The Current American Stew

In which I attempt to characterize the political parties and trends of today, analyze their strengths and weaknesses, and determine which of them is the most logically and morally coherent, reaching the not-unexpected conclusion that the Democrats come closest. In so doing I include an analysis of the currently active “Occupy Wall Street” movement, which is not a political party, nor does it have a coherent program, and the Tea Party, which might be termed a semi-party, a branch of the Republicans, along with the Democratic and Republican parties, but no others.

 

Occupy Wall Street

It may be typical that reporters who try to say something about movements like the current “Occupy Wall Street” movement, or the Tea Party gatherings of not long ago, usually miss the mark, often by a wide margin. The blind men describing an elephant. They seem to decide on their opinion beforehand, then set out to prove they are right. So we have some calling the Occupy people “mere children”, and spoiled white rich ones at that, the evidence for that being the expensive clothes and the electronic gadgets of the carefully selected young people they photograph. Others reach the opposite conclusion, calling them all dirty hippies or the equivalent, smoking pot, fornicating and defecating in public, and leaving trash everywhere. They likewise cherry pick a few photographs to prove their point, but ignore the greater mass of everyone else. Wall Streeters dismiss them as layabouts (Duh! You have to be unemployed and young to be able to camp out on cement downtown for weeks on end.). Fox New, like others, attempts to ridicule the movement, a task which has become increasingly difficult to do because of the fact that at the time of this writing (mid-October 2011) it’s in 82 countries and well over 500 American cities, and may well represent the majority of Americans. Then there’s the conservative liars and bloviators. Glen Beck apparently is deathly afraid of the “flash mobs that just gather together to take, to destroy”, a phenomenon nobody but he has ever witnessed, apparently. “The violent left”, he calls them, although the movement closely and carefully adheres to Martin King’s nonviolence ethic, and there has been almost no violence in the US from anyone other than a few slightly out of control cops. They want to, “drag you into the streets and kill you”, Beck shrieks. He wasn’t talking about the cops, oddly enough.

Rep. Peter King said, “The fact is these people are anarchists.” “[W]e have to be careful not to allow this to get any legitimacy,” he warned, which is a bit like trying to ignore a tsunami. Newt Gingrich chimed in, “…I regard the Wall Street protesters as a natural outcome of a bad education system teaching them really dumb ideas…”. (He must mean First Amendment rights.) Sean Hannity claimed the protesters do not like this country, and that they “hate freedom”. (Freedom of foreclosure, perhaps?) Ann Coulter says they are like Nazis, attempting to install a totalitarian government. Naturally, none of them is able to offer a shred of evidence for any of these wild beliefs.

What planet do these people live on? I’ve seen a number of Occupy activists personally, more than once, and they are nothing of the sort. There is simply no trace of evidence for any of this wingnut blithering. The protesters do tend to be young, at least the ones who sleep on cement for the cause, which is something quite out of reach at my age. A few of them are sleazeballs of various ages, who always seem to come out of the woodwork for such occasions, but what I saw were teachers, bus drivers, office workers, people with dogs and babies and bicycles, grandmothers, workers of all sorts, union people, pilots, students—ordinary Americans, hundreds and hundreds of them. All of them have either been seriously hurt by the self-enriching practices of amoral bankers, politicians, and corporation bosses, or are angry for those millions who have suffered the most.

What do they want? Well, the first thing they want is to change the way Wall Street does business. It’s very clear that bankers pulling in millions of dollars every year have gamed the system to enrich themselves by gambling with our money. It’s equally clear that many of them haven’t a clue that this isn’t exactly saintly behavior. Thirty years of constantly eroding regulation have left them like so many bad children who have succeeded in getting themselves locked overnight in the candy store. They plundered at will, knowing our tax dollars would bail them out when their squalid greed went awry, which it did, about three years ago. And we did bail them out: democracy for us, socialism for the rich. So one essential thing the Occupy people want is the arrival of a responsible adult, who readily sees their sticky cheeks, and will not be fooled by childish protestations of innocence. More specifically, reform of Wall Street rules. The Volcker Rule was supposed to do that, but it took the bankers and lawyers at Goldman Sachs only one day to find a way to get around it and to write it into their business procedures. Such weakling steps don’t even begin the task when an army of ethically challenged lawyers stands ready to pick at threads to find some way to avoid following the intent of the law.

