Jun 12, 2016

June 7, 2016: Requeim For A Heavyweight, The Butterfly and the Bee, Not Again See His Likeness




“The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see
I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee”
         ----Muhammad Ali,  Heavyweight Champion of the World.


In the film version of a teleplay written by Rod Serling, Antony Quinn portrays “a once-promising but now washed-up boxer who faces the end of his career after he is savagely defeated” (1) in the opening scene by an up-and-coming younger man.  The film is remarkable not only for the command performance of Antony Quinn as the aging pugilist, but also for the dramatic performances of both Jackie Gleason and Mickey Rooney as supporting actors.  However, it is, perhaps, most memorable in that the opening scene in which Quinn faces the immanent end of his career finds him receiving a savage beating by none other than a young Cassius Clay.  The drama unfolding in the opening moments of the film would later be repeated in real life when the young Clay would confront two years later a much older Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship of the world. 

The story goes that Clay, at the tender age of 12, had gone to a police station in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky to report his bicycle stolen.  Telling the officer that he wanted to whup whoever was responsible the policeman suggested he take up boxing.  The rest, as they say, is history.  For the next decade, Clay would hone his skills.

“Clay made his amateur boxing debut in 1954.[32] He won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union national title, and the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.[33] Clay's amateur record was 100 wins with five losses. (2)” 

By early 1964, young Cassius would find himself in Miami Florida confronting Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship of the world.

It proved to be a difficult journey, for unlike virtually every other sport; the boxer is not accountable to a team, nor a team’s management and ownership.  A boxer is, or at least can be, his ‘own man’, a point and a prospect not lost upon the emerging Clay.  Borrowing from the legendary wrestler “Gorgeous George” Wagner, young Cassius saw how useful ‘flamboyant self-promotion’ could be. 


“A 19-year-old Ali met a 46-year-old George at a Las Vegas radio station. During George's radio interview, the wrestler's promo caught the attention of the future heavyweight champion. If George lost to Classy Freddie Blassie, George exclaimed, "I'll crawl across the ring and cut my hair off! But that's not gonna happen because I'm the greatest wrestler in the world!" Ali, who later echoed that very promo when taunting opponent Sonny Liston, recalled, "I saw 15,000 people comin' to see this man get beat. And his talking did it. I said, 'This is a gooood idea!'" In the locker room afterward, the seasoned wrestler gave the future legend some invaluable advice: "A lot of people will pay to see someone shut your mouth. So keep on bragging, keep on sassing and always be outrageous."


Accordingly, the brash young pugilist from Louisville, dubbed the “Louisville Lip” by disparaging sportswriters, found it difficult to get a title match with the champion Liston.  Here was a man, and particularly a man of color, who could not be ‘controlled’. 

America had had such an experience in the early years of the last century when the sport produced its first Black Champion.  Jack Johnson (4) proved not only to be a formidable fighter but a clear threat to the white supremacist doctrines of racial superiority and the Jim-Crow segregation that it produced.  Accordingly, a long hunt for a ‘great white hope’ would be undertaken until Johnson, several years later, would finally be vanquished.  The legacy of Jack Johnson made it difficult for black athletes to break the color line and when they did one had to be, in the words of the time, “a credit to your race”. Men like Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson who would advance the cause of civil rights by crossing the color line and would make it possible for Larry Doby and a host of others in baseball, and Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston and a host of others in boxing, to emerge and even become champions as long as they didn’t make any demands.  What America, it was held, did not want was an athlete who spoke his mind, especially if he were a black man.

Getting a title fight, under these conditions, proved problematic.  So Clay, to create pressure for such a match would take his counsel from “Gorgeous George” and turn spectacle into opportunity.  Appearing and confronting Liston at his training facilities, the young Clay would taunt the champion calling him a “big ugly bear” saying that he was “too ugly to be champion” and promising, after defeating him, to donate him to a zoo.  Finally, the champion relented and a fight was duly arranged. 

The results are, of course, well chronicled.  Clay quickly took control of the match easily outmaneuvering the champion.  In response it is held by many, including longtime boxing expert and commentator Burt Sugar, that Liston, as he allegedly had done several times before, had liniment put on his gloves in order to blind his opponent. For nearly two rounds, Clay dodged and avoided the champion as he struggled to clear his eyes, fighting nearly blind against one of the most powerful punchers in the history of the game.  Finally, his eyes cleared and when they did, the young Cassius went to work on the aging champion until Liston threw in the towel.  In what is regarded as one of the greatest upsets in the sport Cassius Clay became the youngest heavyweight champion in history. 

Within days, Clay announced to the world that he had not only converted to Islam but had changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

The search now began in earnest for the ever-elusive new “Great White Hope”.

I am not going to recount the history of his fights but instead I want to bring attention to Ali the Athlete and Ali the Icon.

Ali the Athlete

For those seeking a new “Great White Hope” be he white or black, someone who would, in effect, silence the “Louisville Lip”, the wait would prove to be long and, in the end, futile.  For here stood on the national stage not only the country’s most notorious braggart, but a man who would later be voted the greatest athlete of the twentieth century. 

He had taken from Sugar Ray Robinson the boxing strategy of a much smaller man, defense, movement, and glove speed and by training and sculpting his body brought these skills into the heavyweight arena.  Here was a man who stood six foot four inches and fought with the skills and speed never seen at this level. In his youth, he was always moving, always circling left, counter-clockwise, always the left jab, and the fast left jab that would mask the hard right hand coming behind it.   His hands were said by many to be the fastest ever seen.  In addition, there was power.  Critics claim that he didn’t have the punching power of a Liston or a Foreman or, for that matter, a Frazier, but they are wrong.  All one has to do is watch the films of his fights with Jerry Quarry or George Chuvalo, or Joe Frazier.  One can hear over the crowd the punches being thrown.  You don’t hear his opponent’s blows but you can hear Ali’s punches coming in as they land, such was the power behind those hands. 

He also had the ability to slip punches, often—unheard of in boxing—of leaning back with his chin just an inch or so out of range as he would fall back on his heals as his opponent attempted to land a blow.  In a photo taken of the first Liston match one sees the young fighter leaning back as Liston, arm and glove extended to the maximum falls inches short of Ali’s chin. Liston later claimed that he quit the fight because he had dislocated his shoulder failing to land the blows and hitting only air.  This tactic, often fatal to success because to employ it leaves one prey to a follow up blow or combination, Ali was nevertheless able to execute because of his superior abilities to move on his feet as well as counterpunch as he fell backwards; a skill that left many an opponent weary of closing in for the ‘kill’.  

