Don’t ever let anyone shut you up.

During the presidential campaign season, the American public acts like an engaged citizenry, as if what they say and do really does have an impact. But after an election ends, so many people retreat from the public forum and bunker down in their isolated private lives. It’s as if winning the election was all that concerned them, as if democracy were nothing more than voting for your preferred celebrity-politician. Not everyone can be so detached, indifferent, and oblivious. Not everyone can pretend that political issues begin and end with elections.

Racism, religious bigotry, xenophobic policies, poverty, unemployment, homelessness, food deserts, toxic dumps in poor communities, lead in drinking water, unaffordable healthcare, underfunded schools, school-to-prison pipeline, militarized police, police abuse, mass incarceration, privatized prisons, war on drugs, military-industrial complex, war on terror wasting trillions of dollars, aggressive US militarism that kills thousands of innocent people a day, US alliance with brutal authoritarian states, pollution being the number one killer in the world, ecosystem destruction, climate change, droughts, refugee crises, corporate takeover of the government, corporations stealing from the commons, endless externalized costs that are beyond calculation and imagination…

…and on and on. None of this ends for those most victimized and harmed. Elections mean very little to those who are silenced, suppressed, disenfranchised, and excluded — other than a fleeting opportunity to express outrage and maybe, just maybe be heard before being dismissed and ignored once again. Yet the comfortable classes momentarily obsess over the team sports of partisan politics and then go on as if none of it actually matters, as if these problems aren’t real, as if it is all just about campaign rhetoric and political talking points. Well, I disagree. Just because social problems are not seen and moral outrage not heard doesn’t mean they stop existing, once the votes are counted and the voters disappear from news reporting of corporate media.

That is all the more reason we must make ourselves be heard. Everyone has a voice. Use it. There are many who are in need of help and no one listens. First listen to the silenced and then add your voice, until the growing noise can’t be ignored. Don’t make excuses about being only one person. The majority of the world’s population who are affected by these problems, as separate individuals, are each only one person. But change happens when people demand that change happens, one voice at a time, until it becomes a roar of defiance. Don’t go quietly along, as so many others suffer. Rather, make the comfortable uncomfortable, until they are forced to acknowledge reality.

There is no other path forward, other than toward growing authoritarianism and other terrible ends. By staying silent, you are choosing a dark path for yourself and your loved ones, for your fellow citizens and the following generations, for your children and grandchildren, for your nieces and nephews. Never stay silent, not even for a moment for there isn’t a moment to lose. The consequences grow by the second, as do the opportunities for change pass us by.

It’s only after an election is over that the majority has their greatest power to force change. This is the moment. The best way to break out of your apathy and isolation is to make your voice heard. Talk to your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Talk about things that actually matter and act on them as if they matter. Politics isn’t a game. Lives are at stake, in a literal sense. Your voice is your greatest weapon and tool. Don’t ever let anyone shut you up.

The Dying Donkey

“The top three House Democratic leaders are 76 (Pelosi), 77 (Steny Hoyer) and 76 (Jim Clyburn). The average age of the Democratic House leadership is 76. That’s even older than the 70-year old average of Soviet Politburo members in the age of Brezhnev, shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union.”
~Miles Mogulescu, Democratic Leadership Looks Like Old Soviet Politburo

“A party that is that detached from the wishes and demands of the electorate, and of its own discouraged and angry base, is not a party that’s going to be around much longer.
“At least one can hope.”
~Dave Lindorff, Democratic Leaders are a Craven Bunch of Idiots Bent on Self-Destruction

Even as the establishment maintains control of the DNC, the recent loss of power by Democrats has turned out to be unprecedented.

It wasn’t only that Hillary Clinton lost to the most unpopular candidate in recent US politics. She lost even many of the majority white areas that supported the first black president and who once voted for FDR. She also lost what was the most Democratic county in US history, a county that has been loyal Democrats for a century and a half. In addition, Democrats have lost control of Kentucky state government, the last Southern state where Democrats retained power.

But its worse than that. And it can’t be all blamed on her. Some of the biggest losses came during the Obama administration. Since then, the decline of power continues. The donkey is bleeding out, barely with enough energy to temporarily fend off the circling predators.

Some of this comes from voter suppression, gerrymandering, and other anti-democratic tactics. Even so, Clinton didn’t actually win the popular vote, not in any fundamental and meaningful sense. She won the most votes from those who voted, but that ignores that the majority of eligible voters don’t vote in most elections and haven’t for a long time. The reason she lost was because so many Americans don’t trust the Democrats any more than they do the Republicans.

Democrats have given up on fighting for the American public. They betrayed and abandoned Southerners, rural residents, poor whites, immigrants, and organized labor. Everything has become identity politics that has splintered the Democratic Party. Identity politics has simply become a cover for the neocon and neoliberal politics that now rule the DNC, what basically is Republican Lite. The American public have come to understand that and it isn’t what they want nor is it what they will tolerate.

Bernie Sanders may have been the last chance the Democrats had not just for victory but for survival. The DNC’s miscalculation might be a mortal wound. Political parties have come to an end before in American politics. It would be naive to think it can’t happen again. Waiting for Republicans to destroy themselves may not be a wise strategy, as both political parties could be taken down in the aftermath.

* * *

The Great God Trump and the White Working Class
by Mike Davis, Jacobin

But we should be cautious about dumping all the blame on Clinton and her troubled inner circle. If she had been the principal problem, then local Democrats should have consistently outperformed her. In fact, that seldom happened and in several states her vote was significantly higher than the hometown Democrats. The malaise of the Democrats, it should be clear, permeates every level of the party, including the hopelessly inept Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In the Midwest, in particular, the Democrats have largely been running on retreads, nominating failed veterans such as former Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett (who lost to Scott Walker in 2012) and ex-Ohio governor Ted Strickland (slaughtered by Rob Portman in the Senate race).

Meanwhile, for the gifted team around Obama, holding on to the White House, not strengthening the state parties, has been the relentless and at times exclusive priority. East of the Rockies, as a result, Republicans have surpassed their 1920 benchmark in state legislative seats. Twenty-six states are now Republican “trifectas” (control of both chambers and the governorship) versus a mere six for the Democrats. Progressive initiatives by Democratic cities such as Minneapolis (paid leave) and Austin (sanctuary) face the veto of reactionary legislatures. […]

It is no secret that the inadvertent ally of the Republicans in the Rust Belt has been Obama himself, whose lofty conception of the presidency does not include being the leader of the party, at least not in the old-fashioned, out-in-the-hustings style of an LBJ or even Clinton. In 2010, 2012, and again in 2014, Democratic candidates bitterly complained about their lack of support from the White House, especially in the upper South, Louisiana, and Texas.

Obama ended his presidency with the Democrats having lost nearly one thousand legislative seats across the country. Republicans legislatures are now targeting Missouri and Kentucky — possibly Ohio again, as well as Pennsylvania and New Hampshire — as the next right-to-work states. (In Missouri and New Hampshire right-to-work amendments recently had been passed by the legislatures but were vetoed by Democratic governors. Both states now have Republican governors.) You might call it the Southernization or Dixiefication of the Midwest.

Republicans Now Control Record Number of State Legislative Chambers
by Barbara Hollingsworth, CNS News

Republicans added to their historic 2014 gains in the nation’s state legislatures with the addition of five state House chambers and two state Senate chambers in last week’s election, while Democratic control was reduced to levels not seen since the Civil War.

Republicans are now in control of a record 67 (68 percent) of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers in the nation, more than twice the number (31) in which Democrats have a majority, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

“That’s more than at any other time in the history of the Republican Party,” according to NCSL. “They also hold more total seats, well over 4,100 of the 7,383, than they have since 1920.” […]

“Republicans grabbed more of America’s statehouses and governors’ mansions during the Obama administration than at any time in the modern era,” the Washington Post’s Amber Phillips reported.

Last week’s historic flip of the Kentucky House – the last Democrat-controlled legislative chamber in the South – to Republican hands for the first time in nearly 100 years underscores the point.

In 2010, Democrats in the Kentucky House held a solid 65-35 majority. Six years later, the GOP now has a supermajority, and will control 62 of the chamber’s 100 seats.

“Democrats are now basically extinct in the South,” Phillips noted.

“Republicans bested expectations,” said Dan Diorio, a policy expert at NCSL. “Having already reached the peak of control in party history, Republicans will maintain a similar level of control in a year when many expected Democrats to net seats and chambers.”

 

Democrats Flip Zero Seats in Four Blue State Special Elections
by Andrew Kugle, The Washington Free Beacon

Democrats have failed since Election Day in November to take any Republican-controlled seats in four special elections in blue states, despite hefty investment from the Democratic Party.