There is much more behind the Occupy complaints, most of which involves the imperial US government that is controlled by corporations and the 1% ultra-wealthy for their own benefit and everyone else’s loss (thus the “We Are the 99%” slogan). They despise sleazy conservative tricks such as those by the Koch Brothers and their Frankenstein beast ALEC, whose purpose is to disenfranchise Democratic voters and people of color at the state level, and insert further tricks into the law to enrich themselves. They hate the weekly billions of dollars and thousands of lives wasted on the past decade of pointless military escapades. They hate the non-democratic government secrecy, government spying, government-sanctioned torture, and so on. And they hate the rapidly worsening economic injustice and inequality that is rising all around us.

What can they do about it? That is the question of the day, because these hundreds of gatherings of many thousands of people have so far not given rise to leaders, or to coherent statements of policy or proposals. There are people trying to become another Bob Dylan or Pete Seeger. There is a clever flag, with corporate logos replacing the stars. There are catchy phrases seen on homemade signs everywhere. But at this point the movement remains an expression of displeasure at the amoral, anti-democratic trend, and diminution of the regular American so that the über-rich can have yet more useless money.

In short, it’s a moral crusade.

What I hope will happen is that the mass of people in the US and around the world will revolt against the plutocrats and politicians who have arranged the laws for their own benefit, throw out the politicians who surround themselves with dirty money and oligarchic cronyism, and demand a world that makes moral sense.

If they give it any thought at all, Tea Party people, who are also pissed off, but at the wrong things, will join the movement. Or maybe not so much.

The Tea Party

The Tea Party began and remains much smaller than Occupy, but did have some coherent points. Unfortunately, much of what they believe is either based on false information, misunderstanding of the facts, or shallow thinking. Their cause was not helped by the hapless guy with a sign that said, “USE YOUR BRAIN, MORAN”, which seems as close as they have come to a defining symbol.

The Christian Science Monitor said the Tea Party movement “…in its essence, is about safeguarding individual liberty, cutting taxes, and ending bailouts for business while the American taxpayer gets burdened with more public debt. It is fueled by concern that the United States under Mr. Obama is becoming a European-style social democracy where individual initiative is sapped by the needs of the collective.”

Theda Skocpol, a staunchly progressive reporter/researcher and her staff, closely questioned the Tea Party fold for her balanced report. “Ms. Skocpol and her colleagues found the Tea Partiers had a clear and coherent point of view, but one that does not fully jibe with the orthodoxies of libertarian ideologues or of elite, ultraconservative, Republican Party doctrine…

“Tea Partiers judge entitlement programs not in terms of abstract free-market orthodoxy, but according to the perceived deservingness of recipients. The fundamental distinction for them is not state vs. individual, it is the division of the United States into ‘workers’ vs. ‘people who don’t work’.” (Reuters)

Thus, there is a strong element of racism within the Tea Party, as there is within Republicanism, because the general opinion is that African-Americans and Latinos, particularly undocumented immigrants, do not work, and do not want to work. They would rather collect welfare. They willingly state this prejudice.

It takes a powerfully willful blindness to convince oneself of this prejudice in view of the masses of black people readily seen in the working world and the very visible products of Latino farm workers’ poorly paid backbreaking labor at every produce counter. Moreover, TP’ers remain overly concerned about undocumented immigrants (but only the brown ones from the South, never the white ones from elsewhere) at a time when immigration at the southern border has slowed to a trickle. They believe these non-workers are stealing millions of American jobs, and are not convinced by the obvious contradiction in their own beliefs, or the fact that few Americans will take underpaid stoop labor in the fields, and among those that try, few of them even last until noon of the first day.

If you asked people at random whether they “believed in” evolution, global climate change, or the 13.5-billion year old universe, you could readily classify each person as Republican/Tea Party folk or Democrat based solely on their answers. That is because virtually all TP’ers and Repubs, even supposedly educated ones, claim there is either no evidence or there is inadequate evidence for these three things. They are like Galileo’s tormenters, stupid in their intransigence and unwillingness to even look into his telescope. Intelligent, educated persons accept these three things because they are the only interpretations that make sense. Science provides our most coherent understand of them in “theories”, which are not someone’s opinion, but our best explanation that fits the facts so far. Perhaps it is this difference, between understanding how science works and what it shows, and not understanding it, that lies behind their claims of Democrats’ “elitism”.

