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Three Polar Politics In Post-Petroleum America

Stirling Newberry's picture

[2013-11-08: Since Confederates-Moderates-Progressives came up in comments, I thought I'd sticky Stirling's 2009 again, since new Correntians might want to read and comment. I think we're at the third pole ("progressives") but the pole has no name -- "prefigurative left" was obviously wrong! -- and no institutional presence. All we have is right on our side!

[2012-04-20: This hardy perennial from Stirling Newberry just got a link from the SideShow, so I thought I'd repost it to the top of the heap once again. My hat is off to perhaps the best 30,000 foot view of American politics I've ever read. For "progressive," since that term been co-opted by Moderate D weasels (sorry for the redundancy), you might perhaps read "prefigurative left" -- everybody who's sick at heart from the corruption, the looting, and is trying in their everyday practice to make the situation better with solutions that scale. In other words, it's not a matter of policy lists any more, as I wrote two years ago. It's systems.... Read on! --lambert]

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[2010-09-12: If Yves can do Summer Re-Runs, then I can do Fall Classics. This post by Stirling Newberry from 2009-07-09 is one such. Vocabulary note: In using the word Progressive, Stirling does not mean 'career "progressive",' but... the "third pole" in American politics, by which he does not mean anything like the "Third Way." --lambert]

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[2010-04-17: Welcome, Open Left readers! Stirling wrote in 2009. Needless to say, in 2010 self-identified career "progressives" are firmly at the Moderate pole, based on the health insurance company bailout debacle, the news blackout imposed on single payer policy advocates, and a general unwillingness to challenge the Obama administration when it consolidates and rationalizes Bush policies (for example, executive powers) --lambert]

[2009-07-09 I'm leaving this sticky because Stirling's ideas generated such good discussion. --lambert]

[And again Sunday. Generally, I'm agnostic about policy lists, but after looking at what Obama and our tribunes of the people in the blogosphere -- that is, the Moderates -- did to single payer, I'm starting to change my mind. What would be Progressive policy wedge issues that would break up the Confederates and/or the Moderates? I say policy because it might make sense to start from the fresh perspective that "It matters that you're a citizen. It doesn't matter what your fucking social identity markers are -- These are the basics that every citizen should get." --lambert]

It would be easy to hope that this downturn represents the final capitulation of the Bush years, and that once we work away the excess, that there will be a new age after it. However, this is not what the numbers indicate. While selling self-spin and hope may be the province of those who hope to curry favor with the powers that be, or with masses of people desperate to believe that this is as bad as it will get, hard slabs of reality are my stock and trade.

Let me introduce you to post-petroleum thesis.

Economics often tries to get at what is "real" by looking at numbers which float with the ups and downs. These are "nominal" numbers. However, behind almost every attempt to do this, is some hidden or visible thesis of what is really driving people and their decisions. There is, in brief, a thesis behind the synthesis. Since economics does not have appropriate language to describe this, I've come to use the term "thesis" to describe a meta-description which guides economic model making.

The American economy exists in the "Petroleum Paradigm." That paradigm is visible in a host of ways, the fundamental idea is that value is created by turning petroleum into consumption, and using petroleum driven transportation to act as a "wind" that expands the size of the suburban land bubble. Think of it like a balloon, with people driving being the pressure that keeps it inflated.

People "make" money by creating communities, and drawing in waves of people afterward who are willing to pay more for houses. In this way public goods of community, economy, and education, are turned into private goods that require that people buy houses in the right places, or drive farther. Much of the Reagan revision to the structure of the American economy was to prop up these suburban land rents by a variety of means.

As long as the petroleum paradigm exists, any efficiencies will be plowed back into generating more sprawl, and attempting to maintain the land rents in the form of higher housing prices.

And so it has been, the keys: a financial system to continue borrowing from abroad, housing prices, and other constricting access to the keys of a middle class life, particularly higher education that confers connections, and health care, have been the key priorities of Obama's administration. His stimulus bill was a partial rebate on the inflation tax in oil that we are seeing.

This is the first thing that people must realize about the petroleum paradigm: we are paying very high indirect taxes. One form of taxation is the stagnation tax, where governments do not stimulate the economy to full employment, because doing so would radically increase their borrowing costs. Thus ordinary people have much lower wages, much lower job prospects, and much less stability. The millions out of work now, are paying the stagnation tax. Another form of taxation is insurance company profits. These profits go into markets, such as stocks, which raise the prices of stocks, which foreign investors buy. The 30% increase in cost of US health care over what it could be, and the large swathe of uninsured, are a tax that we pay to keep capital flowing in, so that we can turn around and borrow. That borrowing is used for consumption, which seems cheap in the United States, but only because the taxes that pay for it are disembodied. In the rest of the developed world consumption is taxed to pay for education and health care, in the United States, health care and education are taxed to pay for consumption.

As long as the possibility of starting up the land casino is there, as long as the present generation can believe that the next generation will pay heavily for access to it, there will be no substantial change in the American political landscape. The question will be between two wings of the political spectrum over which can best maintain the present system.

Three Pole Politics in 2009 America

The present break down of political forces follows three different views of this thesis. The first view is that the land casino merely needs to be allowed to run. This is the "Confederate" wing of American politics. The second view is that the land casino can continue longer, but only if carefully managed, this is the "Moderate" view. The third view is that it requires careful management to transition away from the land casino, or the "Progressive" view.

The Confederate view has between 30% and 40% of the voting population nationally, with local majorities in swathes of the empty reaches of the country and in the South. The Moderate view commands between 35% and 45% of the country, with local majorities in the metro-suburbs and some cities. The Progressive view has approximately 20% support, with local majorities in scattered areas. America's three wings of politics are not a spectrum. The Moderates do not live between the Progressives and the Confederates, but in a direction away from both. It should not surprise people that it is a humorist who has been the most forceful in asserting this fact. But early observers of this truth go back to Christopher Caldwell's Atlantic Article "The Southern Captivity of the GOP". What Caldwell failed to see was that the Moderates were not going to ebb back to the GOP, but instead, become Democrats. This realization was left to a next generation, including Armando of the Daily Kos, and Thomas Schaller of the University of Maryland. The geo-demographics were outlined in Bill Bishop's The Big Sort, which details how a 40% minority can exercise an effective Senate veto.

The Confederates and Moderates agree in their guts: they have a gut level fear of a post-petroleum, post-financial, world. A gut level dislike of homosexuals, a gut level distrust of Progressive movement. However, they disagree wildly on how to protect the petroleum paradigm. The Confederates are virulently anti-technocratic, while the Moderates are technocratic to the core. This division means they are barely on speaking terms about the ways to preserve the petroleum economy, including disagreements over taxes, stimulus, and the size of government.

The Confederates have much in common with the pre-1930 Democratic Party, of which they were the base until the Civil Rights era. They are laissez-faire, for example, and localist. Many Moderates defect because Moderates are often regulation for thee, but freedom for me. George Soros, for example, believes in regulation -- except for the financial industry. The Confederates are also socialists for themselves. Looking at Palin's record in politics, one can see that she is, effectively, a socialist. She taxes oil companies to provide benefits and services. It is her religious beliefs, which have deep cracks and contradictions, and contempt for competence, which expose the contradictions in her own career, which prevent her from being a Progressive.

The Moderates and the Progressives agree on how to do things. They both understand the size of government, the need for an ultimate provider of stability, and the importance of discipline, science, and accepting what the numbers say. Indeed, many Moderates, such as Peter Orszag, are fully aware that the numbers the Moderates are looking at, do not add up. But they cannot bring themselves, on a gut level, to abjure the power of the financial system.

That financial system is the hidden vector on the chart, that pulls off in a Moderate/Confederate direction. It warps the presentation of news, the flow of donations, and the shape of public debate. Since between 40 and 60 percent of all the free cash flow on the corporate level comes from finance, depending on whether you look at only the financial industry, or whether one counts the financial arms of other companies, it is not surprising that this "money electorate" creates a virtual representative plutocracy. The financial sector hires politicians to make palatable and workable policies that the financial sector likes.

The Confederates and the Progressives agree in their guts: both have a suspicion of large concentrations of power, though they disagree on which ones are most dangerous, and both have an inherent belief in the individual against the organization man. The Moderate pole is the corporatist pole. However, the Confederates and Progressives hate each others' gut sympathies. Equal marriage is perhaps the paradigmatic example, but government is another. War a third. Confederates believe in war, and in defense spending as an entitlement.

This three pole view predicts explains why there are three kinds of votes in Congress, and nationally as well.

There is the Moderate-Confederate, or Confederate-Moderate coalition. These votes, such as FISA, the Iraq War, escalation in Afghanistan, or any vote generally that gets to the root of protecting the petroleum paradigm and the suburban industrial complex built on top of it, go 75%-80% against 20%.

There is the Moderate-Progressive coalition. This is roughly the Democratic Party. It goes between 55%-65%, with some of the people on the boundaries of the Confederate-Moderate line defecting.

Finally, there is the Moderates against both of the two wings. This leads to the Moderates pulling out money. They do a two step: they shift towards the Confederates, that is to the nominal "right," and buy enough Progressive votes with small bribes. Since the Progressives have few sources of large money, this is not expensive from the view of the Moderates. These votes slide through just barely, with an important piece: the Confederates agree not to filibuster these votes, because there aren't really 60 votes for them.

From this can be seen the most important political fact of the present: President Obama is a Moderate, and leader of the Moderate wing. On many issues he is a Confederate, such as equal marriage, on many issues he is more towards the Progressive view, particularly on nuclear weapons. But in his guts, he thinks the left is nuts. Hence the utter lack of important Progressive policy advisors.

From the point of view of the Moderate-dominated coalition, the Progressives are like the fundamentalists of the Confederate coalition, useful, if volatile, emotional extremists, who have to be given lip service, and access to key issues, but in general thwarted on important economic issues.

The natural center of gravity, then, of the financed world of the "Village" (as Digby has coined it) is a vector between Confederate and Moderate directions. This is far to the "right" of the country as a whole.

It is important to realize that to no small extent, this three-vector system is artificial. The Confederate pole, without defense, land casino work, subsidies for resource extraction, and constant chumming by religious and media propaganda, does not work. It is filled with people who a generation ago were wearing cheap suits and selling books about how Gold is going to $10,000 dollars an ounce. Money, media, and manpower change all of that. The Moderate pole is, likewise, a creation of the financial play; they manage a money-losing operation: the US. Without the seemingly unlimited credit of the US, their management would be needless. They are managing the liquidation of America.