Here was no muscle-bound Tyson but a finely sculpted and finely tuned athlete with an extraordinary set of skills as the photo of young Ali standing over the vanquished Liston in the re-match in Maine clearly demonstrates.  Delivering a knockout punch thrown with such speed and at such an unorthodox angle as to be nearly unseen, he stands over Liston, his sculpted body with muscles taut, taunting the former champion to get up and fight.  Here is classic Ali in his prime.

Moreover, in his prime he was something indeed to behold.  Fighting every 60 to 90 days he took the “show on the road”, fighting in England, and Germany, fighting the Canadian and the German as well as the European champions. With each battle, America hoped it had found its “hope”; with each battle, Ali prevailed.  

Then called Uncle Sam; he had mired himself in this little squabble called Viet Nam.

                        “Keep asking me,
                        No matter how long,
                        On the war in Vietnam
                        I sing this song:
                        I ain’t got no quarrel
                        With no Viet Cong.”

“Ain’t no Viet Cong ever called me nigger, or raped or killed my mother or father,” said the champion.  An unsettling truth blown back into the face of America.  Martin Luther King, himself struggling with the morality of our war in Southeast Asia and counseled against taking a stand lest so doing jeopardize the civil rights movement, would later in 1967 turn to Ali “the renegade lyrical poet from the ring, to justify his position: ‘Like Muhammad Ali puts it’”, said King, “’we are all—black, brown and poor—victims of the same system of oppression”’ (5)


Citing his defiance as a criminal act, the boxing commissions throughout the U.S. quickly stripped him of his title and revoked his boxing license making it impossible for the Champion to practice his trade despite sanctioning the likes of Liston and others who had criminal records as long as their arms.  For over three years, the Champ would struggle both financially and through the legal system in an effort to appeal his conviction, his fines and his pending prison term. 

It was during this time that the late-great sportscaster Howard Cosell would come to his aid, inviting the Champion to appear on his weekly television sports show and comment on both his legal struggles and on the boxing scene as the various boxing confederations held a series of  contests to decide who would be the next champion.  During this process and afterward when others—former Ali sparring partner Jimmy Ellis and later Joe Frazier would emerge as the duly anointed heavyweight champion—Cosell would have Ali appear with him to analyze their skills during which the show’s host would convey a strong suggestion that these men were mere imposters to the throne, that they weren’t real champions because the genuine article was sitting next to him in the studio. 

Cosell was the thinking man’s sportsman, bringing to everything he covered an analysis of the strategies employed and an evaluation of the relative level of execution.  He also was the first national spokesperson to recognize the legitimacy of Ali’s name change something that, for instance, it took the Los Angeles Times and other national media years to do.  In one particular program on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”  Cosell, showing his audience how he wanted to demonstrate the intelligence that Ali brought into the ring had the Champion review video footage of the great fighters of the twentieth century.  “You say you are the Greatest”, intoned Cosell, “Tell the audience how you would defeat the likes of Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano and several others”.  As the tapes were played Ali calmly explained how he would prepare for each of these men, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they could and would be beaten.

For over three years, during the prime of his physical skills, Ali was barred from the ring.  When he returned he was not the same fighter.  Gone were some of the speed, and the ability to consistently stay up on his toes and circle his opponent.  Other stratagems were in order.

The “Rumble in the Jungle”

His second career is memorable for the trilogy of fights with then heavyweight champion Joe Frazier and his single fight with then champion George Foreman.   He challenged Frazier losing the first bout in part, because it was only his third fight since returning to the ring and he clearly wasn’t prepared.  Nevertheless, the fight went the distance and Ali lost on points.  He fought Frazier a second time after Joe had lost the championship to George Foreman and won that fight on points, evening the score.  Both of these battles went the distance, both were bruising Battles.  This set the stage for the “Rumble in the Jungle” a battle with then heavyweight champion George Foreman in Zaire, now the Republic of the Congo.

Foreman was then considered one of the most intimidating and vicious punchers in the history of the game.  He won his crown by flooring the formidable Joe Frazier.  Many, even in Ali’s own entourage thought that Ali—several years older—and now much slower, would be injured, perhaps seriously if he took on Foreman.  Some even feared for his life. 

However, Ali, as always, assumed a posture of confidence.  Studying a film of Foreman’s fights Ali saw a weakness.  George had won almost all of his fights by knockout in the early rounds and he had not gone deep into a fight for a long time.  Watching the films, he noticed that as he flogged one of his opponents his arms appeared to get heavy.  He would tire and as he did his hands would come down.  From this, Ali devised a strategy—dubbed by the pugilist poet—“Rope-a-Dope” in which he would lie against the ropes and let the Champion flail away until he tired and then put him away.

Norman Mailer would describe what he saw at ringside and the genius of the tactic.  In the heat of Africa as Foreman would flail away, Ali would lie back against the ropes absorbing the heavy blows in his ribcage.  The entire ring would shake as the ropes and posts absorbed the blows.  Had Ali taken these blows standing in the center of the ring, Mailer noted, his skeleton would have had to absorb all that energy and it would have crushed him.  Nevertheless, noted the novelist, one noticed that much of the energy Foreman was expending was passing through Ali’s body and was taken up by the ropes and posts and passing down into the very floor of the ring itself. Ali had made the ring into one giant shock absorber.

It was a dangerous strategy for in order to succeed Ali not only had to absorb the punishment administered to his body by Foreman but he had to, at all costs, avoid a direct blow to the head for Foreman was allowed in at close range.

Ali would retreat from the center of the ring and lie against the ropes and motion for Foreman to come on and attack him.  In a “peek-a-boo” posture in which he would shield his face and head behind his gloves and ‘peeking’ through is upheld hands, Ali would taunt his foe.  “You hit like a woman, George” he would taunt, “is that all you got, George?” he would ask.  Enraged, Foreman would flail away as Ali’s trainer and manager Angelo Dundee would scream at his man to get off the ropes knowing how dangerous this was.

And, danger was ever present, at each moment, with each blow, as Ali would bob back and forth moving his head to avoid the headshots.  Watching film of the fight you can see the peril as Foreman’s forearms, particularly the right one pass by Ali’s moving head all the way to the elbow.  A direct hit under such circumstances could be devastating, even fatal. 

