Episode 47: We’re Back for a Third Party!

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The Agreeing Loudly podcast is back from coast-to-coast with a brand new season. Join Jered, Troy, Bill and Pat as they welcome special guest Carson Starkey all the way from the critically acclaimed Margin of Error podcast to discuss whether or not it’s time for a serious third party movement in the United States.

Stream the episode or download it! Either way is cool by us.

The Agreeing Loudly coast-to-coast theme music is from Lee Rosevere.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Waiting for Galt

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Who Is John Galt?

by Carson Starkey

Americans are living through a unique time of political paradox. Elected officials and ideological enthusiasts possess the capacity to blanket media outlets with an endless variety of messages. They can hoist the banners for the War on Christmas, announce the urgent need for English-only or flag burning constitutional amendments, and trumpet the inevitable anarchy that follows from women wearing pants. Ordinary voters are under constant surveillance whenever they’re not screeching at passing cars or talk radio programs. Traffic cameras capture every move in urban life. Police departments shake down working people with fines and tickets designed to raise revenue while shuttling mostly people of color into feedback loops of poverty and incarceration (Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Ferguson Report, March 5, 2015). In a time of unrestrained access and monitoring, we can  rely on one phenomenon to remain mystical and undefined…conservative public policies.

We can draw a straight line from Massachusetts Puritans and Virginia planters telling their social subordinates (usually people of color, women, and the economically disadvantaged) to accept The Almighty’s judgment to Donald Trump and Paul Ryan assuring Fox News viewers that they have soon-to-be-disclosed but for now secret plans for every socioeconomic ill. Donald Trump will defeat ISIS…somehow, but he can’t tell how or when. Congressional Republicans will find a way to insure more people with lower costs by repealing the Affordable Care Act…somehow, but they can’t explain when/how that will happen, what the trade offs will entail, or who will make sacrifices. For the past forty years, conservatives have been promising higher wages and greater economic security for the majority of Americans, but they always get distracted by massive upward redistributions of wealth in the form of rich people welfare (tax cuts and subsidies), and forget to administer their previously promised plebeian quality of life expansion. Which goes a long way towards explaining why wages have been stagnant since Bruce Springsteen first introduced us to Mary’s swaying dress (Economic Policy Institute, “Wage Stagnation in Nine Charts, January 6, 2015, Reference to Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” from the “Born to Run” album, 1975).

We soon observe that the Puritans, planters, and free market Praetorians never disclose their highly touted solutions. They stay perched in their fortresses, plantations, and penthouses, smirking through slavery, monstrous economic inequality, and foreign policy catastrophes. Are John Galt’s acolytes secretive, dishonest, or clueless?

Much like the work of Ayn Rand, the answer is unsophisticated and disheartening. Little about our political and economic history can be described accurately as prologue. American conservatives lack originality, though we should stress that they always have plenty of ideas, as a common refrain among liberals is that conservatives have run out of ideas. To borrow from Sam Elliot’s immortal Big Lebowski Narrator, far from it dude. You can thank Saint Louis Park, Minnesota after you finish reading this entry. Conservatives have plenty of ideas…aggressively unpopular, unfair, unworkable ideas that, when implemented by elected officials and other powerful individuals, impose needless suffering on large swathes of less powerful people. Their policy solutions are always variations of faith-based healing. Pray to somebody-Republican Jesus (who directs His followers to harm the poor, use violence to solve every problem, and create incomprehensible financial instruments in The Temple), John Galt, Alan Greenspan, a buffoonish Macy’s tie salesman with a silly toupee, or a polytheistic assortment of billionaires-and hope that your chosen omnipotent figure alleviates your earthly suffering. When your prayers go unanswered, go back to work and await further instructions from the appropriate cable news commentator.

The boring truth is that Nick Hanauer was right. If conservative policies have or had any connection to reality, America would be a wildly different place than it is in 2017. We’d be drowning in jobs because rich people would have trickled oceans of wealth down upon us as byproducts from their obscene tax code-derived welfare gifts that Ronald “avowed segregationist and apartheid supporter” Reagan and George W. “trillion dollar investor in Iraq and Afghanistan” Bush bequeathed them. Instead, Americans live with horrific, multi-generational poverty from Appalachia to East Los Angeles. (Nick Hanauer’s TED Talk, March 2012).

Now would be a good time to stop waiting for John Galt, because nobody has ever laid eyes upon him. Which means that he’s not coming. Not now, not at any time during President Tie Salesman’s administration, and not ever. You can mourn that fact, or you can take actions to improve your quality of life.

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John Galt Does Not Exist.

by Troy Olson

Exactly. Who is John Galt? Not Donald Trump, not Mark Zuckerberg, and quite frankly – not anyone who has ever actually existed on this planet.

There are a few that certainly come close, but even they had to have parents, a community, teachers, mentors, a road and a bridge to make their work, ideas, or innovations possible.

President Trump and the one-party state is not building roads and bridges, they are building a wall and using fear and hate to make terrified people more terrified. Where will it all end?

Well for starters, it won’t work. New policies will indeed be undertaken and passed, implemented and forged. But America will not be made great again or whole again, and what is great about America will recede before us as long as Trump and the one party GOP state is in office. I want this country to succeed. Usually I would cheer triumphantly for our leaders to succeed in helping improve the country. Not this President, and not this administration. For their political success will be the undoing of centuries of democracy, norms and traditions, and their policies will not work because the last four decades already inform us that they will not work. That’s right. Everything they are undertaking has already been attempted and failed miserably by policy outcome measures and the preferences of the American people, who as seen below, prefer a set of wildly different policies.

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While Trump will say the people are behind him, when it comes to their policy preferences, soaking the rich with more and more welfare handouts will prove disastrous for the financial and democratic health of this country.
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A broad cross-section of America feels that we should be increasing income taxes for people making over $250,000 per year.

Simply put, we know that policies of tax giveaways to the rich, corporate socialism, and forever war won’t work because the last 40 years have happened.

The thirty year time span after World War II, when the labor share of income was at its highest, was the most broadly prosperous time in American history.

