The Republican Party – Art of the Bad Deal

GOP - Art of the Bad Deal
Contemporary Republicans often like to grab some semblance of righteousness by claiming (correctly) that it was the Grand Ole Party that became the political vessel to end the immoral practice of slavery in this country, and brought forth the 13th through 15th amendments. However, the Party of Lincoln has been dead for decades now and has more in common with George Wallace. In fact, the obscure political party (American Independent Party) who nominated Wallace in ’68 finally did win the presidency because their nominee in 2016 won. That nominee was Donald J. Trump — 45th President of the United States.

A Dispatch from Trumpistan —

I didn’t know where to start with this one. I’ve been putting this one off for awhile now. The events of the last week regarding President Trump’s (yes folks, he’s our president, just not a particularly good one) saber-rattling with North Korea, a country of 25 billion in GDP, which is less than most U.S. states, his bizarre tweets and statements inflaming the situation, and his continued disrespect for the office of the Presidency, made this one hard to focus on without addressing the elephant in the room.

Last night and today #Charlottesville has been trending and the videos we’ve witnessed have been terrifying, saddening, maddening, and any other adjective you could use to describe what is more or less a moral rock bottom. President Trump described the collection of “Unite the Right” activists from Alt-Right, Neo-Nazi, and other White Supremacists organizations and addressed the violence, and hatred spewing from this Virginia community as such:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides.

In this tweet there was not a mention of calling the rally for what it was: white supremacy. As of this writing, there has been one death and 19 injuries. The victims were counter-protesters, ran over by a truck–which quickly sped away (he has since been apprehended by the Charlottesville PD).

If Donald Trump and many on the Alt-Right, Alt-Reich, Corporate Media-Right, and their moderate to conservative enablers within the Republican Party are going to dish out eight years of lambasting President Obama for not using the phrase “radical, Islamic terrorism” then surely Trump and the GOP can be rightfully called out for refusing to call this what it is–white supremacy. A doctrine that has lived on and on in this country despite many grassroots movements throughout our history to alleviate the worst effects of it. One of such effort culminated in the creation of the last third party in this country to replace a major party, the Republican Party. The Republican Party grew out of the abolitionist movement, it grew out of the collective failure of the two parties of the time: the Whigs and the Democrats, to properly address the issue at hand that was fracturing the union and eventually led to a civil war.

Many members of the early Republican Party were profoundly radical, profoundly righteous, profoundly patriotic, and ultimately–they were the progressives of their day. Had I been alive in 1855, I would have fled my former party the Whigs (as future President Lincoln did) and joined this new party in Illinois.

History demanded a new party and drastic solutions to brings us closer to a more perfect union. But that Republican Party is no more and they have not existed for over a 100 years. They are not the party of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, or even George W. Bush either. They are now the American Independent Party, which nominated George Wallace for president in 1968. In 2016 this obscure but still active political party nominated Donald Trump as their candidate in the state of California. Trump was the first GOP nominee that the American Independent Party ever nominated, Wallace included (who was southern Democrat).

And now the GOP and the movement conservative project started in ’55, combined with the Powell memo of ’71 has achieved their dream–completely one party control of the US Government at all levels. Although if Buckley were alive today I think he’d be likely to call it a failure already, and a nightmare. Who still wants to associate with this madness? Was it worth the change to enact the long-term policy dreams of Ayn Rand worshippers of the invisible hands and the God of money like Speaker Paul Ryan (who has condemned the events of today in much stronger tones than the President has).

The GOP tried to stop Trump, it failed. The Democrats tried to stop Trump, they also failed. Perhaps primarily because they had underestimated how many mainstream Republicans would hold their nose and say: “the Supreme Court.” Agreeing Loudly never had such fantasies (see below).

Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 7.42.25 PM
Agreeing Loudly humorist, historian, and noted public intellectual Allan Branstiter understands the dynamics of U.S. elections more than (permanent) Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (“for every working class vote we lose, we’ll pick up 2 or 3 professional class voters.”)

The Grand Old Party of Lincoln and TR is dead. Long dead. The GOP of today made a deal for power, which corrupts, and corrupts absolutely, especially when absolutely given. That deal is now a nightmare for the majority of the American people, and is being felt every day within the corridors of power by longtime D.C. observers. This is the Art of the Bad Deal.

Nothing is sacred with this administration, and the effects of that are clearly influencing the populace, especially the newly embolden and previously hidden dark corners of this country, who were out in full force in Virginia this weekend.

During the 2016 campaign Trump, who is a full-on draft-dodger and once compared not contracting STDs in the 1970’s as his “personal Vietnam”, mocked John McCain (“he got caught, I like my war heroes to not get caught”), criticized the U.S. military and its service-members, lied about his financial charitable support for veterans’ charities, and ridiculed for political purpose, the Gold Star parents of a fallen soldier. But none of that matters because the “tyranny of political correctness” or something….

Well please allow me to switch to my political incorrect mode then.

The modern-day Republican Party has become a moral abomination. Notice I’m talking about the political party itself and the issue-stances it carries publicly, as well as privately. I’m not talking about Republican voters. I know many of them are good and decent people who simply cannot bring themselves to vote for a Democrat. I understand that most modern-day voter turnout is motivated first and foremost, by hatred of the “other side.” But think about that for a minute… is this sustainable for even another election cycle or two? 

Trump isn’t some isolated incident and bizarre series of unfortunate events. Rather, he is the natural conclusion and culmination of four decades of political, economic, social, and cultural trends in American life.

But while many of the voters that supply the Republican Party with its electoral power may be motivated by fear of immigrants and terrorism (see: 2016 election, Trump won on voters who cited immigration and terrorism as their top issues, Clinton won on the economy and foreign policy). Not only did Trump win in the manner that this website, on its podcast feared back in 2015/early ’16, through running a campaign on overt themes of white nationalism, and fear-based rhetoric around immigration and terrorism (all irrational fears, because nearly everything else is what is actually more likely to harm or kill you), but its perhaps more important to note why this is the strategy of the GOP now, rather than how.

