There is one thing I suspect many don’t understand. It took a long time to get where we are now. Someone like Trump didn’t come out of nowhere. And it can’t be blamed just on crazy right-wing rhetoric.
Decades of lesser evil voting by Democrats made someone like Trump inevitable. It’s because the political left was unwilling to offer real solutions and reform that the American public finally has become so frustrated and angry that they are willing to take serious a ranting demagogue.
That is the problem of always being distracted by the short term results of the next election. Those in power have taken a long view. You want to see successful strategy, consider the Southern Strategy. Those who gained power didn’t do so by constantly compromising.
I understand the seeming failure of the Democratic Party is in reality a success for the Establishment. Those like the Clintons don’t want solutions to problems because, from their perspective, the status quo isn’t a problem. But what perplexes me is that average Democrats who claim to want solutions haven’t figured out this game yet, even though it keeps leading to the same sad results.
When will Democrats get as frustrated and angry as the supporters of Trump are right now? Will it take Trump getting elected before all the good liberals will finally get serious about what they claim to believe in? But when they do wake up, will it already be too late?
Another set of questions that are neither hypothetical nor idle. These are genuine concerns. People should be asking themselves these questions and taking serious the answers. The hour is getting late.
I think about earlier times in American history: American Revolution, Civil War, and Great Depression. It goes in about 80 year cycles or 4 generations. We are at such a point again. How bad will it have to get this time?
I understand the reasons.
The Democratic base consists of two groups: liberals and minorities. Liberals on average are wealthier, well educated professionals who live comfortable lives. They generally don’t experience the problems other Americans face. It’s not personally real to them. It is real for minorities. But they have a long history of getting a bad deal. They’ve come to expect that they either accept the lesser evil or else the greater evil may win and they will suffer for it.
Both liberals and minorities realize how precarious is progress in this society. And the earlier assassinations of major leaders was collectively traumatizing. For a half a century now, the American political left has been paralyzed in fear, playing dead in hope that the grizzly bear would stop mauling them.
It is changing. The divide between supporters of Clinton and Sanders isn’t race or gender. It is a generational divide. And not just the very young. Sanders has the 46 and under demographic, a large part of the population. These are the Americans who have little to no memory of the Cold War. The old fearmongering, red baiting, and culture wars don’t have as much power over their minds.
One reason it is hard to talk about politics in America is because everything has become so skewed. The political spectrum is far to the right than it was in the past.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was way more of a left-winger than is Bernie Sanders. Someone like Dwight Eisenhower is more equivalent to Sanders, at least on domestic issues. The Birchers did call Ike a commie, but back then the views of Birchers were considered radical and yet today they are part of the mainstream.
The moderate centrist position from earlier last century now looks left-wing. I suppose Sanders calls himself a socialist because it is the only way to communicate what people used to mean when calling themselves a liberal. In the rest of the Western world, Sanders would still be considered centrist and moderate.
As for Clinton, in many ways she is to the right of Nixon. Americans often forget how liberal he was, such as creating the EPA.
Back in that era, Clinton was a conservative and a Goldwater Republican. It was Goldwater who helped end the liberalism that dominated both parties back then.
There used to be a left and a right wing in each party. The liberal centrism could operate back then because the liberal framing of politics acted as a moderating force that allowed compromise and cooperation.
Without that center, American politics can’t hold.
Eisenhower made a statement that was representative of his time. He said that conservatism is good for the private sphere, in how people live their lives and in their own economic concerns. But in the public sphere, liberalism is the proper attitude for politics. This is to say liberalism should frame the public good and how society operates over all.
Lacking this liberal frame, conservatism will fall out of balance and become extremist. This is because liberalism has never actually been the left-wing to conservatism’s right-wing. Liberalism instead has always been about moderation. You still see that in how, in polls, a majority of liberals support compromise while conservatives don’t. And in how Democrats, in polls, state stronger support for the presidency no matter who is in power whereas Republicans only support when Republicans are president—although this would have been different earlier last century when the GOP was more liberal and moderate.
What we have seen in recent decades is a severely weakened liberalism. Liberals know they don’t dominate politics. They are constantly on the defense. The thing about liberalism is that it wilts like a flower when the temperature turns freezing. Conservatism can operate in a liberal frame, but liberalism can’t operate in a conservative frame. A social democratic free society simply is not possible under anti-liberal conditions. This is why even conservatives are better off in a liberal society.