Since President Trump’s election, there have been several state-level special elections across the country. The Republican State Leadership Committee, or RSLC, published a memo this week showing Republicans have won every district they previously held across multiple states that Democrats have won in the last three or more presidential elections.

Republicans kept their seats despite “hefty financial investments and high profile Democrats lending star power to state-level candidates,” RSLC noted. […]

In recent years Republicans have made significant gains at the state-level. The Democrat party lost a net total of 1,042 state and federal Democratic posts–including congressional and state legislative seats, governorships, and the presidency–while Barack Obama was president.

On Allegations of Russian Hacking

Putin is basically a dictator who is pushing Russia further toward fascism, an aggressive approach in promoting political and economic interests. It is unsurprising why he’d dislike Hillary Clinton and instead prefer Donald Trump. Clinton is a war hawk politician who has taken a strong stance against Russia and, as president, would have liked the opportunity to take on Putin. On the other hand, Trump is a businessman with longtime business interests in Russia and longtime connections to Russian oligarchy.

Putin probably felt a Trump presidency would mean he could be tougher on geopolitical issues and not worry about reprisal from the US. Plus, he has a history of good relations with Western business interests, an area where he can find common ground with someone like Trump (a neoliberal in practice, if not in rhetoric). Putin seems like a practical guy in his own way and he’d surely like to strengthen trade relations with the US, as long as it would increase Russian wealth and power. Putin is just pushing against boundaries, seeing how far he can go until he gets push back. But he is a saavy political player and there is a calculated cautiousness behind his bravado.

It’s definitely not that he is afraid to act tough. But I don’t see him pushing his agenda in a way that would jeopardize relations with Western countries, unless he sees conflict and maybe war as inevitable. There are those in power who want war, either WWIII or Cold War II. And that is what has me concerned. Some within the US government might like to force Putin’s hand, maybe based on the questionable assumption that Russia would back down (Reagan’s tactic with the USSR).

Anyway, we have yet to see any evidence of recent Russian hacking in the US to effect elections. I have no doubt that, like every other major global power, Russia is using propaganda operations. But I’d like to see the proof that something more is going on than normal. Continuous propaganda operations have been standard for several generations now. If something has changed, I wish US officials would be honest and upfront with us about what is going on.

My spidey sense is going off. I don’t know what is really going on. What I do know is the public isn’t getting the full story. We are getting very little info and what we are getting is heavy on the spin. Public perception and opinion is being managed and manipulated. We are being told a story, so it seems to me. If that is the case, what exactly is the story? And why does it feel like it’s being shoved down our throats? Whatever the exact narrative and frame, I’m concerned that the sound I hear on the horizon is the beating of war drums.

I hope I’m proven wrong. And I hope there are actual facts offered in the near future to prove I’m wrong. The government intentionally keeping us in the dark always makes me paranoid.

* * *

If you want other perspectives, here ya go:

Eight Facts on the “Russian Hacks” | Sharyl Attkisson

There’s no standing allegation by U.S. officials that the Russians (or anyone else) “hacked” into our elections system or altered vote counts.

So what are the allegations and facts as we know them?

The intel agencies’ full report on Russia’s hack of the 2016 election won’t silence the diehard deniers.

The unclassified report is underwhelming at best. There is essentially no new information for those who have been paying attention.

DNI Report: High Confidence Russia Interfered With U.S. Election

While it’s nice to see it all laid out like that in a government report, those claims are consistent with what the government and security experts have already been saying — and since the report doesn’t add any new, specific evidence to support those claims, it’s unfortunately not going to convince any skeptics. What is important is that the popular understanding of “hack” and its meaning in this specific case are divergent. Russia did not mess with the vote — it obtained access to damaging documents and waged a battle of publicity.

Byron York: Six questions about the Russia hacking report

Julia Ioffe, a writer for The Atlantic who watches Russia carefully, tweeted this about the intelligence community’s unclassified report on Russian hacking released Friday: “It’s hard to tell if the thinness of the #hacking report is because the proof is classified, or because the proof doesn’t exist.”*

“Thin” is right. The report is brief — the heart of it is just five broadly-spaced pages. It is all conclusions and no evidence. In the introduction, the IC — the collective voice of the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA — explains that it cannot supply evidence to the public, because doing so “would reveal sensitive sources or methods and imperil the ability to collect critical foreign intelligence in the future.”

The problem is, without evidence, it’s hard for the public to determine just what happened in the hacking affair.

Here Is The US Intel Report Accusing Putin Of Helping Trump Win The Election By “Discrediting” Hillary Clinton

One week after a joint FBI/DHS report was released, supposedly meant to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Russia intervened in the US presidential election, and thus served as a diplomatic basis for Obama’s expulsion of 35 diplomats, yet which merely confirmed that a Ukrainian piece of malware which could be purchased by anyone, was responsible for spoofing various email accounts including that of the DNC and John Podesta, moments ago US intelligence agencies released a more “authoritative”, 25-page report, titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”, and which not surprisingly only serves to validate the media narrative, by concluding that Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘ordered’ an effort to influence U.S. presidential election. […]

What proof is there? Sadly, again, none. However, as the intelligence agencies state, “We have high confidence in these judgments”… just like they had high confidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

And while the report is severely lacking in any evidence, it is rich in judgments […]

In other words, while not carrying the infamous DHS disclaimer according to which last week’s entire joint FBI/DHS report is likely garbage, the US intel agencies admit they may well be “wrong.” […]

Or, as some have stated, just a regurgitation of already existing opinions and absolutely zero facts.

U.S. Spy Report Blames Putin for Hacks, But Doesn’t Back It Up

The night-and-day report and reaction hint at either a difficult relationship to come between the president and America’s spies, or a cagey response by a future commander in chief who is only beginning to realize how the chess masters in the Kremlin play the game of geopolitics.

The unclassified report is unlikely to convince a single skeptic, as it offers none of the evidence intelligence officials say they have to back it up—none of those emails or transcripts of phone calls showing a clear connection between the Russian government and the political intrusions. The reason—revealing how U.S. spies know what they know could endanger U.S. spy operations.

And it contains some out-dated information that seems slapdash considering the attention focused on it. Errors in the report were almost inevitable, because of the haste in which it was prepared, said one U.S. official briefed on the report.

Russia “Hacking” and the Intel Credibility Gap | Sharyl Attkisson

At a hearing today, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) today said it was “astounding” that anyone would question the credibility of our intelligence agencies.

That comment defies the factual record.

It’s not that Americans don’t appreciate our many honest, hardworking intelligence professionals. But there are concrete examples of false information promulgated by some U.S.intelligence officials under Democrat and Republican administrations. That’s why it would be imprudent to blindly accept, without question, everything our intelligence officials say or, for that matter, everything any government claims. […]

It should be noted that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and at least one official familiar with publication of the DNC emails deny that the Russians were the source. There has been no allegation or evidence that the published emails weren’t true and accurate. In fact, the overall track record for accuracy when it comes to WikiLeaks documents appears to be better than that of U.S. intel officials. It’s easy to understand why figures like Snowden and Assange evoke such disdain among powers-that-be, whether liberal or conservative. Instead of addressing the revelations revealed, these powers direct public sentiment against the whistleblowers or conveyors of the apparently truthful information.

Instead of demonizing those who are skeptical of information and narratives emerging in a highly-politicized setting, it’s helpful to understand the genesis of the widespread distrust that’s fueling the skepticism.

DNI report: Overwhelming case proves Russian hacking, but there’s no smoking gun

Although the report proves that the Kremlin vastly preferred Trump to Clinton, it did not provide any evidence conclusively demonstrating that Russia was behind the hacks.

Intelligence Report Concludes That Putin Intervened In U.S. Election To Help Trump Win

The Russian president’s attraction to Trump may have stemmed from “positive experiences working with Western political leaders whose business interests made them more disposed to deal with Russia, such as former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder,” according to the report.

What The Intelligence Report Says (And What It Doesn’t)

The reason Trump was favored by the Putin is that Trump would be more favorable to Russia’s efforts in fighting terrorism. (In other words, he’ll let war crimes go unchecked.)

New Intel Report Declares Russia Had ‘Preference’ for Trump Over Hillary–But It’s Got a Major Flaw

The media are drawing sweeping conclusions from the report that aren’t substantiated by the known facts. […]

We can only make one clear conclusion from this statement: The Russians had a “preference” for Donald Trump, because he was not Hillary Clinton.

There is nothing in the intelligence documents released thus far to ascertain the nature of that preference; indeed, any Republican might have been preferred. It is unclear.

While the U.S. media cast aspersions about the President-elect’s ties to the Putin regime, this is a charge that has been cleared by The FBI after lengthy investigation.

Secondly, there is still no hard evidence tying the Putin regime to the hacks released by WikiLeaks—we still have to take the intel community’s word for it. […]

What is surprising in these intelligence memos, which the press is jumping on to undermine the legitimacy of the future president, is how little new information they actually contain.