Tea Party supporters are most angry about: the health care reform bill (16 percent), the government not representing the people (14 percent), government spending (11 percent) and unemployment and the economy (8 percent), according to one survey.

From Liberty.com: “What the Tea Party wants is very simple:

(1) Fiscal Responsibility
(2) Constitutionally Limited Government
(3) Free Markets

“It is really quite simple: Government has no inherent right to control you.

“This massive borrowing and spending beyond all historic proportions by Obama and the Democratically Controlled Government is the most Fiscal Irresponsibility ever seen by our nation. Obama and the Democrats are ignoring the Constitution and creating laws and exercising powers they do not possess that dictate and meddle in aspects of the lives of individuals that has never been seen to such an extent in the history of our nation. And last, Obama and the Democrats have interfered with our free markets to the point of crippling them, and then turn around and blame the free markets for not functioning right.”

These may be beliefs typical of Tea Partiers, but they fly in the face of reality on every point. Government does in fact have certain rights to control what you do. These are called “laws”, and they are democratically enacted, not proclaimed by the president. Obama has done well at righting the massive fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush years, but of course he can’t do it without the cooperation of Republicans, whose publicly stated goal is not to cooperate. Neither Obama nor anyone else can ignore the Constitution for long, nor can they easily seize powers the law does not allow, although W. did pretty well at exactly that. Not to mention that the 2008 market crash came under George W. Bush, not Barack Obama. It is the so-called Free Market, whose regulations have one-by-one been killed by Republicans, that has caused most of the economic and environmental mischief of the past four decades, to say nothing of the strong possibility of literal catastrophe from global warming. Tea Partiers hate President Obama and they hate all Democrats. Why? Just because they do. Few, if any, of their ever-so-passionate dislikes have any basis in reality.

They are ardent about stopping the extravagant spending increases, but they rarely understand who it was who increased them, or when, or that the present administration has been successful at reducing them. Most are passionate about reducing foreign aid, which they think is a quarter of the budget, an overestimation of 2500%. They are similarly misinformed about most items of the budget. But they see nothing wrong with a military budget that has approached the total amount spent by the entire rest of the world, as well as our historical and ongoing invasion and occupation of faraway, small sovereign nations under the rubric of “national defense”.

The Fold Blog:

“Tea baggers are no more against Big Government than they are against voting Republican. Quite the opposite really. They love government. They love their highways, their power lines, their unemployment checks, their Medicare, their Social Security, and their tax payer funded employment. They love it all.

“What they don’t like is someone else—who doesn’t vote Republican—also getting services from the government. And that my friends is the essence of the tea bagger movement…

“They claim…[t]hat they finally had enough after 8 years of Bush and complete fiscal irresponsibility and that the TARP vote finally sent them over the edge… But TARP is actually making money for tax payers so…they’ve really chosen the wrong rallying point. I don’t doubt TARP sent their blood a-boiling because Fox News portrayed it as socialism and routinely pawns it off onto Obama. But what really formed the movement was when a Democratic black man named Barack Hussein Obama became their president.” All heaven forfend.

In my own personal experience I know of people who bought more guns-n-ammo after Obama’s election because of the shadowy threat they spoke of in hushed tones that they believed arrived with his election. These are Tea Party and militia types, misinformed, full of hatred and prejudice. Unable to analyze the facts. Unable to accept reality.

And yet, they are right to be angry with the government. They just don’t understand exactly what it is they should be angry about.

Republicans

Republicans purport to endorse the principles of conservatism as elucidated by Edmund Burke in the 18th century and codified by Russell Kirk in the 20th. But some of Kirk’s ten principles might just as easily describe a different political ideal because they are more-or-less universal, while others seem more like wishful thinking or questionable reasoning, and still others are simply wrong, and anti-democratic. Moreover, today’s Republicans don’t seem to know and understand them anyway, having moved on to other things.

Without listing each one of Kirk’s principles, we can say conservatives don’t like rapid change; believe their predecessors were wise and therefore to be emulated; rely on religion (specifically Christian religion) as the fundamental source of all; believe in individual responsibility; and believe that property and freedom are closely linked. The linking of property and freedom gives me the greatest difficulty because they spend a lot of time trying to prevent people they don’t believe should move in their circles from becoming propertied.

