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Culture War Roundup for the week of November 28, 2022

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It would be ridiculous for Republicans to not expect primary shenanigans: in 2024, I expect vast swath of Democrats to coordinate in reregistering as Republicans and voting with Never-Trumpers for a particular non-Trump candidate in every state, or at least states which are key electoral states for the primary vote. Obviously, then, Democrats would gladly switch back to their own candidate for the general election. (Rush Limbaugh coordinated Republicans doing this in 2008, Operation Chaos, to force the Democrat superdelegates to pick between the first Black President and the first woman President).

What are ways that the Trump contingent could bring such a conspiracy to light without sounding like schizophrenic conspiracy theorists? And then how to combat such a scenario at the polls effectively?

What are ways that the Trump contingent could bring such a conspiracy to light without sounding like schizophrenic conspiracy theorists?

They can't. If this happens, the media will report it both as straight news with a positive spin, and call any Republicans complaining about it "schizophrenic conspiracy theorists". When the other side controls the media, you have to write off optics.

Celebration Parallax once more:

The Celebration Parallax may be stated as: “the same fact pattern is either true and glorious or false and scurrilous depending on who states it.” In contemporary speech, on any “controversial” topic—or, to say better, regime priority—the decisive factor is the intent of the speaker. If she can be presumed to be celebrating the phenomenon under discussion, she may shout her approval from the rooftops. If not, he better shut up before someone comes along to shut him up.

If that actually happened, would it really be a plan of which the general populace disapproves? Seems to me that voting against someone you don't want elected is well within the spirit of democracy. I welcome republicans to do the same during democrat primaries.

Counterexample: It'd be a lot shadier if democrats purposefully won trump the nomination because they expected him to lose the general election. It's both risky and it feels more of a hack to vote for someone you don't actually want.

I welcome republicans to do the same during democrat primaries.

Am I being crazy in thinking that it's probably not good for the country in which you live and are a citizen if all parties that aspire to national office end up consistently putting up weaker candidates than what they actually have available for the national offices? That this kind of sabotage is ultimately incredibly self-destructive?

This seems like an obviously less preferable equilibrium that a, I guess, "SANE" nation would outright reject if possible since they would want to have the choice be between the strongest candidates possible so even if their preference loses at least it won't be a drastic difference in 'quality.'

OP was talking about democrats boosting non-trump candidates. Presumably, democrats are picking candidates they like better than trump. That's not sabotage, that's just expressing your preference.

If democrats were purposefully selecting weak candidates they don't prefer nor think can win an election, I would agree it's sabotage, that it leads to weaker nominees and that it's not good for the country.

Counterexample: It'd be a lot shadier if democrats purposefully won trump the nomination because they expected him to lose the general election. It's both risky and it feels more of a hack to vote for someone you don't actually want.

This is basically the strategy they used in 2020, intervening in GOP primaries to advance Trump-style candidates knowing they'd be easier to defeat in the general (which they were).

I expect vast swath of Democrats to coordinate in reregistering as Republicans and voting with Never-Trumpers for a particular non-Trump candidate in every state

That would be odd, since if anything Democrats did the exact opposite this year.

(Rush Limbaugh coordinated Republicans doing this in 2008, Operation Chaos, to force the Democrat superdelegates to pick between the first Black President and the first woman President).

That is not what the linked article says, and in fact every other serious candidate withdrew from the race by the end of January of 2008, so if anyone "force[d] the superdelegates to pick between the first Black President and the first woman President," it was voters in Iowa and the handful of pre-Super Tuesday primaries.

Rush was coordinating an effort to keep the election close enough that the superdelegates would provide the margin of victory. It's a smart tactical move as it means one candidate's fans feel screwed by the party elites.

Limbaugh

Agreed that Limbaugh’s campaign can’t be credited with much. Source. If shock-jock political frothing were actually an effective tool for coordination, both parties would be leveraging it much harder.

exact opposite

Ironically, that’s not what the article says. As objectionable as I find the practice of funding extremism in the Republican party, it doesn’t really count as coordinating a fifth column of primary voters.

Speaking as someone who strongly hopes for a Democratic victory in 2024 (and indeed in pretty much every election), I would probably be much more inclined to get whichever Republican was most likely to lose nominated rather than aiming to win it for the least worst moderate Republican.

I would probably be much more inclined to get whichever Republican was most likely to lose nominated

I would probably consider the possible second-order effects here. If the Republican nominee is going to be weak, then seems likely that the Dem candidate might also be weaker than usual since the candidates on the Dem side will sense an opportunity.

Likewise, would you want there to be a general norm of outside-parties sabotaging the primary process of the parties so as to ensure the worst picks win every time?

Would it be good or bad for the nation (which, I presume, is where you live) if the parties consistently nominate weak candidates despite 'objectively' better options existing and entering the fray?

If this were an accepted tactic by the Democrats I would honestly consider it strong evidence for the GOP's "The Democrats are anti-American" thesis, since pushing weak candidates towards national offices will have the predictable effect of leading to weaker candidates running the national government, and what kind of actual patriot would ever want that for their country?

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

In an ideal world, you would want your election for the most powerful role in the country to be a 'fair' showdown between the best possible candidates that can be mustered. Because the national election is supposed to ultimately be the culmination of a friendly competition to advance the good of the whole, and efforts to undermine that are inherently self-destructive, no?

Like, we wouldn't want the winner of the Super Bowl to be some mediocre team that happened to be good at sabotaging all the other teams behind the scenes, would we? They could hire thugs to kneecap star players and try to sneak drugs into their opponents' water cooler, and that would help them win! But that would kind of tarnish the whole affair, and be a poor reflection on the state of the sport of professional football. All participants are competing but are still better off if contests are decided by skill at the game and not backstabbery.

Hahaha. The two parties are corrupt coalitions of monied interests led by gerontocrats who, trump excepted, generally obey the machine rather than giving the orders. In practice the R or D next to the candidates name tells you a lot more about what they’ll do in office than the actual name does.

For our purposes I'm pretending that Third parties have some influence when they put forth a candidate.

But if we go with the "all political candidates are inherently the product of the party machine" then it suggests one should REALLY focus on improving their own party's machinery rather than futzing with the opposition's.

Or focus on burning both down.

For our purposes I'm pretending that Third parties have some influence when they put forth a candidate.

Why? Shouldn't your model conform to reality?

If this were an accepted tactic by the Democrats I would honestly consider it strong evidence for the GOP's "The Democrats are anti-American" thesis, since pushing weak candidates towards national offices will have the predictable effect of leading to weaker candidates running the national government, and what kind of actual patriot would ever want that for their country?

They did it in 2016, this was the pied piper strategy

HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

Yes, I have updated a couple times towards the Democrats being an 'Anti-American' party. This isn't me endorsing the GOP, however. This shouldn't be a difficult tactic to counter, either.

HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

Wildcard rule, this is annoying, stop doing it.

Your model assumes that our political contest is similar to competitive sports, a cooperative exercise in pursuit of shared goals, and may the best man win. I don't think this is the way most politically-active people on either side see things these days. I don't think it's possible to reasonably assess the claim that either party is "Anti-American" without understanding that the two parties' members disagree pretty strongly on what America is and should be.

I don't think it's possible to reasonably assess the claim that either party is "Anti-American" without understanding that the two parties' members disagree pretty strongly on what America is and should be.

I guess I'm a tad bit old fashioned in that I think what "America" the nation-state is and should be is defined in large part by the Constitution which created said nation-state. And that it is completely fair game to criticize and even undermine that document as a valid founding instrument worth obeying... but you don't then get to aggressively enforce obedience/adherence to the very political ties/institutions that were created by said instrument. The States agreed to cede political power to a Federal government in exchange for very substantial limits on what the government could do. I see no reason why the States are morally, ethically, or legally required to continue to obeying the Federal government when it begins to blatantly exceed those limits whilst still claiming to be operating by that founding document.

So I see shit like this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_1619_Project

And I conclude that they (Democrats, which can include at least part of 'the left') simply do not care much for the nation "America" that was founded on a particular set of ideals and with a particular set of rules, but VERY MUCH like "America" the economic/political unit that is currently the most powerful human-controlled entity on the planet. And they will pretend to support the former in order to maintain control of the latter.

So to make my point clear: I have concluded that the Democrats, on most levels, are completely against the norms, traditions, and legal boundaries that were supposed to define the nation they aspire to govern, and more relevant, are completely willing to discard said norms, traditions, and boundaries whenever they're an actual impediment to their own party's interests.

I don't even have to invoke the concept of "The Cathedral" to reach this conclusion, I generally just have to look at Democrat rhetoric surrounding the First Amendment ("Hate speech isn't free speech, AND I don't care if Corporations violate free speech!" and their insistence on forcing Christian Bakers to bake gay wedding cakes and claim its not violating religious freedom) and the Second Amendment (ignoring any language therein aside from "well-regulated militia") compared to say, their rhetoric around the "right" to abortion which simply does not exist under any sane reading of the actual founding document, but which could surely be added via the prescribed amendment process if it had the overwhelming support they claim.

