We’re On Our Way

We seem to be fully past the point where the system might be reformed from within the system. The corruption and failure, as many have pointed out, is bipartisan and goes deeper than just the parties. This leads to frustration and cynicism for many, but it doesn’t have to.

Democracy isn’t only or even primarily about elections. At the most local level, there is still the possibility of democracy functioning. There are local issues that can be influenced and local problems that can be improved. Still, that won’t change the system itself. In anything you do, you will have to constantly fight against the tide of a failing social order.

Keep this in mind. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Change will come, but not easily. It will require outside forces and destabilizing conditions to force issues to the surface.

This isn’t an entirely new situation. Americans have faced this before. Similar conflicts and challenges emerged in the decades before the American Revolution, the US Civil War, and more recently the Civil Rights movement. All were preceded by major acts of violence, social unrest, and civil disobedience. This is what finally forced the hand of government to take action and, in one case, for it to be replaced with a new government.

We are in a period such as that, but we aren’t quite to the breaking point yet. Even when it finally arrives, it won’t be the end of the world, assuming WWIII doesn’t begin and/or climate change doesn’t kick into full gear. There is no point to fear-mongering and prophesying doom, not that we should downplay it either. It’s simply that change happens. We should acknowledge it and prepare for the worse while planning for what comes after.

We are in what some consider the Fourth Turning of a generational cycle. I find it a compelling frame with much explanatory power. I like to look for meaning in the chaos. Otherwise, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, especially if you get your info from the MSM that leaves so much in a state of disconnection, as if the world is a set of random events and isolated incidents to be reported on and then forgotten about, until the next thing comes long, just one damn thing after another.

This is information to keep in mind and a way of making sense of it all, as American society loses its bearings and suffers a bout of collective insanity. Finding a larger context to give perspective is important at times like these. Think of it as intellectual self-defense against reactionary politics, no matter which party it comes from.

Neither Trump nor Clinton are the end of the world. Neither is going to save us from the problems we face. And neither is going to stop the changes that long ago were set into motion. Society isn’t going to stay the same and isn’t going to go back to what it once was. The future beckons, as it always does. We’re on our way to somewhere.

Racial Polarization of Partisans

Racial polarization in the general population has remained at the same level for decades. But it has increased in the two-party system, at the very time fewer Americans are registering in either party. So, the very people least polarized are those who have left the polarized parties. This means there is an ever greater concentration of polarization among the most loyal partisans, Republicans and Democrats, and hence the further polarization of the parties.

Even non-racial issues (e.g., same sex marriage) have become racially polarized within the two-party system, specifically in reaction to Obama’s presidency. Most Americans agree about most issues. What has changed in recent history is that the majority no longer identifies with either main party and so the two-party system doesn’t represent them. The ideological fight between Republicans and Democrats has nothing to do with the larger population. As such, polarization of the minority goes hand in hand with disenfranchisement of the majority.

Yet, as the two main parties have greater power and get more media attention, it gives the impression of polarization increasing in American society. The polarized partisans are getting more free publicity from the mainstream media than they did in the past. There is no political spectacle to push and no social drama to sell advertising in the news media reporting on the boring consensus of the majority, even if we ignore the fact that the media corporations are themselves major funding sources for the very political parties they have helped to polarize.

The one thing the media is even less likely to report on is how their reporting influences public perception and supports political spin, not to mention how it locks in the dominant two-party paradigm. The polarization becomes entrenched and self-perpetuating, until the majority of Americans realize how disconnected the entire system is from their lives and values. It would require a large outside force such as nation-wide social unrest to shake loose the polarization that rules the mainstream mind.

I’ve often pointed out the political elite are disconnected from the public. That is still true. But it goes far beyond merely the supposed representatives not necessarily representing even the people who vote for them, especially Democratic politicians who falsely assume their constituents are more conservative than they actually are—both of the main parties are ideologically to the right of the majority. More interesting, the mainstream partisans have also become disconnected from the rest of the population.

The problematic and even dangerous aspect of this is how it creates detachment and dissociation. It’s a divide in the mind, in experience and perception. This disconnection, through the power of party politics and corporate media, is forced upon social reality.

* * *

It All Comes Down to Race
by Sasha Issenberg

The Great Trump Reshuffle
Thomas B. Edsall

A newly released poll shows the populist power of Donald Trump
by Michael Tesler

Donald Sterling shows the separate realities of Democrats and Republicans about race
by Michael Tesler

Endless Nonsense of the Misinformed Mind

This campaign season, I’ve been surprised by quite a bit. I knew the Democratic establishment and the mainstream media were powerful, but I never realized how powerful.

Even among intelligent educated people I know, a remarkable number don’t seem all that well-informed or interested in being well-informed. I continually come across people who repeat talking points and false claims, even long after they’ve been disproven or the data has changed.

There also is a lot of simplistic opinions. I know I shouldn’t be shocked by this. It’s just for some reason it seems worse this time around. Many people are really caught up in emotional reaction or else simple partisan groupthink.

