Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bring it on!


The truth is that the United States government is presently holding, torturing, and even murdering . . . numbers of people who have no chance in hell of obtaining a lawyer, let alone anything resembling a trial. The government is doing this under the direct orders of George W. Bush. There is no law, no bill, and no legislature who can stop him. If Congress were to pass a law unequivocably banning torture and send it to him, he'd use it for toilet paper. If the Supreme Court were to rule against Bush in the harshest and bluntest language, he'd yawn.

The truth is that there is a rogue presidency and there has been, since January, 2001 (earlier, if you count the stolen election). Certainly, everyone in Washington knows it, but no one dares to admit it. The bill legalizing torture merely enables Congress to pretend they still have some influence over an executive that from day one was governing, not as if they had a mandate, but as if Bush was a dictator. If, for some miracle, the bill didn't pass, every congress-critter knows Bush would keep on torturing.

Better to vote to pass and preserve the appearance of a working American government, the thinking goes. For the very thought that the US government is seriously broken - that the Executive is beyond the control of anyone and everyone in the world - is such a truly awesome and terrifying thought that it can never be publicly acknowledged. If ever it is, if the American crisis gets outed and Congress and the Supremes openly assert that the Executive has run completely amok and is beyond control, the world consequences are staggering. It is the stuff of doomsday novels.

And this brings up the dilemma of a post Nov. 7 world. Apparently, one if not both houses of Congress may be controlled by Democrats. Now what? You think Bush is gonna get impeached? Put on trial for war crimes? Forget it. You think they're gonna repeal the pro-torture law they're about to pass? You can almost certainly forget that, too. Remember: it is crucial to maintain the illusion that Congress still has some say, as it was in November of 2002 about the Bush/Iraq war.

If, for some reason, Congress does decide to move against Bush in some substantive way, there will be hell to pay. Those of us who well remember Watergate remember that while it was genuinely thrilling to have Nixon caught, disgraced, and removed, it was also a time of extreme tension. Would Nixon tough the impeachment trial out, causing the country incalculable harm? It looked for quite a long time that he would. About Bush, there is no doubt.

Since the day after the 2000 election, Bush and his goons have been playing chicken with the very structure of the United States Government, double-daring anyone to try and stop them. If Congress does try - and I'm not talking little things like wrecking Social Security, that'll happen and a dictator can afford to let things like that wait a while, I'm talking atomic bang bang and thumbscrews - he will force the private Constitutional crisis into the open. And there is no guarantee that Bush will lose.

And that is the truth. The Congress has been given an awful choice: Vote to approve torture and the suspension of habeas or show the world that yes, you really do have no genuine power to check Bush.

Of course, all of Congress should vote against the bill anyway. But they won't. And to themselves, they will justify the vote as saying they made a hard choice but made the best one they could for their country.

Me, well...I've gone on record numerous times about how much I dread radicalism and serious national crises (which are two reasons Bush scares the hell out of me). The prospect of an open Constitutional confrontation, Bush vs. the Congress plus the Supremes...Jesus Christ. Perhaps I should understand the Congress had no real choice?

Absolutely not. The time truly is long overdue where there simply is no choice but to say "enough." It should have been enough over the stolen election, or the neglect that led to 9/11, or Schiavo, or the filibuster.* But voting to permit the US government to sidestep Geneva? To suspend habeas? What the fuck is Congress thinking, for crissakes??? Has fascism moved so slowly that only a few bloggers can perceive the inevitable progression? I don't think so.

There's no question about it. Any person in Congress who votes for this - listening, Hillary? - will never get my vote again. Ever, not even for dogcatcher, let alone president. If there is going to be a public Constitutional crisis over Bush's rogue presidency - and there will be sooner or later, guaranteed - bring it on now.

My apologies to Tristero for reproducing the whole post. I intended to edit it down and provide a link, but my editing just did not get very far.

Tristero is hysterical, of course. If you are not, you are not paying attention.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Can anyone explain?

J.D. Henderson asks: "Can anybody explain how this administration is effective, productive, and making America safer . . . ?"

Mr. Henderson has a long list of Bush "accomplishments" for your reading displeasure.

'October surprise'

The Raw Story | Conservative websites claim Rove has been promising GOP insiders an 'October surprise': "Karl Rove has been promising GOP insiders that there will be an 'October surprise' before the midterm elections."


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Making Sense

Colonel Sam Gardner, by way of Billmon at Whiskey Bar:
"When I discuss the possibility of an American military strike on Iran with my European friends, they invariably point out that an armed confrontation does not make sense -- that it would be unlikely to yield any of the results that American policymakers do want, and that it would be highly likely to yield results that they do not. I tell them they cannot understand U.S. policy if they insist on passing options through that filter. The 'making sense' filter was not applied over the past four years for Iraq, and it is unlikely to be applied in evaluating whether to attack Iran."

I have exactly this difficulty in believing that the U.S. government will take military action against Iran.

I don't think Colonel Gardner is trying to be snarky or ironic. I think he is warning us that the worst President since Harding is going to try to surpass Pierce and Buchanan.

The Big Slumber

Daily Howler: When Al Gore made his formal proposal, the nation's Big Press chose to doze:
"On Monday afternoon, in a speech at NYU, Gore unveiled his formal plan to counter the effects of global warming. And the nation’s big news orgs buried it deep—if they bothered reporting it at all.

The Washington Post gave Gore’s speech 484 words, placing it low on page 2. The New York Times—above-it-all always—gave the story 468 words, and a bottom-of-page 17 placement. And try to believe that this appeared as part of the New York Times treatment:

REVKIN (9/19/06): Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma and chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said the Gore proposals would create ''economic calamity.”

