Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian?

By Amanda Marcotte, AlterNet, September 26, 2013  

In an age where your average Republican politician is thumping the Bible with one hand and trying to strip food from the mouths of the poor with the other, it’s become a sad cliché to point out how little the most outspoken Christians have in common with their charity-preaching, forgiveness-loving messiah. It’s only gotten worse in recent years, with the followers of the man who cured lepers threatening to shut down the government if Obama insists on giving more people access to healthcare.

But while a nudge and a laugh at the silly Christian hypocrites is a good time, it’s worth looking deeper at what’s really going on with the parsimonious haters of the poor who claim to speak for Jesus. The fact of the matter is that right-wing Christians refuse to see their differences with Jesus as hypocrisy. To really understand how religion works in the world of politics, it helps to understand that it’s usually more about  rationalizing what you already want to believe than it is about actually studying your religious texts and drawing intelligent conclusions from it.

So what’s going on when Ken Blackwell [3], the former Ohio Secretary of State and current conservative activist says things like there is “nothing more Christian” than cutting needy people off food stamps? It may seem like the rational thing for Blackwell to have done was simply admit that there’s nothing in the Bible that even comes close to suggesting that it’s good for people to be forced into starvation simply because they had the misfortune of living in a time of high unemployment. After all, Jesus just simply gave people the loaves and the fishes. He didn’t withhold the food, and like Blackwell did, say that being able to eat food would “breed dependency” and that starving the poor was a good way of “empowering others and creating self-sufficiency.”

Blackwell is stretching; it’s obvious he’s stretching. So why go there at all? Well, as stupid as he sounds, it’s the rational choice. Being considered a Christian means you get a lot of unearned esteem from the public, and you’re given a lot more benefit of the doubt than if you claimed to be, say, an atheist. Indeed, for many audiences, it’s better to sound like an idiot while claiming to be Christian than to sound intelligent without mentioning religion at all. It makes sense that a politician or activist would want to be perceived as a Christian even if they have to bend themselves into pretzels to explain away the obnoxious clash between what they believe and what even the most strained but intellectually honest interpretation of their Bible would have you believe.

But it’s more than that. There’s no reason to think Blackwell believes himself to be lying when it comes to his religious beliefs. As much as liberals would often wish it otherwise—and no matter how much conservative Christians may claim their beliefs all come from the Bible—the truth of the matter is there’s no real relationship between what a person believes and what their religion ostensibly teaches them to believe. In practical terms, the word “Christian” is an empty term that can basically mean whatever the believer wants it to mean. Christians decide what they want to believe first and then, after they’ve chosen their beliefs, search for any excuse, no matter how thin, to claim that their belief is consistent with their chosen religion.

It’s a process called rationalization or motivated reasoning, and to be perfectly fair, it’s how most people think about most things most of the time: They choose what to believe and then look for reasons to explain why they believe it. Huge reams of psychological research show this is just how the human brain works. Almost never do we look over a bunch of arguments and choose what to believe based on reasoning our position out. As Chris Mooney at Mother Jones explains [4], “We push threatening information away; we pull friendly information close.” Our faculties are usually put to the task of trying to defend what we already believe, not towards developing a better understanding of the world.

While most people engage in motivated reasoning most of the time, injecting religion into a situation only makes this process worse. That’s because, unlike most other belief systems, religion is impervious to empiricism. Most claims people make are subject to real-world tests. Are you in denial that your spouse is cheating on you? If you’re given photographic evidence that it’s true, that’s probably enough to shake you from your convictions. Want to believe the Earth is flat and not round? Shoot you into space and see how long that belief lasts. Sure, there are always fools who won’t believe the evidence, no matter how overwhelming, but for most of us, most of the time, we have a limit.

With religion, however, there’s no limits about what you can claim to believe. Jesus is a mythological character: he believes whatever the person speaking for him says he believes. For one person, Jesus believes we should feed the hungry and clothe the naked. For another, Jesus didn’t really mean it when he said that stuff; he was just handing out goodies in order to recruit new believers [5]. We weren’t there (and it probably didn’t even happen), so the sky’s the limit when making up reasons why what you believe counts as “Christian.” If you want to believe Jesus was actually a space alien brought here by Martians to teach us how to fly, you have as much right as anyone else to believe what you want. It all has equal amounts of evidence to back it up.