The GOP has it's own problems in this regard (military adventurism in particular), but it's blatant to the point it cannot be ignored when it comes to Democrat politicians.

Either we can agree that the Constitution is the valid founding document under which our political institutions are legitimized and have our fights within that context, or we don't, at which point one or both parties can, I think, validly said to be 'anti-American' to the extent they refuse to accept such founding document and the rules it imposes.

I guess I'm a tad bit old fashioned in that I think what "America" the nation-state is and should be is defined in large part by the Constitution which created said nation-state.

This doesn't actually work; it just displaces the substantive questions to various interpretational meta-questions like: "what does 'Necessary and Proper' mean?" and "Is the 'militia clause' prefatory or limiting?" and "what does 'Due Process of Law' mean?"

If only there were a theory of legal interpretation which sought to determine the original meaning of those words as intended by the drafters and signatories to the document at the time it was drafted and signed.

Which, incidentally, is how almost all other contracts are interpreted by courts.

Okay, so now you've just displaced the object level arguments one meta-level higher; now it's a battle over whatever historical evidence you can turn up or torture to support your position. Originalist arguments can be made on both sides of most constitutional questions if you work hard enough at it, and there are may very smart, well-paid, and/or motivated people who work full-time at doing just that.

But this whole debate is pointless; you can't make people conform to an interpretational theory. There's just no processing or proceduring your way over serious substantive conflicts in society, or stopping the inevitable drift in culture, language, economic relations, technological circumstances, morality, and language that occurs across the generations.

But this whole debate is pointless; you can't make people conform to an interpretational theory.

I'd say that there was a few decades there where people were 'made' to conform with the 'living constitution' interpretational theory.

So it apparently does work on some level.

There's just no processing or proceduring your way over serious substantive conflicts in society, or stopping the inevitable drift in culture, language, economic relations, technological circumstances, morality, and language that occurs across the generations.

Sure. And in years past this resulted in actual amendments being passed via the prescribed process. Women can vote now, Chattel slavery is outlawed, we have an income tax, and at one point alcohol was banned nationally.

Because it was, seemingly, agreed on that this was the proper approach to ensuring the document kept up with the culture of the nation.

I don't think there's anyone who thinks that the Constitution is unable to be changed or updated, but many object to this being done by judicial fiat without giving citizens the chance to have a voice in the process.

I really don't know what your point is, otherwise.

Either the Constitution is the solid foundation upon which the Union of states is supposed to operate, and should be treated with sufficient reverence by the institutions involved, or it is not, and we are not held together by anything but historical momentum and a bare sheen of national brotherhood arising from shared history.

Where do you derive your definition of "America" from?

More comments

So to make my point clear: I have concluded that the Democrats, on most levels, are completely against the norms, traditions, and legal boundaries that were supposed to define the nation they aspire to govern, and more relevant, are completely willing to discard said norms, traditions, and boundaries whenever they're an actual impediment to their own party's interests.

I often see very similar rhetoric in left-leaning spaces levelled against Republicans. Are you confident that Republicans hew to tradition, norms and legal boundaries?

I agree with pretty much everything you've written, as far as it goes. The problem is, other people don't, and it seems to me that nothing you've written is persuasive to them. You've given an excellent description of one side of the divide, but what we need is a way to bridge it, and what you're offering won't work.

I guess I'm a tad bit old fashioned in that I think what "America" the nation-state is and should be is defined in large part by the Constitution which created said nation-state. And that it is completely fair game to criticize and even undermine that document as a valid founding instrument worth obeying... but you don't then get to aggressively enforce obedience/adherence to the very political ties/institutions that were created by said instrument.

Do they agree that they're criticizing and undermining the document, or do they think they're implementing it as designed? The latter seems to match Progressive self-perception much better. I don't think you'll get Progressives to agree that anything they've done with or to the Constitution has been in any way untoward or unseemly, or that they've sacrificed their right to federal enforcement of their values in any way.

More generally, the fact that this disagreement can't actually be adjudicated in any binding way makes me pessimistic that the Constitution was ever going to last in any case. The document is, at best, a coordination mechanism. It can't make things work on its own.

Either we can agree that the Constitution is the valid founding document under which our political institutions are legitimized and have our fights within that context, or we don't, at which point one or both parties can, I think, validly said to be 'anti-American' to the extent they refuse to accept such founding document and the rules it imposes.

Aren't both parties "anti-American" from each other's perspective, and "American" from their own? What makes the other side accept your definitions and judgements? Are you willing to accept theirs? ...People rag on me for pessimism and rabble-rousing, but honestly, I think everyone would be a lot calmer if they stopped looking for the consensus that they absolutely aren't going to find.

I think this is a really bad idea.

  1. how confident am I in identifying the worst candidate?

  2. is the difference in candidates even enough to swing the election?

  3. what signal am I sending for future primaries?

The most likely course of events remains that Desantis endorses trump, who wins the primary in a landslide, and loses the general to Biden again following an election marked by train wreck ballot handling in key states.

The most likely course of events remains that Desantis endorses trump, who wins the primary in a landslide

The most likely event is that Desantis takes an early lead and Trump goes to absolute war on him and is either ineffective (Desantis takes the nom) or is effective (some third person slips in amidst the chaos).

I think to get to your proposed outcome, Trump has to take an early lead, but Desantis hangs on until and wins Florida, at which point (approximately midway through) both candidates size up their advantages and if Trump has a decently commanding lead Desantis could be willing to capitulate.

If neither Trump nor Desantis is frontrunner by then, I don't see Desantis throwing in for Trump.

You’re assuming Desantis runs.

I mean, obviously many people want him to. But it’s very much in his self interest to bow out, endorse trump, and then say nothing until he gets re-elected again.

There is zero evidence of any kind of DeSantis rise outside of the core of the anti-anti-Trump faction on social media - aka, right-wing college-educated conservatives. The type of people who were never going to be NeverTrumpers, but were also never going to be comfortable with Trump and Trump's supporters for a variety of reasons. They want the gaucheness of Trump gone, replaced by a National Review-friendly version in DeSantis, but there's no evidence the actual Trump base is buying into it.

I'm not entirely clear on what people think is illegitimate about this tactic. I don't want to play stupid, I get how it feels kind of off, but I'm not sure I've heard a clear articulation of why switching parties for a primary shouldn't be allowed. Lots of states have open primaries and this doesn't seem to result in any particularly chaotic results. If one of your party's candidates is so thoroughly despised by the opposition party that they would forgo participating in their own choice just to keep OrangeHitler or a KenyanMuslim out of office, why should a somewhat neutral observer see that as an issue to be fixed?

Perhaps more importantly, I'm not aware of any examples of this tactic actually doing much of anything.

I don't know that anyone's claiming it's illegitimate, but there is something a little... hardball about it. We aren't talking about voting for whoever you think is the best candidate in the other party's primary, we're talking about voting for whoever is the least electable candidate in the other party's primary, in the hopes that you'll coerce your opponents into nominating someone terrible who will then lose the general election. It may sound far-fetched, but the Democrats did it this cycle and it worked.

We aren't talking about voting for whoever you think is the best candidate in the other party's primary

Are we all talking about the same thing? What I'm responding to from the OP is:

I expect vast swath of Democrats to coordinate in reregistering as Republicans and voting with Never-Trumpers for a particular non-Trump candidate in every state, or at least states which are key electoral states for the primary vote.

I think Democrats often sincerely believe that Trump is significantly more terrible than other candidates, particularly someone squishy like Evan McMullin. I don't agree with them, but I'm pretty sure it's what they actually think. Voting for the candidate you think is easier to beat is definitely more of a bad faith move than voting against the candidate that you think is a "danger to democracy".

Yeah, I think OP has it backward and the Dem interference would be directed toward securing the nomination for Trump. But OP (somehow) thinks Trump is more electable than DeSantis.

My state has open primaries. Given incumbents so often retain their party’s nomination, I often vote for people in the primaries that I don’t vote for in the general. In as much as my one vote matters (not much) this is not a bad strategy based on how primary ballots shake out.

It would be ridiculous not to expect Democrats voting in Republican primaries. It also usually wouldn’t be “shenanigans.”

There are 18 open primary states. Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, N. Dakota, Ohio, S. Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas were fully open and voted red in 2020. Anyone living in one of these states would be well within their rights to vote in the Republican primary. I expect them to vastly outnumber any partisans going undercover in closed states.

I did it this year, and I’ll do it again in 2024. Texas is still hugely Republican-biased, and I’d quite like to get some input on the election. Plus I get to vote against Ken Paxton and Greg Abbott twice.

Anyone living in one of these states would be well within their rights to vote in the Republican primary.

They'd also be well within their rights to move to a state with friendlier politics or push their own party to field candidates who are more competitive in the above states in question, so as to make the available options better.

