The Two Political Spectrums

2008-Jul-24

For decades we have assumed the political spectrum ranged from Liberal to Conservative, and assumed that all political groupings from the Klan to the Commies could be squeezed into that spectrum.

Well, we are about to discover that the importance of the Liberal/Conservative spectrum is becoming secondary to the far more primordial spectrum, that of the Haves vs Have-Nots. Yes, we will still have elections decided on the issue of whether gay guys should be able to have abortions on demand, but when people have to decide whether their kids will get food or medicine this week, at least some of them will get the picture that they must (at least temporarily) set aside their differences and concentrate on physical survival.

We used to have a middle class in this country. But no one will die middle class any longer. In a generation, all middle class jobs will be done by cheap imported or offshored labor for a fraction of their current wages, and anyone who manages to last until retirement will find anything they saved will be eaten up inflated food or energy or transportration costs, by medical costs not reimbursed by their medical plan, or they will have to sign over all their assets to some nursing home.

No need to worry about the “death tax” because only the super-rich will have anything left but debts when they die.

I’m seeing small groups of people starting to get together, getting past old differences, and cooperating on getting ready to survive the coming hard times. I’m seeing networks where leftie Pagans are getting with right-wing Fundie Christians on common issues.

The coming wars (acknowledged or not) will be between the top one tenth of one percent who will own everything and the rest of us who will own nothing…not even ourselves.

If those of us who are prey can get together soon enough to defend ourselves from the predators, we have a chance to make a society with a substantial middle class again and lessen the growing inequality. But so far it’s just a chance…

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Pennsylvania Primary

2008-Apr-22

I am amazed at the amount of bullshit the mass media are hoping we will swallow, much of it based on claiming that if Obama has problems winning the “big states” in the primaries, then he will have trouble winning them in November. Maybe they can’t do the simple math of comparing the number of Democratic primary votes cast to the number of Republican votes cast. And asking if the number of Democrats in these states who will be so bitterly disappointed that their candidate lost is close to the number of Republicans who have grown to hate the president they voted for and have no love for his replacement.

But no one in the mass media is looking at what should be obvious: Political campaigns are won on the ground.

Even in hot races, many voters have little clue about the issues. They vote on name recognition, and even more importantly on whether they think a candidate cares for them personally. Which is why candidates try to meet as many voters as possible in person, or alternatively through canvassers, or through the media…but the media is not as important as meeting person to person. This will be a campaign based, not on Clinton’s or Obama’s issues (which are damn near identical despite all claims to the contrary), but on their ground game, their ability to Get Out The Vote.

And it is an excellent chance to compare the DLC corporate Dem “swing-state” strategy of Rahm Emanuel versus the “50 state strategy” of Howard Dean. The “swing-state strategy” concentrates all time and effort on winning big “swing states” with a lot of electoral votes, where the winner take all votes in the Electoral College will win the presidency for the Dems. That contrasts with Howard Dean’s “50 state strategy” which tries to build up a Democratic base in every state to contest every election.

The “swing state strategy” is economical and efficient in using resources to win a presidential election, at the risk of ignoring the needs of the Democratic Party everywhere but those few swing states. The “50 state strategy” is a long term movement to build a Democratic majority that can last for decades, but at the risk of losing elections short term that might have been won with a bit more concentrated funding.

Hillary Clinton has been using the corporate Dem “swing state strategy”, concentrating on the big states. Obama has been using the “50 state strategy” and winning more delegates because he has won many small states. Problem is the “swing state strategy” assumes “winner take all” but in the primaries her swing states give proportional representation, so a small win in a big swing state may not give an advantage in delegates. So the Obama/Dean strategy seems like a winner in the primaries.

Hillary’s side is bitterly complaining (whining?) about being “outspent three to one” by Obama. This ignores the advantages she holds in the big swing states by virtue of her strategy (and totally ignoring all the blather about “identity politics”: male/female, white/black, and such). Her strategy concentrates all her energy in those big states such as Pennsylvania, where she has built up a huge organization, and so ought to win handily (and certainly started with huge leads). She also has the name recognition advantages of two terms of the Presidency, which is worth billions of dollars in free advertising. She also has the advantage of many years of machine politics, her contacts with machine Dems and unions, which are permanent sources of funding and volunteer labor.