“He’s been hyping unfounded fears of planetary doom for 20 years,” Mr. Inhofe said in a statement, “and his new proposal would require a wholesale restructuring of our economic system.”

Good God! There isn’t a word in the Times report about the overwhelming scientific consensus on warming. But we did get the hear the crackpot Inhofe add to his famous crackpot claim that ''man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” Verily, we live at a time when the crackpots rule—and the Gores are assailed for their earth tones.

But then, at least the Post and the Times pretended to cover the Gore proposal. According to Nexis, USA Today ran no story at all; ditto the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. And the Boston Globe didn’t cover the story either. Back in the day, the Globe laid waste to major forests, wasting your time with the troubling story of the arthritis pills of the Gores’ troubling dog. They loved pretending that Gore was a liar. But the earth’s future? Pshaw! Boston slept. And the nation’s networks skipped the speech too. In 1999, Brian Williams was deeply troubled by Gore’s polo shirts. But not today, by his thoughts about warming.

Given the silence of those big, lazy orgs, we can perhaps draw some small humor from the AP’s headline on its Gore story: “Al Gore calls global warming a ‘climate crisis,’ decries lack of action by leaders.”

The silence concerning Gore’s major speech deserves a bit of reflection"

The greatest obstacle to a political storm sweeping clean our politics is the corruption and incompetence of Big Media. What else can be said?

Amid the greatest scandals, and potential end-of-the-world crises, Big Media cannot get the basic facts right, cannot tell the truth or effectively inform the Public. An informed Public is necessary for Democracy to function, and the U.S. does not have a Media capable of informing the Public adequately.

FEVER: Gaia has a fever!

Arctic ice melt shocks scientists | "EUROPEAN scientists voiced shock today as they viewed pictures which showed Arctic ice cover had disappeared so much last month that a ship could sail unhindered from Europe's most northerly outpost to the North Pole."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tristero speculates

Hullabaloo: "Potential October Surprises"

The most obvious one mentioned by Tristero, and, tellingly by Bush himself, is the falling price of gas.

Fiddling with the price of gas is a subtle, but effective way to alter Bush's popularity.

I hope it is not enough to keep the Republicans in charge of Congress, but I am not optimistic about the American People.

TPMmuckraker: Economic Freedom Fund Archives

TPMmuckraker: Economic Freedom Fund Archives: "The Economic Freedom Fund has made its biggest buy of the campaign so far: $446,850* in television ads in Iowa's 3rd District.

The ad, which you can see here, hits Democrat incumbent Leonard Boswell for voting against making Bush's tax cuts permanent. "

I have had various fantasies about how Democrats, liberals and outraged moderates might be motivated to "overthrow" the corrupt Republican leadership in Congress.

But, it is worthwhile remembering that some very rich and determined people are more than willing to fight for Republican corruption.

An awful lot in our politics comes down to the effectiveness of the 30 second ad and the slogan on a bumpersticker.

New York Daily News - Home - Daily News Exclusive: D.C. corruption eruption

New York Daily News - Home - Daily News Exclusive: D.C. corruption eruption: "the FBI has had to triple the number of squads investigating lobbyists, lawmakers and influence peddlers"

Monday, September 18, 2006

What is to Come

The End of Eden:
"James Lovelock fixes his mind's eye on what's to come.

'It's going too fast,' he says softly. 'We will burn.'

Why is that?

'Our global furnace is out of control. By 2020, 2025, you will be able to sail a sailboat to the North Pole. The Amazon will become a desert, and the forests of Siberia will burn and release more methane and plagues will return.'"

War in Iran?

Think Progress » Retired Colonel: ‘We Are Conducting Military Operations Inside Iran Right Now. The Evidence Is Overwhelming.’:
"“The plan has gone to the White House. That’s not normal planning. When the plan goes to the White House, that means we’ve gone to a different state.”"

A war in Iran, without Congressional authorization?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Right, the Good and the Wrong

tristero explains the failure of the Coalition Provisional Authority to Reconstruct Iraq successfully:
"To the right, if you are Good, then you simply cannot, by definition, do wrong. So, when you're looking to fill a position of authority, you don't look for the most qualified in terms of experience. You look for the person who is the most Good. Since being a 'Christian' means you're Good, since being a Republican loyal to Bush means you're Good, that is far more important than Arab language skills. Because what does it matter if you can speak the language if you're not Good? By definition your decisions are Bad!

Therefore, from the Bush administration's standpoint, they truly believed they were hiring the best people possible to bring Iraq rapidly to its feet. Yes, of course, it was cynical politicking. But it was also, at the same time and without contradiction, utterly sincere.

And therefore, not only must Republicans be routed from Congress this fall, but Americans must fight a constant battle to ensure that in the future, these lunatics lose even more influence over the American government and never regain the presidency."

A sizeable number of Americans, to this day, do not understand why it is a really bad idea to elect as President of the United States, a lazy, ignorant, uncurious man.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Old Enough for Deja Vu?

Via Kevin Drum, Charlie Cook:
"As a general rule, election-watchers under the age of 40, regardless of their party or ideology, see the contest for control of the House as fairly close. They foresee Republicans' losing at least 10 seats, but certainly no more than 20, and they put the odds of a Democratic takeover at 50-50, give or take 10 percentage points. As for the Senate, these observers tend to expect Republicans to lose three or four seats, but probably not five and certainly not the six required for Democrats to take charge.

Observers over age 40, meanwhile, tend to see a greater likelihood of sizable Republican losses. They think that the GOP could well lose more than 20 House seats and more than five Senate seats.