It is damning that the Russians’ goal of dividing the nation from within is being carried out flawlessly by a U.S. media quick to jump to conclusions without the demonstrable facts.

Russia, Trump & Flawed Intelligence

After months of anticipation, speculation, and hand-wringing by politicians and journalists, American intelligence agencies have finally released a declassified version of a report on the part they believe Russia played in the US presidential election. On Friday, when the report appeared, the major newspapers came out with virtually identical headlines highlighting the agencies’ finding that Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign” to help Donald Trump win the presidency—a finding the agencies say they hold “with high confidence.”

A close reading of the report shows that it barely supports such a conclusion. Indeed, it barely supports any conclusion. There is not much to read: the declassified version is twenty-five pages, of which two are blank, four are decorative, one contains an explanation of terms, one a table of contents, and seven are a previously published unclassified report by the CIA’s Open Source division. There is even less to process: the report adds hardly anything to what we already knew. The strongest allegations—including about the nature of the DNC hacking—had already been spelled out in much greater detail in earlier media reports. […]

The logic of these arguments is as sound as saying, “You were so happy to see it rain yesterday that you must have caused the rain yourself.”

That is the entirety of the evidence the report offers to support its estimation of Putin’s motives for allegedly working to elect Trump: conjecture based on other politicians in other periods, on other continents—and also on misreported or mistranslated public statements. […]

Despite its brevity, the report makes many repetitive statements remarkable for their misplaced modifiers, mangled assertions, and missing words. This is not just bad English: this is muddled thinking and vague or entirely absent argument. […] The fog is not coincidental: if the report’s vague assertions were clarified and its circular logic straightened out, nothing would be left.

It is conceivable that the classified version of the report, which includes additional “supporting information” and sourcing, adds up to a stronger case. But considering the arc of the argument contained in the report, and the principal findings (which are apparently “identical” to those in the classified version), this would be a charitable reading. An appropriate headline for a news story on this report might be something like, “Intel Report on Russia Reveals Few New Facts,” or, say, “Intelligence Agencies Claim Russian Propaganda TV Influenced Election.” Instead, however, the major newspapers and commentators spoke in unison, broadcasting the report’s assertion of Putin’s intent without examining the arguments.

The Big Lie on Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections – NO QUARTER USA NET

But today’s report only reflects the consensus of the CIA, the FBI and the NSA (that according to the “Scope and Sourcing” portion of the report):

This report includes an analytic assessment drafted and coordinated among The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and The National Security Agency (NSA), which draws on intelligence information collected and disseminated by those three agencies.

What happened to the other 13 members of the so-called Intelligence Community? For example, what about the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research aka INR? They are a key part of the analytical portion of the Intelligence Community and have actual Russian experts. And why was the Defense Intelligence Agency (aka DIA) excluded? One of the supposed bad Russian actors in this hacking fiasco is the GRU, the Russian military version of the CIA. That is a prime target that DIA analysts follow. They are the experts. But they apparently were not given the chance to concur (or maybe they declined to do so out of embarrassment over the amateur quality of the work).

I would encourage you to go back and read the unclassified version of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs. Then take a look at the recently declassified version of the NIE. To obtain a judgement representing the Intelligence Community one agency is designated to write the “Estimate” or “Assessment” and then circulate that document to the other agencies for their comments and concurrence. But there is no obligation to agree. In fact, the other agencies can disagree. […]

At least that paper, though subsequently proven wrong, had a lot of facts. Just goes to show that even with supposedly hard evidence that the Intel Community can (and did) get it wrong.

Most of the assessments are laughable. Consider the following claim regarding Russia’s intent:

Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.

And how was Russia going to undermine “Public Faith” in our democratic process? By stealing emails that exposed the true behind the scenes political scheming and machinations by the DNC and Hillary’s campaign. Nothing destroys ones faith in our “democratic” process more quickly than learning that Debbie Wasserman Schultz tried to rig the primaries against Bernie Sanders. In other words, those crafty Rooskies were going to flood America with truth. […]

It was not anything that Russia allegedly did or did not do that beat Hillary. It was Hillary that beat Hillary. The sudden obsession with Democrats and most pundits in blaming a Russian information operation for Trump’s victory and Hillary’s demise is not rooted in actual facts.

‘Clinton quite effective at discrediting herself, doesn’t need Putin’s help’ – ex CIA analyst

“It was only CIA and FBI that ‘strongly agree’ but the NSA, who’s the only one in that group that would actually have the physical evidence of the hacking, if that existed… took a middle of the road position,” Johnson told RT.

The whole situation around the “hacking” report gives an impression of a well-staged spectacle, Johnson believes.

“Yesterday, the Arms Services Committee in the Senate holds a hearing alleging Russian hacking, about when hacks took place domestically in the United States and that Arms Services has no jurisdiction over intel side. That was entirely a propaganda ploy, and not a single journalist in the major outlets over here raised questions about that, it was an observed performance,” Johnson said.

More Demographics Fun!

Looking at demographics is always fun. And a presidential election offers a good excuse to look at data.

One note of caution, as always, is that most eligible voters and almost half of registered votes don’t vote in the United States. So, if all non-voters actually did go to the polls, the patterns seen among voters would like shift and maybe to a drastic degree. We don’t actually know which parties and candidates, policies and positions that any given demographic supports. We just know who and what is supported by those within a demographic who vote and respond to pollsters.

That said, among the voting population, there are interesting patterns. Much of it is expected. White people voted for Trump. And many point out that it was working class or rather less educated whites. But I’d note a few things. A surprising number of well-educated whites voted for Trump, his having ‘won’ the educated voted among some white demographics. Plus, it is important that less educated working class whites have been a solid majority for Democrats these past decades. Heck, Trump even pulled college-educated white women to his side — the one demographic that Clinton should have had in the bag, considering she is a college-educated white woman.

Still, it’s not just about the white vote and who supposedly wins it or rather who loses it. Trump managed to get about a third of Hispanics and Asians, along with over a third of the ‘Other’ category. He even took about one in ten blacks, doing better than many previous GOP candidates. In an important state like Florida, it might have been minorities who helped push him toward victory (Cuban-Americans disliking Obama’s policy toward Cuba and Haitian-Americans angry about Clinton’s treatment of Haiti).

Others bring up the rural vs urban divide. That divide exists, but it isn’t a simple or necessarily reliable divide. And it doesn’t perfectly match to the class and racial divide. Most working class people, including working class whites, live in urban areas. Also, many minorities live in rural areas. Trump, for example, did even better among rural Hispanics, helping swing even more rural counties in his direction. Yet, Clinton didn’t do horribly in rural areas, taking about a third of the rural vote, even though she lost some rural areas that went for Obama. Besides, consider how many of those rural areas became rural. Many of them used to be small thriving towns with downtowns and factories before turning into ghosts of their former selves, essentially shifting from urban to rural in a single generation.

Say after me, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Many poor Americans don’t forgive the Clintons and the Democrats for NAFTA. That is how Trump has turned the GOP into a weird beast of economic populism or, if you prefer, economic demagoguery.

Another interesting thing is where populations are found. Rural populations are shrinking, but they’re still large. About a fifth of the American population remains rural, which is more than 60 million. Even most of the urban areas in the country are spread all over. There are tons of urban areas in the Midwest and the South. And the largest cities combined still aren’t the  majority of the population. The South is the largest regional population in the country — about equal to the Northeast and Midwest combined, larger than the combined area of the West Coast, Mountain West and Southwest, and almost twice as populous as California and New York taken together. Texas alone is approximately equal to California.

If we ever had a popular vote in this country, elections would be dominated by the Southern vote and swung by votes outside of big cities. Metropolises, as large as they are, still only represent a minority of the population. The combined population of all the biggest cities in the country (a million or larger) is only around a third of the total national population. Besides, only some of those major urban areas are on the West Coast and the East (Mid-Atlantic) Coast. Furthermore, a large part of the urban vote is conservative and Republican, which would become more influential in a popular vote. The fact of the matter is most conservatives and Republicans live in areas that are urban, not rural. This was partly hidden in the past because many conservative demographics, from minorities to the white working class, voted Democratic.

It’s hard to know what a popular vote would look like. As I like to repeat, almost half of Americans don’t vote. That is because many people either don’t like either party or because they’ve been told their vote doesn’t matter. They may be independents, third party supporters, or simply Republicans in blue states and Democrats in red states. Our political system is intentionally designed to create disenfranchisement and demoralization among voters. We never see what it would look like to be in a functioning democracy.

