Posts Tagged ‘Democrats and Republicans’

Things fall apart

May 23, 2021

In the USA, the dominant forces in both major political parties reject basic principles that are necessary to the democratic process.

Republicans seek to hold onto political power by suppressing the vote of certain demographic groups.

Democrats seek to hold into power suppressing the expression of certain opinions.

Not all Republicans are blindly loyal supporters of Donald Trump. But no Republican politician are afford to be a critic of Trump.

Not all Democrats are committed to so-called “woke-ism.” But no Democratic politician can afford to be a critic of the new ideology.

My evaluation of the two parties’ leadership is that, at this point in history, MAGA Republicans are crazier, but Woke Democrats are more dangerous, because they have powerful institutions behind them—the national security establishment, the elite universities and the leading newspapers and broadcasters.

Ezra Klein Interviews Nicole Hammer in the New York Times.

Nicole Hammer, a scholar who follows the conservative movement, says the Republican Party is “post-policy.”  She says the hard core of the Republican Party is committed to nothing except to supporting Donald Trump, no matter what he says and does, and opposing the Democratic leaders, no matter what they say and so.

It is remarkable how many commentators hark back to the United States of the 1850s, and the vain attempts back then to avert a civil war.  A significant number of people in that era, and also in the Western nations before the two world wars, were frustrated, apprehensive and ready to go to war and settle things, as they thought, for once and for all.

Reflections on the Upheaval in France by N.S. Lyons for The Upheaval.

In April, 20 retired French generals published a letter denouncing “the disintegration that is affecting our country” caused by woke-ism and failure to integrate France’s Muslim minority.   This letter and a follow-up letter were signed by a total of more than 287,000 people, including 2,000 serving soldiers.

A public opinion poll indicates that a majority of French people support the soldiers’ letter.  The whole article is interesting.

They all fall by Sam Kriss for Idiot Joy Showland.  Some reasons for the failure of Jeremy Corbin and left-wing populism in England.

Inside the Military’s Secret Undercover Army by William M. Arkin for Newsweek.

Corporate Media’s Double Standard: They Attack Whomever They Want, But You Cannot Criticize Them by Glenn Greenwald.

Big Corporations Now Deploy Woke Ideology the Way Intelligence Agencies Do–As a Disguise by Glenn Greenwald.

House Democrats, Targeting Right-Wing Cable Outlets, Are Assaulting Core Press Freedoms by Glenn Greenwald.

The Sovietization of the American Press by Matt Taibbi for TK News.

American conservatives and Republicans don’t have a great record of defending First Amendment rights.  But that doesn’t mean they are fair game for censorship. 

There used to be a saying that a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged.  Well, then, a liberal is a conservative who’s been canceled.

The Danger of the Moment by Bob Bauer for Lawfare.  [Added 5/28/2021]  Republican voter suppression didn’t begin or end with Donald Trump.

Democrats support their cause more intensely

April 18, 2021

Willingness to donate to a political party is a measure of how strongly you support it. I came across a couple of graphs that show how the depth of support for Democrats (measured in donations) exceeds support for Republicans.

Double click to enlarge.

The top chart shows the number donors to the Trump and Biden campaigns from various occupations; the bottom chart shows the same thing from various institutions.  The size of the circle indicates the number of donors; the intensity of the blue for Biden or red for Trump indicates how much of a majority they had with each group.

Double click to enlarge.

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The USA is haunted by the specter of fascism

April 5, 2021

There are certain resemblances between the present-day USA and Germany in the last days of the Weimar Republic.

We have an ineffective government that’s unable to deal with major problems or rein in its military.

We have increasing numbers of Americans who’ve given up on trying to change things by means of politics.

Many see no point in voting or following politics. Others think the only hope for change is in street protests.

Along with this is a loss of confidence in all sources of authority—government, religion, science, academia and journalism—and a hunger for something new.

Ross Douthat wrote a column in the New York Times wondering whether the history of the Weimar Republic could repeat.  I think there are other, more likely ways that American democracy could break down, which I will get to.  But let me examine the Weimar script first.

While there are similarities, there also are big differences between Germany 90 years ago and the USA today. 

American political parties don’t have paramilitary auxiliaries.  Neo-Nazis and avowed racists are few.  Compare the turnout for the “unite the right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 with the massive Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year.

But all this could change if there was a repeat of the Great Depression of the 1930s, particularly if it was accompanied by a humiliating military defeat.

Here’s how things could play out.  This isn’t a prediction, just a possibility.

In the wake of economic collapse, the streets of American citizens are filled with rioters, including extreme radicals and extreme nationalists.  A nationalist demagogue is elected President, and industrialists and the military look to him to restore order.  Congress votes him the power to impose martial law, which he does.  Martial law is never revoked.

The fascist movements in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s arose from a breakdown of social order and a fear of Communist revolution.  The same conditions could arise in the United States, except that revolutionaries wouldn’t necessarily be Communists and the President who imposes permanent martial law wouldn’t necessarily be a nationalist or a right-winger.