Why? Because we invested in people. Wages rose with inflation and productivity rather than stagnated. We led with ideas and committed to the fundamental aspects of our national character that actually made us great:

1. Quality public education, for more and more people.

2. Investments in continually modernizing infrastructure like roads, bridges, and the interstate highway system.

3. Yes, Open Immigration laws so that the best and the brightest are drawn here, and so that those seeking opportunity add to American life, continually energizing our society with new ideas and perspectives. This one has had a few interruptions, but broadly speaking throughout American history our laws have been welcoming.

4. Government support for Research and Development (remember when we went to the moon?).

5. Implementation of necessary and proper regulation on private economic activity (sorry folks, Donald Trump won’t magically make your 401k go up, but the next financial crash brought to you by Government Sachs and the big five surely will deplete it).

Even before Trump, we have been drifting away from all of this.

If you think doubling and tripling-down on these policies is going to actually “Make America Great Again” I’ve got some land to sell you on the planet Alderaan.

#MakeAlderaanExistAgain

All of these policies, whether by the administration or by Speaker Ryan and the GOP Congress are built upon an Ayn Randian worldview that fundamentally, like Karl Marx before, misunderstands and misrepresents what a human being actually is and wants. Human beings are not cut out for the rugged individualism of Atlas Shrugged, or Steve Jobs biopics.

Individualism has its place, but without a compassionate community to support, foster, and nurture people into productive members of a civil society, then all is lost. Human beings are by our very nature-overwhelmingly social beings. All religions and biological theories of human beings recognize this key distinction. Even our love of ideas springs from our love of people. We would not have made it this far if we just wanted to construct walls, divide, and hate one another.

Just as elements of collectivist thought failed to account for the spirit of individualism present in our society, so to will the Randian politics implemented by authoritarian measures. These policies will fail and ruin this land. Because this is not what people are about. We take care of our own, and we do it with a little help from our friends.

#WeAllDoBetterWhenWeAllDoBetter

Farewell Barry, and Thank You.

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Barack H. Obama, 44th President of the United States

New York, NY — The other night before going to bed I watched the Netflix original “Barry.” The film was a slice-of-life moment during Barack Obama’s years at Columbia undergrad in New York City.

Last night, I was barnstorming NYC going from protests to anti-inauguration networking events and fundraisers and meeting many people I have never met before. Like so many conversations with friends and complete strangers since November 8th, my faith in the basic decency of the American people was reinforced yet again. I don’t blame soon-to-be (and likely is as you read this) former President Barack Obama for believing in that same basic decency.

Six weeks ago, I had a dream I was a White House aide, serving at the pleasure of the President. It was the series finale of “West Wing: Obama Edition.” I was summoned into the Oval Office, not unlike Charlie Young often was for Jed Bartlet: “what would you have done differently, Troy?”

“Permission to speak freely Mr. President?”

“Granted”, replied the President, on his last night of service after eight years in office.

“Well Mr. President, I would have….pursued something big and grand first, but it would not have been health care reform. At least not if it is going to be the Heritage Foundation’s plan from the early-90s. I would have pursued a carbon tax, put a down payment on a 21st century green economy infrastructure, bailed out homeowners and people instead of big banks, and then given everything that I had to get the world to succeed at Copenhagen in ’09, the “true last best hope” to stem the tide and roll back the worst effects of climate change the world had. Out of those successes I would have then taken the political capital to try and pass single payer healthcare before the 2010 midterms.”

Perhaps we’ll all learn just like Barack that these things are just out of our grasp. Not possible within this political system. But I still have to believe, and hope. 

What I will always remember about the Obama years is something I can be reminded of every day in the friends and company that I keep. I think Time magazine summed it up years ago best…

The Obama victory was not so much about his generation — but the kids two generations behind him, the college kids and recent graduates, blissfully color-blind, who spent patient months as organizers out in the most rural counties… They reminded me, in classic, solipsistic boomer fashion, of my own generation of the remarkable political activists who went down to Mississippi to register black voters and marched against another war, and came to politics in the Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy campaigns of 1968. That generation’s — my generation’s — passion gave us the propulsion to quickly move to the center of political life and the media. The end of their time — our time — in the driver’s seat may have begun in Iowa.

Whether or not Barack Obama goes on to win the nomination — and let’s not forget in the afterglow that this is truly an open question — his field army will endure and, because of their immense skill, they will bend the political process to their will in years to come. And years from now, when they meet in the corridors of power or academia or at the inevitable reunions, they’ll look at each other and smile, and they won’t even have to say the words: We did something amazing back in Iowa, on January 3, 2008, didn’t we?

– Joe Klein, Time Magazine

And this is the central Obama legacy. His policy legacy will very much be in doubt going forward — but the number of talented and inspiring young people that were brought into politics at a time when cynicism was high is what I truly believe will be the lasting legacy of the Obama years. I met so many great people helping get Barack Obama elected President and so many friendships were forged and strengthened.

Allan Branstiter. 

Pat Meacham.

Jered Weber.

Justin Norris.

Carson Starkey.

The list could go on, but I wanted to highlight these five friends and colleagues.

Allan Branstiter and I met in Fargo at an Obama event. He is an Iraq War vet, and in 2007 I revered Iraq War vets (I still do). I had always opposed the war but looked up to each and every veteran I knew. Allan made an immediate impact on me. On some level I must have made an impression on him because he asked me to help him out on his state senate campaign in North Dakota. He was nominated by the Dem-NPL. He said, “you have more connections than I do and I’ll need all the help I can get.” What Allan did not know at the time was that I probably barely had any more connections than he did.

Pat Meacham I have known for years but as you’ll see from the photo below — we spent some time in Iowa together in 2007 and 2010 campaigning and those photos below with then-Senator Obama and Michelle are hanging up at the Lakeside Tavern in Detroit Lakes, MN if you ever are strolling through that part of the country. It’s a wonderful place where I worked as a summer job during college. A lot of my work ethic was built at that place working double shifts with Pat, cooking and talking…dreaming about a better future.

Jered Weber was the only person who agreed to come down to Iowa with me in late ’07/’08 for the caucus because I had an almost fanatical belief that if Senator Obama won Iowa — he would become President. Jered and I struck up an immediate friendship over the campaign, our love of Star Wars, and being raised in small town America.

