Something clearly has changed. It has been twenty-five years since Ross Perot’s insurgent presidential campaign came crashing down to earth. You could say it is unfair to compare Perot’s candidacy to Trump’s. After all, unlike Trump, Perot really had been in charge of some successful corporations, not merely real-estate Ponzi schemes. You may not have liked them, but he also had real policy proposals… and a history of participation in public affairs, something entirely missing from Trump’s resume.
So why did Perot stumble where Trump soared? Something pretty big must have happened in the intervening quarter century to give Trump the edge he needed, and to do it not as an outsider, but within the confines of the Republican Party itself.
According to Washington Post columnist David Von Drehle, the change that enabled Trump to, well, trump all his opponents, is something no less establishment-shattering than was the invention of the printing press. In a piece cheekily titled, “Steve Jobs gave us Donald Trump,” Von Drehle traces the communication revolution that followed the introduction of the first iPhone in 2007.
Like Guttenberg’s hot-type presses which allowed the mass production of words, wresting control over the Good Word from cloistered monks, the iPhone and other smartphones opened the door to direct communication from a single individual to as many people as will listen. And millions are paying attention to every word that Trump taps into his phone.
When Barack Obama first arrived at the White House, he had the same opportunity as Trump. He was said to be “addicted” to his Blackberry. But after a tussle with the bureaucracy, he gave it up, or at least allowed himself to be emasculated, relinquishing his phone. Not so, Donald Trump. He said, “I’m President and I’m making the rules here – I’ll tweet what I like and when I like.”
Von Drehle’s point, however, is not that Trump has smashed precedent, but that his insistence on communicating directly to millions signals an end to established political order. The smartphone “is vaporizing” the functions of the political parties:
A well-run party controls the connection between a candidate and a line on the ballot. It controls access to key donors, who can open the gateway to television, the great persuader. Through these and other linkages, the party mediates the most important connection of all, between the candidate and the voters.
With those functions gone, the future of established political organization is in serious doubt. Where the door of establishment media and parties was closed against Ross Perot, preventing him from reaching people, Donald Trump had the good fortune to have a smartphone in his hand that let him send signals directly to you and me… He wont be the last one to do it.
44 thoughts on “Donald Trump has Me on Speed Dial”
I may be risking my credentials as a leftist, but I confess I found Mr. Perot kind of likable. (Hey, c’mon, I said “kind of”!) I didn’t care for his grandstanding stunts re: trying to “rescue” imaginary US POWs in Vietnam (if I’m remembering the affair accurately), but I thought his policy proposals pretty sensible. Contrast with Trump’s absurd blustering about things unworkable: “Mexico will pay for the wall!”; “We will obliterate ISIS!”; “Repeal and replace Obamacare!” I ended up voting for ‘Big Dog’ Clinton to ensure we as a nation could say farewell to George Bush. Little did I know we’d be saddled with little George a mere eight years later.
Yes, social media are hugely important now. As is the influence of Fox “News” and propaganda outlets more to the right than they. But none of that matters if there isn’t a MARKET for such drivel. Who is the market? Primarily “Angry White Working Class Males.” They are so eager to embrace scapegoats for their anger about being left behind in the “economic recovery” after the mortgage bubble burst, and seeing their manufacturing jobs shipped to China (a process that started well before the Crash of 2008). I declare this to be moral and intellectual COWARDICE (not that Americans are real keen on intellect these days, anyway): they don’t have the guts to look at themselves in the mirror and say “Maybe I should have fought to keep my job here, maybe I shouldn’t have swallowed the bosses’ anti-labor-union crap.” The bosses have done a remarkable job of crushing class consciousness pretty well into dust in the USA. I recognize this, but needless to say I don’t applaud them for it.
I voted for Ross Perot. I think he would have won the presidency if he was serious about his campaign and didn’t drop out half way through. For an independent who did not campaign vigorously he received 25% of the popular vote.
Perot was prescient about the ramifications of the “free trade” that was being promoted by both parties. His “giant sucking sound” has proved to be spot on. Both parties supported “free trade” which was neither free nor fair. Bill Clinton and the duopoly in Congress enacted NAFTA and provided China the Most Favored Nation status. As Perot forecast, the US voluntarily dismantled it’s industrial base and shipped it overseas to low wage countries. Bill Clinton then at the behest of his Wall St pals Bob Rubin and Larry Summers repealed Glass-Steagall and let government sponsored speculation run wild with Fannie & Freddie leading the charge in mortgage securitization.
This all has brought us full circle to Donald Trump. Remember, he won the election because he won Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. It is quite possible that Bernie Sanders could have defeated him in those states because he too addressed the angst of the blue collar workers in the mid-west and wasn’t condescending to their plight. But the Democratic party bigwigs chose to rig their primary to nominate Hillary who epitomized elitism by calling the working class Deplorables. The enthusiasm gap between Hillary’s and Bernie’s campaigns during the primary was clear for all to see.
While no one needs to like Donald Trump the man, who couldn’t be more narcissistic and completely lacking in knowledge of policy and history, we must give credit where it is due. He defeated two political dynasties who had the complete support of the media, the political establishment and the big money.
It is easy to rationalize his electoral victory as representing racism and bigotry but as we all know there’s more nuance than that. The complex mosaic that led to the decision of many mid-westerners, both men & women to cast their ballot for Trump should not be trivialized if one is to learn. Many have not participated in the wealth increase over the past 3 decades as inequality in wealth distribution is back to the levels of the Roaring 20s. I encourage folks to watch the interview of Steve Bannon on 60 Minutes. It provides insight into our current political climate.
Not so sure I agree altho it is true that internet social communication has opened new doors for connection. What I don’t agree with is the enormous power the press had. It covered Trump like a free circus counting their ratings and bragging about it. Sanders, OTH, was squashed out with hardly any meaningful coverage. They did the same with Dennis Kucinich who I am still convinced would have won the election if it weren’t for the press blackout of his campaign as well as the Dem Party working to prevent him from even participating in national debates. But he had not harnessed the full power of social communication back then.
Further, Obama’s campaign used media extensively if I can list the 100’s of email’s about his campaign–non-stop. If Obama was controlled by his Party, that was the weakness of his presidency as well as the fact he continued to support the Dem neo-con con on us without question.