Most of the professionals toiling in the vineyards of the party campaign committees and watching individual races most closely are in the under-40 cohort. They tend to see control of the House as a close call and tend to be most conservative on their House seat counts. They're also the least likely to think the Senate will change hands. Invariably, these younger pros acknowledge that for Republicans this is a 'very challenging election cycle,' the euphemism that GOP spokesmen use to keep from saying that 2006 is shaping up as 'a really bad year' for their party. Yet these younger observers focus almost exclusively on where each contest stands right now, employing a sort of political version of the literal interpretation of the Bible.

Older pros, while often one or more steps removed from the day-to-day developments in each contest, appear to read a bit more into the races, placing greater emphasis on the national political environment and what it is likely to mean for contests that are currently too close to call or for Republican incumbents with precarious leads. These relative old-timers vividly remember the midterm elections of 1994, 1986, 1982, and 1974, as well as the presidential year of 1980, when the late Speaker Tip O'Neill's adage '"

It's an interesting observation, and may explain why the great political storm has been so slow to develop. There's a very real generation gap, with those, who came to political consciousness post-Reagan, having become inured to Republican malfeasance and lies to the extent that that they don't believe the country will react.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Defining Moment for America

Washington Post Editorial: "A Defining Moment for America
The president goes to Capitol Hill to lobby for torture."

Can any storm wash away this stain on the honor of the country?

Monday, September 11, 2006

P.S. You're Fired

Eric Alterman:
"This nation was doubly cursed on this day five years ago; first by the attack itself, and second by the reaction of our dishonest, incompetent and corrupt leadership’s exploitation of it for their own naked political and ideological purposes. . . . we are a less admirable nation than we were five years ago. We are more warlike, more arrogant, more ignorant, less compassionate, less generous, less free, and thanks to the Bush administration’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq, far less safe."

Bastion of our liberal media that it is, has fired Eric Alterman.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Billmon Explains All

Whiskey Bar: Dog Bites Man:
"I tend to believe it will take a rather massive eruption of reality -- and probably a catastrophic one -- to produce fundamental political change in America, of the kind that might allow a progressive left-wing movement to smash the Rovian machine, break the political stranglehold of private wealth and bring the corporations, including the corporate media, back under some kind of check and balance.

Call me a wild-eyed radical, but I'm hoping for a 1932, or at least a 1980 in reverse, not a 1994 in reverse -- although we all could certainly do without a repeat of the Great Depression or the stagflationary '70s.

In any case, I'm reasonably sure that anything less than a 1932 or a 1980 (that is to say, a full-fledged political realigment) can and will be rolled back fairly quickly by the authoritarian powers that be. If the Carter and Clinton presidencies taught us nothing, they should have taught us that.

We're obviously not looking at a realignment election yet. We're probably not even close (although I wouldn't put money on that proposition.) But it's getting hard to see how an economic and/or foreign policy train wreck can be avoided, one that will eventually force large numbers of voters to fundamentally reassess their existing political loyalties.

Until it happens, though, it's probably best if the corporate dreamweavers and the Rovian propaganda technicians keep their bosses in the power. I still believe (call it an article of faith) that a majority of the voters will eventually figure out they've been had -- sold not just a bill of goods but a counterfeit reality, one that is crumbling in front of their eyes. When that happens, they're going to be enraged, in a way that makes this year's discontent look like the passing tantrum of a grumpy two-year old. We can only pray they'll be angry at the right people."

I can scarcely think of anything to add, although I do pray for a bare House majority for the Democrats, because I think the ability to expose scandal in Congressional investigations is a much needed tool. Still, I can see how that could work against the Democrats, who can be manipulated into being either scapegoats or complicit.

Friday, September 8, 2006

The Mouse that Roared

"a few months back various lefty bloggers were debating the political impact of media consolidation, with the majority opinion seeming to be that it was no big deal.

Guess again."

ABC is spending $40 million to present six-hours of commercial-free propaganda for the far right-wing propaganda film, Path to 9/11.

This comes after the 7 years of Whitewater, the War on Gore that was the 2000 campaign, and the Swift-boating of John Kerry. In the unlikely event that the Democrat claw their way back to power, Disney/ABC will have to be utterly destroyed. Or, the Democrats and democracy have a very short life expectancy.

We have to have a Storm, a very big storm, verging on Civil War, or our country is lost.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

The Consequences

Kevin Drumnotices that the Republicans no longer care about policy and its consequences, they care only about how symbolic measures affect electoral politics:
"This is, by a long measure, the most underreported aspect of the Bush administration's war on terror. Not that they're pursuing the wrong strategy — though they are — but that in the end they don't really care that much one way or the other. Winning the war has always been secondary to winning elections."

They do not care about policy or its consequences.

They care only about power.

It is all about the symbols and the rhetoric. Rational assessment of ways and means is completely ignored.

The Consequences of this cannot be good; the inevitable failure will create a political storm. But will the poltical theatre of that Coming Storm teach an electorate, which has been buying this nonsense, anything?


President Bush: "And so, here on Labor Day, I say to the union members who are here, happy Labor Day, and thanks for supporting leadership that is progressive, smart, capable, and has your best interests at heart."

Monday, September 4, 2006

Bush Iraq Strategy: Truth and Consequences

Mark Kleiman: "The notion that seriously aggravating the threat from Iran, including the very real possibility that Iran will join the nuclear club, could be justified by finding a bunch of rusty nerve-gas artillery shells left over from the Iran-Iraq war doesn't pass the giggle test."

Landmines in the Political Storm to Come

It is more of a hypothesis than a thesis, but I think that Rove's Grand Strategy for Republican Power ad infinitum has two components: plan A is to use faux populism and control of Big Media to create the propaganda necessary to hold onto Power and to consolidate the Bush building-a-fascist-State project in the near-term.