I was thinking about Sanders warning about the CIA. He stated the CIA was dangerous to a free society more than four decaes ago and he still stands by that strong criticism. It is reminiscent of Ike’s warning about the military-industrial complex. Neither Ike nor Sanders were/are doves on foreign policy, but both have expressed a wariness about the radical neocon vision of military imperialism, specifically in its corporatist form. That is an old school liberalism that sought moderation between the extremes of isolationist pacfism and expansionist militarism. That view was drowned out in recent years with the post-911 revenge fantasies dominating politics and the revival of Cold War style dreams of globalization. Sanders is a calm voice of sanity in insane times, refusing to bow down to fear.
I was also thinking of Reagan. He was a union leader and a FDR Democrat. He never lost his admiration for FDR and, even after becoming a Republican, kept a picture of FDR above his desk. Like FDR, Reagan believed in an activist government, but instead of that activis being directed to the people it was directed to the military and corporations. He helped further establish what Ike had warned about. The right-wing turn for Reagan represented a right-wing turn for the entire political and economic system.
It was the Goldwater campaign that allowed the right-wingers to take over the GOP and this made possible the election of Reagan. Hillary Clinton worked in the Goldwater campaign. Even when switching parties, she remained a Goldwater conservative. Goldwater and Reagan were both quite socially liberal on many issues, but this was contained wthin a larger conservative worldview. The same goes for Hillary. The innovation of the Clintons was to bring that conservative sensibility into the Democratic Party,what came to be known as the New Denocrats who cut welfare, deregulated markets, and were tough on crime. Conservatism became the new dominant paradigm, replacing the old liberal worldview that had been in place for generations.
I don’t think Trump is quite comparable to Hitler. Born into immense wealth, Trump is invested in and a part of the system. He has always had close ties to the political establishment.
OTOH Hitler was an outsider with humble beginnings: common soldier, failed artist, poor, even homeless at one point. The same goes for an authoritarian like Stalin, another outsider who had experienced poverty and social problems: hounded by the police, imprisoned, etc.
Trump’s life is too comfortable and he has too much to lose by overturning the entire social order, along with the political and economic system. But as a highly effective demagogue, Trump could set the stage for an authoritarian movement to further develop.
There is an unusual dynamic in this campaign season. The wild card isn’t just that there are outsider candidates challenging the two main parties. A greater uncertainty is how the political establishment will respond to this challenge and what results it will lead to.
I’ve argued that some of the Democratic political elite would rather lose the election than to lose power to the Sanders campaign. They fear the threat of political reform as demanded by the political left.
A similar fear is seen among the Republican leadership. They know how easy it is to lose power. The right-wing took control of the party with the Goldwater campaign. And more recently the Tea Party seized yet more power. Fighting Trump is the GOP establishment’s last stand.
The entrenched ruling elite on both sides wants to defend their respective political machines and to maintain their respective party’s brand image. With this motivation in mind, I see a possible convergence of forces. Many Democratic leaders might rather Trump be elected than take a chance on Sanders. On the other side, many Republican leaders might prefer Clinton to either Trump or Sanders.
As such, the two party system might put its full support behind Clinton. The establishment on both sides will place defending the establishment before all else. Clinton just happens to be the only viable establishment candidate.
Trump and Sanders are pitted against the entire Washington status quo. The last thing the establishment wants to see is a contest between these two outsiders. This could mean that a Clinton presidency is more inevitable than I first thought. Trump probably could beat Clinton, if the GOP leadership doesn’t turn against him, but that is seeming unlikely at this point.
A Clinton presidency is the only way the two party establishment can guarantee nothing will really change. We might be looking at a Clinton presidency, after all.
This is something I hadn’t considered before. But it makes sense. The establishment ultimately doesn’t care about parties, except to the extent they are useful. All establishment politics is realpolitik.
I originally didn’t think Clinton had a chance aginst Trump, but if she gets the full force of the two party establisment behind her she’ll have campaign to be reckoned with. That would be a game changer for standard American politics.
Will partisanship keep the ruling elite divided? Or will they make a historical truce to fight the outside challengers? I don’t know the answer to that.
