Douglas E. Schoen and Patrick H. Caddell, Super Geniuses

This is a critical moment for the country. From the faltering economy to the burdensome deficit to our foreign policy struggles, America is suffering a widespread sense of crisis and anxiety about the future. Under these circumstances, Obama has the opportunity to seize the high ground and the imagination of the nation once again, and to galvanize the public for the hard decisions that must be made. The only way he can do so, though, is by putting national interests ahead of personal or political ones.

To that end, we believe Obama should announce immediately that he will not be a candidate for reelection in 2012.

Because the Movement totally respects unilateral capitulation to build ‘compromise.’ How is it that Schoen and Caddell live comfortably and get laurels for this nonsense? Instead of say facing unemployment, foreclosure, struggling with rapacious medical bill collectors like so many millions of Americans? Life indeed is not fair.

Let’s face it: ‘serious’ Democrats are now debating only precisely how much of the New Deal to give up to Jim DeMint. Harsh? Consider Kevin Drum’s insightful breakdown of what’s really in the so-called chairman’s mark of the Deficit Reduction Commission. When examined carefully, as seen in Drum’s chart below, the draft’s Norquistian roots are unmistakable. Drum’s blog linked above is a solid analysis. So far, Drum’s clarity does not seem widely shared among Democrats.

Perhaps the Democrats’ destiny is to be the feeble catalyst for the Movement’s tearing asunder the American social fabric. We share readers’ comments here that returning the current Democrats to majorities in 2012 offers little hope. Even with a primary challenge.

Still, one thing is clear. Urging a lame(r) duck Boy King administration is unbelievably idiotic. It’s like these people are chugging ‘Four Loko of Stupid’ six packs.


  1. dilbert dogbert says

    I love the graph. It looks like a drunkards walk up to the present and then goes smooth forever. Funny how that goes.

  2. LarryM says

    Thanks for the responses. Apologies for the many typos.

    Regarding the reactions of the military and other power centers to an attempt to dispense with the formalities of the elective process … yes, it’s all speculative, and there are many possible scenarios, but bear with me.

    Such a move would, I think, almost have to come from the president (and not a Democrat). Probably with his party controlling both parties of congress. Maybe not, if there was a large enough external shock. In any event, though it seems to me that the only institution that could stop/reverse it at that point would be the military. Either through action (probably) or inaction (refusing the commands of the president). Maybe either would be unlikely. But I see no other institutions with the power to do so. Yes, in the world as it exists now there are many power centers which have much more power to effect domestic events than the military. This is, however, a function in part of instutional choices/tradition by the military.

    It also seems to me that those other power centers would, ironically, actually lose much of their power to effect events if the formalities of elections were suspended. Wall Street (for example) has outsized influence not despite the existence of electoral politics, but in large measure because of electoral politics.

    Which, I guess, is reason to think that, despite the radicilism of the Movement (yes, I absolutely believe that they would be happy to dispense with elections), we will probably keep at least the external trappings of a Constituional Republic. The people and institutions who currently exercise an outsized role in our polity know darn well that they would lose leverage over the political establishment sans elections – and hence have a motive to retain said trappings.

  3. DrLeoStrauss says

    Per Larry’s observations about Movement strands jockeying for position, Grover’s causing mischief via his role with GOProud. They’re a pro gay rights group trying to build congressional focus on tax cuts and fiscal issues rather than the social. (Grover’s really more about cutting taxes and not so much the hard part of balanced budgets. As one saw 2001-08).

    Grover’s group, GOProud, you may recall, caused a stir with its booth and presence at last year’s CPAC. Values Voters groups leaders with whom we’ve shared a beverage or three were and are outraged by Norquist.

  4. DrLeoStrauss says

    Historical analogies are always suspect. We refer to past events here more to illustrate vectors rather than explicitly predict. Especially re the pre-Claudian end game. We also are wary of disguised simple linear extrapolations into the future (ala Malthus, etc.). Or try to be.

    History suggests that something resembling a Man on a White Horse is a possibility on the entropic slope. But we are not Harry Seldon.

    Your questions are apt. Our answers have this caveat: Trevor Roper frequently remarked (before he fell for the fake diaries) we all too often in hindsight mistakenly see the past as inexorable or inevitable. We fail to appreciate the turmoil of events as they actually happen, with uncertainties, unpredictable events and simple chance. (Consider one discovered Oval Office indiscretion or 500 votes in Florida).

