How COVID-19 makes the case for meaningful tax reform

Tags

, , , , , ,

After nearly four decades, despite it never delivering more than spiraling deficits, the failure of trickle-down economics was hard to pin down in terms of its cost to the public. The COVID-19 pandemic is about to change that. it should become clear soon that those tax cuts were the proximate cause of the cost in lives, economic losses, loss in the value of investments, and the unprecedented cost of rescuing people and an economy plunging head-long into a pandemic abyss.

Not long after passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 we discovered that, instead of investment in productive capacity to generate the promised economic benefit of the tax cuts, corporations were investing primarily in stock buy-backs to capitalize on the value that added to their stock. Meanwhile, the economy plodded along as it had throughout the recovery following the Great Recession. Job creation remained apace with what it had been during President Barrack Obama’s administration, and income growth remained stagnant for most Americans.

Thus having failed to generate the revenue promised by its proponents, we have learned over the past few weeks that cuts President Donald Trump made to the budget in order to reduce the resultant deficit were at the expense of preparedness programs and personnel dedicated to early detection and mitigation of potential pandemic. The extent to which those cuts exacerbated the harm done by the contagion can only be suspected, and may never be fully demonstrated. There should however be no doubt that they contributed the scale of the ensuing disaster.

An old cliché comes to mind that fits the situation that developed: Penny wise, and pound foolish. It was not enough that the so-called Laffer Curve was never intended to be used as it was—simply to justify tax cuts. In its original iteration, it was intended to help maximize revenue, not reduce it, and every calculation of the maximum nominal rate since it was used to justify reducing taxes has determined a rate in the high 60 percent to mid 70 percent range.

Clearly then, reducing taxes not only failed to produce the revenue flow needed for the everyday operations of government, but thereby created a situation in which ill-considered cuts were made to compensate for them. Added to other hardship inducing cuts to programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is foolish in itself due to the fact that transfer payments for the poor return $1.70 to $2.35 per dollar outlay to the Treasury, Republican mismanagement of the economy has been a monumental disaster.

Considering their response to calls for action to mitigate the financial hardship consequent to plunging into this pandemic, it should also be clear that Republicans now realize that President Ronald Reagan was wrong when he said, “government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” He was, however, wrong only to the extent that he did not realize that government is the solution, unless administered by Republicans. Only then is it the problem.

In the end, the full implication is that real tax reform is needed. It is needed to generate the revenue flow for the government to meet not only our most basic needs, like infrastructure—another of Trump’s unfulfilled promises—and future needs. Among those future needs, we can count the pending global climate change disaster—something else Trump denies, like he did the threat of a pandemic. Let’s not forget the need for universal healthcare, something else this pandemic has clearly made evident. If Republicans must be removed from positions in which they can continue to obstruct sound governance, so be it. What we are living through—if not dying consequent to—is the cost of their malfeasance.

Bernie Sanders’ incipient revolution

Tags

, , , , , ,

Bernie Sanders and his supporters certainly believe it’s time for a Utopian revolution, but is it? Are voters truly looking for change, let alone his vision of revolutionary change? If they want change, what do they expect? Or was he just desperate to become relevant after his many decades of being dismissed as an uncooperative gadfly—desperate to become a revered revolutionary, instead of a footnote in the history books? Is his revolution a failure, or is his vision of Utopian grandeur simply premature? Can he lay claim to any real success, or will he only be mentioned for having laid waste to the hopes of progressives who did not rally to his Utopian vision?

By 2016, income inequality, the racial divide, the need for universal healthcare, needed debt relief for student loans and so many other factors led Sanders to believe the time had come—and he was poised to summon the Kraken. He envisioned a unified, multi-tentacled, irresistible political force comprised of disenfranchised and disgruntled revolutionaries across the ideological divide—that did not materialize. It did not materialize at least as he envisioned.

