Tag: politics

We Put These People in DC, It’s on Us

George S LedyardIt has become fashionable lately to talk about corruption in government and the need to “throw them all out”. While Donald Trump ran on a right wing “drain the swamp” promise, the folks on the progressive left often talk in much the same way. They refer to the “establishment” Democrats as embodied by the DNC as irredeemably corrupt and advocate forming a new party with fresh faces to rework our government.

It is also the case that a good portion of the public has to a large degree lost respect for expertise and professionalism. Of course we see this in the tendency to discount scientific evidence that goes against right wing agenda on climate change and environmental protection. But nowhere is the disconnect greater than between the average citizen and the professionals who run our government, largely anonymously behind the scenes.
Washington, DC and its suburbs, is probably one of the most highly educated cities in the country. Certainly, it has more lawyers per square inch than any other city. But it is also full of folks with advanced degrees in government, political science, international studies, public policy, defense studies and so on. These are the professionals who typically spend their careers in intelligence, government, etc. They represent the institutional memory of the various agencies in DC. They provide the continuity that keeps things functioning as each administration comes and goes according to the whims of the voters at any given time.
These people are not elected by the voters. They are hired in much the same way anyone gets a job. They build resumes by working internships, the get advanced degrees, they start at the bottom and work their way up. They seldom make the news, that’s for their appointed bosses. But they are the ones that do the work and keep things functioning.

I bring this up because it occurred to me that Donald Trump is showing us just what it looks like when we decided to simply “throw the bums out” and bring in people who have absolutely no experience in government. Not only is Trump a government neophyte but he has surrounded himself with people whose entire experience has been in corporate America and have no backgrounds whatever in government.
Enough of the voters were persuaded by the propaganda that assassinated the character of Hillary Clinton that we brought in a man with no government experience at all. The theory was that we should run the US government more like a business. But Trump’s business experience is in real estate development, an area in which wheeling and dealing is standard operating procedure and the reputation for ethical behavior is exceedingly low.

One can see the same dysfunction in Congress. The Tea Party far right outsiders who came into Congress during the previous elections are the ones who have created legislative grid lock. They are ideologically driven and have no experience running a country or desire to compromise with even the moderates in their own party. And the lack of intellectual credentials among them is frightening.
I think that voters, from the left and the right, should look at the resulting chaos and understand that experience does actually matter. Bringing in a whole group of outsiders with no experience as a recipe for disaster. Only two groups of people are happy with the dysfunction of having amateurs at the helm and that is the Russians, who helped bring this on, and the super right wing libertarians who think government paralysis is a good thing.
In the future, it would be a good idea to look at a candidate’s resume rather than his ability to tell you what you want to hear. And we need to understand that success in one area does not necessarily transfer to success in another. While we do wish to have a government that is responsive to our citizenry, we really want people running the government who are experts at doing so. Populism and electing candidates because they remind you of yourself is not a good way to achieve good governance.

The Democratic Dilemma – Where to Go from Here?

George S LedyardThe Democrats are in flux. They have a very real set of issues.
First, the wealth divide, which can also be seen as a generational issue. The democrats moved away over time from their working class roots towards looking to the liberal elites who have made their fortunes in finance and tech in order to raise the kind of money it takes to run modern campaigns.
The Bernie Sanders progressives are far to the left of the bulk of the Democratic voters who are still part of the baby boom generation and while they are extremely supportive of civil rights and diversity issues, they are a bit gun shy of what the right wing propaganda depicts as socialism. That’s why we haven’t been able to get to single payer before now.
Campaign Finance ReformIf we can get the big money out of the electoral process, the party can place more focus on the young voters who are quite a bit to the left of their parents. Studies have shown that millennials are actually fine with describing their political positions as some variation of socialism. My generation, which was born at the time of the Red Scare and McCarthy stayed far away from that term.
But as long as it takes such huge sums to mount an effective campaign, it’s hard for the Dems to shift direction towards an agenda that their big bucks liberal supporters might find to be a bit much. Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama, and Hillary Clinton were all quite successful with their centrist focus, at least in terms of having the kind of fund raising machines it takes to win. The Dems may have lost the heartland but it wasn’t for lack of money, it was more where and how they spent it.
Bernie Sanders showed that a Presidential candidate can raise enough money from a real grass roots fund raising effort made up of small contributors. But the fact is that there is no state and local network of progressive candidates or a progressive party organization to mount down ticket races that requires the support of a national organization.
What Kind of Money It Takes to Run for President
Bernie’s fund raising supported his campaign but progressives have yet to demonstrate any staying power. They have not yet shown they can create the structure of a national movement. Bernie’s Movement was in some ways a “cult of personality”. It was all about making Bernie into the Great White Progressive Hope.