How would either Trump or Sanders defend against a unified establishment? It would be hard, not impossible, but quite challenging.
Part of the difficulty is that the populist vote is split between two candidates. There are a surprising number of frustrated Americans who could just as easily vote for either Trump or Sanders. So there isn’t a unified voice to the populist unrest.
Sanders is holding his own at the moment. He has a good chance, but it depends who ends up backing him. I keep waiting to see if the tide will turn.
What would either tank Clinton’s campaign or guarantee a victory? I was wondering about that.
If enough of the establishment supports her, even drawing some odd bedfellows from the political right, she will be in a strong position. But if something like legal issues become more central and get media attention, she might really struggle. Or if Sanders with the support of black leaders starts drawing away black voters, she might not get the nomination.
Even if she gets the nomination, can she compete against Trump? She has so many weaknesses for Trump to attack. Does it matter that Republican leaders are now trying to tear Trump down? Or will that just make Trump even more popular and make him harder to defeat?
Sanders has the best chances against Trump. He first has to win the nomination, though. If black leaders had come out earlier for Sanders, I doubt Clinton would have had any chance of winning anything. But the Clinton-supporting mainstream media has so effectively shut Sanders out that it took so long for most Americans to even learn anything about him.
There are all these factors that could shift in different directions. It’s not really a matter of the best candidate winning. The election process isn’t a meritocracy. It isn’t even a popularity contest. It’s about maintaining or gaining control of the political narrative. Trump, of course, has been a master at that.
The media and political elite obviously underestimated Trump. And so they miscalculated their strategies. This is most clear with the mainstream media. They were manipulated and played like fools by Trump.
I suspect much of the media thought that, if they gave him enough rope, he’d hang himself. Or maybe that the novelty would eventually wear off. But likely they weren’t thinking at all, beyond the entertainment value for selling advertising.
Many have watched Trump like a car race. They’ve been hoping for a crash and burn. Trump has disappointed his detractors by not self-destructing.
The guy is a media mastermind. He controls the media. He stays on message. And he dominates the competition.
Unknowingly, the maistream media helped him every step of the way. Now no one knows what to do with the monster they helped create. But it is getting late for any effective counter-measures.
The other Republican candidates are weak sauce. Clinton can’t cobble together a coherent political narrative to save her life. And the mainstream media and Democratic political machine has done everything in their power to ignore and undermine Sanders.
We are moving toward the home stretch of the nomination process. Unless Sanders can gain strong support and pull to the front of the pack, Trump could easily slide home into the presidency. More people should have backed Sanders earlier, of course.
Some maybe are still hoping that God will intervene and take Trump out of the race. But it is hard to imagine what could stop him at this point, without some amazingly effective organizing to fight back.
More Americans should have taken Trump’s challenge more seriously. Instead, too many people who could have made a difference played right into his hand.
Along with underestimating Trump, I think others may overestimate him. Or else mischaracterize him.
He isn’t just a joke or a clown. He is a smart guy. I bet he understands more than he lets on.
I do give him credit for being a media mastermind. But he is no evil genius like Hitler scheming to take over the world. Just a standard American egotistic plutocrat who happens to be a talented media personality.
He is also not really an outsider. Yes, he became a Republican candidate from outside the GOP. But he didn’t come out of nowhere. He was born into wealth and power, automatically a part of the establishment. He has been schmoozing with the political and economic elite for his entire life, both in the US and around the world, including wealthy Arabs.
Everyone wants to categorize him, as though that will help deal with him. He is many things. But first and foremost he is a plutocrat. All the rest is mere rhetoric and spectacle.
Trump represents American hyper-indivdualist capitalism. He is the dark side of the so-called American Dream.
Even though Trump’s rhetoric fits more closely to the populist ethno-nationalism of Mussolini and Hitler, I worry more about the kind of fascism has become normalized through the ruling elite. A demagogue is probably less of a threat in the present US than the oligarchy represented by the Bush family and Clinton family.
The latter is a creeping almost invisible fascism, growing like an undetected cancer. Trump is like going to the doctor and finally being diagnosed with cancer. Now that we know, are there enough Americans willing to get treatment? Or are we just hoping that the cancer will go away on its own?