Justin Norris liked two candidates in the 2008 Democratic field a lot. Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Justin was the first politically involved person I met at Minnesota State and his encyclopedia-esque knowledge about U.S. History and Politics made me remark upon firs meeting him: “jeez, you’re a genius!” His response I will never forget — “nope, I’m just well read.”

I never knew Carson Starkey until my own Army deployment. He was finishing up undergrad while I was overseas. I saw him as basically doing “my story in reverse” and felt compelled to reach out to this humorist that was so dedicated to satire and sarcasm that he made Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert seem tame. If anyone is ever strolling through St. Paul, MN I highly recommend getting to know the Earl of Payne-Phalen.

What is the common thread that brought us together? Or the ties that bind? The Obama campaign and Presidency.

 

Four times I met the to-be President. Four times. Not gloating. But it happened. It turns out that in the end, I’m not much into hero worship. Barack Obama is no hero to me, and I’m no hero to anyone. The only heroes I’ve ever contemplated are the service members of the United States Armed Forces who gave the “last full measure of devotion.” Something tells me that even they would disagree that they are heroes.

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In addition to all the amazing and inspiring future leaders and public citizens I’ve met throughout the Obama years, I will also remember the words.

“Dreams from My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope” are how I will partly remember the Obama years and my role as an American citizen in them.

“Dreams from My Father” is ironically titled you could say, and is a journey a young Barack “Barry” Obama was on that was shaped more by the absence of a Father than anything else. The Obama campaign, like a few things before it, and many things since, gave me a purpose and family away from my own wonderful, but dysfunctional and imperfect family. It brought me back from youthful alienation and into the community of people. Got me away from thinking about just myself. I gave up my pursuit of happiness, because even Thomas Jefferson is not right about everything, and I embarked on a pursuit of joy, which is a far more fulfilling pursuit.

“The Audacity of Hope” was a remarkable journey as well. Where I met amazing people and experienced a Presidential campaign that brought me to three different states, thousands of conversations with people I otherwise would not have met, got me addicted to the “politics of joy”, and impacted my life in ways I’m still pulling together. In the end, Barack was right. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” all along. Not in an egotistical way, but in a democratic way. In the only way a democracy and a civil society can be made more perfect, or truly whole again. With a little help from your friends, asking a little bit more out of yourself, and walking amongst others in a spirit of solidarity, embarking on life’s journey, side by side.

 

Goodbye Barry, and Thank You for serving and inspiring us all to be better citizens.

The Tragedy in Aleppo and the Assassination of the Russian Ambassador.

 

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The above map (sources indicated) and timeline speaks for itself. The situation in Syria, and especially in Aleppo is deep and complex, there are no good sides, no good or easy answers, and so far — nothing but tragic outcomes.

In the midst of the U.S. Presidential Election this year, nearly everyone in the media, and far too many Americans, have ignored the humanitarian catastrophe that is currently unfolding its latest tragic chapter in Syria. The city of Aleppo, which one or more candidates for the highest office in the land, were clueless about, at least in name (and probably many other areas as well). It has been unfolding for the last five years or so. Its roots go back even further.

We have ignored it, and this website, dedicated to cultural and political commentary, is no exception.

My first inklings of things going awfully wrong in Syria were during my deployment to the Middle East in 2011 and 2012. I, like most soldiers, was singularly focused on our specific mission or would-be missions at the time. However, throughout the ESNN (Enlisted Soldiers News Network) there were plenty of rumors about the situation exploding in Syria and worries over re-deployment there from where we were at in Kuwait (completely unfounded at the time of course). By the time I got back to the United States, and certainly after President Obama was re-elected, ISIS, or ISL, or the Islamic State, very much became a “thing” and a new “wedge” in American political discourse. Much of the discourse was hysterical and unfounded rhetoric, ill-informed and ignorant of the history in the region, let alone recent history. The Syrian civil war, is so complex, that I cannot even begin to explain it in this thousand word article. Instead–I’ll arrive at the timeless news of today. Thousands are dead in Aleppo, many of them innocent children. The complete and utter breakdown in humanity is staggering, and disappointing.

President Barack Obama is a great man, a great example to follow, but a good President. Not a great one.

There have only been three great Presidents — Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. President Obama, while historic, does not belong in the “great” category. He is Woodrow Wilson. Some great ideals, some of the right instincts, a professor-like image, certainly historical, but a lasting legacy that will be shaped more from what he is, rather than what he did or did not do. The Obama policy record on socio-cultural issues is comparatively strong, but very muddled and mixed on economic and foreign policy issues, which are issues the President has far more influence and control over. To be fair, he is still the best President of most of our lifetimes. To be fair to his overall foreign policy record: here are a few select areas where he did well:

  • He has removed over 3/4 the troop levels that he inherited from the Bush administration in Afghanistan and Iraq. While he incorrectly “surged” in Afghanistan in the beginning to do so, getting down to historically low levels of troops in the post-9/11 era is no small feat.
  • Despite lowering troop levels, through his use of special forces and our vast intelligence network, he oversaw the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.
  • He has overseen a policy that has removed roughly 3/4 of the numbers of the Islamic State and suffered very few American casualties while doing so.
  • He understands “smart power” and the limits of American power in the 21st century. He likes to do foreign policy quietly, and he understands that patience is very, very important sometimes to achieve goals that exclusive use of military force cannot achieve.
  • He understands that it is only through using every tool in the toolbox: economic, diplomatic, and the military, that the U.S. can achieve or get closer to achieving its foreign policy goals.

President Obama was and still is a good foreign policy President, I strongly suspect history will be relatively kind to him, but he is most certainly not a great foreign policy President. Very few are.

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Turning back to the humanitarian catastrophe and breakdown of systems and humanity in Syria — there is no longer any running away from the fact that regarding the Syrian Civil War, the international community, regional organizations and power-players, and yes, the United States of America — has failed. This failure of leadership, includes our current President, Barack Obama. No one is safe from it.

Certainly, we’re all human and we make mistakes. A situation like Syria however, where a lack of leadership on the international stage has transpired, will only get worse and more frequent under a Trump administration.