Democratic Baby Boomers
Hillary Clinton’s Supporters Were Older

Anyway, clearly the future belongs to the young. However there are probably more young, non-college educated, working class folks out there as there are nice educated liberal / progressive millennials. They will not be able to carry elections on their own for a number of years. The Baby Boomers, like myself, are more moderate and centrist. And They look to be around as a voting block for another three or four election cycles.|

Cornell West and Bernie Sanders
Dr. Cornell West and Bernie Sanders

The second is race. Like it or not, the developing progressive movement has not connected with minorities very well. Hillary Clinton did far better with Black voters than Bernie did, despite the endorsement of Bernie by a number of famous Black activists. In many ways, the Bernie Progressives were as much a white phenomenon as Trump’s Tea Party supporters. In the actual election Clinton got 88% of the Black vote cast but the numbers of Black voters who stayed home was in the  millions.
How Bernie Sanders Lost the Black Vote
White Young Bernie Sanders SupportersAfter eight years of Barrack Obama, the Black community is disillusioned with the whole system, They have consistently supported the Democrats with no measurable change in economic status, without changing the war on drugs, unequal imprisonment, unequal justice in the courts, grossly unequal violence at the hands of law enforcement. The white, college educated professionals who flocked to Bernie Sanders have not connected with minority voters to any large degree. This has to be figured out before we are going to see anything but cynical apathy on the part of minority voters.
So, the Democrats absolutely need to find candidates going forward that can appeal to minority voters and white liberal elites at the same time, as Barack Obama did. And they have to develop a platform which they strongly push at the local, state and national level that addresses the wealth divide. They are not going to win any support away from Trump, heartland supporters, on the social issues that liberals and progressives consider non-negotiable.
These issues represent a culture divide that will not be breached until the income and educational chasm is addressed. But, if, over time they can show they actually have a real plan that would benefit the poor and working class folks in this country without scaring the liberal elites with the money too badly, over time they should be able to get back that old Democratic identity as the party that represents the working and middle classes. The Progressives will have to stop assuming that success and money equal corruption or they will drive away the very support they will need to shift the Dem Party towards a more progressive agenda with progressive candidates.

“Political Correctness: how the left invented phantom victimization.”

George S Ledyard“Political Correctness: how the left invented phantom victimization.”

Phantom victimization? Seriously? It’s impossible to understand how any citizen of this Republic could POSSIBLY think that anyone needed to invent the concept of “victimization”, to pretend that there are no groups who have been systematically “victimized”.

Let’s try to sum up where we are at with the left and the right. In a nutshell, the left has decided to represent the victims, the marginalized, the minority members of our society. They have fought for civil rights, they have opposed exploitation and discrimination. Historically, they have stood on the side of Labor, fighting for better wages,. conditions, etc.
Our nation has historically been and continues to be dominated by the tensions between our white, Anglo Saxon, Protestant, majority and our various minorities. Since the great social upheaval of the 1960s we have seen an almost continuous movement forward in political organizing, and a successfully fight for equal rights.
What we have now with the political right is the backlash. In fact, the Republican Party is virtually the party of backlash. One of the ways that the right resists is by rewriting history. This is easily done in a country in which few study history. The focus of this effort is to create a view of the country in which there are no victims. There might have been at some point in the past, but that was all long ago and now it’s all ok.

slavery and economic growthThere has been a concerted effort to white wash slavery. It really wasn’t so bad. Most slave owners treated their slaves well, and blah, blah, blah. There has been complete silence on the subject of our record rate of incarceration, which dis-proportionally effects minorities. And any mention of multi generational poverty in our minority populations is made to appear as lack of ability, lack of drive, dependence on welfare and so on. Black Lives Matters, a group fighting a multi generational problem of law enforcement violence against minority communities is depicted as a anti-law enforcement terrorist organization. It’s simply one big stream of denial that there is an issue to be addressed.

Income Inequality - class warAt the same time, on the right you will have absolutely no mention of multi generational wealth and power. It is a fact that the upper middle class and upper class perpetuate themselves. They have the means to weather economic downturns, they can afford to have their children receive the finest education money can buy. While it is true that most people work hard to get by, people from these upper classes, who are, by the way, mostly white, do not start at the same starting point that the rest of the citizenry do. But you will NEVER hear a word about that from the right. Any mention of the lack of an even playing filed or the notion that wealth and power do perpetuate themselves engenders screams of class warfare and those doing this mentioning are attacked as pursuing the politics of division… a big no, no.
The new narrative has worked to discredit Labor Unions. We no longer need them, they cost jobs, etc. The movement of jobs to the non-Union South has led to an economic boom for corporations in the Sun belt while these same states require more Federal payments via the safety net to keep the working poor from starving. They get less pay, worse conditions, less protections. Essentially, the destruction of the Unions has moved the burden of supporting the work force from the employer to the tax payer. The employees of a company like WalMart require billions of dollars of public assistance in order to maintain even a minimal standard of living.