Trump and the GOP have been playing the race card for decades now as it is very successful and the media supported this without question. It is not just uneducated, non-thinking white working class men who buy into this. Many educated and upper middle class people do, too. They also trusted the idea of a business person in the WH. This has been a big myth in this country–business can do it better. Of course this is a blatant lie unless you think ‘doing it better’ means lowering taxes for the rich and killing social programs in the same way big business looks to deny benefits to workers while paying out obscene salaries to their top execs. It is fascism they support no matter how much lipstick they put on their pig. And it is a false belief you can have democracy for a few and enslavement for the rest. Israel is a great example of this. Racism has always been at the base of the economy and the building of wealth in this country; it has always been used to keep white workers divided from workers of color and immigrants so they are politically weakened as they fight each other instead of their common enemy. The press was complicit here, too.
But even more importantly which hardly anyone writes about is the GOP election fraud and gerrymandering that has reached epic levels. As the Koch network’s laid out strategy says, use the system’s laws to the hilt while working to destroy them and the Constitution. If it wasn’t for the processes of disempowering Black voters and others who vote Dem with a slew of undemocratic and illegal tactics, Trump or the GOP could never win an election as the country, by poll after poll, leans Democratic and even socialistic (as long as you don’t use that word). Without talking about these democratic aberrations in analyzing the Trump phenomenon, one is playing right into the hands of the reactionary right.
Excellent observations, Tanya. I commend you for taking the time to articulate them.
The so-called “Democratic Party” has become, in essence, little more than the Republican Party’s junior varsity team. They will get into the game only during the final few minutes when the score has gotten so lopsided, one way or another, that whatever they do will not matter. After Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — two of Ronald Reagan’s greatest disciples — what more can the Republicans hope to achieve for themselves that the other right-wing faction of the Corporate Oligarchy/Junta hasn’t already accomplished for them? After all, in last year’s election, You-Know-Her — ostensibly a “Democrat” — ran to the right of Donald Trump, a “Republican,” who, for his part, ran to You-Know-Her’s left on any number of issues in recognition of where the true center of the country obviously lay. Not that he meant any of the flagrant lies that he shamelessly told the desperate working class in order to get their votes, but at least he bothered to show up and lie, something that You-Know-Her deemed far beneath her entitled station in life. If anyone “gave” Donald Trump to America and the World, she has a name, which I will not repeat lest my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth and leave me forever speechless.
As historian Barbara Tuchman wrote in The March of Folly: “The American government reacted not to the Chinese upheaval or to Vietnamese nationalism per se, but to intimidation by the rabid right at home and to the public dread of Communism that this played upon and reflected. [In the] social and psychological sources of that dread … lie the roots of American policy in Vietnam.”
For “Communism” substitute “Terrorism” or any other “XXXX-ism” you like, and for “Vietnam” substitute any country on earth that you care to name. The government of the United States will still react, not to the genuine needs and aspirations of the American people, but to “intimidation by the rabid right at home,” what you accurately call “playing right into the hands of the reactionary right.” Gore Vidal put this somewhat differently when he said that “America has only one political party: The Property Party. And it has two right wings.” Voting for either the Democrats or the Republicans, then, means playing into the hands of either faction of the reactionary right. This intimidation by the rabid right at home always works because, as Gore Vidal also said: “Americans are among the most easily frightened people on earth.” This knuckling-under by the Democrats to intimidation by the rabid reactionary right has gone so far that, as the late professor Sheldon Wolin wrote in Democracy, Inc., “no meaningful politics left of right any longer exists in the United States.”
So, vote for your favorite fascist faction, America. You have two of them from which to choose, if anyone can call that a “choice.”
Sadly I have to agree with you. Back in the days when we thought there was a progressive movement for change we said ‘yes, this country has more information available to the public but is the most ignorant and politically uneducated in the world.’
Even self-entitled liberals show no courage to even name the problems much less act to do anything about them. Charlottesville was horrid in many ways, but it raises the question of where our younger people will land politically. The Antifa movement seems to be bent on fighting back with no apologies. Maybe we will be seeing these newer generations springing forth some with greater backbone. The murder of Heather Heyer (sp?) was also so demonstrative of the reactionary right’s depth of hatred for any differences in the public. Hopefully her murder will spur action instead of scaring the middle class back to suburbia as we saw years ago with Kent State.
Very depressing state of affairs.
I would just like to follow up with some comments made by Thomas Frank during an interview on The Real News Network, conducted by Paul Jay as part of his “Reality Asserts Itself” series. In the second interview (of six): “Clinton Attacks Sanders in New Book” (September 7, 2017), Thomas Frank says:
“Historically speaking, the Clinton faction of the Democratic Party has an enormous contempt for the left. Hillary could’ve solved all of the problems that she identifies in her book by making Sanders her VP choice. Boom, problem solved. Why didn’t she do that? Because one of the rules of the Clinton faction is that you don’t give them anything. They get symbolic stuff, and that’s it. You take down the Confederate flag or whatever, or various other things. That’s what the left wing of the party gets. They do not get power. They don’t get to have the VP choice.”
Again, You-Know-Her could have chosen Bernie Sanders as her Vice Presidential running mate, unifying the Democratic Party and instilling in it some real populist enthusiasm. But this she would never do, because the Democratic Party does not exist to win elections except as such “victories” — like those of her husband Bill and Barack Obama — serve to advance the interests of Wealth and Privilege, historically the preserve of the Republican Party. As Professor Sheldon Wolin explained this “two party” thing in his book Democracy Inc., Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism:
“The Republican Party is not, as advertised, conservative but radically oligarchical. Programmatically it exists to advance corporate economical and political interests, and to protect and promote inequalities of opportunity and wealth.”
On the other hand:
“While the Republican Party is ever vigilant about the care and feeding of its zealots, the Democratic Party is equally concerned to discourage its democrats.
The timidity of a Democratic Party mesmerized by centrist precepts points to the crucial fact that, for the poor, minorities, the working class, anti-corporatists, pro-environmentalists, and anti-imperialists, there is no opposition party working actively on their behalf. And this despite the fact that these elements are recognized as the loyal base of the party. By ignoring dissent and by assuming that the dissenters have no alternative, the [Democratic] party serves as an important, if ironical, stabilizing function and in effect marginalizes any possible threat to the corporate allies of the Republicans.”