Finally, as Ali had foreseen, Foreman began to tire, he began to flag, his arms began to drop and Ali saw his opportunity quickly coming off the ropes and delivering several blows in rapid succession dropping the champion to the floor.  It was over.  An elated Ali then went to the edge of the ring where the press had set up shop and shouted down at the assembled “I told you I am the Greatest”.

Foreman would later say of the fight that as Ali taunted him, yelling “is that all you got, George?” he began to realize that yes this is all I have and his confidence began to ebb away.  Ali would attack not only your body but also your mind.  It would take George Foreman years to recover, eventually reclaiming his crown in his 40’s and becoming the oldest man to win the heavyweight championship.

The “Thrilla in Manila”

This set the stage for the final bout with Ali’s arch nemesis Joe Frazier; once again, for the heavyweight championship of the world only this time the roles were reversed.  Ali was now the champion and Frazier the challenger. 

The final bout, the last in his trilogy with “Smokin Joe Frazier” as he was known, proved to be a bruising battle, after which both fighters were never the same.  The pre-fight build up to the “Thrilla in Manila”, as ever the poet Ali described it, was as bruising for Frazier as the fight itself.  Always, as with every opponent, Ali would cast his adversary as the great white hope, only this time adding insult to injury by dubbing Frazier the “Gorilla” and appearing on camera with a stuffed toy gorilla saying:

            “I’ll be a-punchin’ and a-pokin’
            Pouring water on your smokin'”

After a bit of clowning, Ali quickly took control of the fight in the early rounds, much as he had against Liston years earlier.  However, the middle rounds belonged to Frazier as the two giants of the sport battled in the heat of the tropics.

Ali later said that as the fight wore on it was the closest he would ever come to death itself.  It is not generally understood but an athlete can expend an awful lot under such circumstances.  A major league pitcher can lose five to ten pounds during a game a prizefighter can expend much more than that. In fact, under severe circumstances such as these a fighter can lose so much by way of sweating out electrolytes and other substances as to risk internal organ failure. 
Nevertheless, the two fought it out.  In the middle of the thirteenth round, as Ali is now in the center of the ring, winning by most accounts on points but narrowly, he circles Frazier.  Always moving left, his back to the camera, Frazier’s face directly in front suddenly Ali delivers a hard right to Frazier’s jaw.  It happens so fast that the ringside announcer’s don’t notice it until after the round is over and one of them comments that Frazier has lost his mouthpiece, that piece of plastic that fighters put in their mouth to protect their teeth and jaw.  If you watch closely, you can see the blow land flush on Frazier’s jaw, as the white piece of plastic is jettisoned.  So hard is Frazier hit that the mouthpiece doesn’t fall out unto the floor but rather sails out of his mouth parallel to the floor with such force that it lands nine rows back into the crowd.  And Frazier simply looks back at Ali, and doesn’t go down.   The round winds down, and both fighters collapse in their respective corners.  When the bell is about to be sounded to begin round fourteen, Frazier’s manager throws in the towel.  The fight is over; Ali is declared the winner by technical knockout.  Frazier sits crushed on his stool, Ali collapses on the floor.  Later that evening Frazier would be taken back to his lodgings to begin a long recuperation; Ali would be taken to the hospital. 

Neither would ever be the same.  Ali would later lose then regain his crown for an unprecedented third time against Leon Spinks but in Manila, he left his best in the ring. 

He was an anomaly in his sport.  A heavyweight who fought with the speed and grace of a middleweight; a fighter that could counterpunch while back on his heels and deliver telling punches while backpedaling; a boxer who talked while fighting, always dangerous since one risks, by so doing, a broken jaw, (as when Ken Norton caught Ali with a right hand while he was mid sentence breaking his jaw in the second round.  Ali finished the fight.); a poetic pugilist who spoke his mind.

Ali the Icon

Many today that were not yet born when Ali emerged upon the national consciousness do not understand that as was the case with Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali was greeted with near universal derision. 

“Almost from the beginning of his career, when he was still called Cassius Clay, his rhymed couplets, like his punches, were brutal and blunt.  And his poems, like his opponents, suffered a beating.  When in the history of boxing [asks Henry Louise Gates] have critics been so irked by a fighter’s use of language?  A.J. Liebling called him “Mr. Swellhead Bigmouth Poet,” while John Ahern, writing in the Boston Globe in 1964, mocked his “Vaudeville” verse as “homespun doggerel.”  Time magazine, in a particularly nasty triple dig in 1967 over Ali’s opposition to the Vietnam War, his embrace of Islam and name change, called him “Gaseous Cassius”.  (6)


What irritated the press was that it was always Ali who stamped his own imprimatur on the event.  Describing a blow he would deliver to Liston in a pre-fight build up he would quip:

                        “Now Liston disappears from view
                        The crowd is getting frantic.
                        But our radar stations have picked him up
                        He’s somewhere over the Atlantic.” 


Ever the showman, it was Ali, never the press that defined the event and, in the end, that defined Ali. 

Nevertheless, he was more, much more than mere sport and spectacle, mere showmanship.  Ali fused sport, spectacle, and showmanship into cause and purpose and meaning.  Clowning before the camera he would appear on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight” show or with Howard Cosell and would stop mid sentence and ask “Ain’t I pretty?” and motion for the camera, Gorgeous George style, to zoom in for a close up.  “Prettiest face in the human race” he would tell his audience.  Often, and almost universally in the early days, the audience response would be one of nervous laughter at his braggadocio. Partly because the audience was unaccustomed to such talk; partly because when he said he was “the greatest” or that he had “the prettiest face in the human race”, the audience sensed that perhaps it was true.

Out of this came black pride.  Blacks stopped referring to themselves as Negroes, stopped using hair straightener and stopped bleaching their skin.  “Black is beautiful” was born and a new sense of ethnic pride, a result of the emergent civil rights movement and more than spurred on by the image of Ali.  For in his form one sees not simply a black man, but the facial features of an Asian, an African, a Latino, perhaps Caucasian as well.  One sees in the features a certain femininity, especially in the young Ali, as well as a strong masculine form.  If one were to condense the best features of the human species down into one person it would be Ali in his prime. 

And so Ali not only gave doggerel poetic meaning and gave grace and beauty to an ugly sport but in the process became a citizen of the world, an Icon, the most recognizable face on the planet. 

We will not again see his likeness.