Let me give an example of some comments I’ve seen. Some people still seem to think of Bernie Sanders’ campaign as a failure. He should just give up, bow out, and hand the nomination to Hillary Clinton. They’ve assumed from the beginning, like Clinton has assumed, that the nomination was in the bag. It’s as if campaigns are just formalities and it’s really the political elites who declare who will represent us.

Such arrogance. And also such naive optimism about their candidate. Have these people been living under a rock? Haven’t they seen what’s been going on with Sanders’ campaign?

Sanders is the most well liked and most trusted candidate running right now, along with having a low negativity rating. He has raised massive amounts of money, all with small donations, setting a record in accomplishing this. He has also set a record in the largest crowds a candidate has drawn in US campaign history. He is running  neck to neck with the candidate promoted by the party establishment and the mainstream media, an establishment candidate who would have been losing long ago if the system wasn’t rigged in her favor.

Sanders’ campaign is the most impressive in my lifetime. The voting public hasn’t been this engaged in a long time. Even Obama never got this kind of groundswell.

It’s amazing how wrong people have been about Sanders, proportionate to how certain their opinions were stated. Consider the whole Bernie Bros allegation. And then how vicious Clinton supporters became when they found out that young women have turned against Clinton and sided with Sanders. Having learned their lesson from that, they now try to ignore all the data that shows how Sanders is taking the lead in numerous demographics that Clinton supposedly was guaranteed.

This is seen with demographics from low income to young minorities. Sanders has masterfully won them over. The response is to ignore it or confidently state the opposite is true, no matter what the data shows. I hear people say such things as, “Sanders never caught on with minority voters” and “Sanders always seemed to be speaking to fairly affluent white college students.” These kinds of statements are patently false.

Then there are all the other unsubstantiated allegations. Chairs were being thrown or whatever. It’s an endless smear campaign. Clinton supporters rarely talk about the issues and, when they do talk about them, they merely demonstrate they know little about the issues. I’m genuinely shocked that Clinton supporters know so little about her political record and the consequences of the policies she has supported, not to mention all the endless shady dealings. I could write an entire book detailing all of this and some people have already written such books.

So many people can’t be bothered to research the data for themselves. They simply know what is true because that is what they heard someone say, either in Clinton’s campaign or from the MSM.

I seem to have an endless capacity for being amazed at willful ignorance and intellectual laziness. I never want to believe that knowledge means so little in changing minds. I’m naive in my love of knowledge. I just think knowledge is awesome and wrongly assume most people share this attitude.

I just don’t get personality politics, partisanship, groupthink, and blind loyalty. It isn’t my nature to think that way.

I don’t even care about Sanders, despite my support of his campaign. No one is likely to tell me any criticism or data about Sanders that I don’t already know. And if someone did surprise me with something new, it wouldn’t really bother me. If I found out that Sanders did a fraction of the immoral and anti-democratic kind of crap that Clinton regularly does, I’d drop him in a heartbeat and not give it a second thought. Sanders as a person is as irrelevant to me as is the fact that he is running as a Democrat.

I just don’t care about such things. I want reform, however that might be achieved. And, most importantly, I want truth.

* * *

Which Candidate Do the Poor Support?

Bernie Sanders and Civil Rights

Five demographic arguments for Bernie Sanders
by Carl Beijer

The story here is clear: one can only call Clinton an advocate of the powerless by ignoring women, Hispanics and other non-black voters of color, ~30% of black Americans, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and other non-straights, the young, and the poor. The narrative being aggressively advanced by writers like Tomasky and Goldberg – that Sanders is the candidate of privilege – can only be made by a stunning degree of demographic gerrymandering that ignores the dramatic sea changes in preference that have taken place since the beginning of the campaign.

Oldest African-American Newspaper in US Endorses Bernie Sanders
teleSUR

“Sanders has supported policies and programs that would be in the best interest of all Americans and African-Americans, specifically. He has been a consistent fighter for a more just and equitable society,” the oldest African-American newspaper says.

How Bernie Sanders won Michigan
by Kathleen Gray & Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press

While many said the race in Michigan would come down to demographics — and Clinton’s advantage with African-American voters — exit polling done for CNN suggested it was more about issues and widespread dissatisfaction with the federal government.

A Shock: Bernie is Actually Bagging Black Votes
by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Huffington Post

The first hint that Sanders’ halting efforts to break Clinton’s iron-grip on Black voters paid some dividends came in the early March Michigan Democratic primary. Sanders got almost one-third of the Black vote in that primary. It did more than raise a few eyebrows. It was just enough to edge Sanders past Clinton and nab the win. It also did much more. It proved that in close contests in the Northern states with a significant percentage of Black votes, Sanders need not top Clinton’s Black vote total. This won’t happen. He just needs to slice into her percentage of the Black vote to be competitive, and as Michigan showed, to even defy the oddsmakers, and win.

Youth of Color Talk About Sanders
by Christen McCurdy, The Skanner

Sanders went on to win Washington’s caucus Saturday and clinched victories in Alaska and Hawaii the same day.