Not sure why "cast a fruitless vote in a primary consisting mostly of people I inherently disagree with" somehow comes across as the optimal choice for influencing outcomes.

I'm really not sure how one can conclude this tactic is actually effective at improving the situation.

No one's vote materially influences outcomes. A Democrat in Idaho has every bit as much influence as a Democrat in California.

If a Republican likes living in California or a Democrat likes living in Idaho, why should they uproot their life to be governed by people who happen to share their party affiliation?

No one's vote materially influences outcomes. A Democrat in Idaho has every bit as much influence as a Democrat in California.

Yes, you're making my point about moving even stronger.

why should they uproot their life to be governed by people who happen to share their party affiliation?

They shouldn't. They should be allowed to secede and be ruled by people whose politics they prefer, or nobody at all. That's clear to me at least. It solves for almost all political gripes at once.

But Democrats consider that idea (secession) verboten so in absence of that, why do you suggest that casting a pointless vote is a reasonable action?

It seems pretty optimal to me. The cost of voting in one primary over another is pretty low. The benefit is, too, but that’s true for basically all political participation. I could spend actual time and money trying to herd the Democrats and see roughly as much effect.

As a bonus, I don’t inherently disagree with Republicans! In the general, I voted for a couple who were able to make sober, reasonably technocratic pitches. I’m not interested in supporting the populist wing. Is there really a difference between expressing that preference in the primary vs. in a non-competitive general?

The cost of voting in one primary over another is pretty low.

How much time do you spend researching candidates, their positions, background and their pros and cons? That is, what is the minimum amount of effort it really takes to be an 'informed voter' in this scenario?

What could you maybe do with that time instead?

Hm. I’d do the same basic research for either party, so I guess you’re now comparing to “instead of voting at all.” Video games, probably.

If you were to suggest an “optimal choice for influencing outcomes,” what would it be? Bonus points if it can be achieved in only a couple hours a year.

If you are a person of substantial means, probably giving money to a candidate who is in a tight race and where a few hundred or few thousand votes might actually tip things. If you have a PAC you find trustworthy then maybe just hand them the money. I'm skeptical of political donations as a class, however.

If you are someone with a decent amount of clout in a given community, then speaking to people who respect your opinion and might alter their voting pattern accordingly could work. This could lead to your input causing a shift in a few dozen votes (or if you've got REAL substantial reach, a few hundred!) which might have some impact on outcomes.

If you are an averageish joe with no particular wealth or clout in your community, you should probably just focus on your local races, maybe your state level races. And if applicable you should maybe focus on saving up enough wealth to either insulate yourself from the consequences of said elections or allow you to pick up and move somewhere else if the outcome is disfavorable enough (like, for instance, the apparent hundreds of thousands of people leaving California and New York). Getting too involved in political processes above the local level is a good way to set useful money and effort that could have gone to productive uses on fire/enrich political actors.

I’m assuming, in Texas, that you voted for Hegar but not the Republican candidates to be commissioners of whatever description (who were usually far to the right of the party as a whole), but I’m curious- who running as a republican was a more technocratic governor candidate than Abbott(I mean arguably Beto was less technocratic too, it was just a different kind of populism)?

Broadly correct on commissioners. In the general election, I leaned Dem on those unless the Libertarian seemed competent, in which case I did my part to get him to 5%. Unfortunately, but perhaps to be expected, lots of the L candidates don’t bother with much of a site/statement. Most of my R votes went to county or judicial positions where the Republican was usually more experienced.

You’re correct that I didn’t have a more technocratic/competent option than Abbott. I chose not to vote for him anyway because I really disapprove of his theatrics. Not sure if I abstained from this one or voted for...I think Belew was the most centrist?

Texas has a bill filed to move to closed primaries for exactly that reason.

Whether they actually do it or not is very much up in the air. Probably depends on what phelan’s margins look like for speakership elections.

Edit- if you’re relishing the prospect of voting against Abbott and Paxton twice, who’d you vote for governor in the primary? All of Abbott’s primary challengers were pretty far to his right.

As someone relatively moderate in a blue county in a red open-primary state, my choice of primary each year is dictated primarily by whether I want a maximal voice in electing local or state winners for the November ballot.

Is there any evidence that these kinds of shenanigans have changed an election outcome?

It seems that for every single Democrat who registers as a Republican to prevent Worse Than Hitler from being nominated, there'll be approximately one other Democrat who registers to ensure that Certain Loser is nominated. Both of those numbers will be very small compared to the total number of "real" Republican primary voters. If the margin is enough to sway the results either way, it was more or less a toss up to begin with.

This also is a vaguely plausible situation only if it's an uncontested Democratic primary, which would only be the case if Biden runs for reelection.

Also, as a Democrat I'd love if Republicans temporarily switched registrations to vote for who they thought was the better candidate, even if they would never vote for them in the general; it'd be a welcome correction to certain excesses in the party base right now and improve policy and electibility. (That gratitude wouldn't extend to them voting for who they disliked more as an attempt to sabotage things.)

Is there any evidence that these kinds of shenanigans have changed an election outcome?

Yes

Also, as a Democrat I'd love if Republicans temporarily switched registrations to vote for who they thought was the better candidate

They'd switch registrations to vote for who they thought would be least electable. Think Marianne Williamson, not Buttigieg or Klobuchar.

But in the OP's case, they were suggesting that in the Republican primary Democrats would vote in droves against Trump, who is perceived as being less electable than the alternatives (hence political bosses tactically supporting Trump-affiliated candidates in the last election in the hopes of having an easier time of it in the general).

Yeah... I agree with OP's premise that Democrats are likely to try to intervene in GOP primaries, but disagree about which candidate they hope to prevail.

Is there any evidence that these kinds of shenanigans have changed an election outcome?

No

Also, as a Democrat I'd love if Republicans temporarily switched registrations to vote for who they thought was the better candidate

Agreed. Though I’m in an open-primary state.

What are ways that the Trump contingent could bring such a conspiracy to light without sounding like schizophrenic conspiracy theorists?

Maybe I'm out of touch because I'm not American but I thought Clinton's Pied Piper Strategy to push Trump to the nomination in 2016 was an established fact. Or at the very least a widely accepted theory even in mainstream / leftist media sources.

"They're trying the same thing again" doesn't seem like it would be treated as an outrageous conspiracy theory. Although by the same token it wouldn't be a shocking revelation either, just the standard dirty tricks that happen every election.

reregistering as Republicans and voting with Never-Trumpers for a particular non-Trump candidate in every state, or at least states which are key electoral states for the primary vote

Isn't this the exact opposite of what they supposedly did in the midterms, where they (allegedly) promoted Trumpists who then got trounced in the general? And wouldn't this trouncing imply that supporting Non-Trump Republicans is not a good strategy?

wouldn't this trouncing imply that supporting Non-Trump Republicans is not a good strategy?

Ice cold take, here: It depends. For the Democrats, it's good policy to support any Republican who is likely to either (a) say/do stupid things such that a Democrat will be more likely to win the general election, or (b) actually caucus with Democrats on particular issues (e.g. 1/6, immigration, synthetic sexual identities, government service reform, etc.

While it is overwhelmingly likely that Trumpist republicans will not fulfill (b), it is possible that republicans from either strain could fulfill (a). This is particularly true when taking into account individual politicians' local reputations, and the idiosyncracies of local primary electorates.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/09/12/democrats-interfere-republican-primaries/

It's not allegedly - they spent real money (tens of millions) in several races to promote the nuttier R candidates.

I just put that qualifier because I hadn't looked into it in any detail myself.

in 2024, I expect vast swath of Democrats to coordinate in reregistering as Republicans and voting with Never-Trumpers for a particular non-Trump candidate in every state

It almost feels like you're laying the groundwork to cope with a Trump loss in the 2024 GOP primary. The Democrats would much rather run against Trump in 2024 than against DeSantis. Trump largely failed to advance his agenda in four years, he antagonized the Democrats into increased turnout, he offended everyone in the middle by trying to steal the 2020 election, and (crucially) he already demonstrated that Biden can beat him. DeSantis turned a swing state blood red, won it by twenty points in a cycle where Trump's nominees were failing left and right, demonstrated competent governance against COVID and hurricane disasters, and successfully prosecuted the culture war using the levers of executive power.

If you want further evidence that the Dems would rather run against Trump, look to their shenanigans in the 2020 cycle. They were supporting Trump's own nominees and fellow election denialists over more traditional GOP politicians. And it worked; Trump's guys generally lost.

I honestly think that Trump's running makes the 2024 cycle bad for Republicans regardless of the outcome. If Trump had stepped aside and let DeSantis (or anyone else, really) step into the spotlight it would have, at worst, made things like 2016 with 67 candidates on the debate stage, all angling to take out Joe Biden or whoever his handpicked successor is. As it stands now, the possibilities aren't good. First, while I don't think it's likely, Trump could take the nomination unopposed. This just makes it look like the GOP is doubling down on Trump and MAGA and, in light of the recent midterm fiasco, this doesn't look like a winning strategy. It doesn't help that the official platform is still whatever Trump wants it to be, and I doubt they'd be able to change it into something substantive at the convention without significant pushback from the man himself. Hell, if Trump can still get the GOP to kowtow to him after this it's only going to make him more cocky about his grip on the party, which will drive away even more voters. This isn't desirable.