____
(1). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Requiem_for_a_Heavyweight
(2). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_Ali
(5). Gates, Henry Louis Jr. “Muhammad Ali, the Political Poet” New York Times op-ed June 9,
            2016. page A-21
(6). Ibid






May 31, 2016

May 31, 2016: The Death of Hope, Fear and Loathing, The Genuine Article


 
“The political process is about the business of assassinating hope and aspiration and replacing them with fear and loathing” ----from “The Quotations of Chairman Joe”

For over a year now I have in these columns and on Facebook been arguing that if the Democratic Party were to nominate Hillary Clinton it thereby forfeits any claim to either progressive reform or representation of the working Middle Class.  It becomes, on the contrary, the modern equivalent of the Wall Street political hacks that heretofore had been the backbone of the old main-line Republican Party; the much-despised ‘Eastern Establishment’ controlling the party of Warren Harding, William Howard Taft, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.  Presented now with the likelihood of a Clinton-Trump contest in the national election the Middle Class looks now in vain for a dog in the hunt.

This matchup assassinates hope and aspiration substituting fear and loathing. Presented with two steaming piles of crap ensures a low turnout favoring Trump. All Trump has to do is venture into the old industrial heartland, long disparaged as the 'rustbelt' and promise to tear up the trade agreements. Note he got more primary votes in Indiana than Clinton and Sanders combined and with nearly 100 million in combined attack ads directed at him he still crushed his opposition. Assuming his demise is dangerous. Hillary may tout experience but what have the politically experienced done for the other 80 percent?

Additionally, let's look at the singularly tone deaf and inept campaign Hillary has run to date. Her campaign, for instance, has been whining about losing in unrepresentative caucuses as if the Sanders people are guilty of some foul play.

Charles M. Blow, writing last month in the op-ed page of the New York Times, wrote:

 “There are two prominent features of the Democratic Party’s presidential selection process that are thoroughly undemocratic and undermine faith in the party: super-delegates (which favor Hillary Clinton) and caucuses (which favor Bernie Sanders)". (1)

 Citing the fact that Sanders had by then won 10 of the first 14 contests which were decided via caucus, Blow is here trumpeting a complaint heard throughout the Clinton camp that somehow these ‘unrepresentative’ conclaves are needlessly prolonging the coronation and restoration.  They’ve got it dead wrong.

While the first proposition in his blanket statement is true enough, the ‘insurmountable’ delegate lead that Clinton through media coverage of the ‘horse race’ has adroitly used to dampen the enthusiasm driving the insurgency, is almost entirely composed of so-called “Superdelegates”—unelected party hacks and lobbyists chosen by the party apparatchiks precisely to ensure that a candidate favorable to the ‘establishment’ will almost always prevail favors Clinton; but the second proposition simply doesn’t stand. 

Caucuses are sponsored and organized by the Party.  The times held, the cites chosen, are determined by the party, usually at the county level.  Word is then spread through the party organization and usually the party faithful, the political ‘activists’ can be relied upon to show up in these low-turnout affairs to ensure the party favorite wins.  This, on the face of it, should favor Clinton.  The fact that she had lost 10 of the first 14 such state-wide contests is not only a testament to the superior political organization of the Sanders campaign but to the miserable organization and lack of enthusiasm awaiting the nomination of the once and future Queen.

The sad fact is that Clinton, as in 2008, has run a miserable campaign, convincing no one but the already convinced of either the legitimacy or the need of her candidacy. And, as it was 8 long years ago, nearly half of her own party—as most clearly demonstrated by the severe drubbing she has received in Caucus—balks at the prospect of her bearing the Party’s standard in the general election.    

Yet she is the near unanimous choice of the party hacks and mossbacks that run the party. Caucuses are not organized by the state but by the political parties. The party decides where they will be held under their auspices and put out calls to all the party activists to attend. Under these circumstances the caucuses should have been a Clinton cake-walk. Instead they revealed not only the weaknesses of the party to deliver but the telling fact that for the second time in 8 years half or more of her own party find the prospect of her nomination repugnant and are recoiling accordingly. She is a weak candidate whose agenda, as in 2008, is shaped by her opponent, running a 'me-too but not so fast' version of whomever stands in opposition. Already as I write she is about the business of wooing Bush supporters (note the arrow on the logo points in the wrong direction). By mid-summer she will, as Bill before her, be rifling the Republican agenda and presenting us with Bush-Lite. Given the choice the country may well opt for the genuine article.

_____

(1).  Blow, Charles M. “The (Un)Democratic Party” New York Times April 4, 2016 pA19

 

 

 

 

Apr 22, 2016

April 22, 2016: Babbling Brooks, Experience Slow to Instruct, Giving Voice to Doubt


 
Political commentator and columnist David Brooks wrote in a recent “New York Times” (1) essay lamenting the emergence of Donald Trump that Trumpism, such as it is, represents a paradigm shift in conservative thinking and, by extension, an opportunity to redefine conservatism.  The problem, as always with conservatism is that, as the Brooks’ effort clearly demonstrates, conservatives first fail to recognize the shortcomings of their own intellectual constructions and secondly they fail further to recognize the brazen internal contradictions between their major and minor premises and the conclusions they divine therefrom.  The result, all too predictably are babbling Brooks of nonsense.

Brooks rightly now describes the current Republican malaise as “groaning under the Reagan Orthodoxy” (2) that somehow went from a Rising Tide America to a Coming Apart America.

Now along comes Trump whom Brooks describes as an “Angel of Destruction”, blowing to “smithereens” the comfortable old bromides.  “He represents not only a rejection of the existing Reaganite establishment, but also a rejection of Reaganite foreign policy (he is less globalist) and Reaganite domestic policy (he is friendlier to the state).”  Trump, in Brooks’ view is “prompting what Thomas Kuhn, in his theory of scientific revolutions, called a model crisis”.  Declaring Trump totally devoid of any ideas or policies, Brooks concludes that Trump “will almost certainly go down to a devastating defeat either in the general election or—God help us—as the worst president in American history.” (3) 

But, alas for Brooks at least, every looming political catastrophe bears a silver lining.  Now is the chance, he writes, for a “mental purging: casting aside many existing mental categories and presuppositions, to shift your identity from one with a fixed mindset to one in which you are a seeker and open to anything.  The second step is probably embedding: going out and seeing America with fresh eyes and listening to American voices with fresh ears….” (4)

Brooks then waxes on about the need to replace the soulless and loveless Trumpist vision with compassion, moving conservative doctrine to a more sociologically compassionate philosophy and away from the fetish conservatives demonstrate for tax cuts, enterprise zones, and the “utility-driven individual”. “Somehow”, Brooks writes, “the Republican Party will have to rediscover a language of loving thy neighbor…. because today’s problems relate to binding a fragmenting society, reweaving family and social connections, relating across the diversity of a globalized world.  Homo economicus is a myth and conservatism needs a worldview that is accurate about Human nature.” (5)   Indeed, so it does.