Even among conservatives, a surprising percentage hold views that are liberal, progressive, and economic populist (e.g., majority of Americans support abortion rights, gun regulation, and basic welfare). Even if self-identified conservatives dominated in a popular vote, they might end up being a lot more liberal and even leftist in their actual politics. Some of the most left-wing parts of the country used to be the old industrial and mining regions with a powerfully unionized and sometimes openly Marxist white working class. These are now what many consider to be ‘conservative’ strongholds, but that only came after a half century of abandonment and betrayal by the Democratic Party.

Anyway, this election doesn’t really say anything about the American population. Neither major candidate, Trump or Clinton, won the majority of eligible voters. There is no way to predict the future based on this past election.

A Perfect Storm

This election was a perfect storm. No one could have seen it coming.

If Hillary Clinton wasn’t a status quo professional politician and creature of the Washington establishment, if she wasn’t an anti-reform candidate competing against a reform candidate when the American public was demanding reform, if she didn’t have her negative political record, if she didn’t have a history of deceit and manipulation, if there was no pay-to-play Clinton Foundation…

If the Democratic Party hadn’t lost all moral high ground and credibility, if there wasn’t corruption and cronyism in the DNC, if there wasn’t collusion with the MSM, if there was no private server, if there were no leaked emails and transcripts, if there was no FBI investigations, if there wasn’t so much hiding and destruction of evidence, if there was no strong proof of her guilt and criminality, if she hadn’t stated clear intent in her private correspondence…

If there was no Great Recession, if there was no Occupy and Tea Party, if there was no neoliberal corporatism and crony capitalism, if there was no revolving door politics, if there were no bank bailouts and corporate subsidies, if there were no tax havens for plutocrats, if there was no free trade agreement, if there were no factory closings and offshorings, if there was no shrinking middle class, if there were no stagnating wages, if there were no worsening mortality rates for middle aged whites, if there was no impoverished Appalachia and Rust Belt, if there weren’t decades of weakening and shrinking unions, if there was no betrayal of the working class…

If there was no mistrust of government and dislike of Congress, if there wasn’t so much political failure, if there wasn’t endless obfuscation and secrecy, if there was no neo-imperial expansionism and military adventurism, if there was no Military-Industrial Complex, if there was no War On Terror that she supported, if the wars the US has been involved in didn’t go so badly, if she wasn’t such an aggressive war hawk, if she hadn’t been so callous as Secretary of State…

If the liberal class wasn’t so disconnected and the ruling elite so clueless and political rhetoric so empty, if there wasn’t so much public anger and so much justified frustration and so much moral outrage, if all these conditions weren’t conspiring against her career aspirations and political ambitions, if American voters could have somehow been convinced that she really was a moral person and great leadership material, if everything was entirely different and we existed in a Bizarro America…

What I’m trying to say is that… if only a few minor issues were slightly tweaked, if the situation had been just a tad better, if so many inconvenient things hadn’t happened, if the stars had been aligned, etc etc…. if this, that, and a thousand other things…

Then Hillary Clinton might have won the election.

More Metaphors of Madness

I first likened being a US citizen to being run over by a car. I then used a simple comparison to describe the prospective presidencies in terms of the boiling frog scenario. Here are three more metaphors for your cynical amusement.

This one is a more detailed metaphor for the candidates this campaign season:

The body politic is ailing. Hillary Clinton is a symptom of the corruption that has compromised the immune system. Trump is a secondary illness like pneumonia that is potentially life threatening.

The secondary illness wouldn’t be dangerous if the immune system wasn’t already compromised and the patient were willing to seek medical treatment. But for some reason the ailing patient refuses to go to the doctor who is Sanders.

The mainstream media is the hospice worker administering pain drugs that puts the patient to sleep, as death nears. Then the patient’s eyes open and rallies some strength asking for something in a voice too quiet to understand, either asking for the doctor or Jesus.

Is all hope lost? Or can the patient still be saved?

The next metaphor is me being plain silly:

Clinton is a monkey in a banana experiment. The monkey’s hand is stuck in the hole, unable to get the banana out and unwilling to let go of the banana.

Sanders is the scientist observing the monkey and taking notes. The scientist goes on lunch break so as to eat his banana and peanut butter sandwich that he made himself.

Meanwhile, Trump is a banana plantation tycoon. He is inquiring about buying the laboratory where the experiment is happening, as he thinks that further banana research might be good for banana profits. He is also inquiring about maybe even buying an entire banana republic while he is at it.

The voting public sees a news report about the ongoing research. It makes them hungry for a banana.

And the best metaphor saved for last:

This campaign season is “Monte Python and the Holy Grail.” Clinton is King Arthur. The mainstream media is the guy following along making clopping noises with coconut shells. Trump is the Frenchman taunting King Arthur and his entourage. Sanders is the peasant complaining that he never voted for King Arthur. The voting public is the killer bunny.

That should clear everything up for you. I’m glad to be of service.

Moral Failure of Partisanship and the Political Machine

The policies that Hillary Clinton has supported and promoted have led to millions of people, in the US and other countries, to be pushed into poverty, imprisoned, and killed. Bernie Sanders is no dove on foreign affairs, but Clinton makes him seem like a pacifist in comparison.

That isn’t an exaggeration. It is simply looking at Clinton’s record on tough-on-crime bills, welfare reform, and wars of aggression—along with much else that could be detailed. The data shows all this to be true, the real world results of it. It can’t be rationally or morally denied.

So, how do her supporters rationalize this away? Just because it only hurts the poor and powerless it doesn’t matter… just because the disenfranchised and silenced masses can’t be heard we can ignore them with a clear conscience… out of sight, out of mind… really? Is this what goes for ‘lesser evil’? That is depressing and demoralizing. If this is the best that American ‘democracy’ can offer, we are in far more trouble than I thought.

I ask this not simply in the context of campaign season. It is a question about all of democracy or the hope and possibility of democracy. It isn’t just about supporting a candidate. More importantly, it’s about supporting the public good, of putting the people before politics and partisanship.

The cynicism of realpolitik in America is no doubt depressing but also quite pointless. It doesn’t really achieve anything, besides the same old problems endlessly continuing, status quo for the sake of status quo, a grim political determinism of learned helplessness. Don’t Americans ever take seriously the dreams of a better country? If not now, then when? A dream deferred is a dream denied. What are people afraid of?

I honestly would like an answer to these questions. They aren’t hypothetical or idle. But I know few people would have the moral courage to answer them.

Why don’t those millions of lives harmed matter to Hillary supporters? That is a deadly serious question. If she is elected president, how many more millions will be harmed by her policies? It is guaranteed to be a high number. Doesn’t that bother anyone besides those who are already concerned? Is this status quo of machine politics acceptable? Why should we tolerate such inhumanity and immorality? Do we really want more of this corporatist neoliberalism and neo-imperialist neoconservatism? Why? How does that make the world better for anyone?

My criticisms here are the same criticisms I’ve directed at Republicans. Why would I hold Democrats to a different standard? If I did hold two different standards, that would be both cynical and hypocritical.

Does anyone honestly believe that voting for lesser evil will ever lead anywhere besides evil? This isn’t speculation or hyperbole. Those are real lives of people impacted, many dead because of specific policies that get bipartisan support from professional politicians, both those like Bush jr and those like Hillary Clinton.

Is this really the best of all possible worlds that Americans can envision?

I honestly find Clinton more depressing than Trump. Clinton support shows that people are still willing to tolerate all of these vast problems, no matter how bad it gets. Many people would rather deal with known problems than to have the moral courage to face new possibilities.

This is particularly true of the party establishment who would rather lose the election than lose control of the political machine. That is why Trump has the GOP insiders so scared. But the Clintonian New Democrats realize that even though Hillary is unlikely to beat Donald they can at least put on a show that will convince the Democratic base that the Democrats lost honorably and that we just need to try harder next time, commit to partisan loyalty even further.

In that case, Sanders like Nader would get blamed for the failure inherent to the Democratic Party. The party officials will never be held accountable by Democratic partisans. Nothing will change and the same mistakes will be repeated. It’s a failure of imagination to an extreme degree. It’s a vision of fear, with both parties arguing that the other is the lesser evil, when in reality both parties are two sides of the same political evil.

I just don’t understand the type of ‘liberal’ who will vote for a warmonger like Hillary and think that somehow absolves them of all guilt until the next election cycle. That is more demented and horrific than most silly satements made by authoritarians. At least, authoritarians are being honest.

These fake liberals aren’t really indifferent. They are willfully ignorant. A person can’t be accused of indifference when they simply refuse to be aware. It’s plausible deniability. They can go on pretending to be good liberals and lying to themselves. That is the nature of evil. No mass atrocity could ever happen without the complicity of self-identified good liberals. It goes so far beyond mere indifference.