It’s possible that he overlooked a long-standing historical maxim that revolutions, in order to succeed, must be supported at a minimum by one-third of the middle class. Or perhaps he just misjudged the depth of dissatisfaction with the status quo within that class, and his ability to stir the dissatisfaction of lower-income groups that typically do not participate in politics into political action. He may as well have deluded himself into believing his history as a socialist agitator would not put-off significant elements of the spectrum of voters needed, particularly those on the other side of the ideological divide who believed they found their champion in Donald Trump—instead of him, as he envisioned.

Jump forward to 2020, and Sanders is again rallying his revolutionaries, but not as effectively as his ineffective 2016 campaign had. While the media reported his early successes in Iowa and Vermont as wins, his actual performance fell short of his earlier successes, netting him only pluralities against a fragmented field of candidates who emphasized other priorities and pointed in other directions to attain the ends progressives sought. He then lost in a big way in the Super Tuesday primaries. And again in the next round of primaries.

With the unlikely possibility of winning the Democratic nomination looming over him, he paused to assess the situation before the ever cynical socialist gadfly in him became more defiant, and he launched into a forceful attempt to destroy his foil’s, Joe Biden’s, character—and the insidious “establishment” that he perceived as undermining his revolution.

Bernie’s cynical obstinance raises the question of whether he knows that his attacks matter, and influence his core supporters who are truly better referred to as acolytes who are driven more by his proposals than by him—or does he just does not care that he may again be serving as Donald Trump’s most effective surrogate in the general election. This raises yet other questions. Will he be effective enough to again discredit his opponent’s candidacy in the general election, and to what extent will the acolytes who support his candidacy again do everything they can to spoil the outcome of the election by casting “protest” votes, despite his call to support the candidate who defeats him in the primary? Their irrational argument that Biden is little better than Trump will likely provide them the rationale to soothe their conscience when voting against Biden, as they did in 2016—and truly against their own interests—so the next question is whether they will matter in November.

While it is likely safe to say that voters in the Democratic Primary are looking for change—they certainly have made it clear that they want Trump out of office—any change beyond that promised by Joe Biden appears to be less concerning than the potential that there will be no change. It appears therefore, in view of the improbability of a Sanders resurgence, that Bernie knows he does not have the time to hold out for the public to demand the change he promises, and simply seeks to be relevant, to go down in history as the preeminent revolutionary leader of the 21st Century, the Fidel Castro of the progressive movement, or at least the Che Guevara.

Were he not the counterproductive entity he has been, Sanders might be acknowledged for the leftward shift in Democratic Party platform for which the media credited him four years ago. History may however not be as generous. “Working Class” Joe’s character may either not have been tarnished to the extent that Sanders’ campaign of character assassination sullied Hillary Clinton’s character in 2016, or the critical need to vote Trump out of office may offset the irrationality of acting on Bernie’s disingenuous attempt to triumph by laying waste to his opponent’s character. Moreover, Elizabeth Warren’s performance in the primaries suggests that revolutionary Utopian change, the change called for by Sanders, exceeds that sought by the electorate which votes to the left of the ideological spectrum. Utopia may simply have to wait for an electorate that does not perceive more immediate needs yet unmet.

The Ugly Truth: Americans Are Corrupt 

Tags

, , , , , ,

The fact that Americans are corrupt is an ugly truth, but a truth to which even those who believe that they are not corrupt must man-up, metaphorically. This corruption is not the generic concept of taking graft in exchange for some political action, though voting to get a tax break qualifies—oh, and “free stuff” paid for by others does as well. It is the lack of civic virtu within Civic Humanist Political Philosophy that distinguishes American corruption. Civic virtu is attained only when citizens fully participate in the political process, but moreover do so for the greater good of the nation.

the enemyWe certainly see the full extent of corruption, the total lack of civic virtu, in the wealthy who invest fortunes to avoid paying their fair share of the tax burden. We see it also in corporations that not only pay no taxes on phenomenal profits, but also receive phenomenal tax returns. We see it as well in so-called public servants, our politicians, who virtually grow wealthy on the public dole. In 2008 in example, the year in which the global economy tanked, our Republican Congress voted themselves a $4,700 pay raise to top off the $37,300 in pay increases they had voted for themselves since 1999. That’s a sweet 21.4% increase during a time when they were implementing tax reductions and pushing for spending cuts.