    Agree that most if not all political actors in a post-liberal democratic entropy likely wouldn’t care a whit about Grover’s Wednesday Meetings, etc. Or be those strutting across green rooms now. History suggests that many Movement figures believing they and their cause emerged triumphant at best will languish in obscurity if not cells or the grave.

    Should the unthinkable really unfold, Americans will experience this apart from how they’ve been conditioned by black and white porn on the Corporal History Channel. We will see and feel the actions or demolition of familiar brands (e.g., the Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Clubs, ‘Congress’, courts, so-called parties, tweets, etc). Lingering if diluted familiar ‘strangeness’ will mask a greater historical continuity.

    Re how specific power ministries might respond and when, we again invoke Trevor Roper, per above. Chance and unpredictable events will often shape what will later be dictated as pre-destined. In this the Movement has the advantage. Their nihilism per earlier comments thrives and strives for the chaotic and malleable for opportunistic exploitation by those with specific philosophical/ideological polestars (e.g. why the process-consumed Powell, Benchpresser and Wilkerson were overmatched from day one; they have a a lot of company across history).

    The relatively small professional military are only a part now of traditional old school political science actors (or Luttwak’s fun little toss off, ‘Coup D’Etat’). Far more important is the allegiance of civilian/defense industrial/civil service/rotating door/Permanent National Security State Nomenklatura functionaries, etc. The reach is vertical as well as horizontal across entities. Federal money and the PNSS pornography of ‘fusion centers’ sharing so-called sensitive but unclassified info ensures the contamination reaches down to your local county and city police, etc.

    One thing striking about our conversation is the assumption that it will unfold on American terms and conditions. Banana Republics probably shouldn’t be so sanguine.

  5. Comment says

    re Schoen and Cadell – We have not really bothered with their article – Schoen has long been an opponent of Obama – was before Obama got the nomination. It’s sort of pathetic to see him get away with marketing himself as disillusioned (‘even Doug Schoen..’). It’s just a bore to see this kind of stuff. Anyway – not only are they disingenuous about their motives, but they also are disingenuous with their suggestion since both men know that Obama would reduce his effectiveness by not running. So they are playing this annoying game.

  6. LarryM says

    An interesting and all too convincing preidction. A few comments and questions:

    (1) If the Marius/Sulla analogy turns out to be a good one, are you saying that you suspect that the Movement will eventually come come out on top after our Sulla, whoever that might be*? If so, I’m not so sure; I think the Movement might serve the role more as the cataylst of destruction, but get buried in its own revolution. Whatever follows our Sulla won’t be the Republic, but won’t be the Movement either. I think that this is the likely result for a number of reasons. Of course this has much historical precedent, and is cold comfort indeed.

    (2) Which way will the military jump when/if the Movement decides to dispense with the “illegitimate constraints imposed of mechanistic voting processes?” I’m not sure the answer is obvious, one way or the other. The trends in the composition of the senior leadership, of course, are not encouraging.

    (3) Regarding voting against interests, the one limiting factor on the electoral success of the Movement is the fact that in my opionion the over 60 population is the one group in our polity that can, indeed, be relied upon to consitently vote in its own interest – for better or worse. Once the Movement shivs them, if it does, its only hope for electoral survival will be dispensing with meaningful elections.

    *Though perhaps you mean the opposite – Julius Ceasar of course could be regarded as the Marians triumphant – but the Claudians not so much. Or am I misreading the analogy, or late Roman Republican history.

  7. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Larry, cogent points all. The short answer from here is that the Movement doesn’t have a rational end game and will cease to be should it try to adopt one. Secondly, it is, we submit, a mistake to assume the Movement’s various strands believe ultimately the future lies within constraints imposed by the mere mechanistic voting processes.

    Movements generally are amorphous and apart from the organized, institutionalized status quo structures – whether in art, politics, religion. etc. In modern political terms, George Sorel wrote in 1906 about rejecting dogmatic, rational, ”scientific’ Marxism. Instead, he embraced the explicitly irrational, urged violence and exhorted movements to repudiate the then current prevailing faith in science, progress and empiricism. He urged overthrow of the status quo by creating and selling ‘new” (created, synthetic) myths.