Exit polls on the racial breakdown of Saturday’s caucuses are not available. Critics have noted all three states have notably smaller Black populations than the national average and that Clinton’s wins in southern states were apparently solidified by Black voters.

On the other hand, Alaska and Hawaii are two of the most racially and linguistically diverse states in the nation, and Sanders polls well with younger voters of all races, enjoying a slight edge over Clinton among young African Americans.

According to the polling firm Edison Research, 51 percent of African American Democratic voters aged 17 to 29 said they support Sanders, versus 48 percent supporting Clinton. Sanders leads 66-34 among young Hispanics who are likely to support a Democrat.

Clintons wrestle with a black generation gap
by Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune

Much has been said about the generation gap that has caused younger women to prefer Sanders over Hillary Clinton. As the parent of a politically savvy African-American 20-something, I have seen the same gap open up between black millennials and their elders.

Too young to remember the peace and prosperity of the 1990s, today’s youths are more familiar with mass incarceration, violent crime surges, viral videos of police brutality and losses in many black households of economic gains they made in the Clinton years.

New Twitter-age movements like Black Lives Matter are fueled by such experts as Michelle Alexander, 48, and her best-seller “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”

In an essay in The Nation titled “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote,” Alexander harshly questioned the “devotion” of black voters to the Clintons.

“Did they take extreme political risks to defend the rights of African-Americans?” she wrote. “Did they courageously stand up to right-wing demagoguery about black communities …?” No, she wrote, “Quite the opposite.”

Why Young People of Color Are Rejecting Hillary Clinton
by Hector Luis Alamo, Latino Rebels

Hillary has a problem, and her problem is the Democratic Party’s problem: How are they going to excite young voters, and particularly young voters of color? Now that we’re being told Bernie Sanders has no path to the nomination, Democratic strategists and status-quo pragmatists are hoping young people will take the immense energy that has exalted the Sanders campaign and inject it into the scheme for Hillary. That ain’t happening, but not because young people are naïve, impetuous or are being fed lies about Hillary’s record, as Democratic operatives the likes of Dolores Huerta would have us believe. On the contrary, young people won’t vote for Hillary because “we just don’t trust her,” as a young black Bernie supporter recently explained on CNN. “We don’t trust what she says, and we don’t like what she’s done. And for those combined reasons, we won’t vote for Hillary Clinton.”

The more young people learn about Hillary, the less likely they are to vote for her. Her betrayal of female workers during her time on the board of directors at Walmart, her betrayal of children, families, people of color and immigrants during her time as first lady, her pro-Wall Street years in the Senate, and her betrayal of the United States’ neighbors in Latin America during her tenure as secretary of state. Hillary indeed has plenty of experience in government. Unfortunately for her, it mostly involves her taking neoliberal positions. There’s nothing wrong with Hillary being a neoliberal and not a “true” progressive, but at least tell me the truth.

The Generation Gap Between Latino Voters
Latino USA, NPR

Is there a generation gap dividing young and old Latino voters? Young Latinos seems to prefer Bernie Sanders, while older Latinos like Hillary Clinton.

Bernie Sanders rally in Stockton draws many Latino supporters
by Cynthia Moreno

An NBC analysis that tracked the voting preference of Latino Democrats back in March found that Latinos under 30 supported Sanders on exit and entrance polls in primaries and caucuses held in 19 states.

Young Latino Voters Trending to Bernie Sanders as Latino Vote Emphasized
by Alvaro Nino de Guzman Jr., Media Milwaukee

“It seems that Sanders is getting a lot of attention and momentum in the Latino community as well. Things might change especially because Sanders seems to have a broad appeal to young constituencies and among the Latino, the millennials are the majority. Forty-four perspective voters among the Latino community are young voters,” said Muniz.

How Hispanic Millennials Are Driving the Bernie Sanders Brand
by Elena del Valle, HispanicMPR

The Millennials now represent the largest voting bloc in the U.S. so they cannot be ignored – these 86 million young people will represent 40 percent the electorate in 2020. The proportion of Millennials that are Hispanic is higher than other age segments – e.g. one in four Millennials are Hispanic and their median age is 27 versus 37 for the remaining population, so their influence will be significant.

Why Bernie Sanders Really Did Win Nevada’s Hispanic Vote
by Doug Johnson Hatlem, CounterPunch

In a press release, Gonzalez and WCVI lamented that “[l]ost in this controversy is the fact that the data shows a record high Latino vote share in the Democratic Caucuses with Latinos representing 19% of the vote compared to 13% in 2008.”

WCVI is “one of the nation’s largest Latino voter registration groups.” It has worked since 1985 out of Los Angeles and San Antonio under a non-partisan mandate to get as many Latinos as possible registered and to the polls on election days, and will be hosting Latino Vote Summits in several key states beginning this Friday at the University of Texas San Antonio. SVREP’s work in Nevada saw Gonzalez quoted for a story in the Los Angeles Times last Wednesday suggesting that millennial Latinos, who may make up almost half of all eligible Latino voters in the U.S. in 2016, might just make the difference in the outcome.