What is less clear is is the fundamental corruption within the electorate. It begins with voter apathy at a level unparalleled in western industrialized nations. Let’s take a look at three countries from 1948 to the present in comparison, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, beginning with Sweden. Since reaching a peak of 91.76 voter turnout in 1976, voter turnout began falling into decline to a low of 80.11%, in 2002, the lowest since its all-time low in 1958. In 2010 it rose again to 84.63%. The numbers in Denmark very nearly mirror those in Sweden, but those in Germany were a bit more than nominally lower. The peak turnout in Germany hit its high mark with 91.11% in 1976, and reached its nadir with only 70.78% in 2009.

From 1840 through 1908, the turnout for presidential elections in the United States reached its peak but ranged only between 65.2 to 81.8%, a good 10% below Germany’s current voter turnout record. Over the same period, 1948 to the present, voter turnout in the US ranged between a low of 49%, in 1996, to a high of 63.11%, in 1964, when Americans turned out to keep Goldwater out of office. That’s an average of a nearly 31% lower voter turnout than in Germany.

More shockingly still, the official statistics measure only the turnout among registered voters. The actual voter turnout for eligible voters ranges between 36.4% and 61.9%, a difference of nearly 40% lower voter turnout in Germany, and over 44% lower than Sweden. This is however not the most shocking statistic.

To this point, only the voter turnout for the Presidential elections has been addressed. During what are called off-year elections, in which only members of Congress are elected, turnout among eligible voters typically drops to the upper 30% range. The critical implications and depth of corruption in this fact cannot be overemphasized.

voter apathyCongressional elections seat those who write our laws, and whether the President is a helpless vestigial tail at the mercy of a hostile Congress, or a power broker who can virtually dictate policy in today’s ultra polarized political climate absolutely depends on voter turnout. We need look only as far back as 2010 when the Republicans reasserted their control of Congress to see how critical voter turnout is, and the effect it can have.

In 2010, general dissatisfaction energized the Republican base and independents to vote out Congressional Democrats and establishment Republicans whom they perceived as having done too little or done the wrong things to right the bottom-up economy. While, at 37.8%, the turnout was nominally higher than most off-year elections, the increase in turnout was due to disgruntled voters and senior citizens who had been deceived into believing their Medicare benefits were threatened by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). In the main, these blocs turned out in numbers roughly equivalent to the numbers for a presidential election year, while Democratic voters just watched the election results on television, or heard about them the next day—allowing just over one-third of the electorate to decide who made the laws!

A significant and profoundly important difference in voter eligibility requirements exists between the US, and the European and Scandinavian examples as well. Voter registration in Sweden, Germany and Denmark is virtually automatic in national elections, requiring a citizen only to have assigned a personal number when having received a government benefit or registered as a citizen, and need not be renewed. Voting in local elections does, however, require proof of residence. Factoring Republican-led voter suppression tactics is a real enough, deliberate corruption, but hardly an excuse for those who are simply inconvenienced, and brings up how widely involvement in the political process by those who can make a difference is.

Flash forward to 2016, and the corruption takes another turn—toward deliberate subterfuge by Bernie Sanders’ supporters that plays to the kind of corruption addressed herein. Not only did the campaign of character assassination against Hillary Clinton that was waged by Sanders’ acolytes who fell in hand-in-hand with the Russian trolls’ effort to undermine the US election process effective in discouraging voter turnout, but approximately 1.5 million of them went so far as to vote for Donald Trump.

Flash forward another four years to 2020, and the same thing is being threatened by both Sanders’ supporters, and the NeverBerners who resent his role in helping Donald Trump win the presidency in 2016. The corruption herein addressed in nothing new. Colonial Georgia once had a law requiring voter turnout, or non-voting citizens faced a stiff fine. Nor is protest-voting new—and the consequences of it potentially dire. A question arises from the corruption evident in the US electorate. Is Trump the fulfillment of Benjamin Franklin’s remarks at the end of the Constitutional Convention:

I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.