The Price of Petroleumism

From the empirical results of votes in Congress, we can see that the United States has a petroleumist super-majority. That is, when the Moderates and Confederates agree, they can dismiss Constitutional objections. One simple example is on the need for a filibuster. The filibuster applying to every vote is a way for the Confederates in the Mod-Con coalition to prevent betrayal. After all, if the Moderates could, in a disciplined way, ally with the Progressives, the Mod-Prog coalition would have more than 50 votes for almost everything. But 60 stretches it, because the Confederates can usually pry loose a few of the most confederate Moderates: Baucus, Tester, Bayh, Nelson, Specter, and McGaskill are all good examples. Another example is the conduct of the Iraq war, including the use of torture.

In short, the filibuster gives Confererates a veto over any truly progressive measure, and thus enforces the long term need for Moderates to go to Confederates on a host of issues. Progressives have not the political power to exercise a similar veto.

The petroleumist majority has three simple problems. The first simple problem is that the US does not have much petroleum. The second is that the physical limits of their system are approaching, and the third is that the structure of petroleumism is so well known, that any time there is the potential of economic growth, it is very easy for the financial powers to get in the way and force a rent of key resources. The game, is too well known.

Petroleumism has another, more theoretical, but just as crucial problem: anti-utilitarianism. Simply put, all of our economic tools assume linearity, and utility. However, empirically, petroleum output is not making people happy. When money stops measuring utility, pricing systems break down. Empirically, in order to generate the financial profits necessary to keep money pouring in, the petroleum economy must generate enough volatility that linear models break down. What this means, in effect, is that to keep going, the petroleum system must break its key measure of money in two ways. This is why the policy cloud exists, and nothing seems to work very well; the very dials on the jumbo jet of state are broken, and we are flying into heavier turbulence.

One cost of petroleumism, is the tangle of mechanisms that are used to keep the public relatively complacent. One of the most visible of these is obesity. Obesity in America has skyrocketed in the last generation. Now, in virtually ever state, obesity rates among adults are more than 20%. What is more terrifying is that childhood obesity rates are even higher.

Obesity is the result of over-consumption. This is one example of a breakdown in economic theory, since in economic theory desire is unlimited. However, in practice, there are limits to how much of particular goods people can consume, if a market cannot provide goods outside of those limits, then people chase up the curve of diminishing returns, consuming more and more, to get less and less.

The ultimate price of petroleumism is, however, the structuring of a global economy that is increasingly dependent on commodities that are in short supply. Even if, as is remotely possible, the geo-genesis theory of petroleum is true, that only means that global warming is more, not less of a problem. Part of this structuring is the increasing chokehold that foreign debt holders have on US debt. One reason that Obama's fiscal policy centers on Fed money creation is that China specifically warned that its appetite for US debt had reached its limit.

The Post-Petroleum Thesis

Each of the three wings of American politics are based on a particular thesis. The Confederate believe in the Imperium Thesis. The Imperium Thesis states that America's providing of security is an irreplaceable asset, and that therefore other nations will fund their parts of the American system of rents indefinitely. The corollary to this is that other activities that do not fund American Imperium crowd out that debt. Namely all social programs and infrastructure not tied to the military sector and so on.

The Confederate problem is that their own base's ideology is in favor of allowing the financial system to collapse. The financial elites have, as a result, pulled support from the Confederate wing of American politics for majority building. The Republicans look bad, because they don't have the money to look good, and the internal contradiction of socialists, that is poor Appalachia and the hinterlands, voting for elite plutocrats, has finally riven their own coalition. They also seem crazy: The people who they put in charge were not capable of managing the very core of the project. Hence financial elite money and support shifted to the Moderates, on the proviso that the Moderates did not disturb the Confederate architecture of George W. Bush. No major part of the Bush legacy has been overturned by Obama. None. No major part of the Bush legacy is on the calendar to be overturned. None. Obama's money mandate is to Do Bush Right.

The Moderate thesis can be called the 2% thesis. If, over time, 2% of effort is shifted, then eventually America will be transformed without major disruption. It is the thesis behind, for example Cass Sunstien's Nudge or Matthew Miller's 2% Solution.

Rhetorically, this fits in with the middle class idea of piling up little advantages over time. It is what the middle class is trained to do: Hit the tax break, fly when it is cheap, pick up the resume line. However, we have a proof-by-example of what really happens to small accumulations of efficiency: The automobile industry. The automotive industry lives on small improvements to engine efficiency, for example, different means of injecting fuel, or creating turbulence in the oil flow to reduce friction. What happens to these improvements? They get poured into making larger and larger vehicles.

The same thing happens to all 2% efficiency improvements from Moderates: they are then used to create a moment of mega-borrowing for the next Confederate go-for-broke attempt to rearrange the debt hierarchy.

This brings us to the Progressive thesis: namely, the post-petroleum thesis. In this thesis, the world is already in a post-petroleum mode: that is, all new real value is already being generated by non-petroleum means, and that all instruments which rest on petroleum are, in fact, of neutral or negative value. The progressive adherence to this thesis means that rents based on petroleumism, or to gain advantage in petroleum flows, are inefficient and must be dismantled. Key among these: health, education, defense, suburbia, carbon-based energy. Adding together the misallocated GDP from petroleum rents, and the result comes to 20% of GDP. Nearly one dollar in five in America, is a useless rent.

The Post-Petroleum Thesis and the Depression Theory

The post-petroleum thesis, when applied to the series of economic crisis points beginning with the 1969 recession, divides them into two groups, a series of escalating crisis points as attempts to inflate out of the lack of US oil failed, and a series of crisis points which are driven by the failure of neo-classical neo-Victorian policies to disinflate out of the problem. The first attempt was to push over the pinch point by creating consumption demand, and constricting investment. The second, begun in response to the 1978-79 inflation spike, attempted to constrict net consumption, largely by regressive taxes and increasing taxation on middle class rents, attempted to create a red queen's race, where the US sold paper to get oil, but bet that it could create more value with that oil than the cost of the oil. This downturn is the proof that this race is over, and the US has lost. Oil prices remain elevated, and yet US capital asset creation is in the toilet.

In this thesis, the series of events have a parallel. Post-war Recessions have gradually become Depressions. The 1991 recession had some depression-like characteristics, including the very long return to growing employment. The 2001 downturn created a mild depression, a long return to actual growth. This downturn is a full-blown depression, driven by deflation of everything the US sells, and inflation of rents. Remember that in a depression the price of liquidity inflates, even as everything else deflates.

However, the present depression is not based on actual physical breakdown of the old economy. While light oil production has reached a local peak, and perhaps an absolute peak, the cost of increasing oil production is not so strenuous that the world could not afford it. However, what is broken is the expectation of perpetual future growth. At this point holders of liquidity know that while the present is not broken, the future is. A future they have lent money against.

Applying this paradigm to macro-economic models, one sees a future terrain which, instead of returning to rapid debt-fueled growth, has an inflationary spike of resources that will necessitate that the US remove stimulus from the economy, in the form of raising interest rates and lowering fiscal spending, long before a return to full employment, or the acceptance of another mega-bubble whose burst will be even larger than this one. It is not clear, that such a mega-bubble can even be engineered.

Thus, there will be a next downturn, it will be a depression, with a long convalescence period, and it will be deeper than this one, with a higher rate of unemployment. Even now the premature predictions of a bottom ignore that there are still pieces left to explode. The Japan-ified financial system is not fixed yet.

The Progressive Challenge

The simple reality is this:

As long as the Progressive vector in politics is the shortest, then the Con-Mod alliance will continue to dominate policy, even when it is completely insane, as in the invasion of Iraq. The Confederate point of view, seen as the opposition to Obama, is growing in force, and when Obama stumbles, or leaves office, there will be a rabid outbreak of small government Hooverism, which will collapse the US economy into depression.

However, when that part of the cycle ends, the US will swing back. What is the result? That depends entirely on the relative weight of the Moderate and Progressive blocks. The Democratic Party of FDR was an alliance of Confederates and Progressives. The Progressives had the economy to pay for the subsidies the Confederates needed. The Moderates of the time ran the Republican Party. What happened was that the rather small core of opinion at the very top of the economy hit upon an idea: Tell the Confederates that they did not have to put up with the Progressive viewpoint, and that the elites had a magic bag of money that would pay for the Confederate subsidies. The short Con-Mod presidential coalition produced four crushing Presidential landslides, and eventually a Confederate dominated Congress.

The Moderates were repeatedly burned economically by this alliance, despite their agreement on a gut level with the ideology of it. In 2006 they finally defected en mass, hoping that they could dominate a Mod-Prog alliance, since they could go to the Confederates for votes on key issues, and the Progressives could not stop them. However, the present values of 40 Confederate, 40 Moderate and 20 Progressive are not fixed, any more than previous vectors of American politics are fixed. For one thing both the Moderate and Confederate blocs are aging; the same thing that happened to the Progressive bloc 30 years ago, the die-off of a core cohort, is now happening to the Moderate and Confederate blocs. The other important wedge is that a large slice of the Moderate bloc would go Progressive if it could. Start with Nancy Pelosi, who has worked for key Moderate victories such as TARP.

For the Progressives to be in position to be the dominant coalition members in 2016 or 2020 -- that is, on the next pendulum swing -- and somewhere in the middle of the larger economic crisis that is coming, all that is needed is to grow, on average, 1% per year. That's it. This is approximately the rate that the public has shifted on the issue of equal marriage: 1% per year.

Many in the progressive movement are bitter and angry. They felt that Obama, if not able to always be as liberal as he might like, at least wanted to be liberal. Instead, he has shown over and over again that he would rather be a Confederate leaning Moderate, than a Progressive-leaning Moderate, and his basic instincts are Confederate: "I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman."

The Progressive political challenge is to win the young one step at a time. Gain 1% per year. The Progressive intellectual challenge is to create the policy tools to accomplish what we know needs to be done. This is work that is being done, largely unheralded, because it requires the slow drill of intellectual analysis, rather than the excitement of popular synthesis.