“The leadership that is older is all Clinton, but the younger Latinos, they’re with Sanders,” Gonzalez told the Times. “Gonzalez said the rift is present in his own family. ‘My daughters are Sanders people,’ he said. ‘My wife is with Hillary’.”

Six in Ten Latino Teens Identified as Democrats And Most Prefer Bernie Sanders as President
by Glen Minnis, Latin Post

While youth voter turnout typically lags, pollsters found that 62 percent of the 28,141 teens surveyed that will be eligible to vote come November’s general election plan to do so.

The study found six in every ten Latinos identify as Democrats, with just 26 percent of respondents considering themselves members of the GOP.

Among those surveyed, Sanders leads overall democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton 43 percent to 16 percent. By comparison, Republican front-runner Donald Trump managed just six percent support.

Latinos also proved to be the group that most believes immigration to be a key issue in the overall presidential debate at 30 percent.

The Latin Vote: What Do Latinos Think Of Hillary Clinton And Bernie Sanders?
by Pedro Moreno Vasquez, XpatNation

When it comes to voting, Latin women seem to be more supportive of democrats. The 2014 midterm elections indicated that 66% of Latinas voted for democratic candidates. Among Latino men, the adherence for democrats is lower: 57% of them voted for a democrat, while 41% of Latino men voted for a Republican. For both sexes, Latinos over 45 are more likely to vote for a democrat.

It seems obvious then, that Latinas will strongly support Hillary. This has been a consolation for a candidate who, in recent months, has seen a shocking drop of support from nationwide female voters. In July 2015, 71% of democratic-leaning female voters supported Hillary Clinton. In a matter of eight weeks, Clinton lost almost 30% of those votes. Now only 42% of female voters support her.

Hillary is not considering something: Latino families in the US still have a strong patriarchal background. This may affect her appeal toward male Latino voters to a degree. In general, Hillary is not taking advantage of her Latino women support. She should do more to expand it. Clinton recently assigned a Dreamer Latina named Lorella Praeli as her Latino Outreach Director. Praeli has neither wide following nor charisma. There are, of course, Dreamers who are more popular, articulate, and have more presence, such as Erika Andiola, Cesar Vargas and Carlos Padilla.

But they support Bernie Sanders.

Huge Wins Ahead for Bernie Sanders if Latinos, Independents, Youths Vote
by Garrett Griffin, Weekend Collective

Sanders crushed Hillary by 20 percentage points in two-thirds of his victories: New Hampshire, Minnesota, Colorado, Vermont, Kansas, and Maine. This was not a fluke. He will likely have more big wins if young people, independents, and Latino voters register and cast their ballots.

Southwest and Western states with large Latino populations will likely flock to Sanders. He barely lost Illinois, but surveys the week before saw him with 64% of Latino support in the state, compared to 30% for Clinton. (Nearly half of Latino voters are millennials.) Of the 20 Iowa counties that have the largest Latino population, Sanders won 15 of them. He also may have won the Latino vote in Nevada, far better than expected, and Democracy Now reported after Colorado: “Latino vote helps Bernie Sanders surge to victory in massive Democratic caucus turnout.”

Upcoming states like New Mexico, Washington, Arizona, and California (with its whopping 546 delegates) with big Hispanic populations could cause Clinton’s lead to evaporate

Interview: Young Latinos Are Ralllying for Bernie Sanders
interview with José Manuel Santoyo, teleSUR

Although it has been often reported in this election cycle that minorities are overwhelmingly voting for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, many members of the African-American and Latino communities have banded together to support Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Sanders has been especially popular with young voters, inspiring many to participate in the democratic process for the first time.

TeleSUR spoke with José Manuel Santoyo, the online marketing strategist for Young Latinos For Bernie, about his organization’s efforts to bring his fellow young Latino’s into Sanders’ camp.

Huge!! New PPP poll: Sanders runs ahead of Clinton with Hispanic voters in a race against Trump
by vl baker, caucus99percent

The Partisan ‘Good’

There is something that I’m only now beginning to fully understand.

The whole lesser evilism is a distraction, but not in a way I previously thought. To many (I suspect most) partisan Democrats, someone like Hillary Clinton isn’t a lesser evil. She represents precisely what they want. Few of her supporters are fooled by her empty rhetoric.

Her political record is well known: big money cronyism, racialized tough-on-crime policies, class warfare on the poor, welfare slashing, war hawk militarism, and standard flip-flopping particularly on social issues. That is what people mean when they say she has ‘experience’, because indeed she is complicit in the corrupt system and is part of the corrupt establishment. She has experience in the day-to-day operations of the empire and experience in how to keep the masses in line. She knows the political game from decades of being an insider.

