Schultz, Citing ‘Spoiler’ Prospect, Bows Out of 2020

The Story:

Throughout 2019, Howard Schultz, the man behind the explosive growth of the Starbucks coffee empire in the 1990s, has been very publicly contemplating the use of his wealth to mount a third-party campaign for President of the United States. Last week, though, he decided that he will not, after all, run such a campaign.

Background:

The old political term “spoiler” refers to a candidate with little or no chance of prevailing himself who nonetheless divides support for one side of a campaign, therefore intentionally or not spoiling that side’s chances and allowing the other side to prevail.

Many in the Democratic Party, for example, have criticized Ralph Nader as a spoiler in connection with the campaign of 2000, when Nader arguably took critical votes in Florida away from the Democratic nominee Al Gore, allowing Republican Gorge W. Bush’s victory in that state, and in the final result.

The Thing to Know:

In his statement Friday, Schultz said “There is considerable concern that four more years of a Trump administration pose a graver threat to our democracy than four more years of political dysfunction.” In the end, he was persuaded by that concern.

Imagined Communities in Review: A Postcolonial and Modern Revisitation

 Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism is one of the most celebrated and debated intellectual works of the 20th century. In this seminal piece, Anderson lays out his own theoretical definition of the nation, which is informed by the work of other thinkers such as Renan and Gellner, as well as a robust analysis of modern history centered on the Americas, Europe and several colonial territories. Having concluded that the nation is, as the title suggests, imagined, Anderson examines the cultural process of its creation. In doing so, he hopes to clarify why such abstract denominations of humanity can command such profound emotional followings and inspire sacrifice as they do.

    There are several key features of Anderson’s definition that contrast with other theorists’ understandings of nationality. His particular theory of nationalism is centered around the contention that the nation is “an imagined political community– and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.” He considers nations ‘limited’ because no matter how large, they are always defined as finite and exclusive, in relation to others that lie beyond their perceived boundaries. ‘Sovereign’ has to do the with the historical definition of nations as a departure from other forms of dominion, principally the religious hold of the Catholic Church over European kingdoms. The use of the term ‘community’ is derived from Anderson’s view of the nation as a “deep, horizontal comradeship” which commands an emotional allegiance from those who belong to it.

In this understanding of the nation, Anderson seeks to explain its seemingly paradoxical nature, which he describes as “the objective modernity of nations to the historian’s eye vs. their subjective antiquity in the eyes of nationalists” and “the political power of nationalisms vs. their philosophical poverty and even incoherence.” He often refers to the nation as a ‘cultural artefact’ which is capable of changing over time and being transposed across distance. Ultimately Anderson diverges from other prominent scholars and summarizes his thesis in the claim that “the creation of these artefacts towards the end of the eighteenth century was the spontaneous distillation of a complex ‘crossing’ of discrete historical forces; but that, once created, they became ‘modular,’ capable of being transplanted […] to a great variety of social terrains.” Anderson spends the remainder of the text explaining the role of these historical forces and how they intersected in various cases, resulting in the multitude of mature and emerging nationalities present in the modern world. He focuses on the development of vernacular languages that wrested power from elites, and print-as-commodity facilitating the spread of information and notions of simultaneity, as key historical forces which intersected to spark the development of nation-states.

    To better understand the reasoning behind Anderson’s convictions about nationalism, it is informative to contextualize Imagine Communities in the time period during which it was produced. As Anderson’s work was first published in 1983, there was a sizable sample of regional decolonization movements in the preceding fifty years that had resulted in the formation of new African and Asian nations. This left the major powers with a host of new states to contend with, especially as the Cold War’s bipolar international system led into the negotiation of alliances and fortification. Thinkers such as Anderson wrote for an intellectual audience– in his case, the English intelligentsia– who sought to inform their opinions about foreign policy in a theoretical rather than strategic decision-making capacity. In short, they were the educated non-military elite with time for cerebral reflection on the historical roots of revolutions seen in the paper.