Oligarchs - wealth inequalityYet the narrative of the right has been to say that focusing on the worker, his rights, his conditions, his wages, hurts business and costs jobs. The new narrative is a variation of the trickle down theory. What is good for the corporation, what benefits management and the stock holders is what creates jobs and prosperity for the worker.

This is a fiction. What is happening is that the worker is receiving proportionally less of the total income from our businesses. Non-Union wages are down yet top ,management salaries and benefits are at record levels. They are at record levels when compared to businesses world wide. A CEO of an American corporation can be making 400 times the wage relieved by the worker in the factory. This divide is greater than in any country in the world by magnitudes.
But the focus in the right is devoted entirely to distracting the working man from understanding this. Unionization is resisted at all costs because Labor organizers will be the first to demonstrate to the workers where the inequities lie.
The tried and true strategy of playing the different parties off against each other continues unabated. The right has the working man focused on all those immigrants and illegals, all those foreigners taking their jobs. All to distract them from the fact that the most wealthy are getting steadily wealthier. That isn’t something the right wishes the worker to focus on.
So, when the left talks about marginalized groups, it is pursuing the bugaboo of identity politics. But when the right talks about the problem with Muslims, the undocumented workers, the war against Christmas, even the war against men, or the war against white people… that isn’t identity politicos, that’s fighting for traditional values.

Steve Bannon - Alt RightAnd in the non-economic arenas like women’s rights, LGBT rights, special needs, etc the right wing strategy is once again to deny that there even is a problem. No new legislation is needed to protect women against sexual assault, no new laws are required to prevent hate crimes against gays. All of this is already covered by our existing legal structures. Of course this ignores the fact that if the existing structures were working, we wouldn’t have endemic rates of sexual assault, we wouldn’t behaving a stream of hate crimes against LGBTQ people.

All of this is about a concerted propaganda effort to deny the experience of our marginalized communities. When people describe the many ways they are made to feel excluded, undervalued, discriminated against, and even assaulted, the narrative of the right is to deny the validity of their experience. Complaining about being victimized is just an excuse not to knuckle down and work as hard as the rest of us (is being the folks who are already doing just fine than you).

Attempts to afford legal protection to our marginalized groups are attacked. The new code word which the right uses to oppose equal rights for our various minorities is to describe them not as “equal rights” but as “special rights”. These people are just asking to not be discriminated against, to receive the same treatment that everyone else gets. They are asking for “special” treatment. They are asking for something the rest of us don’t get. It is an insidious form of double speak, a cynical attempt to invalidate the daily experience of marginalized populations within our country.
alt right and white victimizationThe Liberal Left may have been guilty of focusing more on applying band aids to the results of our economic inequality rather than finding solutions, but they at least deal in the reality zone with our problems. The right consistently denies that the issues are even issues and then turns around and portrays the very people who are the most entitled in our society as the true victims. That is what backlash is all about and that is what the right currently represents.

The New Progressives – After the Nomination, Strategy for Going Forward

I read this article which was shared by a friend on my Facebook timeline. I think it highlights some real issues concerning the future of the movement and how it proceed in the face of increasing likelihood that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee.

Once again, the age old argument about whether it is better to work within the system or in opposition to the system comes to the fore. The 2016 election presents a particular problem for progressive activists and making the right choice about how to proceed. If their candidate of choice can’t win the nomination, and they try to mount a third party challenge, write in a different candidate, or simply not participate in the voting, we could easily have a repeat of the Bush / Gore election when Ralph Nadar broke ranks and ran as a third party candidate. That decision gave the election to Bush and the result was eight years of, not just not progressive administration and policies, but eight years of undoing years of progress.

The tone of this article is that the “establishment” Democratic Party is the enemy. It describes how the “centrists” co-opt the agenda of the Left and then somehow hold the Left hostage (hence the Stockholm Syndrome illusion). Personally, I believe this is the source of the ineffectiveness of the Left in moving its agenda forward. The activist movements, Occupy, Black Lives Matter, etc are important. But what drives change is the movement of the center.