These have somehow, in the hands of contemporary conservatives, morphed into three principles: individual responsibility; small government; balanced budget with low debt. These three do not conflict with Tea Party beliefs, and for the most part also agree with Democratic ideals. The devil is in the details.

Nobody could rationally be against individual responsibility. That’s the mark of a mature person, achieved (for men, not for women, who mature earlier) when teenagers grow out of their normal lack of concern for anyone other than themselves by their mid-twenties. But that’s not what either the Republicans or the Tea Party mean. Both groups are driven by the belief, spoken or unspoken, that there are groups of people who are avoiding responsibility and expecting to live off the public’s dollar. They mean people of color, particularly African-Americans, who are all perceived to be the personification of the prejudices characteristic of the Jim Crow era. That is, they are lazy and stupid, and would much rather collect welfare than work. They remember Ronald Reagan’s completely fabricated “Cadillac Welfare Queen”, and may swear they saw her themselves. There is no doubt that there are a few people in the world who fit such a description, but they come from no particular racial or cultural class. This particular prejudice against African-Americans is a particularly long-lived and harmful one.

A few Republicans are so confident of their audience that they state this prejudice as fact, and for the record. It is my impression that TP’ers are quite blunt about it. I have never heard of a single person of either persuasion who could present real evidence to support their prejudice.

This prejudice, I believe, is the source of their stated dislike of government assistance. It is not realistic, of course, because they themselves not only use the fruits of government, such as highways, bridges, parks, and services such as the Federal Aviation Administration provides, but they accept, on average, four sources of personal financial assistance, such as Medicare, Social Security, and the mortgage interest deduction, of the over twenty commonly available. Their ideal therefore cannot be other than to accept this largess for themselves while denying it for those they deem not worthy, i.e. African-Americans.

The most contentious issue for conservatives is health care. Basically, they want the “freedom” of no national health care insurance—for others, not themselves. Tea Partiers have ranted about not wanting the “socialism” of national health care while at the same time warning politicians not to meddle with their government Medicare. Even though we do have a small measure of national health care in Medicare and the new “Obamacare”, our costs are more than double what the rest of the modern world pays with their national plans, and our care is inferior. Moreover, there are many millions of Americans who cannot afford health care insurance at all. Members of Congress rail against any attempt at comprehensive national health care while at the same time enjoying excellent free care from their own program—“free” because they don’t pay for it. We do. I wonder how they would feel about it if their free care were removed and they were required to pay for health care the way everyone else does.

It is particularly ironic that corporations are against national health care, even though it is a strong element preventing them from competing well on the world market against countries that do have national health plans. They are gradually getting around this cost, of employer-provided insurance, by discontinuing it altogether and shifting the cost to employees. The best of all possible worlds: no health care, no cost.

Conservatives are particularly fond of the idea of the “unfettered free market”, by which they mean a commercial market that functions without rules, regulations, or restrictions of any kind. It is rather astonishing to me that they fail to realize, to observe, that, first, there never was such a creature, and second, lack of sensible restrictions gives rise to all sorts of evils.

The market is not and never was “free”. One of the market periods most beneficial to the American economy occurred in the middle of the 19th century. At that time there were numerous strong restrictions on trade, designed to protect and develop American industry and promote general welfare. They functioned for a number of decades, and fulfilled their purpose very well.

Republicans and corporation executives see any sort of rule as an infringement on their right to unlimited profit. They believe that anything that improves profit should be allowed, regardless of how it affects other people. They apparently don’t care that millions of people can be seriously hurt by their actions, literally injured or killed by failure to follow safety regulations, or economically ruined because of purposeful industrial behavior that caused the entire corporation to collapse into bankruptcy. The chemical corporation that operated a criminally negligent plant in Bhopal, India, where several thousands were killed or permanently injured, did both at the same time.