The depth of corruption, that lack of civic virtu thus far addressed, is only what is apparent on the surface. It goes much deeper. The extent to which the Republicans in Congress disregard well known voter expectations suggests that even petitioning Congress, whether through circulated petitions, letters sent by postal mail, email or by telephone means little to them. They can depend on single-issue voters to stand behind them due to the issues they do act upon. The dissatisfaction expressed by so many who participated in the Tea Party phenomenon—and the Blue Wave in 2018—made this abundantly clear. But the fervor was transitory. Other interests with personal appeal that disregard the most pressing needs of the society as a whole—removing the obstacles to the advancement of progressive policy—are being brushed aside.

Corruption is pandemic in America, and starts with an electorate that is too busy talking about the latest episode of some hit television program at the water cooler, or angry that their candidate did not win the nomination. The one certain thing about their lack of civic virtu is that America’s corruption is reflected in the politicians they help become elected—whether for the personal benefit they assume will follow or their apathetic disengagement from the body politick—and nothing about “business as usual” in the nation’s capital will change until they man-up to their responsibility, until they expend the energy on informed involvement in their governance that they devote to grousing about the corruption of those in government.

The Trump Impeachment: Fatal Mistakes

Tags

, , , ,

impeach trump

The first charge President Donald J. Trump faced in his impeachment trial, abuse of power, was a fatal mistake. By virtue of that mistake, the failure to issue subpoenas, and the several procedural mistakes compounded the fatality of the first.

As should by now be obvious, abuse of power was too nebulous a principle. It is the nature of principle to be a fluid concept in politics, like a tide that rises and ebbs to follow the forces exerted by the sun and moon. Principle is just something that politicians use to justify their acts when it suits them, and constitutional principle lends itself so readily to that end.

The Constitution was simply a framework for a system of government, a republic with democratic attributes. As anyone who followed the proceedings in the Senate trial may have observed, Trump’s abuse of power had to be inferred. Though frequent reference is made to abuse of power for factional gain in James Madison’s Notes (Debates in the Convention of 1787), nothing in the Constitution either mentioned abuse or stipulated the nature of abuse. And, as Rep. Adam Schiff pointed out, enumerating each possible abuse would have been an insanely impossible endeavor.

For all their scholarly argument, the House Managers in the Senate trial also overlooked what may have been their most potent argument, the XYZ Affair. That controversy, in 1797, grew out of the settlement of grievances with Britain, while engaged in war with France, which had been an indispensable ally in America’s war for independence. When President John Adams sent emissaries, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry, to France to soothe over the tensions, France’s foreign minister, Charles de Talleyrand, demanded quid pro quo to meet them. The American outrage over that demand resulted in what came to be referred to as the Quasi-War.

Treason was however mentioned in the Constitution. Trump gave aid and comfort to Russia, an enemy. Unlike abuse of power, treason is a concrete charge that undeniably reaches the standard for impeachment without argument. Such a charge might also have dissuaded collusion in his defense by his Senate coconspirators—who might, therefore, also face impeachment and trial for treason.

Dismissing charging Trump with treason as being too forceful and divisive not only ignores the divisiveness that was caused by the charges that were brought—unless the intent was that Trump would be exonerated, and final judgment be left for history’s judgment. It also ignores the history of mankind, let alone the history of the United States. Factionalism existed while the Framers of our Constitution sat in convention.

Just a few mentions of the factional conflicts will inform those who attended their public school history courses—and remained awake during them—that factionalism was real, and often violent. Bloody clashes between rebels and loyalists arose during the American Revolution. Riots arose in several locations following the Constitutional Convention, not the least of which were those in New York and Philadelphia. The Alien and Sedition Acts prompted the factional response of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, which were the principled positions taken for the factional disputes we know as the Nullification Crisis, and Civil War.

Whether more forceful charges would have changed the outcome of the Senate trial is moot, but it is a fatal mistake to believe upheaval, even violent upheaval, can be avoided while preserving our government’s character and principles. Our nation and its form of government were born in blood—and preserved by the shedding of blood. As horrible as that is, it is both undeniable, and, as we have witnessed throughout our history—and world history for that matter—it has been unavoidable to preserve it.

Will the battle over Trump’s impeachment subvert the constitutional balance of power?