In other words, the Republican Party exists to assure the Wealthy corporate oligarchs that they will get whatever they demand, while the Democratic Party exists to assure the Republican Party that it will have no trouble “from below” as it goes about its business of making sure that the Wealthy corporate oligarchs get whatever they demand.
As Thomas Frank rightly said: You-Know-Her could have defeated Donald Trump very easily, just by naming Bernie Sanders as her running mate, but she would rather lose to a billionaire bumpkin and rookie politician like Donald Trump while blaming everyone else — including Bernie Sanders and the Russians — for her own stupidity, ignorance, incompetence, and corruption. The Democratic Party could not have chosen a worse candidate as its “standard bearer,” possibly the only Democratic Party politician in the country who could have lost to a real-estate con-man and “reality TV” game show host. To paraphrase (in terms of electoral politics) her own glib gloating at the mob murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi:
“She came. We saw. She died.”
We see the same things. It became painfully clear after Obama was elected that the Dem Party was going to control the mass movement that put Obama into office and destroy it. Do you remember the public organizing campaign they orchestrated? There were local chapters all over the country. They were given scripts to use as they held local meetings all at the same time with internet access so everyone was treated to the same reactionary messages. Boy did I have some conflict with people who refused to see how we were being led thru the nose by these top down controlled events while they pretended to be organizing bottom up. Same thing with Single Payer where people wanted to give O a chance as he trashed national health care. And horrors that you raised the question about the medical industry and its horrific toxic drugs that kill more people a year than any other cause. But people ignored the fact the O met first in private with the drug industry and then the insurance industry to produce a program that forced people to use their discretionary income on drugs treatments instead of the holistic protocols increasingly being used by the public. This was the drug war against the people and no one was paying attention!
Mike–Regarding the Dems posing as friends of the poorest, most disenfranchised element of our society, Trump nailed them (paraphrasing now): “They’re your ‘friends’ every four years, then you don’t see them until the next election. Vote for me, what have you got to lose?” Except for the “minor” problems of his gross hypocrisy and real motivation in saying that, it’s spot-on!! Promises, promises! How are those Carrier (air conditioners) workers doing in…Wisconsin, was it? The jobs Trump boasted he’d “saved” keep trickling off to Mexico. Yes, Mexico, one of his favorite demagogical scapegoats!! We are living in fascinating times!
All too true everyone. I think I am most annoyed/ticked off at liberal/progressive people who refuse to remove their blinders and see what is really happening. Trying to tell people their belief in the mythology of this country is contributing to the very problems we have. But the people are so very divided on every level that it is hard to see where to begin. Cognitive Dissonance in the extreme! I have had people who see themselves as bright, educated and liberal fight me on this and virtually accuse me of name calling. But isn’t that the point of Cognitive Dissonance–people will fight to the death for their belief systems no matter what they are shown.
I have used the word fascism for quite a few yrs now and taken a hit for doing so. However, I am beginning to see more and more people talk about it including some prominent people, some of whom have been in government.
These conversations are good as we all need support for our thinking, but it is figuring out the solutions that really interest me. The Right wing learned a lot from the Left Movement of the ’60-70’s and used it against us. It is time we learned something about rights long term strategies and tactics and figure out how to get people to move together. What will shake ‘nice, middle class, white people out of their complacency? What will get poor people to see they are being manipulated with racism so they vote against their own self interest? What will shake people up enough that they will stop worrying about their creature comforts over their civil liberties and economic survival?
Tanya–What will it take to wake and shake Americans up? I fear nothing less than a catastrophic collapse of the national economy will be required. The planet’s environment, eco-sphere, whatever term one prefers, is in a slow-motion collapse already. Unfortunately, when those systems “go” it will be far too late to address our problems on a societal level.
oops — ” uneducated, non-thinking white working class men” — the deplorables. (Good people, if you ask me.) You lost me after that. That’s exactly why the educated thinking white woman lost. It had more to do with being out of touch than about social media. I’m special, don’t you know? Vote for me, and it’s not my fault if you don’t, you stupid fools.
Don I agree with you. We have found that education has little to do with ‘political understanding”.
In discussions with older moneyed, and educated, liberal white women we found that Clinton’s gender was more important to them than the facts of her actual career. No facts could sway them from their seeing her as “just like them”.
After the war (WW II ) I worked in the steel mills as casual labor and can never forget the bond that holds people, who work with their hands, together.
The Clintonistas have a death grip on the Democratic Party apparatus which is slowly but surely squeezing the life out of it as a viable political party. I see social upheavals ahead for our country as it moves deeper and deeper into an outright fascist state. Just like in 1933 Germany the core issue is war making that relies on both parties continuing to incite fear of “terrorism” as a rationale for imperialistic war against the world. I had been hoping that Europe would come to its senses and begin to see the US as world menace but that doesn’t seem to be happening. Not a very bright future ahead since there is virtually no easily available real news of the world and our country. Newspapers are dead and the main national TV news is corporate controlled. So the only news they want US to get is like CBS morning news, “ALL THE NEWS IN 90 SECONDS”. I feel like throwing up every time I hear that . That’s all folks!
traven, if we define fascism as the symbiotic relationship between government and big business we’ve been there for some decades already. Both parties foster the oligarchy as they fund the political elite. Have you noticed that Congress has a below 20% approval rating, yet individual members of Congress have 90% probability of being re-elected. As Pogo said we’ve met the enemy and it is us. As long as the majority of Americans play partisan politics and keep voting the lesser evil we’ll keep getting the same results.
Seriously, do you think the current electorate will elect any of the founding fathers? Would their message of limited government and skepticism of governmental power resonate today when everyone wants some form of largesse? Politicians are happy to sell people that they’ll provide them a free lunch.
tunis–Regarding your second paragraph, welllllll…actually, “limited government” is precisely the theme the GOP has been spouting since at least Reagan (I imagine Goldwater spouted it before that, and “Libertarians” positively DESPISE Franklin Delano Roosevelt to this day for the New Deal). Reagan declared “Government isn’t the solution, government is the problem.” But not when it comes to funding the War Budget, of course! What this country needs is a good $600 toilet seat for our aircraft!! Remember that little scandal from yesteryear? And of course there is no “free lunch” because government gets its funding from us, the taxpayers. Given his success rate thus far with grandiose proposals, I would advise Mr. Trump to NOT attempt to slash our Social Security benefits. Mine are meager enough as they are, thank you!
