Sunday, November 29, 2020

Election Post-Mortem 2020

What went wrong?  Oh yes, the monster has been routed, whether he agrees to go quietly into the night or not.  He even pre-announced his intention of not accepting his own firing.  The abject cowardice of his obsequious Congressional enablers is more troubling.  The man has trashed all national and international standards of decency, morality, honesty and diplomacy while showing nothing but contempt for science and the rule of law.  That he would be removed was largely a foregone conclusion, but beyond that, how do you explain what would otherwise be a Republican victory?

The paid punditry has rushed in to say that it was the progressive wing of the Democratic Party that pushed too far left.  Rubbish!!  The Democratic Party is now significantly to the right of Richard Nixon's Republican Party of  fifty years ago.  The absurdity of the pundits' claim was best seen in Florida where the voters went for Trump by a sizable margin on the same ballot that they supported a referendum mandating a $15./hour minimum wage, a policy opposed by the entire GOP, as well as by Biden, the corporate Democrats and the oligarchy.  

After wondering how a man who. inspires so much undiluted disgust could remain in contention in a national election, I realized that anyone so hated by the Establishment would automatically prove popular to a sizable portion of the populace.  Americans have always had a soft spot for renegades, criminals and other outrageous characters, from Billy the Kid and Bonnie and Clyde to the boys from Enron and Michael Milken.

Thinking further back, way back, to my own adolescence, I recalled the times I went to exhibitions of pro wrestling where I loudly cheered on the nefarious deeds of the villains and reveled in the shock I induced in the dim but sentimental matrons in attendance.  The rebellious spirit of my inner brat did not readily fall in line with fake establishment heroes and the sight of John Wayne in any movie filled me with contempt.  My cinematic heroes at the time ran to type-cast knife wielders such as Jack Palance, Henry Silva and Charles Bronson.  Who knows how I avoided growing up to be one of the Proud Boys?

While some of our youthful enthusiasms live on into old age, usually adolescent rebellion is overcome with time.  Not always.  In all those pick-up trucks trying to run a Biden campaign bus off the road in Texas, it seems like there were a lot of sixty-year-old adolescents brandishing their guns and their battle flags.

No aspect of the GOP strategy is more central to its success than its ability to provoke the prolongation of adolescent rebellion in its electorate, all in unwitting service to the oligarchy.  The "you can't take our guns" of these aging dudes sounds exactly the same, in tone and emotional intensity, as the bleating lament of our entitled fifteen-year-olds, " you can't take my iphone!".

Identity politics has nearly killed the Democratic Party.  We hear over and over that white people will soon be a minority.  Nobody wants to hear this except some people who identify with a minority which has no chance of ever becoming a majority.  We may vary in complexion, language, ethnicity and traditions, but we're all one big complicated family.  Family life can be difficult at times but denying the bond is not the answer.   The Republican Party has shamelessly magnified our differences to foster hatred and contempt in order to maintain minority control of the government but Democrats, whether from misguided idealism or simple stupidity, have jumped at the bait, continuing to foster racist terminology, dividing people into arbitrary categories, serving no purpose other than making us lose sight of our common interests.

Following the election, this phenomenon reached comic depths as Kamala Harris was heralded as the first woman of color, the first Asian American and the first African American* to ever be elected to the vice presidency.  She already brought a lot of identities to the table and she even has a seldom mentioned Jewish husband.

* Her father was Jamaican.  Does that count extra, or a little less, given the size of the island? 

In an earlier post here about five years ago, I decided that I would not run for public office, no matter how good the perks.  While probably seen by others as a WASP, I tend to reject such classification.  My family was mostly Dutch, of the Calvinist Dutch Reformed faith, and I've felt little in common with the real WASPS, the British, whom I hold responsible for everything from colonialism to overcooked beef to the lack of of mixing taps in household bathroom fixtures.   

Had I not renounced any political candidacy, what would my political identity be?  Religion and national origin were clearly of no help.  However, since early childhood I've always been a Boston Red Sox fan  and since adolescence a LA Rams fan.  Although I haven't seen a baseball game for several decades, I still identify as a Red Sox fan.  Would that bring me political support?  Some people who might agree with my political positions might also be NY Yankees fans or SF 49ers fans.  Worse yet, I fear some Red Sox fans might even be in the MAGA camp.