I would argue it is to provide distractions from the policies that otherwise, the vast majority of the American people would never sign onto. It is the same agenda they have been trying for and striving toward for decades.

1. Elimination of social insurance programs (the incredibly popular Medicare, Social Security) and other cuts to social service programs;

2. Privatization of as many public services as possible (up next: education); and,

3. Continuing to rig electoral laws to their forever advantage.

Anti Republican Cartoon in 1860.jpg
1860 political cartoon lampooning the then-new and righteous Republican Party, which started as a third party that grew out of the abolitionist movement to become the legal and political vessel for power when the major parties of the day (Whig and Democratic) proved incapable of reform, and incapable of rising to the historical moment. We are at a similar crossroads today….

Republican policy aims (long-term) are what encouraged them to go along with this…  it is what encouraged them to sign this bargain–the Art of the Bad Deal, and while it is (and could in the future now that the path is clear and while the Democrats remain incompetent) electorally successful, it will ultimately be long-remembered and the beginning of the end for the once-proud GOP, a party formed out of the abolitionist movement, formed with righteousness on their side, only to be reduced to an intellectual and moral embarrassment.

Joe Scarborough has left the party. Evan McMullin did in 2016. While others have joined it, like West Virginia Governor Jim Justice.

That being said, this version of the Republican Party, at least for me, has actually validated some of the better rhetorical pieces of authentic American conservatism (which I hold does not exist as a relevant political force anymore: hence my often-told joke “conservatives don’t exist, Democrats don’t exist”) that sound nice to some if not many, but that we now know the Republican Party is completely unserious about.

Liberals and progressives and moderates (because centrists don’t exist, except in think-tanks and Democratic candidate creation labs) alike should be thinking locally, should re-engage with federalism and constitutionalism, and whether you value or consider yourself religious or a Christian, it is of vital national security and civilizational importance that we re-engage with our faith lives, because there truly are a lot of good lessons to be learned there, and what is currently characterizing Christianity in this country cannot continue.

There is no monopoly on civic virtue, belief, patriotism, etc. But there is the law and theory of dominance politics. Therefore, we cannot let what happened today and last night in Virginia become a national normal otherwise we are doomed to permanent civic and societal decline.

In addition to those silver linings, the GOP and this current administration have accidentally given us a couple of gifts–if we utilize and recognize them as such, and if we snap out of the “history is already written” syndrome that has washed over so many good-hearted Americans, who feel increasingly hopeless in 2017. In years past we had to do some research and infer certain coded themes. Those days are no more. Things are open and notorious now, clear and obvious.

Tucker Carlson replacing Bill O’Reilly symbolizes the distinction between the old “hidden or more disguised” GOP demagoguery, and the new obvious kind by going after not just illegal immigration, but the immigration population generally.

This obviousness is similarly true within government itself. The GOP has long been a partner with the Corporate State. They were the first ones to sign onto the Corporate States of America (founded in 1971, their constitution: the Powell Memo) and their corruption and cronyism, and evidence of big business buying out and colluding with big government to enact the agenda of corporate American, rather than the preferences and beliefs of the vast majority of the American people, manifests itself quite clearly in someone like Secretary of State Tillerson, who is literally the CEO of Exxon Mobil.

This isn’t hard to do anymore. In Trumpistan–no one is even bothering with the dog and pony show, no one is even trying cover up the grift, graft, and rift-raft. And the American people, especially the young generation, the largest one in our history, will long-remember this. Generational solidarity and class solidarity is more likely to happen in our time than ever before.

The major political parties, while legally entrenched with power for now, and economically and financially secure, with propaganda networks at their disposal, despite all these advantages–they are eroding before our eyes. Armed with the traditional sources of power, their societal credibility and integrity has hit rock bottom. A bottom from which it may never emerge from.

So what now? What am I proposing? How do we unravel the Art of the Bad Deal and save the New Deal? How do we save democracy in this country, constitutional governance, and keep this country from unraveling in our time?

It’s quite simple to me now. We have to be for and positively contribute to whatever political movement and counter-force (and the energy and evidence exist everywhere you look right now for the possibilities) that drives the Art of the Bad Deal and this Republican Party into electoral irrelevancy and into the dustbin of history.

 

All Hands on Deck at The People’s Summit

The People's Summit
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spoke and then posed for this photograph with the over 5,000 leaders, organizers, activists, and followers at the 2017 People’s Summit in Chicago.

You cannot build a movement for the common people if you hold the common people in contempt. — Thomas Frank at the 2017 People’s Summit

Chicago, IL — This past weekend Jered Weber and I attended the 2nd annual People’s Summit. The first one in 2016, was held shortly after Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), went from a little known and self-described democratic socialist to the brink of the Democratic Party nomination. Taking on Hillary Clinton (D-NY), former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State in the first Obama administration, who had nearly every endorsement from Democratic elected officials and party leaders, as well as the support of corporate America, Sanders received 46% of the primary vote.

Assembling a coalition of millennials who had previously helped put then-Senator Obama over the top in the 2008 presidential primary and general election, progressives, independents, and populists, Sanders shocked the country, especially the donor and billionaire class by proving that in the Age of Citizens United, there was another way forward. There was another way to run a viable national campaign without having to offer fealty to the Super PACS, corporate lobbyists, and special interests holding the country back in the 20th century.

And what was remarkable to so many who flocked to the campaign, new and old, of all different generations and backgrounds, was that it was the ideas and message that mattered. It was the positivity of the campaign and its focus on the issues, and it was the remarkable consistency and authenticity of the candidate throughout the years.

Sanders repeatedly explained that when the people come together in common effort, they win. It was never about him, it was about a “future to believe in.” And we now know it was never about him because the campaign never ended, because ultimately, it was more of a movement than a campaign to begin with.

And that is where the People’s Summit comes in.

**********

The People’s Summit is first and foremost, an Ideas Summit.

