107 Comments
May 26·edited May 26Liked by Hamilton Nolan

The flip side of being preemptively being blamed for losing Biden the election is that, if he wins, there will be a flood articles along the lines of "In a repudiation of the left, Biden wins a second term.", which will give cover for the party moving right anyway.

It's always been like this, and it will continue to be like this until and unless the left can become stronger outside of actual elections. Which is what Hamilton is referring to at the end of the article.

Never give up.

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May 26·edited May 30Liked by Hamilton Nolan

TBF it's not Biden's fault if historic green infrastructure initiatives, and college debt forgiveness, and standing with Labor aren't "exciting". I don't know what to say. Competent effective governance is boring, as it should be. It also is worth mentioning that Democrats are sadly more than accustomed to voting against republicans more than FOR members of their own party even when the most exciting presidency in three generations isn't enough to show up for as is. This is terra firma for us. And I don't see anywhere near the bitterness and in fighting that was happening in the 2016 primaries. I feel a lot more resolve and somber focus this time around.

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It is true that Biden governed a lot more progressively than I would have thought that he would, right up until October 8. If he was not doing what he is doing on Israel he would have had very solid backing from the left wing of the party.

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"If he was not doing what he is doing on Israel he would have had very solid backing from the left wing of the party."

Is that true? Assume that the Oct 7th attack had never happened, many people on the left would be upset about the withdrawal from Afghanistan, or his approach to the war in Ukraine, or his unwillingness to raise taxes on anyone making under $400K/yr, or . . .

It would still be true that most of those people would vote for him, but your comment implies that if it hadn't been for the war in Gaza you'd see a significant number of people on the left cheering the Biden administration, and I'm not convinced of that.

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"many people on the left would be upset about the withdrawal from Afghanistan, or his approach to the war in Ukraine"

I gotta say that I have never seen anyone on the left upset about any of those. Folks on the left applauded his withdrawal from Afghanistan. Folks on the left are absolutely in support of the Ukraine. But not raising taxes, yeah they probably would have gone after him for that even after his college debt forgiveness initiatives I totally see where you are coming from. They were always going to find something.

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Interesting. I know at least one person who is a critic of Biden from the left who was highlighting a lot of stories like these (and would still list the withdrawal as a case in which the administration fell far short of its responsibilities)

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-65794106

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-63733683

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/09/afghanistan-evacuation-sisters-fall-of-kabul-taliban/670602/?utm_source=pocket-newtab

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There are always going to be outliers on any issue...If you see an approval rating of 80% or above for ANYTHING, you might as well call it 100%....I mean, about 12% of registered democrats are anti-choice or some variety of it...

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Right? It's so depressing that there seems to have to be this one Achilles heel.

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His "historic green infrastructure initiatives" that are not actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions...

His 2030 promise for a 50% reduction has been a lie since the first time it left his lips. We can discuss the EPA statistics if you want, but his "plan" isn't working, isn't a great plan, and has absolutely no capacity to achieve the goal when opposition to it is factored into account.

He's not serious about this. He never was. His "plan" is designed to let him say he's doing something, instead of actually doing something.

You cannot change the material basis of a nation while using only carrots.

So yeah, you want people to get "excited" about politicians lying to our faces? They might do that, but if they do, it won't be to back the liar in question.

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May 27Liked by Hamilton Nolan

Love this. One of my takeaways from 2020 was that Trump got the second most popular votes ever, only behind Biden in the same election. It took all of the "Democratic base" to come together to win. If you had to pick, I'd argue that Rashida Tlaib's district in Michigan was the single most important district in the country, where she ran up a humongous margin and helped Biden win a key state. And Biden looks at those people and either says, cynically, well surely they will vote for me anyway, or says, I don't need them to win. To quote a familiar Morgan Freeman character, "Good luck."

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My bigger problem with "the wild left" is not their goals or their passion - it's their "start at the top and work your way up" tactics. Change comes from *time* and *work*. The presdidency has great power to work - WITHIN THE LIMITS OF CONGRESSIONAL LEGISLATION. Change has always come from the bottom - local, city, county, regional n, state, congress. It's slow. It's WORK. It's disheartening, *because* it takes time. So? Grow up. Do the work. Don't just demand "mommy fix it".

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You are inventing an imaginary version of "the left" and then yelling at it. "The left" in reality includes a ton of groups organizing on state and local and national levels all over the country.

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Apologies for lack of specificity - I was referring (in my head, can't ypu see? 😛) to those whose "actions" consist of TikToks and Reels of "do it my way, do it now or I wont vote!" Many many of "us" (not an accidental use of the word) are actively working at many levels to bring about sustained change. Change will come, but the fascists being in power will delay it more.

