The Republican Party – Art of the Bad Deal

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

A Dispatch from Trumpistan —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Gentrified Revolution

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

by Allan Branstiter

LA County

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

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

Progressives Still Need to Engage Racial Injustice

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

Southcentral

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

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

 

Sanders Won the Gentrification Vote

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

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

SouthBeach

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

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

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

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

WestLA

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

SilverLake

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

Parting Shot—Clinton Won the Rich and Older People Vote

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

Hillary Clinton and the Perils of Reconstruction History

by Allan Branstiter

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I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t watched a Democratic debate/town hall/forum in several months because 1) no one can bury a primary campaign in plain sight better than Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, 2) life, 3) my heart belongs to Bernie Sanders, and 4) they’re boring. Who knows . . . maybe after Sanders wins Iowa and New Hampshire these things will liven up a little bit. I must be doing something wrong because 3.2 million people tuned in to CNN to watch this high-octane slog-fest unfold—making it the highest rated town hall (not debate) ever. Nevertheless, a candidate said something at last Monday’s Iowa town hall on CNN that almost makes me wish I had been watching.

In 2008, Barack Obama once said that his favorite book at the moment was Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, a critically-acclaimed history of how Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet overcame political divisions and saved the nation. Obama’s use of Lincoln as model was safe and supported his argument that he would unify the country behind the cause of “Hope,” “Change,” and “Yes We Can!” Citing Lincoln also undermined Clinton’s argument that Obama was too idealistic and naive to be an effective president. Team of Rivals simultaneously gave Obama an historical precedent as the “Believer-in-Chief,” embedded his campaign within a centuries-old narrative of racial justice, and sold a ton of Democrats a book that they never got around to reading. Running for POTUS 101: Cite Lincoln because it’s safe, hopeful, and patriotic.

Last Monday, when asked which president she admires the most, Hillary Clinton answered “Abraham Lincoln.” Safe answer, boring answer . . . you’d think. But leave it to Clinton to fumble the ball on a Lincoln. Starting out, Clinton’s conjuring of Lincoln’s memory wasn’t bad. Heck, it even contained a well-known Lincoln quote:

“That’s what I mean, when you’ve got to do a lot of things at once what could be more overwhelming than trying to wage and win a civil war? And yet he kept an eye on the future. And he also tried to keep summoning up the better angels of our nature.”

Then she to a very old and very troubling interpretation of race and Reconstruction:

“You know, he was willing to reconcile and forgive and I don’t know what our country might have been like if had he not been murdered. But I bet that it might have been a lot less rancorous, a little more forgiving and tolerant, that it might have possibly back together more quickly, but instead we had Reconstruction we had the re-instigation of segregation and Jim Crow, we had people in the South feeling totally discouraged and defiant. So I really do believe he could have very well put us on a different path.”

Keep in mind that this is a Democratic candidate for President of the United States in 2016, not Donald Trump of the fake “River of Blood” Civil War monument. This isn’t even your crazy Uncle Gary who gets all his historical knowledge from cable television and Bill O’Reilly’s assassination porn. This is Hillary Clinton, Yale alumni, former U.S. Senator from New York, and former U.S. Secretary of State treading dangerously close to a neo-Confederate understanding of American history. So where does this come from and why is what she said troubling?

By arguing that Lincoln’s death opened the door to unreasonably harsh Reconstruction policy that served only to antagonize white Southerners hearkens back to an antiquated, debunked, and (frankly) white supremacist historical interpretation called the Dunning School. William Dunning, a professor of history at Columbia University during the turn of the 20th Century, argued that Reconstruction was a “tragic era” caused by a conspiracy of vindictive and intolerant Northerners who manipulated uneducated African American men and women into action against their former masters. To Dunningites, Reconstruction was a betrayal of Lincoln’s moderate stance towards the defeated Confederacy, as well as a tyrannical overreach of federal power.

In the end, Dunningites justified the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and the violent overthrow of biracial state governments as an understandable reaction to Reconstruction. Ironically, they blamed the codification of Jim Crow laws in the 1890s as a necessary corrective to the intolerance of the left’s social justice agenda. Like Clinton, they argued that if radical Republicans and supporters of racial equality had only “been a lot less rancorous, a little more forgiving and tolerant” the separation of the races wouldn’t have been necessary.