Not just ideas for the future of the country, but also ideas on how to fundamentally improve and outright save our democracy. Those critical of the People’s Summit only needed to give these ideas attention at the Center for American Progress and perhaps they would not have to get mad that not everyone is falling in line and “uniting.” Before moving on to an analogy for what to think about the People’s Summit, let me just say that no matter which route one prefers to moving this country forward, there is no need to come together on the issues, on party unity, or anything other than basic civility and decency because we still have three years to go. In other words–see you in 2020.

Bubbles need to be pierced, and introspection and national conversations must continue en masse.

Now onto how to think about the People’s Summit in terms of what it means for the future.

Each year movement conservatism (or what passes as that these days) has its annual ideas conference called the Conservative Political Action Conference, put on by the American Conservative Union. Think of it as a “State of the Movement” address to conservatives from all across the country. Upcoming elected officials and advocates often get heavily promoted and featured at the conference. In addition to think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and others, CPAC gathers all of the various grassroots conservative groups and organizations from around the country. Not being included almost serves as a statement that one is not “conservative” enough or not a “true conservative.”

CPAC operates very much like an ideas and state of the movement arm of the major American political party on the right–the Republican Party.

In 2003, recognizing the power think tanks, ideas conferences and so forth had in propelling the conservative movement to electoral victories through its political arm–the Republican Party, John Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, which is both a think tank and has an annual conference. There is no mystery that the annual CAP conference and its ideas are heavily attached to the Democratic Party. But while the Democratic Party was slow to jump on the think tank bandwagon and invest heavily in the think tank model in comparison to the GOP, its adoption of that model and investment in it represent the final shunning of its historical roots as the FDR “party of the people.” Consider this, CAP founder Podesta was national Chair of the Clinton campaign, Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, and later counselor to President Barack Obama, made several versions of this sentiment throughout the 2016 election cycle:

For every working class voter we lose, we’ll pick up 2 or 3 professional class voters.

That’s the thing with the establishment or corporate Dems. I’m not much of an ideologue, I have a governing and leadership philosophy yes, but at the end of the day I have a healthy respect for facts. A respect that is lacking in so many political leaders and those who cover and follow our nation’s politics today. I’m fine with compromising. All democracies and constitutional systems require it. However, what incentive do people who do not like to compromise their belief systems have to follow a strategy that not only is not their views in key areas, but also does not and has not won? I submit these simple truths about where the party stands in terms of electoral strategy:

And I direct these six points of logic to the failed Podesta mentality from above and a similar mentality echoed by (permanent) Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), which stated that “for every working class vote we lose, we’ll pick up 2-3 moderate Republican voters.”

  1. There are not enough professional class voters to form the consensus.
  2. The ones who realigned from the GOP to the Democratic Party did so years ago.
  3. The ones still in the GOP are rich and unpersuadable.
  4. Working class voters are more numerous and more diverse than ever.
  5. Some of them are even organized already, through this thing called collective bargaining.
  6. You can’t build a party of the people if you have contempt for the people. You have to talk directly to the people about the issues, all the people.

Please note that when I say the working class I always mean that anyone who has to work for a living to keep existing. Many choose to work for a living and that is great, but their livelihood does not necessarily depend on it, and they likely have multiple streams of passive income.

Speaking of passive income, George Soros, a major funder of CAP and constant boogeyman that the right wing media likes to use to discredit policy agenda and goals, is not too different from the Koch brothers or any other member of the billionaire class engaged in electoral politics in the Citizens United age if one does not personally agree with George Soros. And that is the problem.

Neither party is seriously committed to taking on big, unaccountable, but organized money in politics.

If you are super-rich in America, or anyone really who can sit on their hands making millions in passive income revenue streams, and if your preferred party (whether Dems or GOP) does not win, you always have the other major party to protect your interests for the most part, with only a few exceptions.

It’s the same model. Controlled by the donor class, and dependent on the labor of others to keep itself in power both politically and economically.

And this is where the People’s Summit comes in. Ideas and voices, organizers and activists, leaders and followers that were shunned or not invited to CAP.

I would argue the People’s Summit is an ideas conference, that allows for networking, learning, and updating on the “state of the movement”, similar to CPAC. As of now, it is without a political party attached to it, but I have no doubt, shall a viable third party arise in the next few years, it will be called the People’s Party and it will have started and spear-headed by the 5,000 or so people that have attended the Summit, and those that followed along online, etc.

The central organizing goal of the movement, like the Republican Party, the last third party to replace a major party before in the 1850’s with slavery, is the biggest moral issue of our time — economic inequality and the forces that continue to make it worse, organized big money in politics and legalized bribery and corruption.

**********

A Future Beyond Party Labels and Endless Partisan and Media Sensationalism. A Future that is not just Resistance, but Beyond Resistance

In the weeks to come, this website will be recommitting itself to trying to churn out regular content the best we can. Apologies if we miss the mark on that front, as we all have busy lives in addition to written commentary, podcasting, etc.

This weekend the third season of the Agreeing Loudly podcast will be on just one topic and prompt: the Third Party option.

In addition, I’m hoping to finish up three articles in a “state of” series on the nation, the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party.

Bernie Poll
While we will never know for sure if “Bernie Would Have Won” — what we do know is that he is easily the most popular politician in America. And while there are loud voices among those 20% of self-identified Democrats that do not like him, especially in the media, corporate America, and on the Twitter-verse, the facts are that the “BernieBro” or lack of diversity myths do not hold up to scrutiny.

If this coalition translated to the electoral college, which I understand is a big leap of logic this far out, but bear with me here, if that DID happen, you would not just see a Sanders victory over the most unpopular presidential candidate of all time (candidate Trump) but you could possibly see the first genuine popular vote AND electoral college landslide since 1988 (and to a lesser extent 2008).

 

My Constructive Criticism of the Summit.

First of all, folks at the summit of all stripes were amazingly self-reflective of what could have gone better not just for the movement, but also for the 2016 Sanders campaign for President.

My two points for potential improvements to next years Summit.