Make no mistake about it — Pax America, for all its warts and faults, is dead.

There is still, however, a great need for solid American leadership on the world stage. There is a need for smart, effective, proportional, and humble American leadership.

For the next four to eight years at least, we will not have that.

Earlier today our time, the Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated in Ankara. A lone Turkish gunman stepped right out of a James Bond film, and shot and killed the Russian ambassador, shouting “don’t forget Aleppo!”

All acts of violence represent a failure in the human character and a failure of political systems to solve problems and disagreements. Russia and many others have failed humanity by propping up an Assad regime that is at least as terrible as the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq that the United States spent more than $2 trillion on, at the cost of thousands of American soldiers’ lives, and well over a hundred thousand civilian lives.

The assassination of the Russian ambassador today is similarly reprehensible. However, it does not represent what Franz Ferdinand represented in the lead-up to World War I.

World War I was caused by many factors, the chief driving one, being nationalism and two power-blocs codifying that system of nationalism via treaties. In general terms — we can describe that as the world retreating to comfortable, but worn corners. That is also what is happening today. Be worried, but do not freak out and do not lose hope. Not only is the Russian ambassador not Franz Ferdinand–but Franz Ferdinand himself is not Franz Ferdinand. In 1914, only folks like Lord Grantham cared about Franz Ferdinand. Ferdinand represented the excuse to do what the powers that be wanted to do anyway. Remember this: large and powerful nation-states only go to war when they think they have something to gain. There is a country that looks like that today: Russia.

But it will not be now and it will not be here.

If you are now very concerned, you should have already been concerned. Russian aggression, combined with rising nationalism in Europe, and the world retreating to “comfortable, but worn corners”, has been going on for nearly a decade. Recent Russian aggressions in Ukraine, Georgia and the ones that will likely transpire in the future (next four to eight years), most likely in Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania (all NATO  member-countries), should concern us all. I dearly hope I’m wrong about those last three predictions, but thus far, this website has a track record of being relatively right about political predictions, and ridiculously wrong about sports predictions.

Like the slow burn of the last decade or so, we will continue to see the rise of far right-wing, national front-type parties in Europe. And if that battle over the future of history is not fought now rhetorically at home, and abroad, I cannot promise anyone anything.

In Order to Win the Future — We Must Rediscover the Past

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The above photograph (courtesy of either Jacqueline Van Moer or myself…I don’t remember) is Alexander Hamilton’s “the Grange” homestead. Hamilton completed this home a few years before he was famously shot by Aaron Burr, another New Yorker, in the famous duel just across the Hudson River from where we live. Hamilton, although born elsewhere, is the quintessential first generation American. Hard-working, enterprising, ambitious, and brilliant. He served as Aide-de-camp to General Washington during the American Revolution and was our nation’s first Treasury Secretary. You may recognize him from the ten dollar bill, and now Lin Manuel Miranda’s famous musical.

Full disclosure, I’m an amateur historian. But I’ve always read and loved history. Much of my private, personal (not academic or campaign experience) political education has been learned and read through a historical lens. I’ll do my best, but I’m no pro.

Agreeing Loudly dot com introduces you to two new historical series; one that will be locally-based, at least my version of local (New York), and the other a national story intended to give the read perspective on our ongoing, beleaguered, but bizarrely nonexistent national conversation.

I invite you all to help me out on this journey, and point things out that I am overlooking or may have missed. Give your thoughts and feedback and contribute, especially *actual* historian Allan Branstiter of “The Margin of Error” and a frequent “Agreeing Loudly” guest and contributor. As well as Justin Norris, especially for the latter half (discussed below).

Also, especially for longtime residents of NYC and NYS — feel free to join in on the conversation. Come one, come all, and bring friends.

For anyone friends, family, acquaintances, or readers that will be visiting the area — I’ll also try to use this space to recommend really good walking tours or double-decker bus tours that are affordable and valuable.

In the spirit of “piercing bubbles” I’d also like to invite any other amateur or professional historians to contribute to this site and explore their states in a similar or unique manner.

I’ll be covering the New York-focused series in two places: right here at AL.com in the form of longer articles and in more photographic and anecdotal form on Instagram @nycwalkinghistory – which will no doubt be changed to @nywalkingonhistory or @nyswalkingonhistory as goals are accomplished. What goals? Read below:

Double-decker bus tour in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn.

Goal — in the next three years (2017, 2018, and 2019) — my beautiful wife, Jacki, and I (and sometimes just me) will be doing a walking historical tour on the streets of every neighborhood in the five boroughs of New York City. We’ve already covered nearly every neighborhood in the Borough of Manhattan, and have been pretty decent progress in the Bronx and Brooklyn as well. In the years to come, we’ll be covering the rest of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, as well as venturing past CitiField (where the New York Mets, my National League loyalties lie there) in Queens and getting out to Staten Island.

Furthermore, and especially as we get closer to covering every neighborhood in New York City, we’ll be venturing Upstate via the Hudson Valley and into Long Island past JFK airport and be doing for the 62 Counties of New York State what we did for the neighborhoods of New York City.

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Unfortunately and unfairly, New York City hogs most of attention and spotlight in the public imagination (for understandable reasons). However, there is so much history in each and every county. A lot of it — I don’t even know yet, but I’m excited to find out. In addition to NYC, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley, you’ll find seven other main regions Upstate. I speculate (and we’ll see if I’m right) that the Finger Lakes area is not too different from the Lakes Area of Minnesota where I grew up. I’m also really excited to see Buffalo, NY — and see how similar it is to Duluth, MN, my only previous exposure to a Great Lakes city outside of Chicago, IL.

The second major historical running series that will begin relatively soon is the story of US History as told through Consequential Presidential Elections.

Ideally, I’ll get a bit of an assist from resident scholar Justin Norris, Carson Starkey, Allan Branstiter, etc. for this series. Once again, I’m an amateur historian. And I’ll do my best.

There will be no schedule and the new articles will be published as they are researched, completed, and edited. No time-table and no promises. But I promise this won’t become like Aaron Gleeman’s top 40 Twins of all time series.

