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 “” 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.

(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.