  1. Get a vets or foreign policy-focused speaker to talk about and call for a national “Peace and Security” movement. There are massive levels of economic implications to our #ForeverWar policy that tie into the larger issues presented by the movement. The social and economic costs in caring for our veterans and veterans issues have been some of the best policy work that Senator Sanders has done, so it only makes sense to feature this going forward.
  2. Reach out to Republicans concerned with the direction of their party, big money in politics, and the growing, unsustainable levels of economic inequality. Perhaps this one will be more controversial, but if we’re truly to talk to everyone, we have to mean it. And we see evidence every day, not so much amongst Republican political leaders but we do see it amongst the rank and file and they are growing uncomfortable with the Trump-led GOP. The GOP is dominated by the interests of the donor and billionaire class even more so than the Democrats most years, and disillusioned Republicans becoming former Republicans would be a key feature of any future coalition, especially in current red to light-red states.

**********

The participants were divided on the question of a Third Party movement, but were engaged, passionate, and committed to the future no matter what — it’s an “All Hands on Deck” strategy for saving democracy for all and creating a 21st century economy that works for the many and not just the few. 

Division is nothing new in this political age. Like the rest of the country, there was a split in views at the Summit. Progressives and populists committed to taking on the corporate state are divided on how best to achieve the desired results of taking on big money in politics and tackling the moral issue of our time–the highest levels of economic inequality in a century. 

My unscientific observations of the sentiments is that the People’s Summit activists, organizers, leaders, and followers prefer starting a vital third party movement in this country. This is a sentiment I agree with more and more each day. However, for the time being, reforming the Democratic Party by taking it over seems to be the immediate goal and interest. A goal that has seen mixed results, winning some small battles early on, but losing the more high-profile battles like the DNC Chair election, California Democratic Party Chair election, etc. What is clear though is the ideas and message is winning over public opinion in America at-large. Significant portions of the speech last Saturday highlighted that.

And what is vitally true, is that we have now reached a 1955 William F. Buckley moment for progressives that this website had called for in 2015 and 2016 throughout the Presidential campaign as all of us ranted and raved about how badly the Democratic Party was going to bottom out in the coming years.

Progressives and populists have finally come to terms with the failure of the current model of the Democratic Party, and from this day forward–everyone knows that change will not come from the Democratic Party, change can only be brought to the Democratic Party. And the more and more party leadership grasps onto and protects their hold on power, even in the name of electoral viability (which is a ridiculous reason when you’ve lost nearly every election), the more and more power the movement, independent of any party control–will be. One way or another, the neoliberal and professional class consensus is over. And thank God for that.

I do not say these things lightly. After all, I am a member of the professional class in this country, but I also think that the younger cohorts of the professional class (Gen X and millennials, those under 45 or so) have far more in common (because of issues with student debt, broader acceptance of diversity, etc.) with the concerns of the working class (now more diverse than at any time in American history) than the concerns of the professional class consensus, whose obsession with incrementalism, education and innovation as a key to mitigating inequality (when in reality, it’s rationalizing it), and insistence that all problems can be solved from Harvard or Yale yard, Wall Street or Silicon Valley, New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles, or by lawyers or financial service professionals, etc.

If the leadership of the party would rather go down on the Titanic, so long as they have a first class seat, then so be it. The overriding focus of the People’s Summit was not to re-litigate the 2016 election, but to move beyond just merely resisting what the Trump administration is doing, because guess what? That only goes so far, both in practical day-to-day terms and in electoral terms.

Folks, the only way out of this is to win elections, and to win elections you need a party willing to adopt a better message. A message capable of capturing a large majority of the nation and turning out and inspiring more voters than at any other point in modern U.S. history, because there are significant obstacles in gerrymandering and voter suppression to overcome.

The ideas and message of the folks who attended the People’s Summit were not welcome at the CAP conference this year, so we took them to our own conference, in the same state where the last successful third party movement in America took off from, Illinois.

The Republican Party was founded as an abolitionist party to end the immoral practice of slavery in this country. Similarly, if neither major party takes seriously the issue of big money in politics and the fact that we are in a 2nd Gilded Age, then it is highly likely that the movement makes a clean break. But as of now, in practical terms, the prevailing consensus was that there is not enough time for 2018, and undecided about 2020.

One of the conference speakers Thomas Frank (writer, historian, and co-founder of the Baffler), put it best at the end of his most recent book “Listen, Liberal!” which was written almost as if he already knew the 2016 electoral result, even though it was published in the summer.

Direct solutions are off the table for the moment… Democrats have no interest in reforming themselves in a more egalitarian way. There is little the rest of us can do, given the current legal arrangements of this country, to a build a vital third-party movement or to revive organized labor, the one social movement that is committed by its nature to pushing back against the inequality trend.

What we can do is strip away the Democrats’ precious sense of their own moral probity–to make liberals live without the comforting knowledge that righteousness is always on their side. It is that sensibility, after all, that prevents so many good-hearted rank-and-file Democrats from understanding how starkly and how deliberately their political leaders contradict their values. Once that contradiction has been made manifest–once that smooth, seamless sense of liberal virtue has been cracked, anything becomes possible. The course of the party and the course of the country can both be changed, but only after we understand that the problem is us.

The Coast to Coast Podcast #39: RNC GO

BMwzyMgt0y2K

After another multiple week hiatus, Bill and Jered return with special guest Justin Norris to discuss the Pokemon Go craze and the Trumpsanity of the recent Republican National Convention.

Will the Jered and Bill be able to catch them all? Can Justin’s wisdom save us from the Trumpocalypse? And most importantly, where is Pat? Tune in to this week’s episode to find out! You can also direct download it here.

The Gentrified Revolution

For all of Bernie Sanders’s rhetoric about the ills of income inequality and class warfare, in Los Angeles his message was most popular in gentrifying precincts. Dissecting the spacial aspects of why his presidential campaign failed offers important lessons as the movement he inspired looks to the future.

by Allan Branstiter

LA County

The Los Angeles Times published a fascinating and telling interactive map displaying how each of LA’s precincts voted during the Democratic Primary on June 7th. My first impression of the map was that of shock—Hillary Clinton absolutely dominated Bernie Sanders throughout the Los Angeles County. The map basically depicts a sea of blue swamping little boroughs of pinko insurgency.