They are particularly scornful of environmental regulations, which they see as arbitrary and nonsensical. I don’t know what makes them forget Love Canal and it’s industrially poisoned environment, which created a large percentage of residents with cancer; or the pollution on the Cuyahoga River that now and again spontaneously burst into flames. They must willfully ignore pictures of the watershed around gold mining operations, utterly ruined, not only because the land is upended, but the water is far too toxic to support life of any sort. As I write this, Lake Erie is nearly covered with algae, easily seen from space, from farm fertilizer runoff that makes the water oxygen-dead, killing all water life. They don’t remember their burning eyes as they approached Pittsburgh’s steel mills, or the endless stench of old fashioned paper mills, and have never seen the pictures of China with pedestrians wearing surgical masks, the air so full of particulates that buildings a block away are barely visible. To them, only profit has any importance. Ironically, they fail to understand that if everyone competes under the same rules, profit is not affected anyway.

The reason I object to the conservative item of faith that says freedom and property are closely related is that this is one of the primary reasons we fought the War of Independence. This conservative principle arose in England at a time when social classes, and therefore wealth, were determined entirely by birth. The upper social class had lots of money, privilege, and power. No person born to the lower class could ever rise in class, the poor kept poor by policy. Although America is supposed to be a classless society, and land-titles cannot be inherited, the conservatives are telling us that it is money alone which determines the superior class. And they behave as if this were true. Personally, if we are to have social classes, I would much prefer to have them based on erudition or demonstrated talent, or something which cannot be passed to one’s progeny. Not merely large sums of money, which in our time of global economy can often accumulate as a matter of sheer luck or fortuitous timing, having nothing to do with merit.

Another item of the Repubs/TP faith calls for minimal government. Government is viewed as incapable of doing anything right (unless it’s waging war against small countries, we must presume). They want to “Get the government off our backs”, in the immortal words of St. Reagan. Republican press for this belief cites unprecedented extravagance and interference from whatever Democratic administration is in power at the moment, and the actual facts mean nothing. Today they heap scorn and hatred on President Obama for his “socialism” and the huge burden he has placed on them, that will cripple business, cost millions of jobs, yada-yada.

The fact is, however, the fiscal health of the country has improved under every Democratic president in recent times and worsened under every Republican president. Obama inherited from the preceding Republican administration an increase in public debt of 1.3 trillion dollars, two ongoing unwinnable wars we can’t seem to get out of a decade later, and an economic crash worse than anything since the Great Depression. In addition, Republicans have unvaryingly opposed all things Obama as a matter of policy. He has done very well under the circumstances.

Every step Obama has been able to enact, always against unified Republican opposition, has improved the situation and the economy. But Republicans’ stated singular goal is to oppose everything Obama and the Democrats propose, in order to put a Republican president in the White House and put the country at last on the right track. The wellbeing of the country in the meantime means nothing to them. It is most unfortunate that everything they want has been repeatedly proven to be either ineffective or to actively make it worse—for everyone but the very rich.

Primary among those things at this time is deep austerity to correct the fiscal mess they themselves are responsible for. The austerity treatment is now in its third year in Europe, where it has also been spectacularly unsuccessful. Corporations don’t need cash from tax breaks that they expect everyone to pay for except the rich. They are awash in unused cash already. They need revenue, which they can get only from employed customers who earn an income adequate to buy their products. Unemployed and underemployed Americans can’t be customers. Employed Americans cannot buy new things with dwindling buying power created by crappy jobs, diminished pay, and increasing prices. But we are cutting government services wholesale, slashing essential budgets, laying off thousands and thousands of workers, and so on, all the while ignoring the desperate need for infrastructure improvement and investment in new technology, for example, which would provide many jobs and bring in desperately needed tax revenue. We must slash, slash, slash, Republicans say, we must not stimulate the economy, lest it cause inflation. Everything will be all right when business regains “confidence”, which shows no signs of happening after three years, even though this is the purpose of all the hurt. The Pain Cure, some call it. It hasn’t worked anywhere at any time, because the problem is lack of revenue, not excessive taxes, and it won’t work now.

Yet Repubs continue to blame Obama for failing to achieve what they won’t allow, which they do for the sole purpose of winning the 2012 election. Meantime, Americans suffer daily from their cruel machinations.

If you haven’t figured out by now where my loyalties lie, you need a bit more primary schooling to improve your reading skills. I am thoroughly liberal by temperament and study, but I have spent a good amount of my time over the past few decades trying to understand and appreciate the conservative mind. I have failed completely. I see not just serious flaws in the basic structure and principles of conservatism, but failure to provide workable, practical solutions for our national problems, and a deliberate disdain for the fortunes of our least prosperous citizens. What they want to do benefits only the rich, which is antithetical to genuine democracy.