Marxism was also a topic of more practical scholarly discussion during the Cold War period; particularly its hotly contested claim that capitalist class struggle was the root of all modern war. This would logically preclude the possibility of warfare between Marxist states. Why, then, did the Red Army often find itself at war with revolutionary ethnic minorities of its own realm? Such internal strife seemed to suggest that there was some other, more visceral force at work than a shared class struggle that unifies the transnational Marxism. Anderson’s theory applied to this question provides a far more convincing alternative, explaining the Soviet Bloc’s membership as a projection of an imagined Russian cultural identity over surrounding nationalities, rather than a universalist Marxist ideology. Given the eventual worsening of the subdivisions of the Soviet Union, and continual splintering over ethnoracial lines, nationalism seems to have been at the root of conflict even within (not just between) the bipolar system’s two major players.

    A major strength of how Anderson supports his theory of nationalism is that he credibly demonstrates an understanding of social structures in the diverse areas and periods he writes about. Anderson uses this base of knowledge to broaden the discussion of nationalism beyond the Eurocentric view of other authorities on the subject. One of his most compelling and unique additions to the study of nationalism is the claim that North and South American Creoles were the first pioneers of the imagined community, providing a model for the development of the nation which was later paralleled in the European cultural revolutions of the 19th century. His knowledge of Spanish American demographic nuances and early nationalist rhetoric from Mexico suggest that Anderson has a level of insight which Europe-focused provincialism has missed by viewing early America as a monolithic colonial frontier. Drawing heavily on firsthand accounts by Jesuit missionaries, as well as early examples of vernacular journalism that united disparate areas of Spanish America, Anderson effectively captures popular sentiments that suggest a deep identification with a shared Creole ancestry.

Though he does well to acknowledge the agency of postcolonial territories in developing national identities via language, print capitalism and education, the Englishman Anderson occasionally falls into the trap of ignoring his own nation’s historical tendency to suppress such efforts. In many cases, colonies were not simply awaiting the organic alignment of factors to sprout nationalist ideology, but were victim to deliberate national suppression by their imperial conquerors. Particularly in Chapter 5, where he uses the development of Ireland as a case study, Anderson conveniently glosses over the role that the English played in attempting to eradicate Irish nationalism through colonial homogenization. He paints this as more of an inadvertent byproduct of English nationality being established through language. But in “The Politics of the Irish Language,” NYU’s Sean Cahill highlights the historic importance of Gaelic as a politically symbolic issue of Ireland’s claim to nationhood, and forced Anglicanization as a tactic of English suppression. Banning Gaelic language instruction in public education, as well as targeting Gaelic activists in internment, is a clear case of English hegemony combating the vernacular linguistic aspect of nationalism– which Anderson himself emphasizes earlier in the book as a key force in Western European nations’ individuation from a larger body, in that case the Catholic Church.

    Imagined Communities’ publication has prompted a wide variety of reactions, ranging from theoretical critiques to case studies of emerging imagined national identities.

In Itzigsohn and vom Hau’s “Unfinished Imagined Communities: States, Social Movements, And Nationalism in Latin America,” the sociology researchers use Anderson’s model to analyze trajectories in the development of postcolonial Latin American nations, giving particular attention to the role of modernization. The article recognizes Anderson for filling a gap in the literature regarding nationalism by exploring its origins in the aforementioned chapter on Creole nationalism. “Most theories of nationalism are grounded in European case studies. One of the few notable exceptions is Benedict Anderson’s highly acclaimed Imagined Communities, which argues that early nineteenth-century “creole pioneers” invented nations in the struggle for Independence from Spain, thereby establishing a “blueprint” for nationalism around the globe.”The article also highlights key criticisms that Imagined Communities received from the academic community. Foremost among these is the postmodern view that Anderson mainly focuses on the intellectual elite, failing to fully account for the role of ‘subaltern’ actors in the development of Creole national identity. Nevertheless, the study largely confirms the validity of his analysis concerning Latin-American nations’ development, even as they progressed into the early 20th century.