If Plan A fails, ruined by Bush's personal penchant for total and abject failure in every venture of his life, then Plan B is to dig the country into giant holes with the deficit/tax-cuts and with the Iraq War, and, if the Democrats are pushed by events into Power, to ruthlessly exploit the pain caused by Democratic attempts to get the country out of those holes to discredit the Democratic Party for a generation, returning to Power after a short interval to consolidate their Authoritarian State.

The deficit, and the financing of the deficit with Social Security taxes, is one of those two giant holes.

The obvious "solution" to the problem of the huge national debt is inflation. I think Sterling Newberry is right: Bernanke is an inflationist.

The situation of the U.S. and world economy has assumed a posture of dynamic stability. As everyone knows, it is nowhere near a position of static (i.e. equilibrium) stability. (It has not been my observation that world trade, national economies or even industries customarily assume anything like a static, long-term equilibrium; people, who analyze them as if they do need to get out of the classroom more; a different analysis is necessary to understand whatever stability is observed).

But, I think what is more likely to happen is that the U.S. will embark on an increasingly inflationary course, in order to prolong the stability of the world economy. Bernanke is an expert on the Great Depression, and fears deflation above all things, and as a conservative inflationist, he's sees deflation as a threat to the plutocracy, as it proved to be in 1932, much to Bernanke's evident regret; the U.S. economy is awash in dollar liquidity, and the greatest danger is that vast sums accumulated in the Persian Gulf and China will drive up asset prices in the U.S. while driving down savings so far that a general inflation is triggered by runaway consumer spending. Bernanke will choose inflation to protect the plutocracy, with even the slightest encouragement from whoever occupies the White House in 2009, and has to right Bush's fiscal disaster, while coping with the willy-nilly expiration of numerous tax cuts, constituting a huge, involuntary tax increase designed by Republicans, but exploding under a probable Democratic regime.

To keep the world economy stable on its current dynamic path, U.S. inflation has to be higher than Chinese inflation, to provide the Chinese enough headroom to ensure that China doesn't accidently slip into deflation, while trying to maintain its currency's peg to the dollar. Chinese deflation, triggering a Chinese recession, which could be extremely sharp after such a long and massive growth spurt, would bring the whole house of cards, which is the current pattern of world trade, tumbling down.

Inflation is a classic way out of a debt crisis. But, with the marketed debt primarily in inflation-adjusted and short-term paper, inflation will fall most heavily on Social Security, where the trust fund consists primarily of non-marketable debt, with no inflation protection. Ricardian equivalence will manifest as a giant default on the SS trust fund, by means of inflation, and, of course, an excuse for the Plan B Restoration Republicans of 2012 to finally axe SS altogether.

Sorry to be such a pessimist. But, I think Democrats really need to be more aware and articulate about the extent to which Iraq and the Deficit are the twin landmines of American politics. Getting out of Iraq or staying in Iraq -- either one -- is going to have catastrophic consequences for the U.S. and the Middle East, for which Republicans and Big Media will blame the Democrats.

Getting out of the current economic situation, in which the U.S. standard of living is propped at least 5% to 10% higher than can be sustained, given our negative savings rate, our dwindling manufacturing base and the hollowing out of corporate America, is going to be very painful, and Republicans will both blame the Democrats and do all they can to block or sabotage any policy, which will make the collapse of the Bush economy any less painful for the middle class.

The Value of Political Populism in the coming realignment

Stirling Newberry has entered a on-going debate about populism and the place of bipartisanship and technocracy in American politics.

When I read Stirling Newberry’s excellent posts, I often think on the possibilities for political realignment, and that’s what I have been doing today.

Realignments occur when a shift in the locus of power coincides with events, which imprint a lot of people with a political party identity, which, in turn, tends to stabilize the pattern of partisan divide. In other words, realignments are one of the consequences of a political storm, big enough to cause people to change their minds about their political identities, as well as shift the customary locus of policymaking.

So there are two issues at stake, here: the locus of power and political identity (i.e. whether a person thinks of himself as Republican or a Democrat or an unidentified independent).

Bipartisanship has been the locus of power in American politics since the New Deal; the bipartisanship of FDR’s day has morphed and decayed and been revived many times, but, mostly, bipartisan compromise has been how policy has been made – that’s what I mean by identifying bipartisanship as the locus of power -- it’s the place where policy is made. As Stirling has pointed out, bipartisanship has decayed to the point, where it is useless and destructive, which I take it to be a general lesson many politically aware Democrats have taken away from the spectacle of Joe Lieberman's dance with the devil.

The locus of power has shifted, under Bush and his Tom DeLay Congress, into the hands of extremists, corrupt corporatists and manipulators entirely within the Republican Party. Bipartisanship is just a stage show, now, used by the Republicans to legitimate their destructive and foolish policies to old people, who remember bipartisanship as something else. The moderates in the Republican Party – the people, who benefited the most from FDR’s bipartisanship, by FDR’s design – are now a nearly extinct handful, excluded from power with the same ruthless disregard as Democrats.

The technocrats were key to FDR’s bipartisanship, because FDR designed it that way. The whole point of FDR’s bipartisanship was to exclude from national power, the crazies in both Parties, and to make government policy rational and effective: to build a sustainable national economy and win a World War.

Brad DeLong, a self-identified technocrat, is mourning the loss of power for technocrats. The tradition of an elaborate “policy process”, as instituted by FDR and elaborated through the 1980’s by both Presidents of either party and Congress and the Federal bureaucracy, is completely gone from the White House, moribund or eroding in much of the Federal bureaucracy, and completely absent in the proceedings of Congress. Those with Power, in this Administration and Congress, are building a quite different apparatus, and, really, have no use for genuine technocrats, except for show, since they are really not concerned for the consequences of policy, as a technocrat or rational and deliberate person conceives of consequences.