The second possibility is that Trump wins the nomination despite a serious challenge from DeSantis (or someone else). At this point, it no longer looks like the party is kowtowing to Trump, but that isn't necessarily a better look—if even a guy like DeSantis who has been proclaimed by the media and all the smart money as the genius who will lead the Republican party into a new era can't win the nomination from Trump then it proves that it's still Trump's party in a much more salient way than simply handing him the nomination does, and it's likely to have the additional downside of driving away crestfallen DeSantis partisans who pinned their hopes on his winning the nomination.

The final possibility is that someone like DeSantis actually wins the nomination from Trump. This seems like the best scenario, and, indeed, probably is the best scenario, but it's still not really a good scenario. Sure, the party will have shown that it has moved on from Trump. The problem is that there are still a lot of Trump partisans out there; if there weren't, we wouldn't be talking about the possibility of Trump winning a competitive nomination. DeSantis has been holding his tongue about Trump for the past 2 years but once he's in a competitive race Trump will eat him alive if he doesn't fight back. If he's going to go after Trump he actually has to go after Trump without worrying about offending his (Trump's) base. And the obvious effect of this fight is that it's going to piss off a lot of Trump supporters and, nationwide, there seem to be a lot more Trump supporters at present than there are DeSantis supporters. In certain areas I see near-Eucharistic levels of devotion to Trump, and I doubt that these people will turn out for DeSantis in the kind of numbers he needs to win a national election after months of him badmouthing Trump and Trump badmouthing him. And I highly doubt Trump will graciously concede and give a speech supporting DeSantis at the convention. Trump will not go away peacefully.

As a sort of aside, I think that the main battle line of this nomination is going to be the 2020 election. As a state government official whose election practices weren't questioned by anybody, he's had the luxury of being able to stay relatively mum on the subject. Sure, he can spout generalities about election security and such, but he can easily dodge questions about whether he actually thinks the election was stolen. In a primary battle he no longer has this luxury. Trump is bound to spend countless hours bemoaning the theft of the 2020 election, and such bemoaning is really off putting to anyone who isn't already on the Trump Train. If DeSantis agrees, or even equivocates on this (i.e. saying that certain things were suspicious) then he's completely sunk himself in the general election. At that point he's just another MAGA election denier regardless of what his other positions are. If he pushes back and affirmatively states that Joe Biden was legitimately elected president, then he's completely alienated himself from the MAGA faithful. This is more detrimental than most people realize—for what it's worth, the DeSantis supporters I know IRL aren't moderates but Trump supporters who think the election was stolen but happen to like DeSantis better and, more importantly, think he has a better chance of winning the general. Whether or not these people would continue to support him if he pivots hard anti-MAGA remains to be seen, and even if the hardcore MAGA-types don't represent a majority of GOP primary voters, their lack of participation could be enough to cost DeSantis in the general. It's worth remembering that Trump's rise was largely based on attracting the kind of non-voter who was looking for someone far outside the political mainstream, and it isn't clear whether these people will turn out to support a normal, boring Republican.

I totally agree with you that the best possible outcome is one in which Trump has an epiphany and stands aside for DeSantis, or failing that dies in his sleep of natural causes. But I'm not so bearish as you on the scenario where DeSantis challenges him and beats him.

DeSantis has been holding his tongue about Trump for the past 2 years but once he's in a competitive race Trump will eat him alive if he doesn't fight back. If he's going to go after Trump he actually has to go after Trump without worrying about offending his (Trump's) base.

I think there's a play where he respectfully criticizes Trump's failure to enact durable change while in office, and contrasts it with his own agendas in Florida. The kind of criticism of Trump that fails in the GOP primary is arguing that Trump's agenda is no good. What hasn't been tried is agreeing with Trump's agenda but arguing that another candidate will be better at executing the agenda. "Mr. President, you said you would build a wall along the entire Southern U.S. border, but only X miles were actually built. I will get it done. Look what I did with Disney, with racist indoctrination in schools, with forcing sanctuary state governors and sanctuary city mayors to declare states of emergency because I sent them a fraction of the illegal immigrants that Southern states have to deal with every day, etc. You signed an executive order to review the use of critical race theory in federal agencies. But Biden immediately revoked that order, so it accomplished nothing. By contrast, I passed a state law banning the teaching of critical race theory in school, and giving every parent the ability to enforce that law themselves with private lawsuits. No one can undo what I achieved there."

Trump is bound to spend countless hours bemoaning the theft of the 2020 election, and such bemoaning is really off putting to anyone who isn't already on the Trump Train. If DeSantis agrees, or even equivocates on this (i.e. saying that certain things were suspicious) then he's completely sunk himself in the general election. At that point he's just another MAGA election denier regardless of what his other positions are.

Again, I think there's a way to thread this needle by attacking Trump's effectiveness without weighing in on his claims directly. Criticize Trump for being victimized, for failing to produce evidence, and contrast with the election work DeSantis has done in Florida. "Mr. Trump didn't deliver. He never came up with the evidence to back up his claims. Governing means doing your homework. In Florida, when we got wind of XYZ elections issue, I did ABC to enforce blah blah blah. We got it done. Mr. Trump says he is a victim, that Mr. Biden robbed him. But the buck stops here. If I'm the nominee, I guarantee you that Biden will not be able to steal the election from me."

I think there's a play where he respectfully criticizes Trump's failure to enact durable change while in office, and contrasts it with his own agendas in Florida. The kind of criticism of Trump that fails in the GOP primary is arguing that Trump's agenda is no good. What hasn't been tried is agreeing with Trump's agenda but arguing that another candidate will be better at executing the agenda.

That's a possibility that I didn't consider, but on the whole I think it's actually worse than the third possibility I outlined above. The possibility I outlined above of Trump loyalists dropping off is certainly mitigated, though probably not eliminated entirely. The real problem here is that by branding himself as a more effective purveyor of the Trump agenda he alienates himself from anyone who explicitly voted against the Trump agenda in the previous 3 elections. This is what I alluded to when I brought up the DeSantis supporters whom I know personally; they complained about Trump but they still voted for him and all his loser candidates (except maybe Mastriano). For the Republicans to win in 2024 they would have to flip either Pennsylvania or Michigan. Neither state has elected a Republican in a statewide election since Trump and Toomey in 2016. Regardless of what you think about his cognitive abilities post-stroke, John Fetterman is much further to the left than I would have previously thought possible for PA. Josh Shapiro's win makes this the first time since the '40s that one party has held the governor's seat for longer than 8 years consecutively. Flipping PA means convincing people who voted for Wolf, Casey, Biden, Shapiro, and Fetterman that it's worth taking a chance with the GOP. DeSantis made a name for himself by loosening up Florida's COVID restrictions, but Michigan just reelected Gretchen Whitmer by a large margin, whose COVID policies were, shall we say, a bit different. Lose both of these states out and it's lights out for the Republicans in 2024, regardless of how many other swing states they manage to flip. I doubt a message of "Trump policies but more effective" is the way to do this.

Again, I think there's a way to thread this needle by attacking Trump's effectiveness without weighing in on his claims directly.

If he's able to do this then he's also able to ignore the whole hornet's nest entirely and say nothing. But I doubt that will be the case. With Trump beating the election fraud drum a journalist is bound to ask him directly whether he thinks the election was stolen, and unless his answer is an unequivocal "No" his chances at winning the general are pretty much sunk. If he says what you suggest then any decent journalist would follow upo with something that doesn't allow for that kind of answer, like "Do you think Mr. Trump won Georgia?" or "Do you think there was any fraud in Pennsylvania?" or "Do you think Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election?" or "Would you have supported attempts to prevent certification of the election in the Senate?" then no one gives a shit about what evidence Trump had or what DeSantis did in Florida. Even saying "I can't comment on Pennsylvania because I wasn't supervising that election" is enough of a dodge that it looks like he's unwilling to say anything one way or the other. Theoretically he could equivocate during the primary and be more direct about it once he has the nomination locked up, but that's such an obvious move that the swing vote he needs to secure would see right through it. Trump already called him out on not admitting that he'd been vaccinated, so I have no doubt that he'd respond to any equivocation by hammering DeSantis relentlessly for it. The only chance I see DeSantis having is if he goes hard anti-Trump and anti-MAGA, but I wonder if he's too afraid of losing the hardcore base to have the stomach for it. But anything else and he has to spend the entire general election retracting everything he said during the primary, and that doesn't seem like a recipe for success.

The real problem here is that by branding himself as a more effective purveyor of the Trump agenda he alienates himself from anyone who explicitly voted against the Trump agenda in the previous 3 elections.