This is what happened after 9/11. Many liberal Democrats became strong supporters of Bush policy. It is so easy to make the average liberal into a fearful war hawk. Research has shown how easy this is to accomplish. This is why the lesser evil rhetoric is so effective. It is the Achilles’ heel of the liberal, and the only psychological defense would begin with awareness, but that first step is the hardest. People resist self-awareness because then plausible deniability loses its force. It is easier to just not think about it too deeply or for too long. Just hold one’s nose and vote, and once again forgetting about it all until the next election.

I’m a dreamer. I see the immense potential in humanity. It is amazing what we humans are capable of, when the conditions are right and we are challenged to be our best. What an awesome society we could create. And I don’t think it would even be that hard. Just the willingness to imagine it.

I don’t just want to blame others. This is about all of us. It’s not just a failure to understand but also a failure to communicate.

I struggle with that. It’s hard enough just trying to grasp the potential that is within us and what it might mean, in what we envision and in how we live our lives. I’m far from perfect in this regard. Still, I don’t want to make excuses for myself or for others. If we are failing our own stated principles, let’s use that as a starting point. Failure doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s merely the awareness that we could and should do better.

That is why voting matters so much, even as the electoral system is rigged. It isn’t just the person we vote for. More importantly, it is the vision we vote for. When we unconsciously vote for a disempowering vision, we give away our power. I don’t think even people who vote for Hillary feel inspired by their choice. They know it isn’t a good thing, but they’re afraid and that is all they can feel or see.

I totally sympathize with feeling overwhelmed. That is why I don’t even feel like demonizing Trump supporters. People are frustrated. I get it. I just don’t want Americans or any other people in the world to simply give into that frustration and give up hope. We really are capable of so much more.

American Populism, From Frustration to Hope

Every movement fails. Until it succeeds. And then, when it does, everyone says, of course it succeeded, it had to succeed. No, actually, it didn’t have to succeed. But what made it succeed—or at least helped it succeed—was that men and women, for a time, shook off the need for certitude, let go of the bannisters of certainty, remembered that they are not scientists, and put themselves into motion. Without knowing where they’d end up.
~ Corey Robin

There is a lot of frustration and demoralization in the air. It is quite the downer. The campaigns are moving into their nasty phase, and the rest of the population is following suit, those of us who aren’t simply feeling burned out and beat up by the endless harangue. It can lead to doubts and pessimism about the entire political system.

I noticed the effect of this with my dad who is showing signs of emotional fatigue. He utterly despises Trump. And he finds Cruz to be mean-spirited and divisive. As a last resort, he supported Rubio in the caucus, even though he sees him as a weak candidate against Democrats.

My dad has been in a despondent mood. Trump’s campaign, in particular, maybe makes him more sad than outraged. He can’t comprehend what it all means or why it’s happening. I could point out that the conservative movement has been intentionally pushing the GOP to ever greater reactionary extremism for a long time, but I don’t feel like putting my finger into that wound and wiggling it around.

I want to send my love out to the world. I know it’s bad. Instead of inspiration, we get politics as usual or else something worse. I hate seeing people turn on one another, especially average people who for decades have been dumped on by both parties. The voters on the other side aren’t the source of your problem. We don’t live in a functioning democracy and those people far off in Washington don’t represent you. If you want to take back America, whatever that might mean, then you’ll have to do it with more than a vote and a fight for your party, your candidate, your group.

Let’s get straight about the basics. Bernie Sanders isn’t a radical communist. Hillary Clinton isn’t a progressive feminist. Cruz isn’t a principled libertarian. Trump isn’t anything other than a car salesman in a fancy suit. And fergodsake NO! Sanders and Trump are not the same, populist rhetoric aside. Is that clear?

That is what these candidates aren’t. But the campaigns all share a commonality in responding to the public mood. People want something different and the candidates are all trying to present themselves in that light. For this reason, I suspect voters could so easily switch their loyalties as the campaign season continues. It’s not exactly politics as usual, although not as different as some like to pretend.

Let me further clarify a point. This campaign season isn’t an ideological battle. No, Americans aren’t particularly divided, at least not in the ways typically portrayed in the mainstream media (not even Obama has divided the public). When you look at polls, most Americans agree about most things, including healthcare and tax reform, even including taxing the wealthy more. Populism is in the air, all across the spectrum.

Even so, let me note something. Pew states that there is increasing polarization, although I’d point out that it is mostly among the activists and political elite. Anyway, Pew goes on to say that (Beyond Red vs. Blue, 2014):

Even so, most Americans do not view politics through uniformly liberal or conservative lenses, and more tend to stand apart from partisan antipathy than engage in it. But the typology shows that the center is hardly unified. Rather, it is a combination of groups, each with their own mix of political values, often held just
as strongly as those on the left and the right, but just not organized in consistently liberal or conservative terms. Taken together, this “center” looks like it is halfway between the partisan wings. But when disaggregated, it becomes clear that there are many distinct voices in the center, often with as little in common with each other as with those who are on the left and the right.

Looking at various data, I’ve noted that this mix or confusion even exists within ideological demographics and, of course, within the parties. For example, Pew data (Beyond Red vs. Blue, 2011) showed that 9% of Solid Liberals self-identify as ‘conservative’. That is a broad conservative movement that includes a significant number of people who are liberal across most issues. This is how symbolic ideology can trump all else, at least under the right conditions.

Categories that seem distinct can be porous and overlapping. Plus, there are larger patterns that cut across the seeming divides. How we group people can at times seem almost arbitrary.

The following is some data from a 2011 Pew poll. Progressivism has found favored opinion in both parties and among independents, with more support than even conservatism. Meanwhile, both ‘socialism’ and ‘libertarianism’ have found growing support. Libertarianism oddly gets a more positive response from Democrats than Republicans. More interesting is the comparison of socialism and capitalism, as explained by Sarah van Gelder:

There is growing willingness to name corporate rule and global capitalism as key problems, and to look to decentralized, place-based economies as the answer. While capitalism is viewed more favorably among all Americans than socialism, the reverse is true among those under 29, African Americans and Hispanics, and those making less than $30,000 a year, according to a Pew poll. And more Americans have a favorable view of socialism than of the Tea Party.

The most telling part is the numbers among Republicans. Libertarianism and the Tea Party have lost favor, among those who are supposedly its strongest supporters. At the same time, only 66% of conservative Republicans have a positive view of capitalism, while 25% (1 in 4) of moderate-to-liberal Republicans have a positive view of socialism. Even though that means 90% of Republicans overall still dislike socialism (as of 2011), that leaves 1 in 10 with either a positive or neutral position and I bet that latter group has been growing, especially among young Republicans. Then again, the younger generation has turned away from the Republican Party and this might have played a part, as after a while it would be hard to maintain the cognitive dissonance of listening to candidates of your party who attack what you support.

The youth vote is up in the air, for both parties—as described by Morgan Gilbard:

Millennials, usually categorized as individuals between 18 and 33, are less willing to identify with a party than ever before, according to a Pew Research study in April 2015. Only 18 percent identified as Republican and 28 percent as Democrat. A staggering 48 percent considered themselves independent, compared with 40 percent in 2008.

This is particularly true of a demographic Pew calls Young Outsiders. They are 14% of the general public, 15% of registered voters, and 11% of the politically engaged. Even Pew’s Next Gen Left (12%, 13%, 11%) could be pulled right based on their weaker support for a social safety net. And the relatively young Bystanders, 10% of the general population, could be inspired to become registered and politically engaged.

Although social liberalism is popular for Millennials, including among young Republicans, there are key issues that split the youth vote and could tip the balance in either direction. Frustration with the government could lead many otherwise liberal Millennials to vote Republican, just as frustration with the economy could lead many otherwise conservative Millennials to vote Democratic. Yet much of the frustration is basically the same across the board—Siraj Hashmi reports:

“Why are we fighting the Iraq War? Why are we spending billions of dollars trying to rebuild Afghanistan, which looks like the Moon, than spending money on our cities like Detroit? Why do we not care about putting Americans first? Those are very appealing questions,” Girdusky said. “They’re [Trump and Sanders] coming at different answers, but it’s the questions that millennials are asking themselves as well.”

The youth of today aren’t the same as the youth of the past. It is today’s youngest generation of voters that has the strongest support for both socialism and libertarianism (the opposite for older generations, including when they were younger), which maybe puts libertarian socialists such as Noam Chomsky in a new position of influence. It might even explain some of the appeal of Sanders, even for rural conservatives in his state, as his ‘socialism’ includes defense of gun rights. Among several demographics, there isn’t always a perfect alignment in their opinions about various labels. Blacks, for example, have a majority with positive views of conservatism, liberalism, and socialism. This seems to be related to what Pew recently has called the Faith and Family Left (30% Black, 19% Hispanic), 51% of which “hold an equal mix of liberal and conservative values”—while religiously and socially conservative in many ways, their liberalism being specifically a “strong support for government and a commitment to the social safety net.” So, conservatism can go along with ‘socialism’ just fine but even more strangely doesn’t even have to be opposed to liberalism. Ha!