I want to address something that always comes up without ever being really looked at–government!
The GOP/Tea Party/Libertarians are always railing against govt. We should not have one because only the poor get help from it and horrors that this, the wealthiest and nastiest country that makes fortunes off the poor should actually give them a few crumbs.
What is never discussed is the question of what is govt and why have one at all. Simply stated, anytime people come to live together they will begin to form rules for how they live and mutually use resources. And that in a nutshell is government. So to argue against it seems a bit self-serving as those that do are often quite wealthy or at least very comfortable. The wealthy love govt as they get huge welfare donations in the form of tax laws that let them off the hook and huge govt contracts that are not well audited with millions of dollars disappearing. They don’t pay their fair share into the system they love but rail against those who live on meager incomes. The middle class does pay in but they get huge benefits in terms of better schools and roadways and parks that are kept up, etc We have public schools that function like elite private institutions. I am quite tired of people railing against govt as if they could live without it. What is not said enough is how the oligarchy loves wars for profit and devastation of others lives and cultures.
Sorry if this in not very clear but an struggling with a cold and my head has had it for the day.
Tanya–The railing against “Big, Intrusive Government” is just poppycock to keep the Libertarian wing happy. What is the state? A certain French king once fancied it was his own corporeal, awesome, omniscient, omnipotent being. History disagreed, so to speak. The state, in classic definition, is a body of armed men (this is taken to include the military, the police, public prosecutors, the judiciary, i.e. all the repressive elements) dedicated to protecting the interests of the ruling clique (substitute class, caste, whatever). Looking at the modern world, how it operates, how can anyone try to refute this?? Would the less-than-one-percent who really govern us willingly surrender this apparatus which protects them by armed coercion? Of course not. They just want to trim the parts of government that actually do a little something (in theory) for the other 99%. Precisely the Trump Program: bigger tax cuts for the wealthiest, fewer “services” for the rest of us.
Things are pretty dire in this country but any revolution only needed about 10% of the population with some support behind it.
What I will add to the sense of fascist history, is that these political tendencies have been with us since the beginning. The big game was how make this country look like a democracy when it always wanted to be an oligarchy supported by racism an planned on being so.
The oligarchy truly is very powerful owning the military, our public education and news, and even our body via the drug industry. We have little power in our lives at all. In the late ’60’s there was a movement to drop out and begin ones own community with its own institutions. The biggest fear of the State was that people who home schooled would not teach the bigoted mythology. They called it Civics back then. Today many homeschoolers do it for religious reason, thus, they are not a threat and often comply with basic curriculum which will not create change. There are others I know whose goals are to raise bright, independent thinkers but these are mainly people geared toward higher professions, the arts, and pacificism. Not much promise for social upheaval there.
While there is concern expressed here for the economy going kerplunk, the other area that people rarely discuss unless they are into health, is the decimation of the human genome/DNA/RNA via genetic engineering. This arena of study is terrorizing with what they are doing to the human body. And, as per usual, anyone who become a biotech whistleblower is set up for destruction. In the past 2 years there has been a slew of medical doctors who suddenly die of mysterious causes. These notably are all physicians treating cancer and autism holistically –no drugs, good nutrition and other safe healing protocols. Big threat to the drug czars but also to the game plan to control and destroy human beings. Remember the Rockefeller cabel created the population explosion myth. Today we have the Bilderberg group calling to eliminate 80% of the world’s people and you know they won’t be white middle-class western country residents. And that is part of why Trump is allowed to get away with his white male supremacy crap: he is right in tune with the oligarchy’s goals.
A very good point, Tanya, when you say: “these political tendencies have been with us since the beginning. The big game was how make this country look like a democracy when it always wanted to be an oligarchy supported by racism and planned on being so.” We learn the mythology of “democracy” in our high school civics classes (typically only one semester in the senior year) while remaining ignorant of our nation’s true history. As Sheldon Wolin wrote in Democracy Inc., Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, for my money one of the greatest books on political philosophy ever written:
“The American political system was not born a democracy, but born with a bias against democracy. It was constructed by those who were either skeptical about democracy or hostile to it. The republic existed for three-quarters of a century before formal slavery was ended; another hundred years before black Americans were assured of their voting rights. Only in the twentieth century were women guaranteed the vote and trade unions the right to bargain collectively. In none of these instances has victory been complete: women still lack full equality, racism persists, and the destruction of the remnants of trade unions remains a goal of corporate strategies. Far from being innate, democracy in America has gone against the grain, against the very forms by which the political and economic power of the country has been and continues to be ordered.”
“The task of elitism in the so-called age of democracy was not to resist democracy but to accept it nominally and then to set about persuading majorities to act politically against their own material interests and potential power.”
Which elitism, as a practical matter, has led our bed-wetting, diaper-soiling, scared-of-its-own-shadow nation backwards to crony-corporate crypto-fascism without so much as a whimper of protest based on understanding. As Professor Wolin wrote of us now:
“Under the present administration the president has claimed the authority to conduct secret wiretaps without the judicial approval required by law; to order the ‘secret rendition’ and detention of enemy combatants; to violate treaties despite the fact the Constitution declares that treaties passed by Congress are ‘the supreme law of the land.’ These and other sweeping claims have been defended as exercises of authority belonging to the president as ‘commander in chief’ and as ‘chief executive.’ Clearly, these broad assertions are related to the nebulous character of the ‘war on terrorism’ and to the thoughtless action of Congress when it agreed, unconditionally, that combating terrorism constituted a ‘war.’”
“War,” my aching ass. More like “fighting” among and against ourselves for the Oligarchy’s table scraps. And we will not change any of this for the better until we start, as Confucius said, to “rectify the names.” For if we cannot even agree what to call things, then we will hardly understand the real nature of our true enemies and how to overcome them. Way past time to get back to those 1960’s national “teach-ins” and, perhaps, even an Internet-enabled Constitutional Convention. Just press your thumb against your cell-phone screen, wait for the fingerprint-recognition software to validate your identity, and vote directly and democratically for the government policies you demand. This whole “representative” thing has long-since worn out its welcome, not to mention whatever usefulness it may once have possessed. We don’t want any more of these pointless and ruinous “wars” on this-and-that — like poverty, crime, drugs, and terrorism — because we only lose them anyway. So why should we allow our “representatives” to keep giving these “wars” m to us? National referendums from here on out. We have the technology, so why not put it to a good use.