Aside from the degree of Clinton’s victory in Los Angeles, a close look of the precinct results offers progressives a few important lessons as they plan for the future.

Progressives Still Need to Engage Racial Injustice

If you want to make a Sanders supporter bristle, just talk about the fact that the core of his support tends to be comfortable, highly educated, and white. While Sanders made several important (albeit uncomfortable) overtures towards racial injustice and won the support of high-profile African-American intellectuals and activists like Killer Mike and Ta-Nehisi Coates, black and brown folks still voted largely for Clinton. This holds true in LA, where Clinton did very well South Central cities like Compton, Carson, Inglewood, and West Adams.

Southcentral

White Sanders supporters have been struggling for months to understand why their message of economic and social justice is not resonating in non-white communities. While I have a few theories, I certainly don’t claim to have the answers to this problem; however, I am certain that Bernie and the vast majority of his supporters failed to engage racial problems in a way that convince minorities that they saw their issues (poverty, discrimination, segregation, crime, mass incarceration) as more than abstract political issues. White liberals are adept at talking about racial justice, but they’re not very good at engaging racial injustice.

This map can help us explore this issue from the perspective of racial spaces, and how the old adage “Pay attention to what white folks do, not what they say” might help nurture a truly biracial progressive movement in the future.

 

Sanders Won the Gentrification Vote

The second thing about this map was the fact that Sander’s core of support roughly mapped out the gentrified/gentrifying areas of Los Angeles. This is important to understand because—despite what well-meaning realtors, developers, independent book shop owners, and young urban professional sincerely believes—gentrification is economic and racial violence.

Sadly, where we see concentrations of Sanders supporters on this map, we also see areas of intensifying economic and geographic displacement on the ground. For example, check out the South Beach area:

SouthBeach

Lakewood and Long Beach (located southern of Signal Hill on the map) serve as somewhat affordable bedroom communities for white middle class entertainment, tech, and corporate professionals working north in Downtown and West LA. With this population comes good public services and commercial development. On June 7th, these communities were either evenly contested, with the trendier parts of town going for Sanders.

To the north and east are the communities of Carson and Compton, where precincts went solidly for Clinton. The fact that they are also largely African-American, poor, and neglected is a result of decades of urban redlining, economic predation, and systematic racism. In the past Long Beach and Lakewood worked endlessly to keep surrounding blacks out of their suburbs, but today the area is losing African-American residents due to poor economic opportunities, rising costs, crime, and persistent neglect. In their place are thousands of house flippers, land developers, and white middle class “settlers.”

The browns and blacks who remain face an increasingly precarious housing market, low paying service jobs, and heavy policing. Sure, they have a Trader Joe’s now, but their overall quality of life is stagnating. Considering these facts, it should come as no surprise that poor non-whites did not embrace the enthusiasm for Sanders displayed by their well-meaning but ultimately aloof white neighbors.

The South Beach phenomenon can be seen elsewhere in Los Angeles. For example, Sanders had a lot of support along the I-10 corridor in West LA, where a growing tech sector in “Silcon Beach” (Venice Beach) and the extension of the Metro Expo Line from Downtown to Santa Monica have fueled the displacement of poor Hispanics and blacks in the area:

WestLA

Then there’s ground-zero of LA gentrification—Silver Lake, Echo Park, Highland Park, and Eagle Rock are all hotly developing boroughs with large white populations that voted for Sanders. In fact, one of the most notorious instances of racial displacement occurred in Elysian Park when Chavez Ravine (a Hispanic community) was forcefully emptied and bulldozed to make way for Dodger Stadium:

SilverLake

Long story short, if we’re going to talk about why Sanders did poorly among racial minorities, we need to discuss the failings of white liberalism. We should first begin by dispelling the ideal that all forms of racism—be it segregation, discrimination, neglect, or gentrification—are implicitly motivated by racial malevolence. We need to acknowledge the fact that good “woke” people who espouse even the most inclusive notions of racial justice can also unthinkingly sustain a system of racial inequality. Doing so might alleviate the burden of whiteness felt by white Sanders supporters, and hasten the arrival of a more inclusive and productive progressive movement.

Parting Shot—Clinton Won the Rich and Older People Vote

As a true blue leftist with significant disdain for the outsized influence of wealthy people in the Democratic politics, I should also point out that Clinton won overwhelmingly in the enclaves of ca$h money in LA. Brentwood. Beverly Hills. Pacific Palisades. Westwood. Pasadena. All went for Clinton. Clinton also did well among older Democrats in the ‘burbs: Covina, Beverlywood, Studio City, Encino and the Valley more generally. On the other hand, Sanders did well in Hollywood, where he gummed up traffic and wooed the starry-eyed youths living along Sunset Strip.

Clinton Sports Realtree Hoodie to Win Back White Working-Class Voters

clintonrealtree

LIMA, OH—In an attempt to win back the support of the white working-class voting block, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has started to appear at rallies wearing a women’s Realtree hoodie and Lucky-brand jeans.

Throughout the 1990s and during Clinton’s 2008 primary campaign, so-called “Reagan Democrats” played a major role in the political dynasty’s electoral successes. Since the election of Barack Obama to the White House, however, this voting block has largely abandoned the Clinton’s brand of centrist Democracy and flocked to emotionally and racially appealing figures in the Republican Party. Eager to win back their support, former-Secretary Clinton has, according to a spokesperson, “started to let her guard down and let Real America see the real Hillary.”

Once again playing up her middle-class upbringing in Illinois and her life in Arkansas, Clinton surrogates say that the coarse language and hunting apparel that now play a major part in the new public image of the former New York Senator is a more authentic reflection of the woman they know behind the scenes.

“I was with her on that fateful day in 2001—we were both in a state of sheer disbelief,” close friend Jeff Foxworthy stated. “No one cried harder that Hillary Rodham Clinton when Dale Earnhardt died at the Daytona 500 that year. Now maybe people will get to see that side of her.”