This might partly relate to what “scholars of public opinion have distinguished between symbolic and operational aspects of political ideology” (Jost, Federico, & Napier). Few people seem to grasp this distinction. This explains the power of culture war rhetoric (i.e., symbolic ideology) and why that rhetoric will lose power as conditions change. Populist eras tend to defy easy ideological categorizations, and the public during such times isn’t as predictably easy to manipulate by machine politics. Symbolic ideology can quickly shift and morph, allowing the operational side to emerge. When people are hurting on a basic level of making a living and getting by, the symbolic and operational can come into alignment. That is the power and potential of populism, and also its danger.

Related to this, there have been many articles about Republicans turning to join the Sanders campaign. Who are these Republicans feeling the Bern? The more recent 2014 Pew poll (Beyond Red vs. Blue) tells us who they are. But first let me tell you who they aren’t. What Pew calls Business Conservatives is a demographic that is more socially liberal and pro-immigration, while of course being strong in their economic conservatism—74% of them believe that “Wall Street helps economy more than it hurts.” That is unsurpising. Now for the other major group on the political right, Steadfast Conservatives. Close to half of them (41%) disagree with this faith in Wall Street. Most Americans (62%) think that “Economic system unfairly favors powerful,” with Steadfast Conservatives being divided on this issue (48% unfair; 47% fair), but even almost a third (31%) of Business Conservatives agree that it is unfair. A larger majority of Americans (78%) think that “Too much power is concentrated in hands of few large companies”—in response to this, division is even greater on the political right with 71% of Steadfast Conservatives agreeing and once again about a third (35%) of Business Conservatives agreeing as well, although it should be noted that it is a small majority (only 57%) of the latter who state that the “Largest companies do not have too much power.”

These are the populists that Trump is also able to tap, but also the type of person who might choose Sanders over someone like Cruz. The era of culture wars is coming to an end and class war is taking its place. A divide is growing even among upper and lower classes in the conservative movement. Also, among Independents (even those who lean Republican: Pew’s Young Outsiders), the majority sees the Democratic Party as more caring about the middle class, an attitude that puts some wind in Sanders’ sails. In US politics, rhetoric about the middle class has immense symbolic force, as it speaks to both the fears of the shrinking middle class and the throttled aspirations of the working class.

On a slightly different note, some see nationalist fervor as being an area of divisiveness and conflict, that which could negate or mute all else. Conservatives supposedly think America is the best and anyone who disagrees should leave. It is true that many ‘conservative’ politicians and pundits talk that way, but it isn’t what most conservatives think in private. The majority of all Americans across the spectrum don’t believe that “The U.S. stands above all other countries,” even as they do think it’s a great country. On this note, most Americans don’t believe the US should use its capacity of ‘overwhelming’ force to fight terrorism. And, in a different area of policy, most Americans support a path to citizenship for immigrants and support affirmative action—a majority of conservatives supporting the former and a third of conservatives supporting the latter. Patriotic and prejudicial rhetoric is effective for getting strident activists and loyal supporters excited at GOP campaigns. It’s just not likely to sway most potential voters come election time. The average American simply isn’t all that concerned about such things, specifically not in terms of a chest-beating fear-mongering attitude.

Even religion isn’t going to do much for conservatives and Republicans, not even from Evangelicals. The majority of young believers are progressive and liberal, increasingly both in terms of how they label themselves and in what they support (e.g., same sex marriage). Minorities have higher rates of religiosity than even white conservatives. According to Pew’s 2014 Beyond Red vs. Blue, the most religiously-oriented demographic is the Democratic-voting Faith and Family Left—91% affirming that it is “Necessary to believe in God to be moral,” whereas this agreed to by only 69% of Steadfast Conservatives and 31% of Business Conservatives. As for the majority of Americans, they don’t hold this religious view of morality.

Similarly, most Americans don’t take the Bible literally, do acknowledge Darwinian evolution, think homosexuality should be accepted and favor gay marriage, support abortion in all/most cases, see no reason to expect people to prioritize marriage and children over all else, don’t believe Islam is inherently violent, etc. I could point to dozens of other issues that demonstrate the liberalism of Americans (e.g., majority support of global warming and need of improved environmental regulations, such as 71% saying “should do whatever it takes to protect the environment”), at least in terms of operational ideology and I’d argue increasingly in terms of symbolic ideology as well (e.g., the progressive label now being more popular than the conservative label).

The real Silent Majority, left and right, are those tired of the divisive and mean-spirited culture war rhetoric. Only the political and media elite remain divided by their own rhetoric. Still, the divisive minority is disproportionately vocal and influential, but my sense is that most Americans are growing tired of this minority dominating politics.

Obviously, people are beginning to see labels and ideologies in new ways, as they more and more question the status quo. You can begin to feel the change in the air. How the American public and the two main parties get described in the MSM simply no longer matches reality on the ground. The real divide is older and wealthier non-Hispanic white people versus everyone else. It’s ultimately a class divide, since most of the wealth is concentrated among the older generations and among non-Hispanic whites. The rest of the population is economically struggling or, at best, stuck and stagnating.

Let me return to the issue of what does and doesn’t divide most Americans. Over the years, I’ve talked to a variety of my fellow citizens, online and in my everyday life. I’m often surprised by the amount of agreement that exists, if and when you get past superficial divisive rhetoric. You wouldn’t know that by paying attention to the mainstream media and the partisan campaigning.

All the time, I find points of agreement with my dad who is a lifelong Republican, and this agreement usually involves the issues that get ignored by the mainstream. My mom, an old school conservative and former public school teacher, defends public education and she also supports a return of a New Deal work program for the unemployed. My second cousin is a right-wing libertarian and Tea Partier, and yet we both are inspired by the same ‘socialist’ vision of Star Wars: The Next Generation.

Heck, Sander’s own ‘socialism’ simply represents much of what most Americans state they already support in polls. One of the strongest arguments many Hillary Clinton supporters make is that they want a woman for president, but I doubt many other Americans oppose that, not even Republicans with their own female candidate. Likewise with libertarianism, even many on the political left (including many minorities) might be fine with a president who was a genuine libertarian, that is to say not an authoritarian corporatist theocon—see Reason Magazine’s take on this:

A majority—53 percent—of millennials say they would support a candidate who described him or herself as socially liberal and economically conservative, 16 percent were unsure, and 31 percent would oppose such a candidate.

Interestingly, besides libertarians, liberal millennials are the most supportive of a libertarian-leaning candidate by a margin of 60 to 27 percent. Conservative millennials are most opposed (43% to 48% opposed).

A libertarian-leaning candidate would appeal to both Democratic and Republican voters. For instance, 60 percent of Hillary Clinton voters, 61 percent of Rand Paul voters, 71 percent of Chris Christie voters, and 56 percent of those who approve of President Obama all say they would support a fiscally conservative, socially liberal candidate.

As for Trump’s followers, that is a whole other ball of wax. They are just outraged beyond all sense or reason. It really doesn’t matter what Trump says or advocates. I suspect his followers would follow him all the way to Soviet-style communism without blinking an eye, proclaiming conservative rhetoric all the while. The outrage may get a lot of attention and the mainstream media loves it for its entertainment value (i.e., advertising dollars), but it has little to do with what most Americans want, not even among Republicans.

Americans aren’t ideological in the sense that word is normally used. Social science research has shown this. Most Americans support liberal and progressive policies, even as they support symbolic conservatism. The latter is why culture war rhetoric is so persuasive. The thing about symbolic conservatism, though, is that it has no inherent meaning. It captures a mood, a sensibility, or an attitude—not so much a specific political system or worldview. When you look at the present and former communist countries, they are all socially conservative. It’s important to remember that conservatism isn’t the same thing as right-wing, which is particularly clear when one considers how socially liberal are most libertarians. Economic populism in the US in the past was strongly supported by conservatives. There is even an old history of Christian socialism.

In the end, labels are mostly meaningless. That is being demonstrated with Sanders campaign. It doesn’t matter what he calls himself. He is drawing support from many Independents and even is luring a surprising number of Republicans who are fed up with the GOP circus. In reality, Sanders is just an old school New Dealer. So was Reagan before he became a neoliberal (he never lost his admiration for FDR). There is nothing contradictory between conservatism as a general view and the economic left. Russell Kirk was the mid-20th century thinker who made American conservatism respectable again and yet he saw no problem voting for a Socialist Party candidate.