Mike–The “Founding Fathers” were, of course, the landowning aristocracy, concentrated in Virginia. We have never had “rule by the majority.” The reason the USA won praise–from figures in the French Revolution started in 1789 to Ho Chi Minh when he was drawing up the proposed constitution for the unified Viet Nam that the US scuttled in 1956–is because of certain ideals, WORDS ON PAPER. “Certain inalienable rights” (the French called them The Rights of Man), “all Men are created equal” (before the eyes of the law), etc. And before the ink could dry on the Declaration of Independence, the “Fathers” had betrayed those words by leaving the institution of slavery in place, restricting voting rights to male Anglo landowning citizens, etc. Personally, I am very, very leery of the notion of a new Constitutional Convention. Why? Just look at the breadth and depth of influence of the rightwing media today! Such a convention could produce a new document that makes abortion subject to capital punishment, for the patient and the service provider. It could declare this “a Christian nation” and woe be to Jews, Muslims, atheists, etc. I am quite serious. Your thoughts on this?
Democracy usually means the right to vote. In fact the Constitution takes no position on voting, it was left to the states which (among other inequities) didn’t allow half the population (females) to vote.
You are referring to the sham “democracy” where every two or four years, we get to choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Hell, folks get to vote sometimes in dictatorships, Yes or No on the sole candidate. In this oligarchy/plutocracy, we the mere peon people feel we have no actual control over policies and how they affect our destiny. That gets perceived as the absence of a sense of democracy as we desire it.
Speaking of Democracy and the right to vote, I have to give the founding slaveowners at least a little credit for recognizing that their “posterity” — i.e., us — might want to change the Constitution so as to make it more equitable for more people. As a consequence of this foresight, we have amended the Constitution some twenty-six times in a little over two centuries. Of course, two of those amendments — Prohibition and its Repeal — cancel each other out, which goes to show that changes to the Constitution may themselves require further change, if not elimination. Times change and a living charter for self-government has to change too. The Founders made this process difficult, but not impossible. For example, from Wikipedia:
The Twenty-sixth Amendment (Amendment XXVI) to the United States Constitution prohibits the states and the federal government from using age as a reason for denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States who are at least eighteen years old. The drive to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 grew across the country during the 1960s, driven in large part by the broader student activism movement protesting the Vietnam War. The impetus for drafting an amendment to lower the voting age arose following the Supreme Court’s decision in Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112 (1970), which held that Congress may establish a voting age for federal elections, but not for local or state elections.
On March 23, 1971, a proposal to lower the voting age to 18 years was adopted by both houses of Congress and sent to the states for ratification. The amendment became part of the Constitution on July 1, 1971, three months and eight days after the amendment was submitted to the states for ratification, making this amendment the quickest to be ratified.
I consider the Twenty-sixth Amendment about the only good thing to come out of America’s War on Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos). However, the above reference to the states and courts shows that interpretations by the courts can have their own impact, either making an amendment necessary or moot. For example, the courts could have found the Draft — i.e., forced conscription — a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment’s prohibition against slavery or involuntary servitude. This might very well have taken the steam out of popular demands for the 18-year-old vote. The courts could also have invalidated the Electoral College as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection under the law,” or “one-person-one-vote” in which case several U. S. elections — including the one just completed last year — would have gone another way. Then, too, the courts’ cynical and corrupt rulings that “corporations are people” and that “unlimited amounts of money is free speech” have resulted in an American “government” that really amounts to little more than a fast-food franchise for a global oligarchy. So much for the concept of “nation.” So much for the concept of “sovereignty.” Clearly, this situation calls for several new Constitutional amendments, if not for a rewriting of the Constitution itself. As the late Professor Sheldon Wolin has written, the “forms” of our political organization may outwardly give the impression of a “Democracy” or a “Republic” but the hollowed-out reality of our political lives has become something unrecognizable and impervious to demands for change from below.
The Founders didn’t have much use for Democracy but they did leave a little wiggle room in the Constitution for its gradual, limited development over time. Whether or not that weak and largely ineffectual development can regain control over the global corporation remains for the future to tell.
Mike–As I have pointed out previously in this forum, Thomas Jefferson, a rather influential intellect in the formative years of the nation, believed the US Constitution would be revised with the coming of each new generation. Now we are awash in “strict construction” politicians who wouldn’t mind shedding all the amendments, which would take us back to chattel slavery being unmentioned, no right to vote for women, no “equal protection” for anyone…except, of course, the “elites” who benefit most from the institution of exploitation, which is what the system’s really all about.
Looking at the picture of President Trump poking away at his cell phone with his right index finger, I wonder what our conversation here would look like if we could poke out just 140 characters per comment using only one of our ten fingers. What amazing technology! What a revolutionary advancement! I can understand that a billionaire like Donald Trump can easily afford $1000 for the new Apple iPhone which replaces last year’s $700 Apple iPhone, which replaces the year-before-that Apple iPhone, which replaces … well … you get the point.
An impoverished Social Security survivor like me, however, could build a real computer here in Taiwan, complete with a large, comfortable keyboard and decent-size flat-screen monitor connected to the Internet through a service provider for a reasonably small monthly fee, upon which device I can rapidly type out entire sentences and paragraphs of any length I desire using all ten of my fingers — for less money than what one Apple iPhone costs, let alone what a whole series of them would set me back over a decade. My wife does have an inexpensive cell phone made by a Taiwanese company that she sometimes shares with me. It has a larger display than the iPhone. It takes reasonably good pictures of myself and other stuff — although I have much better cameras for that sort of thing. It allows me to browse the Internet, locate my position on the surface of the earth, and talk to other people who also have phones, either land line or mobile. But none of my perfectly functional and affordable computer equipment has an Apple logo prominently displayed on its surface. This probably accounts for why I still have a few dollars in my credit union savings account and don’t owe anybody any money.
If the now deceased Steve Jobs indeed gave us the Apple iPhone and Donald Trump, then I can easily do without either. I need my little Social Security check to pay for my $45/month national health care premium. You can’t get that kind of value in the United States, though, which probably accounts for why I don’t live there anymore.