The reality is that young Progressives have the great misfortune that they are going to have to be the leaders of the transformation of America. The present generation in power will not do it. Obama is not the first of the hard-edged cynical Gen X, but the last of the plays-well-with-others, popularity-contest Boomers. His cadre consists of natural born followers, natural born courtiers, natural born third raters. The young Progressives will not be the followers at the revolution, but the revolutionaries.

The other fertile ground is among young would-be Confederates. These are people whose elders scream at them either liber-Confederate, or theo-Confederate ideologies (or both), and find, instead, that the future is to be poor, obese, and ridiculed, stuck in distant and dismal hinterlands, and watching the world pass them by.

Remember: The Confederate and the Progressive joined in the first place, because they have a fundamental emotional bond, the bond of the active and revolutionary. The removal of the Confederates from the Democratic Coalition left it terminally paralyzed, and without the courage of action. The Confederate-fueled Republican Party was able to act with a muscularity which is both American, and appealing.

Every system replaces an older one. This three-vectored system replaced a coherent left-right-nationalist system with the Confederates fueling much of the nationalist position. However, both left and right have broken down. There are no free-marketeers among economic elites. We are all socialists now. The broken system was not able to coherently govern, and ceased to be able to present a narrative of election. 2004 was the last presidential election that was seen as left versus right, with a nationalist center between them. The "pragmatists" turn out not to be pragmatists, but merely those who have a craving for compromise. Compromise is an excellent tool, but a poor idol.

The assertion of the three new poles began in 2006, when the long time Republican strongholds in New England, New York, the Mid-West and West began to snap. Matt Stoller and I predicted this in 2003: that the new Democratic House majority would come from a passel of seats in the Mid-West, plus seats in Connecticut, New York, and a few along the South-West border. Of the seats we listed as being the future Democratic Congress, all but a few have flipped, and only a few that were not on that list have changed, and stayed, Democratic. The handwriting was on the wall.

The Progressive movement's first incarnation was unable to head that coalition. There were crucial mistakes of message, but also the lack of a messenger. But the Progressive movement has come very far, very fast. In 2000 to be a "progressive" was a fringe viewpoint which was almost synonymous with the die hard left. Now, it is the identification of one-fifth of the electorate, and a pole of organization which threatens to draw in another 10% to become a co-equal ideology with the two dominant poles. It takes almost all of the political weight of the other two poles, working in concert, through legislative procedure and media barrage, to prevent the progressive break out. The progressive movement is, politically, the most dangerous force in American politics.

It is also the movement of ideas. Only the progressive movement has ideas. The moderates are doing rounds of givebacks and cramdowns, and have found that the results are already being rejected. The Moderates are starting to bleed at their own Confederate edge, with the internals of Obama's polling turning inexorably against him. The public's support for his policies has ebbed. His entire political thesis, that he would do small good things, and this would buy him capital, was historically idiotic, and is already turning bad. Instead, Presidents should spend capital first, accept heavy losses in the first mid-terms, and then have results by the reëlection. Obama, like Clinton, will find that anything he has left undone by his second year, will not be done.

The Progressive movement has ideas, and these ideas join the stresses of the problems. Over-consumption will be cured by the taxes needed to provide public goods, the imbalances of liquidity will be cured by the investment in decarbonizing the economy. The imbalances of production will be cured by shifting demand to green demand. The gradual depreciation of the capital advantage of producing the petroleum economy, will be balanced by requiring a post-petroleum economy, where America has absolute advantages.

It is also the movement of political courage, and importantly, its base is ahead, not behind, its elected leadership in general. Recently one of the leading writers and political operatives of the progressive movement, Peter Daou, had this to say:

The incessant drive to the "pragmatic center." wherever that is, the desire to please an elusive and ephemeral audience, that worship of moderation, results in the squandering of a unique moment: with Republicans on their electoral heels and Democrats in control, this is the time for bold progressive stances and the unabashed embrace of core Democratic principles. This is not the time for wishy washy policies that seem politically smart but will in fact lead to the impression of an administration and a party devoid of convictions.

In short, a sketch of a manifesto. Courage is pragmatic. The purpose of courage is to embrace and extend what was fought for. Without this, and with the descent into the aristocracy of petroleumism, with its keys to power of media and monetary creation, there is a killing ossification of the very mobility that makes America. Or as Ian Welsh so recently put it:

The reasons are simple enough. Inheritance taxes have been weakened and progressive taxation has been slashed. The primary education system, funded by local tax dollars, systemically favors people who live in wealthy neighbourhoods, while university tuition has grown far faster than inflation at the same time as student aid has been slashed to the bone. The extremely rich have bought the government and use it to arrogate money to themselves, either through preferential laws—for example, Medicare Part D or the Bush tax cuts; or directly—for example, the 15 trillion spent on the financial crisis, the vast majority of which went in effect to the rich.

Power is passed from father and mother to daughter and son, with Congressional seats being passed on like some sort of inheritance and major network spots likewise going to the children of the influential. Perhaps there are no titles, but when, for example, Luke Russert, a man with no meaningful accomplishments of his own save being the offspring of late NBC news anchor Tim Russert, is hired as a national news commentator at age 22 over others who have worked harder, who have done more, and are vastly better qualified, it’s hard to see his inheritance as all that different from a Baron passing his rights, lands and chattel to his son.

All men are created equal. But, as Orwell noted in Animal Farm, some are more equal than others.

For some, this is a bitter pill. My friend Steve Hicken says that Steve Reich's career makes more sense in reverse. So too the Baby Boom, which began with a revolution, and ended by making precisely the same mistakes as it rebelled against. They backed a war without victory in a desert without a name, over a principle that had already lost its viability.

The Progressive movement is also the movement of myth. FDR is a myth. The Confederates used the myth of the founders, equating the liberal state with King George and going on about orginalism, when what they really meant was for the thieves to vote to fire all the police. Now, however, the founders are joined by the two other great spasmodic upheavals: the Union of Lincoln, and the Democracy of FDR. As Glenn Smith wrote::

Members of Congress without the moral clarity to recognize this equivalence will be condemned by history. Their spinelessness and lack of will when confronted with the power of the insurance industry is just as morally bankrupt as the American congressmen who bowed to Southern slave-owners.

The morally compromising efforts to pass health care reform that insurance companies might like is as insane as the compromises over slavery. Those compromises -- the First and Second Missouri Compromises of 1820, their repeal by the Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854, and the notorious Dred Scott decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857 led to the War Between the States.

Courage, clarity, principle. These words have migrated to the progressive wing of American politics, and hover over it like a guiding angel.

What must be done in the short term is simple. While at the Federal level there is still the ability to borrow as a way of avoiding reorganization, at the state levels, there is no such cushion. New York and California are both in constitutional crisis. Several other states have executives of plunging popularity. Paralysis is the order of the day in many other states. It is time for Progressives to begin sweeping the states with calls for dramatic and radical rejection of one of the most important Confederate-Moderate ideas: that hobbling a legislature from doing liberal things increases liberty. Instead, it produces fiscal disaster.

What also must be done is that the Progressive movement must recognize that the Con-Mod coalition will not do enough, and will then attempt to blame "liberals" and Progressives for their own failures, and continue to hand power back and forth to each other. Recognize that the next President will be a Republican who attempts to wrap confederate policies in a more moderate guise to get the financial system to back the Republican Party, and will proceed to wage a war for oil.

Even in the short run, the Progressive movement can begin to play the same role that the Confederate movement played early in its existence: as the fortunes of the coalition's senior partner ebb, and they will ebb, and if the Progressive movement can hold its gains, then the Moderates will have two choices: capitulate more and more to the Confederates, as Clinton did late in his executive, with catastrophic results such as the repeal of Glass-Steagal, or turn to the Progressives more and more. Right now the Moderates have votes to give, but in a Congress where 20 current Blue Dogs are Repbulicans, they will not.

This is, perhaps, not what people wanted. But it is not 1930, with a new economy ready to rule the world, but closer to 1900, with a new economy beginning to assert greater and greater dominance, and an old order that is hobbling towards its final crisis. As with the first generation of liberals, this generation of Progressives must lay the foundations for later days, when the handwriting truly is on the wall, and the last SUV has been driven to the last development, with the last barrel of cheap oil.

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Submitted by lambert on

I would have thought he would be a Confederate. But Paul wants to end the empire.

Is Paul then a Progressive?

One thing I like about this thesis is that it takes emotions (e.g., hate, fear, disgust, trust) into account. Obviously, after the primaries, that's important.

So, assuming I'm a progressive (and it seems like a lot of "progressives" are Moderates) I'm in a 20% minority with no geographical base. What's to be done? Get off the grid?

Stirling Newberry's picture
Submitted by Stirling Newberry on

"Is Paul then a Progressive?"

It was intentional to make this a 2 dimensional, rather than 1 dimensional picture. The Confederate viewpoint, when left to itself, is anti-bank and isolationist. It's only the hidden force - the money from the MIC and financial sector that pulls it "up" on this picture.

Thus there are in fact issues of common cause - down and left on this graph - between confederates and progressives. Examples: anti-TARP, Fed audit bill - authored by Paul, co-sponsored by 77 Democrats - anti-Washington consensus.

So far the Moderate pole has been able to pick off enough confederates and moderates on its flanks to pass legislation, but that is not a given.

Submitted by lambert on

Thanks so much for this post. TARP is a great example -- I couldn't believe it when it was happening, but the only ones doing the Lord's work on that one weren't to be found in the FKDP (Formerly Known as Democratic Party), which has been our name for the party consequences of our financial class removing the mandate of heaven from Bush and bestowing it on Obama.

Submitted by gmanedit on

I haven't followed the Fed audit bill at all (I guess I should, now), because the audit is going to happen (or is already happening) regardless (, 6/26/08). Xenophon posted on it (, and cenobite said, "IMF austerity program recommendations are likely to give whoever is president an excuse to gut whatever is left of our social investment"; lambert added, "Well, I'm sure this has nothing to do with Shock Doctrine . . . Nothing, nothing at all."

So is the Fed audit bill for real or just for show?

Submitted by lambert on

Consider including the "center of gravity" between Moderate and Confederate on the graphic as a dot with a label, since that would make the role of the financial system more clear. This would be the schwerpunkt for Progressives, I assume.