That’s one reason politicians love to talk about religion, because they don’t have to prove anything. But that’s the major reason religion really has no place in politics. It’s hard enough for voters and policy makers to hash through the real-world claims that fly around in politics. Trying to figure out what some silent, mythical god wants us to do is a fool’s errand. That god is always and forever going to want what the person speaking for him wants him to want, and nothing else. If Ken Blackwell was only allowed to speak for Ken Blackwell and not claim authority from on high, the true cruelty of his words would be all the easier to see.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-are-so-many-christians-so-un-christian

Links:
[1] http://alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/amanda-marcotte
[3] http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/frc-nothing-more-christian-massive-food-stamp-cut
[4] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/denial-science-chris-mooney
[5] http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/09/11/foxs-starnes-fearmongers-about-christian-groups/195830
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/christian-0
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/food-stamps
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/poverty-0
[9] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Vocabulary for the progressive narrative

 

1 Percent

99 Percent

American Dream

American Left

American Legislative Exchange Council

Anarchy

Angst

Antigovernment

Anti-Government Extremists

Anti-Urban

Apocalypse

Atheists

Austerity

Ayn Rand

Backlash Politics

Biblical Economics/Prosperity Gospel

Brainwash

branding/rebranding

Budget

Capitalism

Census Bureau

Center – Right – Left

Christian Nation

Christianity

Church-State Wall

Citizens United

Civil Rights

Civilization

Class Warfare

Climate Change

Climate Skeptics

Coalition

Cognitive dissonance

Common Good

compassion or empathy

compromise

conscience

Conscious Evolution

Consciousness

Conservative Radio

Conspiracy

Conspiracy Theories

Constituent

consumerism

Corporate Power

Corporation

Creed (American)

Culture war

critical, higher level thinking

Dark Ages

Debacle

Debate

Debt Ceiling

Declaration

Deficit

Deficit-Hawk

Delusional

democracy

dirty tricks

dissident

Diversity

dogma

Dominionists

Double think

Duopoly

dysfunction

Ecological Crisis

Egalitarian

Elites

Emotion

empathy or compassion

enlightenment

Evidence

evolution

Existential

Exploit

Fabric of our Society

Faiths

False Equation

Fear

Financial Sector

Fiscal Cliff

Framing

Free trade

Freedom

Freedom of and From Religion

Fundamentalism

Fundamentalist Evangelicals

G.O.P.

