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.
You cannot build a movement for the common people if you hold the common people in contempt. — ThomasFrank 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 CitizensUnited, 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.”
There are not enough professional class voters to form the consensus.
The ones who realigned from the GOP to the Democratic Party did so years ago.
The ones still in the GOP are rich and unpersuadable.
Working class voters are more numerous and more diverse than ever.
Some of them are even organized already, through this thing called collective bargaining.
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 CitizensUnited 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 movebeyond 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 theBaffler), 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.
Happy Friday! Where to start, where to start? How about a Political Parrots teaser?
While there are questions about what President Trump’s transition team knew and when – now we know what Vice President Pence is busy working on. By the way “transition team” is code for Vice President Mike Pence. Bloomberg
Speaking of Pence…Did Sixpence None the Richer write the most 90’s song ever?
Breaking News: Baby Booms are more entitled than…well…everybody. Here’s the proof.Marketwatch
Palo Alto, CA — Facebook CEO and future Democratic Party presidential loser Mark Zuckerberg has been busy lately, restructuring Facebook stock to ensure his control even after he plans to sell his stock, and also paving the way for a “leave of absence” in the event of government service. But the most telling sign Mark Zuckerberg plans to lose the 2020 or 2024 Presidential election is the above photo and this article which features videos of Mark, a Harvard drop-out who has become a billionaire getting people to willingly end all last vestiges of privacy in the 21st century, milking cows, riding tractors, talking to factory workers and veterans, and other faux-folksy things that such Presidential losers like Mitt Romney, John Kerry, and Michael Dukakis have done before him (who are all from Massachusetts as well by the way).
After an election cycle where an incredibly out-of-touch with the common people candidate was able to grab defeat from the jaws of victory against a reality T.V. star and professional grifter, the Democratic Party, currently desperately clawing to credibility, integrity, and backbone by hitching its expensive wagon to the citizen energy of the Resistance, Indivisible, and other grassroots organizing movements, is looking forward to nominating Mark Zuckerberg in either 2020 or 2024. It’s donor class is particularly fired up and ready to go! As long as they do not have to door knock and talk to a person.
Professional political liberal Alan Dershowitz, lawyer and current record-holder for the most number of times of publicly threatening to leave the party, is looking forward to fiercely advocating for Mr. Zuckerberg, before secretly voting for a Republican in the fall. Other establishment stalwarts like the 2008 architect and campaign manager for former President Obama, the eternally disappointing since 2014 David Plouffe, is looking forward to guiding the Facebook CEO, who was described in a Vanity Fair puff piece as wanting to be Emperor, to a landslide electoral defeat in either 2020 or 2024, ensuring continued one-party governance with Donald Trump or Mike Pence as head of state.
It’s nine o’clock on a Wednesday night, #HipsterJesus walks into a Brooklyn coffee shop that also serves alcohol at night (because of course they do) and in the corner the camera pans to Carson Starkey and Troy Olson. Carson is nursing a bourbon, and Troy, who had not drank alcohol in eight months, is drinking a Brooklyn Lager and talking about “Joe, Jane, and Union John.” His arms are moving wildly before Union “pounder of pavement” Carson interjects about the 2018 results:
That was a fine impersonation of the season 2 episode of The West Wing.
Right. The midterm episode. All that money spent by both sides. Few districts change. Here we are at the end of the road and Dems have barely climbed over the 200 seat mark. The GOP can only deal with 13 defections now…
Democrats lack a uniform message in Congress, other than restoring what Barry achieved in his first 2 years and refraining from destroying health care.
So many campaigngroupsstarted up in the wake of the ’16 result, so much grift, so few results. My flight to the nonprofit sector was well timed, where we… actually help people out. A foreign concept to investment bankers and real estate financiers and developers and inheritors of extreme comfort.
The disgruntled citizens… mostly disgruntled and white… are sad that NAFTA still exists. Because Mexicans and The Wall. And WalMart still pays badly. President Trump hasn’t made a deal to fix poverty because the Chamber is busy repealing minimum wage laws.
But what did we expect? As the Margin of Error pointed out last year, only people that went to Harvard and Yale think Donald Trump is a populist.
I’d like to think that it’s possible for me to get a job with Sherrod Brown’s presidential campaign as a policy analyst or speech writer. But that’s not certain post-2018. I’m inclined to stay in Minnesota now that Tom Emmer is governor. Too much work to be done here.
Well it’s good that he won’t have his senate duties to distract him from the campaign trail if he does run now that Senator Josh Mandel is in office. (Troy takes a drink of his lager, then a drink of tea, alternating) At what point did it set in for you that there would be no wave in ’18?