NOTE No, Im wrong. Not a "dot" but as you say a vector -- linear and dynamic. That vector would be the Overton Window, no? (I was about to say, three points determine a plane, the third point being progressive therefore it's not a vector which is linear. However, single payer being "off the table" shows quite clearly that the third point is not included at all. Ditto Iraq. Ditto executive power.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

And thanks for (someone!) finally answering my question: "when is it our turn?"

I'll be re-reading this and perhaps offering further thoughts on the many things that resonated for me.

As for the moment, a few quibbles and such...

* The "works well with others" mentality is, I think, more closely associated with Generations X and Y, who grew up on day-care, diversity-chic, and soccer-participant badges for all... and who matured in a world of "crowdsourcing" and "leaderless organizations." Obama's ability to claim cusp-cred on a new era's brand of feel-good groupiness was perhaps his biggest asset. For better or worse, we never did have a president from the hippie zeitgeist, and if Obama isn't a true Gen-Xer, he isn't a classic Boomer, either -- at least in the sense of a onetime youthful idealist, since-corrupted or otherwise.

* Further to that point, a topic IMHO worthy of consideration is how younger progressives and potential-progressives were so thoroughly hoodwinked into becoming Obama fundamentalists, and what that might bode for their actions if and when they start blocking his text messages and tearing his morning-in-America logo off their messenger bags.

* Pinning the repeal of Glass-Steagall on Bill Clinton isn't, IMHO, all that fair.

Submitted by lambert on

is that it's dynamic.

For a long time, the best tools we've had have been the Overton window and Shystee's triangles. These tools put those tools in a larger and more powerful analytical framework, with oil, finance (and us....) as forces.

I stand in awe, and 1% a year seems do-able, especially when all Moderates and the Confederates, ya know, just suck. Makes us rather like pioneers.

Ian Welsh's picture
Submitted by Ian Welsh on

I know who deal with Gen X and Gen Y in the workplace say they are quite different.

Submitted by lambert on


NOTE I've dealt with some of today's 20-somethings, if I may so call them, and I'm impressed. We've never talked politics, though.

Ian Welsh's picture
Submitted by Ian Welsh on

natured, well socialied and group oriented than Gen Xers. But also less independent. Gen X'ers knew from childhood that the world was crap, Gen Yers are just learning that their dreams aren't going to come true.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

I resemble that remark. Yeah, the younger folks I work with are very nice, but they're also I think more naive than I was at that age. At least the ones from more "middle class" families are. The ones who come from poorer families are not so much from from what I can tell.

When I was a child, there was the gas crisis, the tail end of Vietnam, Agnew resigning, Watergate, and then that led into the awful recession of the 1980s. If a lot of folks my age tend to "think" highly of Reagan, I think it's mostly an emotional connection. Things felt really awful for unexplained ways when I was 10 or 11, by the time I was a teenager and we were in recovery (under Reagan) things felt much better. I was a pretty informed kid, but I was still a kid and so how the adults felt and acted around me was hugely influential. The late 1970s and early 1980s were bad, particularly in the midwest (and I'm not even going into the highjackings, bombings, Iran hostage crises, Reagan shooting, Pope shooting, etc.). My family was lucky, Dad stayed employed and even got promoted, but it was hard to miss the general zeitgeist. It went something like things feel shitty-Reagan elected-things feel better. Had little to do with the man's actual policies.

I remember in high school writing some screed about the Baby Boom for an English class* and writing about how fucking sick I was to hear all those stories about how they became disillusioned when Kennedy was killed. I felt like I never got to be illusioned to begin with.

I think some of the Gen Yers - many of whom are the kids of Boomers - got a little bit illusionment back into their childhoods. Not a lot, kids grow up fast these days, but a little bit. The 1990s were good economically for a lot of people. Not as good as Post WW II, but still pretty decent.

* I have said many times that the way Obama talks about the Boomers sounds like me...and then I went to college. It's totally a Gen X adolescent take on them, IMO. And the weird thing is he's not a Gen Xer. He's a Boomer.

dr sardonicus's picture
Submitted by dr sardonicus on

I think Obama sees America the way that a child of immigrants would [Which he is, in part. Where's that birth certificate? ;)] I think he comes by the "shining city on a hill" stuff naturally; he didn't need Reagan for that.

But you have to do that if you want elected these days. You can't tell the truth about America and get elected, but that's a different thread.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

I'm there too: too old for booming, too young for x-ing. I'm nearly exactly Obama's age.

I've never heard this "Jones" formulation before. If there is a "Jones" involved, maybe Steve Jones? After all, have you ever felt like you've been cheated?

And during those formative young adult years (which are where each gen seems to "earn its rep") you were either a punk (like me) or, well, something like this guy who didn't seem to know what he was.

Frankly, I don't think D. Boon (one of my personal heroes) would be content to sit around today and play 11 dimensional chess. He always addressed at the time the concept of working people banding together because they were (no matter what other differences) getting screwed by The Man.

Submitted by lambert on

I remember when Bareback Andy threw that apple of discord into the 2008 primariez with his Obama endorsement in the Atlantic, and thinking "uh-oh...."

For example, this categorization seems to have been introduced as a marketing category (just as, for example, I imagine there are millions of children who now identify as "tweens" even though there was no such category until recently).

So, ask yourself what the financial flows are doing here.... And the answer is that they're reinforcing the Con-Mod axis, and not allowing progressive ideas at all.

And then ask yourself whether marketing categories are driven by financial flows.


vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Stirling hypothesized that new generations will become progressive revolutionaries, and it's a simple fact that younger voters became, en masse, fundamentalists for the "Moderate" Obama. So, while fomenting generational splits may not be wholesome politics, generational voting/activism phenomena do exist (though not always to the hyped extent) and ought be reckoned with.

Submitted by lambert on

... that's a demographic fact, not necessarily a political one.

It's not completely clear to me that using marketing categories created by, let's face it, our enemies, is a recipe for success...

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

it had more to do with them simply being young. A lot of the difference seemed to me being us older folks wanting to see plans, details, things the politician could be held to. That is, IMO, a result not so much of a generation thing as it is an age thing. Having been lied to by so many, so often, you start to look for the fine print. In that way, I suspect many younger Obama supporters - those who are truly progressive - will learn from this election.

I think if there's one thing more likely to make them revolutionary it is that they have lived through the complete failure of Bush and now will likely live through very tough time with Obama, who offers no big answers to our big problems. Some will drop out of the system altogether, but some will probably also seek other ways to influence it and that's a good thing.

I should've said earlier, that I tend to be wary of generational labels, too. I certainly think when you grew up - what happened around you - affects who you become. But so does your race, gender, sexuality, class, education, etc. It's just part of who you are and so trying to make every member of a generation the same doesn't really work.

Having said that, I do see the generational influence on Obama, mostly in that he talks about our recent political history like he learned it from Tim Russert, which - of course - he probably did.

coyotecreek's picture
Submitted by coyotecreek on

is the fact that I truly feel kicked to the curb. I'm a boomer. And I can't do anything about that fact except, well, die...which is what it seems like all of the other "generation X-ers, Jonesers, or whatever" would like to see happen.

But there are a lot of us. And we did a lot of good things. But somehow we have been/are being blamed for every disfunction in DC. For example:

"Rather, it's a sense that a cultural era is ending, one dominated by the boomers, many of whom came of age in the '60s and experienced the bitter divisions caused by the Vietnam War and the protests against it, the civil rights struggle, social change, sexual freedoms, and more.

Those experiences, the theory goes, led boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, to become deeply motivated by ideology and mired in decades-old conflicts. And Obama? He's an example of a new pragmatism: idealistic but realistic, post-partisan, unthreatened by dissent, eager and able to come up with new ways to solve problems."

From the above it's clear that Obama and his gang are going to throw out everything we boomers did and create a whole new world. BUT, what has his new pragmatism, idealistic but realistic, post-partisan, unthreatened by dissent, eager and able to come up with new ways to solve problems gotten us so far?

Seems to me like SSDD.

My 64 year old husband and I have wonderful debates, discussions and agreements with our 30 year old kids. What's wrong with working together and getting the best of all worlds? Why must we be pigeon-holed and excluded?

Just saying.....

deniseb's picture
Submitted by deniseb on

This generational pseudoscience is one of the things I come here to get away from.

jjmtacoma's picture
Submitted by jjmtacoma on

I am gen-X too and lived in the Seattle area as a kid in the 70's and 80's. "Will the last person leaving Seattle please turn out the lights?"

Kids who have recently graduated Highschool/college are entering a similar economic situation to the one you and I encountered. No jobs, bad pay, expensive everything else. Any optimism enabled by the prosperity of the 90's is wearing off already.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

There's so much to think about and I'll hopefully say more later, but this ties in very well with one of my larger questions which is how do we grow that non-petroleum or progressive base. I've thought for awhile that the answer does not lie with winning over moderates, but in reaching out to folks who right now appear out of reach - the confederate base because of common economic issues. They're on the front end of the screw job or cram down. I know a lot of progressives mocked the tea parties - and certainly there was a lot to mock, particularly the media - but when I looked beyond FOX what I saw were a lot of angry and terrified people. Now that anger and terror is being aimed in the wrong direction, being used by the monied interests, but it's there and it's powerful. And, in my opinion, it's going to fuel some change. The question is what kind of change. I hope that we find a way to harnass it over time to fuel progressive change, but I don't think that outcome is a given. It takes not only ideas (which we have), but work and I don't mean fundraising for the Democratic Party. The progressive coalition, IMO, has to be built separate from any party - that is that it's not sufficient just to elect Democrats - but also aligned with one of them as a means to get power over Government.

In recent weeks, I confess to wondering if in some ways it might not be easier to take over the GOP. Although the religious/social barriers seem overwhelming, I still wonder. In a depression, I don't know if religion wins out over feeding your kids.

Either way, right now, we're really outside both parties looking in in terms of power and influence.

None of this was very deep or insightful, I hope to do better - provide comments worthy of your post - after thinking about it some more.

Submitted by lambert on

I can't help but feel that the (class-based*) resentment that the so-called "progressives" in the OFB felt for Hillary supporters, and the (class-based*) bashing of Palin (though it's not all class-based) might as well have been designed to prevent exactly the sort of "winning over" you're talking about.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

I'm reading* Zinn's A People's History of the United States and one of the things it discusses is how initially (1600s/1700s) poor whites and slaves found common ground. In fact, it wasn't uncommon for white servants to run off with slaves. The wealthy were almost constantly passing laws and trying to find ways to keep this from happening. They finally figured out the answer - give the poor whites just a little bit more. Give them a little bit of land, let them earn a meager living (instead of no living at all), give them a few more rights. Give them just enough to invest them in society, give them something to lose. Needless to say, it worked and kept on working. But perhaps with the demographic changes and the economic collapse, we can break through it or more accurately, continue chipping away at it.