Clinton and other mainstream types point to Sanders’ history on gun policy. They see this as harsh criticism, proving he is no liberal. Such an argument merely proves how disconnected are the political and media elite. Most liberals, like most conservatives, are for gun rights. Just as most conservatives, like most liberals, are for stronger gun regulation. There is no contradiction here. As a politician, Sanders doesn’t just represent urbanites but also many rural folk. As in Iowa that usually votes for Democratic candidates in presidential elections, you don’t have to be a crazy right-winger to own a gun. On the political left, there is between a quarter and a third who have a gun in their homes (depending on the Pew demographic). That isn’t extremely different from the half of those on the political right who have a gun in their homes. It is important to remember also that conservation, a major issue supposedly for liberals, has always been strongly defended by gun-toting hunters.

None of this is about ideology in a simple sense. Nor is it about parties. Voters switch parties easier than do most politicians and candidates. Even entire parties shift over time, as with the GOP once having been the home of radical left-wingers—critics having called them Red Republicans. As for Democrats, it was common to find white supremacists among their ranks earlier last century. Obviously, the parties have changed… and they will keep changing. Until a short while ago, Sanders wasn’t even a Democrat. If an Independent politician can become a Democratic candidate, then maybe many Independent voters will follow suit.

Older Americans still live in the shadow of McCarthyism and many tremble with fear at being associated with communism and socialism, but younger Americans simply don’t give a frack about Cold War propaganda since they never knew the Cold War. Those among us who do remember it are simply tired of it and are ready for something new.

I’ll tell you what I care about—democracy! That is always the first victim of the US campaign season. I’m not a political animal. It doesn’t even take a Trump to make me despondent. Still, I care about democracy, if only as a vision and a glimmer of potential.

The first political candidate I ever cared about was Ralph Nader. That was back in 2000. I was entirely apolitical before that. It was a shock to the system when I heard Nader speak. Holy shit! This was a politician who had principles and actually believed them. You could hear it in his voice. I had never come across that before.

That was the first time I voted for a presidential candidate. It was a strange campaign to which to lose my political virginity. I felt dirty afterwards. The ugliness of that campaign season put this one to shame. Nader supporters like me got blamed for everything going wrong, even though the Democratic candidate won the election before it was handed over to Bush by the Supreme Court. Shouldn’t the Democrats instead have been mad at a system that was proven corrupt and been mad at their own candidate who bowed down before that corruption, refusing to challenge it?

It was disturbing that the members of a party called Democratic would be so accepting of a process that was shown to be so blatantly undemocratic. To many Americans, it was just corrupt politics as usual, as if there was nothing that could be done about it other than to repeat the same insanity and idiocy four years later.

Of course, the kind of Democrat that attacked Nader voters in the past are now attacking Sanders supporters now, with the DNC leadership trying to tilt the field in Clinton’s favor (e.g., shutting down debates or scheduling them when few would watch). It’s the same old game: defend the status quo at all costs, even as the status quo grows worse and worse. The reason given is that the only alternative to present problems are even worse problems. So, vote for the lesser evil, going down a road paved of good intentions, until by slow descent we all end up in hell. Third Way politics has turned out to be nothing more than an appeasement to the powers that be. More of the same will just get us more of the same, all the while expecting something different, what some define as madness.

Even Sanders isn’t some extreme alternative. On military issues, he might not be all that different from Obama who has followed the example of Bush. Even his economic views are really just mainstream social democracy, rather moderate and tame, and popular as well. The main advantage Sanders offers is the possibility of a shift in the political narrative, a chance to widen the range of allowable opinion. He isn’t much of a socialist, but just the ability to use that word in a national campaign is a breath of fresh air. It’s a sign of new options being put on the table. I’m so tired of replaying the Cold War endlessly. The Russians aren’t going to invade. We don’t need to constantly act in permanent panic mode—America against all the world, including too often American against other Americans. It’s time to look not to the past, but to the future, to new possibilities.

This is what gives me hope. The younger generations don’t carry all that baggage from last century. And it really is a heavy load on the shoulders of the Cold War generations. Americans haven’t been able to think straight about almost anything for a long time, our minds being in the vice grip of paralyzing rhetoric.

In the Cold War battle between left-wing communism and right-wing fascism (or what others call corporatism, crony capitalism, inverted totalitarianism, etc), the latter won and we are living with the results of that. Instead of Godless communism, the ruling elite promoted a religious-tinged culture war both in the US and around the world. The US and other Western governments took out the communist governments in places like the Middle East and helped to replace them with Islamic nationalism (or else ruthless dictators), in the hope that it would keep the oil flowing and neoliberal markets open. How did that work out? The youth today wouldn’t mind a bit of Godlessness at this point, maybe even a moderate dose of genuine leftism for a change.

I do believe that shifting public perception is one of the most important things we can do right now. It doesn’t matter that Sanders isn’t actually a socialist. I realize that electing him president won’t lead to revolutionary changes that will transform our government toward a functioning democracy nor our economy toward socialism. What it will do is open up a space where dialogue can begin. No other mainstream candidate is offering such an opportunity. That shouldn’t be dismissed with cynicism and supposed realpolitik pragmatism.

I sense many Americans agree with me on this. What we need right now is a way of speaking across the many divides of generations and skin color, parties and ideologies. As Americans, our concerns, our lives, and our fate is held in common. It’s not about finding the right leader to solve our problems, but to reenvision who we are as a people. We don’t need to take America back. We are America, all of us.

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(I should make note of something. I wasn’t ignoring third party candidates. I actually despise the two-party system. I like that Sanders’ campaign is opening up discussion of important issues, such as what does and could socialism mean in a democracy, and heck what does and could democracy mean in a corporatist political system. Yet, all in all, I’m more likely to vote third party. But in a sense this post isn’t really about the presidential election. My interest is in what this all means for the American people, where is it that we are heading, what is possible.)

* * *

Political Revolution and the Third-Party Imperative

Bernie Sanders Wins Historically Accurate Mock Election

My Prediction: Bernie Sanders Will Win the White House

Shock Poll: Sanders Catches Clinton and Crushes Trump in Iowa and New Hampshire

The Blast That Swept Him Came Off New Hampshire Snowfields and Ice-Hung Forests

When you ask me to vote for Hillary

The Establishment’s Last Gasp

On Electability

90% of what goes on at The New Yorker can be explained by Vulgar Marxism

Hillary Clinton: The Ultimate Outsider

BERNIE SANDERS’ LACK OF PARTY ENDORSEMENTS IS A GOOD THING

Why Is Hillary Clinton Using Republican Talking Points to Attack Bernie Sanders?

Hillary Clinton Is Using GOP Fear Tactics Against Bernie Sanders’ Health Care Plan

The Escalating Media Assault on Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders Will Become President, Despite Rigged Debate Schedules, Skewed Polls, and Clinton’s ‘Inevitability’

Bernie Won All the Focus Groups & Online Polls, So Why Is the Media Saying Hillary Won the Debate?

Did Hillary Clinton really win the Democratic debate?

Sanders: Timing of debates structured to help Clinton

Clinton bias accusations chase top Democrat Wasserman Schultz

Why Did the DNC Let the Bernie-Hillary Tech Story Leak?

Sanders Adviser Suggests Staffer That Breached Voter Data May Have Been DNC Plant

AUDITOR PROBING SANDERS BREACH HAS A REPUTATION FOR BRIBERY, ILLEGAL WIRETAPPING, AND MORE

DISGRACEFUL: DNC Compromises Clinton Campaign Data, Then Blames Bernie Sanders

The Scandal of the DNC Data Breach

SANDERS BREACH PUTS DATA VENDOR BATTLE FRONT AND CENTER

Bernie Sanders campaign claims DNC voter data was leaked multiple times

Report: Sanders campaign told DNC of data issue months ago

The “electability” argument is bogus: Why Bernie Sanders isn’t the second coming of George McGovern

Bernie Sanders is no Ron Paul: What the press gets all wrong about the Vermont senator

Bernie Sanders, First Libertarian Socialist?

HOW I EVOLVED FROM A RON PAUL SUPPORTER TO A BERNIE SANDERS SUPPORTER

Libertarian voting for Bernie Sanders in primary

How Bernie Sanders Helped Kill Rand Paul’s Campaign

How Reddit (and Bernie Sanders) helped kill Rand Paul’s campaign

Ron Paul Gives Bernie Sanders a Boost… Sort Of

The Republicans who love Bernie Sanders

The Lifelong Republicans Who Love Bernie Sanders

Republicans for Bernie

Republicans for Bernie Sanders

Why Surprising Numbers of Republicans Have Been Voting for Bernie Sanders in Vermont

Bernie Sanders Is a Loud, Stubborn Socialist. Republicans Like Him Anyway.

GOP Senator: I’d Vote For Bernie Sanders Over Ted Cruz

Millennials in Poll Fake Right, Go Left

Millennials have a higher opinion of socialism than of capitalism

Hey, GOP, Here’s Why Millennials Hate Us

CLINTON’S UNPOPULARITY WITH YOUNG VOTERS OFFERS GOP AN OPENING [WITH COMMENT BY JOHN]

Clinton looks to sisterhood, but votes may go to Sanders

Failed Democracy and the Demand for Justice

I just now finished watching the HBO movie Recount. It awoke some old anger.