Almost none of what conservatives say makes the slightest sense to me. Take, for example, some conservatives’ great fear that we must make war in the Middle East lest we be forced to fight an epic war at home. Better fight Al Qaeda in Iraq, they said, rather than Long Island. But Al Qaeda had no presence in Iraq until well after we invaded. Their reasoning is bass ackwards. Our terrible war machine has killed hundreds of thousands in the Middle East, and fueled rising hatred of America and Americans among those peoples. If anything, this would be motivation for waging war against America in America. But no Muslim or Arabic or Middle Eastern nation has ever shown any such interest. It is only the hatred we ourselves have created, either because of our military actions or because of our rapacious corporate practices, that has markedly increased worldwide terrorism focused on the United States and random American citizens.

Conservatives claim to be believers in the Constitution. They claim to have a direct line to understanding the founding fathers, and their true intent. But they don’t. There was a great deal of contention about almost everything among the founding fathers, and the Constitution represents their best compromise, forged in the heat of that moment. And it was a pretty wise compromise, an extraordinary and unprecedented new thing. But nobody today can speak for the true beliefs of the founding fathers because there was no such thing.

The Constitution clearly calls for separation of church and state, but a great many conservatives believe this is officially a Christian nation. They either believe the Constitution established a Christian nation (in spite of the Constitution’s specific prohibition against doing so), don’t believe there is anyone in the US who is not Christian, or they simply discount the 25% of us who are not Christian, and expect to override our opinions and beliefs. Needless to say, those in that quarter of non-Christians are not fond of any of these ideas.

The Constitution does not establish and maintain social classes based on wealth, birth, or anything else. The founding fathers did this purposely, because their long experience with European monarchies and social classes had convinced them of their inherent evils. That, in fact, was the American miracle, the new type of government the world had never seen: the classless society, where everyone had an equal chance.

Democrats

Democrats correctly believe that the nation was built to serve the least among us as well as the greatest, that all are equal before the law, and that no person should be limited by artificial constraints or the accident of one’s birth, sentiments clearly expressed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Conservatives have somehow corrupted this to mean that there should be no impediments to the accumulation of wealth, and that wealth alone should create the upper class. Their belief in the symbiosis of freedom and property lies on the other side of our Constitutional guarantee of equality, suggesting that property means freedom, regardless how it was gained, whereas Democrats believe that freedom is due to all, and justice must bow before nothing, particularly property, that is, money.

If there is any justifiable complaint against Democrats it lies in the frequent accusations of elitism from conservative quarters. That said, who are Congressional Republicans—many of whom attended Ivy League schools as “legacy” students, that is, on their father’s or grandfather’s coattails, and paid for by their wealthy family—to be calling anyone “elitist”, no matter who they accuse? But they don’t really want to prove the elitism of Democrats, they just want to claim it in order to attract the votes of less sophisticated citizens who resent people they think look down on them. Republicans assist such people by telling them exactly who looks down on them—Democrats. That way Republicans themselves can sound like actual democrats in spite of their wealth and non-democratic ideals.

But what does elitism mean? My dandy computer dictionary tells me that elitism means: 1. Belief in the concept of superiority; 2. Belief in control by a small group; 3. Control by a small group. Well, #2 and #3 are out for Democrats, because Demos, far more than Repubs, believe in inclusiveness, in the equality of treatment that is an essential part of our foundational legal framework. It is Republicans who believe in a ruling class established on the basis of wealth, and so behave.

But what about the concept of superiority? Actually, Democrats and Republicans may not be far apart on that one. Are some people superior to others? It seems obviously true. Are there superior classes, or races, or cultures, or castes? Assuredly not. After centuries of trying to decide what superiority means, what it actually consists of, the question remains open, yet we all accept that some people are better at certain things than others. The same has never been demonstrated for races or other large groups of people.

Meantime, are Democrats more elitist than Republicans? I doubt it. If anything, it’s the opposite, because Democrats uphold the stated intent of the Constitution to treat every person equally before the law. Republicans, particularly Tea Party Republicans, believe that certain classes of people are inherently inferior, expect to live off of public monies, and therefore should be denied equality. These inferior classes of people are openly stated to be people of color, particularly African-Americans.