Some people wonder why Hillary Clinton does so well in the South, specifically among minorities. I’d argue it isn’t centrally about the Civil Rights movement and the role of the Democratic Party.
It’s important to keep in mind that the South is extremely conservative. Even minority Democrats in the South are conservative. Hillary Clinton is a conservative Democrat. It’s why Bill won the presidency. He brought Southern conservatism back into the Democratic Party, and so was able to compete against the GOP’s Southern Strategy.
The fight between Clinton and Sanders isn’t between mainstream liberalism and radical socialism. Sanders supposed socialism is simply what used to be called liberalism earlier last century.
It is also important to keep in mind that Clinton is mostly getting support from the older demographic. This is even shown in how support is split among women and minorities. The Clintons have been strong defenders of the conservative policy of tough on crime. But older blacks also wanted this, because of the violent crime increases in their communities, no one understanding at the time that it probably was caused by lead toxicity rates.
Once you realize that Clinton is a conservative, everything begins to make sense. She isn’t a radical right-winger, like Ayn Rand libertarians and Evangelical theocrats. But she is what used to be considered a standard conservative, before the word was taken over by right-wingers.
I have nothing against conservatives, Southern or otherwise. I just like truth in advertising. Clinton is a conservative.
If she represents your beliefs and values, then embrace your conservatism openly. We’ll have more honest debate that way. Then the likes of Sanders can drop the socialist label. Let’s have a real debate about real liberalism and real conservatism.
The muddled language and thinking in US politics is the opposite of helpful.
I also understand why a certain kind of liberal finds Clinton appealing. Some of it is compromise and lesser evil thinking. But there is more to it than that.
In the South, even liberals are relatively more conservative-minded. I see the same thing in the Midwest as well. Midwestern liberals will use conservative style arguments, invoking values of community, family and work ethic.
My hometown of Iowa City is a center of liberalism in Iowa. One resident, Zach Wahls, gained public attention a while back because of his defense of same sex marriage. What was interesting was that his use of Midwestern values that much of the rest of the country would consider conservative.
Politics get messy like that. But this messiness doesn’t really effect the issue I was dealing with in my post above.
Blacks, in and outside of the South, don’t generally identify as liberal. Just because you’re a Democrat, it doesn’t follow you have to be a liberal. Minorities are among the most socially conservative and religious of any demographics in the US, far more fundamentalist and evangelical than the average white.
It’s just that we’ve forgotten about this strain of conservatism. Or rather the mainstream has ignored it, as minorities tend to be ignored, except when their votes are being considered.
It seems strange that Hillary Clinton gets so much support. From a strategic perspective, her campaign is a disaster. Many polls show her being weak against republican candidates, compared to Sanders showing as strong. She is facing major legal issues that could blow up at any moment. And if this happens, this could tarnish the party for a generation.
Last but not least, the younger demographics are against her, and this include GenXers in their 40s (not exactly youngins). Even young minorities are shifting away from mainstream politics. Hillary is heavily corporatist, something that the younger generations despise, including young minorities, as seen in polls.
The young have a more favorable view of socialism than capitalism. Of course, socialism like progressivism has largely just become a new way Americans speak of genuine liberalism, i.e., not corporatist neoliberalism. A corporatist professional politician like Clinton does not represent the world that most Americans want to live in, especially not the young.
The one demographic that Clinton should be winning are women. But the same generational divide is seen there as well.
It’s true that older people tend to vote at higher rates. Elections can sometimes be won entirely focused on the older demographic. Republicans have used that strategy for a long time, although now they are up against a demographic wall. I doubt Democrats want to emulate Republican strategy, even it would lead to short term gains for the party establishment.
For Hillary to win the nomination would mean for the Democrats to lose the future. That is not a recipe for success. Or is the Democratic ruling elite betting on that, no matter how much they fail, that the game will be won by failing a little bit less than the Republicans. Are they just hoping that the GOP will be utterly destroyed and Democrats will then be able to rule without competition?
That doesn’t seem like a safe bet. Both parties could be mortally wounded in this contest. There hasn’t been a time so ripe for a third party challenge as right now. No matter who wins this election, we might be seeing different political parties competing more strongly in the coming elections.
Most Millennials don’t believe that Social Security benefits will be there when they are old. Yet 90% of Millennials, like most Americans, see Social Security as good for America.