I mean have you seen DeSantis's very first campaign ad when he was running for governor? He is committed to the Trump agenda in broad strokes and there's no undoing it (although he can still play around the edges). And he has proven that he's electable in a swing state nonetheless.

Besides, what else would a GOP nominee run on? Back to the Romney playbook of calling to defund social security? Trump won where Romney lost in part because his agenda is more appealing to the electorate than the traditional GOP agenda.

For the Republicans to win in 2024 they would have to flip either Pennsylvania or Michigan.

This is a general argument that it's hard for a Republican to win, not a specific argument that Trump is better able to do it than DeSantis. Trump won those states in 2016, but he lost them in 2020 after they had seen what Trump is like in office.

With Trump beating the election fraud drum a journalist is bound to ask him directly whether he thinks the election was stolen, and unless his answer is an unequivocal "No" his chances at winning the general are pretty much sunk.

This is not that difficult, really. Responding to this journalist during the primary: "Trump says the election was stolen, and a lot of good people are in jail right now because they believed him. But he never came through. He never showed up with evidence, not with all the power of the executive branch at his disposal. His own Attorney General said he was wrong. The best he can do is complain that he was victimized by Joe Biden. Well, I'm a doer, not a complainer. My record shows that much. I promise you that Joe Biden will never steal an election from me." And then in the general, give the same answer but leave out the last three sentences. It's really easy to pivot from that question to hitting Trump for failing, for letting himself be victimized, for failing to even keep the support of his own cabinet. That kind of answer projects strength to the GOP without coming close to participating in Trump's election denialism.

Trump's whole winning shtick in 2016 was that he's a winner, that he knows how the game is played and can out-play the Democrats, that he'll be too busy winning to worry about their political correctness and BS. But now he's a loser and a complainer, and the best that he can argue is that Joe Biden victimized him, that he got swindled and played by Sleepy Joe, which undermines his whole shtick. It's totally doable to call him out for that without getting dragged into the object level of whether Trump was right in his complaints. It just takes a modicum of political talent, which DeSantis has.

even if the hardcore MAGA-types don't represent a majority of GOP primary voters, their lack of participation could be enough to cost DeSantis in the general

This changed my thinking quite a bit, to DeSantis not running. If DeSantis can't win without Trump supporters backing him, he has no reason to run this cycle. If he badly loses the general due to Trumpers staying home after a bloody primary (and Trump almost certainly not endorsing him after the nomination loss), he's kaput. DeSantis is only 44, though the Florida governorship is only two terms and I doubt he could ride the "Trump but effectual" train for another six years to office.

If Trump losing the primary in 2024 causes the party to split, that would lead to an extremely easy victory for the Democrats. DeSantis, whatever his qualities, is not going to displace Trump without splitting the party.

It might. Trump could run as an independent, and has threatened to do so. He does really like attention and he'd get a lot of attention if he did this. The media would certainly do its utmost to keep him in the spotlight if he did.

On the other hand, he really doesn't like losing, and I'm not sure that all of the attention would be worth living a year-long slow-motion loss.

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Yup, that's all plausible. Best I can say is that it isn't inevitable.

Raises the question- would a Trump/Lake or Pompeo v Biden/Harris v West/Fuentes v Desantis/Hawley election inevitably go to the house?

It’s not out of the question that a GOP which moves to disown more trumpian elements could pick up enough blue electoral votes to make it a difficult run for democrats, and that’s before Kanye makes an appearance.

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I'm more interested in a theoretical matchup with Trump AND DeSantis as VP.

I think at this point, I suspect shenanigans on all sides in lots of ways.

But if something like Operation Chaos happens, you’d see the change statistically. Youd see a reasonably large spike in GOP primary voters and a similar drop in democrat voters. If the numbers are off then you can at least try to point to them.

Wouldn't you expect that anyway if Biden runs again?

Just noticed some obvious botting action on Reddit. I know this is likely common knowledge, but it's still freaky to see it firsthand.

Currently, the top post on all of reddit is this thread complaining about LED Lights on cars: https://old.reddit.com/r/BlackPeopleTwitter/comments/z6wiz7/getting_blinded_any_time_i_drive_after_sunset/

But more interesting are the replies nested under the top two comments. Emphasis mine.

First:

ConclusionFirm1239

3 hr. ago

Also it costs 200 dollars just to buy a replacement light. If they are gonna regulate I'm not paying JACK they better put it on the car and headlight manufacturer.

Second:

BreathAgreeable2604

4 hr. ago edited 3 hr. ago

Some cars come with them naturally! I have an Acura and that is the standard headlight it comes with and there is no option to downgrade to something dimmer. Also it costs 200 dollars just to buy a replacement light. If they are gonna regulate I'm not paying JACK they better put it on the car and headlight manufacturer.

I only noticed because of the emphatic capitalization of "jack". I thought I was having a deja vu.

Of course, notice the usernames look like they were randomly generated in batch using noun+adjective+4 digits.

I assume these are GPT bots deployed by spammers, scammers, state actors, all the other dregs of society. Or maybe it's less sophisticated than that, considering the identical quotes.

It's deeply worrying as I still find value in Reddit both for general entertainment and specific info finding (like product reviews, or Quora-like research). As automation like this becomes pervasive and impossible to tell apart from actual posting, Reddit will become ever less useful of a platform to me. This might be ok for a few more years, but at some point, I think enough users will demand a platform that uses some sort of real person verification because otherwise everything just becomes advertising and scams. But then there is more impetus to virtue signal given the lack of anonymity. I trust that VCs and entrepreneurs will somehow figure out clever solutions, but until they do, it sure feels helpless to be subject to forces that seem impossible to combat.

I trust that VCs and entrepreneurs will somehow figure out clever solutions...

Oh, I'm sure they will, but this seems like a monkey's paw curls situation. I'm fairly persuaded that the situation Darryl Cooper describes in We're all John Hinkleys Now is going to worsen.

Practically speaking;

This is only a problem in subreddits with a large enough user base and an obvious political slant. Avoid those like the plague and take everything you read in those with mountains of salt.

Subs with <15k subscribers and no obvious political slant. Subs for niche hobbies or apolitical things like cooking, mountain biking, bird watching, etc. Are where you can let your guard down.

And I would make the argument that the latter is what you should use Reddit for. Discussing things that are not popular (true definition) enough to be discussed elsewhere.

A little off-topic, but only a little: When I was watching the youtube trailers for Disney's newest Star Wars show Andor, I was also getting a lot of "bot vibes" from the comments. I would see 3 or more comments in the past 24h posting the same praise verbatim all by accounts with what appear to have a name and a face. Especially visible faces, certainly too visible for anyone doing anything interesting on the internet. (Nobody posting here would or should be using a youtube account like that).

I wasn't sure if these are bots paid for by Disney, with extra visible faces and names to appear real in a "methinks the bot doth protest too much" kind of way. Or, if they are influencer shills. Either way, it seemed really unnatural. Andor didn't seem especially unnatural, it's just the last trailer that interested me enough to watch. I suspect other corporate products have this issue too.

Yeah, I had noticed bots taking comments/parts of comments I and others had made and reposting them elsewhere in the same thread. Trying to farm upvotes I suppose

I get two bulbs for 21$ but I have a 2004 Chevy Trailblazer. My first car was a Geo Metro with 9$ tires that Tire Kingdom wouldn't sell me unless I also got an oil change or something because it was so cheap. I like safetyism and features but some things seem to have wildly swung in cost.

Do new car headlights really cost 200$?

Not sure. I’ve got an 07 car and just had to pay $700 for an air compressor, so that was fun.

Do new car headlights really cost 200$?

From what I understand, yes or more for many vehicles. Because we've shifted from standardized incandescent/halogen bulbs in fixed unique-per-model reflectors (previously full round or square reflector assemblies) to fashionable unique-per-model LED headlights that are a single replaceable unit. When my the bulbs in my older basic car burn out, I buy new ones at the store for a few bucks and replace them in a few minutes. The OEMs say (and might be right) that the LED assemblies can be expected to last the lifetime of the vehicle, but it's far more expensive to replace the whole thing if it breaks or you get in a collision.

There is probably a good comparison to how phones no longer ship replaceable batteries (or memory on laptops) because the tight integration allows better performance and lower part counts (cheaper), at the cost of making line replaceable units larger and more costly.

Of course, notice the usernames look like they were randomly generated in batch using noun+adjective+4 digits.

When you create a reddit account it will suggest a random username with this format.

OTOH, I almost hit a cyclist when going home today because I didn't see him because all I saw was lights in the darkness.

If the bots manage to get something done about the megawatt floodlights on rich people's cars nowadays, then I, for one, welcome our new AI overlords.

Aye, I thought I was the only one who's bothered by the proliferation of ever-brighter headlights.

My understanding is that it is slightly less about the brightness of the headlights and more about cars getting taller and thus the angle of the headlights isn't quite sufficient to keep them out of your eyes if you drive a car that seats the driver lower to the ground.