    For Sorel in the early 1900s, he thought in the limited notion of strikes, etc. But his articulation of the irrational and the need for public theater to create and then market synthetic myth was adopted by Lenin, in Mussolini’s case (not just the balcony but the very idea of a ‘March on Rome’), throughout Central Europe, Germany, the Iberian Penninsula, Japan, post-war Asia, etc. It’s always been there. What else is nailing a thesis to a Church door? Or rituals predating the Bible? Speer only realized (according to his suspect account the purpose of the Nuremberg rallies) the purpose of the spectacle, mass participation and intensified communal euphoria a means to establish and enshrine a fabricated secular myth as new religion. Which is about belief and faith beyond reason.

    What one can say without over generalizing is that movements may *use* liberal democratic process to gain power, but they by definition do not agree to accept its fundamental legitimacy. That allegiance was and will be to their own movement’s Ur-Myth. This explains the explosion of irrationality delegitimizing electoral outcomes 1992-2000 and again 2008-2010.

    Throughout history here and on the Continent the Ur-Myth is a claptrap, a pastiche of discordant beliefs: ‘restoring a betrayed past’, fighting against ‘the Other’, etc. Almost all Ur-Myths defy the Enlightenment, empirical rationality and are anti-modernist even if a movement may uses the latest techne to market its viral ideologies (the printing press, radio, tv, electrification, telephones and now the Internet).

    Sound familiar?

    Across time such seemingly comical Ur-Myths are almost always mocked by status quo stakeholders in the liberal, empirical tradition. The illogic, the crudities, the contradictions. The condescension continues even after some movements successfully infiltrate status quo political institutions. And take over ‘from within’ as it were. When that happens, in almost all cases the diffuse movement remained (even at their zenith) a minority and govern as a minority. The irony of Lenin calling his rejected minority ‘the Bolshevik (majority) Party’ both chutzpah and inspired AgitProp. Condescending status quo elites believe often they can manage the movements (Red, Right, Brown, etc). Or that the logic of existing political realities will force attenuation. Such expectations always fail because those making the pronouncements are stagnant, static and bound by process and empiricism. Their opponents celebrate the dynamic and refuse such contemptible constraints. The ‘smarter’ status quo find themselves outflanked by further violence, staged/faked public drama, etc. (Who remembers how many terror alerts were announced during the War’s Run-Up here?)

    OK, Larry, beyond that recap of STSOZ 1.0 here’s a more direct answer. Movements because of their amorphous nature almost always refuse to commit to specific and concrete political plan for execution. Goals, notions, vague aspirations are vital to keep the Ur Myth alive and avoid contamination with [insert decadent symbol of current despised status quo]. The very inchoate nature of a non-programmatic reality allows Movements to maintain their energy and adherents by inventing drama and myth based on the exigencies of a given moment. Antithetical to a concrete platform with policy specifics.

    Movements are almost always never unified despite their PR facades. Public theater and abstractions keep disparate strands on board, whether religious, racial, nationalists, weaker parasite strands like the Neocons floating along pretending to support the rest, Gold Standard types, etc.

    In ordinary pluralistic politics, institutions obey the law of addition – adding to one’s base. For the Movement, the key goal is who has and keeps control of the Ur-Myth. The politics of addition is actually a weakness unless strictly controlled. Hence, moderate Republicans are the Movements most reviled enemies and always have been before Reagan conceded in 1976.

    Tom Davis from VA was described to the Stiftung in House Leadership’s offices as a ‘Bolshevik’, Baker a Judas, McCain was the anti-Christ, etc. Shays a wimp – all while Sarah Palin was still doing sports television. There’re nothing new at all in what happened to Crist or Castle. Deviationism is the real enemy. Democrats are a necessary but notional one. Anyone can fabricate a Ted Kennedy on demand.

    In maintaining this synthetic myth and sense of betrayal, blame, anger, explicitly emotional and irrational, movements almost always find it easy to gain adherents over their own objectively rational self-interest. Cognitively, selling belief is easier than selling rationalism, especially when those purporting to defend rationalism lack any coherent philosophy of their own. People who do not understand how Movements work reduce it all to ‘wedge politics’, etc. It is something far more profound about humans as political animals and across time.

    Today, the overall Movement’s primary goal is and must be nihilism – i.e., repeal this, revoke that, defund, tear down, remove ‘illegitimate’ this or that. Creation through negation. Reduce the deficit. Cut government spending. Cut taxes. These are signifiers of Belief in the Ur Myth. They can never be reconciled in todays political processes.