While much of the substance of Clinton’s speeches at rallies have not changed, her presentation certainly has—some have even called it “Palinesque without the Tequila Rose.”

Clinton has also been more open about her private life, offering the public insights through members of her press team. While she has not yet held a press conference, her staff have made it clear that her brand preferences include Budweiser beers, Ford trucks, the Dallas Cowboys, Justin boots, and Remington rifles. Clinton has also quoted several lines from her favorite television show, “Big Bang Theory.”

“The Boomers Strike Back”, Clinton vs. Trump it is.

 

by Troy M. Olson

old-economy-steve2_0-1
Remember Old Economy Steve? Meme courtesy of those lazy millennials and their sarcasm-as-a-defense-mechanism mindset.

It’s settled folks. The 2016 Presidential Election is between Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R). Yes, I’m aware that the Democratic Party still has two candidates vying for the nomination, while both Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out a few weeks ago. However, no matter how hard #BernieOrBust folks or other groups try to show you otherwise, the Democratic Primary has been over for some time. For me personally, it was over when Bernie Sanders did not win Iowa. He was over a little bit more when he could not delve into the Nevada unions enough to gain a victory there, although like Iowa, it was close. While admittedly, my Super Tuesday predictions were a little too pessimistic for Bernie, it was still under where he needed to be.

He and his supporters have ran a solid and mostly clean campaign that has focused on the issues, pulled Hillary to the left on many important issues facing the country, and in the process made her a better candidate. Unfortunately, all of the old rules of left-right-center are out this cycle. The Republican Party has decided to nominate real estate mogul, reality TV star, and professional bomb thrower, Donald Trump.

And when I say the Republican Party I mean the lower and medium income white working class voters of the Republican Party has chosen him. As Carson and others have stated all cycle, the establishment of the Republican Party laughs at most of their supporters behind closed doors and has since about 1981. What we did not know as a country is that the Democratic Party now does that too and has for the past twenty years or so. Citizens United, money corrupting our political process, redistribution of wealth and the concentration of it in the hands of the very, very few have not happened in a vacuum. I hate to break it to some party hacks, but the Democratic Party is responsible for these things too. They are responsible because they have endorsed it. You see, back in 1992 when Bill Clinton became the first Democratic President in twelve years, the party tacked to the center and rebranded themselves the “New Democrats.”

Continue reading

Donald Trump and Right-Wing Drag

by Allan Branstiter

cq5dam.web.1280.1280
The Trump campaign’s drag qualities aren’t simply painted on The Donald’s orange face. It can also be found in the cartoonish enthusiasm and beliefs of his supporters.

About a week ago I joined others who were drawing connections between Donald Trump’s campaign performances and the spectacle of professional wrestling. While I still think that notion of kayfabe—the ability of a wrestler to portray staged events as real—and wrestling’s ability to appeal directly to the audiences emotions explains quite a lot about Trump’s popularity, I think another form of “low-brow” popular spectacle can help us understand the Donald. Simply put, Donald Trump is the queen of right-wing drag.

This idea crossed my mind as I was reading Jonathan Chait’s recent post about the current schism within the Republican Party. Chait argues that the Trump vs. #NeverTrump divide does not follow the long-standing traditional ideological differences between the GOP’s ideological center and fringe—nor is a geographic division between northeastern Rockefeller Republicans and the Solid South. “Instead,” Chait writes, “the divide runs high-low, splitting conservatism as an idea from conservatism as an instinct.” So what does this have to do with drag?

Continue reading

In Our Post-Factual World, Kayfabe is King

by Carson Starkey

Nation_of_Domination
“By Any Means Necessary”

At some point in the not-so-distant future, The Nation of Domination will “interrupt” a Donald Trump rally/speech. They will appear suddenly in a doorway, bathed in spotlights, wielding baseball bats, chains, and tire irons. They will begin marching towards the main stage, advancing on scattered groups of terrified, hysterical, elderly white Fox News viewers to the sounds of NWA’s “Fuck Tha’ Police.” Images of Barack Obama transforming into Malcolm X will adorn the venue’s Jumbotrons.

Moments before The Nation can reach Trump’s podium to complete their attack on freedom and destroy America, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Chuck Norris, and Hulk Hogan will emerge from behind a curtain on the stage. They will be armed with American flags and steel chairs emblazoned with “Made in America,” as well as the United Steelworkers logo. Their spotlights will be larger. They will be surrounded by pyrotechnics while Bruce Springsteen’s immortal “Born in the USA” seizes control of the sound system, drowning out the evil, morally deficient, food stamp-encouraging hippity hop jungle music of the savage, unpatriotic attackers. Michaels, Austin, Norris, and Hogan will dispatch every member of The Nation with a combination of their signature finishers, and blows leveled with their white nationalist accouterments.

After Hogan levels Farooq/Ron Simmons with a dose of freedom, “Barack Obama” (played by Jay Pharoah) and “Hillary Clinton” (played by Kate McKinnon) will descend from the rafters, screaming “DEATH TO AMERICA!” The Illegitimate Kenyan Pretender and the Chief Feminazi Conspirator of Benghazi will attempt to aid their subversive nonwhite comrades.

Before Obama Hussein and Jane Fonda Clinton can enslave Real America, “George W. Bush” (played by George W. Bush) and “Dick Cheney” (played by Dick Cheney) will emerge from a previously undetected space beneath the stage. Bush-Cheney will overwhelm Obama-Clinton with respect for traditional values, devotion to capitalism, and freedom. Bush and Cheney will incapacitate Obama with a double vertical suplex through a table. America’s greatest cowboy hat-bedecked duo will complete their triumph with a double powerbomb of Clinton from atop of the main stage, onto a conveniently placed stack of Rachel Maddow books.

America’s glorious heroes will embrace. The crowd will shriek “TRUMP, TRUMP, TRUMP!” Trump will raise his hands high in victory, humbled by the show of conservative solidarity, and ready to win a general election.

Get used to saying “President Trump,” an America without social insurance, and seeing a whole lot more of Vince McMahon for the next eight years.