∞∞

The conservative Christian blogger Rod Dreher sees another path to totalitarianism—a kind of low-level bloodless Stalinism in the name of what’s called identity politics or “anti-oppression” or “wokeness.”

Individuals have every right to define themselves on the basis of race, sex, gender or any other attribute, and band together with others to defend their rights and advance their interests.  I would never deny that people are held back by prejudice, and have a right to organize to overcome discrimination.

The problem is that believers in wokeness have embedded themselves in institutions, and demand not only that people subject to those institutions passively accept their ideas, but actively endorse them. 

They also demand a certain kind of way of saying things, so you can get in trouble by saying  “all lives matter” instead of “black lives matter.”

That’s how the new ideology resembles Stalinism and Maoism.  They, too, demanded not only passive acceptance, but enthusiastic support expressed in a prescribed vocabulary and a required show of penitence for not measuring up.

A recent public opinion poll showed that six in 10 Americans have political opinions they’re afraid to share and three in 10 fear that their political views could harm their job prospects.  Half of all strong liberals would fire a business executive known to have donated to the Trump campaign; three in 10 strong conservatives would do the same to a Biden donor. 

I don’t equate this to Stalin’s mass executions or the Gulag.  But I do think there’s a widespread and well-founded fear of getting into trouble by inadvertently saying the wrong thing or offending the wrong people, and I do see people afraid to speak their minds as I think free Americans ought.

Some people make a practice of searching social media to find things that people have said that could be considered objectionable, and then using this information to attack their reputations and careers.

Dreher fears the emergence of a social credit system like the one in China, where everyone’s every move is tracked through surveillance technology and social media, and people are rewarded or punished according to the acceptability of their behavior.

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The Biden governing coalition emerges

January 23, 2021

The Joe Biden administration represents a coming together of most of the power centers in American society.

Biden and the Democratic National Committee have the support of Wall Street, Silicon Valley, the national press, the intelligence agencies, the Black Lives Matter movement, the liberal churches, academia and most self-described liberals and progressives.

[Added 1/24/2021]  I forget to mention key elements of the governing coalition—Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and Facebook, Google and Amazon.]

[Update 1/25/2021]  President Biden is really down on Mark Zuckerberg.  Maybe Facebook isn’t part of the governing coalition after all.

This is the culmination of what neoliberal Democrats such as Bill Clinton sought for decades, the displacement of the Repubican Party by the Democratic Party as the party of the establishment and the monied elite.

Last night I watched a good discussion of this by Thomas Frank with Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper on the Useful Idiots program.  It’s well worth watching.

If the Biden administration can actually bring the coronavirus pandemic under control, and if it can bring the economic crisis under control, Biden could become the most beloved American leader since Eisenhower and the Democrats would make themselves a majority party for a long time to come.

In principle, there’s nothing in the nature of the Biden governing coalition to prevent this.  It is not to the interest of owners and managers of large corporations to see large numbers of their customers broke or dying.

But I don’t see any signs this will actually happen. We’ll see. 

I do see signs that the new governing coalition intends to crack down on dissent, both right-wing and left-wing.  To me, this is more alarming than the threat of any fanatic mass movement from below.

Where does this leave the Republicans? Their only choice is to combine opposition to what’s called political correctness and Woke-ness with a populist appeal to working people.

I think the populism of Republicans such as Senator Josh Hawley or Fox news commentator Tucker Carlson is mostly fake, like Donald Trump’s.

A political movement combining cultural conservatism with genuine populism would be powerful, but I don’t think it is likely. Again, we’ll see.

LINKS

Can President Joe Biden mend a torn America? by Thomas Frank for Le Monde diplomatique.  [Added 1/28/2021]  He says what I said, but much more eloquently and to the point.

The Next Neoliberal President by Thomas Neuberger for Down With Tyranny!

As Death Toll Tops 410,000, Biden Pursues “Wartime Effort” to Fight COVID, But Could More Be Done? an interview of Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, on Democracy Now!  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon is paid $31.5 million after decrying income inequality by Dominic Rushe for The Guardian.  (Hat tip to O).

US Companies Cut Off Donations to Republicans Who Rejected Biden Certification by Gregory Korte and Bill Allison for BLoomberg News.

We Need to Stabilize’: BIg Business Breaks With Republicans by David Gelles for The New York Times [Added 1/25/2021]

Zuckerberg’s Biden Problem by James Clayton for BBC News.  Maybe not a member of the governing coalition after all.  [Added 1/25/2021]

The Class Composition of the Capitol Rioters (First Cut) by Lambert Strether for Naked Capitalism.

The Organizational Capacity and Behavioral Characteristics of the Capitol Rioters (First Cut) by Lambert Strether for Naked Capitalism.  This article and the preceding one are the most objective reports I’ve seen so far about who the Capitol rioters where and what they were up to.  Conclusion: They were paper tigers.