This interpretation became the dominant narrative of the Civil War era during the 30th Century. Anyone over the age of 50 probably learned it as fact during middle and high school. The Dunning School inspired and continues to inspire a nostalgic view of the South. Gone With the Wind (1939) is probably the most famous portrait of the values of the Dunning School; however, it was D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915) that captured the romantic potential of the interpretation and led to the appearance of the Second Ku Klux Klan.

Undoubtedly Clinton opposes all things racist and related to the Klan or neo-Confederate ideology, and I’m not arguing that she’s a racist apologist by any means. Even D.W. Griffith had the best of intentions when he made Birth of a Nation. In fact, he went so far as to include included this placard in his film right before his section regarding Reconstruction:

What follows this well-meaning placard qualifying the heroic portrayal of the Klan and the savagery of the rapine black and mulatto field hand an objective but benign historical fact? Why, a quote from none other than then President Woodrow Wilson that in the face of liberal tyranny and racial disorder, “white men were roused by a mere instinct of self-preservation . . . until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country.” Such is the contradictory history of race in America.

Again, let’s make it clear—I do not believe Clinton is supporting the political ambitions of the Klan, nor does she harbor ill will towards nonwhite races (God forgive those who venture to condemn liberals as *a hush descends upon the room* racists). What I will argue is that Clinton’s privilege as white elite continues to inform her understanding of the past’s relevance to today.

It’s not like an alternative understanding of Reconstruction is so new that she could not be expected to know about it—W.E.B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction (1935) is 81-years-old and while mainstream academic historians have undermined the Dunning School convincingly for half a century. What we now know is that Lincoln’s death may have lessened the acerbic nature of Reconstruction politics in Washington, DC, but white Southerners would have still obstructed any attempts to extend the full rights of citizens to African Americans. As historian Eric Foner argues, “today, scholars believe that if the era was ‘tragic,’ it was not because Reconstruction was attempted but because it failed.” What prevented a quick and harmonious reconciliation after the Civil War wasn’t the inflexibility of radicals or the victimization of white Southerners, but the unwillingness of white supremacists to accept the legitimacy of black civil rights.

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During Reconstruction, conservatives (Northern and Southern, black and white) argued that radicals needed to show more forbearance towards those who sought to limit the freedom of former slaves, Native Americans, and Chinese immigrants. They supported so-called “Black Codes” that stole black children from their parents and forced into “apprenticeships” under white planters. They denied blacks the ability to relocate in order to find higher wages and better working condition. White conservatives also chaffed when black legislators argued that the practice of leasing black prisoners was unconstitutional. To Reconstruction-era conservatives, these acts of racial injustice were a moderate and forgiving compromise that would maintain the racial status quo, while paving the way towards national reconciliation.

On January 22, 2016, a self-identified white “moderate” called into the Diane Rehm Show and said that while he never thought he’d ever vote for Donald Trump, the “changing demographics” of the country were turning him into a supporter. Showing the forbearance advocated by “respectable” people, the journalists on the show that day commented that the man sounded “so reasonable” and that his ideological moderation implied that he was (and by extension Trump’s supporters) primarily motivated by factors other than race and a perceived loss of white privilege.

I bring up this final point because it served as a fascinating moment when “moderation” bridged the divide between a man who fears a brown take-over of America and several white liberal members of the press. This sense of unity is made possible by a failure to reject antiquated and racially apologetic understandings of the past. While made in passing and without malice, Clinton’s misconceptions about American history allow racial discrimination to hide beneath a guise of well-meaning liberal white folk and their emphasis on unity, reconciliation, and respectability. What suffers is true justice—whether it be economic, gendered, or racial justice.

To the unaware, she sounds so reasonable and moderate. But as Ta-Nehisi Coates once stated, “the idea that racism lives in the heart of particularly evil individuals, as opposed to the heart of a democratic society, is reinforcing to anyone who might, from time to time, find their tongue sprinting ahead of their discretion.” One might include those who find their words sprinting ahead of their understanding of history, as well.

PS—Evidently a ton of people going nuts about whether or not the question “Which of our previous Presidents have inspired you the most?” was a plant. Nuts, I tell you.