Again, to paraphrase Gibbon, if with regard to our conservative brethren “experience is powerless to instruct”, we must at least give Brooks credit here for some well-intentioned, if not long overdue soul-searching.  It is not often that we find this kind of courage exhibited so publicly among the chattering class.

But, alas, our friend has miles to go before he sleeps.  We can begin with the failure to honestly apprehend our national experience.  Referring to the legacy of his patron Saint Ronald Reagan, Brooks openly declares that “We’ve gone from Rising Tide America to Coming Apart America”, from the “Reagan worldview…based on the idea that a rising tide would lift all boats. But that’s clearly no longer true.” (6)  It never was.

Brooks, like all of the chattering class, the myriad talking heads that sometimes enlighten but often pollute the airwaves, is a victim of his own self-imposed myopia.  He has spent a lifetime caught in the confines of the Washington Beltway and the conservative echo-chamber.  The fact is that had he made even a modest effort to expand his horizons and, therefore, his peripheral vision, he would have discovered that the Kennedy, not Reagan, dictum that a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ while administered by a good Liberal-Democratic administration became, in malignant conservative hands, more properly “a rising tide lifts all yachts”. 

To discover this, Brother Brooks would not have been required to read the collective works of Karl Marx, or even those of Jeremy Bentham.  He would not have been required to consult with pols like Ted Kennedy, or even a Bernie Sanders.  He would not have had to search in vain for a conservative stink-tank offering an alternative point of view.  All he would have had to do was consult the likes of Kevin Phillips—author of Nixon’s Southern Strategy—and longtime card-carrying Republican who has written extensively about the lingering effects of Reaganomics.  Beginning in the late 80’s right after Reagan left office, Phillips began to publish the early returns and by 1993 he declared straightforwardly in his book “Boiling Point” (7), that the middle class had lost ground, if not taken a thrashing, under Reagan—even during the High Tide period of the 80’s when the policies first went into effect.  It hasn’t got any better in the ensuing quarter century as administrations both Democratic and Republican have ratified the inspired stupidity of what the host of “Death Valley Days” had wrought.  The returns have been in now for over quarter century, we are now nearly two generations into this failed experiment and only now a lonely soul far off on the political wrong begins to give voice to doubt.  It has been a long time coming.

What I am suggesting here is that Brooks has not gone nearly far enough in casting aside long held categories and presuppositions, beginning of course with the category that man is entirely a utility-driven economic animal and with the supposition that unfettered capital will ‘raise all boats’.  The first is a deeply one-dimensional, if not completely self-serving (from the view of the capitalist elites) proposition and the second has never been demonstrated in the whole of human experience.  Indeed, precisely the opposite occurs with nauseating certainty. 

Secondly the conclusions divined by late 20th century conservatism are wholly at odds, it should now be painfully apparent with the objective, empirical, measurable reality—as writers like Phillips have so laboriously and conclusively demonstrated.  Plainly one simply cannot institute a regime in which a form of Social Darwinism is fostered which does not in the end strain the social, economic and political bonds to the breaking point.  A clear contradiction emerges in which the “freedom” of those who through effort and intelligence, or inheritance and sloth, assume such massive advantages as to stifle the aspirations if not the very well-being of the rest of society.  Society bifurcates into the Have’s and Have-Not’s.  The Middle Class gives ground, as does the ‘political center’.   Politics becomes a reflection of the divisions now deep in a society coming apart. 

It's the Coming Apart America, in Brooks phrase, that Trumpism represents.  In subsequent columns Brooks admonishes us to forge ‘intermediate’ relationships, and make ‘Covenants’ with each other (8).  All that is well and good but he is overlooking the necessary first step and that is to recognize the damage that Reagan had wrought and to repudiate it. “Reagan orthodoxy”, wrote Brooks, “…. was right for the 1980’s but has become increasingly obsolete” (9).  This represents not even the first step toward honesty.  No, David.  Reagan Orthodoxy is a purely 19th century construct and was obsolete at conception; that it ill-suited the 1980’s has been demonstrated by your fellow conservative and former Republican Kevin Phillips.   No, David, there are reasons why the country and your movement is groaning under the weight of the Reagan Orthodoxy and that is that it never worked. 

And now, your movement and your party are finally being abandoned as those who create the wealth through their labor have become painfully aware that they do not share the same interests or the same world-view as those who appropriate the value of that labor and manage it for their own selfish ends.

Trump would be the worst president in American history?  That is quite an assertion betraying a pique unbecoming a man revisiting the country with fresh eyes and ears.  In any case it may be an abyss too far.  It is, for instance, difficult to imagine a President Trump sending troops off to the frontier as states secede from the union, or playing guitar while a major city drowns.

_____

(1). Brooks, David. “The Post-Trump Era” “New York Times” March 25, 2016.  Page A23

(2). ibid

(3). ibid

(4). ibid

(5). ibid

(6). ibid

(7). see Phillips, Kevin. “Boiling Point: Democrats, Republicans, and the Decline of Middle-Class Prosperity”. 1993 Random House, New York. 307 pages

(8). Brooks, David. “How Covenants Make Us” “New York Times”  April 5, 2016. Page A23

      Brooks, David.  “How to Fix Politics” New York Times” April 12, 2016. Page A23

(9). Op Cit

 

Apr 10, 2016

April 7, 2016: Lessons from Michigan, Finding the Party, Myopia Strikes Deep


 
For years the Ionia Democratic Party has held its annual ‘G. Mennen Williams’ memorial dinner on the infield at the Ionia Free Fair.  One such conclave, in the early 1990’s celebrated as it’s featured guest speaker one Debbie Stabenow, now senior Senator from the State of Michigan but then a State Senator known primarily for giving Rescumlican John Engler his entire first-term agenda by agreeing to shift funding of the public schools from property to income taxes.  Engler parlayed the victory into another two terms as governor continuing a campaign to further erode the well-being of the state.  Stabenow went on to the United States Senate.