The Echo Chamber Era by Matt Taibbi for TK News.

The Moronic Firing of Will Wilkerson Illustrates Why Fear and Bad Faith Mob Demands Reign Supreme by Glenn Greenwald.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

December 14, 2020

A writer named Edward Curtin had a good article in OffGuardian about the basic similarity of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Both are willing to bail out monopoly businesses. Both are unwilling to do anything meaningful to help the poor, working people or the middle class.

Both are committed to perpetual war. Leaders of neither party are willing to pardon Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden for the crime of pointing out how Americans have been deceived by their government.

The truth is that both the Trump voters and the Biden voters have been taken for a ride.  It is a game, a show, a movie, a spectacle.  It hasn’t changed much since 1969; the rich have gotten richer and the poor, working, and middle classes have gotten poorer and more desperate.  Those who have profited have embraced the fraud.

The Institute for Policy Studies has just released a new analysis showing that since the start of the Covid-19 “pandemic” in mid-March and the subsequent transfer upwards of $5 trillion to the wealthy and largest corporations through the Cares Act, approved 96-0 in the US Senate, 650 US billionaires have gained over a trillion dollars in eight months as the American people have suffered an economic catastrophe.

This shift upward of massive wealth under Trump is similar to Obama’s massive 2009 bailout of the banks on the backs of American workers.  Both were justified through feats of legerdemain by both political parties, accomplices in the fleecing of regular people, many of whom continue to support the politicians that screw them while telling them they care.

If the Democrats and the Republicans are at war as is often claimed, it is only over who gets the larger part of the spoils.  [snip]

I am well aware that most people disagree with my analysis. It does seem as if I am wrong and that because the Democrats and their accomplices have spent years attempting to oust Trump through Russia-gate, impeachment, etc. that what seems true is true and Trump is simply a crazy aberration who somehow slipped through the net of establishment control to rule for four years.

To those 146+ million people who voted for Biden and Trump this seems self-evident. But if that is so, why, despite their superficial differences – and Obama’s, Hillary Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s for that matter – have the super-rich gotten richer and richer over the decades and the war on terror continued as the military budget has increased each year and the armament industries and the Wall Street crooks continued to rake in the money at the expense of everyone else?

Source: OffGuardian

It’s a good article, well worth reading in full.  As Curtin points out, the same thing is going on in Britain.  My only quarrel with him is his focus on the “white working class.”  The American wage-earning class is multi-racial, and with a higher percentage of African-Americans, Hispanics, immigrants and women than the general population.

This is important to point out, because so many self-described liberals ignore this reality and set up a false opposition between racial justice and economic justice.

It is not as if black wage-earners are forging ahead and white wage-earners are the only ones falling behind.  Neither Barack Obama nor Bill Clinton did anything special to raise up black working people, either as a special group or part of the overall body politick.  Neither did Donald Trump nor George W. Bush did anything meaningful for working people—white, black or otherwise.

LINK

The Past Lives On: The Elite Strategy to Divide and Conquer by Edward Curtin for OffGuardian.  (Hat tip to Steve from Texas)

Populism, politics and the future

November 9, 2020

How Trump Lost by Peter Beinart for the New York Review of Books.  “If he governed as he ran in 2016, as an economic populist, he would likely have been re-elected.  Instead he reverted to the same old Republican playbook.”

Is There a Trumpism After Trump? by Ross Douthat for The New York Times.  “His presidency showed the way to a presidency that’s multi-ethnic, middle class and populist.  But soon he may stand in its way.”

Ding-dong, the jerk is dead – But read this before you join the Hallelujah Chorus by Thomas Frank for The Guardian.  “Trump’s defeat is a time for celebrating – let us praise God for victory.  But let us also show some humility in our triumph, and think a bit about how we got here.”

Trump Proved That Authoritarians Can Get Elected in America by Zeynep Tufekci for The Atlantic.  “Trump was ineffective and easily beaten.  A future strongman won’t be.”

They Are Trying to Silence Progressives, Because Money Never Sleeps by David Sirota for The Daily Poster.  “We’re all exhausted, but in the 24 hours since the election was called, corporate interests and their allies have already started their war on progressives.  There’s no rest for the weary.”

There Was Actually a Lot of Good News for the Left on Election Day by Liza Featherstone for Jacobin.

The 2020 election hasn’t really settled anything

November 6, 2020

Trump’s election plan (in addition to standard voter suppression, like having almost no machines in poor ridings [election districts]):

  1. Tell Republicans not to vote by mail, and claim there is a lot of fraud.
  2. Have DeJoy, his man in the Post Office slow down and damage mail delivery, slowing down ballot delivery and losing ballots.
  3. Have Republican legislatures in important states forbid counting mail in and early vote ballots before election day.
  4. If the election is close, go to court to stop the counting of votes after election day.