* Yes, I know I should be re-reading Zinn, but I somehow never got around to reading it the first time.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

is on environmental issues. Environmental groups, for example, have been able to align with hunters on some issues. In addition, there was recently (I'll look for a link) a big argument in some of the Christian churches about focusing so much on abortion instead of poverty and environmental issues. It was the younger folks pushing this, IIRC.

I think the problem is that the media - and the political elite - like to categorize particular people as always agreeing on everything (it creates stereotypes and fuel the hatred between progressives and confederates). In fact, there's no group of people who agree on everything. Not even in the same family. In the case of the GOP, I agree with Stirling that money covered a lot of the cracks. Well, there's no money anymore. So how do we take advantage of those cracks to find common ground on some issues. Similar to what the Strange Bedfellows seeks to do on civil liberties - pull off the conservatives who really don't want government to have that much power.

Moderates, I think work differently. The best way to get them is to, IMO, scare the hell out of them by putting throngs of people on the street.

Submitted by lambert on

Agreed. This passage caught my eye:

The Confederate and the Progressive joined in the first place, because they have a fundamental emotional bond, the bond of the active and revolutionary. The removal of the Confederates from the Democratic Coalition left it terminally paralyzed, and without the courage of action.

Exactly. Civil disobedience is the flip side of militias. Civil disobedience worked on a small scale, with the Baucus 13, and can scale up.

Also, I don't know how to classify Ron Paul, but he's neither a Moderate nor a Progressive, so he must be a Confederate... And he's against the empire. So....

Submitted by gob on

has been much on my mind lately. There is definitely a gut-level basis for an alliance of sorts. Where issues like single-payer don't work at all, there's still the deeper issue of plutocracy. "Everybody" "knows" that politicians are bought, and there's a lot of anger about it that could be used. (It would be a fine and pleasant thing if our common lot could be improved using only positive emotions, but this is the real world.)

It seems to me lately that the issues I've been fighting for represent the wrong place to apply pressure: the real problem is money-driven politics. I'll be there are plenty of Confederates who would agree.

Submitted by lambert on

Pushing that has not been a roaring success.

I suppose the Confederate answer is term limits (not applied, one notes, at the Federal level....)

Term limits a disaster too -- in my state, it's led to corporate lobbyists writing the legislation, because they're the only ones who have an institutional memory.

I wonder if corporate personhood is another place to apply pressure?

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

That one might work because a lot of confederates (the poorer ones) aren't thrilled with big companies either. Concentrated power generally makes the leery, IMO.

I'm not so sure, btw, that all of them are lost on healthcare. The choices there aren't great - big companies or government - and a lot of the poorer folks are already on Medicaid or Medicare so there's a familiarity with those programs. Which is why I actually think single payer was an easier sell politically to some of the conservative base. IMO, what they fear is a complicated government program that they don't understand and suspect is not really there to help them at all. Which, of course, is what they're probably going to get. Whereas I think Medicare for All would ease a lot of their minds in that regard - they already know how it works and, by and large, like it.

Submitted by hipparchia on

for me, at least. the moderates are technocrats to the core, and are eating up all this competition will bring down costs, you can have your choice of plans, getting the structure of the exchanges just right, don't rock the boat incremental changes...

the confederates otoh, are the original there oughta be law... folks, so when it comes to exploiting their distrust of large organizations, it's not too hard to lead the discussion around until i've gotten them to talk about various ways in which their insurance has let them down, and to realize various ways in which the government really hasn't let them down.

it's not something i could do that would grab a whole group at once, but talking one-to-one with them [just on health care, i haven't tried other issues], it's been comparatively easy to show them [or let them show themselves, really] just how much the fatcat insurance companies are jerking them around compared to the [generally] much better treatment their elders get with medicare.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Who, despite their mistrust of Government, like to believe they love America and I think there's an in on some of these issues with the idea that it's insulting to think every other nation in the world can do something and we can't. It's the flip side to the uniquely American argument.

In fact, I think rhetorically this idea provides a lot of potential entries into conversations with confederates. It seems like these days instead of a can-do attitude, almost all of our politicians are telling us why we can't do something - have decent healthcare, win the "war on terror" without violating our fundamental values, etc., etc. I've seen it hammered home, but not sufficiently, IMO. Mostly because whatever politician uses it on one point (say civil liberties), then pivots to take the opposite can't-do view on another (say healthcare). Or else, you know, he got elected to the Presidency.

Ian Welsh's picture
Submitted by Ian Welsh on

ways Confederates and Progressives are very close on economic issues. There are some differences (based on resource extraction) but there are a lot of similarities. It is on social issues where they part. Making social issues and markers more important than economic issues plays into the moderates hands, because while they may personally not like gays much, they intellectually believe in social equality and they sure as hell intend to get their daughter an abortion if they need to.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

And I think the rise in prominence of social issues on the right - the elevation of those above all else - is the result of several factors. Among these, is I think manipulation by the corporate Republicans. They offered them these and made them think as a result that they share core values - which would extend, in theory, to economics - when they don't. In a lot of cases, they don't even agree on social issues. People like Mitt Romney and George H.W. Bush weren't right to lifers, they were much more moderate until they sought higher office. And I think it's the growing suspicion over the years that they are being used that has, in some ways, forced them to focus on these issues even more. They turn on anyone who they think doesn't believe them enough. I suspect it's because to them, it goes deeper than the particular issue - they're looking for proof that the person sees the world the same way they do, assuming that will lead to similar outcomes in other areas. It doesn't, but it's pretty common for all kinds of people to view politicians that way. How many Obama supporters thought he was liberal and agreed with them - despite all evidence to the contrary - because he reminded them of them? He seemed one of them, permitting them to assume that meant he shared their political beliefs.

I think the collapsed economy gives progressives an opening to make the pitch to some confederates on economic issues. To make those issues preeminent again. But that requires putting aside the class bashing and reaching out to them. Even then it may not work with Fox and the rest of the propaganda machine going full steam to continue the hate. In that regard, I suspect the best kind of approach is an individual one - person to person. It's one thing to demonize some politician you've never met, it's another to demonize your neighbor.

And as an aside, I think you may have struck upon why the Moderates are constantly compromising to some extent on social issues - it keeps them preeminent and it makes the progressives howl - two things designed to keep the hate between progressives and confederates flowing and prevent an alliance on economic issues.

Ian Welsh's picture
Submitted by Ian Welsh on

that Obama was the victory of social identity markers over reality. While Clinton certainly wasn't a progressive, I took the time to read her policies, and on virtually every domestic issue she was slightly to the left of Obama. But you'd never know that.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

to watch so much of the people who claim to want to be great "progressive" leaders ignore that their great progressive savior was to the right on domestic issues of Hillary Clinton! In fact, he was to the right of every democratic candidate with the possible exception of his running mate.

And to this day a lot of them still won't admit it. Hillary would've been the same. No, she wouldn't have been because no two people are the same (and if they really believed that then why not go with more experience fighting the GOP last year). Oh, Wall Street would still be getting at least some of theirs, she wouldn't have proposed single payer, etc. But simply having a president advocate for HOLC would help change the focus onto individuals. I doubt she'd be so quick to throw abortion rights under the bus in healthcare reform (and I suspect single payer would have a seat at the table even if she wasn't pushing it because her 1994 plan was convoluted, but much more progressive and aggressive than anything being pushed now). And there's no way Rick Warren gives that fucking invocation.

I also think it would've matter that she would've owed her nomination and election to working class voters. It would make it harder for her to completely toss them under the bus.

Not huge differences, but in an economic meltdown even small differences matter to a lot of people.

I don't write about any of this often because it doesn't matter. We're stuck with Obama and the important part is what Stirling focuses on, how do we change things going forward. I think he's right we need a longer term horizon. These two-year, vote for 2% less evil election cycles are killing us.

Submitted by lambert on

As I kept saying, the differences between the two were marginal but not insignificant. Because to people at the margin, a little means a lot.

And on owing her election to the unterbussen? Exactly. What I kept saying, again: Vote the base. As I think that many of the Moderates who voted for Obama did, in fact.

And, no, I don't "often" post on the topic, because there's no point. But lessons learned, about who to trust and what to watch out for? Big time. Never again.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

I hear THAT, lambert. If nothing else I'm very grateful for the RBC hearings last year. Whatever little faith* I had left in the Democratic Party was stripped away for good then. Makes all the betrayals now much less betrayals and instead simply predictable behavior. I needed it to finally free myself from simply trying to take the easy way and to enable me to see the truth that underlies much of our political system (some of which Stirling has captured very nicely here).

*for lack of a better word.

Ian Welsh's picture
Submitted by Ian Welsh on

issue Clinton has been a real champion for is abortion rights. I think she would have been rock solid on that.

I also think that Clinton would have pushed investigations more heavily.

I don't think she'd have been great. I think she might have been worse on Israel, but I think in general she'd have been slightly to Obama's left.

Submitted by lambert on

.... is a good analytical tool.

And it operated at all levels, too. Oddly, or not, both Axelrod and Penn (no doubt reviled because he was so much like Axelrod) are experts in that.

Do Newberry's 20% need a social identity marker of their own? I'd suggest a raised middle finger, but that wouldn't be civil. Perhaps a bird... That we could give...

deniseb's picture
Submitted by deniseb on

He seemed to be later than her. I had the impression that he waited for her to commit to positions before he staked his own.

Submitted by lambert on

... couldn't we leave the social issues to the states? (Not advocating, just throwing it out there...)

Submitted by hipparchia on

i stick to the economic issues. i figure once they're in better shape economically, they're going to be too busy going fishing, or hunting, or watching their big screen tv, or taking their kids to softball practice to care enough that they can be riled up by the likes of the tea party organizers.

they'll never agree to actively support the rights of people they view as deeply immoral, but they can probably be dissuaded from actively opposing policies that help those people.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

If Confederates like what the federal government is doing, they believe it ought to apply to all states. If they don't like it, they suddenly become rabid states' righters. Pre-civil war confederates insisted on fugitive slave laws for all states, and were outraged if they weren't enforced strongly enough. They're happy now with the federal drug laws superseding state attempts to decriminalize medical marijuana. And you'll notice that while states' rights is hauled out to justify things like no speed limits on interstate highways, they don't have a problem with federal "pre-emption" on regulation.