The "racial" categories commonly used by pollsters and the media in the US are white, black and Hispanic, the latter term sometimes being exchanged with Latino, or even the mysterious and totally confusing "Latinx".  The European Union has made some headway in defusing the resentments that have divided the Germans, the French, Greeks, Scandinavians and the Italians over centuries, but if if weren't for Bill Clinton, the affable Irish would still be killing each other over the family religion.  If Europeans have had so much trouble getting their act   together, what can we expect from the Spanish speakers from all over the world?  Do Battista Cubans, a powerful force in the politics of Florida and New Jersey, identify as people of color?  Do they have anything in common with people fleeing rape and murder carried out by CIA-backed regimes in Central America?

Gunnar Myrdal, a Swedish sociologist, studied race in the US in the 1940's and concluded that while Americans persisted in seeing race as a binary distinction between black and white, something like 80% of the what is known as the black community was actually made up of a combination of black and white ancestry.  That was seventy-five years ago.  By now, both the black and white gene pools have been spiced up by infusions of genes from other minorities that we weren't even aware of seventy-five years ago.

While it may be in vogue for politicians liker Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard and even Elizabeth Warren to identify themselves as women of color, they are doing no favor to democracy or the Democratic Party.  I'm sure that they meant no harm so let's bail them out.  We're all people of color.  I'm sort of a jaundiced pink myself.  Just don't make me a part of any sallow pink voting block.

The character of a candidate and the candidate's position on the issues were traditionally the basis of election choices although how your father voted and how well you got along with him may have had a more tangible effect.

Over the past four years the concept of "character" has been erased from public discourse.  In theory issues should therefore matter more than ever.  In this election year there were two issues of overriding importance: climate change, and the rapidly expanding gap between rich and poor.  After Jay Inslee was out of the race, climate change was barely mentioned again, although our grandchildren's future is very much in play.  Once the Establishment had crushed the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, discussion of the wealth gap was off limits and the election devolved into a referendum on the unfitness of Mr. Trump to occupy high office, in effect, a national impeachment referendum to supersede the failed effort in Congress.  Once again, the public was out ahead of the Senate.  Issues played even less a part than did the abandoned concept of character.

There were and are many other issues about which people can disagree, sometimes with great passion and conviction.  Most of them will not determine the survival of the planet, the civilization or the country but they will continue to be a basis for political discussion, activism, compromise and legislation.  A quick. and partial list of such concerns might include:

Abortion, Anti-trust laws, Border control,  Campaign finance, Capital punishment,  Corruption, Deficit spending, Drug legalization, Environmental protection, For profit prisons, Fracking, Free speech, Free Trade, Gerrymandering, Gun control, Immigration, Law and Order vs rights to protest, LBGT rights, Military deployment, Military spending,  Parental rights, Press freedom, Public Education, Single payer health care, Student loans, Taxation, Voter suppression, Whistle blower protection.

Articles and books have been written advocating different positions on all of these topics. Many of the issues, such as those related to health care and education, are simply derivatives of the major problem of the great economic divide.

Unfortunately, the DNC made fundamentally the same mistakes in 2020 as it had in 2016.  Real issues were downplayed or banned from discussion.  The candidate selection was just as rigged as the last time except that instead of the Establishment candidate being crowned from the start,  his triumph had to be hastily arranged after a panic attack brought on by an unacceptably democratic candidate becoming the surprise (to the DNC) frontrunner.  Aided by the breakout of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Establishment triumph was engineered in South Carolina, a state which went on to fully back Trump and the worse of his minions in the general election.  

Voters had had four years to see that Trump was not just a colorful renegade but a dangerous sociopath whose incompetence was killing hundreds of thousands of people, while Joe Biden was promoted as a nice man, less bloodthirsty than Hillary Clinton, but still capable of bringing a nostalgic return to the normalcy that voters rejected in 2016.  Biden is in fact likable.  Not many politicians can sustain long political careers without having some sort of innate likability.  (There are always rare exceptions such as Mitch McConnell).  Biden supported the illegal invasion of Iraq and virtually every other policy favoring corporations over people but then, so did most of the other people in Congress, and some of them have no likability component whatsoever. 