Source: Ian Welsh

As of this morning, it looks as if this strategy has failed, mainly because the courts didn’t co-operate, and Joe Biden is virtually certain to win an Electoral Vote majority.

But if President Trump hadn’t mishandled the coronavirus pandemic, or hadn’t had so many obvious character flaws, he might well have won the election fair and square.

The basic reason Biden gave voters to support him is that he isn’t Donald Trump.  Anybody else would be better, and Biden was someone else.

The Democrats in this election were backed by big business.  In money terms, they massively out-raised and out-spent the Republicans. 

Joe Biden’s campaign promises were (1) to not enact Medicare for All, (2) to not support a Green New Deal and (3) to not ban fracking. 

The main achievement he boasted of was beating Bernie Sanders.  The main reason he gave for voting for him was that he wasn’t Donald Trump.  That was enough—but just barely.

Democratic support among key constituencies continued to erode, as it did in the previous two Presidential elections.

Let’s be very clear: the Democratic Party screwed this election up massively.  Trump actually did better than he did in 2016 in areas with high COVID-19 deaths.  Union members in Ohio appear to have gone for Trump, and most of the people who saw the economy as the top issue voted for Trump, even though this should theoretically be the issue on which the Democratic Party is strongest.

Source: Current Affairs.

Preliminary exit polls indicate that the Republicans increased their vote share among woman, African-Americans and Hispanics, including poor Mexican-Americans in south Texas who’ve historically been reliable Democratic voters for maybe a century.

The result is that Republicans will probably keep control of the Senate, increase their representation in the House of Representatives and keep control of enough state legislatures to keep their gerrymandering advantage.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans have the upper hand.  What this means is that things will continue just as they are, except that Donald Trump will no longer be using the White House as a stage for his psychodrama.

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Michael Bloomberg as a presidential candidate

February 7, 2020

Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg’s emergence as a major Democratic presidential candidate reminds me of a saying attributed to Harry Truman.

If you run a Republican against a Republican, the [real] Republican will win every time.

LINKS

Michael Bloomberg Wikipedia page.

A Republican Plutocrat Tries to Buy the Democratic Nomination by Nathan J. Robinson for Current Affairs [Added 2/9/2020]  This says it all.

Michael Bloomberg’s Right-Wing Views on Foreign Policy by Mehdi Hasan for The Intercept.

Mike Bloomberg’s $ymbiotic Relationship With NY’s GOP: ‘We Agreed With Him on So Many Issues’ by Ross Barkan for Gothamist.

Bloomberg Has a History of Donating to Republicans—Including in 2018 by Bobby Cuza for Spectrum News NY1

How Trump could be defeated in 2020

November 8, 2018

When I was growing up in western Maryland, there was a frequently quoted saying: Never get into a pissing contest with a skunk.

So long as Democrats campaign against President Trump based on his personality and personal behavior, they will lose.  Like it or not, he will win in any clash of accusations and insults.

The Democrats’ new majority in the House of Representatives gives them an opportunity to shift the attention of the press and public away from the President’s Twitter account and toward issues that affect the well-being of the American public.

By holding hearings on issues such as, Medicare for All,  minimum wage, prescription drug prices, student loan debt, gun-related killings, voter suppression and so on, they can set the stage for a 2020 election campaign based on these issues.

If they are smart, they will focus on issues of particular interest to rural voters—water availability*, agri-business monopoly, optoid addiction, nuclear waste disposal*, access to health care in rural areas, transportation infrastructure in rural areas.

If they are foolish, they will focus on trying to impeach Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and President Trump himself.

I don’t know what the Mueller investigation will eventually reveal, but Democrats would be foolish to count on Russiagate as a winning issue.  It had nil effect on this year’s elections.

The same with investigations into corruption in the Trump administration.  Investigating corruption in the executive branch is an important duty of Congress, but it will have little political benefit unless the corruption can be shown to do material harm to Americans and unless Democrats can tie it to a constructive alternative proposal of their own.

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Did Senate Dems trade ACA for Russia sanctions?

June 15, 2017

Senate Democrats reportedly made a deal to allow Republicans to gut Obamacare in return for their support of tougher sanctions against Russia.

The Republicans have a 52 to 48 majority, so they have the power to force through their plan.   We the public don’t know what it is going to be, but, in order to be reconcilable with the House bill, it will include denying government health care benefits to millions of people in order to enable tax cuts for the very rich.

There are procedural tactics that the Democrats could use to delay action until public opposition has time to build, but they reportedly have agreed not to do this.

So the public loses a program that, despite its many flaws, has saved lives in return for the increased possibility of war with Russia.

Reports of a deal may be false or exaggerated and, if there is a deal, not all Democrats may be on board with it.

But it is an indisputable fact that the Democratic leadership in Congress is putting much more energy into investigation, so far fruitless, of Trump’s ties with Russia than into opposing the Republican political agenda.