If an authoritarian and inflexible abortion policy, to take a single concrete example, has cruel consequences for women and children, that really is of no concern, whatsoever, to the Republican Powers-that-Be. Their only concern is about the electoral consequences, and will use their control of all the tools of Propaganda – i.e. all Media – to suppress any debate over policy, which brings rational attention to consequences.

My hope for a realignment is for a shift of the locus of political power into the Democratic Party, where it might rest in artful, progressive, pragmatic compromises between reality-based moderates and liberals, who are concerned about the consequences of policy. I hope that Democrats might be able to sell the idea that they can be trusted with the locus of power, in part on the basis of a prolonged experience of policy failure under Bush. I think compromise within the Democratic Party could satisfy a substantial majority of Americans, who are not radicals or insane, and who do care about consequences, when they are made to think about them for more than 30 seconds at a time. John Kerry, a Roman Catholic, whose opposition to the death penalty and history of antiwar activity are consonant with a genuine “pro-life” position in a way Bush’s record is not, is the kind of Democrat, I think, who can be trusted to participate WITH other Democrats in fashioning policies on abortion, birth control, sex education and family planning, which might actually have the consequence of reducing the number of abortions in the United States, without compromising the fundamental autonomy of the individual, represented by recognition of a constitutional right to privacy.

(I am not advocating Kerry's candidacy in 2008; any number of Democrats are equally credible and inclined toward progressive policy compromises.)

Political realignment is also about political identity, the tendency of people in a two-party system to identify with one Party or the other. Political identities are psychologically deep and persistent. People, who experience trauma, even as children, often struggle years later with neurotic emotional patterns, because in those moments of high arousal, whatever theories they form about the world and who they are and what will make them safe, are imprinted on the amygdala, the relatively "primitive" cognitive/emotional center of the brain, and those patterns can be changed, if at all, only with great therapeutic difficulty.

Political identity is formed similarly to neurosis ;-) People often adopt a political identity in moments of great political tumult and conflict, when they are aroused by the political controversies of the day. Lots of people in the younger generation will inherit their parent's identification, but won't feel strongly until such a moment of political tumult, occurs, while older people persist in their political identity, formed years earlier, no matter how the issues of day may have changed.

In 1860-64, the trauma of the Civil War imprinted people with political identities so strongly, that they persisted thru generations well into the 1930’s, and again in the political trauma of the Great Depression and World War II, political identities were strongly imprinted on a whole generation.

The political identities of a great many people over 50, today, were formed in the 1960's and early 1970's, amid the reaction to Civil Rights, Vietnam and Watergate. If you listened to the Samuel Alito hearings, you know that he talked explicitly about how his political leanings were formed in his reactionary perceptions of 60's "campus anarchy"; the American Prospect had an interview recently with Senator Charles Schumer, where he talks with digust about the Democratic Left, whose antics, combined with Nixonian rhetoric, of course, drove so many middle class and working class families – his political base, not incidentally – into the Republican Party. The Democratic Party was permanently damaged by the reaction to race riots and Vietnam and sexual liberation, and the manipulation of that reaction by Republicans. Moderates and conservatives in the Democratic Party were alienated from the liberal and progressive Left; some eventually left for the Republican Party, becoming Reagan Democrats, and the rest found themselves more comfortable negotiating power with Republicans than their fellow Democrats. Bipartisanship, in decay, became a way to isolate the most liberal Democrats from power, and a way for Republicans to subvert the Democratic center-right.

The great bulwark of Republican political identity, today, among people in their 40's, formed during the painful stagflation and malaise of Carter, followed by Reagan's Morning in America (excuse me while I gag). People whose political awareness dawned during Carter's term and Reagan's first term are the last cohort with a firmly imprinted political identity, and it is biased in the Republican's favor.

Everyone under 35 tends to wear their political identity, whatever it is, pretty lightly; they tend to have a lower awareness of political controversy than even their parents and grandparents, never having had the experience of really intense political controversy, felt personally. The prolonged trauma of Bush's Presidency, turning the shock of 9/11 into prolonged anxiety about terrorism and the economy has the potential to significantly alter political identity. The decay of bipartisanship, similarly, has already resulted in a shift of the locus of power, as I wrote above, into the hands of the “insane” – that is, people, who are unconcerned about the consequences of policy.

So, we have the coincidence of two conditions for political realignment: a locus of power, which results in policy with bad consequences, which increases political anxiety and arousal among lots of people, and a large number of people, who have never before had much political consciousness or experienced the kind of political tumult, which would imprint them with a fixed political identity.

Decent, responsible people, with a high degree of political awareness are actively working to get the locus of power and policy-making out of the hands of the cynical and insane – that pressure is reflected in a small trickle of reality-based Republicans and previously weakly identified Independents out of the ranks of either the unidentified independents or the Republican Party and into the Democratic Party, a trickle of leadership, which may, eventually result in an erosion of the Republican-identified electorate, as well as a better image for the Democrats and a Democratic Party better able to make policy within its own ranks.

The addition of blogstars like Kos and Atrios, as well as politicians like Lamont, Webb, and Tester is improving the quality of leadership available to the Democratic moderate center. The Democratic moderate center of the Clinton days -- dominated by the DLC and the New Democrats -- has been corrupted and eroded in their "bipartisan" truck with the Republicans, but they are being replaced by far more vigorous pundits and politicians, who are far less reflexively hostile to liberalism and the Democratic Left.

The Democratic Party is being transformed in its leadership in a way that promises the possibility of effective policy-making within the Party. The Party is far more ideologically "pure" and coherent than at any time since Andrew Jackson founded the organization. That's hopeful.