In 2000, I was in my mid-20s and not yet fully cynical. Maybe I was naive at the time, but I assumed that American democracy was a real thing. I had been apolitical up to that point in my life. The 2000 election was the first time I voted.

I should add that my anger had nothing to do with Gore losing, as I didn’t vote for Gore. Instead, I voted for Nader because he was the first politician I ever felt wasn’t lying to me (and don’t get me started with the bullshit scapegoating of Nader). Some of my anger in response to the movie was how easy it let Gore off the hook for his having given up the fight. Bush didn’t win. Rather, Gore conceded. He put ‘nation’ before party. But whose nation was it that trumped democracy? It obviously wasn’t the nation of “We the People”.

I couldn’t care less about Gore. What I cared about then and what I care about now is democracy. The movie barely touched upon the issue of the voter purge, one of the greatest civil rights infringements in modern American history. Democracy failed or rather we failed democracy. I still remain unconvinced that our country has recovered from that failure or ever will recover. Democracy is more easily destroyed than rebuilt.

But maybe that is a good thing. There is power in losing hope. It is only when we lose hope in the system that we can seek a justice that is greater than the system, that we can seek a new and better system. Our democracy was already broken or else the 2000 fiasco never could have happened. The recent Princeton study adds further proof that we no longer live in a democracy, assuming we ever did. If we can collectively acknowledge this, then and only then we could move toward creating an actual democracy.

It is only in losing false hope that we can gain a something more genuine. We don’t need hope. What we need is a righteous demand for justice. Democracy won’t be given to us. We the people must take it. Democracy isn’t the power of the vote. Etymologically and fundamentally, democracy is power of the people.

That realization should be taken very seriously. Power is something that only exists in its being used. Imagine if we were to take back our power from politicians and from Washington. Imagine if we let outrage move us to action. Anything would be possible, even democracy.

My Thoughts During Election Night

Before the Election Results Started Coming In 

————-

I’m curious about how likely others think Romney could win.
 
I remember that earlier in the campaign season all of the MSM experts kept stating that no recent president was ever re-elected with that high of unemployment numbers. That seemed mostly irrelevant to me for I saw a different dynamic going on. I predicted long before even the campaigns began that the election was Obama’s to lose. I still see it that way.
 
The real issue has been how willing Obama was to fight for it. I must admit that Obama hasn’t consistently fought hard in his campaign, especially in the first debate. The election would never have even gotten this close if Obama hadn’t started out of the gate so slow.As an independent, it is hard to get too excited about the whole thing. But it is fascinating from a larger historical perspective. We are in the middle of a major shift right now such as with racial demographics which is why the GOP has been so motivated to push voter suppression.
 
Does anyone think the GOP attempt at voter suppression has been successful enough to have a significant impact? Who feels Obama should have campaigned harder against this voter suppression and focused on it in his speeches?

The swing states typically are Midwestern states.
 
This is the same regional dynamic that has existed since the Civil War. The North eternally has to maintain the Midwest to keep the darkness of the South at bay. We Midwesterners live on the geographic boundary of ideologies and of cultures.
 
The Southern aristocracy didn’t like American democracy when they sought to first force slave laws onto the entire country and, failing that, when they sought to secede. The Southern aristocracy still doesn’t like American democracy. There is good reason for this. Their continued power is dependent on it.

If all Americans or even just all Southerners voted, the present Republican party would never win a single election. The large part of the population that doesn’t usually vote, especially in the South, votes Democratic when they do vote. If political participation increased, the South would be solid Blue. That simple fact scares shitless the Republican ruling elite and, sadly, scares many white people.

The saddest part about being a liberal American is knowing that you are part of the majority. On many key issues, the average American are surprisingly liberal. Polls showed, for example, that most Americans were dissatisfied with Obamacare because it wasn’t far enough to the left.
 
Why this is sad is that we have a conservative political system. It was intentionally created this way because the founding fathers were afraid of the lower classes which is why after the founding of the country only something like 8% of the population had the right to vote. This is why the electoral college was created. Most Americans don’t understand this. Americans don’t vote for the president. Rather, Americans vote for the people who vote for the president.
 
The problem with the electoral college system is that, because of demographics, it empowers the groups that have maintained power throughout US history. Low population states tend to be rural and rural areas tend to be conservative and white. Because of the electoral college, the vote of white conservatives is worth more than the votes of typical urban residents: minorities, liberals, feminists, gays, environmentalists, etc.
 
Along with political disenfranchisement, this is why the left has had to work harder to reach out to more Americans while conservatives can focus narrowly. If every American’s vote was counted equally, we would regularly have presidents far to the left of Obama.

After the Election Results Started Coming In

 
I heard the best comment tonight on Public radio.
 
They were discussing the Republican strategy of going for the white vote. One of them said that Republicans were hoping the white vote would be a winning strategy at least through this election before whites shift toward their position as the new minority. He then added, “The future came early.”
 
I’m glad to hear it. I’ve seen this shift coming since 2000. Republicans have been using a strategy that isn’t sustainable. And by doing so, they turned the growing minority majority and an entire new generation against their party. In time, they will come to realize what a steep price they have paid.
 
Will Republicans finally wake up to reality now that the future has slapped them in the face? They attempted voter suppression and now they’ve been publicly shamed. Last election, the youth and blacks gave victory to Obama. Now, women and Latinos have shown the GOP what power they have. The tide has turned.
 
I remember when I first heard about Romney picking Ryan. I instantly realized that Republicans were repeating the same strategy from 2008. They put forward a bland white professional politician and then paired him with a Tea Party right-winger. Since it didn’t work in 2008, why did they think it would work in 2012?

As an Independent, I don’t care about the partisan politics. I’m still not a fan of Obama or a supporter of the Democratic Party. No matter which of the two parties wins, the third parties I love always lose.
 
But in the end, I’m just another typical liberal who wants everyone to get along. Republicans have made clear that they don’t want to get along. Romney stated in no uncertain terms that he despise 47% of Americans. Other Republicans have said equally disgusting comments from claiming legitimate rape to dismissing minorities.
 
I don’t want to hate on Republicans. I don’t want conservatives to go away. Rather, I want them to the table as equals treating others as equals. I want to see them chastened and humbled. The right can get very ugly when they get full of themselves. Nonetheless, their voice matters as everyone’s voice matters in a democracy. I want them to understand this.
 
Republicans have a choice. They can learn a lesson and change their ways. Or else they quickly find themselves heading toward a fate of third party status… which is how the Republican Party began.
 
I understand that Republicans are afraid. I want them to know everything is going to be all right. America is a strong country. It is diversity that makes America strong. I hope they know that there always will be an open invitation to them to join the rest of Americans. We are all in this together.
 
Republicans hear this: Liberals, minorities and poor people aren’t your enemy. We are your potential allies in turning this country toward the future.

I’m constantly wondering what would allow conservatives to let go of their fears.
 
Obama is a socialist? Comparison shows that Obama holds the positions and promotes the policies that have been typical of moderate Republicans for much of the last century.
 
Democrats stole the election? Nonpartisan research shows voter fraud is extremely rare.
 
The fears of conservatives have nothing to do with reality or facts. They create things to fear and then they go about fearing their fearful creations. They don’t fear anything specific. They just fear anything that is new and different. They fear change. The fear they have never goes away because it simply shapeshifts into something else.
 
It’s sad. I understand fear. We all deal with fears. The world can be a scary place. It’s not like us on the left are living in a leftist utopia where all our dreams come true. We on the left fear growing tyranny more than even conservatives.
 
The difference is that conservatives have a way of getting stuck in a mindset of fear. Liberals can get pulled into fear like anyone else and it brings out the worse in liberals, but it isn’t where liberals like to dwell. Optimism is the natural resting point of the liberal predisposition. Liberals are curious about the new and tend to get more excited about the possibility of change.
 
Even conservatives are capable of thinking outside of fear. During economic good times, conservatives can become quite open and accepting of the world around them. But such moments don’t tend to last long and so the conservative never remains for long outside of fear. There is always another thing to fear just around the corner.But does it have to be that way?

We humans are capable of doing so much when we work together. All of civilization is a collective achievement. On the other hand, when we don’t work together, humans are vicious and destructive. Conservatives tend to only be inspired toward collective action when they wish to fight some perceived enemy and even then it isn’t really collective action so much as it is emotional groupthink, their group against everyone else, just an extension of self-interest.

What needs to change to help conservatives to trust democracy and believe in the American Dream again? What would help them to see strangers as potential friends and allies instead of enemies? What would help them to see all Americans as real Americans, to see all humans as worthy humans? What would help them to believe that win/win solutions are possible and desirable?