One might have expected that the outrages of Trump would have led to the dissolution of the Republican Party but alas, the Democratic Party refused to unlearn its skill at shooting itself in the foot.  Not only has it adhered to the divisive ways of racially charged politics,  it has informally established a "litmus test" of officially approved positions of the Democratic Party.  Many of these policies have been attributed to the "progressive wing" of the party but all the original candidates payed lip service to the approved dogma.  Ironically, the progressive candidates, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren  and a few more, kept their eye on the ball and concentrated of the two big issues of the day.  Meanwhile, the Establishment candidates, from Amy Klobuchar and Mayor Pete to Beto O'Rourke and a dozen more tended to focus on identity politics, abortion rights and gender denial while pushing aside any talk of universal health care or a living wage as being too radical for America.

The new dogma of the DNC centers on a number of philosophic or even theological givens which we don't recall ever being discussed or debated anywhere.  One is the divine status of "diversity" as an absolute good.  Is diversity a value to be cherished, a goal to be achieved or simply a fact of existence?  What constitutes diversity?  Those questions received even less attention than climate change.

Another resolves around "rights".  Rights have been fought for and expanded over recent centuries and often described as "God given rights" even by people who did not acknowledge the existence of God.  The Declaration of Independence was a prime example and we should all be grateful for the audacious use of this linguistic device.  There is a danger in such usage, in that whatever some of us may claim, none of us has a direct line to God, even with the development of Skype and WhatsApp.  We must be careful when dealing with theological absolutists, whether they be Texas evangelists supporting genocide so that Christ can safely return to the Middle East,  pious souls who place the birth rights of fetuses above all other human concerns, or entitled secular teens whose divine right to health care must include free, confidential and unfettered access to abortion, genital mutilation, methadone and whatever other new need comes on-line.

Terminology has its limits.  "Liberal" in Europe usually means laissez faire economic policy, i.e. the lack of taxes and regulations, while in the US it has more social connotations, a sort of soft libertarianism with a strong dose of live and let live.  With the country and the world facing a dramatic shift toward neo-feudalism, live and let live just wasn't cutting it so progressives and populists came to the fore, pushing for real change.  Trump rode this wave to the White House, where he proved to be a complete fraud, dissipating and stealing public resources and subsidizing the oligarchy while oppressing and insulting the needy at every opportunity.      

On the other side, real populists have lost their way, opting for binary racist terminology, despite albinos, the real white people, being even more rare in the human community than transgendered people, while rejecting the more tangible binary distinction between people born male or female.

Worse still, the authoritarian mindset of some of the progressives emerged at just the most inopportune moment.  While liberal coastal city dwellers may be aghast at the perceived menace of gun-totin' Proud Boys at provincial Trump rallies doing convincing reenactments, complete with recycled Nazi and Confederate symbols, of Nazi mass gatherings in the Germany of the 1930's, they seem oblivious of the fears of many people throughout the country of a "Democratic regime" intent, not only on taking away their guns, but on making unapproved speech a punishable crime.

Protest against genocide is now a crime in California and other liberal states if the genocide is carried out by a nation considered a favored ally.  LBGT issues are no longer a liberal matter of live and live let but an activist campaign of  indoctrination of children, opposition to which can lose you your job, your business or even your children.

I can't imagine many voters refusing to vote for Democrats out of fear of having affordable health care being imposed of them but I can imagine some being so appalled by hearing of college students demanding safe zones on campus where they can't be exposed to ideas that might make them uncomfortable, that they would consider Trump and cohorts less dangerous than anyone backing such concepts.

Much of our future, if we survive the pandemic, will depend on the actions of a few people, starting with Joe Biden.    More than on Biden, our political future may rest with the people of Georgia, led by the resilient Stacey Abrams.  If they can replicate their November success, and the insider trading duo of David Perdue and Kelly (Marie Antoniette) Loeffler can be sent to their gilded early retirement, there may yet be hope for the country.  It is not a given.  Koch Industries is sparing no expense to crush such hopes.  

In my youth there was talk of a New South.  It's late but maybe now's the time.


If you enjoyed this blog, you can express your appreciation by sending off a few dollars to the campaigns of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

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