It is a fact that the majority of our citizens exist at just Left and just Right of the center of our political spectrum. Now that center moves over time depending on circumstance. In recent years, it has definitely moved Right. But it is still the case that the majority of voters are moderate and will normally support the establishment of their chosen political Party.
What is perhaps unique in 2016 is just how polarized things have become. Both political Parties have found themselves dealing with serious insurrection within the ranks. The GOP has completely lost control of its membership. None of the establishment picks for the GOP nomination received more than token support. The two candidates left standing are both outsiders who are far to the Right of what the establishment party leadership is comfortable with. The fact that it was their 8 year barrage of extreme anti-government, anti-Obama propaganda that caused this situation is neither here nor there. They are now stuck with resorting to trying for a contested convention to try to stop Donald Trump.

The Democrats are in marginally better control of their membership and it looks almost certain that Hillary Clinton will prevail and be the nominee. But far from being the automatic nominee that was predicted, she has struggled, barely staying ahead of Bernie Sanders in the delegate lead and showing huge weaknesses in voting blocks that she will need in the general election. While Hillary Clinton’s great strength exists with African American voters and, not surprisingly female voters, Bernie Sanders has destroyed her with younger voters and the independents that will be crucial to win against the Republican nominee.

This situation has provided leverage for the progressives that we haven’t seen for years. It represents an opportunity to move the progressive agenda forward and get buy in from the establishment “centrists”. But it remains unclear whether the activist Left will take advantage of this situation or, in a pique of righteous outrage refuse to support the Party nominee. In my opinion this would be a disaster and would almost certainly result in a victory for the GOP. It would, in my opinion, be an example of “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”.
The only way things are really going to change in the country is to move the center. Yes, activism is important, but the Civil Rights Movement did not prevail until Lyndon Johnson threw the weight of the Federal government behind it. The Anti-Vietnam War movement didn’t really accomplish much until it put a million people on the mall in DC. Those weren’t the hard core activists, those were the very centrists that the activists disdained as “limousine liberals” etc.
There has been a movement away from the center towards the extremes by a large number of people on each side of the political spectrum. This fact is the direct result of a government that, for many years has failed to deliver to its people. The Left and Right activists have basically driven the discussion for a number of years leaving the majority centrists feeling like the whole political discussion isn’t addressing their concerns and isn’t being conducted as they would wish.

With the GOP looking like it will certainly nominate a candidate with abysmal national approval ratings, a unified Democratic Party looks to win and win big. But can it and will it unify? Hillary Clinton is a tested and experienced candidate. Yet, she is as unpopular with the extremists on the Left as she is with the folks on the Right. Many committed Progressives have actually said that they will not vote for her or support her, no matter what.
I find this attitude appalling. It smacks of hubris. It says that for the sake of being “right”, for the sake of feeling “righteous”, they would be willing to sink the whole ship rather than have a captain they didn’t like. This despite the fact that this political ship is the only hope of moving the ball forward towards a progressive future. It is a fact that, if this ship sinks, the ship captained by the other guys wins the race and it is also a fact that that they are absolutely committed to, not only preventing moving that progressive ball forward, but actually undoing decades of progress.

Activists always have the dilemma of pushing a society in ways that are uncomfortable. But often they are out of sync and push harder or faster than the society will move. That can even create a backlash that can be counter productive. This is a unique time. The establishment Democrats absolutely need the support of the progressives who are at the Left side of the Party. Because of the tremendous showing by the Sanders supporters, the Sanders Progressives have a tremendous leverage to get Hillary Clinton to commit to progressive policies that she might other wise not champion. But, if these folks refuse to unify with the Party, they lose all chance of effecting the outcome in anything but a disastrous way. We could find ourselves with the Anti-Christ (from a progressive / liberal standpoint) as President and a bunch of self righteous activists bitching about how corrupt the “system” was. This just strikes me as a sort of suicide wish among people who purport to be acting for the benefit of all the people. It certainly will not benefit anyone if this happens except the very people who are the real enemy.

Read the article below and see what you think…

The Democratic Stockholm Syndrome | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

After weeks of hard and increasingly heated campaigning, Hillary Clinton scored a decisive victory over Bernie Sanders in last night’s New York Democratic primary. Despite losing a majority of the state’s counties, she won in huge margins in New York City and the popular vote overall.

Source: The Democratic Stockholm Syndrome | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Fighting the Good Progressive Fight

Fighting the Good Progressive Fight

After realizing just how much time I was spending on Social Media posting on political issues, I have decided to start a Blog devoted to the fight for progressive values in the world to day. I hope to be able to both provide commentary on today’s important political issues but also to give some historical context to these discussions, something I feel is lost on most major media coverage. I hope my readers will find this blog to be interesting and helpful.