The moral of the story is that Americans realize that Social Security is broken. But they don’t want to eliminate it. Instead, they want it fixed.
Part of the reason is that they see how their own grandparents are being helped with these benefits. It’s the same reason Social Security was created in the first place.
The Lost Generation had high rates of old age poverty. For this reason, the Lost Generation promoted Social Security, even though they knew few of their generation would ever benefit from it. The Lost Generation believed in sacrificing for others. It’s why they promoted the younger generations to get the public education they themselves rarely had.
Sacrifice is an American value that gets forgotten about and dismissed in mainstream politics. Many Americans still believe in improving the world, no matter how cynical politicians are. Most Americans want to revive the American Dream that was created with the New Deal.
Sacrifice and the American Dream are two sides of the same coin. The more people are left behind the harder it is for individuals to get ahead. In low inequality and high mobility societies, everyone does better, both poor and wealthy. That used to be what America stood for, why so many immigrants came here.
Despite the bad times, Millennials still have hope for America.
A certain kind of person on the political right argues that Americans only vote for what benefits them personally. They say this is what inevitably causes democracy to fail. This is a view promoted by pundits and professional politicians, along with reactionary activists.
That might be true for how the most far right-wingers think, out for themselves and their own. But right-wingers might want to keep in mind that not everyone thinks like them.
In fact, most Americans, including most conservatives, are fine with sacrificing for their fellow Americans. Polls show this to be true. It’s time for mainstream politics and media to reflect this strong public opinion.
Some people have predicted that we are seeing the self-destruction of the Republican Party. It’s possible.
The Republican establishment has been tempting fate for a long time. They brought in the reactionaries and allowed them to gain power. In the process, they increasingly became disconnected from most Americans. This has forced them to rely upon an ever aging base.
In some ways, Republicans have had the more dynamic party, in how much the party has changed over relatively short periods of time. Being dynamic can be both a strength and a weakness. The Democratic Party is the oldest political party in the world and has changed more slowly over its history. Both parties used to have a left and right wing, but now only the Democrats have maintained this balance, however imperfectly.
The Democrats have an old lineage of being part of the establishment. It has roots going back to the founding generation. It would be much harder, though not impossible, for it to be mortally wounded. Republicans, on the other hand, began as a radical third party. Early on, many people referred to them as Red Republicans because of this radicalism, which included free labor, feminism, abolitionism, and Marxism.
The Republicans are at a dangerous point. Maybe the party of the Southern Strategy is doomed. There will likely have to be a new strategy that flips it in an entirely new direction if they are to survive. Maybe they should consider returning to their roots. They are already partway there by returning to populist rhetoric.
I’m not a fan of the Republican party failing. It creates a power vacuum. Democracy requires many options. Even limited to two main parties isn’t enough for a functioning democracy. A single party dominating certainly wouldn’t be desirable. I want loyal opposition—in an ideal world with multiple parties across the political spectrum. That is the only way to ensure genuine public debate and so an informed public.
There was a snippet on tv of the debate between Clinton and Sanders. It was about the gun issue. I was reminded what distinguishes the two candidates.
Sanders was interested in actually debating the topic. I could tell that he was concerned about finding real solutions. But Clinton just wanted to rile the crowd up with empty rhetoric. It really doesn’t matter what Clinton says, because it won’t change her behavior in Washington.
Sanders refused to play that game. He wasn’t scapegoating. He wasn’t trying to rally the base. Instead, he was speaking to all Americans. His view was that this is a problem that isn’t left vs right. It is a shared problem and we can only solve it by seeking a shared solution.
The thing is most Americans, according to the polls, agree with Sanders. Most Americans simultaneously support stronger, more effective gun regulation and support strong protection of gun rights. But such a unifying message of majority opinion doesn’t fit the narrative of partisan politics and mainstream media.
It is hard to communicate a message of real solutions. That is the challenge we face as a society.
Clinton doesn’t mean anything she says. She’ll attack the NRA in the campaign. But once back in Washington she will never do anything to make the NRA unhappy. It’s all a show that is put on for the public.
This is what bothers me. I realize that politicians lie and obfuscate. But the media is supposed to be a free press that challenges those lies and obfuscation.