A brief rundown of what elections and the time periods around them that I will be researching and writing on:

1800

(Jefferson v. Adams, and the first peaceful transfer of power)

1828

(Jackson v. Quincy Adams, and beginnings of the rural Democratic Party tradition)

1860

(Lincoln v. Douglass v. Breckenridge v. Bell, and the Civil War)

1896

(McKinley v. Jennings Bryan, and Populism on the Prairie)

1912

(Wilson v. Roosevelt v. Taft, the two party system holds, and the Grand Ole Party rejects progressivism for good)

1932

(FDR vs. Hoover, the New Deal, the new policy consensus, and the leader that history called for)

1960-1964-1968

(JFK v. Nixon, LBJ v. Goldwater, Humphrey v. Nixon, a New Generation, a second New Deal, the tumultuous year that was 1968, and the beginnings of the break-up of the New Deal coalition and the New Deal itself)

1980

(Reagan vs. Carter, American Optimism, the opening of an era of boomer short-sightedness, and the beginning of the end for the New Deal)

1992

(Clinton v. H.W. Bush v. Perot, the Democratic Party sells its soul to win back the White House, betrays working people and families, and the boomer Clinton Party triumphant)

2008

(Obama vs. McCain, History made, Opportunities Missed, and the first Information Age election)

 

The Greater Recession: Party’s End and A New Beginning.

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Generational change, or the lack thereof, proved to be a chief driving force of the “bottoming out” of the Democratic Party this year. This is not news to “Agreeing Loudly.”  We’ve predicted this and built a site partly on this fact for 16 months. The early returns are not good — Democratic Party leadership is not reading enough Thomas Frank.

New York, NY — (the capital of national Democratic Party incompetence, cluelessness, and cultural excess).

The beating heart of America and the state of New York (like every state) is the people. And the people have been betrayed. While the GOP celebrates, and all Americans should be protective of those most vulnerable and commit themselves to being the best person they can be, it is time for the Democratic Party to take these next six weeks and actually do some introspection. I have no doubt that introspection is going on in the hearts and minds of voters and supporters. However, it is rarely going on in the minds of boomer-heavy Democratic Party leaders. And that will not change until we demand that it changes.

Permanent Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is not going to suddenly discover his populist voice at the age of 65. Permanent Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is not going to suddenly discover her populist voice at the age of 76. I do not bring up their ages to be an agist. Far from it. Because the war on the young and the war on the middle and working class has been going on ever since their generation came to power via Watergate in the mid-70s. I bring up, what in the end are mere numbers to highlight the concept of subsidiarity: let those that are closest to the problem, and are more likely to know the problem — solve the problem.

The problem with the party is neoliberalism and corporatism. The problem is empty and soulless “high society” and “status” liberalism. The problem is an irrational appeal to moderation, compromise, incrementalism, and the idea that leaders (and especially the President) can just solve anything. They can’t and they won’t. We must do it. We the people. Welcome to the third and final part of the story of the future Greater Recession: Party’s End and a New Beginning.

**********

In 18 to 36 months, because it is a fact of the business cycle, and for reasons cited in Parts One and Two, this country will be in another “bubble” recession. The recession is inevitable. The pain caused to human beings because of short-sightenedness, corporate greed and grift, and government sponsorship of it, is completely avoidable. Were it not for the fact that elections, a lack of vision for the future and a good message, and voter apathy having consequences.

It would have happened if Hillary Clinton had won too. Don’t forget that former incoming Majority Leader Schumer had a stated top legislative goal of corporate tax cuts to get after overseas tax shelter-corporate profit dollars in the coming session. Now that Donald Trump has won, it will still happen. In some ways it’ll be the same, in others worse. The difference now is how the powers that be will react to it, and how we the people will react to it. Life is ten percent what happens to you, ninety percent how you react to what happens to you.

The big financial institutions and investment banks are already lining up and betting for the market to fail. Hiring freezes have commenced. All the indicators are there.

Despite all of his populist rhetoric, and many commentators citing that it was a farce and fraudulent in advance, the incoming Trump administration has already tapped a Goldman Sachs banker as the next Treasury Secretary. It might as well be enshrined into the Constitution at this point. Doesn’t matter who wins–there’s going to be a GS Treasury Secretary.

Bizarrely, this Greater Recession will not feel greater than the great one. Why? Because working families and working people have not made up what was lost economically for them in 2007-09. My ancestors barely felt the Great Depression in the 1930s–why? Because they were already poor to begin with. If/when the market fails and there are more bail outs of banks, but not people–get ready for the student loan “bubble” to burst too. Mr. Pres.-elect, it’s up to you what you want to do–I recommend doing the right thing.

For anyone who thinks the intra-party civil war within the Democratic Party can save us all from this fate, or if you think there will be an inevitable electoral backlash, think again. And then read Thomas Frank. Then get back to me. Then go read Thomas Frank again. Then listen to the “Margin of Error”, then branch out from there.

**********

After the 2016 Election — the two party power structure in this country looks like this:

Presidency: GOP (the first elected President in American history without any political or military experience prior to the Presidency)

US Senate: 52 GOP, 48 DEM (+2 DEM)

US House: 238 GOP, 194 DEM (+6 DEM)

US State Governors: 34 GOP, 15 DEM, 1 IND (Alaska) (+3 GOP)

US State Legislatures: 36 GOP/GOP-caucusing, 14 DEM/DEM caucusing in State Senates | 32 GOP/GOP-leaning, 17 DEM, 1 IND (Alaska) in State Houses.

After 2018 Midterm Elections — this is a realistic possibility:

The GOP faces a very favorable Senate map in 2018. 2016 was actually the last time in a long time the Democrats had a realistic chance to pick up the Senate absent a wave and a complete re-organization of the Democratic Party. Now we have the following seats that will still likely fall, or very well could.

GOP gains: IN, MO, MT, ND, (Joe Manchin holds on, but switches parties), 59 seats.

The situation will not improve much in the US House in an era of gerrymandering, voter ID, and key provisions of the Voting Rights Act gone.

Therefore, the next two years should be a legal battle in key states and 2017 should be about actually voting in progressive major US city Mayors so we can stop looking so hypocritical when corporate Democratic Mayors engage in tax giveaways to subsidize sports stadiums, and real estate projects, etc. We can stop looking so hypocritical when it comes to education achievement gaps, etc.