Kleiner Mann Joe Blue Collar, Was Nun?: The Way Forward for Those Who Don’t Care About The Heritage Foundation’s Agenda

By Carson Starkey

src.adapt.960.high.trump_supporter_nh.1449766623194
Darren McCollester | Getty Images

Hans Fallada’s “Little Man, What Now?” was first published in 1932. Johannes Pinneberg, the protagonist, faces constant economic anxieties, petty humiliations, and social disillusionment in post-World War One Germany. He travels through a broad range of emotions, but most of all, he feels disconnected and abandoned…abandoned by faceless, uncaring “leaders.” As he sees it, somebody should be looking out for him. He doesn’t hold grandiose, sophisticated ideas about public policy, history, economics, or politics. He wants a steady job, a place to live free from his repulsive mother-in-law, affordable healthcare for his wife Emma, and food for his son Horst. He’s not angry about socialism, trade unionism, or fascism. He’s angry that self-declared “serious” people in government can’t or won’t protect him from avoidable misery. A fair number of scholars assert that the book acts a broad explanation for the future political success of fascism in Germany. Johannes Blue Collar wasn’t obsessed with waging expensive, seemingly endless warfare or subjugating everyone that disagreed with him politically. He just wanted to pay his bills and maintain some measure of human dignity. Of course that was true in 1932. It has been true throughout the course of human history. It’s true today. Which brings us to Joe Blue Collar in contemporary America and his broad interest in, if not sympathy with, Donald Trump.

What has been most intriguing, in my view anyway, about the rise of Trumpism (broad, detail-free populist declarations about making America great) are the reactions among Establishment or respectable conservatives. “Establishment conservatives” has come to mean Republican Party voters that favor millionaire welfare checks, eternal warfare with Muslims, and racial segregation without the burden of supporting a politically inexperienced, orange-skinned, toupee-adorned grifter who plies shoddy products at Macy’s. Now that Trump is going to be the Republican presidential nominee, respectable conservatives are melting down in highly public, Mel Gibson-esque spectacles that reveal the ugly yet honest ideological foundations of American conservatism. Respectable, establishment conservatives claim to care about intellectually serious matters like Supreme Court nominees, small government, or fiscal restraint…although no evidence exists to support the contention that those same conservatives have ever worried about such matters in the past three quarters of a century, unless we mean preserving low tax rates for rich people or criminalizing the existence of non-white people. No, what rankles self-proclaimed grown-up conservatives about Trump is that he’s giving away the inside game by verifying an uncomfortable suspicion that Heritage Foundation “scholars” have always attempted to suppress during campaigns. That is, most self-proclaimed conservative voters don’t care about the Ayn Rand agenda. While abolishing taxation, dissolving social insurance, and building Pax Americana are important causes to people who work at The Wall Street Journal, all that Jane or Joe Blue Collar care about relates to making financial ends meet. Which makes conservative aristocrats angry bordering on hysterical.

Continue reading

What Wrestling Can Tell Us About Donald Trump

by Allan Branstiter

OTBmMThlYTg4NCMvUlgyNzVFeVd5U3RRVU93VUY3QmlGcG1wd1pRPS81Nng0ODozNDQ4eDE5NjUvMTI4MHg2MjAvZmlsdGVyczpxdWFsaXR5KDc1KS9odHRwczovL3MzLmFtYXpvbmF3cy5jb20vcG9saWN5bWljLWltYWdlcy92bXNvY3Jvd2V0cDU0cjQxZHl4aGlkbXJpa241ZHlnYnQ3 (1)

I spent most of last week writing my dissertation prospectus, so I wasn’t able to get to an idea I’ve been mulling for a few weeks. So as I was working on constructing an argument about viewing the Civil War and Reconstruction era from the lens of American settler colonialism, Vann R. Newkirk at The Atlantic beat me to the punch and wrote a very good article about what professional wrestling can tell us about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. You should definitely read it. And this. And this. While Newkirk argues that Trump’s success is based on his ability to play the heel (the overtly bad guy in a storyline), I argue that The Donald fits a more recent archetype: the “anti-face” (i.e. Stone Cold Steve Austin, C.M. Punk, and Kevin Owens).

Professional wrestling, in many ways, can tell us more about democracy, demagoguery, and the political power of public spectacle than polling and political science. In 1957, philosopher and literary theorist Roland Barthes wrote an article describing the complex relationship between wrestling as a spectacle and its audience. To Barthes, wrestling was a spectacle that broke through the fourth wall, thereby transcending the traditional limits competative sport and high art. He observed that in wrestling the audience becomes part of the performance. No wrestling storyline can succeed if the audience refuses to suspending their disbelief and accept the narrative laid out before them.

Barthes suggests that power of wrestling as a spectacle is the reciprocal relationship enjoyed by the performer and the audience. In ideal circumstances, time, motives, and consequences do not matter in a wrestling storyline. A wrestler can act in unbelievable, contradictory, or irrational ways in the rign, but the storyline remains intact as long as they maintain an emotional reciprocity with their audience. As a result, a good wrestler can turn against their closest allies without so much as a second thought from the crowd. It is through the effective manipulation of this actor-spectator relationship that wrestling can transcend the line between fiction and reality. In the best cases the audience is allowed to suspend their critical disbelief and abolish questions of motives and consequences. The best wrestling performances offers audiences not only an escape from reality, but a plausible alternative—a world where good always triumphs over evil, and where stereotypes offer a simultaneoulsy fantastic and real sense of predictability and stability.

“Thus function of the wrestler is not to win,” Barthes explains, “it is to go exactly through the motions which are expected of him.” In the case of Donald Trump, he is an anti-face within the spectacle of conservative politics, the hero with a mean streak. Unlike the heroic “baby-face” or ignoble “heel,” the anti-face’s motivations are not immediately clear to the audience. They walk the line between hero and villain, motivated by a desire to accomplish good through often immoral means. Anti-face’s are powerful characters because they capture the audience’s feelings of anger, powerlessness, alienation, and indignation and turn them against structures of authority. While “faces” like Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart appealed to the audience’s desire to see good always triumph over evil, the anti-faces like Rowdy Roddy Piper and Steve Austin titillated the fans’ deeper desire to inflict pain upon their enemies and oppressors. The anti-face resonates not because he or she always wins, but because they provide the audience with a vessel for their darker emotions.