Tags

, , ,

Senate impeachment trial

Much has been said and written on this question by both sides of the argument over the months since President Donald J. Trump sought to coerce a foreign government for his personal political gain. All of it was just politspeak, rhetoric to support their side of the argument about how the other side was subverting the balance of power.

Let’s put a little historical perspective into this. In the US, this kind of thing has been going on since the American colonists put together the Articles of Confederation, then through the secret proceedings of the Constitutional Convention, and public debates between the camp called Cato, and the Federalists.

Philosophers through the ages have expostulated on the corruption that plagues mankind, but the Civic Humanists were the ones whose context for it is most relevant. In the absence of virtue, the civis (citizen), as a political actor, will corrupt the government. Something Benjamin Franklin said within this context, on the final day of the Constitutional Convention, seemed to also presage today’s perception of our political collapse:

I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.

While concern about undermining the theoretical structure of our government isn’t without merit, it’s hard to imagine that events will not continue as they have throughout our history and a political shift will one day reverse the effect of the current political drama.

People will however remain the constant that exerts pressure on politicians from one perspective who are also pressured by others with another perspective. What is therefore lacking is an informed intellect within the polis that is also virtuously focused on the good of the nation as a whole. The polls regarding Trump’s impeachment have pretty well demonstrated the lack of that virtue.

Trump’s guilt or innocence will be determined in the court of public opinion, and observations about what determines the opinion taken were made by Plato on “Gogias.” The best rhetorical argument will likely win out, and Trump’s defenders need only create doubt about the intent, and procedural usurpation of Trump’s accusers to cast doubt on the validity of the charges brought.

Without overwhelming demand for Trump’s removal from office by the court of public opinion, this chapter in our national political drama will not be the last. Nor will there likely be long-term consequences for our form of government, which is one of the benefits of our Constitution being only a framework for our government and law.

Remember too that the US was the first modern democracy, and has endured, much longer than those that fell when it’s constitutional framework failed. Exigencies of the moment may change people’s position on the issues and politicians, but there is little reason to believe that people will change in any fundamental way. In the end, there will however be no fundamental change within any government by consent of the people.

Cynical partisan politics threatens more than just democracy

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mitch McConnell

Don’t mistake the GOP leadership’s desire to replace their more controversial politicians for an ethical desire to change the GOP’s direction. It’s nothing more than a face-lift, a cynical effort to replace those whose public comments, and behavior exposed their ideology for what it is. If you need more proof of this, add in their decision to cancel the GOP presidential primary, thus making President Donald Trump the nominee by fiat.

It’s more important to grasp the context though. They acknowledge through this that the presidency is just icing on the cake, because the real power in government is control of Congress, specifically control of the Senate—as the framers of the Constitution intended.

Cynical partisan politics on the part of Republicans has however defeated the intent of the framers solely for the sake of partisan advantage. Virtually everything the Republicans in Congress have done—and most notably the Senate—over the last decade has been done to secure their grasp on power. Mitch McConnell said as much in his speech to the Heritage Foundation on the eve of the 2010 midterm elections.

President Barack Obama succeeded in winning a second term, and managed to shepherd the affairs of the United States, and its economic recovery from the Great Recession despite Republican congressional hegemony through most of his two terms. What can only be imagined is how much might have been accomplished if the country had a Congress that was willing to work with “the executive”—as the framers of the Constitution would have referred to the office of President in the debates.

Nor has the evidence of possible criminality, and blatant unsuitability for office Trump exhibits daily moved the Senate leadership to accept that impeachment and removal from office is called for. The most revealing aspect of GOP cynicism is the fact that the party leadership is seeking only to replace incumbent candidates whose political missteps are paltry when compared to Trump’s.

Even if we can get past the cynical trope of money as the sole motive, and accept that Republicans just believe themselves to have a superior vision of what is best for the nation, their imperious motive for manipulating the body politic becomes no less insidious. This characterization becomes more than an abstract context in view of the failures of their ideologically driven policy in every aspect of American life from economic policy to social issues.