A realignment is almost certain, but the nature of that realignment is not.

The credibility of the Democratic Party as an alternative to the Republicans or as a trustworthy home, for the locus of power and decision-making is pretty low. The Democrats, themselves, have been in a pattern of powerlessness for a long-time. The old Democratic center – white male southerners and northern pro-labor conservatives – is rapidly fading and appears terminally corrupt. Moreover, the political identity of such people has as an inherent component a strong hostility to various components of the Democratic Left, including the capital “L” liberals. Really, that hostility is to the ghosts of the anti-war Left of the 1960’s and 1970’s, which exist today only in the political amygdala, but it is a very real part of the political dynamic. The old center of the Democratic Party could not possibly cooperate with the old Left, without sparks flying. The Democrats struggle to assemble a message, and do so, often, with a remarkable absence of professionalism. (The “professional” Democrats – the lobbyists and political consultants, who do the work of “crafting message” – are mostly of the old Democratic center-right and are themselves seriously corrupt. See MyDD and DailyKos for documentation.)

Whether a Democratic “populism” is part of the solution, I have my doubts. Populism is more a political tactic and pose than an actual philosophy, which is why, I suppose, it is often subject to manipulation or corruption. It is characterized by the targeting of people’s resentments and feelings of being oppressed, more than their ideals. It is a pose, which says, “I” the politician or pundit can be trusted, because “I, populist” am one of you, and will fight for you, the People, and make choices with the same values and ideas you have. It celebrates the wisdom of the Common Man for the pleasure of ordinary people, who feel their ordinariness, and resent their ordinariness.

Nominating a war hero, like John Kerry, is a politics of admiration; swift-boating the same the politics of resentment. It is a sad reality that people can not be counted on to vote for people they have genuine cause to admire, for whatever qualities the candidate for leadership and authority may possess, including good judgment. Everyone would like to believe that they are above average in intelligence and whatever moral qualities a person may be supposed capable of possessing, whether those moral qualities be as superficial as good luck or conformity with social expectations and standards of respectability, or something different.

Liberal Democrats of the upper middle class often wonder why some among the lower middle class choose to vote “against their own interests” and with the Republicans; of course, Republicans of the lower classes can easily be manipulated to resent the implicit claim of “moral superiority” by wealthy Democrats, who seem to vote against their own class and material interests. Such resentment is skillfully exploited by such populist Republican figures as O’Reilly and Limbaugh, as well as Republican politicians.

Republican populism, of course, is fundamentally irrational, as any politics based on the manipulation of resentment is naturally inclined to be. Resentment is the irrational mirror-image of logical admiration; resentment prefers a fake, and Republicans have skillfully used resentment to promote the studied mediocrity of Nixon, the movie actor emptiness of Reagan, and – I can’t think of appropriate adjectives – George W. Bush. The only Republican Presidents they haven’t been able to re-elect in the last 40 years was the genuinely smart and courageous, although lazy, aristocrat, Bush 41. (I don’t count Ford, who was never elected.)

Populism is not such an easy pose for a Democrat, though Clinton seemed to do it well enough, he seemed to be constitutionally unable to fight back effectively against the endless Media slander of Whitewater, or to avoid undermining his own Party electorally. And, populism can get in the way of the central project of restoring the locus of power to a place, where policy is made, with due consideration of its consequences.

Historically, Democrats did better with wealthy Aristocrats, like FDR and Kennedy, who could claim a measure of deference, and clothe their technocratic aides – their brain trusts and whiz kids and best and the brightest – with a patina of romance.

To me, two great obstacles loom before a successful realignment of American politics in favor of rational and progressive policy and leadership.

The first is corporate control of all Media. The Media – and I literally mean, all Media, including such institutions as the New York Times, as well as the television networks and cable news channels and radio networks – function as a propaganda organ of the incipient fascist state, which Bush has been relentlessly building.

Bush’s policy failures have made a lot of people unhappy, but most of those people do not have deep, philosophical views on what about politics is making them so unhappy. For a very large percentage, it is simply the price of gas or a vague anxiety about health care or job opportunities, and they don’t even understand how politics relates to their unhappiness.

I suppose if some Democrats adopted some version of populism, which connected their unhappiness to politics in some half-way coherent fashion, there might be some chance of imprinting them with a Democratic identity. It is certainly true that having Glenn Greenwald preach about civil liberties and the rule of law – and I sincerely mean no disrespect to Glenn, whom I, personally, admire – is not going to convert many, who are not already converted. Nor, I fear, will even a shrill Brad DeLong, whose own ideological commitments to free trade and liberal immigration are going to undermine his credibility with people, whose current, political trauma is the reality or prospect of losing their well-paid jobs in manufacturing.

But, even if some Democrats adopted a well-meaning populism to convince middle class folk, who are hurting and scared, that the Democratic Party can do some good, good that the Republican Party is manifestly unwilling to do, there is still the problem of how you reach them and tell them.

I am convinced that even on Republican hot-button issues, like, say, gay marriage, Democrats can win most people, even the conservatively inclined, over to a rational compromise policy, like civil unions, if they can get 5 minutes to focus people on considering the consequences. When even the Republican fire-brands are asked about the consequences of policy on something like gay marriage, they are typically speechless. They’ve never thought about the consequences, never considered them seriously. It is all just symbolism; their empathy for people defined as unlike themselves has been shut down.

The same is true of abortion. For the Republicans, the issue is one of symbolic values and the purely visceral associations those values have. For a Republican voter, parental notification is about the relation a child “should” have with her parent, not about the consequences of the proposed policy for real, less than ideal people. But, if even a pollster changes the questions they ask on such issues in a few seconds, just slightly, to induce people to consider consequences, the balance of surveyed opinion changes dramatically.