In a 2006 piece published in the London Review of Books, T.J. Clark poses the question of how technological developments of modernity might influence the formation or reformation of imagined communities since Anderson’s initial publication. He proposes that new ‘technics of representation’ might play a role in reshaping or even subverting established national identities across the world. Clark describes the rapid expansion of visual media such as television as having a potential impact in the development of new transnational citizenries, likening the impact of ‘screen capitalism’ to that of the advent of print capitalism in Anderson’s argument. Interestingly, it is unclear whether he believes modernization has resulting in new nationalisms or the rehashing of old ones, as the main example he uses is religious in nature. “It seems to me that a complex rejigging of the balance of forces between nation and ummah, nation and congregation, nation and jihad, nation and chosen people, is underway in many parts of the world – and not only under the banner of Islam. And this has something to do with the new opportunities offered by screen capitalism.” He later states more explicitly the relevance of Imagined Communities and the parallels to print capitalism in modern technology’s impact: “A shuffling and grating of imagined communities is taking place. And this is connected, as I say, with the arrival of new technics of representation. Imagined Communities gives us the beginning of a way to think about just such matters, in its treatment of the effect of print capitalism on the day-to-day imagining of those things called ‘languages’, and its reflections on the role of the newspaper and the novel.” Clark makes a compelling argument that even as new modes of cultural expression and communication (‘technics of representation’) have developed, Anderson provides a historical model that is suggestive of their implications for present-day nations.

At a point in history where liberal internationalism has fallen out of favor and perceptions of national identity are again the focus of domestic politics, it is critical for academics to have a coherent explanation for the phenomenon of nationality. Anderson adds to this conversation by providing an exhaustive theory, grounded in multiple national histories and extraordinarily deep evidence, that pushes back on the primordialist viewpoint. Most importantly, he reorients the entire debate by explaining nationalism as a human construction centered around often-shaky perceptions of a shared past. Thus, he shows nationalism not to be uniquely modern nor rooted firmly in the past; rather, it resides in present reimaginings of a cultural past, which become more important to nationalists than the actual events which transpired.

Considering the significant political power that nationalist agendas still command in major states, Imagined Communities is surely relevant to the current world. But perhaps it needs to be revised in light of new levels of global interconnectivity. Humanity has developed technologies that make geography less relevant and language more universal, allowing for the conception of communities Anderson could not have anticipated in 1983. To build on his work, further research on nationalism in the modern age should seek to incorporate developments such as Clark’s ‘screen capitalism’ and, in some cases, lingering disputes over language. Newly produced works dealing with the EU or USA might seek to address the question: if Anderson correctly characterizes the nation as a mutable but finite category, what developments could prompt today’s nationalist ideologues to tighten or expand their definitions of national belonging?

Bibliography

Anderson, Benedict R. O’G. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of

Nationalism. New York: Verso, 2016.

 

Cahill, Sean. 2007. “The Politics Of The Irish Language”. New York University.

https://as.nyu.edu/content/dam/nyu-as/irelandHouse/documents/0111-0126_PoliticsOfTheIrishLanguage.pdf.

 

Clark, T.J. 2006. “In A Pomegranate Chandelier: Benedict Anderson”. London Review Of Books.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n18/tj-clark/in-a-pomegranate-chandelier.

 

Itzigsohn, José, and Matthias vom Hau. 2006. “Unfinished Imagined Communities: States,

Social Movements, And Nationalism in Latin America”. Theory And Society 35 (2): 193-212. doi:10.1007/s11186-006-9001-1.

-Omar Essa

The politics of “Avengers: Endgame”: Thanos, Iron Man and the Malthusian extreme

One of the features that made the last two “Avengers” movies distinct from other superhero fare is that the villain, Thanos (Josh Brolin), wasn’t motivated by the usual “take over the world” agenda. As he explained to his adopted daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana), “It’s a simple calculus. This universe is finite, its resources finite. If life is left unchecked, life will cease to exist. It needs correcting.” When Gamora protested that he couldn’t possibly know that to a certainty, Thanos responded, “I’m the only one who knows that. At least, I’m the only one with the will to act on it.”