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Thomas Frank on Trump’s nationalist populism

May 24, 2017

Nobody alive has a better grasp of American politics than Thomas Frank.

Above is a video I came across of a talk he gave in April at the Kansas City Public Library.   It’s a bit long, especially to watch on a computer screen, but Frank is an entertaining speaker, as he is a writer, and I recommend listening to him if you have time.  His talk ends a little short of an hour and a question-and-answer period runs for about 30 minutes.

Frank sees Donald Trump as the latest of a line of Republican nationalist populists—his predecessors being Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush and the leaders of the Tea Party.

A populist is someone who claims to speak in the name of the people against the elite.   The old Populist Party, which dominated Kansas politics in the 1890s, represented farmers and laborers and fought against bankers and railroad CEOs.

The Democratic Party used to be this kind of populist party, Frank said, but it no longer is.   Instead it represents a professional class defined by educational credentials.

In the days of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, Democrats spoke in the name of the common people against greedy Wall Street bankers and power-hungry corporate CEOs.   But the present generation of Democratic leaders regards bankers and CEOs as classmates—members of the same college classes and same social class.

This has given an opening to nationalist populists who claim to speak for the common people against meddling bureaucrats, unpatriotic intellectuals and out-of-touch journalists.

The vast majority of Americans are either treading water economically or going under.   They are justifiably angry, and right-wing talk radio tells them a story that explains their plight and channels their anger.

The Republican populists offer no real solution, but Democrats no longer offer an alternative story.  That’s why they’ve been in decline for 50 years.  They will have a hard time coming back, Frank said, even if Donald Trump self-destructs.

I found Frank’s whole talk interesting.  Maybe you will, too.

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A choice of evils: links November 5, 2016

November 5, 2016

Trumponomics, Taxes and the American Worker by David Cay Johnston for the Washington Spectator.

It Didn’t Have to Be Hillary by Andrew Levine for Counterpunch.

The GOP’s Stealth War Against Voters by Greg Palast for Rolling Stone.

Barrel Bomb: the Cataclysmic Close of Campaign 2016 by Chris Floyd for Empire Burlesque.

The Places Left Behind by Lily Geismer for Jacobin.  About the Clintons’ “New Markets” initiative.

Could the GOP become the pro-worker party?

August 15, 2016

My parents were New Deal Democrats, and I was brought up to revere the memory of Franklin Roosevelt and to believe that the Democrats were the party of working people.

DCdivided-300x253But a strange thing happened in American politics during the past 20 years.  Blue-collar workers and high school graduates have become the base of the Republican Party, while college-educated professionals are now the base of the Democratic Party.

As recently as 1992, when Bill Clinton ran against George H.W. Bush, he had a huge lead among workers earning less than $50,000 a year, and high school graduates and dropouts.  The elder Bush won by a similarly large margin among workers earning $100,000 a year or more, and narrowly carried college graduates.

In contrast, a CNN poll conducted right after the 2016 conventions gives Hillary Clinton a 23 percent lead among college graduates and an 18 percent lead among voters earning more than $50,000 a year.  Donald Trump is competitive among voters earning less than $50,000 a year and has a 26 percent lead among whites with high school educations or less.

This isn’t because Republicans actually represent the interests of working people.  Leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan—and including Donald Trump—still believe that the key to prosperity is deregulation and tax cuts for rich people, policies which have been tried and failed for the past 25 years.

But Trump, in his saner moments, at least talks about the concerns of working people.  Hillary Clinton at the moment seems more interested in reaching out to conservatives and anti-Trump Republicans.

My guess is that she will win in November, probably in a landslide, based on an alliance of racial and ethnic minorities, women and college-educated white professionals, plus the disgust of middle-road voters with Trump’s antics.

But if she governs in the interests of Wall Street, as her political record and donor list indicate she will, Republicans could reinvent themselves as champions of the working class.

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Trump woos workers, Clinton woos Republicans

July 29, 2016

Donald Trump is going after the vote of blue-collar workers who, rightly, feel abandoned by the Democratic leadership, while Hillary Clinton is trying to woo anti-Trump Republicans.

For struggling American workers, Clinton is like a physician who says your terminal illness is incurable, and also charges bills higher than you can pay.  Trump is like a quack who offers you a treatment that probably won’t work, but you may be willing to try for lack of an alternative.

Thomas Frank, writing in The Guardian, summed up the situation well:

Thomas-Frank_250

Thomas Frank

Donald Trump’s many overtures to supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders were just the beginning.  He also deliberately echoed the language of Franklin Roosevelt, he denounced “big business” (not once but several times) and certain of his less bloodthirsty foreign policy proposals almost remind one of George McGovern’s campaign theme: “Come home, America.”

Ivanka Trump promised something that sounded like universal day care.  Peter Thiel denounced the culture wars as a fraud and a distraction.  The Republican platform was altered to include a plank calling for the breakup of big banks via the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall.  I didn’t hear anyone talk about the need to bring “entitlements” under control.  And most crucially, the party’s maximum leader has adopted the left critique of “free trade” almost in its entirety, a critique that I have spent much of my adult life making.