Shouldn’t the media be doing their job by informing the American public that Sanders is giving voice to majority opinion? Shouldn’t they explain that neither the extremes of the NRA or Clinton represent more than a minority of the population?
On the gun issues, most of the political right doesn’t agree with the NRA and most of the political left doesn’t agree with Clinton. Most Americans are closer to the middle on these issues.
There is a reason why this campaign season interests me more than most.
I’ve been paying close attention to demographic and polling data (along with social science research) for a long time now. My interest goes back at least to the early years of the Bush jr presidency, although my interest in generations theory might go back to the mid 1990s. I’ve been particularly focused on the thorough Pew data, specifically Beyond Red vs. Blue.
I’ve been watching developments happen for a long time. I saw the various shifts begin to click into place years ago. Much of what we are seeing now has been predictable for a long time. For a decade or longer, the favorable opinion of ‘socialism’ has been increasing, among the youngest generation most of all.
I always wondered why most of this data has received so little mainstream attention. All of this is easily found data from respectable sources. Yet I notice how many people in media and politics act surprised at the changes finally becoming too obvious to ignore.
Even more important, I’ve stated again and again for years that the majority public opinion doesn’t fit what gets portrayed in the mainstream. A while back, I scoured the internet and books for all the data I could find. I was amazed at how increasingly liberal the public is on so many major issues, a consistent trend across decades. But I was also curious how indifferent so many Americans were about issues that were supposed to be divisive, such as simultaneously supporting gun regulation and gun rights or such as simultaneously supporting abortion limits and abortion rights.
Often, the politicians in neither party represents the views of most voters. Special interests and big money dominates nearly all public debate and the political narrative. The average American doesn’t seem to realize how deceived and manipulated they are. The mainstream media and politics leaves so many people uninformed and disinformed.
It wasn’t that long ago when outsiders like Ralph Nader and Ron Paul were being condescendingly dismissed. And their supporters were ignored or criticized for wasting their vote and not submitting to partisan groupthink. Where we are now has been a long time coming. But many in the mainstream wanted to pretend the status quo could last forever. It was naive.
No matter who wins the election this time around, the changes that have occurred will be permanent. There is no way for the establishment of either party to win this election, for even in winning they will lose. This leaves many people scared and others demoralized. But instead people should look at it as opportunity.
I must admit I have a hard time getting excited about who will get elected. It’s not that it doesn’t matter. I’ve just lost faith in the US having a functioning democracy. No matter who becomes president, it doesn’t change the larger system of entrenched wealth and power, dysfunction and corruption.
The entire government needs a complete overhaul, one way or another, reform or revolution. Elections can hardly put a dent in this problem because the whole system is rigged. But change has to start somewhere.
How do we get the leverage to make that change? How do we get the American public to realize we need real change? And how do we get people to be willing to demand change with the force of threat behind it?
Will the rising populist movement finally be enough to awake America’s conscience and moral imagination? If not, what will it take?
I know how many Americans would take these as the words of a crank or conspiracy theorist. It just doesn’t seem real and relevant to so many.
If it was really so important, wouldn’t the MSM report on it? Well, no, they wouldn’t. That is a major part of the problem. The people who understand what I’m saying are the poor, struggling, and disenfranchised. But those people have no voice or influence in our system. Yet another major part of the problem.
How do we break through the contented haze of the mainstream and the middle class? We are long past the point of pretending this problem doesn’t exist.
These are the kinds of questions I’ve been asking my entire adult life. But few people take any of it seriously, much less try to answer them. And that is why we are now at a point where someone like Trump has a real chance of becoming president. Almost no one wants to take responsibility for having helped create this situation. People act like this came out of nowhere, as if it hadn’t been utterly predictable all along.
Sanders will sometimes speak of the need for a political revolution. If and when people hear this, I wonder what they think it means. Are more people beginning to realize this state of affairs? How many people does it take to get to a tipping point?
It isn’t just that many don’t think about these problems. Even among those who are aware, informed and concerned, few are willing to speak out and to act according to what they know.
So many people feel isolated in silence, afraid of what would happen if they stood up for what is right. Others might judge them. Or it might lead to arguments and unhappy feelings. Some worry about how it might effect their relationships or their job, if others found out what they truly think.
I know many people who have similar thoughts as I have but for various reasons they don’t speak up.