    Complicating matters is the Movement has no unifier, no arbiter. Each strand has a vested interest in keeping politics off balance and malleable while it seeks to achieve its own narrow specific hot button issue. Even should an arbiter emerge (we mean more than footnotes like Dick Armey), synthetic Ur Myths are fundamentally inimical to the mundane, boring, routinized, rational, ‘normality’ of government. Such participation is rejected as ‘capture’. The Tea Party enclave meeting in Baltimore tried some inoculation before they went to D.C.

    Larry, you’re right. The Movement writ large today can’t solve the U.S. fiscal crisis.

    Some strands don’t care. The Plutocrats funding most the myth creation? They seek to extract the most they can from a sinking American ship to line their pockets to remain personally viable players after American decline. They personally will still be players in the Asian post-American global moment. Theirs is short term larceny.

    The Neocons? Unchanged but carry a lower profile for the moment, Cantor’s pledge of allegiance aside. Values voters tasted fleeting influence under Bush and won’t tolerate empty meetings again. None really respect libertarians who are destined to suffer a more ignominious fate than Savinkov’s SRs.

    In the absence of an arbiter, it’s hard to suggest what something as diaphanous at the Movement seeks as an endgame. What we can say it is will be more, just turned up. Should the Movement restore itself fully, eventually the dominant strain will make temporary accommodation with trad political science ‘power institutions’ such as the armed forces, ministries of interiors (DoJ here), Wall Street (industrial classes elsewhere). Bush did. As we saw 2001-2008, the Movement’s fundamental irrational impulses will remain – often obscured even from its nominal institutional allies in the former status quo.

    This is why we predict the republic entropy curve follows Movement triumph to a Marius or Sulla, men on a ‘white horse’ if you will. Both remembered something of the republican, organized politics of ideas and institutions, who attempted to impose a solution, thinking their interventions stabilized matters rather than hastened the dissolution of politics into the personal such as the eventual triumph of the Claudians, etc.

    Our case likely will be much the same but not recognizable by most. Consider what really did Ross Perot represent? As a harbinger. Or a Bloomberg? (Cue Doris Kearns Goodwin explaining why this is all really explained by Bull Moose and other historical factoid bulimia out of context).

    Larry, people vote against their objective self-interest all the time. When they realize their mistake they may not even have a vote. Apologies for the long response. Your questions were terrific and merited a considered reply.

  8. LarryM says

    I don’t see what the Movement’s end game here is, though. Increasingly they are electorally dependant upon retirees – and yet as the above graph demonstrates, and all thinking people know, the big ticket programs are now and increasingly will be social security and medicare (of course the above chart does not break out medicaid and medicare seperately, but medicare cost dwarf medicaid costs, and the gap will only widen under current law). The next biggest item is defense, of course, another sacred cow for the Movement.

    So while I’m sure that most of the movers and shakers of the Movement would be thrilled indeed to “tear asunder the American social fabric,” I don’t really see it happening – not, of course because I have any greater faith in the ability of the Dems to resist it*, but because of mere crass electoral politics (combined, of course, with the fact that even the most draconian spending cuts would need to be combined with SOME tax increases).

    No, I see the more likely end game being continued deficits and the eventual loss of faith in the safety of debt issued by the federal government, causing a huge spike in the interest rates of U.S. bonds, and default.

    Of course, some libertarians openly advocate that end game. No one that I am aware of in the Movement has done so, though it’s easy to suspect that smart movement conservatives realize that the only way that the New Deal goes away is going to be as a consequence of such a default, and thus perhaps that IS their end game.

    Obviously the damage to the world and U.S. economy of such a default would be catastrophic. And ultimately probably end our period as the sole superpower/global hegemon. Which I suppose is why the Movement would ultimately shy away from default (and why some libertairans support it).

    But that just brings me back to my original question – what’s their end game?

    *Yes, I understand that your argument is not merely that the Dems won’t adequately resist it, but will end up activitely aiding the project. Which is easy to beleive – except that it’s hard to imagine the Movement shitting on 1/2 of its electoral base – the elderly and the near elderly – and raising taxes even a little bit, not to mention adopting the significant defense cuts in the Deficit Commision recomendations – even if they get polticcal cover from quisling Dems.

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