It boggles my simple liberal mind.  The party of free trade and free markets now says it wants to break up Wall Street banks and toss NAFTA to the winds.  The party of family values has nominated a thrice-married vulgarian who doesn’t seem threatened by gay people or concerned about the war over bathrooms.  The party of empire wants to withdraw from foreign entanglements.

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The Republican wing of the Democratic Party

May 27, 2016

When Howard Dean ran for President in 2004, he said he represented “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

What I took him to mean was that he represented the traditional Democratic constituencies, especially  labor, in opposition to the Republican wing, which favored big business.

rwb-donkeysplitAs chair of the Democratic National Committee, he famously said that the Democrats ought to be able to get the votes of men who drove pickup trucks with Confederate flags because they benefit from affordable health insurance and other liberal programs as much as anybody else.

He had a 50-state strategy in which he sought to built the Democratic Party everywhere, not just in the so-called swing states.  During his tenure, 2005 through 2009, Democrats recaptured control of Congress and built their strength across nationwide.  Democrats lost ground under his more conservative successors, Tim Keane (2009-2011) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (2011- )

The case for the Republican wing for the Democratic Party is that the interests of working people are compatible with the interests of Wall Street bankers and Fortune 500 executives, and that the goal of party leaders should be to seek consensus, as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama attempted to do.   The blame would rest with the Republican Party for refusing to respond to their overtures.

The problem with this is that it provides no answer to the growing concentration of wealth and power the past 25 years, at the expense of all Americans except a small elite.

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Obama extends overtime pay over GOP objection

May 18, 2016

overtimepay30-b2-a8-1571-1454141881Give credit where credit is due.   The Department of Labor’s new rule on overtime pay for salaried workers would benefit millions of American workers.  Such a rule would not have been proposed under a Republican administration.

But why is the rule being introduced now, and not years ago?  I suspect, although I cannot prove, that this is a response to the Bernie Sanders campaign.

A Republican administration would not have done what Obama just did.  Conservative Democrats are not advocates for working people, but they can be pressured into appeasing working people.  This is not true of conservative Republicans, who oppose high wages and pro-labor legislation.

If Hillary Clinton and other conservative Democrats are elected this fall, the lesson for labor unions, civil rights organizations and consumer advocates is to keep the pressure on to support their interests.

They should follow the example of the LGBT movement.  President Obama originally opposed gay marriage, but changed his position after LGBT supporters withheld campaign contributions.

This is the way to play politics.  Don’t support anybody unless they give you a positive reason to support them.

Politicians who depend on campaign donations from large corporations and rich people will never go against the vital interests of their donors, but they can be forced to strike a balance between donors and their core voters unless the voters passively support them.

LINKS

Obama Is Bringing Overtime Pay to Millions of Workers by Dave Jamieson for the Huffington Post.

The new overtime rule will directly benefit 12.5 million working people: Who they are and where they live by Ross Eisenbrey and Will Kimball for the Economic Policy Institute.

Republicans Move to Block New Overtime Rules by Connor D. Wolf for the Daily Caller.

The seeds of America’s culture wars

April 29, 2016

David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America is a ground-breaking 946-page book I never got around to reading, and probably won’t.  But I think I got the gist of it by reading a review by Scott Alexander on his Slate Star Codex blog.

Fischer’s argument is that basic patterns of American culture were set by migrations of four very different groups of migrants from the British Isles:

  • Albion'sSeedhek32xef_largePuritans to New England in the 1620s.
  • Cavaliers to Virginia in the 1640s.
  • Quakers to Pennsylvania in the 1670s.
  • Borderers (aka Scots-Irish) to the Appalachians in the 1700s.

Those who came after, he said, had to adapt to social systems established by these four groups—the moralistic Puritans, the aristocratic Cavaliers, the tolerant Quakers and the warlike Borderers—even though the biological descendants of these groups ceased to be in the majority.

It’s interesting and, I think, at least partly true.   Alexander’s review is long for a blog post, but much shorter than the book, and even those uninterested in his basic theme will enjoy reading his lists of fun facts about each group.

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Clintonism, Trumpism: a win-win for the 1%

April 28, 2016

In American politics today, there are three main factions and only two parties to represent them.  One faction has to lose and, if Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are nominated, it will be the Bernie Sanders progressives.

fatcatHillary Clinton represents the Washington and Wall Street elite, committed to perpetual war and crony capitalism.  Wall Street bankers have made her and her husband rich, neoconservative war hawks praise her and Charles Koch has said she may be preferable to either of the possible GOP nominees she may be preferable to either of the possible GOP nominees.

Donald Trump speaks to the concerns of working people—especially pro-corporate trade deals and deindustrialization—but he has no real solution.