The GOP seeks to limit so many individual rights, from denying voting rights to minorities, dictating life choices for women, and the LGBTQ community to insulating corporations from accountability for the injury they cause. Their economic policies have never produced what they claimed they would. Despite ages old conservative opposition to tariffs—and liberals for that matter—congressional Republicans have failed to come out against Trump’s disastrous trade wars. Need the on-going GOP push to deny millions of people the health care they enjoy under the Affordable Care Act without so much as a proposed substitute even being mentioned.

Then there’s the all but inexplicable adulation and political support of the Christian right for someone whose life, and conduct as President proves itself daily to be the antithesis of their claim of faith—support that can only rest in Trump’s promise to pack the Courts and Supreme Court of the United States with judges that will overturn Roe v. Wade.

When addressing the failure of Republican ideology, mention should also include the obstacles they create to policy that addresses climate change, despite public recognition of the urgency in addressing the threats it poses.

At best, the accomplishment of conservative ideology is summed up as a phalanx of limits placed on individuals that resulted in income inequality, and political disempowerment. This observation is outlined in advance of a vision of what progressive policy could attain in Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz’ new book, People, Power and Profits. While this book dispels the trope of a fundamental moral failure of capitalism—instead of its malleability in the hands of unscrupulous barons—the left has yet accepted that understanding, and its companion political implications.

This is the political right’s agenda, political dominance. It’s dominance that empowers the pursuit of the vision they allude to be for the public good—through the pursuit of policy that has succeeded only in income inequality, and loss of political power since before the Industrial Revolution. Only the titles of the barons have changed. Dominance remains the motive.

Politics, the Internet and cynicism: A recipe for failure

Tags

, , , , , ,

LBJ on liberalsPolitics is complicated. Angst coupled with limited understanding of facts produces a textbook Dunning-Kruger effect that likely explains most of the all but incomprehensibly flawed opinion expressed in online forums. The all but certain explanation for this dynamic impedes the advancement of progressive policy lies in the same reasons that the United States falls behind some third world countries in math, and science.

The Internet feeds that dynamic by creating a sense of being informed. We can learn about events—virtually as they happen—and that wellspring of information gives people a sense of being informed. We know for a fact, in example, that President Obama had an all-of-the-above energy policy, and made Ernst Moniz—a nuclear scientist heavily invested in fracking—his energy secretary to carry out his policy. What his critics seem unaware of is how it actually worked out, and the State Department’s approval of the Keystone pipeline—before reversing the decision—added to the confusion.

What Obama’s critics don’t seem to grasp is how policy actually played out. He was a pragmatist, and understood that transitioning to renewable energy is as subject to physical realities—market forces, economic factors, and politics—as virtually any issue. Knowing the facts related to his policy statement, can provide the missing context in the criticism.

No new nukes were approved during Obama’s eight years, and only one update for an existing plant was approved. Coal was already on its way out, and the two new (clean) coal plants that were approved were never built. Few of the environmentalists who jumped to criticize him appear to have noticed that his Solyndra fiasco was a risky effort to start the ball rolling for renewables. With that knowledge, his all-inclusive State of the Union addresses should probably be understood to be an acknowledgment of the complex problems posed by transition to renewable energy that also served to keep the political right off of his back.

The point is that knowing facts is not the same as understanding them, and their primary value is their use in contradiction of misstatements of fact. That’s where the Dunning-Kreuger effect comes in. It can take years of post graduate study to be able to deconstruct events and make sense of them. Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street (WS) connection is another. The one and only WS contributor to her campaign was a perennial Democratic Party supporter that also contributed to Elizabeth Warren, and lobbies for WS reform. But they are WS, and that’s all that mattered to Clinton’s critics in 2016. And don’t forget she was married to that horrible centrist Bill Clinton, and supported his policies during his service as President.

And it’s not just limited insight on the part of online activity, and campaign tactics used to inflame that activity by Clinton’s opposition. Slate, CommonDreams, Truthout and other cynical online media entities published volumes of “exposés” filled with fact to support their cynical outlook, and Russia’s role was no more than that of a co-star in the drama. It was not just the Russians. The cast of characters included Glenn Greenwald, and dozens of other cynics who offered no real insight to the complexities of politics through which to process their facts.