If you’re familiar with the work of Thomas Robert Malthus, this logic will sound familiar. In his 1798 book “An Essay on the Principle of Population,” Malthus argued that resource abundance led to population growth rather than a high standard of living and would eventually become unsustainable. Malthus’ ideas remain hotly contested to this day, but they are simple enough — and, perhaps most importantly, easy enough to interpret on behalf of a tyrannical, mass murdering agenda — that it is logical a variation of them to show up in a fictional supervillain’s philosophy.

One of the best things about “Avengers: Endgame,” though, is how it uses that philosophy to look into Thanos’ soul — and how the Avenger who winds up killing Thanos was the living embodiment of the opposite worldview.

When the audience sees Thanos again for the first time in “Avengers: Endgame,” the mad titan has retreated to a garden planet to retire. Notably, one of the first things Thanos did was destroy the Infinity Stones, both so that his work in killing half the universe’s population couldn’t be reversed and so that he wouldn’t succumb to the temptation to use the stones to become a living god. Considering how many comic book fans believe that Thanos is the single most powerful figure in all of comic books, that decision is a big deal. It seemingly establishes that Thanos, no matter how evil his actions may have been, was genuinely motivated by a desire to make the universe a better place rather than by egotism or power lust. And as Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) observes to Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), a pod of whales has been spotted in the Hudson River, near New York City. The population reduction strategy, though evil, was not without its benefits.

Yet once Thanos begins to see his agenda as an “inevitability” (his word), and is confronted with the possibility that this destiny may be thwarted by the Avengers, a different side of him emerges. Instead of seeing that the moral consequences of his iconic finger snap were too much for the world to bear — that the universe would much rather deal with its resource allocation problems in a humane way than simply kill off half the population — Thanos instead argues that life is stubbornly unwilling to accept the wisdom of his approach, and is therefore unworthy of living…

Brexit talks take positive turn towards possible compromise

Keir Starmer and John McDonnell leave the Cabinet Office

Cross-party talks on Brexit between the government and Labour have moved on to the “nuts and bolts” of a possible compromise, Labour’s Sue Hayman has said, with sources on both sides suggesting discussions were taking a more positive tone.

Talks with senior shadow ministers and officials are likely to continue this week, including on key areas of previous disagreement that had previously been swerved, including a customs union, single market alignment and dynamic alignment of workers’ rights and environmental protections.

It is understood no new offer from the government has been put on the table but participants emerged with a new optimism about a change in tone and a feeling that there were grounds to continue discussions, a marked contrast to last week’s talks.

Theresa May’s de-facto deputy, David Lidington, who has been leading talks for the government, said he was encouraged by the “need to inject greater urgency”.

Hayman, the shadow environment secretary, said it was “a really constructive discussion” that had been “getting much more into the nuts and bolts of the detail.” She said she now believed the government was “open to moving forward in our direction”.

The government has all but abandoned plans to try to force through the Brexit deal using the withdrawal agreement bill and will instead try to devise a way to forge a compromise through new indicative votes if talks with Labour break down.

May’s spokesman said cross-party talks would continue as long as there was “still a prospect of reaching a single position to put to parliament”, but added that the prime minister would then look to bring forward “a small number of votes to try and find a way through parliament”.

Asked whether that would be votes on new options for a Brexit deal or on legislation, the spokesman said: “I’m referring to options.”

There is an acknowledgement that something new must be attempted by the government before…

Op-Ed: The dangers of political showmanship

FILE - Protest rally
Shutterstock photo

“If we really want to know who is responsible for the mess we’re in, all we have to do is look in the mirror. You and I own this country and we are responsible for what happens to it.”

– Ross Perot

Hyde Park in London is located near the entrance to Buckingham Palace. It’s been hosting free concerts, festivals, fairs, noble duals, and events since the 1500s. During the 19th century when Europeans were passionate about social and political change, people from all over Europe fled to Hyde Park to share their grievances. Today, activists from around the globe flock to Hyde Park to voice their views about anything and everything freely. It has been dubbed the free speech zone for “bewailing.” On any given day, there is enough hot air generated to launch the Goodyear Blimp.