Lessons have not been learned and the liberal boomer establishment is mostly not getting it.

The Democratic Party will still have a DCCC that dictates to local units their “expert” opinions and sophisticated numbers over the local knowledge of people who have lived most, if not all, of their lives in their communities.

Most of the chairs and public elected officials of the Democratic Party remain unchanged. And already the Keith Ellison for DNC Chair (which I support, with some small reservations) momentum is slowing down because the “donor class” doesn’t want him and mostly, doesn’t like him.

We have no evidence since the year 2006 that Dems will magically turn out in a midterm when they do not hold the White House. 2006 was certainly a wave, but it was a wave that was created by the Iraq War and the Bush Administration being historically unpopular. It is likely that Trump will be unpopular, but when you have Democratic leaders like (permanent) Minority Leader Schumer in the Senate, and (permanent) Minority Leader Pelosi in the House vowing to make Donald Trump more popular, and vowing to work with him on some things, in stark contrast to how the GOP leadership behaved after an *actual* landslide in 2008, the jury is very much still out on the so-called coming 2018 Democratic wave.

2018 should be focused on the states and localities. Gubernatorial and state legislative campaigns. Party-building begins locally and it begins personally. Think local.

If the GOP maintains most of what they hold or even slightly improve (via winning the MN and PA gubernatorial races, a distinct possibility if nothing changes), not only are they knocking on the door of a filibuster-proof Senate, but they are also knocking on the door of a Constitutional amendment proof majority in the states (3/4ths, 37 states needed to pass and ratify proposed Constitutional amendments).

Not only will there be no wave if things do not change in a hurry for the party, but there are many areas past the above mentioned Senate map looking brutal, where we could lose ground further.

New York Democrats are currently prepping Chelsea Clinton to run for Congress in a long-held but only slight Democratic district in the New York-17th. I predict the GOP goes out and gets an Iraq Veteran who delivers lines like this across the district:

“While Chelsea Clinton was getting groomed to run for Congress and join the family business someday, I was dodging bullets in the Middle East.” – the Eric Greitens of the New York 17th. 

I’m sure Chelsea is nice, this is not personal. But I ask our readership to please get an early start in starting the human rights watch campaign to free Chelsea Clinton from what Democratic Party insiders and the Clinton cabal of advisors keep asking her to do. Go into careers that she does not want to do and is not a natural at doing. It’s insulting to her humanity, it’s insulting to the electorate, and I can only hope that she does not run. Enough with the Dukes and Earls, whether political or economic.

The 2020 Presidential Election — here are the early, talked about candidates:

One of the Reagan-baby Gen-X heavy GOP deep benchers (Rubio, Sasse, Cotton, Haley, although probably not Speaker Ryan as he’ll be too politicized) wins the Presidency, replacing Trump, who limits himself to one term citing political success and victories, or because he is impeached by a GOP congress, bringing us briefly, a President Glen Allen Walken…I mean Mike Pence.

Meanwhile, here is what the Democratic Party is countering with as of now, or at least this is what the early chatter is in the Beltway.

Sen. Cory Booker (NJ).

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY).

Sen-elect Kamala Harris (CA).

Gov. John Hickenlooper (CO).

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN).

First Lady Michelle Obama (Will reside in Washington D.C.).

I wanted to give everyone the proper amount of time away but now it is time to be honest.

Michelle, I have no doubt would be great. But she has stated many times that she has no interest in electoral politics. The Obama family has served their country enough. Leave them alone.

Sen-elect Harris will not run, and while she has a bright future, she is also from California, which has never produced a Democratic President and looks unlikely to do so in this current climate. Lets see what kind of Senator she is going to be first. I have high hopes that at the very least she’d make an excellent AG or VP candidate, then perhaps President after that.

Furthermore, every- single-talked-about candidate was only analyzed in terms of fundraising abilities, not potential message or vision for the future. The amount of people who do not get it in the political, media, and intellectual elite is alarming. For the most part, only the folks and their supporters are getting it. A quick note on the rest: Booker and Gillibrand (as well as Cuomo) may very well run, but they won’t win. If Sen. Klobuchar or Gov. Hickenlooper run, see Tim Pawlenty.

Thanks for sticking with us. Let’s get organized team future, we’re the last, best hope and it’s time to accept that. 

2016 Election Preview & Predictions: Part Three – State Elections

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What we often forget is  ultimately the U.S. Presidential Election is a series of state elections. In the final part of our election series, lets take a look at the 50 states (Gubernatorial elections and state legislative elections).

I have no doubt that these will be the hardest predictions to nail down for two reasons: one, the lack of available polling for many state legislative races and even many gubernatorial races (in safe D or safe R states), and two, given the historically high unfavorable ratings at the top of each ticket, it is harder to predict any sort of down ballot affect that usually is in play. Traditionally, for reasons of higher name ID and concentration of media coverage on the top ticket races, Presidential candidates and statewide candidates get more votes and a higher percentage than their down ballot counterparts. At least in theory. Local candidates who have a special relationship with their constituents often do much better than the top of the ticket, but I digress. Let’s start with the statewide races, then state legislative control in all 50 states, and end with going specific in the three states that I have been a resident in at some point in my life (Minnesota, North Dakota, and now New York).

General predictions for the makeup of gubernatorial power in the states.

Currently

GOP: 31 Governors, DEM: 18 Governors, Independent: 1 (in Alaska)

New (prediction)

 

GOP: 31 Governors, DEM: 18 Governors, Independent: 1 (in Alaska)

Overall, most gubernatorial races happen in midterm elections, which will give the GOP a strong advantage as long as the Democratic Party continues to win the White House. Of the few gubernatorial races this year (12 in total), I predict the Democrats easily retain Washington, Oregon, and Delaware, while the Republicans easily retain North Dakota and Utah, which leaves us with closer races in the New Hampshire, Vermont, North Carolina, West Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, and Montana.

Of those seven, the GOP will pick-up Vermont, West Virginia, and just narrowly miss out on picking up New Hampshire and Missouri. The Democrats will pick-up Indiana and North Carolina narrowly, retain Montana by at least 5 points, and  narrowly retain New Hampshire and Missouri (where GOP candidate Eric Greitens has ran a frightening campaign, foretelling things to come, stay tuned next week for more on that.)