But Obama has no such links to the Democratic machine. He is a complete newcomer. What he has, in addition to personal charisma, is the Dean Machine, the legions of young, mostly progressive, activists, who have been working ever since Dean’s candidacy to establish their own network, frequently outside the official Democratic machine. They have learned a lot about canvassing and phonebanking, and raising money, and building a political movement through the internet. When Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards gave up, many of the Deaniacs (and Kucitizens) migrated to Obama because they see Hillary as irretrievably wedded to the corporate DLC Dem machine.

The Pennsylvania primary today will give us a good chance to see how the orthodox Democratic machine and the progressive Dean machine fare when matched up against each other.


Liberal bloggers as a gated community

2007-Jun-23

I think our Liberal bloggers are getting a bit ahead of themselves, for instance, Chris Bowers of MyDD (one of the best):

The Democratic Party is in the midst of a severe electoral crisis. Right now, we only control the US House, the US Senate, the majority of Governorships, the majority of state legislatures, and we lead in only seven out of the eight top-tier matchups in the 2008 general election.

This was in the criticism of a southern white Democrat consultant, “Mudcat” Saunders who was criticising fellow Dems for ignoring the rest of country:

I have bitched and moaned for years about the lack of tolerance in the elitist wing of the Democratic Party, or what I refer to as the “Metropolitan Opera Wing”. These are the people who talk of tolerance but the only true tolerance they ever exhibit is for their own pseudo-intellectual arrogance.

So he was being a bit, um, harsh, and he caught hell for it. But I think he had a hell of a good point. The “elite” Liberal bloggers (and there are a small handful who get most of the traffic) are being awfully arrogant if they try to take credit for Democratic gains in the last election. The Dems (assisted as they were by the bloggers) did not win. The Republicans lost it as they lost their base, disgusted by the obvious corruption and incompetence of the Republican leaders. And if Dems make further gains in the next election it will again be due largely to the continuing corruption and incompetence of the Republicans, not the skills (however great) of the bloggers, and certainly not due to any abundance of courageous actions of the Democrats in the Senate and House…

As we celebrate our President having approval ratings descending through the twenties, we might want to note that the Senate and House, now under Democratic control, have approval ratings far, far lower, now down to 14%.

The Democrats have shown fear and cowardice, failing to follow the wishes of the electorate by ending the war and reining in the Presidency. And the Democratic bloggers, once Liberal and Progressive, now merely Democratic, have (as I noted before) started to lose their edge, and are now trying to take the route they feel is safe (support any corporate Democrat instead of holding them to account) instead of showing the courage to push them by supporting those who support Progressive policies.

Taking the safe route instead of pushing is what got the Democrats in Congress approval ratings of 14%, and doing the same will not help the reputations or power of the bloggerati either.


Liberals vs Neo-Liberals

2007-May-21

It’s the economy, stupid!

Some folks who used to be Liberals want us to believe they still are. Well, sorry, Bub. It’s not enough to say that gay black guys should be able to get abortions. If you want to be a Liberal then you have to support their having jobs, and those jobs paying a living wage with decent safety standards…and with affordable medical care and a safe and secure retirement.

If you support gay guys having abortions but then support giving away our jobs, forcing us to take our kids out of college because we can no longer afford their tuition, even making some of us die early because corporate execs want to replace us with those who will not ask for healthcare, then you are not a Liberal–you are a corporate whore, no matter who you may have been thirty years ago.

You can support the people or the cheap labor plutocrats, but not both.


On the Backs of Blacks

2007-Feb-20

“We are a nation of immigrants!”

What does that phrase mean? Ask Toni Morrison:

Fresh from Ellis Island, Stavros gets a job shining shoes at Grand Central Terminal. It is the last scene of Elia Kazan’s film America, America, the story of a young Greek’s fierce determination to immigrate to America. Quickly, but as casually as an afterthought, a young black man, also a shoe shiner, enters and tries to solicit a customer. He is run off the screen — “Get out of here! We’re doing business here!” — and silently disappears.

