers me is the language used to justify it and the context it occurs in. Like, if you’d simply said, OK, look, I’m not interested in arguing with this crap any longer so I’m no longer going to approve comments repeating it, that’d be fine. (I suppose it would be better if you added some sort of exception for those who actually make some sort of novel argument, but that might necessitate a detailed reading of such comments, which I imagine is exactly the sort of thing you’re trying to spare yourself from!) And as I’ve said, if I were moderating, I’d probably have a much lower tolerance for people being generally annoying…

    It’s this “as a patriotic American” stuff that really bothers me. That’s the real road to the dark side, right there! Especially when it occurs in this context where as I said you already seem to be going down that road a bit…

    (And, yeah, like I said above, it bugs me that you did this in the middle of a thread where I had an ongoing argument. 😛 But I guess obviously that’s not really something you can reasonably wait for. 😛 )

    Incidentally, I agree with what you say regarding Greta. Maybe the closest comparison would be Gandhi: a primitivist-leaning ascetic who’s trying to change the world less through argument than through sheer force of example. It’s not my personal cup of tea, or yours, but presumably we agree that Gandhi made a positive contribution to the world and is worthy of admiration?

    I mean, I guess, but if Gandhi’s primitivism had a direct negative effect on the main thing he’s actually known for I’m not aware of it. That seems like simply an unrelated matter to me. But all this is again, really beside the main point…

  96. Sniffnoy Says:

    Jelmer Renema #94:

    Yeah, my language earlier was more absolute than is actually appropriate in general. I would not actually endorse weighting meta-level concerns lexicographically more than object-level concerns (because yes that would be a little ridiculous), and the not-entirely-firm distinction between the two you point out would definitely contribute to that. I wanted to emphasize the importance of prioritizing meta-level issues if you care at all about the long term, but I didn’t really bother to state things carefully. Thank you for making that point.

    I think that due to the factors you point out, the distinction is in reality partly a constructed one, but it’s an important construction to have in order to allow politics to operate without things going to shit. Otherwise any policy change becomes grounds for retaliation… (see also, see also…)

    Of course it’s worth noting that there’s an important distinction between the examples you present and the case of Trump: Trump is an authoritarian, who threatened to collapse liberal democracy entirely! By contrast, even if we admit all your examples as meta-level, they’re all just questions of it working better or worse, or meeting its ideals to a greater or lesser extent, rather than one of it being replaced with something distinctly different.

    (Of your examples, if I’m understanding them correctly… #3 seems clearly meta-level, just one where our idea of what’s right has changed over time? Or am I misunderstanding what you mean? For #1, while the argument could be made as you point out, ultimately has to be considered to be object-level (note I say “considered to be”; I’m not arguing about what it is, I’m arguing about which side it’s more useful to place it on, since it’s a partly constructed distinction 🙂 ) because A. the connection is too indirect, B. nobody’s actually arguing over it in those terms, and C. the alternative would be disastrous for allowing politics to operate without chaos (not that things are great at the moment, obviously…). On #2 I claim equivocation as as best I can tell they mean something different by “democracy” in the first place. 😛 )

  97. Sniffnoy Says:

    Raetihi #88:

    I always thought the old Center for Range Voting had an interesting plan: Focus on getting it used at the Iowa caucuses. Since it’s a primary with lots of candidates, there’s immediate obvious advantage (to the parties!) of using a better voting system there. And it’s a small state, so the party organizations there are not too large, and therefore potentially persuadable. And you may only need to convince one, as the other then may need to copy it to remain competitive. But it gets lots of media attention, so from there you can spread it to other primaries (parties need it to remain competitive with each other!), until it gets big enough that people demand it outside of primaries.

    No idea if The Center for Election Science (which I gather is something of a successor organization) has any similar sort of plan.

  98. Scott Says:

    Sniffnoy #95: OK, just for you, I changed the note.

  99. ThirstMutilator Says:

    Of course it’s worth noting that there’s an important distinction between the examples you present and the case of Trump: Trump is an authoritarian, who threatened to collapse liberal democracy entirely!

    All this talk about what a threat Trump is to “liberal democracy” and still not a single concrete example given.

    I don’t remember such a fervor here when Obama took Bush’s surveillance monstrosity and put it on steroids to spy on American citizens. And then chased the man who revealed this halfway around the world. I’d love to hear how Trump did something comparable.

  100. Scott Says:

    ThirstMutilator #99: Refusing to concede a lost election, baselessly claiming it was stolen, threatening to fire your employees if they look for new jobs, refusing to let your covid task force brief your successor because you don’t care how many people die of a horrible disease on his watch, or even want them to die … these are such monstrous examples of Trump’s debasement of liberal democracy, just from the last two weeks (!!), that one no longer even needs to mention the 10,000 previous examples.

  101. ThirstMutilator Says:

    Refusing to concede a lost election

    Neither the media nor Twitter/Google/Facebook/etc. get to certify the result of an election. That’s up to elected officials and it will happen soon enough. If, after that happens, Trump refuses to acknowledge he is no longer president, then your claim will be true, but it isn’t now.