From what I understand about the United States these days, half the people live in poverty, will never pay off their accumulated debts, and really don’t like it when millionaire political candidates like You-Know-Her tell them that “America is already great.” I know who gave Donald Trump to America, and her name does not sound anything like “Steve Jobs” or “Apple.” It does sound a lot like “clueless arrogance,” though.
I also understand that You-Know-Her has written a new book entitled “What happened.” As if she would possibly know …
Thomas Frank really lays it out on The Real News Network. See: Clinton Democrats Hate the Left – RAI with Thomas Frank (4/6), September 12, 2017. Part 4 of a 6-part series, “Reality Asserts Itself.” So many great observations and quotes.
I especially loved the part about the corporate Democrats sneering at the progressive party base, claiming their right to direct the party because they see themselves as “the victory faction.” But then they didn’t win. An example exchange:
Thomas Frank: “… you have to remember one thing about the Clinton faction, and these are the people who just lost the election now, okay? They got to do everything their way, they didn’t even put Bernie on the ticket, and they lost. They did everything their way and they lost.”
“This is the victory faction in the Democratic Party. This is the faction of the Democratic Party that rose to power saying, “Oh, look at Carter, look at McGovern, look at Walter Mondale. These losers. Liberals, oh my god liberals are so bad, liberals can’t win a damn thing.” You need to put the professionals in charge. You need to put the people that understand politics that are willing to, what was Clinton’s term? Triangulate. To cut deals with the right wing, to even enact Republican legislation. That’s how you win.”
“So for them, the entire purpose of this faction of the Democratic Party is victory. That’s what Clinton was all about. Remember all the compromises that … And they weren’t compromises. All the things that got done as President, which were all Republican measures, the whole point of those was to get Clinton re-elected.”
Paul Jay: “And the main anti-Sanders argument was, ‘I can win and he can’t.'””
Thomas Frank: “Well, they lost.”
Thomas Frank: They lost, and they cheated in order to lose. They cheated Sanders in order to lose.
Paul Jay: “Oh, they only lost because of Putin. They would’ve won otherwise.”
Whenever the Clinton “professionals” start talking about themselves as the “victory” faction, I immediately think of Winston Smith in Orwell’s 1984, living in his dilapidated “victory mansion,” smoking his “victory cigarettes” with the tobacco falling out of the paper wrapping, and drinking sour, rot-gut “victory gin.” What “victory?”
Anyway, a really great interview. one for the books.
Yes, Michael–1984! Unfortunately so many liberals/progressives bought into this and supported Clinton. Had big disagreements with some people I usually find significant in political things but they really disappointed me by supporting Clinton as the only one who could win. They completely betrayed their own values of trusting the grassroots.
Tanya–I was “unfriended” by someone (just an “online friend” with mutual interests, not someone I’d ever actually met) on Facebook because I voted for Jill Stein instead of You-Know-Her! And this despite the cold, hard fact that Clinton (oops, cat’s outta the bag!) WON my state of residence!! The reaction of “Liberals” to her loss has been unbelievably pathetic. Will they EVER get over it??
Eyeyey! I think the problem with liberals is they still believe in the system. They just want a few tweaks, maybe a couple of new faces. They don’t get that the system is doing exactly what it was intended to do. And they certainly don’t get the role they were given to fulfill. They are also fearful of change, particularly those who have nice middle-class lives. And creating the middle-class was also done by design. As a buffer class they are paid off well and will not/cannot see the foibles of their ways. They will die with homes and money for the offspring so what is wrong with people who seek change!!!!!
What I should add that for many/most of them arguing for systemic changes is like arguing about religious belief systems. Belief systems, by definition, defy logic. Further, when you try to talk with people about such things they will get really angry, hostile and even violent. You always know you are hitting a belief system when you get these irrational responses. In Sociology it is call Cognitive Dissonance. Maybe you know this already
Tanya–You’re very correct. I’ve found that trying to argue with a “wingnut,” to show them the reality of global warming, you name it, is essentially futile. As Obama said in the 2008 campaign–and quickly retracted, like Clinton retracted “basket of deplorables”–they just want to “cling to their God and their guns.” The future of our so-called Republic has never looked more dismal to me.
Tanya.. I had such a discussion just the other day with someone. It seems as though that “belief system stems form the misinformation they get from their over riding “right wing belief system which has told them a lie that ” many real scientists have shown that climate changes happen all the time in history”. When you point out that may be true but it happens over millennia they can’t seem to grasp that.
Greg – precisely my point. None of the founding fathers would be elected today. Their message of limited government has no constituency right now. They attempted to enshrine “limited government” at the constitutional convention by enumerating the powers of the federal government and leaving the rest to the states & the “people” but as we have seen the scale and scope of the federal government continues to grow and the Supreme Court typically rules in their favor.
The reality is that for the GOP limited government is only rhetoric. They just like the Democrats like big & intrusive government. It was Nixon much hated by liberals who created the EPA and Carter created the Dept. of Energy, ostensibly to make the US energy independent. Since the 70s federal government spending continues to rise each year at least as reflected in the growth of the national debt.
A point that is not given as much importance by the media and opinion makers on federal government spending is health care spending. It is now a third of federal spending with Medicare & Medicaid being the big line items and has grown at a rate where spending has been doubling every 8 years. Significantly larger than defense spending. Health care expenditures in the US were around 5% of our GDP in the 60s, now it is pushing 19%. And we spend twice per capita relative to Canada, Germany, France, etc.
None of this matters right now as the federal government seemingly can expand it’s debt with abandon. George Bush Jr. doubled the debt during his two terms and so did Obama. Both parties like to spend as it lines their patronage networks. Now, if reports are to be believed, Trump & Pelosi and Schumer are working to eliminate the debt ceiling entirely.
But it was actually Reagan who first achieved a doubling, more or less, of the federal debt during his two terms. War preparations against the USSR, “Red” China, and actual warfare (by proxy, except for the lucky inhabitants of Grenada) against forces in Latin America that had the temerity to desire independence from US domination. Between their spending to try to counter the US arms buildup and their foolhardy attempt to control the wilds of Afghanistan, the Soviets went down the crapper. I hadn’t heard any talk of eliminating the “debt ceiling” but I can guarantee the $US will be toast if such madness is adopted!