What lesser evil voting allows is plausible deniability. Partisan Democrats can vote for someone like Hillary Clinton, all the while pretending they don’t actually want everything she stands for. These kind of people want a strong ruler to maintain the status quo and protect the social order, at any and all costs. That is the only promise Hillary Clinton can make and that is why so many partisan Democrats support her. She represents the last hope for the system, beyond which lies the dangerous democratic masses demanding reform and justice.

Until recently, I took lesser evilism at face value. I assumed that most partisan Democrats would choose the more liberal and progressive candidate, if there was a viable option. That has been disproven with this campaign season.

Bernie Sanders represents everything partisan Democrats claim to believe, what they supposedly want and support. He is also the most popular candidate, both well-liked and well-trusted, unlike Hillary. In fact, in competition against Republicans, he is the most viable candidate. If all partisan Democrats cared about was winning to defeat the greater evil of the GOP, then there would be mass support of Sanders by the entire Democratic party.

Some suspect Sanders is a sheepdog to draw non-Democrats and Democratic doubters back into the fold. In that case, he would bring more votes to Hillary. But if that was the purpose, he is utterly failing at his job, considering many of his supporters aren’t partisan Democrats and have no plans in voting for Hillary. That is probably why there is such push back against him. He is making apparent the divide between the political left and partisans. The Democratic establishment and their defenders are realizing what a threat Sanders represents, as it is forcing the corruption of the system into the light.

This has put Democrats into an uncomfortable position. There is no longer any plausible deniability. They either support progressive liberalism or they oppose it.

Partisanship vs Democracy

Here is a major problem of parties in the US political system.

We have a winner take all system. It creates a mindset of win at any costs and dominate by any means. Other (better functioning, one might argue) democratic governments allow greater multiple party competition while simultaneously encouraging cooperation and alliance-forming among the parties. One would hope that this could lessen the tendency of American-style territorial partisanship with its Social Darwinism and groupthink, and so it might give democracy a fighting chance to achieve democratic results.

The US system has come to operate with parties winning by excluding rather than including the most voters. Republicans dismiss minorities and non-Christians. Democrats dismiss lower class whites and leftist reformers. Both parties, in a bipartisan stranglehold, dismiss independents, third partiers, discouraged non-voters, and the disenfranchised.

Neither party fights for the rights, values, and interests of most of the American population. Instead, the two parties defend their turf and seek only to represent their respective small band of loyal followers. But in the end, the parties take their own partisans for granted, as the opinions of partisans is irrelevant since they’ll vote party line no matter what. This leaves both parties to do the bidding of big money, as research shows they do.

There is no incentive for either of the two main parties to act more democratically, to promote democracy, and to democratically represent the American people. Because of this, elections become empty spectacles to create an illusion of democratic process and consent of the governed.

We should and need to do better than this. But in order for that to happen, we have to demand better and put the force of conviction behind it. Otherwise, the force of desperation might lead us in directions we’d rather not go. Reform is the only way to prevent revolution. And, once revolution begins, it can’t be controlled.

My thoughts here aren’t particularly radical. They go back the American founding generation. It’s part of the original intent of the Constitution. George Washington, in particular, warned against the dangers of political parties. Washington may have been too idealistic in his criticisms, as factionalism may be an inevitable part of any large diverse society. Even if that is the case, his warnings about political parties remain and have proven true.

Fortunately, we don’t have to speculate about alternatives. The world is full of countries with different systems that can be studied and compared. Not all factionalism leads to American-style dysfunction and corruption. There is no reason we should remain attached to our dysfunction and corruption simply because it is our own. Think of it as a cancer needing to be removed so that the rest of the body may live.

If we don’t like the results we are getting and obviously most Americans are dissatisfied to an extreme degree with the status quo, then why not try something different in seeking different results? We Americans owe no loyalty to the two-party establishment. Our primary loyalty belongs to our country and and our fellow citizens, which is to say “We the People.” Democracy doesn’t mean power of parties and politicians; rather, it literally is power of the people.

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.

Partisanship Makes Americans Stupid

Democrats are really pissing me off right now. I hate partisan politics. Even my support for Sanders is tentative. And I’d rather vote third party. For damn sure, I’m not going to vote for Hillary Clinton, if she gets the nomination.

Do these partisans have any common sense or principles?

On certain issues such as war, prisons and the police state, Hillary is far to the right of someone like Ron Paul or even his son Rand. I bet even both Pauls combined with their pro-capitalist libertarianism never accepted as many big money corporate bribes as has Clinton. She is a strident neoliberal, which in American parlance makes her an economic conservative. Also, the policies she has supported have been consistently bad for minorities. On most major issues, Clinton is to the right of the majority of Americans, often far to the right.

Why would any moral and sane person who took Sanders rhetoric seriously vote for Clinton? Why would any principled liberal consider Clinton to be much of a liberal, in the normal use of that word?

This same thing goes for Republican partisanship.

Those on the political right love to use libertarian rhetoric. Yet many third party candidates on the political left are way more libertarian. Even someone like Ron Paul isn’t all that extreme in his libertarianism. Green Party candidates are regularly more libertarian than Ron Paul and the candidates of the supposed Libertarian Party. Republicans love big government and deficit-spending, just focused on their favorite areas.