For example, consider Stone Cold Steve Austin. His character’s narrative can tell you a lot about the psychology of working-class white Americans during the 1990s. Alienated by poltical correctness and elite notions of respectability, proud of their hard work and fortitude, threatened by unflinchingly terrible bosses who threatened their livelihood as millions of good-paying jobs were shipped oversees, Steve Austin resonated with his audience because he was one of them. He drank beer, he cursed, he kicked a lot of ass, and the stood firmly upon a sense of masculine working-class morality he shared with his fans. He even captured their ambivalent attitudes towards sanctimonious Christianity.In an age when rednecks were Jeff Foxworthy jokes and the ambitions of poor white working class men and women were continually betrayed by the political elite, Stone Cold was King of the Ring. (Happy Austin 3:16 Day, btw!)

During typical presidential campaigns, American voters are (Barthe again) “overwhelmed with the obviousness of the roles.” Normally the field is divided into establishment candidates, fringe candidates, liberal candidates, and conservative candidates. Political commentators draw a sense of expertise from their ability to recognize and analyze these categories and even break them down into subgroups: prairie populists, Chamber of Commerce Republicans, blue-dog Democrats, etc. Like older forms of professional wrestling, campaigns were relatively predictable. Establishment candidates always moved towards their base in order to defeat fringe primary opponents before moving to the center during general elections. And since the late 1970s, working-class whites largely voted for Republicans because they were “our guys.” In the spectacle of American politics, their baby-faces were conservative Republican “every-men” and their heels were liberal urban coastal elites.

The wrestling world’s notion of “kayfabe” also applies to American political spectacle. According to Tecoa T. Washington, kayfabe “refers to the portrayal of events within the industry as real, that is, the portrayal of professional wrestling as unstaged.” In wrestling and politics, the public is encouraged to suspend disbelief. The electoral audience is encouraged to take the words and performances of their candidates at face value. In wrestling, those who are able to identify the borders between reality and theatrics are called “smarks,” while those who cannot distinguish staged events from reality are called “marks.” Performers and marks tend to dislike smarks because they disrupt their ability to create an effective spectacle—a performance where the audience and performer connect and nothing exists beyond the confines of the arena. In the political world, think of partisans and ideologues as marks, while pundits and journalists as smarks. Much of Trump’s disdain for the media is based on the fact that it resonates with his supporters, but it also has to do with the fact that the press is constantly threatening his ability to create an effective and manipulative spectacle.

Since the internet has made it increasingly difficult for wrestlers to separate their private and public lives, they’ve have had to find new ways to protect their spectacle and keep the smarks at bay (an excellent example of this is Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit with Gawker Media). Kayfabe has become an art in itself, and wrestler often play with the line between reality and performance, letting the audience feel like they know what is behind the curtain while maintaining control over the illusion. The best performers will regularly appear to break the fourth wall, leaving the audience confused about what is real and what is staged. When done well, the spectators are left with no other choice than to surrender their disbelief. All performances (especially wrestling and politics) seek to manipulate, but only the best can do so without alerting their audiences.

The world of politics is no different. Candidates routinely separate their private lives from their public personas. In the past, journalists helped erect this distinction by only reporting the public side of a politician’s personality. This changed when the Watergate scandal led many Americans to question whether a public figure’s private life should be considered in order to measure their suitability for office. The first to fall was Gary Hart, whose marital problems and sexual liaisons were exposed to intense public scrutiny in 1988. Since then, candidates have struggled to find new ways to let the public into their private lives while maintaining a sense of control over their public image. Some have been good, other have been awkward and creepy.

Donald Trump’s campaign is a revolution in the kayfabe of American politics. Unlike many candidates, he offer no glimpses beyond his public persona, nor does he offer much in the way of concrete policy plans. Instead, he invites his audience to pour their anger, disappointments, and indignation into the vessel of “The Donald.” Political scientists and pundits try to dissect the rationale behind his support to no avail because, just as in wrestling, what matters is not what a Trump support thinks but what a Trump supporter sees.

What does a Trump supporter see in “The Donald?” They see an outlandish and powerful man who is unafraid to stand up for his values. They see an ineffective speaker running circles around the powers that be. Where rational minds see a demagogue manipulating the crowd, Trump supporters see an iconoclast manipulating the system. And as strange and unlikely as it sounds, they see themselves in this bombastic millionaire. They see their struggles embodied in a man roundly reviled by strangers, elites, and an increasingly alien society. They see the establishment trying to crush the only candidate to speak to their concerns in years. While they might disagree with his style, his supporters believe in his goals. They see Trump as misunderstood. They see themselves as misunderstood. They also see a character who legitimizes their right to inflict physical and verbal violence upon racial minorities, uppity women, and foreigners.

What makes Trump’s support so difficult to undermine is that he does not need to win—he simply needs to “go exactly through the motions which are expected of him.” Trump exists as his supporter’s emotional vessel, and he accomplishes this by simply existing. The fact that he is the leading candidate in the Republican primary only adds to his appeal. In fact, winning might be the only thing that can defeat Trump. If we look at wrestling as a model, anti-faces often win the title, but they face the prospect of alienating their fans once this is achieved. The worst thing that can happen to a successful anti-face is appearing like they are being “pushed” or promoted by the establishment.

Underdogs and antiheroes resonate because they and their audiences are losers. Trump supporters love “The Donald” because he has a “proven” track record of success in business; however, they also love him because he remains unproven in politics. Like “The Donald,” his supporters view themselves as millionaires in their own minds who have been marginalized by the media and political elite. If Trump wins and gains the support of the establishment, he could possibly alienate his disenfranchised supporters. But none of this matters right now, because Trump has created a spectacle where reality and facts outside of the arena do not matter. Disbelief has been suspended. Anything—anything—is possible.