No such thing as a “debt ceiling” exists. The Constitution does not mention, much less mandate, any such thing. If a “debt ceiling” actually did exist, the Congress, Courts, and Executive branch would all suffer a collective brain concussion from repeatedly bashing their heads into it before raising this imaginary “ceiling” — again and again — just so that they can go through the same bullshit charade the following year, pretending that they really give a shit about “fiscal responsibility.” The Congress of the United States ought to knock off this absurd farce and just pay the bills for the legislation they pass into law. Our government looks like a pack of lunatic jackasses for engaging in phony circus shows like this.
The U. S. Government has to pay its bills. It doesn’t get to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy while staying in business and continuing to profit while stiffing employees and creditors the way billionaire businessmen like Donald Trump and giant corporations like General Electric get to do. If the Congress doesn’t want to pay the bills, then Congress can stop passing laws that require funding. Cutting the bloated Pentagon and “security” bureaucracies in half — like Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party proposed — would make a good start towards fiscal sanity. But no. The Democratic and Republican joint-oligarchical-duopoly-corporation wouldn’t let her into the debates and in fact had her arrested and handcuffed to a chair for over eight hours. But I digress …
If the U. S. government refused to pay its bills, many bad things would happen in very short order. I won’t bother listing them all because most people know them already. Suffice it to say, just for one example, that the U. S. bond rating would collapse, making U. S. Treasury Bills worthless, inducing the Chinese and Japanese — who hold trillions of dollars in U. S. Treasury Bills — to sell their worthless U. S. Treasury Bills and refuse to purchase any more. For the layman uninterested in financial details, this would mean that the Chinese and Japanese would refuse to lend any more money to Americans so that Americans can buy the stuff that the Chinese and Japanese make that Americans can no longer make for themselves or earn enough money to purchase without going into debt to the Chinese and Japanese.
I could continue listing the awful things that would happen if the U. S. government shut down and refused to pay its bills. But why bother. The imaginary “debt ceiling” will rise and rise again and we all know it. So why go on pretending that such a ludicrous fiction even exists? As a nation, we look really stupid for letting our “political elites” engage in this kind of nonsense.
Mike–Why do they go on pretending a fictitious “debt ceiling” exists? For the same reason they go on pretending we govern ourselves in the USA–a “democracy”!! It’s for “domestic consumption” by unquestioning citizens. I imagine the rest of the world can only shake its collective head about the shenanigans unfolding here since Trump ascended to the throne.
Greg – you are correct that the national debt doubled during Reagan’s term too.
Michael – yes, there’s nothing in the Constitution limiting the amount the federal government can borrow. The debt ceiling charade is just that. Removing it will eliminate the political football and allow Congress to spend to the full extent that their campaign donors demand. And the Fed can buy all the Treasuries at zero interest rate.
Japan has demonstrated that their government can spend to “grow” their economy and their central bank can buy all the debt that the government issues with no immediate detrimental effects, except their economy has not grown in couple decades. This seems like the perfect free lunch! What’s not to like about it.
tunis–Though I don’t have a farthing to invest these days, I still, out of force of habit, follow the financial news. In some circles, Japan is viewed as the disaster that’s going to blow up horrifically first. (Assuming Trump and his ‘Mad Dog’ War Secretary don’t find a way to get it blown up literally before then.) Year after year, the policies of the wizards at the Bank of Japan fail to inject a little general inflation back into their economy. Their stock market stands at about 50% of its level c. 1990!! And the demographics are terrible, also, with the aged, retired segment of the population needing to be supported by a dwindling supply of young workers. The US is approaching this demographic situation rapidly. Once upon a time, immigrants could be counted on to reinvigorate the labor force. Immigrants. Remember them?
As a follow up to the discussion above about imaginary “debt ceilings” and such, I would like to remind my fellow Crimestoppers of a little history. I lived though this, so I know from whence I speak.
First: In the late 1970’s, some Middle Eastern oil-producing countries formed a cartel (called OPEC) which drove up energy prices by some 400%. This sent a massive jolt of pure inflation through the U. S. and other world economies.
Second: To combat this rampant inflation in the United States, Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker ran up interest rates to somewhere near 18%, driving the U. S. economy into “stagflation” (recession and inflation at the same time), which drove President Jimmy Carter from office. The Iranian hostage crisis (which included a bungled U. S. military special ops fiasco) didn’t help, but OPEC and the Federal Reserve pretty much sealed President Carter’s fate.
Third: a former actor and California Governor: Republican Ronald Reagan, won election as President of the United States, promising to make America both “strong” and “fiscally responsible” at the same time. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker dutifully let up on the money supply, bringing down interest rates so the government could borrow money cheaply whereupon President Reagan went on a Keynsian spending orgy that made drunken sailors on liberty look like fiscal conservatives. Everybody but labor unions got everything they wanted. Labor unions got murdered and the decline of the working class began in earnest. But, hey, “Whoopee” for corporations and stockholders! As no less a rabid right wing Republican than Vice President Dick Cheney would later proclaim: “Reagan taught us that deficits don’t matter.” Certainly not to the ones who got their hands on the money first while stiffing everyone else for the bill later. But anyway …
Fourth: After a decade of this politically popular profligacy, Ronald Reagan left office and turned things over to his successor, Vice President George H. W. Bush, an educated man who could actually count using real numbers. President Bush discovered that the Treasury had no money and that the country faced imminent bankruptcy. So he did the fiscally responsible thing and raised taxes a very little bit to bring in some money to pay the government’s massive bills and reduce the humongous deficit a little bit. He also did that “strong” thing like kicking the dog shit out of both little Iraq and “The Vietnam Syndrome” (or so he thought) but this did him no good politically since he had committed the one sin for which the Ruling Oligarchy and rabid right wing of the Republican Party (but I repeat myself) would never forgive him. He had raised taxes on wealthy people after promising: “Read my lips. No new taxes.” Oops.
Fifth: To punish President George H. W. Bush for his blasphemous apostasy on fiscal matters, the rabid right wing of the Republican party convinced a millionaire Texas Republican businessman named Ross Perot to run for President as head of a third party that no one had ever heard of before. I still worked in the Southern California aerospace industry at the time and all of my most rabidly “conservative” colleagues tried to talk me into voting for Ross Perot. I explained to them that Mr Perot would only split the Republican ticket which would assure that the “Democrat,” Bill Clinton would win. As much as they hated Democrats, though, they hated President Bush (the first) even more. So they rationalized their vote for Ross Perot, who predictably split the Republican ticket taking 19% of the popular vote away from President Bush but winning no Electoral College votes for himself. This resulted in Bill Clinton squeaking into office with only 43% of the popular vote but 370 Electoral College votes. The Electoral College wipe-out margin came almost entirely from states who normally voted Republican. Ross Perot “gave us” Bill Clinton.