So, if one’s libertarianism is principled, why not vote for the most libertarian candidate? Well, the reason is that too many people use the word ‘libertarian’ when they really mean something entirely else: neoliberalism, corporatism, or whatever. But those crony capitalist Republicans will threaten the voters that they better vote for them or else the communists will take over.

This lesser evil crap is plain stupid. Lesser evil than what? Why is partisanship used as a way of excusing everything? Why do people vote against their own interests just to make sure that their team wins?

* * *

Political Compass:

The US Presidential Election 2004
The US Presidential Election 2008
The US Presidential Election 2012
The US Primary Candidates 2016

Partisan Apologetics, Bipartisan Bullshit

Someone pointed out to me two articles, one by Paul Street and the other by Thomas Frank. They are about liberal apologetics or rather standard partisan rhetoric.

I often feel wary about liberalism as a label, especially as applied to the Democratic Party. Barack Obama’s liberalism is to Martin Luther King’s liberalism as Jerry Falwell’s Christianity was to MLK’s Christianity. But that is neither here nor there.

The point is that the apologists in question are defending the status quo. I’m not sure if it even matters how such apologists self-identify or what kind of rhetoric they use, just as it doesn’t particularly matter how they identify their opponents and their opponents identify them. Depending on who you ask, Obama is a liberal or a neoliberal, a socialist or a corporate shill, a radical mastermind or a weak moderate, and much else besides. It’s all so much empty talk.

What does matter is what is being defended, beyond all labels and rhetoric. It’s party politics. And I’m sure at least Paul Street understands that the two parties are basically the same, even if one of them is consistently and persistently more despair-inducing than the other.

The point is that Obama isn’t being inconsistent about his beliefs. The more likely explanation is that he is acting according to his principles and values, despite it not being the hope and change some thought he was bringing. His presidency, as such, isn’t a failure, but a grand success. It doesn’t matter what one calls it. Obama serves power and money, just like Bush Jr. It’s the same old game.

It isn’t a failure of the Democratic Party. It isn’t a failure of democracy. It isn’t a failure of liberalism. All of that is irrelevant. It’s a show being put on. It is politics as spectacle. Sure, Obama will play the role of a liberal in giving speeches, but it’s just a role and he is just an actor, although not as great of an actor as someone like Reagan, not that the quality of the acting is all that important.

For that reason, the apologists should be criticized harshly. So should the partisan loyalists who so much wanted to believe the pretty lies, no matter how obvious they were.

After he was elected, I was for giving Obama a chance to prove his intentions, not that I ever bought into the rhetoric. That is why I hoped he would get elected to a second term (instead of Romney), so that no one could ever claim that he wasn’t given the full opportunity to implement what he wanted. As his presidency draws to a close, it is fair to conclude that he has proven beyond any reasonable doubt what he supports. Of course, that should have been obvious long ago to anyone paying attention.

The healthcare reform was a good example of what he supports. As explained in one comment to Frank’s article:

“Obama was able to get the ACA through with no Republican votes, relying fully on Democratic support. Why then, didn’t Obama push a single-payer plan through? The only answer is that either Obama didn’t want single-payer, or the Democratic establishment didn’t want single-payer.

“So instead the Democrats went for the individual-mandate, proposed by the far right-wing Heritage Foundation in the 1990’s, and implemented by Romney in Massachusetts.

“Instead of a truly public health care system, the Democrats mandated that We The People need to subsidize private-sector, for-profit corporations.

“Not to mention, this ‘recovery’ has seen a drastic increase in the stratification of wealth, where the uber-rich have gotten far richer while the middle-class shrinks.

“But under a President McCain or a President Romney, would we have really expected anything to be different?”

Democrats typically argued that Obama’s healthcare reform was a good compromise for pushing progressive change. Meanwhile, Republicans typically argued it was either socialism or a step toward it.

What was mostly ignored by both sides of mainstream politics is that Obamacare first and foremost served the interests of big money, which in this case meant big insurance. The only time big money gets mentioned is when campaign season goes into full gear and even then it’s never about serious concern for getting money out of politics (along with related corporatist issues such as ending revolving door politics, stopping  regulatory capture, etc).

How does this kind of corporatist policy lead to either progressive or socialist results? Why not just call it what it is and leave it at that? Why are so many people willing to play these political games of doublespeak?

People have their minds so twisted up with convoluted rhetoric that I suspect many of them couldn’t think straight, even if they tried. Heck, looking at this ideological mess, I must admit that I also find myself struggling to make heads or tails out of it.

Besides standard political power-mongering, the agenda is hard to figure out. Is it just mindless defense of the status quo? Why don’t those in power see how destructive this is, even to the system itself in the long run?