His economic nationalism, while not a complete answer to U.S. economic problems, is preferable to the corporate trade deals of the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

But by pitting white working men against Hispanics, blacks, immigrants and feminists, he prevents the working class as a whole from ever having enough clout to defend their interests.

Thomas Frank wrote an excellent book about how the Republicans may be the party of the wealthy elite, representing the upper 1 percent of American income earners, but the Democrats are the party of the educated professional elite, representing the rest of the upper 10 percent.

This year’s political realignment may change this, as he himself implicitly acknowledged in a new article in Vanity Fair.  Under Hillary Clinton, Democrats are becoming the party of the upper 1 percent as well.  Here is the meat of what Frank wrote.

Rich Americans still have it pretty good. I don’t mean everything’s perfect: business regulations can be burdensome; Manhattan zoning can prevent the addition of a town-house floor; estate taxes kick in at over $5 million.   But life is acceptable. Barack Obama has not imposed much hardship, and neither will Hillary Clinton.

And what about Donald Trump?  Will rich people suffer if he is elected president?  Well, yes.  Yes, they will.  Because we all will.  But that’s a pat answer, because Trump and Trumpism are different things.  Trump is an erratic candidate who brings chaos to everything.  Trumpism, on the other hand, is the doctrine of a different Republican Party, one that would cater not to the donor class, but rather to the white working class.  Rich people do not like that idea.

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Elites focus on what they themselves want

April 12, 2016

Elites of both parties focus on the things they want for themselvesRepublicans offer tax cuts and deregulation, as if everyone in America were going to become an entrepreneur.  Democrats offer free college tuition and paid maternity leave, as if these things were a great benefit to people who don’t have the ability, preparation or inclination to sit through four years of college, and … can’t find a decent job from which to take their leave.

Source: Megan McArdle – Bloomberg View

Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist

This is true, but it’s not enough to get my vote

February 29, 2016

democraticimperfectbut notnutsimage001Hat tip to Bill Elwell

In 1991 election for Governor of Louisiana, the Democratic candidate was the corrupt Edwin Edwards and the Republican candidate was David Duke, a Nazi sympathizer and leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

I’m told that billboards read: VOTE FOR THE CROOK, NOT THE KOOK.

Now Democrats are making the same argument on a national level.  Yes, they say, the Clinton-Obama faction of the Democratic Party is in bed with Wall Street, committed to perpetual war and unable to unable to advance the interests of working people, but at least we aren’t totally disconnected from reality, like the Republicans.

That’s not a good enough argument to get my vote.  I probably would have voted for Edwards if I had been a Louisianan in 1991, but that was because this was a one-time situation.  In the long run, I’m not going to support anyone without a positive reason.

Frederick Douglass said, “Find out just what any people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.”  If all that’s needed to get people to vote Democratic is not being a Republican, that’s all the Clinton-Obama Democrats will offer.

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The four main factions in U.S. politics

January 6, 2016

Going into the 2016 elections, I think the differences between the populist and establishment factions of the two largest U.S. political parties are as big as the differences between the two parties.  Here’s how I see the divisions:

REPUBLICANS

Right-Wing Populists.  These consist largely of socially conservative white working people who think (with some justification) that government has turned their back on their moral values and abandoned them in favor of minority groups.  They’re against government bailouts and subsidies of big corporations, but their animosity is against the government, not the corporations.  They want to preserve Social Security, Medicare and other traditional New Deal programs, but they’re against governmental programs primarily aimed at helping minorities and the undeserving poor.  They are against the Trans Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements that limit American sovereignty.  Donald Trump and Ted Cruz purport to speak for this faction.

Right-Wing Establishmentarians.  These consist of rich and powerful people, and their dupes, who embrace what Les Leopold calls the better business climate model of economic policy.  They want lower taxes on upper bracket payers, fewer governmental programs for the poor and less government regulation.  Ultimately they’d like to cut back on Social Security, Medicare and other New Deal programs.  They favor the Trans Pacific Partnership and other pro-corporate trade agreements.  Jeb Bush speaks for this faction.

DEMOCRATS

Left-Wing Establishmentarians.  These consist of rich and power people, and their dupes, who are a kinder, gentler version of the right-wing establishmentarians.  They want to govern basically in their own interest, but less harshly.   They are open to affirmative action, gay marriage, abortion rights and any other rights (except gun rights) that do not threaten the existing structure of economic and political power.  Hillary Clinton speaks for this faction.

Left-Wing Populists.  These consist of blue-collar workers, and their advocates.  Like the right-wing populists, they feel their government has abandoned them, but their animosity is directed against large corporations and Wall Street banks, whom they think (with some reason) have captured the government.  While they favor equal rights and opportunities for women, gays and racial minorities, they think the main issues are economic.  Bernie Sanders speaks for this faction.

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Why is there no real party of the people?