Generation C

Global Convergence

Global Peace Index

Global Warming

Government Contracts

Government of Laws

Government’s Role 

Grassroots

Gridlock

Gun Control

Happiness

Heretics

history

Honesty

Hubris

Human nature

Human Rights

humanist

humanities

Human family

Hyperbolic

Hypocrites

Idealism

Ideology

ignorance

Inherit

institutional analysis

Intellectuals

interconnectedness

Iraq tragedy

Judeo-Christian

justice

labor

Language

learning curve

Liberal Christianity

Literate

Machiavelli

Mainstream media

Majority

Manifesto

Manipulate

Mankind

Marginal

media bias

Meme

memes

Merit-Based Society

Meritocracy

Middle class

Millennials

Moral Beings

morals

Multiracial Society

myth

Myths, Lies, Deceptions and Distractions

Neo-Conservatism

Neo-liberalism

Neuroscience

New Deal

nihilism

Non-Religious

Obsessions

Obstruct 

Occupy Movement

partisans

Patriarchal

Patriot Movement

Personality – Conservative and Liberal

Perversion

Platform

pluralism

Plutocracy

politics of hatred

Poverty

pragmatic moderate

principle

Privatization

progressive

Progressive Conscience

Propagandists

Prosperity

Prosperity Gospel

Public Debt

Public Opinion

pundit

Racial Resentment

Radicalism

Realignment

Reality

Reality-Based Community

Reconstructionists

Redistributing wealth

Religious literacy

Religious Right

respect

rule of law 

Sabotage

scandal

Scholarship

School Choice

School privatization

Second Amendment

Secular

Secularism and Free Thinking

Sedition

Self-Interest Fundamentalism

Sequester

Shame

Shareholder Value

Situational analysis

Social Contract

Social Darwinism

Social Extremism

Social media

Social Movements

Social Networking

Social responsibility

socialist, Democratic socialist

Society

Soul of America

Southern Strategy

Spiritual and Political Warfare

Spiritual but Not Religious

Spiritual Left

spirituality

Status Quo

STEM classes

Stolen Election

Tax Breaks

Tea Party Movement

Texas Textbooks

Theists

Theories

Think-Tank

Tipping Point

Transformation

Transparency

Treachery

Treason

Truth

Unions (labor)

United Nations

values

Value Voters

viral

Vision

Voter Suppression

Wages

War Crimes

Watchdog

Watergate

Wealth

Wedge Issues

Well-Being

White Resentment

Witch-Hunt

World Peace and Prosperity

zealot

Zero-Sum

 

Status quo or change?

Ideas we need to talk about – e-letter of September 19, 2013 from ProgressiveValues.org by Phyllis Stenerson

Changes in America and the world over the past decade have been stunning. The magnitude and consequences are almost too much to comprehend causing most people to tune out. America is at a trajectory moment, facing multiple crises and incomparable opportunity.

Change must come from the grassroots up. What each of us does or does not do in the coming months will make a difference in ways we can’t know now, can barely imagine. The choice is stark – do nothing and allow the disastrous status quo to continue or be a part of the grassroots movement for long term, systemic change for the common good.

Our American democracy is dangling by the slimmest of threads. Now when wise leadership is most needed, we’re immersed in a political quagmire. Those elected and sworn to represent we citizens in Congress are, with a few valuable exceptions, failing miserably. Unprecedented power is being wielded by unelected operatives to serve their own agendas. We, the people, the 99%, must seize the power granted to us in the Constitution.

What makes this hinge of history tragically significant is that this time the facts indicate the future of humanity is at stake. Virtually everything and everybody are impacted. Environmental threats, perpetual war, persistent racism and economic injustice are among the crises stealing the future from our children. Major change is overdue and essential.

Another point of difference from other times is that we have access to unlimited information and ways to connect with other people that can quite literally change the world. You won’t hear about it from the main stream media, but all around the globe countless people are immersed in making change for the common good. The excitement is palpable.

My wakeup call came when the Bush administration prepared to invade Iraq. I had to find out how this horrific act could be possible. Although I have been deeply involved in politics for many years, I realized my knowledge was sadly limited so I immersed myself in self-education and the progressive movement. It has been fascinating!

The Big Picture is made up of countless components, each one needing assessment, and most likely change. Underlying and surrounding all facets of public policy and society are the intangibles, the ideas that shape our understanding of the world and our place in it – worldview.

Worldview is the focus of this work. Worldview is our moral truth and intellectual truth – faith and reason – our philosophy of life. Religion and spirituality play an oversized role in politics today. The epidemic of anti-intellectualism must be reversed. Information and ideas that have been pumped into the public consciousness over the years must be peer reviewed by we, the people.

How do we know right or wrong? True or false? Smart or stupid?

The mainstream media rarely has the time, interest or context to communicate these ideas. Opinion is often skewed to favor corporate sponsors. The culture wars and religion wars are real, awesomely complex and key to influencing public opinion and making change.

Selected information and commentary have been posted on my website to help speed up the learning curve for others. No one could possibly understand the depth and scope of cultural factors impacting our politics and culture without purposeful learning. What is needed now is to take a deep, broad look at the Big Picture and how each issue is impacted by worldview. Countless citizens are doing exemplary work on specific issues such as climate change, gun control, health care and many more. Fewer of us are inclined to study the history and philosophy at the core of the American experience.

I want others who like to study civics and the humanities to connect with one another and collaboratively ignite a national conversation. Public dialogue about the big picture and radical (root) ideas is essential to understand and communicate why and how we must change the world.

I think people will be drawn into this conversation if we frame it not as getting involved in politics, but as participating in democracy.