The “facts” thus impeded advancement of progressive policy through presentation of acontextual fact, and thus fed the the impressions of Democratic voters, many of whom reacted with cynicism. Joe Manchin provides one of the most striking examples of the effect facts without political context has on public opinion.

First, can anyone imagine Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders winning a Senate seat in West Virginia? If you can, you need to stop smoking whatever it is you may be smoking. Manchin wins because he behaves, and tells his constituents what he feels he must to retain their support, and his value goes beyond any vote he casts. Not only does he vote the liberal line on social issues, scientific, and most others, his value lies in just being a Democratic Party member. In this capacity, he is an invaluable asset to the progressive left.

Just consider the math for a moment, and it should be clear how badly it hurt to lose our other red state Senators, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, in 2018. While every Senate seat the Democrats hold is precious, his critics lack the understanding that seats in Red States are invaluable. If for some strange reason, someone left of him could primary him, the GOP would take the seat. By the way, Warren and Sanders also tell their voters what they want to hear, whether their vision can be fulfilled or not.That’s the politics of electioneering.

Nor should we hate Manchin for voting to confirm Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, in part because his was not the deciding vote in either case. It was just something he felt he had to do to keep his seat. Moreover, he no longer supports the coal industry as he has in the past, and is working hard to revive West Virginia’s economic collapse resulting from its colonial-like dependence on a single industry.

One more reflection on politics is needed here. Most people alive today did not live through the partisan political shift that began with the 1964 Civil Rights Act. While, in the mid ’60s, it was not unreasonable to say all politicians were alike, the exodus from the Democrats to the GOP behind Strom Thurmon changed all of that by the end of the 1980s.

The two parties are polar opposites now, and lack of the contextual relevance of the shift is overshadowed by the acontextual “facts” voters read online. Their cynical impatience with the slow advance of progressive policy never considers the quarter century of Republican Party hegemony—over all but two years in the last quarter century—due in large part to the prevalence of cynicism on the left. Moreover, expression of their cynical, acontextual understanding of politics assured the GOP’s total hegemony over Congress for half of that quarter century, empowering them to block Obama’s effectiveness for six of his eight years.

Politics is complicated, far too complicated for a Democracy whose participants cynically embrace simplistic tropes without the depth of their political context. A fair analog would be to say that politics is a sinkhole that too many people perceive as a puddle, and stepping into it will drown their dreams of a progressive future.

The peril ahead

Tags

, , ,

Pelosi v trumpThink for a moment about how perilous, and fraught with obstacles our political system is. You need not get too deeply into your thoughts to know peril and obstacles await.

What is puzzling is whether those who demand that Donald Trump be impeached now have ever taken pause to consider the perils and obstacles. If so, are they indifferent to the futility, or have they just not fully thought it through? Then again, maybe they just don’t care.

The small disadvantage people have to consider first is that Pence will be the next president when Trump is impeached, tried in the Senate, and expelled from office. An added possibility to this is Pence would have enough time to demonstrate his presidential get-er-doneness. I doubt that any of that is a real consideration for Nancy Pelosi’s stewardship of the issue though.

The part of that which is a real problem—because it opens a host of other problems—is the part about “tried in the Senate.” The “host of other problems” mentioned here begin with the part about “popular support” Speaker Peolsi mentions now and again, and she will likely mention it again, because it’s a critical political consideration.

Now, it would be to everyone’s advantage if Trump could finish his term as out-going President, and land on the “Go to Jail” space on the Democracy game board. I’m not sure that Nancy is handling it with that in mind, but I’m sure she knows that the highest poll numbers put support for impeachment at 49%—with a 3% margin of error.

What all this means is impeachment would result in a stone wall at the Senate, and half the country—or more—would at least have a lower opinion of Democrats. What can I say, that’s politics!

OK, let’s imagine strong demand for Trump’s impeachment. The Speaker would no longer be constrained by concern over political back-lash, and Mitch McConnell would be compelled to convene the Senate for Trump’s trial. While it is going on, many Republican Senators will surely defend the incompetent occupying the White House, which may endanger their political future. If they are primaried out, there will be no advantage.