What Republicans are really talking about when they speak of Democratic elitism is attitude. I would concede that certain representatives of both parties behave as elitists when they dismiss less sophisticated persons without hearing them out. That is, they fail to appreciate that such people have human value, and may well perform very well at their occupation, be it noble or pedestrian. Democrats, after all, are concentrated on the coasts, and sometimes fail to understand that people who live in “flyover land” may be just as talented and worthy as they, even if they earn their income in different ways. Republicans avoid the accusation of elitism by claiming that because Democrats are elitist, they could not be elitist themselves. So far the deceit has worked pretty well.

But neither intelligent thought, superior reasoning powers, nor educational achievement are signs of elitism. They are signs of ability and accomplishment. To prefer to have someone in a position of responsibility because they are not in some sense elite would be the height of folly. Do we want someone who didn’t have the native wit to graduate from high school to head a corporation with hundreds of workers? Of course not, but we ought to be very happy to have that same person in a job in that very company if it suits her abilities, as long as she does it well. Elitism cannot mean a preference for using suitable talent where it is needed. Elitism comes closer to describing the typical conservative belief that anyone who becomes “upper class” because they are rich is inherently superior.

In summary

My not-unbiased but carefully studied opinion is that the liberal Democratic Party comes closest to serving the Constitution and the real needs of the people of the United States. I believe this is true because the foundational elements of the conservative Republican Party, as well as every element of their practice, is designed to serve not the whole population, but only the wealthiest element, whereas a clearly stated goal of our Constitution, as well as the Democratic Party ideal from its inception, is to serve the people, the whole population.

This trend toward plutocracy with Republicanism has become increasingly obvious since the administration of President Reagan. Reagan and every Republican president since has succeeded in gradually dismantling the controls that kept greed in check, and balance in place, in our financial markets as well as in our corporate activities. This has served neither the economic health of the country nor the wellbeing of the general population, while creating a tiny population of super-rich who not only own a far too concentrated portion of the national wealth, but also directly control the political processes that made it. This comes at the cost of everyone else, and its truth can be found in steadily increasing national and international dissatisfaction as represented in the US by the Occupy Wall Street movement.

I accuse Republican conservatives of flagrant dishonesty and deliberate deception in attempting to justify their political power ploy. I accuse them of deliberately making conditions worse for most Americans by purposely thwarting all Democratic proposals and refusing all political cooperation, their entire goal being to win the 2012 presidential election, at the cost of the national economic health and the suffering of many millions. This I believe they can only accomplish by deliberate distortion of facts and by outright lies.

Even so, I am more concerned that their grand plan of concentrating wealth simply has not worked for the betterment of the country. Their claim is that concentration of capital wealth among the rich will lead to the greatest and most generally beneficial wealth among the general population. This has repeatedly been disproven; concentrated wealth remains concentrated, with no particular benefit for others. The numbers to support their claims otherwise are simply not there.

Of particular import in the years since the economic collapse of 2008 is the conservative insistence that sharp reduction of government spending is needed to restore economic health. While I as well as most liberal economists agree that under most conditions the federal budget should be balanced for long term health, and the national debt kept low, fiscal austerity in the present situation of high unemployment, vast military costs, and low tax revenue has made the country increasingly weak. This is not a new conclusion. Those who have studied the Great Depression and economic declines and stagnation in Argentina, Japan, and other nations have repeatedly found that to be the case.

The probability that the conservative Republican plan can return normality to the American political-economic scene is practically zero, and is leading to an anti-democratic condition of increasing inequality. Success and a social structure representative of true democracy are far more likely with Democratic principles.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. John, this is brilliant. You clearly articulate so many rational arguments for the liberal point of view. And your “J’accuse” summation is a true call-to-arms. Bravo!

    Perhaps you have already taken on this topic and I have missed it, but if not — some day, give me a way to talk to southerners who believe that Republicanism is Christian, and the Democrats are godless (i.e., evil, because of course if you aren’t living your life in fear of the prospect of eternal damnation, you are evil, q.e.d.). Therefore, they can justify all sorts of Republican policies that truly are evil, because the proponents are “Christian.” Really???

    Like


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