Anti-Partisan Original Intent

I was reading the introduction to The Invention of Party Politics by Gerald Leonard. The beginning comments caught my attention (Kindle Locations 62-65):

“This is a book about political parties and the American Constitution between the founding of the United States and the Second Party System of the 1840s and 1850s. In those years, and especially between 1820 and 1840, the idea and fact of party organization gained a preeminent place in the American constitutional order, even though the Constitution itself had been designed as a “Constitution against parties.”*”

(* From Idea of a Party System by Richard Hofstadter)

I knew many of the Founders saw party politics as a danger. This went along with the perceived threats of political factionalism and regional/state sectionalism. Unity was the watchword of those early Americans. They were seeking to create a United States, a radical vision. Not a nation-state and not just what the Articles of Confederation proposed. Plural states, but united, tied together with common cause and purpose. A Union.

As George Washington famously explained in his farewell address,

“In contemplating the causes, which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern, that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by Geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavour to excite a belief, that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings, which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those, who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.”

His warning was that parties would lead to ruling elites who served their own interests rather than the country.

“All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests.”

It wasn’t just a complaint about the practical running of government. Rather, it was a conflict of visions. The vision of Union was in direct contradiction to the vision of partisanship. For parties to form meant the revolutionary spirit to have been defeated, the entire reason and justification for the founding of the United States.

“I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.”

Washington goes into more detail, but you get the basic idea. The guy saw political parties as one of the greatest threats to a free country and to all who value liberty. Those are strong words for the first president who wasn’t known for stating anything strongly. He decided to make almost his entire farewell address about this single warning. We should take this as seriously as we take Dwight Eisenhower’s warning of the Military-Industrial Complex.

To return to The Invention of Party Politics, the author continues with some thoughts on the Constitution:

“In all the massive literature on American political history in that period, however, there was little indication of what I have since come to understand: that the early history of party is best understood within the history of the Constitution, just as the history of the Constitution is best understood within the history of party development.”

It is good to keep in mind that the Constitution was written to replace the Articles of Confederation. The early Confederation was too weak and so the vision of Union took form, but the idea of a Union was a guiding vision from before the Constitutional Convention. There was disagreement about the exact relationship between the states and yet there was much agreement that the states needed a shared system of politics, of laws, of economics, and more importantly of values.

However, that vision of a fully united Union didn’t last. Understanding that change is what this book is about. Also, it is about understanding why the founders fought so hard for a new vision of a non-partisan society.

“In the nineteenth century, the mass political party dominated American politics and, in fact, came to be the defining institution of modern “democracy,” a status it still enjoys (perhaps in tandem with the market economy). Yet thousands of years of prior human history had yielded practically no efforts to justify party organization or institutionalized opposition. Virtually every political thinker before the nineteenth century condemned “formed opposition” as destructive of the public good and fatal to public peace. The freedom of individuals to express dissent might sometimes be celebrated, but the organization of a political club in continuing opposition to the policies of the government— perhaps even conceiving of itself as a potential replacement for those currently in power—smacked more of conspiracy and treason than of healthy political competition . In the early nineteenth century, however, all that changed. Americans embraced mass party organization, and politics and governance were altered forever. Eventually, this embrace of party became a commitment to a “party system”— an enduring competition between democratic parties within a basic constitutional consensus, expecting to exchange power and office in indefinitely long cycles 2 —as the sine qua non of democracy in America and much of the world.” (Kindle Locations 66-78).

The American Civil War is a clear example of what Washington had warned about. We shouldn’t get too comfortable about our party system. And we shouldn’t be so naive as to think another civil war will never happen.

I want to end on a different note, though. Those on the political right often speak of original intent, specifically in terms of the Constitution. I just want to point out that any person in a political party (including the Republican Party and the Libertarian Party) who makes any argument about originalism, any such person is being blatantly hypocritical.

Of course, hypocrisy is part of the US political tradition going back to the Founders. Still, I doubt conservatives and right-wingers are basing their originalist defense on the standard of hypocrisy. Or maybe they are.

I find myself going back to that early period of American and Western history. The groundwork of principles and values were laid for modern democracy. Yet we don’t take those principles and values as seriously as we should. They are hard to live by and live up to, as the Founders quickly discovered.

I feel a desire to make my own defense of original intent about the entire early modern revolutionary era and the entire Enlightenment Age. I wish to defend the radical visions that transformed the Western world. Many of those early radicals didn’t fall into hypocrisy. Those are the people upon which I wish to base my own originalism.

Maybe it is time for us to revisit those radical ideas and visions. Maybe we took the wrong path somewhere along the way. Let us retrace our steps and rediscover the forks in the road that could have taken our society in other directions. Maybe party politics is a dead end, after all.

Most Americans Know What is True

There is one topic I return to more often than most, a topic that has been on my mind for about a decade now. This topic has to do with the confluence of ideology, labels, and social science. I’ve written about this topic more than I care to remember.

I’m about equally interested in conservatism and liberalism (along with other ideological labels). But liberalism in some ways has intrigued me more because of all the massive confusion surrounding the label. Most Americans hold fairly strong left-leaning views on many of the most important major issues.