Meanwhile, people may soften their stand, who knows! But we should all be able to agree that peril and obstacles await. Democrats have their own internal problems to hash out.

If you recall, I used the phrase “everyone’s advantage ” above. Can we also agree that it would be to everyone’s advantage if the Democrats take control of the government? If not, it’s possible progressive policy may yet prevail if you don’t cast your protest vote for Trump again.

Bolton’s almost certainty is a foregone conclusion

Tags

, , , ,

John Bolton is almost certain Iran conducted the attack on the oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, and a foiled attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil port of Yanbu. But no evidence of Iran’s involvement has been presented.

Maybe, but maybe not. Others in our military and intelligence community are not so sure. Bolton has access to intelligence not available to the public of course—but others in the region may wish to lash out at the US and its allies. Whether to provoke a war or just do what harm they can, the technology used is readily available to them, and the US has no shortage of enemies.

ISIS in example, also has reason to wish to harm Iran. Even if they had no intention of provoking a war between the US and Iran, the targets of the attacks are certainly on their enemies list. Moreover, they must realize by now that set-piece warfare is untenable.

How about President Donald Trump’s decision to relocate our Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, and his recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. In gratitude, Israel even named after Trump a new settlement in the Golan Heights. Hezbollah certainly has access to the means used in the attacks, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen did not need Iran to secure the drones and explosives used on the Saudi port.

For that matter, Israel also wants the US to attack Iran, and they are not above using covert action to provoke a war—and do so without leaving a trace that they did so. As for Bolton, he may think a war will assure his ongoing employment by bolstering Trump’s chances of reelection.

While Iran may be responsible for the attacks, their motive is questionable. Their chest thumping response to the accusations are really meaningless. What ever else anyone may think about them, it seems unlikely, so unlikely as to be insane that they would risk a convenient justification for war with the most powerful, technologically advanced military power in the world.

Whether Bolton’s very public push for war is not just more of the same one-up brinkmanship used in international disputes, the combination of his mental instability with that of his master is no small matter for concern. In any case, Bolton’s near certainty of Iran’s involvement is cause for alarm.

The problem with the far left

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, the philosopher who said “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” also said of fanaticism that it was characterized by “redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.” No truer statements could be said of the far left.

You might alternatively say that fanaticism is the fervent pursuit of a goal without consideration of the means to achieve it. The only argument against these assertions that might be valid would be to say that the far left is oblivious of its history. Insofar as the far left is responsible for the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, the failure of the occupy movement to affect change, and their role in the 2016 presidential election, the failure of their approach to political change should be obvious to even a casual observer.

The rationale used by the far left for its insistence on “purity” is central to their failure to affect progressive change, and makes their claim to the progressive mantle absurd. It becomes even more absurd when examining the record of one of their champions, Bernie Sanders. His record on gender issues and gun control provide stark examples that he falls short of having attained the purity they seek, yet they abandoned the progressive agenda to the GOP in 2010, and Donald Trump in 2016.

The far left also remains in denial of evidence that their disdain for Hillary Clinton was founded on a Russian disinformation campaign intended to discredit her for Trump’s advantage, and justify their actions on the “evidence” the disinformation provided.

On the run-up to the 2020 presidential election they are at it again, waging a campaign of character assassination against one candidate after another who may stand in Bernie Sanders’ way of becoming the Democratic Party’s nominee. The extent of their irrationality is likely best evidenced by their criticism of Joe Biden, claiming that he is too centrist to beat Trump.

If Biden is too centrist to beat Trump, it is only because the far left has again declared that they will vote for Trump if Sanders is not nominated.

Despite the irrationality of their claim that those who did not vote as they wish are responsible for them actually going so far as to vote for Trump, the far left cannot grasp the counterproductive character of their acts. How ever short of their ideal a Democratic candidate may fall, the consequent reelection of Trump—or any other Republican candidate who may win the Republican nomination—is certain to more than forestall the progressive agenda. It is a fanaticism that has lost sight of its aim.