In other words, no change in the gubernatorial makeup and control of the various executive branches in the states.

General predictions for the makeup of state legislative power in the states.

Currently

The GOP controls 68 out of the 98 chambers (higher chambers and lower chambers) at the state legislative level.

New (prediction)

The GOP controls 65 out of the 98 chambers, which means Democrats net a total of 3 state legislative chambers.

The GOP will pick-up the Kentucky House, a coda if you will to the past realignment and death of the old south where the Democrats were able to compete locally many cycles after they began losing the once solid south at the Presidential level.

The Democrats will pick-up the Colorado Senate (go Jered Weber!), Nevada Assembly, New Mexico House, and the biggest surprise and reach here, the Arizona Senate. In other words, continued signals of the longer term blue trend of the Mountain West and Southwest.

*Note: the state of Nebraska has a unicameral non-partisan state legislature, but let’s not kid ourselves here… that’s another one in the GOP column if we’re being honest.

Now for a spotlight on a few states.

First, the state of North Dakota, which has the honor of being the only state where a Democratic Party has promoted millennials and young people to positions of party and public leadership. Because when you are losing 45-0, why not just call up the farm system and start building…

NORTH DAKOTA

Senate: Current 32-15 Republican majority against the Democratic-NPL (Non-partisan league)

House: Current 71-23 Republican majority against the Dem-NPL

New (prediction), in solidly red North Dakota, which has gone even darker shades of red during the eight years of the Obama Administration (Obama won this state in the 2008 Democratic Primary and finished within 10 in the 2008 General Election), the Republicans easily hold on to their supermajorities in both houses. It’s hard to even imagine where the Dems would pick up seats here other than maybe a few seats out of Fargo. I expect Donald Trump to do better here than most states tomorrow and that could have its own wave effect on the few rural Dem-NPL legislators that still have seats. So I’ll call this one a wash, with virtually no change in either the state house or senate.

MINNESOTA

Senate: Current 38-28 DFL (Democrat-Farmer Labor) majority (or 39-28 if going by 2012 election)

House: Current 73-61 Republican majority

New (prediction)

Senate: 36-31 DFL (the GOP has a net pick-up of 3 seats)

House: 70-64 GOP (the DFL has a net pick-up of 3 seats)

Analysis: The changing demographics (featured earlier in this brilliant and illuminating podcast episode of “This American Life”) propel St. Cloud to deliver pick-ups for the DFL in Senate District 14 and House District 14B.

In general, the split in the DFL between metro-area environmentalists and rural labor unionists and farmers will continue to show up at the ballot box. Rural voters in CD8 and 7 have fewer reasons to vote for the DFL each cycle and that will show up most strikingly in Nolan’s close re-election to the House, a seat that looks to be in deep trouble for the ’18 midterms. The down ballot effects will be seen at the state legislative races while the DFL continues to recruit solid candidates, and party-build well in the suburban metro areas. In the Senate, the GOP will gain seats in SD 1, 17, 24, and 36 to cut in slightly to the overall DFL majority in the state senate. In the house, the DFL has a net-gain of 3 seats, with pick-ups in 21A, 24B, and a hold in 48A. Despite Trump and Jason Lewis on the ballot, the down-ballot MN-2 legislative races hold for the GOP in 56A, 56B, 57A, and 57B. If a few of these races however are called for the DFL, then the Republican majority in the state house is in jeopardy.

NEW YORK

We end with my home state of New York. The disfunction of corruption of both major parties here is seen even in their state legislative election tallies. Low turnout (bottom 5 in the nation usually), and tight election laws by blue state standards will make tomorrow frustrating. We’ve shined the spotlight on three states tonight, North Dakota, a red state trending further red. Minnesota, a blue state trending red. Now New York, a blue state trending further blue, but like another blue state, Illinois, embodies many of the problems with the modern day national Democratic Party.

Senate: Current 32-31 GOP majority

Assembly: Current 106-42 Dem majority

Analysis: The Assembly is safe Democratic hold, and the Senate is anyone’s guess and a true coin toss. Why? Let me explain first how the GOP even gets to their majority. In the New York State Senate, which as I pointed out in an earlier article, has had an unsurpassed string of public corruption and grift, has 29 elected Democrats (with five of them being considered Independents that caucus with the Democrats in Albany), 29 elected Republicans, with 1 Democrat who caucuses with the senate Republicans in Albany. Leaving us with 4 true toss-ups. I’m splitting the difference and saying that the NY State Senate ends up with 32 caucusing as Republicans to hold the majority (29 actually endorsed by the Republicans, and 3 Democrats who caucus with them), and 31 Democrats or elected state senators who end up caucusing with the Democrats.

In other words. Albany is a mess, folks like Andrew Cuomo are not the future of the party, but rather its extreme neoliberal past that ought to be in the rear view mirror as soon as possible. The best news to come out of New York state tomorrow night will hopefully be the election of Teachout in the New York 19th Congressional District.

Now go vote tomorrow if you haven’t already!

The Agreeing Loudly Reboot

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Catch the Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast (ALC2C) flagship podcast on a monthly basis now, via iTunes, AgreeingLoudly.com, stitcher, etc. Follow us on Twitter and be sure to tune into the Margin of Error podcast as well, featuring AL.com contributors Alan Branstiter and Carson Starkey.

Is banding together as a generation from coast to coast each week too much for you? It sure was for us. But is once a month the ticket? I agree.

AL.com announces its new format of one podcast per month. Less is more, unless you are Marvel or Star Wars, in which case more is more and we’re going to make you double-dip until the end of time because you cannot help yourself.

If once per month doesn’t do the trick, and you want more high-brow pointy headedness instead, go on over to our Friends of the Podcast section or click here to check out Margin of Error. Simultaneously overeducated and under-qualified, MoE continues on similar threads and themes we have discussed at AL.com and on the podcast but goes more in-depth, more thorough, and generally speaking, is the NPR to ALC2C’s MSNBC or Fox News.