I remember her appearance at the dinner, held annually under a tent on the infield next to a permanently constructed stage upon which, over the years, performed Tiny Tim, Jefferson Starship, Alabama, Willie Nelson and a host of other notables.  After her speech, I had occasion to engage in a rather lengthy exchange with the state Senator.

Kevin Phillips had recently published his work “The Politics of Rich and Poor”, declaring in decisive and convincing terms the abject failure of Reaganomics.  I brought up the subject, prefacing the author’s role as the architect of Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’.  I could see her eyes glaze over at the mere suggestion of anything of importance being associated with Republicanism this, after all, being a partisan occasion.  Nevertheless, given her willingness to work with even the most abject swine (Engler), I found myself confused.  It was clear, however that no matter the extent to which I tried to drive home the point that ‘trickle-down’ is not, has not, and never will work, the work of ‘rendering the obvious, obvious’ was lost upon our intrepid politician.  Alas, Michigan’s now senior Senator is a part of the ‘generation of swine’ that emerged in the 1980’s and affiliated itself with the Clinton-led Democratic Leadership Council.  She along with former Michigan Governor Jim Blanchard, best known for “putting Michigan behind bars” by incarcerating so many of the state’s citizens that for the first time the Department of Corrections became the largest state agency dwarfing even the monies spent on roads and schools, was part of the emerging Democratic Political Elite that did it’s level best to ape the Republicans by not only ratifying the Reagan Reaction but appropriating the Republican agenda itself.  Clearly, I sensed, I was wasting my breath.

But there was more.   During the course of the exchange the conversation included several other members of the local party some expressing gratitude that the senator (albeit at state rather than federal level) had condescended to travel to central and western Michigan.  You see we don’t see much of our elected Democratic office holders here in this part of the state.  Stabenow replied that the visit is a notable exception, that the real effort to win elections in Michigan involve concentrating along the I-75 corridor, from Detroit and Ann Arbor through Flint, Saginaw, Pontiac and Bay City.  Here, it is held lies the keys to Democratic victory and dominance in the State.

For generations now this has been the prevailing view.  Not since Williams himself and his cohorts Neil Stabler, Phil Hart and Frank Kelly built the modern Michigan Democratic Party in the 1950’s have our Democratic representatives paid much attention to Western Michigan or much of Michigan beyond the I-75 corridor, with disastrous consequences.  

Detroit, once a city of 1.5 million now has less than half that population.  Flint, as recent headlines concerning the state-sponsored water crisis demonstrates, is equally not only in dire straits but likewise has lost much of its population.  The votes, consequently the political power, has shifted elsewhere, primarily to Western Michigan and out of state.  Grand Rapids, the second largest city in the state, has long been Democratic but you would never know it given the level of recognition the city receives from the state’s Democratic elites or, for that matter, the national Democratic Party.  The city is only sporadically recognized by even presidential campaigns as they make their quadrennial sojourn across the nation.   John Kennedy in 1960, Robert Kennedy in 1968, Dukkakis at a rather modest forum at the Meijer center in 1988, John Kerry in 2004.  As a result, the party has never had the support necessary to field an effective organization.  Often, mostly, there isn’t even a Democratic Headquarters except in the waning months of a national campaign.  Not even in the state’s second largest city.  Trying to find the party can sometimes be a daunting task.

The problem is further complicated by the shifting demographics as today cities like Muskegon, which has been a Democratic stronghold since the 1950’s but has not seen a Democratic president or presidential candidate since John Kennedy in 1962, are entirely ignored; but places like Holland—dominated by the Dutch Reformed Church and formerly a bulwark of political conservatism—are now voting Democratic.  In fact, in 2008 rural counties in West Michigan like Oceana and Mason voted for Obama.  Has the party done anything to build on those electoral returns?  Of course not.  Myopia strikes deep.

There was hope, in the run-up to the 2008 election cycle, when the Democrats put Howard Dean in charge.  Dean insisted that the Party abandoned the blue vs. red dichotomy and become a truly national party challenging the Rescumlicans in nearly every congressional district.  This made the opposition defend its territory not only putting more congressional seats in play but tying down resources otherwise free to spend pushing Democrats against the wall in places like Michigan.  With the election of Obama, Dean was pushed out as head of the party and things reverted back to ‘normal’.   We are living with the consequences.  Not only have the Dems lost control of both houses of Congress but literally hundreds of state legislative seats allowing the scums to gerrymander the House into a solid reactionary bloc, with little hope of mounting a successful challenge.

In this context the recent returns in the Democratic Primary are illustrative.  Hillary, following the strategy long adopted by the mossbacks of the party, concentrated her efforts as usual along the I-75 corridor.   Bernie concentrated on the rest of the state, places like Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Traverse City.  In Muskegon, for instance, campaign workers came to my door, asked who I was supporting, put a Sanders yard sign in my yard, as well as that of my neighbor who was supporting Clinton.  Clinton’s campaign, here in a city that on election day will have no Republicans running for local office on the ballot, was nowhere to be seen.  Accordingly, Bernie handily won the rest of the state, including the former Democratic congressional district comprising the northern lower peninsula and the entire upper peninsula, now held by the Rescumlican Tea baggers.  

What the election demonstrates is a troubling dynamic within the contemporary Democratic Party, a party bereft of imagination not only regarding solutions to the countries myriad problems but in terms of organizing itself and, therefore, its subsequent ability to function as a political party by organizing, in turn, political opinion.  Here Bernie not only defeats the rear-guard apparatchiks representing as they do the remnants of the old DLC and all it stands for, but he does it by organizing in greater numbers a countryside long left fallow by the party regulars.  This should be a wake-up call to those in the party and progressives about the as-yet unrealized potential to fully materialize into a transformative movement.  

 

Mar 17, 2016

March 14, 2016: Salutary Task, Full Panic Mode, Experience Has Not Served


 
On the Republican side, the structure of the primary schedule, however, favored the insurgent Donald Trump who, having performed the salutary task of dispensing the last of the Bush Dynasty, ran away with the Southern primaries with his transparently racist and xenophobic agenda and his crypto-fascist campaign style; a recipe sure to appeal to the gut instincts of those who fly the stars and bars.  What the moneyed elites who are presently losing their tenuous grasp on the levers of the Rescumlican Party do not understand is that these people have been savaged by the economic policies of their party and are now in no mood to be dictated to by the policy wonks holed up at the Heritage Foundation or any of the other stink tanks heretofore directing the show.  This struggle can be openly seen in the tussle now occurring between Donald Trump and the current Speaker of the House who insists on driving budgets that savage the very people that inhabit these haunts.  Accordingly, the ‘evangelicals’, the rank and file that is, are voting for the likes of Donald Trump, much to the chagrin of their religious and Republican Party leaders. 

