A striking quote from William Jennings Bryan's famous "Cross of Gold" speech in 1896. (via @adam_tooze) adamtooze.substack.com/p/chartbook-44…
In the wake of a period of horrendous crisis & suffering in the US economy, Bryan tried to rally a populist revolt, win the presidency, & end the gold standard, which favored the rich at the expense of the masses. He & his followers believed the revolt necessary & inevitable.
But Bryan, opposed by status quo interests, lost. The suffering continued; the gold standard stayed in place for years to come.

I flag all this because Tooze's post reminded me of something I've been thinking about a lot in the last few years.
In US history class, we tend to learn about the chapters we now view as triumphs -- the end of slavery, women's suffrage, the Civil Rights movement, etc. But what I didn't realize until much later is that those chapters are the exceptions. There are many, many more examples ...
... of Americans trying really hard to be better & more just ... & then reactionary shitheads successfully thwarting them. Aaaaalmost making progress ... and then not. Obviously Reconstruction is the glaring example here, but there are so many more; I learn new ones all the time.
Like Bryan's near-victory. Think of how the US could have been transformed! But no. Reactionary shitheads.

The more I learn about episodes like this, the more it seems to me that the essential story of the US is not the sporadic & inadequate progressive moves forward...
... but the much more frequent & consistent *blocking* of progress by (white) reactionary shitheads. So many near-misses. So much effort & sweat & passion from people of good will, thwarted by a distorted system that empowers liars who shill for the powerful. Again & again.
It's funny, on some level, that as a culture we celebrate & teach our kids about the few times the reactionaries lost & we made some progress. But even as we celebrate those past victories, we allow reactionaries to block progress in the present.
That's what B. Clinton was, and Obama too -- a brief window in which real, substantial progress could have been made ... but was largely thwarted by reactionaries. And now we're watching it play out *again*, in excruciatingly slow motion, in DC.
That's the bulk of US history: chances to be better ... that the establishment successfully blocks or deters. That's the median tale, the most common, & the one most likely at any given moment.

Yes, I'm a barrel of laughs today. ☀️

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with David Roberts

David Roberts Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @drvolts

12 Oct
This thread has gotten some traction (read it!), but I wanted to add one important point. Lots of the responses are some version of, "exactly, Democrats are terrible at messaging & framing!"

But that's NOT what I'm saying. This is an important distinction. (mini-thread)
We talk all the time about "messaging" but tend to conflate two meanings. On one hand, messaging is *choosing messages*, ie, crafting words & soundbites & images that effectively convey your points/positions. The educated, word-loving left fairly obsesses over this aspect.
But the other, arguably more important meaning of "messaging" is ***the ability to deliver messages to the intended recipients***. Unlike the first meaning, this one has very little to do with cleverness & facility with words & everything to do with *power & money*.
Read 10 tweets
12 Oct
Yes, I love Ted Lasso, but I gotta say, Nate's heel turn was a little ... undercooked. He went from nebbishy & insecure to practically a Bond villain without much in between.
I mean, I guess they showed him snapping at players & being more of a dick this season, but I never completely understood why. Even if he wanted more respect or whatever, how does that translate into being petty & snappish with players? Hurt by Ted, sure, but *hating* him?
As always, an interesting discussion here! Couple thing popped out worth flagging. First, this post from the actor who plays Nate.
Read 4 tweets
10 Oct
Apparently everyone has to have an opinion on "popularism" now, so lemme just say what I think is the single most important point in Ezra's excellent review of the debate: nytimes.com/2021/10/08/opi…
Namely this, from @anatosaurus. What voters hear about Democrats is only tenuously related to what Democrats say & do. Image
Fully half the media -- inc. the top-rated cable channel & the most influential FB pages -- is propaganda *specifically designed* to make Democrats look horrible. It's a little wild to me that this ongoing discussion about Dem strategy takes so little note of this fact.
Read 15 tweets
8 Oct
Today on Volts: I'm too anxious about the political situation to focus on anything, so I wrote a rant about economists, the ways they've botched climate change, & what they might learn from it.
Several readers flagged that today's post omitted one of the other central critiques of carbon pricing, which that it is the optimally efficient policy only if unpriced carbon is the *only* market failure or externality -- which of course, it isn't. Energy markets ...
... are some of the most regulated, managed, distorted, & subsidized markets in the world. The electricity sector, fully of monopoly utilities, is practically soviet. Tweaking the price on carbon & letting everything else go leaves all those distortions in place.
Read 7 tweets
7 Oct
At least in my personal experience, "doomism" is similar to "degrowth" in that I encounter people criticizing it FAR more often than I encounter the actual thing. washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/…
Pieces like this could just say, "doomism annoys me, it's wrong." But that doesn't feel grand enough. So it asserts that doomism "threatens to derail" all our progress on climate. Yeah? How? What evidence is there for that assertion?
Examples of doomism in the piece include a 3yo Jonathan Franzen article and a tweet. If it was a resurgent force that literally threatened to derail climate progress, you'd think examples would be easier to come by.
Read 8 tweets
6 Oct
What most third parties want is the kind of policies Democrats support, but without all nastiness & caricatures & fighting that comes along with being a Dem. What is very obvious but they don't seem to realize ...
... is that the second they stick their heads up, Republicans will attack & caricature them too & then they too will be stuck in frustrating endless fights against gaslighting pricks.

Then what? A fourth party? You won't get politics without politics.
There is no polite, civil, grown-up, Very Serious way to advocate for humane policy of the sort that is taken for granted in other wealthy democracies. That's not because Dems are doing it wrong, it's because the right slimes *anyone* who does that.
Read 4 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!