As long as the Republicans can confine the political discourse a large portion of the public hears to bumperstickers, 30 second ads, and soundbites in faux debates among millionaire pundits, they win. No matter the nature of the political trauma, the narratives heard and applied to create political identity will be the narratives supplied by the Republican Media monopoly.

Even if the Democrats develop some kind of populism, some way of turning anxiety, resentment and cynicism into something politically useful to moderates and progressives, and focusing it on Bush and his Republican enablers, how will they communicate with the low-information voter? On Meet the Press, which few watch, and where the host has been engaged for years in a campaign of misinformation against Social Security? In the pages of the Washington Post, which kept Whitewater going for seven years, but spent fully half their Abramoff scandal coverage on the question of whether Abramoff – a lifelong Republican, who gave only to Republicans – had been an equal opportunity corrupter of politicians of both Parties? The New York Times, which chose to suppress evidence that Bush cheated in his first debate with Kerry and had authorized a massive violation of law in the conduct of intelligence surveillance, before the 2004 elections?

I am not even considering the chances of fair treatment on ABC, which is conveniently broadcasting a six-hour portrayal of the Road to 9/11, which is filled with misinformation favorable to the Republican Party. Disney, the parent company, has benefitted materially from Pataki/Giuliani help in renovating Time Square and Jeb Bush favoritism in Orlando; they hire Republican political operatives, and now they broadcast a piece of propaganda that would make Goebbels proud.

Realignment is a certainty, but the likely outcome, quite frankly, is establishment of an authoritarian, corporatist regime.

Even if the Democrats manage, thru no fault of their own, to take power in 2008, things are not likely to develop in their favor, as long as the Republicans control the Media so completely. Bush has dug two huge political holes, and has pushed the country into those holes. Digging the country out of those two holes is fraught with political peril, a peril, which is only intensified by the fact that the Republicans have near total control of the Media; the journalists, who will narrate the political events of the coming crisis, as the unconsidered consequences of Bush policy – economic policy and foreign policy – come home are the incompetent and/or unscrupulous tools of a Republican Party, bent on establishing itself permanently in authoritarian rule.

The deficit makes it absolutely certain that the Democrats, coming into power in 2009, will have to raise taxes substantially. Some of those tax increases have been conveniently designed by Republicans, who put expirations on their own tax cuts. Paying down the increased debt will trigger a collapse of an unsustainable pattern of trade and credit, which has allowed the U.S. to live beyond its means, even while the country’s infrastructure and manufacturing base has been eroded: the certain consequence of the collapse of that pattern of imbalance will be a substantial reduction in the American standard of living, on the order of 5% to 10%. With Clinton-like luck and skill, it might be a “soft landing”, but more likely, with the connivance of Republicans, some kind hard crash is likely. Just as one scenario, consider the consequences for Social Security, if the country embarks on an inflationary policy, to reduce the real value of the national debt placed in the Social Security Trust Fund.

Just as problematic is Iraq. Bush has created a near-nightmare situation in the Middle East, in which the “best” outcome is Iranian dominance of the world’s oil supply, and the most likely outcome is horrendous chaos and civil war throughout that region, all of it generating extreme hostility against the U.S. among almost all parties. If the Democrats withdraw from Iraq, the consequences are likely to be horrific, and the Democrats will be blamed in the Media, Republicans control. If they don’t, the consequences are still almost certain to spin out of control, and the Democrats will be blamed.

Truth be told, the Democrats’ best hope is that the political storm over the deterioration of the economy and Iraq comes early, before Bush leaves office. If the Democrats can eke out even bare control of the House of Representatives, they won’t be able to enact legislation, but they will be able to investigation Bush corruption and incompetence, force-feeding the Media an endless narrative of Republican mendacity and betrayal, incompetence and corruption.

Sunday, September 3, 2006


The great political Storms -- the Civil War, the Great Depression, Gold v. Free Silver, the reaction against Civil Rights and Vietnam and liberalism, are important historically because they produced realignments in politics. In the Great Depression, FDR built on the traditional base of the Democratic Party, in big City machines and the Solid South of racist populism. The progressive elements of the Republican Party, the middle class and skilled blue collar workers, who lost faith in the Party of Business, migrated to the Democrats. Out of power, the Republicans tried to rebuild their reputation with prosecution of corruption left over from Prohibition, and by presenting the face of management competence, arguing that the Republicans could do a better job of managing the greatly enlarged government, doing basically the same things the Democrats did, but doing it more efficiently. Republicans built a liberal wing in the 1940's and 1950's, which often overmatched the insanely reactionary wing, and made the Party electorally palatable again. The Democrats had their own, often insanely reactionary wing, based in the racially segregated South. Actual governing was accomplished by cooperation between the Parties on both Foreign Policy and domestic policy. The ideal of bipartisanship was born in the patriotism of World War II, but continued because it served the interests of sane liberals and moderates in both Parties to isolate their respective crazies.

Beginning with Nixon, and continuing with Reagan, the Republican Party took over the southern white racist vote, eventually assuming control of the South. The crazies of the Democratic Party -- or at least the children and grandchildren of the reactionary Southern Democratic crazies -- migrated into the Republican Party. Reagan and Bush 41 used the moderates and conservatives in the Democratic Party to gain majorities for their policies. Bipartisanship continued, in a fashion, and it continued to marginalize some in each Party; liberals were marginalized in the Democratic Party and the most radical reactionary elements in the Republican Party were given limited scope, as long as moderate Democratic votes were needed.

But, the Republican Party has been progressively ejecting its own moderate elements. Those Republican moderates were once the keys to power, but, under Bush 43, they became redundant.