Also we don't use Adaptive beam headlights whilst Europe does.

Source is mostly this video: https://youtube.com/watch?v=c2J91UG6Fn8

It's actually safer for the driver of such a car since they get visibility further out, but obviously if everyone does this it just leads to everyone being blinded.

Also we don't use Adaptive beam headlights whilst Europe does.

I'm in the Netherlands. Southkraut is in Germany, it apparently doesn't help.

No surprise: nothing is going to be sensitive and accurate enough for that to ever work well. The manufacturers don't really even have to care, after all, it's not their customers who are blinded, it's the other guys. And it's always going to err on the side of not dimming, since that's what the customer would want - and on the other hand, thank God for that, imagine driving along and your car turns your headlights off all of a sudden because it has somehow decided someone's coming.

This so-called driver assistance technology never works well. I've never seen any work well. Even the self-canceling turn signals only ever self-cancel when you don't want them to. But that's another rant for another time.

I got the impression GPT is more varied. But I could be convinced either way.

VCs and entrepreneurs

Ah, the eternal struggle of monetization. So long as users expect their network to be free, entrepreneurs will have a hell of a time converting those user metrics into payouts. The coupling of userbase to profit is weak. The coupling of bots to lost users is weak, too, since it’s so nonlinear. Kind of makes it hard to source a solution.

Probably not a language model. Reddit has had spambots since it was available on the web. A very common form of reddit spambot just reposts pieces of other peoples' comments - not to push a message or anything, just to gain karma, so the account can get past simple spam filters and be used later or sold. Same for repost bots - repost old posts, get karma, use or sell.

Looking closer - conclusionfirm's comment has been removed, while breathagreeable's is still up - breathagreeable has an active post history, while that's conclusionfirm's only comment - from your SS, conclusionfirm's is newer than breathagreeable's - and conclusionfirms' comment is a direct substring of breathagreeable's! So it's almost certainly that spambot strategy, breath posted a real comment, conclusion reposted a substring of it to get karma - and not gpt3 or anything.

There's a whole industry built around making websites look more active than they actually are. Whether that's paying people pennies per comment, using bots/gpt, or copying threads/comments from elsewhere. You can find thousands (maybe millions, lol) of reposts on reddit where the top comments are the same as top comments from previous threads, or from comments on the url that was posted (like youtube comments).

Making a website appear more active helps bring in and retain new users. I personally think TikTok uses this in order to bring in more content providers; they see their video gets thousands upon thousands of likes and stick around. I think its all inflated. And so many non-sense comments.

I also think that some websites/channels just get too large. If you go on a popular youtube channel and leave a comment, the chances you'll ever get a reply are slim to none, despite there being thousands or millions of people flooding onto that page. Go to a smaller channel and you can have long, thoughtful conversations in the comment section. Same happens on Reddit. The average comment in /r/askreddit will have no replies. Make a comment in themotte ("back in the day") and you were almost guaranteed a reply, no matter what you said. Even in subs that are fairly inactive these days, like theschism, will still result in replies if you make a comment.

I wonder what the critical mass for an online community is? What's the point where you're less likely to get a reply? What's the point where you're less likely to even have someone read your comment?

Chinese protests are a top story in Western news media. I don't think they're entirely organic. Some are likely intelligence agency ops.

Here's the first thing that made me think something was off: https://twitter.com/quanyi_li2/status/1596784472740937728

First, some of the signage doesn't look right. They use traditional characters instead of simplified. They also sometimes use pinyin, seemingly unable to recall the "qi" in "Urumqi," the biggest city in Xinjiang, even as they were protesting on Urumqi road. Mainlanders wouldn't do this. This is beyond mere misspelt Tea Party protest signs, I'd say it's akin to protesting against Biden with an English-language sign with Cyrillic characters accidentally slipped in. It's a clear signal of "not from around here."

Second, the protests don't make much sense if your goal is to reach other Chinese folks in China. You can't share such protests on social media, and news agencies won't cover them. However, contrary to popular narratives, demonstrations are allowed in China. You can't call for the downfall of the national government, but you can plea for the national government to come in and fix local issues. You can also take to the streets because you're really worked up about foreigners insulting China.

So, the intended audience is probably Western news media and consumers of such media.

Third, advocating against the national government and leaders is punished, and everyone knows it. It's unlikely that Chinese citizens would take such a risk when it's so easy to put on a demonstration that falls short of impugning the national government. I think it's likely that these were non-citizens, perhaps Taiwanese, or perhaps expats, that aren't risking their livelihoods. The use of traditional characters makes this more likely, only Hong Kong and Taiwan use them. Western media are unlikely to take note of such things, or to take note of Taiwanese accents.

This aligns with what we've seen before in intelligence ops.

We've seen evidence that intelligence agencies have helped along color revolutions in the past, including protest leaders in Hong Kong meeting with at least one state department official. Much of this is actually done in the open, with the National Endowment for Democracy sending money directly to dissident groups.

Note that an intelligence op doesn't mean that everyone involved works for the intelligence agency, or that they even know that the agency is involved. Every country has its collection of folks who would like to see the government fall. Intelligence operatives identify and befriend these folks, nurture their revolutionary sentiments, and help to remove hurdles in their way. It's the same tactic used to get a group of right-wing men to agree to kidnap the governor of Michigan, except that no one stops the plot from continuing to move forward.

I wish western intelligence services were strong enough to incite anti-lockdown revolts in China, but you're making them sound way cooler than they actually are.

Why would western intelligence services decide, in 2022, to ignite the exact sort of protests they spent much of 2020, 2021 and 2022 trying to stop? Especially when it's already known that such protests have an awful habit of spreading across borders with copycat protesting, such as when the freedom convoy in Canada had copycats as far flung as Europe and New Zealand.

Are there any lockdowns left to protest in the West?

No, but trucker convoys do get used for non-lockdown related libertarian protests. A set of libertarian protest tactics used in China would presumably spread.

Ya especially with Europe's energy crisis coming, economic downturn, and the existing European precedent of the yellow vests and dutch farmer protests... anything anti-lockdown, but ultimately anti-government has the risk of pouring over into general international anti-technocrat class war...

but then the CIAs never been that smart with who they fund and what they choose to enable... they Ignored the Berlin wall protests and were actively shocked when communism fell at the same time they were pouring millions into funding Bin Laden to fight the soviets...

Why would western intelligence services decide, in 2022, to ignite the exact sort of protests they spent much of 2020, 2021 and 2022 trying to stop?

Because they have more than one priority at once? Western rivalry with, and distrust of, the Chinese Party-State is longstanding public knowledge. And when you have a big objective like that, any tool to hand looks attractive.

Why would western intelligence services decide, in 2022, to ignite the exact sort of protests they spent much of 2020, 2021 and 2022 trying to stop?

I'm skeptical of the idea that the CIA is behind these protests, but this a poor argument against it. The CIA is very much in the habit of sponsoring the same people abroad that other parts of the US government fight at home. Whether it is "moderate" Islamic extremists in Afghanistan and Syria, or drug traffickers in South and Central America...or reach way back into the Disney vault and remember when it was the choice between supporting Mussolini and allowing communists a chance to flourish that directed Anglo-American foreign policy.

The very fact that the USA is trying to quash these protests at home makes it more logical that they would try to force them abroad. If the deep state genuinely thought that lockdown/covid policies were good, then they would want to undermine China by preventing China from implementing them.

I think it's likely that these were non-citizens, perhaps Taiwanese, or perhaps expats, that aren't risking their livelihoods. The use of traditional characters makes this more likely, only Hong Kong and Taiwan use them.

Doesn't that seem just ridiculously dangerous for the people involved? Rather than risking their livelihoods or reputations, it seems as though they are risking their lives. Massacres of local citizens can't escape notice locally, "disappearings" of foreign nationals who aren't even supposed to be there can be concealed because they weren't even supposed to be there. Local citizens have few rights, foreign nationals have none.

Unless you're unlucky enough to be targeted for retaliation in response to something like America arresting Huawei executives, I think foreigners are treated better than Chinese citizens in this respect. You'll probably be kicked out, not have your ability to travel or do business in your home country restricted, and certainly not massacred. No one is being massacred over this, not even citizens.

Unless you're an actual spy, then you'll be at least imprisoned.

Information controls are designed to prevent ideas spreading to Chinese citizens that the government believes to be dangerous. Kicking you out achieves that goal without causing diplomatic headaches.

From what I can tell China has a total of about 30 Americans in its prisons, and the State Department considers one of those to be wrongfully detained. It's hard to find resources on Chinese citizens imprisoned in America, all I found was this that says we had "no more than 400" in the mid-2000s.

If your idea of China is that you'll be whisked away to the gulag on the slightest suspicion, I think you need to update. Cultural Revolution China is not present-day China. Present-day China is also not Stalin's Russia. They aren't free to call for the downfall of the national government or its leaders, but the typical treatment I've seen for verboten speech starts with a police visit where they try to convince you to stop. For whatever reason I'm having a hard time digging up the articles I'd read on the topic. Search is polluted with recent results, and restricting my search to before 2020 yields 6 results on Google for "china speech visit from police".