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I hear you but this also raises the related problem (which applies more to high profile political commenters than to you) that yeah it's so satisfying to yell at people on tik tok who are dumb but that does not really get at the source of our problems, which is "powerful people who are not on tik tok." However it is addictive for pundits.

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The problem you seem to be having is that you don't like being on the 'other end' of this relatively normal political dynamic. You are no more entitled to the left's silence and complicity than the left is to yours.

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WHY are we forced to vote for Biden? Yeah, you don't do things I like (in fact, do things I expressly am against), and I still have to vote for someone? The fucking entitlement.

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no one "forced" VideoEngAlex to do squat; you just feel bad because you understand what a selfish performative entitled decision you're making without regard to the harm it will cause others when the fascists take over. "You don't do things I like" - tadly broad brush to use there. So your "theory of change" is "hold my breath until the President does it exactly my way" - start at the top and work your way up. Mine, and others, is "make changes at every level possible even if it takes time".

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Well you don't have to ...who is telling you you have to?

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Yeah, the operative term is slactivists…

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I think this imaginary left is really just liberal dogwhistle for Arabs, Asians, Blacks and Latinos who aren’t jazzed for a president who has no redlines when it comes to war crimes and I suspect crimmigration.

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I get your point - Biden has been painfully slow to move towards any criticism of or action against the atrocities of Netanyahu’s government, and that’s not anyone else’s fault. I’m not sure you’re really grappling with the basic math of our electoral system, however. You say: “In the context of 150 million voters across America, the number of those people [lefties refusing to vote for Biden] is small” but an awful lot of us remember the 300 or so votes in Florida that made the difference between Al Gore and Dubya being president - and yes, the Nader campaign in that case was counterproductive with disastrous results rather than any kind of positive use of leverage.

In a popular vote system, your point would be much stronger, but we are stuck with the ridiculous Electoral College in which that small number of voters in a swing state can make a difference. Maybe there aren’t that many lefty activists themselves to supply the votes, but there enough of them poisoning the well on places like Tik Tok to turn off the less engaged folks who keep saying they don’t like Biden but seem incapable of articulating exactly why. I just wish there were a lot more focus on the CHANGING THE POLICIES themselves and not on all this nasty “Genocide Joe” bullshit which saves exactly zero lives but just makes some nasty nobody feel better on social media

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May 26Liked by Hamilton Nolan

Civility is a false god. It’s a rich man shaking his hand while he picks your pocket. Calling someone “Genocide Joe” is not as nasty as co-authoring a genocide. Grow up.

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You’re right, everyone punching each other in the face is much more effective politics than actually building coalitions to make real change happen. You’re so grown up!

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And abstaining from an election where thousands of girls will be forced to give birth against their will, LGBTQ will be outlawed, civil rights will be eliminated and Christian Nationalists will have unchecked power is such a wise, selfless choice.

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Exactly - I just wrote about what the real life impacts would be of Trump working to implement his oft-repeated promise to deport 15 million people: https://kindler.substack.com/p/what-deporting-15-million-people. We need to both fight to stop Netanyahu's war crimes AND do all we can to prevent a world historical human rights crisis in our own damn country.

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Hi, nb pagan here. America is already a hell hole for girls, and women, and queer people, and poor people. Women are already being forced to carry their pregnancies to term. That’s happening. Children are already being raped and forced to give birth. Hell, child labor is making a literal comeback! Not to mention, the number of people experiencing homelessness is increasing exponentially, while living on the street becomes increasingly criminalized. and thanks to qualified immunity, the police can brutalize whomever they want, however they want, and are often rewarded for doing so.

Joe Biden does not gaf about abortion rights, or trans people, or people who are homeless, or the millions of Americans still without health care, and neither does the Democratic Party at large. Anyone who says otherwise is selling you a bill of goods. They have no plan. All they have is “we’re not as bad as Trump!”

Sure, we’ll vote for Joe, but to believe he and his party are some bulwark against fascism is a joke, because that ship sailed a while ago.

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The Biden administration and Dems have done a terrible job communicating their accomplishments on all of these issues but they have significant accomplishments on many of them - take health care. Did you know that we just reached a record low number of uninsured people? (https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2023/08/03/new-hhs-report-shows-national-uninsured-rate-reached-all-time-low-2023-after-record-breaking-aca-enrollment-period.html) - not by sheer luck but through policies like enhanced subsidies? The administration is also doing things to lower drug costs, e.g., through the Inflation Reduction Act giving Medicare the power to negotiate these prices.