Kevin Drum has summarized the progression:
"Over the past 30 years the Republican Party has gone from Gerald Ford to Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich to Dick Cheney — i.e., from conservative to reactionary to crazy to batshit insane — and Rove's 'two T's' are further evidence that they have no intention of rowing this back. They're obviously getting more desperate in the face of possible electoral defeat this November, but other than that they're just doubling down on the same old strategy of cultural bloodletting in the service of economic plutocracy.

For all the talk of Joe Lieberman being 'purged' from the Democratic Party last month, that was a one-off deal. It's the Republican Party that's been steadily (but relentlessly) purging moderates for the past couple of decades, swearing electoral death on anyone who refuses to accept Grover Norquist's screwball economic ideas. The result is that there's virtually no one left in the party who can be described as a moderate, and the party's continued existence depends wholly on nurturing the most radical elements of its base and then radicalizing them even further.

. . . I think the party's leaders know perfectly well that if they were to pause their project of radicalizing the conservative base for even a short while, the party would literally implode."

The Republican Party has becoming mostly crazy, and the passionate intensity of that craziness has become the key to power in turnout, replacing the moderate or liberal Republican, whose literature touted their compassionate conservatism and business experience.

There's a realignment going on in American politics. Moderates in the Republican Party are drifting, some of them very reluctantly, some with righteous indignation, into the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is growing among the politically aware -- admittedly a minority population in the U.S. in 2006, and the part, which is growing is the Democratic Right. It is a new Democratic Right -- not the racist faux populists of yesteryear, or even the corrupt DLC types of the Clinton years. These are people, who are genuinely upset by what the Republican Party has become, and where it is leading the country. And, there is a growing recognition that bipartisanship -- especially the corrupt and destructive bipartisanship of Joe Lieberman and other Vichy Democrats -- is no longer appropriate. The new Democratic Right is being defined by the Irate Moderates, who do not want to compromise with Republicans, and who are willing to risk sharing power with -gasp- liberals in their own Party, if they get only persuade the voters to grant them power.

Irate moderates are usually the key to successful realignments in American politics. Abraham Lincoln's base was not the relatively extreme abolishnists, but the moderates and conservatives, who had had enough of the Southern Slavepower's arrogance and intransigence, and who no longer wanted to elect politicians to compromise with them. The same was true of FDR's election; a patrician by birth, FDR campaigned and governed on moderate principles, often isolating the liberals and socialists in his own Party, but keeping the populists and machine politicians; he attracted a lot of people deeply frightened by the Great Depression and deeply frightened by the enthusiasm of some for revolution, as well.

There's a new element, though, and it is not encouraging. The Republicans are turning out a lot of people, who are not well-informed about politics. And, that becomes a problem for those hoping for a political storm and a shift in power as well as realignment. Political awareness is actually declining, especially among young people. The Republicans have control of the corporate Media, which is all Media, and they have successfully dumbed down news content, to reduce awareness and leave voters seriously confused and ill-informed.

It will be a close contest, between the well-informed irate moderates and those able to motivate the far more numerous know nothings, in 2006. (I expect the Democrats may just manage to gain control of the House, but not the Senate.) In 2008, after abject failure in Iraq, the exposure of a string of huge corruption scandals, and a nasty recession at home, it might not be such a close contest.

The battle is just beginning.

Talking Points Memo: Reader DK:
"A Republican strategist privy to much of the polling conducted in House districts said that, at this point, it is not difficult to count enough vulnerable districts to show how Democrats can take control. But he offered a cautionary point: 'I don't know of a single target race,' he said, where the Republican candidate 'has spent more than 20 percent of what they intend to spend. The battle is just beginning. That's what people really forget.'"

There are three great parties in America, the Democrats, the Republicans and the Know Nothings. The Know Nothings -- the Ignorant Indepedents -- constitute the controlling third of the American electorate.

People talk about the Republican coalition, as if those who carry the label Republican can carry an election. The key to Republican Power has been their superior ability, through disciplined message, unscrupulous slander and control of the Media, to stampede the Know Nothings. The Know Nothings are the ones, who vote on the basis of 30 second ads.

Friday, September 1, 2006

This year looks to be different.

The Horse's Mouth: ". . . it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the conventional wisdom is starting to shift."

People are beginning to notice that Bush is not very effective in Iraq or in the "War on Terror". And, that emergent awareness is damaging Republican electoral chances.

Ezra Klein: Got To Admit It's Getting Better

Ezra Klein looks forward to Democratic ascendancy: "Most worrisome for the GOP, but less talked about in the media, is that wages are largely stagnating even as inflation picks up. Health costs, energy prices, mortgage rates, and all the rest are easily outpacing salary growth, the realization that voters hate this unequal economy is beginning to dawn, and with it, an understanding that folks have real reason to be upset. While Congress dithers over gay marriage bills and endless Iraq resolutions, Americans are losing their health care, seeing the interest rates on their variable mortgages skyrocket, and generally losing economic ground -- and their president and politicians seem uniformly uninterested in addressing that. That's sparked an enduring resentment, one that won't fade with the heat."

My own view is that Karl Rove will have his last hurrah. The Dems will capture the House, just barely, but not the Senate.

The recession is on-coming, and nothing will stop it, and this coming recession will be painful psychologically, even if it is not particularly deep quantitatively, because it will reveal the quickening of the spiral downward.

Iraq will continue to deteriorate. Bush might even attack Iran -- may God forbid.

I'll take a longshot, and suggest that, in desperation about the prospect of losing power, Rove might decide that Cheney has to resign, giving Bush the opportunity to annoit a successor. It won't be McCain, who is too old and infirm.