My model of china isn't citizens being whisked away to Gulag. Rather my model is, if the US/Taiwan/etc infiltrate large numbers of Taiwanese or other foreign nationals into the Prc to pretend they are prc citizens, that rather precludes diplomatic intercession on their behalf. If the Prc disappears them, the USA can't intercede without admitting that they were there protesting to begin with.

There are lots of times foreign citizenship can be a protective shield, but not where you're standing up to pretend to be a local protestor. When they round up the "local protestors" no one will notice people who aren't supposed to be there not being there afterward. Too many risks, not enough reward. These protests will be as meaningless in China as they were on Long island.

too many risks, not enough reward

You could say the same for, uh, flooding Chinese cities with planted agitators. What’s the point, the expected impact? Where is COINTELPRO getting all these fake Chinese eager to piss off the PRC?

Edit: I realize this is the same point you were making.

Exactly, I'd actually find the full Alex Jones "These are actually filmed in downtown Pawnee, Indiana" type takes more logical than "They launched a huge infiltration operation while cheesing out on learning how to spell."

See my last paragraph, I'm explicitly not arguing that the protestors are planted. The young radical Muslim who sets off a fake bomb the FBI gave him isn't planted. It's far easier to network and influence locals that already have a negative view of the government than to import actors.

There are about 400,000 Taiwanese nationals living in China.

I don't think China disappears foreigners. Other than a couple of unfortunate Canadians, I believe that China treats foreigners well. I've visited China a few times and all levels of law enforcement treated me well. Other than their extreme apathy and lack of will to let me register my residence one time. They were too disinterested to even track me the way they are supposed to track where foreigners stay.

I'm going to say that China is safe for visiting white westerners. Your punishment for violating their laws and norms is being kicked out and banned from re-entry.

Other than a couple of unfortunate Canadians, I believe that China treats foreigners well. I've visited China a few times and all levels of law enforcement treated me well.

Were you publicly protesting Xi Jinping's policies? Seem a bit apples and oranges if not...

Yup! But if foreigners infiltrate the country in secret, so that no one other than the CIA knows you're there, and you get disappeared, who does anything about it? What's being proposed here is that the protestors claiming they are locals aren't locals, they get arrested and their identities can't be verified, what happens to them then? The diplomats can't claim them without revealing they've been astroturfing anti gov protests, not an option. If they die, what can anyone say? He wasn't even there.

Possible. But it's just as likely that it's a false flag by the PRC as something Western instigated.

Maybe slightly more likely. Western intelligence agencies aren't hiring Iowa teenagers to make these signs; they have plenty of people capable of writing Chinese, and they know that the mainland uses simplified. This isn't exactly obscure stuff, and they're not idiots.

The protestors' behavior even fits better; participants in a false flag operation know they won't be punished, while absolutely anyone living in China (including Taiwanese and expats) knows that calling for national downfall will lead to a... bad time, regardless of any sweet talking by Western operatives, who can't do much to protect you anyway.

I'd rank "organic protest by idiots" as most likely, false flag as a bit less likely, and a Western operation as the least likely.

Why the hell would a dictatorial régime do a false-flag revolution? They risk making people believe that protesting the government actually won't get you killed, so lots of normal people will join the false protests... Turning them into real protests. The number 1 rule for a dictator is to prevent the creation of common knowledge about how many people don't like you. Any appearance of large scale protests is incredibly dangerous to this end.

I think what he's saying is that the pictures are produced by the Prc then debunked, feeding a narrative that the (real) protests are fake.

The false flag here is the signs clearly not being written by literate mainlanders. CCP propaganda organs can take those photos and circulate it through domestic media to prove that any protests are just some Western operation as opposed to organic expressions of dissatisfaction with the regime.

I think the first question should be "Who is purporting this to be authentic?" The tweet you posted is just a debunking of the photo but it makes no reference to the source. Did the person who posted the tweet take this picture herself? Did it appear in Western media? I did a reverse image search and the only places I can find this on the web are from CCP apologists using this photo as evidence of CIA or MI6 or whatever involvement, which isn't a good sign.

Hold on.

You say we’ve seen intelligence agencies fund and maybe even coordinate opposition in HK. And this is supposed to imply that the West is smuggling fake agitators into enemy territory to stage protests? And despite this devious, nigh-suicidal deployment of eager actors, they didn’t bother hiring you to proofread their signs?

It would be easier to fake the whole thing in Hollywood. Or in the offices of mainstream media. Or by seeding a bunch of pictures on Twitter.

I did not imply that people were being smuggled in.

Note that an intelligence op doesn't mean that everyone involved works for the intelligence agency, or that they even know that the agency is involved. Every country has its collection of folks who would like to see the government fall. Intelligence operatives identify and befriend these folks, nurture their revolutionary sentiments, and help to remove hurdles in their way. It's the same tactic used to get a group of right-wing men to agree to kidnap the governor of Michigan, except that no one stops the plot from continuing to move forward.

I think it's likely that these were non-citizens, perhaps Taiwanese, or perhaps expats, that aren't risking their livelihoods.

Motte, meet Bailey...

So, summing up your evidence: 1) one of the protest signs - one filtered through social media to look like that - is written weirdly. . 2) ... the protests don't make sense because "demonstrations are allowed, and you can plea for the national government to fix issues, but the news agencies won't cover them". Maybe they're doing that? 3) "protesting against the national government is punished". Yeah, it is in iran too, yet protests happened there. Protests happen a lot, including in countries they're illegal in. The long duration of covid measures is making people more willing to protest! Not to say that protests are human nature or anything, social phenomena like this are (somewhat) historically contingent and depend on a history of protests people learn about, but it's plausible they are protests.

This isn't enough to prove intelligence involvement. From the twitter thread:

Don't get me wrong there are plenty of protests in China but a REAL Chinese protest tend to demand local official to step down and national government to intervene. They almost never call for a regime change. Even rarer to call the party leader to step down.

The covid measures are by the national government, though. And most protestors aren't calling for regime change! I can believe western media is playing up 'regime change' as a component of the protest - but even they acknowledge it's a small fraction of protestors. From cnn:

As numbers swelled at demonstrations in multiple major cities over the weekend, so too have the range of grievances voiced – with some calling for greater democracy and freedom. Among the thousands of protesters, hundreds have even called for the removal of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who for nearly three years has overseen a strategy of mass-testing, brute-force lockdowns, enforced quarantine and digital tracking that has come at a devastating human and economic cost.

Videos showed Urumqi residents marching to a government building and chanting for the end of lockdown on Friday. The following morning, the local government said it would lift the lockdown in stages – but did not provide a clear time frame or address the protests.

Some china watchers on twitter have also claimed media / twitter randoms were mistranslating vocal protests, swapping covid slogans for anti-regime/pro-democracy slogans, which is plausible. But all of that undermines her argument - if most of the protestors are just protesting covid, then your reasons 2 and 3 and her thread aren't relevant! And in the context of large protests about covid, a subset of them making more extreme claims becomes more plausible. From her thread again:

Those two things simply do not address the problem at hand. Demanding national leader to step down is a western thing because then they can vote in a new leader. It does not work in China. Strong sign of foreign funded operation.

the central government has extremely high approval ratings and it's usually the local ones that people have issues with. There are also foreigners in there chanting down with CCP in the video, they refer to the Communist Party as the "CCP" even though they're in China 🤭

This just sounds like the china-lover equivalent of 'americans would never vote biden because he is a communist subverter so TRUMP WON ' or 'america would never vote trump so RUSSIAN HACK ELECTION BOTS', tbh.

It's like the 'half of this board are feds' / 'half the twitter people who disagree with me are bots' claims (which was even less plausible pre gpt3, yet was about as common) - intelligence agencies exist and do things, but they don't do everything. Even if the CIA were involved in this, that involvement is very complex - even if the CIA ran 'protest-covid-china.cn', where the protestors downloaded pngs for their signs how much of a causal role in the protests does that actually have, might the protestors have used other signs otherwise?

You claim "I don't think they're entirely organic. Some are likely intelligence agency ops". Well, if 5% of the protests are 'ops' and 95% are 'organic', then how does that matter? Russia funds a bunch of leftist media organizations in the US that have a strong following on twitter (hence the 'russian state-affiliated media' tag). Does that make communism russian? Not at all.

This isn't to say US intelligence are 'the good guys' or would never do such a thing, not at all - this is much 'worse': In 2010, a new decade was dawning, and Chinese officials were furious. The CIA, they had discovered, had systematically penetrated their government over the course of years, with U.S. assets embedded in the military, the CCP, the intelligence apparatus, and elsewhere. The anger radiated upward to “the highest levels of the Chinese government,” recalled a former senior counterintelligence executive. ... Within the CIA, China’s seething, retaliatory response wasn’t entirely surprising, said a former senior agency official. “We often had a conversation internally, on how U.S. policymakers would react to the degree of penetration CIA had of China”—that is, how angry U.S. officials would have been if they discovered, as the Chinese did, that a global adversary had so thoroughly infiltrated their ranks.. But spies existing doesn't mean they're responsible for the car that just drove past your house.