They also just set a record in appointing 200 of the most diverse set of progressive judges ever - the most women, the most minorities - to protect all these rights: https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2023/12/04/most-of-bidens-appointed-judges-to-date-are-women-racial-or-ethnic-minorities-a-first-for-any-president/

Please do a little research before dramatically concluding that the administration has “no plan” on anything. Such sweeping statements are custom-made for social media where facts don’t matter, but in real life, facts actually do make a difference.

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Biden is pro-life and has a personal (and political) aversion to abortion rights. Fact.

“Progressive judges” don’t do much good when the deck is stacked against us with SCOTUS so heavily weighted Republican. He could have expanded SCOTUS, but he didn’t because he doesn’t want to, fact.

The judge who okay’d the Microsoft/Activision merger was a corporate-friendly Biden appointee. Fact. I wonder if she’s one of the progressive judges you’re talking about?

Biden is a lifelong Zionist with a strong imperialist bias and he’s never met a cop he didn’t like, fact.

I could go on. My point is, we have plenty to be upset with Biden about. He is not a great or even good president, and I just wish you’d let people live with the assessment they’ve come to themselves. You think we haven’t done research when the reason we don’t like him is because we’ve done a *lot* of research.

If people have to google high and low for good things Biden has done, and they don’t feel the effects in realtime, that’s Biden’s problem, not the left’s. Extremely slow and half-steady is going to lose this race for Joe, and it’s going to be his own fault if he does.

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Yep, he made some compromises that you or I don’t like. But the Build Back Better example is instructive - he had to make lots of concessions to coal man Manchin in order to get the Inflation Reduction Act passed, but he did manage to get it passed, with its hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in clean energy, health care provisions, etc., etc. Would it have been better for him to have settled for passing nothing rather than the most consequential climate bill in US history?

On drilling, it would be fair to say his record is mixed. Whenever he takes major action to restrict fossil fuel development as he has done many times (e.g., new EPA rules that pretty much shut coal burning down), it is absolutely ignored by everyone on the left, because of the ironclad rule that Biden must never be afforded the tiniest modicum of credit for anything he ever does.

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"'Civility' can pit you against an opponent who will happily fight dirty while insisting that you abide by Queensberry Rules."

— ZZ Packer

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ah yes, because turning a blind eye to genocide is the "grown up" position

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The Democratic Party, through their many internal actions, has made it clear that they don't want any "coalition" that affords the left a share of their power; not even one commensurate with the votes the left can deliver.

There's no "building" anything with that.

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I disagree. The first thing Biden did after winning the Democratic primaries in 2020 was set up policy committees with Bernie Sanders to make sure progressives did have a voice in his administration. There’s a whole book about it: https://wwnorton.com/books/the-truce/about-the-book/product-details. Biden has been the most actvely progressve president since LBJ on a range of issues, from labor rights to clean energy to government investment in the economy.

I’d love to see them be more progressive on lots of matter, most certainly including Israel. But folks on the left are not being shut out - if they were, I don’t think you’d see Bernie and AOC endorsing Biden early on as they did.

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Counterpoints:

1) "The most progressive president since X" doesn't mean squat. The bar is too low. Biden sold out by splitting up Build Back Better, with a bonus side deal to Manchin and broken campaign promises about drilling. He wimped out on the $15/hr minimum wage. He dropped the public option, and he broke an imminent railroad strike. Progressives have very much been shut out.

We must raise our standards.

2) Bernie and AOC shouldn't have endorsed Joe Biden—ever. Using them to gauge "the left" yields an incomplete picture.

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If the left had a seat at the table, we would all know it. We would feel it. Bernie and AOC endorsing Biden this early screams *they’ve been bought*.

Look, passing a weak tea infrastructure bill full of gifts to the fossil fuel industry is not enough for us to clap. You folks keep imploring everyone to clap for Joe when he hasn’t truly earned it. Build Back Better is status quo porn — it is boring BY DESIGN, engineered to be unnoticeable, because then you can just shame people for not being impressed by it, because they just don’t understand its complexity, man, it’s a grown-up law for deep thinkers. Enough already. Laws pass in this country only if they don’t go very far to solving our problems.

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HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF SUBSIDIES FOR CLEAN ENERGY is not boring complexity - it’s pretty simple and has never been done before. And I agree the Dems need to do a much better job communicating what they’ve done, but I don’t agree with people who dismiss it all because they haven’t done their own research to find out how much good progressive work this administration is in fact doing right now.

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Committees are where promises go to die.

The left should be determined not to let the Democratic Party's bowels be the graveyard of their energy one election longer.