There are a number of facts that have become permanently caught in my craw. I considered two of these in a post from not too long ago, Wirthlin Effect & Symbolic Conservatism. In that post, I pointed out that most Americans are more in agreement with one another than they are with the more right-leaning political elites who claim to speak for and represent them. But there is a complicating factor involving the odd mixture of liberalism and conservatism in the American Mind (I never get tired of quoting this fascinating explanation):

Since the time of the pioneering work of Free & Cantril (1967), scholars of public opinion have distinguished between symbolic and operational aspects of political ideology (Page & Shapiro 1992, Stimson 2004). According to this terminology, “symbolic” refers to general, abstract ideological labels, images, and categories, including acts of self-identification with the left or right. “Operational” ideology, by contrast, refers to more specific, concrete, issue-based opinions that may also be classified by observers as either left or right. Although this distinction may seem purely academic, evidence suggests that symbolic and operational forms of ideology do not coincide for many citizens of mass democracies. For example, Free & Cantril (1967) observed that many Americans were simultaneously “philosophical conservatives” and “operational liberals,” opposing “big government” in the abstract but supporting the individual programs comprising the New Deal welfare and regulatory state. More recent studies have obtained impressively similar results; Stimson (2004) found that more than two-thirds of American respondents who identify as symbolic conservatives are operational liberals with respect to the issues (see also Page & Shapiro 1992, Zaller 1992). However, rather than demonstrating that ideological belief systems are multidimensional in the sense of being irreducible to a single left-right continuum, these results indicate that, in the United States at least, leftist/liberal ideas are more popular when they are manifested in specific, concrete policy solutions than when they are offered as ideological abstractions. The notion that most people like to think of themselves as conservative despite the fact that they hold a number of liberal opinions on specific issues is broadly consistent with system-justification theory, which suggests that most people are motivated to look favorably upon the status quo in general and to reject major challenges to it (Jost et al. 2004a).

What the heck is a symbolic conservatism? I’m not quite sure. I don’t know if anyone has that one figured out yet.

I also pointed out that even most Southerners are on the left side of the spectrum. It’s just that most Southerners are disenfranchized. If most Southerners voted, Republicans would never be able to win another election in the South without completely altering what they campaign on.

The claim of a polarized population is overstated. This brings me to a new angle. I came across another piece of data that now can be permanently caught in my craw with the rest. It is from a book by Cass R. Sunstein, not an author I normally read, but the book looked intriguing. He wrote (How to Humble a Wingnut and Other Lessons from Behavioral Economics, Kindle Locations 249-253):

Recent studies by Yale University’s John Bullock and his co-authors suggest that with respect to facts, Democrats and Republicans disagree a lot less than we might think.

True, surveys reveal big differences. But if people are given economic rewards for giving the right answer, the partisan divisions start to become a lot smaller. Here’s the kicker: With respect to facts , there is a real difference between what people say they believe and what they actually believe.

This was from a fairly short essay that ends with this conclusion (Kindle Locations 271-282):

What’s going on here? Bullock and his colleagues think that when people answer factual questions about politics, they engage in a degree of cheerleading, even at the expense of the truth. In a survey setting, there is no cost to doing that.

With economic incentives, of course, the calculus is altered. If you stand to earn some money with an accurate answer, cheerleading becomes much less attractive . And if you will lose real money with an inaccurate answer, you will put a higher premium on accuracy.

What is especially striking is that Bullock and his colleagues were able to slash polarization with very modest monetary rewards. If the incentives were greater (say, $ 100 for a correct answer and $ 25 for “I don’t know”), there is every reason to expect that partisan differences would diminish still more.

It might seem disturbing to find such a divergence between what people say and what they actually believe, but in a way, these findings are immensely encouraging. They suggest that with respect to facts, partisan differences are much less sharp than they seem—and that political polarization is often an artifact of the survey setting.

When Democrats and Republicans claim to disagree, they might be reporting which side they are on, not what they really think. Whatever they say in response to survey questions, they know, in their heart of hearts, that while they are entitled to their own opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts.

Incentives can make people honest. And when honest, people agree a lot more. This reminds me of research showing that, by doing word jumble puzzles and such, people can be primed for rational thought and indeed they do think more rationally under those conditions. Between incentives and priming, we could have a much higher quality public debate and political action.

This also reminds me of implicit knowledge (see here and here). Many writers have observed the strange phenomenon of people simultaneously knowing and not knowing. Maybe this directly relates to incentives and similar factors. It might not just be an issue of incentives to be honest, but also incentives to be self-aware, to admit to themselves what they already know, even when such truths might be uncomfortable and inconvenient.

A further confounding factor, as research also shows, the political elites and the political activists are very much polarized. Those with the most power and influence are the stumbling blocks for democracy or any other moral and effective political process. This plays straight into the cheerleading of the masses. Too many people will simply go along with what the pundits and politicians tell them, unless some other motivation causes them to think more carefully and become more self-aware.

One wonders what the public debate would be like about issues from global warming to economic inequality, if the incentives were different. A single honest public debate could transform our society. It would be a shock to the entire social, political, and economic system.