Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"X" is for ten: An anniversary for xpostfactoid

Over the weekend, it dawned on me that xpostfactoid's tenth anniversary was coming up. I checked, and indeed, I started blogging continuously on October 10, 2007, after a couple of false starts.

The thought made me rather sad, in that the blog started as Obama came into full focus and is tied up with my hopes of political and national renewal that gained steam throughout 2008  -- as first the seeming miracle of Obama's nomination drive came to fulfillment and then the wonder of the United States electing an African American whose rhetoric and thought was imprinted with Lincoln's took hold. And look where we are now -- in danger of turning that legacy, if not the whole world, to ashes after electing a lifelong fraudster and vicious demagogue, someone an emotionally grounded six-year-old would run from screaming.

But the blog's first posts from fall 2007 feel strangely contemporary. Back then, in the Later Bush Era, I wondered whether American democracy had lost its ability to self-correct -- precisely the capability that Obama spent the next nine years spotlighting as the nation's defining virtue. If you'll indulge a pair of early snippets:

Oct. 22, 2007
Holding office in a postdemocratic society would be something like competing in a sport in which steroid abuse is rife: if you don't cheat, you can't compete. We may need whole new types and theories of regulation, not to "level" the playing field -- between the two major parties it is quite level -- but to improve the quality of play...

As the Bush era comes to a close, I wonder whether American democracy will self-correct as it has done in the past, or whether the democratic process has become so skewed by money and marketing technology that true course corrections -- i.e., those with a measure of bipartisan input and buy-in -- are no longer possible.
Nov. 30, 2007 (addressing focus group response to Republican presidential debate)
Andrew Sullivan labels this display of sadism [disapproval of McCain speaking against torture] The Foul Core of the GOP. But what if we're witnessing the corruption of the American electorate as whole? That's what inevitably happens when leaders violate the norms and taboos of civilized governance. I think back to those experiments by Stanley Milgram in the 1960s in which participants proved willing to administer excruciatingly painful shocks (which were faked) to those they believed to be the experiment's subjects, and Milgram's claim that you could find a full staff for Auschwitz in any typical American town. That is probably always true of people everywhere -- and that's precisely why when the leaders start pushing the torture-is-too-good-for- our-enemies buttons, we're on the road to ruin if other leaders don't stand up in opposition.
Americans today are not staffing concentration camps -- and in fact the resistance to Trump's demonization and abuse of immigrants is running deep and strong. But we did elect someone whose capacity for evil may yet match Hitler's. The fears aroused in me in 2007/8 by the authoritarian demagoguery of  Giuliani, Romney, Brownback, Tancredo and other Republican stalwarts werer realized in 2016.

Perhaps the central political question of our times is whether this degradation of our politics is cyclical or permanent. Obama emerged as lead counsel for the optimist defense. In 2007/8, Obama seduced first Democrats and then an electoral majority with an idealized vision of American history and destiny that seemed leavened with realism because it acknowledged the country's flaws and failings, often tied to its original sin of slavery.

Obama's core promise was that the nation's history (and destiny) reflects continual progress, uneven and sometimes temporarily reversed, toward fulfilling the ideals expressed in its founding documents.    "Yes we can," that apparently airiest of campaign affirmations, was actually grounded in -- and expressed -- this faith that periodically, the electorate would find the political will to meet new acute challenges to equal opportunity and shared prosperity. That collective will would find an instrument in him but would be executed through bottom-up political action.

I fell hard for that premise (and still hope that it may be vindicated). Before I started concentrating this blog mainly on healthcare in the fall of 2013 (and started working to develop some research and reporting capacity), the place I thought I could add some value was in close-reading Obama's speeches and other utterances. There's maybe a whiff of fanzine in this, but I think the quality of Obama's thought, as manifested in his conduct in office, merited it. A sampling of this Obama-reading remains listed in the blog's right margin. One post that to some degree sums all is Obama's seductive love for America.

From this blog's beginning I was bothered by its 'xpostfactoid' nature -- its limitation to after-the-fact(oid) commentary. That started to change to some degree with the initially catastrophic, melodramatic, high-stakes launch of the ACA marketplace and Medicaid expansion in the fall of 2013. Along with the dearth of functioning software there was initially a dearth of enrollment data.  As stats started to trickle in they became an instant infowar battleground, and along with Charles Gaba and others I started trying to read the tea leaves as they landed. When HHS enrollment reports developed a rhythm and protocol they became eagerly awaited events.  Around the same time, early 2014, I started reaching out to healthcare scholars and debriefing some early adopters in the ACA marketplace. Twitter was ground in which a community of healthcare experts and other heavily engaged amateurs took root for me.

I remain constantly aware of how thin my knowledge base in healthcare is, how limited my math skills, how shallow my reporting, such as it is. And yet I do seem able periodically to note things and spotlight things that haven't been noted or spotlit before. I'll keep on doing that, as it's the most rewarding thing I do.

On a landmark anniversary I feel I also owe a salute to Andrew Sullivan. While I never agreed with much more than half of Andrew's political analysis, I became a Dish reader when I picked up on his crusade against the Bush-Cheney torture regime. Then, in the pre-Twitter era (at least, pre-Twitter for me), I became hooked on the Dish's sheer variety of updates and eclectic links. This blog actually started in response to -- and long continued in dialogue with -- Sullivan's investment of extravagant hopes in Obama.  His voice became the voice of a friend. And I might never have persisted with this blog if Sullivan hadn't started linking to my posts.  One of his cardinal virtues has always been openness to a wide chorus of voices, whether known or not, whether credentialed or not -- and I was a beneficiary of that openness.


  1. Happy Anniversary.
    I really enjoyed reading this.
    I always appreciate/agree with your Obama pieces. I always appreciate your healthcare information although there is so much of it I really either don't understand or just sort of understand the general idea of. I share a lot of it hoping someone who does understand can benefit from your good ideas.
    Best wishes for another decade of xpostfactoiding and may we recover from the degradation, learn something and become a more progressive society. A more perfect union!

  2. You do a great job. Your blogroll is absolutely top notch, and you keep it fresh 365 days a year and that is a great service/ They don't pay you enough~