The Rescumlican leadership now finds itself in full panic mode as the flock have fled the pen and left the reservation.  Mitt Romney, speaking before a group at the University of Utah, excoriated Trump, calling him out on his many failures and his phoniness.  This, alas, only served to strengthen Trump as the rank and file of the Rescumlican Party, long inured to the influence of the ‘press’ quickly ciphered that Trump must be worth something to be hated in so indecent a fashion.  And so as “Faux News” rails against the upstart to no avail; the king makers, long accustomed to docility, now find themselves confronted with a full-fledged revolt for, alas, it turns out that the beer-drinking fans of NASCAR do not have the same economic agenda as Wall Street hedge fund managers and vulture capitalists.  The southern primaries were meant to stop this.  Evangelicals and Southern good-old-boy racism were meant to prevent any woolly-headed ideas cooked up by northern liberals from ever emerging on the national stage. 

But this is a different year.  The times, they say, ‘are-a-changing’.  On the political right (wrong), instead of hampering the economic populism always nascent in conservative America, such is the strength of the ‘populist’ revolt currently underway that all the old bromides—abortion, flag-waving jingoism, and appeals to ‘tinkle-down’ free-market economics, have the sound of tinkling brass—or, rather, a cruel hoax.  Instead the rank and file on the conservative end of the spectrum, retaining only the all-too-transparent racism and misogyny, have opted for a full-throated rage against the economic policies that have created this mess.

Nowhere is this seen as clearly as in the wholesale rejection by the Rescumlican rank-and-file of experience.  Why? Because experience hasn’t served them very well.  Those in power are the ones who created this mess in the first place; and, after nearly 4 decades in which the Middle Class has been left with their faces pressed against the window as the party inside went on and on, there is now rumbling in the streets.

Gone now are Governors Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Chris Christie and, most notably, John Ellis Bush leaving only The Donald, followed by an empty shirt and a messianic menace, both first-term senators.  Only John Kasich of Ohio, of those still standing, has any real experience in governance. For it is written “the Last shall be First”.

 

 

Mar 10, 2016

March 9, 2016: From the Jaws of Victory, Cries from the Rustbelt, As If For The First Time


 
“To date the Democrats have proven adept only at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”

                       ----from “The Quotations of Chairman Joe”

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this, but something happened on the way to the forum.  After battling Hillary to a dead heat in the Iowa Caucus, Bernie Sanders administered a sharp blow to the ‘Once and Future Queen’ by crushing her in Vermont and New Hampshire.  But, schooled in inspired stupidity, the mossbacks running the Democratic Party erected a ‘firewall’ against any progressive insurgency by first selecting over 700 so-called, ‘super delegates’ composed of elected officials and party big-Whigs, and secondly but creating “Super-Tuesday”, the first of the great primary nights, duly front-loaded in early March so as to insure that the insurgent candidate doesn’t have enough time, should he or she do well in the early contests, to raise enough money and field an effective ground-game operation.  Moreover, this event is concentrated in the deep South, shortly on the heels of the snake pit in South Carolina, a sure fire way to thwart any would-be challenger to the status quo.  Or so it seems.

Emerging from his stunning performance in Iowa, in which the outcome was quite literally decided by the tossing of coin, and his crushing of Clinton in New Hampshire, Sanders had a tough hill to climb in the Southeast, the area of the country that although it benefited greatly from the New Deal has, because of Civil Rights, proven in the last half century increasingly hostile toward liberalism. Here is the bulwark erected by the party apparatchiks to prevent the emergence and nomination of another George McGovern and these primaries have—scheduled as they are in the primary sequence and grouped together into a loose ‘Southern Bloc’, have indeed produced the likes of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, southern political practitioners that have, on balance, proven to be material accomplices in the dismantling of the New Deal.  Carter by introducing and legitimizing the fundamentalist voting bloc, beginning the process of wholesale deregulation, increasing defense spending as a percentage of GDP, taxing unemployment benefits and, most notably calling the progressive tax code a ‘disgrace to the human race’.  Clinton, of course, repealed Glass-Steagall, continued deregulation, ratified Reagan’s destruction of the progressivity of the tax code, as well as committing the country to trade agreements that hollowed out the manufacturing base of the country, balanced budgets on the backs of the working people, began the policy of wholesale incarcerations, and signed off on the telecommunications act of 1996 which created the corporate dominance of the media we have now.  Given when the primaries are held and the order in which they held any would be insurgency from the political left, in either party, risks being snuffed at its inception.   

Accordingly, Hillary, resting her campaign upon her strengths with the African-American community, as well as what is left of the old party machinery, ran up some impressive victories in Dixie, from South Carolina through Georgia and Alabama, all the way to Louisiana.  But Bernie, of late has come back with victories in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, those areas that were the hotbed of the old prairie fire that fueled the progressive movement and the New Deal.  But the press, determined to anoint the anointed one had all but written off the Sanders insurgency.  Then came Michigan.

In a sense the press had it right.  Michigan was a must-win for Sanders, for it is difficult to see where he had to go had Clinton won, especially if she had won decisively. If he could not win in Michigan, a state savaged by the economic legacy of the first Clinton Presidency, where could he win?

Then came the cry from the Rustbelt.  Alas, this was not supposed to happen.  “The most recent poll had Clinton ahead by 27 points. The RealClearPolitics average had her winning by 21 points. Even the most optimistic poll had Sanders trailing by 13 points”. (1)  Nate Silber’s much heralded “FiveThirtyEight.com” was stunned, observing in the aftermath: “to find an upset on the same scale as what Sanders achieved in Michigan, you’d have to go back over 30 years. Those polls that put Illinois and Ohio out of Sanders’s reach look a lot less reliable today. And if Sanders wins in those states, it won’t be his viability as a candidate that is in question.” (2)

Once again, as eight years ago, large segments of the Democratic constituencies are recoiling at the prospect of a Clinton restoration.  And for good reason.  Where were the Clintons in the fight to keep those good paying jobs from leaving the country?  Where were they on welfare reform, on re-regulation, on anti-trust, on a whole host of issues.  Most of what they ‘accomplished’ was either a ratification of the Reagan reaction or ‘improvements’ upon it becoming by degrees material accomplices in the ongoing dismantlement of the New Deal.  And, like their conservative mentors presided over yet another recovery to which the Middle Class was not invited. 