When Democrats settled on defending Heidi Heitkamp as the least bad option. And she lost. Because that’s what red states mean… tough terrain.
All those polls showing a generic ballot lead of 10 percent probably hurt. We still won the total ballot by 6 percent but that is not enough in a gerrymandered America.
We’re still in deep minority position across the states. Republicans outspend Democrats 3 to 1 in the legislatures and governors’ mansions. Which for the GOP, creates an endless pipeline of nutty Sam Brownback-style candidates. Infrastructure being what it is…
I wish the D-trip heeded our calls to think locally.
Colin Peterson will assume leadership of a rural think tank designed to “help” Democrats. Mostly to spew nonsense about the importance of the 2nd Amendment and why women are uppity.
What do you make of the surge in third parties on the left in safer seats? This falls along with my theory that although activism and involvement is at an all-time high, it’s independent and separate from the Democratic establishment, as may have given up on the party. Registration and caucus/convention turnout was down… people seem to be doing what Bernie is doing… a wait and see approach. Neither building the viable third party that is more progressive and populist nor effectively taking over the Democratic Party. Hurry Up….and Wait.
Well they can’t find regular access to parties, jobs in campaigns or activist groups. I don’t blame them for avoiding the regular channels of political organizing. Lord knows we’re familiar with that. Even if the WFP is a smaller outfit, it’s a platform for ideas. Ones that people believe in.
Right. I’m relatively convinced that if a neoliberal beats a progressive in the 2020 primary the party is done… sure it’ll limp along for a few more cycles, propelled by boomer lefty outrage… but the numbers will dwindle and so many younger folks will want out. And the resulting aftermath, well if you are well read on political problems in developing countries, if I may use that term here in the way academics and researchers have used it, you’ll know that revolutions are led by under and unemployed professionals and intellectuals. It’ll be fascinating to see neoliberals, Dukes and Earls that had the right last names and believe in the “magic”, let’s call in the Force, against a bunch of Han Solos cynically claiming that “hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster…”
Maybe the residents of Williamsburg will be ready to join the military when Tom Cotton becomes President, if only to revolt and re-enact Les Miserables.
It was getting late and Carson had a plane to catch tomorrow morning at JFK, and a campaign to plan for. It was a foggy night and he walked slowly and carefully… with the magic of Bruce Springsteen in his ear and the words of the late, great Senator Paul Wellstone saying “we all do better when we all do better.” Troy watched from sidewalk and the scene looked not unlike this….
The Scene and Setting: cultural treasure (in progressive-populist circles) Carson Starkey gets off-stage after introducing Bruce Springsteen to a crowd in San Francisco. The Bay Area is one of the thriving cultural centers of the People’s Republic of California, the first modern-day state to secede from the United States of America just after Trump’s re-election in 2020. He joins Troy Olson, on assignment from his home in Harlem to build diplomatic ties to the land with the 4th largest GDP in the world.
The Democrats have recently won complete control of all levels of government after the 2028 Presidential, Congressional, and State Elections. Carson and Troy reminisce on how it all happened.
So what just happened there? What’s your take Professor Starkey?
(note: Carson recently took a job at a Twin Cities area university, his favorite course is an elective on “American History as Told By the Music of Bruce Springsteen”)
Well, Hillary took a teaching job at Columbia, and avoided public endorsements, which allowed Seth Moulton to become governor of Massachusetts. Keith Ellison became Minnesota’s first black senator after Al Franken retired to become senior producer at Saturday Night Live. Tulsi Gabbard took legislating seriously, stopped surfing, and co-authored Medicaid-for-all w/ Kirsten Gillibrand.
You’re maybe giving too much credit to the winning team here. I attribute these historic wins for the Democrats to GOP incompetence. Who knew their policies would be widely disliked and disastrous for the country? Well… you knew.
That’s true. Life got hard for a lot of cable news viewers when they lost SNAP, WIC, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and minimum wage laws.
It also helped that rural monopolies by cable companies pushed prices to over $100 per month when they could have just had Netflix for $9 per month. Did these companies really think that no millennials would tell their parents to downsize in this area?
Right. Disastrous policies forced some hard choices on boomer parents. Some folks lost their Fox News fix.
The two-front war in Syria and Iran certainly didn’t help in the ’22 midterms (historicalnote: the first decent cycle per expectations in a decade for the Democratic Party). They should have pursued a draft but of course that would have led to even worse results at the ballot box.
The National Guard wasn’t ready. Also Republicans shouldn’t have run Dakota Meyer for President in 2024. His limited policy knowledge was surpassed only by Bristol Palin’s ugly bigotry.