Sixth: Like his predecessor, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton found the government still deeply in debt from Ronald Reagan’s spending binges and tax give-a-ways to the Wealthy. So, President Bill Clinton, who at the time had Democratic control of the House and Senate, did two responsible things to get the government’s budget back in order. (1) He raised taxes a little bit on the Wealthy and (2) cut unnecessary and unproductive “defense” spending (since the Soviet Union had collapsed). This cost me my career in the Southern California aerospace industry — as the Hughes Aircraft Company sold itself off in pieces to a series of Vulture Capitalists intent on raiding the company’s “over funded” retirement account — but the economy started growing and tax revenues began cutting into the budget deficit. This enraged the rabid right wing of the Republican Party even more.
Seventh: Not a single Republican in Congress voted for President Bill Clinton’s thoroughly conservative fiscal policies, nor did they ever thank the Russians for voluntarily dismantling the Soviet Union and adopting a democratic/capitalist form of government. You know: that “peace dividend” that they gave us. President Bill Clinton’s two sensible policies eventually balanced the budget and even generated a surplus, the first and only time in my life that I ever saw that happen in America. Unfortunately, Bill Clinton later passed some horrible Republican ideas that now cripple our country, but more on that some other time. Anyway, as soon as the Republicans got back into the White House with Sheriff Dick Cheney and Deputy Dubya Bush (the Barney Fife of American presidents) they promptly raided the Treasury, reduced taxes on the Wealthy and went on another spending binge for a global “war” against two Middle Eastern countries that had nothing to do with the 19 Saudi Arabians who hijacked four of our commercial jet aircraft — armed with nothing but box cutters — and flew them into three of our buildings on 9/11/2001. The budget promptly burst at every available seam and the deficit spending continues expanding exponentially today. Forget ever repaying that 20-Trillion Dollar principle. The U. S. government can barely keep up with the interest payments.
The moral of all this history? Simple. Raise taxes on the wealthy and cut out-of-control military spending, a.k.a., “Government Spending” of the kind that really hurts our economy the worst.
Here ends the economics history lesson.
Mike–Just a couple quick points (and I admit we’re quibbling over semantics, but what the hell!): 1.) we were already mired in “stagflation”–ever rising consumer prices, stagnant worker wages keeping us from catching up with cost of living–when Volcker was given the commission to “Whip Inflation Now” (oh, the memories!). His rapid jacking up of the Fed Funds rate led to an intentionally INDUCED RECESSION; 2.) the fascinating (in same way as watching a slow-motion train collision) recent documentary “Get Me Roger Stone” “reminded” me of something I did not remember directly: Reagan promised not merely to make the US militarily strong (since, naturally, his Democratic predecessor had emasculated the military–don’t they always, LOL?!?), he promised to “Make America Great Again”!! Yep, exact same slogan as the current occupant of a golf resort in New Jersey…oops, I mean, the White House.
Greg – yes I know that central banks around the world are insistent that inflation is good. Yes, only 2% each year. I’m sure the average Walmart shopper will beg to disagree with their central bank who are determined to increase their cost of living every year while their incomes stagnate. I find it fascinating the economic theories and strategies those in charge claim to ostensibly increase the well being of JoePublic when in reality they impoverish the average person as wealth inequality is a the top of historical range.
I would add to the above discussion on economics that both inflation and deflation, as well as the Marginal Propensity to Consume or Save, each have their own analytical frameworks, depending on many factors, not least of which involve the use of official government statistics that report “inflation” by not counting what people actually buy or “unemployment” by not counting people without work. In other words, as our professors taught us in first-year undergraduate Economics: “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics.” I wouldn’t dream of crediting any current economic analysis based the bullshit numbers put out by the U. S. Government which will always understate the rate of inflation so as not to have to pay Social Security recipients a cost-of-living raise, which will eventually diminish our pitiful little monthly income to virtually nothing. As well, I wouldn’t credit profit-loss-income statements put out by major U. S. banks and Corporations either. Caveat everything, fellow Crimestoppers. Everybody in government and Big Business lies. This goes double for our ticket-punching, kiss-up/kick-down, fuck-up-and-move-up generals who can’t even conduct an audit and who wouldn’t know a war worth fighting — let alone how to fight it — if one bit them in the seat of the pants. (Which explains all the tooth marks on their raggedy asses.) Another $35 billion for protecting boy-buggering warlords and their opium-producing poppy fields in Afghanistan anyone? That President and Congress and military of ours really care about the budget deficit. Honest Injun!
By the way, I would like to extend a hearty welcome to Don Bacon for joining our little conversation. I owe Don a public apology for a difference of opinion that we had elsewhere on the Internet just about the time that Barack Obama became President in January of 2009. I had maintained that our traditions obliged us to give each new President “a clean shave,” or about six months to staff his administration, learn his way around the White House, and just generally get his presidential shit together before we jumped down his throat for good and numerous reasons. Don disagreed and told me that we had only to look at Obama’s appointments — like keeping Deputy Dubya’s Department of Defense Secretary Bob Gates — to see what trouble would soon befall us. Sure enough, Barack Obama betrayed us almost immediately: first in bailing out (instead of jailing) a horde of crooked bankers, and then mission-creeping us back into Afghanistan with another of those “surge” escalations that the American Enterprise Institute loves to cook up for American generals like David Petraeus and Stanley McChrysal, et al. Give the bastards a minute and they’ll take eight years.
I now believe that we should begin impeachment proceedings immediately following each new president’s inaugural swearing in, because in swearing an oath upon a religious document, they have violated the Constitution’s prohibition against joining Church and State. Keep them on the defensive, I say. Don’t give them a minute to do anything because they will only make things worse.
Sorry, Don. I think I’ve learned my lesson. No more free shaves, not even if she needs one.
Tyranny didn’t work out too well for the USSR, Nazi Germany, and Cambodia so why are Americans embracing it?