Presented with yet another challenge the Clinton’s go about what they have always done, smearing their opponent.  With Obama it was dog-whistle racial innuendo, questioning his ability to be ‘commander-in-chief’ and lending initial credibility to the ‘birther’ nonsense.  Eight years later, and once again in full-panic mode, they are about smearing an opponent’s record, questioning his commitment to Civil Rights by pointing out that he represents lily-white Vermont.  Here the Clinton’s demonstrate their remarkable political dexterity.  Eight years ago when Obama had locked up the black vote, the Clinton’s were campaigning like George Wallace in order to carry West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Now, confronted with a challenge from an old white Jew they present themselves as the champion of minorities, denigrating Bernie’s involvement in the Civil Rights struggle.  It hasn’t fooled everyone, Ben Jealous for instance, the former head of the NAACP has endorsed Bernie, but the strategy worked well enough for Hillary to win big victories in the South where blacks represent a much greater percentage of the Democratic vote—especially if the turnout is low—then they represent in the general population.  The other narrative is, of course to paint him as some wild-eyed radical, a hopeless idealist, advocating some ‘pie-in-the-sky’ radical agenda when all Bernie is suggesting is that we restore the New Deal and the tax code of Dwight Eisenhower.  As I remind my Democratic colleagues, most of whom support Hillary, of course we can do it, our ancestors did it back in the day when we believed and therefore invested in ourselves.  This is ‘revolutionary’ only in the original meaning of the term, that is things have gone ‘full circle’.  Past as prelude.  We have made this journey to find ourselves at the point at which it all began, and to see it as if for the first time.
_______

(1). “Why Bernie Sanders’s Win in Michigan is Huge” The Nation. http://www.thenation.com/article/why-bernie-sanderss-win-in-michigan-is-huge/

(2). Ibid.

 

 

Mar 8, 2016

March 8, 2016: When 6 Becomes 9, Fundamental Re-alignment, Material Accessories to the Dismantlement of the New Deal


 
“The Clinton’s have been material accessories to the dismantlement of the New Deal”

                        ----From “The Quotations of Chairman Joe”

Economist and former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration posted this observation on Facebook this morning:

“America could be on the verge of a fundamental political realignment. Starting with the New Deal, the Democrats were the party of blue-collar workers while the Republicans represented the white-collar establishment. But the tables may be reversed in coming years.

To understand this possibility, consider that right now there are four political tribes in America -- each with its own nominee for President:

1. The Democratic establishment (suburban professionals, Democratic political insiders, liberal-leaning business executives, political centrists). Their candidate is Hillary Clinton.

2. The Republican anti-establishment Right (evangelicals and abortion foes, Tea Partiers, climate-change deniers, federal-government haters, and Fox News addicts). They want Ted Cruz.

3. The Republican anti-establishment isolationists and bigots (economic losers, foes of free trade, angry about immigrants, fearful of Muslims). They want Donald Trump.

4. The Democratic anti-establishment (worried most about widening inequality, concentrated wealth and power at the top, corporate control of our democracy, Wall Street’s excesses). They want Bernie Sanders.

The most prominent group without a political leader at the moment is the Republican establishment (corporate and Wall Street heads, coastal elites, mid-level executives, small-business owners, right-of-center retirees).

If Trump or Cruz becomes the Republican candidate, and Hillary gets the Democratic nomination, the Republican establishment will line up behind Hillary Clinton -- who will thereby become the candidate of the white collar American establishment (in uneasy coalition with African-Americans).

And Trump or Cruz will be the candidate of the white working class. The New Deal reversal will be complete.

What do you think?” (1)

This is precisely the analysis being put forward in this column, for the political center has given way and a new governing coalition will emerge from this election cycle.  How permanent it will be will depend upon who wins the election and what the next president does in office to cement the emergent coalition in power.  We had thought that this had happened after the 2008 cycle only to see that because the structural issues concerning the economy had not been addressed and the plight of the Middle Class had not been alleviated that the coalition that has elected Obama for two terms is unravelling.  The reasons for this have been previously delineated in these columns and will be subjects of continuing commentary but for our purposes here it is enough to say that, in the words of Bob Dylan, ‘the wheel’s still in spin’. 

Professor Reich is right in that what now looms if the Republicans nominate Trump or Cruz and the Democrats nominate Hillary is that we will have an effective swap of political positions as the ‘liberals’ abandon all pretense of ‘progressivism’ and abdicate their historic role as the voice of the ‘people’. The ‘populist’ revolt will by default fall into the hands of the political wrong—the right wing crypto fascists.  And therein lies the tragedy. 

There are reasons why the good professor, a friend of Hillary’s since she was 19 years old, has now openly endorsed the candidacy of Bernie Sanders for President.  He understands what is as stake here: not only a battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party but a struggle, not unlike that which our ancestors faced, to lead the populist revolt in a progressive direction and in so doing save the underpinning of the middle class and the foundations of the republic itself. 

For the Clintons it will, however, represent a singular victory for Hillary especially.  Ever since her days as a ‘Goldwater girl’ in which she labored assiduously on behalf of the architect of dismantling the New Deal, Hillary and her husband Bill have labored mightily to transform the Democratic Party into ‘Bush-Lite’, if not the party of Wall Street.

Let there be no mistake about it. The Clintons have been material accessories to the dismantling of the New Deal, from the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the replacement of AFDC (passed by FDR in 1933) savaging in turn the social safety net, the failure to enforce anti-trust laws, the encouragement of mergers and acquisitions—especially in finance and energy, the wholesale incarceration and sponsorship of privatization, the awful trade agreements that have hollowed out our industrial base and destroyed our unions…ad nauseum.   Her nomination in the teeth of a full-fledged populist revolt that now spans the entire political spectrum would be a testament to the complete transformation of the Democratic Party from the party of FDR, JFK, and LBJ to the party of William McKinley, Warren Harding and Herbert Hoover. 

Welcome to the 21st Century where 6 is 9.

-------

(1)   Robert Reich Facebook post of March 8, 2016.