They definitely over-estimated how much Trump had prepared the country for ugly bigotry… at some point people were going to get sick of it. It did not help that golden boys J.D. Vance was unable to beat Sherrod Brown for the Senate, and Tim Tebow was still trying to play professional sports (as of this writing: Tebow is under contract with the Las Vegas Raiders and is likely to be cut this fall)…
Sherrod Brown…forgot about him after he retired from the Senate to be a Supreme Court Justice. But we finally prioritized the judiciary.
(Continuing)… Donald Trump Jr’s failed term as Governor of New York didn’t help. Who knew New York state could do so much worse than Andrew Cuomo?
Lessons learned I suppose.
Speaking of Cuomo, worst presidential campaign in modern history? 2020. Wow. 5th in the Iowa Caucus.
He wasted 30 million dollars on campaign ads touting his fleet of collector cars. The donors were furious. But Cuomo moved to Goldman Sachs and soldiered on.
That’s a write-off for them made easy after the Supreme Court extended the privileges and immunities clause to corporations in the early 2020’s.
The DNC finally got out of the way of President Sanders, perhaps it was the overwhelming numbers and widespread misery.
I had my doubts if we were ever going to move on from a one party GOP state, especially after California became its own Republic. Which deep down had to burn many Texans because they didn’t get there first.
One of the few places capable of that course of action economically. Silicon Valley refused to relocate, it made sense. Regarding Texas, Governor Ted Cruz was unpersuasive.
Of course the downside to California leaving was that we were officially passed in GDP by China… but I imagine hysterical white people think it’s worth it. Demographic majorities for another decade or so.
That coal industry recovery never happened.
Didn’t need to. Trump correctly assumed that those voters would never vote for a Democrat anyway. The real question I have is–how long will these new majorities last and will they finally go after the needed big reforms?
Medicare-for-all would be a good escalation.
Let’s hope lessons have been learned. Now is the time. Although I have my doubts majority leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi will push hard enough for it.
Paired with universal basic income it may be hard. I suppose the revenue for those policies hinge on the corporate repatriation. Which Schumer and Durbin oppose with a bigger cut in the rates.
So admittedly, I was wrong about that “permanent” minority leader status. Apparently negative 30 favorability ratings nationally do not translate locally. Either way, it has been a lonely White House for President Sanders, not unlike Trump with the GOP.
The infrastructure is still not there, and he is not built for grandiose moments in the spotlight.
Fair point. The race is already on for who succeeds him. Do we swing back toward centrist-corporatist-neoliberals? A progressive heir? Does this growing Millennial Party that was willing to follow as long as Sanders got nominated but now is furious because they still have no place in electoral politics unless they run as Republicans bolt?
Larry David keeps making fun of Sanders, but it isn’t as funny as 2016.
Everyone looks old and tired. We’re bogged down in 4 fronts now (Afghanistan-Iraq-Syria-Iran), and despite the best efforts of the Sanders administration, we’ll soon enter our 29th straight year at war without a draft… it seems insane.
There’ll be some super attractive Iran War vet with a square jaw and two kids that runs against Tom Cotton. And progressives will soon be placated with Center for American Progress think tank jobs. The ebb and flow of the game I suppose…
So I guess we’ve answered the question. We’ll lose our majorities in the ’30 midterms, meaning we blow a redistricting year, and can look forward to President Tom Cotton. Or President Rubio because it’s now a tradition that we pick him to win. Like Chris Berman picking the 49ers vs. the Bills in the Super Bowl for 13 straight years.
It is fitting that his nickname is Boomer. BA in history from Brown in ’77, which of course leads to a major job in broadcasting for reasons. Meanwhile, no amount of doctoral degrees, community involvement, subsequent pounding of pavement was able to similarly convince the powers that be otherwise about the younger cohorts.
The first of what hopefully are many weekly (bi-monthly) updates promoting the latest episode of the excellent podcast The Margin of Error co-hosted by Allan Branstiter and Carson Starkey. In the future this website will be shamelessly, unapologetically, and proudly posting and promoting each episode, along with Bruce Springsteen music, and Jimmy Buffett retirement communities.
Hey, Carson — don’t ya think it’s time we have another installment of Conversations with the Ghost of America’s Future Past? Trump-era edition?
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.
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.
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 properregulation 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.
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 AtlasShrugged, 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.
On this month’s episode of Agreeing Loudly Coast to Coast, Bill Nentl makes his triumphant return from his multi-month suspension. In celebration of this momentous occasion, the Agreeing Loudly brain trust (minus one Pat Meacham) discuss their thoughts on who will win Best Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards, the latest Trumptastrophes, and some more public policy they think would make the world a better place.
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 formerincoming 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.