A party that seeks to demoralize and exhaust your movement into compliance is not a party your movement should be in.

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I think you missed the entire point of the piece.. who has more ability to change policies, someone on Tik Tok calling out genocide or the actual president himself? Calling out the horrid policies of “Genocide Joe” is how you enact public pressure to get him to change policies. Be more frustrated with the person who is refusing to do the change and maybe reread the last 2 paragraphs.

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Maybe reread my first sentence? And no, ugly name calling does not build coalitions for change, amazingly enough. We all have the responsibility to get this right, not just the guy in the White House.

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Why is it more important to be mad about name calling than about co-authoring a genocide

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May 26·edited May 26

It’s fine, you won’t answer in good faith so I’ll just do it for you. You believe there’s nothing that can be done to stop the genocide and therefore we should shut up about it. Good luck making the argument to St. Peter that you had the moral high ground here.

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Good luck learning to read what people actually say rather than trying to stuff your preferred words into their mouths.

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"The Nader campaign in that case was counterproductive with disastrous results rather than any kind of positive use of leverage."

Counterpoint: Democrats took the wrong lessons from 2000 and never looked back.

https://jamesbelcher.substack.com/p/ralph-nader-wasnt-a-spoiler

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On the Media just had an episode about this as well - https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/otm/articles/what-bush-v-gore-revealed-about-contested-elections

I was a barely sentient/coherent 18 year old (and a self-proclaimed "libertarian" to boot) so I don't remember much of the 2000 election. However, if this episode is correct in its narrative, then the Dems did way more to shoot themselves in the collective foot than Nader ever did.

Same as it ever was, it seems.

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I think there's enough blame to go around, but I appreciate you responding with reasoned argument rather than the usual shouting and name calling that sadly dominates social media these days.

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How will that reasoned argument change your take on Ralph Nader and third parties?

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Well, I did read your post but didn’t see much evidence provided, e.g., in the actual numbers. And my problem goes beyond the numbers when you have all these folks just crapping all over Biden and the Dems and generally contributing to this feeling of hopelessness and disillusion when what we really need is the spirit of left and center coming together to knock down the fascists from Trump to Putin to Netanyahu.

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FYI, exit polling in Florida showed 3 of every 5 votes for Nader would have gone to BUSH. Once again, it is rightwing social Democrats who without evidence attack the most Progressive and least corporate candidate in 2000. Oh, and btw, Gore won the completed Florida recount after it was gifted to Bush by the even-then Republican-Corrupted Supreme Court. But do conservative non-centrist Dems attack the Reicht of 2000? No. Always the Progressive Left. Running interference for Retardlican corruption they prefer to protect, lest the wealthy be levied with a progressive income tax, or do you not know it is conservative "centrist" Democrats in Congress who vote with Republicans to forestall a return to progressive taxation??

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Nope. “Nader, both in his book Crashing the Party and on his website, states: "In the year 2000, exit polls reported that 25% of my voters would have voted for Bush, 38% would have voted for Gore and the rest would not have voted at all" (which would net a 13%, 12,665 votes, advantage for Gore over Bush).” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Nader_2000_presidential_campaign)

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Among other evidence, the NBC anchors discussed exit polling establishing that Nader voters *would not have voted for Gore* had Nader not been on the ballot. I also hope you didn't miss how Democrats have since thought it's a-ok to suppress voter choice. How do attempts to squash (e.g.) Greens help "save democracy"?

2000 aside, you're describing a situation where the centrist-controlled Democratic Party is *entitled* to the left's votes without proportional representation. That's undemocratic.

As for fascism, neoliberalism begets fascism. Team Blue has yet to acknowledge that fact, much less reckon with it. If the left votes third party, independent, or stays home in November, it won't be because they're benighted or insufficiently patriotic. It will be because the Democratic Party insisted on giving us more of the same.

It's frustrating enough to make many of us decidedly uncivil.

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I do not in any way think Dems are “entitled’ to votes from the left. Rather, I think folks on the left should make a reasoned calculation that one of the most progressive administrations in US history is a better choice than the one that will make The Handmaid’s Tale everyday reality, create a massive human rights disaster trying to deport 15 million people, give Big Oil its entire wish list, etc., etc.

Ultimately, the problem with third parties in the US context is that the electoral math of our political system is completely unforgiving. It is a zero sum game whether you and I want it to be that way or not.

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dont you think the very activists who name call HAVE tried changing his mind?? I am in that group. Wrote LTE, called congress, emailed, protested -- all upon deaf ears. So easy to criticize the discourse while ignoring the content. typical liberal stance

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I respect the efforts of everyone working to put an end to this tragedy. I've been supporting those on my local county Democratic committee doing the hard work or coming to consensus on a cease fire and peace talk resolution.