Tune in to the 8th episode where The Margin of Error will be featuring an interview with a contributor from Rick Perlstein’s and Thomas Frank’s “The Baffler” magazine. Join them (and us) on a relentless and unforgiving journey on our way to advertising dollars, pointy-headed intellectualism, and further millennial musings from public citizens, because someone has to be….

Furthermore, stay tuned to AgreeingLoudly.com for an Election Predictions and Analysis article in the next week and much more to come after that.

The Greater Recession: Boomers and the 401(k) Cash-In

birth-rates
“Those born between roughly 1946 and 1964, are now 52 to 70 years old. Starting in 2015, more money is coming out of the 401K retirement market than will ever be going in for quite some time.”                                                                               Source for Birth Rate Graph: Wikipedia 

Months ago during the Presidential primary election, during the peak of this nascent website’s readership (so far, perhaps forever), I wrote about what could be appropriately called the “Greater Recession.” It’s detailed focus was on the millennial generation (those born between circa 1980/81 and 1998 or so) and housing and the role that will play in contributing to the next recession. At the end I teased that housing will not be the chief driving force however behind the next recession, rather it will be the fact that baby boomers, retiring en-masse starting a few years ago, will be cashing in their 401K’s and this outflow will outpace the money that is going into retirement markets. What sounds alarmist now and overly complicated will sound stupidly simple when history is written: retirement accounts need money in them. Duh.

In the wake of the silliest U.S. Presidential Election and national conversation on record and for a country whose youngest working generation and middle class is still reeling from the previous Great Recession, it’s completely understandable why no one wants to hear or read about the next one (don’t worry, they won’t). But demographics are still destiny.

They are a chief driving reason Italy cannot grow more than 1 percent annually because Italy cannot replace its own population. Birth rates. If it were not for their relatively more modern and diversified economies, France and Spain would suffer from similar systemic growth problems because most of Europe is suffering from historically low birth rates. The United States has its own birth rate crisis too, but at the other end of the spectrum. The post-World War II baby boom from 1946 to roughly 1964.

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As of mid-2015 withdrawals from 401K plans exceed new contributions, a shift that could shake up the U.S. retirement industry and a trend that will continue well into the next decade and perhaps beyond. Three to four million baby boomers will be retiring every year between now and 2020, and it is expected to accelerate beyond that. The direct result will be on asset management firms and the retirement portion of investment banks being squeezed of large amounts of money because they rely on fees charged to employers and investors as their chief profit engine. Before I move on, let’s go through a quick primer on the history of 401Ks.

401K retirement plans came into wide usage in the 1980s as more companies embraced them as a replacement to their more costly pension fund counterpart. In other words, 401Ks are the privatization of pension plans. Along with the general erosion of big labor and private (as well as some public) sector unions in the U.S., this trend has contributed to declining and stagnant middle and working class incomes. The financial capitalism model that rose in the United States in this decade coincides with globalization ascendent generally, with the post-War political and economic consensus fading into history. Pensions were out. Privatization was in. The prevalence of 401K plans coincide with the major working years of the baby boomer generation, the largest cohort in American history until millennials.

A 401K bubble, unlike the housing bubble, will be far more fundamental than Senator McCain could ever conceive of because it will be demographically and systemically driven. We have seen so many cracks in globalization’s inevitability this past year, whether it is Brexit, the rise of nationalism generally, or the entire 2016 Presidential Election cycle. The final nail in the coffin to its inevitability may very well be another recession, which will no doubt have global implications as well because nearly everything does now. If we’ve learned anything since 2007-09 it’s that globalization and interdependence is failing, and will likely keep failing, rightly or wrongly. We have also learned that nation-states still matter and they matter the most. Rising nationalism that borders on jingoism and xenophobia in some quarters is frightening to anyone who has read history, but at the most basic level–the primacy and importance of national leadership and its ability to control and secure national interests is still incredibly relevant. Much of this development is political and populist in nature, and often very much to the chagrin of the global system, especially those in the financial community.

It has been said, and I think this is still the best case for globalization (although slipping a bit each year), that countries that trade together and are dependent on one another will not fight each other. A free trade and globalized world order is a peaceful world. With each passing year though, this gets harder and harder to believe. When Iraqi civilian casualties are 1/4th the total of the holocaust, you know instinctively that you are not living in a more peaceful world. Rather, you are merely avoiding the most dangerous parts of the world.

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In fairness to those who would call this alarmist thinking, there are three economic developments and one political, that could at the very least, stem the tide. Starting with the most unlikely to succeed.

1. Millennials putting enough money into their own retirements (very unlikely).

Despite the demographic ability to do it, millennials are squeezed out of good paying jobs still and even if they obtain those jobs (a big “if”), significant student loan debt and other costs will limit our ability to save for retirement in the years to come.

 

2. Asset management firms reinvesting a good potion of boomer-held wealth back into the market (more likely).

This may not be enough either though. Aging costs money and boomers are not nearly as wealthy as we all think they are. After all, their entire working lives coincide with America going from an FDR / New Deal / “We take care of our own” – model to a Reagan / “trickle-down economics” / financial capitalism – model.

3. Wall Street downsizing (most likely, already happening). 

 

An interesting facet of the Greater Recession could very well be the great irony: just as the Great Recession could be characterized as Wall Street driving an economic recession that left millennials with few paying jobs, the Greater Recession could be characterized by millennials lacking the assets, paying jobs, and income to prevent an economic recession that will in turn, leave many on Wall Street without their high-paying jobs.

And then there is the political solution.

We all saw how swiftly both parties acted in the wake of the global financial meltdown in 2008. But even in success, we also saw how readily evident it was that the United States has a public policy that is so incredibly friendly to wealthy elites and corporations that more and more publications are taking to calling the United States an oligarchy. Furthermore, political gridlock in the Obama years has made another swift action in response to an economic crisis harder to imagine. It’s far more likely any political response is an incredibly partisan one, carried out by a Republican Party in complete control of the United States government after 2020.

Therefore it’s far more likely that social insurance programs get privatized due to the political winds of the time, bad luck, and poor party-building and planning by the Democratic Party, which will be the chief purpose of the third and final part of the Greater Recession article series.