America has been a free speech zone since our founding. Free speech led to The Revolutionary War. It fought wars. It stopped bad wars and ended slavery. It provided equal opportunity. Activists didn’t just talk the talk but walked the walk and made social and political history in America. Their voices were the call to action. Their battle cries were not criticisms for self-enamoration, but for a cause greater than they were. They finished what they started. They weren’t like some activists today that fill social media with so much hot air that climate changers accuse them of global warming.

One of the virtues for those seeking political and social asylum in the New World was freedom of speech and assemblage. America was founded on activism by men of honor whose actions spoke louder than their words. Thomas Paine, our forgotten founder, walked from township to township to motivate passive colonialists to revolt for freedom. During the Revolution, he inspired our soldiers to keep fighting when defeat was on the horizon. If it wasn’t for Paine’s activism, we’d still be subjects instead of citizens.

“A man’s actions say much more than his most noble words.”

– Thomas Paine

Throughout our modern history, the activism of true leaders has made our nation stronger and far better than it would have been without them. Dynamic speakers like Ronald Reagan and Dr. Martin Luther King inspired the actions of others to bring about social and political change that made America a better place for everyone. Real leaders create more leaders than they have followers because:

“There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

– Ronald Reagan

American activists responded to abuse of power by politicians like Huey Long, Franklin Roosevelt, Barack Obama and others. Activist legislators in FDR’s party revolted against his attempt to stack the court with hand-picked justices. Obama, who pledged to unite our nation, divided it soon after he took office. When he laid…

On Politics: Inside the Obama-Biden Relationship

Good Monday morning. Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today.

_____________________

What started out as a Felix-and-Oscar odd couple — a no-drama intellectual and a gregarious, shoulder-squeezing pol — evolved into a surprisingly close friendship unlike any between a president and vice president in modern times. This is the story behind the relationship between Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Despite doubts about his candidacy, Mr. Biden begins the race with substantial support from three key constituencies in his native state of Pennsylvania: suburban moderates defecting from the Republican Party under President Trump, black voters who were underwhelmed by Hillary Clinton, and working-class white voters.

Attorney General William P. Barr and congressional Democrats clashed on Sunday over his scheduled testimony before the House Judiciary Committee this week, with Mr. Barr threatening to skip the session and the panel’s chairman threatening to subpoena him.

As House Democrats return to Washington after a two-week recess, they will find a Capitol consumed by the Mueller report. But rank-and-file Democrats are not being propelled by their constituents into impeaching the…

Trump, Media Assaults on Omar a New Low for American Politics

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent, @StacyBrownMedia

American politics appears to have hit a new low.

According to reports, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has beefed up security following the vicious attacks she’s received and even news reports that paint her as un-American.

What’s worse, the attacks stem from tweets made against her by President Donald Trump.

Representative, Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaking at a Hillary for MN event at the U of MN, October 2018. (Photo: Lorie Shaull / Wikimedia Commons)

“The criticisms of Congresswoman Omar, what Trump has been saying about her, is reprehensible,” said New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a Democratic presidential candidate.

“It is trafficking in Islamophobia, and should be condemned by everyone,” Booker said.

One of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, Omar has come under repeated attack from the president and others, including Fox News as a result of her questioning America’s relationship with Israel.

“We will never forget,” Trump tweeted in all-capital letters recently, attaching a video that spliced together comments Omar made with footage of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Some media favorable to the president have also attacked Omar and despite death threats made against her, Trump has continued his assault by calling her –without any supporting evidence and against her denials – “anti-Semitic,” and “anti-Israel.”

Booker noted that Trump has also attacked other African American women leaders like California Rep. Maxine Waters.

“The kind of language this president uses, especially about Black women in power, is toxic,” Booker said.

That Trump claims he’s not racist isn’t satisfactory, Booker said.

“It’s not enough to say, I’m not a racist. We must all be anti-racist,” he said.