    In the meantime, relying on the court system to sort out claims of fraud is not a threat to democracy, it is a reasonable use of the judicial system; indeed, one of the few institutions many people on both sides still have faith in. Like many, I doubt it will move the needle, but cries that this is destroying democracy are unconvincing to me.

    baselessly claiming it was stolen,

    I agree that the Democrats shouldn’t have done that. Non-stop allegations of Russian interference, collusion, a compromised President Trump, and a 2-year Mueller investigation that ended up with zero hard evidence. It seems that Democrats didn’t mind threatening liberal democracy by undermining the legitimacy of the 2016 election, so… pot, meet kettle.

    And despite both parties engaging in this behavior (the Democrats doing it first), the country is still chugging along. So, again, not an existential threat.


    threatening to fire your employees if they look for new jobs,

    *If* true, so what? Trump is being mean to some of his employees? Politics is nasty? Alert the presses!

    How does this compare to low points of Obama’s tenure? The enlargement of a monstrous apparatus used to spy on US citizens; chasing whistleblower Snowden into exile; assassinating a US citizen.

    I mean, how does the threat to fire employees even compare to the above when it comes to the dangers facing liberal democracy?


    refusing to let your covid task force brief your successor because you don’t care how many people die of a horrible disease on his watch, or even want them to die…

    You’re hardly someone I’d trust to correctly model Trump’s thinking, given your uncharitable modeling of his supporters. Trump facilitated a program that has resulted in at least two promising COVID vaccinations in under a year. He’s staked out a position that attempts to stave off economic ruin while dealing with the disease.

    You can claim he didn’t lock down earlier, that you disagree with his attitude on masks, etc. and people are having those discussions, with plenty of hypocrisy on both sides.

    But claiming that Trump wants Americans to die? This makes you sound unhinged.

    And Biden can get his own experts on COVID, I’m sure there are plenty. On the vaccine front, I doubt very much that there’s anything that Pfizer or Moderna will tell Trump but not Biden.

    People usually lead with their best arguments. In your case, I hope that’s not true.

  102. duck_master Says:

    Scott #81, ultramaniacy #84, Tu #85: I’m also in this tribe, so it has at least four members. (My own guess is that the real extent of this tribe is two or three orders of magnitude larger, and heavily concentrated in rationalist-adjacent spaces. Also, I believe that Scott Alexander once called the larger parent movement of this tribe the Grey Tribe.)

    Scott #70 et al: I’m willing to call Trump an existential threat to liberal democracy if there’s going to be a civil war (or something as or more extreme). Short of that (which I increasingly think is more likely, because the Twitter rhetoric has mostly died down), I’m basically apathetic about the morality and future influence etc. of the Trump administration.

  103. ultimaniacy Says:

    DeservingPorcupine #3:

    “Bombing Libya, destabilizing it, and breaking our public agreement with Gaddafi was worse than any single thing that Trump did.”

    Obama didn’t destabilize anything, because Libya was being torn apart by a civil war long before Obama did anything and there was no stability to upset. What public agreement did he break exactly?

  104. Karen Morenz Says:

    Scott #89: “I don’t know exactly where the line goes, and I’d tend to draw it more generously than most of my colleagues.”

    Are you sure about that? I think there’s a function describing where everyone draws the line, and it depends on how sure they are of their position, and how important the topic is to them. For you, most of the topics you argue with people about aren’t that important to you, in the sense that you don’t feel very emotionally invested in the outcome. This is pretty necessary to be a good science: you need to be able to detach from the possessive “MY Idea,” to dispassionately evaluate “The Idea.”

    But the American election is not such a topic for you: you *do* feel very strongly that it’s important, i.e. that the outcome really matters, and also that you are right – so you draw the line (of acceptable comments) much closer to home. I’m not saying that’s wrong, just that your line-drawing-function might not be so different from most of your colleagues.

  105. Sniffnoy Says:

    Oops, returning to this way too late. But, some quick notes:

    Sniffnoy #96: Hey, you’re being inconsistent! You should probably figure this out. 😛

    Scott #100: I’m not sure all those examples are ideal, but they’ll do. I think I’ll skip replying to ThirstMutilator at this point…

Leave a Reply

Comment Policy: All comments are placed in moderation and reviewed prior to appearing. Comments can be left in moderation for any reason, but in particular, for ad-hominem attacks, hatred of groups of people, or snide and patronizing tone. Also: comments that link to a paper or article and, in effect, challenge me to respond to it are at severe risk of being left in moderation, as such comments place demands on my time that I can no longer meet. You'll have a much better chance of a response from me if you formulate your own argument here, rather than outsourcing the job to someone else. I sometimes accidentally miss perfectly reasonable comments in the moderation queue, or they get caught in the spam filter. If you feel this may have been the case with your comment, shoot me an email.

You can now use rich HTML in comments! You can also use basic TeX, by enclosing it within $$ $$ for displayed equations or \( \) for inline equations.