The covid measures are by the national government, though. And most protestors aren't calling for regime change! I can believe western media is playing up 'regime change' as a component of the protest - but even they acknowledge it's a small fraction of protestors.

I'd argue that it is hard to underestimate significance of even small fraction of protesters demanding Xi Jinping or CCP being replaced. This NEVER happens in China, never. There was a precedent to this in form of famous bannerman protest in Beijing calling for end of Covid restrictions and calling for free elections as the National Congress of CCP was in sitting. This was immediately suppressed and censored and the bannerman AKA Bridge Man was promptly disappeared - probably with his larger network of friends and family also severely punished up to three generations. But his message still spread out in various forms including Apple Airdrop campaign, for which Apple caved in to CCP. That is the reason why you normally never see these things in China, and yet here we are.

Again, even if it is a small portion of the crowd demanding a change it cannot be compared to the Western protests. This is huge shift in sentiment of the population. If you actually have vocal voices willing to take such an incredible risk, there are bound to be much more people silently sympathizing but scared to voice their opinion.

I've always found it strange that typos or linguistically confused protest signs are considered evidence of CIA interference when that seems like one of the easier things for them to get right. Maybe it's hard to wrangle up a translator for obscure languages, but there's no shortage of people who know Chinese and you could even anonymously outsource the task to language learning sites and forums full of native speakers happy to correct you for free. It's easy to overestimate the literacy of the average person, but the typical protest sign is much closer to the level of yahoo answers than motte posts, with mistakes that to us seem glaringly obvious or impossibly absurd. This is even more pronounced in Chinese these days because hardly anyone hand writes characters anymore, using either pinyin inputs or one of the various autocomplete methods.

That actually seems like a relevant variable- if reports that tech censorship ramped up in China as unrest came into the picture are true, then the average chinaman being functionally inscripturate means we should expect to see a few protest signs written with Taiwanese characters or whatever- after all, Taiwanese writing apps are presumably not any more blocked than they had been.

And my understanding is that the ability to actually write in Chinese characters unassisted is like knowing Latin- it’s the product of the Chinese version of an expensive classical education, not something that stem lords or average joes would get(or indeed seek out), so the people protesting(who are almost definitionally not the elites who would know these things) are dependent on apps to produce Chinese characters.

The issue is that 乌鲁木齐 - the "qi" character (the last one) is very much a character you learn to write in like, 2nd grade if not first.

At the same time, this photo feels very cherry-picked to me. I didn't notice any such written signs in any videos.

Any time anything like this happens in China or Ukraine or whatever, it's always "foreign operatives" or whatever. The locals never have any agency of course.

From this video in Beijing (亮马桥 area), we can see:

  • first ~10 seconds: the first person (with masked) with the microphone is asking the crowd to be careful as there a foreign anti-Chinese forces among them (“现在,在我们群众当中,有境外反华势力,在我们周围“)

  • People start yelling "we are all Chinese people / citizens" (“我们都是中国人”)

  • at the 0:24 mark, a second person (shorter, no mask, glasses) now has the mic, who asks: "Are Marx and Engels the foreign forces you speak of? ... (crowd repeats) Is it Lenin?" (“请问,你说的境外势力是马克思和恩格斯吗?是列宁吗?”)

  • 0:33 mark: the first speaker responds (without the mic, with his hands up) that he will forever love his country and its people.

  • 0:40 mark: the first person continues that he also thinks the current policies have issues ("我也觉得现在的政策有问题,我真的觉得有问题“)before getting cutoff by the crowd for trying to change the topic ("不要转移话题“)

  • 0:51: "Question: was the fire in Xinjiang started by foreign forces?" (the fire in Wulumuqi that killed people) (“请问新疆的火是境外势力放的吗?”)

  • 0:56: "Was the bus in Guizhou crashed by foreign forces?" (”贵州的大巴是境外势力推翻的吗?” )

  • 1:01: person in white jacket takes the mic and asks in the most Beijing accent: "everyone, was I called here by foreign forces?" ("大家我是境外势力叫来的吗?“ ) - crowd: "no!!"

  • 1:05: "we can't even go onto foreign websites, how could we be foreign forces? How can foreign forces communicate with us?" ("我们连网都上不了国外的,我们哪儿来的境外势力?境外势力怎么跟我们沟通?“

  • 1:13: glasses guy takes the mic again: "we only have domestic forces that prevent us from gathering" (“我们只有境内势力不让我们聚集”)

Anyway you get the gist. The glasses guy was later interviewed by Japanese television, and his whole emphasis is "I could be the next Xinjiang fire or Guizhou bus crash".

First, some of the signage doesn't look right. They use traditional characters instead of simplified. They also sometimes use pinyin, seemingly unable to recall the "qi" in "Urumqi," the biggest city in Xinjiang, even as they were protesting on Urumqi road. Mainlanders wouldn't do this. This is beyond mere misspelt Tea Party protest signs, I'd say it's akin to protesting against Biden with an English-language sign with Cyrillic characters accidentally slipped in. It's a clear signal of "not from around here."

This seems cherry-picked. If you look at the videos from the 2am Wulumuqi protest, there weren't much signage at all. Most of the protests after have been using the blank A4 paper. You see that in the video I linked above.

Second, the protests don't make much sense if your goal is to reach other Chinese folks in China. You can't share such protests on social media, and news agencies won't cover them. However, contrary to popular narratives, demonstrations are allowed in China. You can't call for the downfall of the national government, but you can plea for the national government to come in and fix local issues. You can also take to the streets because you're really worked up about foreigners insulting China.

Just because they know censorship exists doesn't mean they never protest. Plus most of the protest isn't calling for the downfall of the government (tho some exists).

If you listen to the slogans, they aren't calling for the downfall of the government. They are saying stuff like 不要核酸要吃饭 不要封控要自由 (Don't wanna nucleic test I want to eat, don't want lockdowns want freedom).

(And yes I was at an anti-Japanese march in Shanghai a long time ago. It seemed ironic to be yelling anti-Japanese slogans as you walk near the Japanese Consulate, and then drinking your Kirin beverage (but that's just me))

Third, advocating against the national government and leaders is punished, and everyone knows it. It's unlikely that Chinese citizens would take such a risk when it's so easy to put on a demonstration that falls short of impugning the national government. I think it's likely that these were non-citizens, perhaps Taiwanese, or perhaps expats, that aren't risking their livelihoods. The use of traditional characters makes this more likely, only Hong Kong and Taiwan use them. Western media are unlikely to take note of such things, or to take note of Taiwanese accents.

In a country of 1.3 billion or whatever the number, there are weird shit that happens all the time. I can tell you with confidence that the 2am protest in Shanghai was majority local Chinese, mostly young people. This was in the former french concession (trendy place to live) so there were some foreigners there (I may or may not have been there), but all expat groups and group chats on wechat etc have been warned not to participate in these, precisely because you dont wanna be a random white guy photographed in the crowd and then used as "see, this is foreign forces!". And you don't wanna be deported and all that.

And by the way the twitter account you linked is ... questionable.

Any time anything like this happens in China or Ukraine or whatever, it's always "foreign operatives" or whatever. The locals never have any agency of course.

I observed this as well. I follow Daryl Cooper and he goes on and on how everything that happened in Russia since downfall of Soviet Union has imprint of USA. Russian economy was ruined by US corporations, their peaceful attempts such as Partnership for Peace was dashed by the likes of Allbright and Kissinger and their pawns like Václav Havel or Lech Wałęsa. Expansion of NATO basically forced Russia into hot wars, they had no other choice. Even recent analysis like Nordstream 2 pipeline explosion - Cooper's theory is that Biden was blackmailed by intelligence community to blow up the pipeline - because there is no possible explanation for why Putin or anybody else would ever do it, there is quite a remarkable absence of imagination regarding Putin and his convoluted gang of goons, given what convoluted stories Cooper can create when it comes to US actions. And my speculation is that even if Putin actually ordered it a new narrative would be created how it is ultimately just result of America's shady plays behind the curtain.

There is never any agency of 7.7 billion people in the World, everything that ever happens is orchestrated by this one nation of 300 million. It seems like a sort of strange and perverse version of American exceptionalism - yes we are the most powerful nation that ever was and we are behind everything, only we are the bad guys. Which is BTW a strangely common thread with the wokes, only they see immense power of Western White Males everywhere in the world throughout whole history. It is quite a weird fetish.

Also for everybody else, I follow The China Show podcast of two expats who lived in China for over a decade and who have a lot of contacts still in there. They covered the topic extensively during last episode, it