The rhetoric by Trump and his allies against Omar have resulted…

Watch Trump Dismantle Your Will to Live During His Unhinged Rally

Donald Trump speaks at a podium

President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at Resch Center Complex in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Andrew Harnik/AP/REX/Shutterstock

President Donald Trump went on a 90-minute extended rant during his rally in Wisconsin on Saturday night, programmed against the White House Correspondents Dinner that he refused to attend. During his unhinged monologue, the president said many ridiculous things that will sap your will to continue living in this nightmare dystopia, including: accusing mothers and doctors of executing newborns, calling the media “sick” and ex-FBI officials “scum,” claiming credit for the “sick” idea of sending undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities, and doing an impression of the Saudi king’s accent. Oh, and, of course, there were “Lock her up!” chants.

Speaking about abortion, Trump brought up a lie he’s been touting for a while: that newborn babies are “executed” by their mothers and doctors. He accused Democrats of “aggressively pushing extreme late-term abortion, allowing children to be ripped from their mothers’ womb right up until the moment of birth.”

Barack Obama

Then, he went even further, saying, “The baby is born, the mother meets with the doctor, they take care of the baby, they wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby. I don’t think so.”

Never mind that what he said was patently, demonstrably false. It doesn’t matter because Trump’s goal (and the goal of anti-choice activists) is to strip women of bodily autonomy by any means necessary. And yes, that includes lying about women going through the harrowing experience of having a baby who cannot survive outside the womb.

Here’s Trump making…

When politics crowds out good tax policy

Glen Hodgson is a senior fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute.

Canada’s tax system should be a cornerstone of strong economic performance, encouraging private investment, higher personal savings and high levels of labour force engagement and work effort while also addressing social priorities such as reducing child poverty. However, populist and opportunistic politics too often drive changes to the tax system, not considered analysis about what is best for long-term economic and employment growth and a healthy society. Is it possible to change how tax policy is made and refocus on the potential benefits to the economy and society?

All too often, proposed changes to the tax system have been designed first and foremost to win popular support, regardless whether there is any hard evidence that it would be good for the economy and society. Numerous recent examples quickly spring to mind.

The Conservative promise over a decade ago to cut the GST rate may have been good politics at the time, but the opposite of what good economics would advise. Lowering sales tax rates encourages more consumption, which does nothing to boost long-term savings, private investment and potential growth – as many private-sector economists reminded the government. Economic analysis suggests sales tax rates should be raised and personal income taxes cut to improve incentives to work and save.

Politically inspired tax policy has cut across party and ideology. For example, increasing the top income tax rate was justified by the current Liberal federal government as a way to improve tax fairness. However, the increase means taxpayers in every province east of Saskatchewan now take home less than 50 cents of every additional dollar earned above $210,000 when combined with provincial income taxes. The economic literature suggests a higher top marginal…

Trump’s UK visit and the power of protest

Donald Trump

Simon Jenkins’ decrying of anti-Trump and other demonstrations displays a surprisingly simplistic understanding of the politics of protest (To rage against Trump’s visit is simply childish, 27 April). His scattergun disdain appears to condemn as meaningless any mass objection that cannot result in the instantaneous withering of the intended political target. Presumably the actions of the thousands who risked and lost their lives in Tiananmen Square in 1989, for example, would be understood as a monument to childish futility in the world of mathematically harmonious political symmetry that Jenkins’ activism requires, for “unless there are consequential gains to such action, it is mere self-indulgence”.

His reference to Ceauşescu, Mugabe and Mobutu as precedents for tolerating Trump’s state visit is equally mystifying. It could at least be argued (however weakly) that in their invitation lay the desperate hope of some leverage to be ventured against murderous tyrants otherwise immune to moral shaming, economic sanction or political threats. By contrast, it is precisely because the US shares with us the same moral universe and democratic principles that anti-Trump protests represent a powerful rejection of his traducing of those shared values. Offering such painful truths from within this so-called special relationship can be easily understood on both sides of the Atlantic as entirely legitimate objections to the man, not the office. It might also offer welcome evidence of solidarity, to the millions of US citizens who feel aggrieved by their contemptuous, megalomaniac representative – but presumably that’s too childish a gesture.
Paul McGilchrist
Colchester, Essex

• I am sure Simon Jenkins regards himself as a voice of reason, and he is undoubtedly blessed with considerable intellect. Curious, then, that he writes “If there is a…