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I guess... I think that Biden remains a very long-shot candidate.

I've met rocks that are more inspiring than he is.

Trump is now more popular than he was at any time during his presidency.

The continued collapse of America's integrity, and the continued decay of the beliefs that the country actually means anything, upholds it own laws, or is capable of doing anything good, are fatal, and Biden hasn't really done anything to forestall them.

It was pure stupidity for the Democratic party to force through the re-nomination of a president with a 38% approval rating. Pure stupidity.

So, I'd be surprised if Trump doesn't win in November. I'll be even more surprised if the Constitution and our Democracy survive Trump's second term.

Biden was always going to have an uphill slog to reelection, but he chose to let the stakes become truly existential. I consider that unfortunate for the country.

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It is tiring having this exact same conversation every two years since 2000 (when I was 16) but here we are. Fortunately I live in New York otherwise I would have to hold my nose and vote blue again like I did in every election I ever showed up for. I will be voting for the local and state officials that I like and leaving president blank again this year.

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So, a vote fir Trump. You can share your absurd pride with your fellow prancing, self righteous enablers of fascism.

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Man, this is the whole point against Hamiltons’s thesis above. Did we not learn anything from 2016? It’s not “duh” because you have voters like this who somehow think ennui with your Democratic nominee is better than explicitly voting against Donald goddamned Trump.

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I just don’t understand what’s “left” about Joe Biden. He’s pro-corporation, pro-Pro Wall Street, anti-Medicare for all, pro censorship, psychopathic, bloodthirsty warmonger.

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Yeah Biden is absolutely not a leftist—he’s a corporate Democrat. But he did implement the child tax credit which worked against child poverty, and signed the Inflation Reduction Act that promotes green energy, so that apparently was enough to earn him the “leftist” president title.

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I wrote an article a while ago that showed that most of the green credits went to the wealthy. Most economists were baffled how green credits would reduce inflation, even if they were equitably distributed

https://open.substack.com/pub/mfeldman/p/what-the-hell-is-bidenomics?r=1fwqi&utm_medium=ios

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That’s a true point. It was vague how these credits would be applied, though it’s curious how that got justified to be in an anti-inflation act. No?

Yes more fracking, more drilling. Nothing interrupts big business. Especially not from the man who spent his career taking money from them.

The Biden administration coined the term Bidenomics to show how good the economy was. People associated it with inflation and underemployment. Biden now got stuck with the term and can’t walk it back

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Well, to be fair, the green credits were not meant to be anti-poverty measures, so there’s no reason for it to be equitable as long as it does actually cut carbon emissions, except that they didn’t because Biden kept licensing fracking and oil/gas drilling. Reducing inflation with more fiscal spending was a sophistry from the get-go…

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As was pointed out below, the left will be blamed for Biden's loss but also his win will be in spite of the left. Which begs, the question, if the left (such as it is) is such a consequential voting block, why is Biden so thirsty for Nikki Haley's voters?

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goddam, you make so much sense. why don't YOU run for president???

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Hamilton, it is always a pleasure reading your passionate, honest and well written article.

A different topic. The dilemma of Biden vs Trump, remind me the option of choosing between having a Cancer or a massive stroke. Both are bad for us, the poor people. Take care mate.

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Good stuff.

Matt Bruenig wrote a definitive analytical response to those Democrats who scapegoat the left called "Dysfunctional Coalition Politics":

https://mattbruenig.com/2023/10/26/dysfunctional-coalition-politics/

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I am VERY upset about Biden's position on Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, but have already decided to 'hold my nose' and vote for him again. On some issues I believe Biden is moveable from center to at least slightly left. The Other Guy only seems able to move from right to FAR right.

And I completely agree with you here: "...millions of regular ass people who will not vote for him because they don’t feel excited about him. They will stay home because he has not given them an inspiring thing to vote for." I am very concerned about the constant return to 'Vote for me because the other guy is worse.' While true, what are we voting FOR? To be craven about it - what have you done/are you going to do for me (that the other guy won't do)?

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Yup, Biden is running the show. He’s the boss. He’s got no one else to blame if he loses 🤷🏻‍♂️

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They constantly talk about millennials and their entitlement without clearly seeing themselves. Like. Since when were politicians entitled to my vote? It's just so annoying, all the whining.

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Let’s Not Forget:

WhenBiden was in the Senate, his collagues called him the Senator from Mastercard because he was beholden to purveyors of credit card debt.

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The left wing of the Democratic Party is importantly where exactly in electoral college? Michigan?

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