Drug laws, Defence of Marriage Act, abortion -- Confederates won't agree to leave the social issues to the states.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Going to own populism.

Somehow, the one making all the "teabagger" jokes might not be so well situated to earn that distinction, eh?

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

and not populism as the new brand of corporate America, to replace the current Obama brand.

One of the core questions, I think is how to weaken the finance/media vector pulling Americans towards the moderates/confederates (although mostly moderates, IMO, right now).

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

As Zero Hedge points out, the federal government used to be about equally funded by corporations and individuals. That's no longer true. The ratio is almost 4:1, individuals:corporations. So even as corporations ship jobs overseas and extract every last rent, they've also managed to shift the tax burden so it falls more strongly on individuals (largely, I suspect by shipping operations overseas). Neat, huh.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

They're awfully well-trained to salivate over any tax cut proposed anywhere (except ones targeted at dreadful things like the arts --such as our local gnashing of teeth over tax breaks for filmmakers).

Repealing "The Death Tax" and other wealth-favoring policies that pushed the tax burden their way was something they avidly cheered on, so that's a little crazy or at least short-sighted.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

In retrospect, I should've said not "always" crazy, instead of necessarily. Again, I think that a lot of the crazy stems from being angry and having it pointed in the wrong direction. I think there's been a general feeling that "regular" Americans are doing worse, they have less money and are struggling. Now, it's easy to explain that one of the reasons they have less money is taxes whether it's true or not. It's a lot easier than to explain what Stirling explains above. And the "death" tax thing was simply some of the rich - including the media - deliberately lying about something and the "left" being unable to counter it (surprise!).

But the underlying emotion - that regular Americans are somehow "paying" too much, that the burden is falling on them in unfair ways is not untrue. Between lotteries, sales taxes, capital gains rate cuts, SS tax cap, etc., the taxes have become increasingly regressive (or at least a lot less progressive). It's just that "cutting taxes" won't change that because 1) the taxes that get cut aren't the ones they need cut (like sales taxes) and 2) the real burden is the wage stagnation and crushing debt to pay for things that won't help them one whit (tell me what Citibank ever did for Appalachia).

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

First, it reeked of "creative-class" snottiness, that "we" were demeaning these people because they didn't know kewl slang for sexual practices.

Second, though they were focusing on the wrong target, taxes, they represented populist anger at a government gone awry, something that -- I agree with you -- we should be looking to channel into saner and more-empathetic frames and policies.

Submitted by lambert on

... language like "salivate" may not be the best starting point, tactically....

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

The "teabag" insult was gratuitous. The boundless zeal for any and all tax cuts no matter what deserves to be mocked. See the difference?

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

I made the point that calling people robots, sheep, etc. was ultimately dehumanizing, whereas calling out robotic behavior where it exists is IMHO fair play.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Obot=poor form
Robotic=appropriate when the shoe fits

Epithets vs. metaphors, and using the metaphors only when apt for the specific behavior.

The "teabagging" riff demeaned people for being unhip, as opposed to calling them out for exercising their kneejerk fixation on taxes, taxes, taxes. I'd have no qualms about most any sort of snark that fittingly mocked that Bozoid thinking, that clarified that they're missing the real target of populist reform by a mile.

Anyway, sorry for the threadjack, Stirling!

Submitted by hipparchia on

it's not going to work.

as bdblue pointed out, they're being taxed to death already [and not just with direct taxes]. they desperately need financial and economic relief and because they aren't financially and economically sophisticated [they don't have enough money to even need that kind of sophistication] then paying less in taxes is, in their world, the only concrete example of financial relief.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

"what's going to work." It's on "what's true" and "what's fair."

dr sardonicus's picture
Submitted by dr sardonicus on

Here in my part of the world, where we have real Confederates, my feeling is that a lot of these folks feel betrayed by the Republicans, but would never, ever trust a Democrat (because, to them, abortion and guns really are that important), so some are coming to the conclusion that we'd be better off with no government at all. It seems to me that the libertarian right and the anarchist left are finding more in common all the time.

Problem is, it's hard to form political organizations that are effective in our system from people who think that way. That's how the Moderates win - their greatest strength is that they have the best understanding of how our system works.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Hell, Richard Shelby was a Democrat. Nearly all of the South was Democrats and not that long ago.

I think this goes back to the "hate each others' guts" problem. And there are real divisions. Race is still a problem (the old divide and conquer strategy keeps on keeping on). So are women's rights and abortion. But not for everyone. Or, rather, I suspect, that if they were getting other things from politics, some of them might be more flexible on these things. Again, not all of them. But, as Stirling points out, we don't need all of them and we don't need them for every issue.

I don't want to understate the challenges here or the potential dangers. A lot of damage has been done by Democrats looking to compromise on the autonomy of my fucking body. So it's not like I think all disagreements would just go away. They wouldn't. But there are areas of common interest if we can figure out how to exploit them for the progressive good.

Submitted by lambert on

I'm for them keeping their guns.

The problem is that I'm for not them keeping "their" women's bodies.

But it's also not clear to me how much of all that is stirred up resentment and how much is real.

For example, where are the libertarians in all this? There are guys in my neck of the woods who want both their guns and don't want to control women's bodies. So...

Submitted by hipparchia on

they're not even two monolithic groups, but the Libertarians are [generally] the free-market devotees and to hell with other people's liberty if it interferes with their right to fleece others in 'the market'. the libertarians are [generally] the civil liberties devotees and [generally] recognize the need for at least some rules in markets. there's a lot of overlap between the two of course, but that's probably because the big-l libertarians have figured out how to co-opt the small-l libertarians in much the same way that the big-d democrats have figured out how to co-opt the small-d democrats.

dr sardonicus's picture
Submitted by dr sardonicus on

There are almost as many versions of libertarian philosophy as there are libertarians. That's why pure libertarianism is an ineffective political strategy. A libertarian political party is a contradiction in terms.

Sounding like a libertarian while pursuing a mainstream conservative agenda can be effective, though, as pols from Ronald Reagan on down have figured out.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

is all over the "let it fail" target -- like anarchy would be an improvement.

one guy is for selling all the state and national parklands to developers now.
one guy is for kicking out all the illegal aliens.
one gal is for digging a moat along the Mexican border and stocking it with the excess alligators out of Florida.

they're all on some version of the "fuck everybody else, I got mine" line.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on


(An old one I know, but as far as I'm concerned, it's funny every time! Added bonus, I think humor like this is very effective in beating back noxious ideas.)

dr sardonicus's picture
Submitted by dr sardonicus on

A libertarian is someone who's pissed off that Uncle Sam's stealing from you, because that leaves nothing for him to steal...

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Obama is a political brand that was exceptionally well marketed to the demo that Stirling sez will lead us out of the swamp. Is observing and considering that playing into our "enemies'" hands?

Submitted by lambert on

... was italicized for a reason. Perhaps that was too subtle. And now, I must go save my garden from lethal infection by an airborne fungus.

Submitted by jawbone on

acceptable face of American exceptionalism and world control, making the world safe for Big Business. Longish piece, but worth the few minutes. Pilger includes Harold Pinter's comments about the US:

..."everyone knew that terrible crimes had been committed by the Soviet Union in the postwar period, but "US crimes in the same period have been only superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all". It is as if "It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening, it wasn't happening . . . You have to hand it to America . . . masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis."

And now, there is Obama to do well what Bush did badly and baldly; it is worthy of another Best Marketing Campaign award:

Above all, the goal was to distract and deter the social democratic impulses of working people. Big business was elevated from its public reputation as a kind of mafia to that of a patriotic force. "Free enterprise" became a divinity. "By the early 1950s," wrote Noam Chomsky, "20 million people a week were watching business-sponsored films. The entertainment industry was enlisted to the cause, portraying unions as the enemy, the outsider disrupting the ‘harmony' of the ‘American way of life' . . . Every aspect of social life was targeted and permeated schools and universities, churches, even recreational programmes. By 1954, business propaganda in public schools reached half the amount spent on textbooks."

The new "ism" was Americanism, an ideology whose distinction is its denial that it is an ideology. Recently, I saw the 1957 musical Silk Stockings, starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. Between the scenes of wonderful dancing to a score by Cole Porter was a series of loyalty statements that the colonel in Vietnam might well have written. I had forgotten how crude and pervasive the propaganda was; the Soviets could never compete. An oath of loyalty to all things American became an ideological commitment to the leviathan of business: from the business of armaments and war (which consumes 42 cents in every tax dollar today) to the business of food, known as "agripower" (which receives $157bn a year in government subsidies).

Barack Obama is the embodiment of the "ism". From his early political days, Obama's unerring theme has been not "change", the slogan of his presidential campaign, but America's right to rule and order the world. Of the United States, he says, "we lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good . . . We must lead by building a 21st-century military to ensure the security of our people and advance the security of all people." And: "At moments of great peril in the past century our leaders ensured that America, by deed and by example, led and lifted the world, that we stood and fought for the freedoms sought by billions of people beyond their borders."

Since 1945, by deed and by example, the US has overthrown 50 governments, including democracies, crushed some 30 liberation movements and supported tyrannies from Egypt to Guatemala (see William Blum's histories). Bombing is apple pie. Having stacked his government with warmongers, Wall Street cronies and polluters from the Bush and Clinton eras, the 45th president is merely upholding tradition. The hearts and minds farce I witnessed in Vietnam is today repeated in villages in Afghanistan and, by proxy, Pakistan, which are Obama's wars. (My emphasis)

We sensed he was not what his campaign said he was; we did not realize how much he was neither Change nor Hope, but Status Quo for the powerful and Uberwealthy.

Pilger guesses there will be a populist backlash, but he is not sure which way it will go. His hope is toward progressive, liberal, and truly democratic ideals. Fairness, decency.

My guess is that a populism will emerge in the next few years, igniting a powerful force that lies beneath America's surface and which has a proud past. It cannot be predicted which way it will go. However, from such an authentic grass-roots Americanism came women's suffrage, the eight-hour day, graduated income tax and public ownership. In the late 19th century, the populists were betrayed by leaders who urged them to compromise and merge with the Democratic Party. In the Obama era, the familiarity of this resonates.