October 12, 2015

A conservative Christian writer and blogger named Rod Dreher is disgusted with how the Republican Party serves the interests of Wall Street and the military-industrial complex.  But he won’t vote for the Democrats because he is opposed to gay marriage and abortion rights.

He wonders why there can’t be a party that represents the interests of the common people on economics and the views of the common people on social issues?

The reason why economic and social issues are aligned the way they are is the power of big money in politics.

Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and the other Democratic leaders are strongly pro-business.  But they can never be as pro-business as George W. Bush, Mitt Romney or the other Republican leaders.

So in order to appeal to rich people, the Democratic leaders have to differentiate themselves on non-economic issues.  A Wall Street banker or Silicon Valley CEO who was gay or female or an immigrant or a marijuana user, or had relatives or friends who were, would prefer Democrats to Republicans unless the Democrats were an actual threat to their wealth and power—which Democrats have not been for decades.

Social issues work the other way for Republicans.   Abortion, gun rights, immigration and gay marriage are issues that enable the GOP to appeal to middle-income voters who might otherwise vote Democratic.  And, in fact, many Democrats would prefer to campaign on these issues than press for raising the minimum wage, breaking up the too-big-to-fail banks or preserving Social Security and Medicare.

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The political scene – August 25, 2015

August 25, 2015

The Do-Something-Else Principle by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.

The simple-minded populism that controls the GOP by Paul Waldman for The Washington Post.

teaparty.GOP.USA.worldDoug Muder and Paul Waldman wrote about how the leading Republican candidates operate on the principle that “ignorance is strength”.

They not only are uninterested in the details of policy.  They lack understanding of how a Constitutional government works.  They seem to think that Presidents can do anything they want by decree, and the only qualities needed are decisiveness and average common sense.

Dr. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump have no experience or interest in government.  Senator Ted Cruz, although he holds public office, also manifests no interest in actually governing.  The popular appeal of such candidates is a measure of the frustration of the American public with the present bipartisan consensus.

One-party system: What total Republican control of a state really means by Herman Schwartz for Reuters.

The Republican Party has much more grass roots strength at the state level than the Democrats.  But except for those who think gun rights and the suppression of abortion are more important than anything else, they’re not governing in the interest of American working people.

The Age of Imperial Wars by James Petras.

Insouciance Rules the West by Paul Craig Roberts.

The establishment Democrats and Republicans understand the workings of government better than the Tea Party Republicans do.  But in their overall policies, they, too, are either disconnected from reality or powerless to change the direction of a government that is on automatic pilot for drone warfare, covert warfare and proxy warfare.

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Why presidential candidates ignore most voters

August 3, 2015

The Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns will ignore most voters in 2016.  They will focus on a few voters in a few swing states.

Frank Bruni in the New York Times wrote about how a Republican insider thinks the Republicans can win by nominating Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, for President and Frank Kasich, the current governor of Ohio for Vice-President, and thereby carrying those two states.

26bruni-master675And a Democratic insider thinks the key to winning Ohio and thereby the presidential election is racking up a huge majority Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland.

Neither party’s strategists bother with California, Texas or New York, states in which they think the outcome is a foregone conclusion.  Only a few states – Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina and maybe one or two others – are in play.

This is something new, and in part a self-fufilling prophecy.   In the 1976 election, as Bruni noted, there were 20 states, including California, Texas and New York, where the margin of victory was less than 5 percentage points.

Polarization between red states and blue states has grown since then, and one of the reasons has to be that Democrats cede Texas and the Deep South to the Republicans, and Republicans cede California, New York and New England to the Democrats.

When I tell my Democratic friends I am disgusted with both parties and plan to vote for the Green Party candidate, they bring up the vote for Ralph Nader in Florida in 2000 and ask me whether I want Donald Trump to be President.   I would vote my conscience in any case, but why even think about this question if it is a foregone conclusion that New York will go Democratic in any case?

LINK

The Millions of Marginalized Americans by Frank Bruni in the New York Times.  (Hat tip to Steve Badrich)

How job choices correlate with political choices

June 3, 2015

20150602_jobsHat tip to zero hedge.

This chart was created by Verdant Labs.  If you click on that link, you can find the original chart, plus an additional interactive chart with information about more occupations.  For example, it shows that, in my own former job of journalist, there are 88 Democrats for every 12 Republicans.

This by the way does support the claim of conservatives that reporters tend to be liberals, but I’m not sure what, if anything, could be done to change this.  An affirmative action program for journalists who claim to be conservatives?  I don’t think that would work.

I often hear that Americans prefer political centrists, but Americans classified by occupation are strongly polarized.   Interestingly, though, if you go to the original Verdant Labs article, you will find that some of the top corporate and business positions are more evenly divided between the two parties than many of the middle-class and working-class jobs.

I can understand while environmental protection workers would tend to be Democrats while oil field workers would tend to be Republicans.  But some of the other political polarizations seem to based on people deciding to fit stereotypes than the actual positions of the two parties.