This interloper into Stavros’ workplace is crucial in the mix of signs that make up the movie’s happy-ending immigrant story: a job, a straw hat, an infectious smile — and a scorned black. It is the act of racial contempt that transforms this charming Greek into an entitled white. Without it, Stavros’ future as an American is not at all assured.

We immigrants have “made it” in this country in two ways, by taking land from the Indians and by taking jobs from Blacks. That’s our dirty little secret.

When my Irish ancestors came here we were not “white”. My great-great grandfather had a sign he had taken that said, “We hire Blacks but no Irish need apply.” But within a generation we had become white, and in doing so we were now able to make it by taking jobs away from Blacks. And so has every group of immigrants in turn. When jobs are plentiful and workers are scarce, Blacks make inroads. Then another set of immigrants comes and takes the jobs away. We make it by climbing on their backs and jumping up above them onto the ladder to success, and we leave them on the bottom rung. Because that’s what racism is all about.

And who are those immigrants getting their slice of the American Pie by taking it from those who were holding it? Why, us, the nation of immigrants. Those immigrant groups that voted Democratic alongside of Blacks when we were both down, and who feel ever so kindly toward Blacks as we make it at their expense and as we then help other ethnic groups to make it in their turn at the expense of Blacks.

We are what, when I was a politically correct New Leftist, was called a “White Liberal”. We always hated that label, because we could never understand how all our good intentions toward Blacks could be so misunderstood. After all, some of the best Blacks were allowed to be our friends. So why did they still think we were racists? What more could they want from us besides good intentions?

We Liberals–White Liberals–have to disguise our racism. We can’t use the N-word, we can’t call them “uppity” or even “lazy and shiftless”…or can we? So how can white liberals be racist in a manner subtle enough to get away with it? By following the lead of the Neo-Con Republicans. Don’t call Black people “lazy and shiftless”, just call the people who are taking their jobs away from them “hardworking and industrious”. Don’t call Blacks “uppity” when they ask for a living wage, for medical and pension benefits, or for union representation, nope, just call the folks you are giving their jobs to “easy to work with”. Just as the obvious white racists have learned to use code language to express racism, like having their presidential candidates make the necessary pilgrimage to the southern, um, “meccas”, those right-wing Christian schools that until recently forbade blacks from dating whites in their schools, so to we white liberals have our own code language that permit us to stay smugly pious as we dump our black nannies and landscapers and agricultural workers and construction workers and all of those other “jobs that Americans just won’t do” (at least not after we fire them) to replace them with those who are lighter, and like us before them, well along the road to becoming white.

And as we muscle then aside yet again, we ask Blacks to once again “silently disappear”. And if they don’t, then we will look away as the newcomers take their place on a higher rung on the ladder to success by force.

It will be extremely enlightening to watch our supposedly Liberal Democratic politicians as they deal with the next wave of immigrants who will want power in exchange for votes. Where will their slice of the political pie come from? Will the White Liberals give up some of theirs? Or will yet another wave of immigrants take their power by climbing up on the backs of Blacks?


Political Realignments

2007-Jan-21

In the United States we have a two-party, winner take all system. When Ross Perot took 19% of the popular vote in the Presidential election in 1992, he got nothing, and Bill Clinton won despite only getting 43% of the vote. So (like it or not) (especially not), in order to win elections, only the two major parties typically have any realistic chance, and any group wanting a say in the political process has to join in a coalition with either the Republicans or Democrats.

The many and varied interest groups don’t just automatically like the positions and values of the major parties, so shifting alliances can occur at any time if the groups feel they can do better with the other party, and one party or the other can form a coalition that may allow them to take control for long periods.

In the 1930s, after the Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt brought together the many disadvantaged into an alliance against the rapaciously wealthy that lasted for many decades.

Then, as the Democrats slowly began themselves to be corrupted by the corporate elite and failed to deliver value to their supporters, the coalition began to crumble, and the Republicans began to take control by developing their own coalition, first with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, and finally when the Republicans took over both houses of Congress in 1994. They got control by creating an unlikely alliance of what ought to have been disparate interest groups. But they succeeded.

If we are a group that wants our values and principles represented in the political process, we simply must understand where we fit in to the current system of political coalitions and alliances, and how we can achieve more leverage.

So….much more is coming detailing past, current, and future political coalitions…