I'm not quite as optimistic as Pilger.

Via remembering giap @ Le Speakeasy.

dr sardonicus's picture
Submitted by dr sardonicus on

But with one small quibble: There's no point in singling out Barack Obama for subscribing to policies that every post-World War II President and Presidential candidate has accepted. If you don't accept all that "Leader Of The Free World" baggage, they won't even let you through the Village gates. That's why I didn't get involved in the primary wars - it wouldn't have mattered whether Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, or even Dennis Kucinich had received the Democratic nomination; you would have seen the same warmongering, the same jingoism, the same cronyism from any of them. To be honest, I don't blame the candidates too much - the President of the United States simply isn't all that powerful to make institutional changes.

Which brings us back to that same old ugly question - maybe the problem is with the system itself, and not the people we choose to run it?

Submitted by jawbone on

is comparing the cynicism of the marketing/political campaign, of what Obama was expected to do by his early backers, who provided the seed money, and what the marketing campaign indicated to the public that they were going to get. And are not getting.

Big discrepancy. I can't recall any other president whose early actions were so clearly different form his public statements and advertised polices, stands, principles. Now, with some things, Obama did give strong hints as to how he would govern. In private, he told fundraisers he wouldn't be able to do everything his supporters (the public at large supporters, not the insiders) thought he was going to do about health care and education. Some of this leaked out, but was not really covered by the MCM*, so it got little play and was not known by most voters.

His strange choice for religious speakers at his inaugural and his selection of anti-gay personnel at some campaign stops confused many people. Most heteros and some gays still supported him strongly; some people were clearly worried by these actions.

Obama's message about reproductive control and choice for women was somewhat worrying, but WORMed that pretty effectively.

His stands on civil liberties? Well, the FISA vote was a punch in the solar plexus, but wasn't given all that much attention by the MCM. His actions since then indicate the FISA vote was not an outlier in his official actions.

So, single him our as current president and the candidate who sold himself as something he actually wasn't--that seems fair. Is any worse than earlier presidents? I'm not sure, but the hypocrisy game is a major turn off for me.

Pilger says the system absolutely sucks and also says Obama in not changing that system except for the impressions, optics. And that is what his backers wanted: a front person with appeal who create an impression of "change."

Backing him was actually mindbogglingly brilliant on the part of the Uberwealthy and power brokers. Very, very impressive.

Hillary would have been different concerning health care, imho; perhaps losing that little bit of power, those "rents" going to the private sector were viewed as not only a monetary loss, but might eventually change the public's perceptions of Big Business. On foreign affairs? Probably much the same. However, the left would not have given her a pass on that area, as much of it has for Obama. Congress would have asked questions, pushed for change, as it has not for Obama.

I have to say I don't think Kucinich would be as much a warmonger as any of the others; I gather you're saying that getting into the role of president changes everyone overwhelmingly?

*MCM--Mainstream Corporate Media

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

Is any worse than earlier presidents? I can't recall any political figure doing what Obama did on FISA -- telling supporters right before an election (the tightly contested Pennsylvania primary) that he would filibuster a bill and only weeks later voting for the bill. That's a headshot to democracy.

Politicians have always lied, spun, and strategically misled. "I will clean up corruption" is a pretty standard promise, even from the terminally corrupt. "Healthy skies" is the name of a bill to throw out pollution controls. But I think there's a difference between campaigning for apple pie and against sin, or lying about/trying to mislead on the specific results of policy and lying about a specific action you plan to take. "Yes, 'Healthy skies' will reduce pollution by letting businesses police themselves" is open to analysis in a way that, "Yes, I will vote no and filibuster this bill" is not open to analysis.

Situations change, people learn more, and politicians should change in response to more experience and knowledge. But that's not what happened with FISA, and it isn't what's happened with using national security boogeymen to maintain government secrecy and the dictatorial power to imprison at executive will.

Obama has essentially said, "Whatever you want to hear to vote for me, I'll say. But what I say is what you want to hear, not what I think or plan to do. You're just an audience, and words said to you don't matter beyond moving the needle on the applause-o-meter."

There can be no democracy when the vote is utterly disconnected from the exercise of power.

dr sardonicus's picture
Submitted by dr sardonicus on

My longstanding belief is that Presidents don't make policy, policies make Presidents. Just my opinion.

Submitted by lambert on

Progressive, not Moderate fauxgressive or career liberal.

Off the top of my head, a sane system of government would be doing these things as a baseline. The framing's not right, for two reasons: all of them should be focused on returning the relationship between government, and all of them should be focused on wedging the Moderates and Confederates on policy not on social identity markers. (Obama, in his usual warped and twisted way, got this right when he said that people were tired of fighting over (what they perceived as) useless shit; of course, he just intensified it in his campaign, and never fought for useful shit, but that's another story.

Some of them are my hobby-horses, but there we are.

And missing: Stuff I don't post on, so don't feel I have anything to say on: Primarily race and feminism.

Please add!

1. Public campaign finance at all levels of government.

2. Single payer health care.

3. Legalize marijuna.

4. End the empire by abolishing all military bases abroad and mothballing the equipment.

5. Right of citizens to clean air, water, soil, and food.

6. Fourth Amendment construed so that "papers and effects" includes data.

7. The genome is a public good.

8. Abolish the doctrine that corporations are persons.

9. Turn the banks into regulated public utilities.

10. Confiscation of inherited wealth over $100 million.

Missing: Climate change... Petroleum... Education... Racism... Sexism... Abolish the Senate... Limit Supreme Court terms to (say) 20 years.... The Fed... Media concentrations.... Oligopolies...

Also missing: A generalized attack on rents. "No fee shall issue..."

Ten (or possibly twelve) is a good round number. I've got 10 already, so some of mine have to go, then, or be included in more powerful proposals -- I'm betting a lot falls out of abolishing corporate personhood. (And why not open all corporate books to inspection?)

* * *

Looking at the list, I can see how what seems sensible and straightforward, and even popular (marijuana legalization, for example) is incredibly far from what the discourse permits for the two parties, and even, or not, the "progressive" blogosphere. Yet most of them (marijuana, single payer, even banks as regulated public utilities) are well supported analytically and by qualified (even credentialled) people. Yet they're not on the table.

* * *

Note also that I think the central insight of the Founders was that no human is fit to be trusted with power over others (that's because we're chimps). They knew this exactly because they were slaveholders or knew slaveholders intimately. I don't think what used to be called the left ever understood or supported this idea (Lenin; Stalin; Mao) and that, er, caused problems (Lenin; Stalin; Mao). This -- dare I say it -- uniquely American perspective is something we should maintain, I think. Checks and balances are important.

* * *

Finally, note that the points should be in some way actionable or implementable. There's a great deal of detail in setting up public campaign finance, but the direction to go is clear. Something like 'End racism now" is not implementable. Something like "reparations" is, and might even be politically, er, feasible (in Stirling's 2020 timeframe -- "20/20" has a nice ring -- if it were framed as clawback from the rich for exploitation -- slavery and debt peonage alike, as it were. Same guys at the top of the greasy pole all along, after all...)

NOTE Yeah, yeah, I'm reinventing the greens or something. wev.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Best statement I've ever read was in an article by the Black Agenda Report:

Every child is entitled to a quality free education at public expense.

Succinct and easy to remember. It would also be very popular with a lot of people. In fact, it was very popular with a lot of people and we - unperfectly - tried to provide it for a long time.

I think you can take out 6. Most court cases I've read include all kinds of data as being protected from unreasonable search and seizure. The problem has been that the Government has routinely been violating the Fourth Amendment. Solve that problem (and install judges who believe in the Constitution) and you're pretty close to being there, IMO, and no giving the authoritarians a chance to rewrite the Fourth Amendment.

Also, not sure I agree with closing every foreign military base and mothballing all the equipment, but I certainly agree with rolling things back.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

The point of reparations is that advantages are passed down by inheritance. The wealth of previous generations of African-Americans and Native Americans was confiscated by European Americans, whose children retain the benefits over the children of those whose wealth was taken. End the generational transfer of advantage, and reparations are no longer justified.

I doubt you'll ever get reparations because in a highly unequal competitive society virtually no one will ever believe that a competitor should be given an advantage. "My grandparents immigrated to the U.S. after 1865, so I'm not responsible for slavery and my children should get just as much as anybody else's" is a seductive argument, particularly in an immigrant nation. So, hard sell as it may seem, radical egalitarianism is a faster path to social justice than the divisive reparations argument, however solid it may be.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

This is getting far off topic and is actually a topic in itself, but certainly people still living right now were materially harmed by Jim Crow laws that they were punished by merely for their race, or generally, our racial history. Reparations for those people have none of those "issues".

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

I've always thought it would be easier to sell - and probably do more long-term good - to structure it as investment in historically impoverished areas. There are parts of the United States that have always been poor and remain poor to this day - much of the African American South and inner city, Native American reservations, parts of Hawaii, hispanic enclaves along the SW border, and Appalachia. What's more, all of these areas are poor because of historical reasons having to do with exploitation of labor and land.

I don't mean to equate all of the wrongs done to these areas with slavery because African Americans - like Native Americans - have a very particular grievance with the United States. And I'd much rather be writing reparation checks to them than writing checks to Wall Street. But I'm not sure how much that really does to bring about equality. I think pouring money into building up areas that have historically had their money and labor extracted is better in the long run for the country as a whole and for the people who remain trapped by history in those areas.

Submitted by lambert on

The Rawlsian theory of justice is the way to develop the points without succumbing to tribalism.

Stirling Newberry's picture
Submitted by Stirling Newberry on

I would like to thank everyone for this long comment thread, and the perceptions and suggestions. Yes, the corporate pull is a vector, and it warps the Confederate point of view more than most, since part of what that vector does is buys liberalism for Confederates. Consider that military benefits plus medicare plus DoD work provide virtual single payor benefits for large swathes of the Confederate world. They oppose change, because, they already have change, and they believe in it. It is not an accident that Detroit is being pulverized, and that the Big 3 in Detroit employ far more African Americans than Toyota in the South, or the Defense industries. Racism is real.

As for policy, the key is less policy, than activity. The confederates want to see action, and the future of the progressive movement is to win over con-prog districts, and then, by being aggressive, active, and effective, win over the support of more and more confederates. Edwards, Shay-Porter, Grayson, Sanders, the late Wellstone, and, I hope, Franken, are all examples of this process.

What we should be talking about more than specific policies, which must change and adapt, is attitude. Convince the Confederate that it is large organizations in general, and not just the banks, that are a threat to liberty, and the young confederate moves closer to being a progressive.

The other project is killing social issues. The confederates are losing them, one by one, we need to keep doing that. One part of that is a reality of confederate life: they marry young and have the challenge of maintaining that marriage. Progressives need to be making an issue of "the long term viability of marriage." After all, the problems that break marriages, economic distress, lack of education, social stagnation, are all things that we, as progressives, want to do something about.

Submitted by lambert on

" large organizations in general, and not just the banks, that are a threat to liberty, and the young confederate moves closer to being a progressive."

Examples of "actions"?

Stirling Newberry's picture
Submitted by Stirling Newberry on

is not happy about how the war's aftermath is being handled.

The Republicans used Vietnam effectively to erode the ability of liberals to be proud Democrats. We need to return the favor.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

what do I personally do? This is my big question - what can I do? From reading your post, I'd say it's get involved in local and state politics - which are smaller, cheaper, and easier to influence. Or is it even simpler than that and get involved in community projects? I don't know, but I'd like to figure it out.

adrena's picture
Submitted by adrena on

After all, the problems that break marriages, economic distress, lack of education, social stagnation, are all things that we, as progressives, want to do something about.

Start with promoting gender equality and the rest will follow in due course.

Submitted by lambert on

How does promoting gender equality break up the big banks, say? Or deny personhood to corporations?

adrena's picture
Submitted by adrena on

is what I've posted before (2nd last paragraph). Long answer - I'm working on it.

Submitted by lambert on


Patriarchy has been defined as the social arrangement in which men possess structural power by monopolizing high-status positions in important social, economic, legal, and religious institutions (Glick and Fiske 2000:373). As a designation of social structure, it is associated with patrilineal inheritance and a patrilocal system of residence.

Sounds like "rent-seeking behavior" to me. I'm all for grand unified theories.

tedraicer's picture
Submitted by tedraicer on

I think Mr. Newberry's post is very thoughtful, as our many of the replies, and in general I find Corrente to be one of the few political blogs I still bother to read.

But there is one area where I find myself in serious disagreement-when someone like Lambert calls for closing ALL our military bases abroad to put an end to our Empire. Had he said, we should close "many" or "most" of our bases; had he said we need to return to a policy of more working through international institutions and have far less "going it alone;" had he argued that our projection of power abroad has often been self-defeating, I'd agree on all counts.

But we still live in a world of armed nation states, and the world is (alas) not trending toward becoming Western Europe (the peaceful nature of which is the particular result of two world wars and the Cold War that followed). It was western force that put an end to the murderous conflict in the former Yugoslavia; it could and should have been western force that put an end to the genocide in Rwanda. It is US troops that help keep South Korea safe and the US navy that keeps the Chinese from reuniting with Taiwan by force. Before we completely dismantle our system of military alliances and obligations, I would want a helluva lot more confidence than I have that something worse won't fill the power vacuum. Major cutbacks and changes of policy, yes, of course, Simply taking all our military chips and going home-no, I can't support that. Not without a much better idea of what happens after.

I realize that may put in the minority here, but so be it.

Submitted by lambert on

And it has no loopholes for the military-industrial complex to escape out of.

Even leaving aside the "good wars" thesis, and leaving aside the idea of humanitarian intervention" thesis, can you show that the bases are needed?

Further, I want to end the empire. I think that's a good thing. The bases are just a means to the end. Can you suggest a better one?

tedraicer's picture
Submitted by tedraicer on

>Further, I want to end the empire. I think that's a good thing.

That depends entirely on what fills the resulting power vacuum. You may be confident it will be filled with rainbows and kittens, but I'm not. The history of mankind is the history of war, and I don't think we've entered some new age where that is all in the past, or that the only predatory beast in the jungle is the US, so all we have to do is "end the Empire" and everything will be fine. The history of the last 64 years certainly has plenty of examples of US stupidities and crimes-it also has more than a few examples of the US providing stability and containing tyranny. As major powers go, the US record is no worse than any, and better than quite a few. (One only has to compare the lives of people in South Korea to those in North Korea to know that not all our wars were unjustified or fought in vain.)

I agree we certainly can no longer afford to behave as we have too often in the past-as if our military might is a solution to every problem. Nor can we can afford, nor do we need, a military budget greater than the rest of the planet combined. But there is a lot of ground between what we have now, and your End the Empire, and I'll take my stand somewhere between those two points until I'm a lot more confident about what the world will be like after we close all our bases, end all our military obligations and alliances, and go home.

Tony Wikrent's picture
Submitted by Tony Wikrent on

It warms my insides that I recommended this piece by Stirling as one of the readings for the Denver meet-up, and find that it has now been reposted and, further, has again generated an excellent discussion.

Not long after Stirling had first posted it, I began some serious reading of Thorstein Veblen, and became convinced that Stirling's three poles thesis needs to be strengthened by applying Veblen's bi-polar analysis of Producers versus Leisure Class, or as I prefer, Producers versus [economic and financial] Predators.

I will cut to the chase, and just assert this flat out, and see what other think: The big problem I see is that each of the three poles can be further broken down along the lines of Producers versus Predators. For now, let me focus on the Progressive pole. The hard fact is that most Progressives are completely fucking retarded when it comes to a working knowledge of an industrial economy. They don't have a clue about how things are made, or how food gets grown, or what is actually involved in transporting a TEU container full of cheap plastic fart bags from some factory in Guangdong, across the Pacific Ocean, then across the North American continent.

This - excuse me for using the term - stupidity, is, I think, an accurate reflection of the major social schism identified by Veblen:

. . . . A distinction is still habitually made between industrial and non-industrial occupations; and this modern distinction is a transmuted form of the barbarian distinction between exploit and drudgery. . . .

During the predatory culture labour comes to be associated in men's habits of thought with weakness and subjection to a master. It is therefore a mark of inferiority, and therefore comes to be accounted unworthy of man in his best estate. By virtue of this tradition labour is felt to be debasing, and this tradition has never died out.

--The Theory of the Leisure Class, Chapter One – "Introductory."

Here's a perfect example of this stupidity on the part of Progressives playing out in real life: Environmentalists sue to halt BNSF intermodal hub in Kansas. (One the other hand, there is this: Environmental advocates cite freight rail benefits.) Or there's the example of the opposition to installation of wind turbines off Martha's Vineyard because the turbines would "spoil the view."

If this anti-industrial bias could be cleared away, an alliance with many Confederates could be based on the simple joy of getting a job done, and done well. As John F. Kennedy argued in 1960:

The American, by nature, is optimistic. He is experimental, an inventor and a builder, who builds best when called upon to build greatly.

If you don't think this is an extremely important cultural policy, you really, really need to spend an evening or two slogging through Veblen's thought-dense The instinct of workmanship, and the state of industrial arts. Honest to god, it is at this level of cultural warfare - once you accept that this is cultural warfare we need to embark on to get that one percent shift per year over the next decade - that we can kick some Confederate and Moderate butt! I mean, look: no one else is discussing these issues - only us. Whether we like it or not, by the mere fact we are drawn to these discussions and these ideas, we have accepted a massive obligation for the well-being of the rest of the human race. It is perhaps an obligation that will stagger you when you get around to fully comprehending it, but be assured, there is no more noble obligation that humans can accept.

Submitted by lambert on

What the grass roots needs to be doing with all their unpaid time. Seriously.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

...Our country is a theatre, which exhibits, in full operation, two radically different political systems; the one resting on the basis of servile or slave labor, the other on voluntary labor of freemen. The laborers who are enslaved are all negroes, or persons more or less purely of African derivation.

But this is only accidental. The principle of the system is, that labor in every society, by whomsoever performed, is necessarily unintellectual, grovelling and base; and that the laborer, equally for his own good and for the welfare of the State, ought to be enslaved. The white laboring man, whether native or foreigner, is not enslaved, only because he cannot, as yet, be reduced to bondage....

koan's picture
Submitted by koan on

As an ivy educated former 'creative class' [choke] monkey currently working peripherally in the dairy industry.. I had exactly this conversation with some of my former classmates last weekend.

Now understand that these are arguably some of the absolutely best educated, most financially successful and powerful individuals, not to mention the most phenomenally intelligent, earnestly concerned, rock solid good people Whole Foods Nation ever had the accidental good fortune to encompass. And not legacy success either, other than in general class background. These are not rubes or armchair quarterbacks by any means, they work daily in multimillionaire / billionaire circles and are deeply involved in multinational philanthropy. These are the cultural policymakers if anyone is: they want nothing more than to figure out how to fix this ungodly mess, for everyone involved.

When I tried to describe to them the crushing, destabilizing, obliterative load these insane vampire rents have already driven onto individual farm producers; tried to convey the depth and breadth of financial and human cost to entire rural counties in destroyed tax base, primary/secondary education, employment and simple infrastructure, let alone to the lives of the producers and their livestock.. and what the implications are now and are going to be to their own food distribution channels..

They were lost, just lost. Sympathetic, but helplessly, as if I were relating an awful story from Haiti or the Republic of Chad.

As I was lost trying to express it.

There has got to be a bridge back from this.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

The only coherent political/economic analysis/philosophy/ideology which can lay claim to the term "prefigurative left" is Anarchism.

beowulf's picture
Submitted by beowulf on

Medicare for All is fine if you can show that it can be paid for without raising income taxes (though it does take money out of Wall Street's hide, which Confederates would approve of).
1. End of employer deduction for premiums (actually no need to repeal, no company will use it if employees are already covered), $3.6T over 10 yrs
2. It drives people bonkers USG pays interest to borrow its own money, so take it off-budget, $5T over 10 years (couple ways to do this, Warren Mosler's idea of locking T-bill rate at 0% and then not sell an long bonds is the simplest)
3. Close the trade deficit with tariffs, $3T over 10 years (assuming $250B a yr in cap and auction of import certificates).

That's $11.6T over the next decade. If that isn't enough, instead of raising taxes or levying premiums, put in an income-scaled deductible.