Ideas we need to talk about include the nexus of religion and politics, the moral values of climate change and income inequality, how special interests have shaped worldviews in our country over the past 40 year and much more. To help find focus in this enormous concept, I am trying to connect as directly as possible public thought and opinion with federal government policy, particularly as relates to the future of our grandchildren. Dialogue about ideas embedded within the Big Picture is applicable to any particular area of interest or expertise.

There is already a lot happening in this arena to build upon. There is a critical need for organizations with resources and expertise to provide leadership and coordination. That is something I cannot do and am longing for others to step up and make it work. My work is available for use by all. Please let me know what’s happening – Phyllis@progressivevalues.org. Thank you.

We must move forward in the days ahead with audacious faith. The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Recent relevant articles

Before You Give up on Democracy, Read This! by Frances Moore Lappé, September 18, 2013, The Huffington Post

The End Game for Democracy  by Bill Moyers, billmoyers.com August 23, 2013

The Rise of the New New Left by Peter Beinart, The Daily Beast, September 12, 2013

American Intellectuals’ Widespread Failure to Stand Up to Billionaires and Authoritarian Power By Robert Jensen, AlterNet, July 5, 2013

Humanity Imperiled — The Path to Disaster by Noam Chomsky, Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com, Huffington Post, June 4, 2013

* * * * * * *

Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American… America is the only idealistic nation in the world.
Woodrow Wilson

What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise. Barbara Jordan

The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When you place a high value on truth, you have to think for yourself.
Dr. Cornel West

No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.
Isaac Asimov

Time doesn’t change things. People change things.
Andy Warhol

Policy is driven by more than politics, however. It is equally driven by ideas.
Malcolm Gladwell

http://p0.vresp.com/ZDU6MS Link to e-letter online


Before You Give up on Democracy, Read This!

by Frances Moore Lappé, September 18, 2013, The Huffington Post

Who doesn’t feel like throwing in the towel… with congressional approval ratings at a pitiful 10 percent? For pete’s sake, even the much-reviled “socialism” has more than double the fans.

Yet a moment’s reflection tells us we can’t solve any of our giant challenges without public decision-making bodies that work. So settling for the best democracy money can buy is not an option.

And just as clear?

That we can’t we fix our broken democracy without a vision of one that could work. Human beings have a hard time creating what we can’t imagine or even name. Of course, our “vision” can’t be some pie-in-the sky, fairy-tale democracy. To be motivating, it has to be hard-nosed: grounded in all we now know — the good, bad, and the ugly — about nature, including our own.

Here’s where we might begin:

First, we stop assuming that the prevailing version of liberal democracy — elections plus markets — is the best we humans can do. Then, we appreciate what ecology has to teach us about democracy. It’s a lot. Simply put, ecology holds these main lessons: that everything’s connected and everything’s changingwith all elements shaping all others moment to moment. We, like all organisms, respond to context.

“Thinking like an ecosystem,” we can see therefore that our inherited notion of democracy as an unchanging, political structure — fixed and finished — is bound to fail. With an “eco-mind,” we realize that democracy’s first questions must be:

What are our species’ essential needs?

And, then, what specific contexts have proven to elicit our species’ capacities to build societies meeting those needs?

Anthropologists, psychologists, and our everyday experience suggest at least three virtually universal human needs: for connection, meaning, and power (understood as the need to “make our mark.”) And to meet these needs, three conditions — increasingly violated in today’s many so-called democracies — appear essential:

• The fluid, continuous dispersion of power.
• Transparency in human relations.
• Cultures of mutual accountability, instead of one-way blame.

If you doubt this short-list, just think where the opposites have taken us!

These three conditions could become our “lodestar,” as we embrace democracy understood as a way of life — not something we build once and for all, but a culture we continuously create together. I call it Living Democracy. It’s not a set system but a set of system values and conditions — the dispersion of power, transparency, and mutual accountability — that bring forth the best and keep the worst in check across all dimensions of public life, from our workplaces to our schools.

Living Democracy builds from the insight that today’s problems are too complex, interwoven, and pervasive to be solved from the top down. People rarely change by fiat. So solutions require the ingenuity, insights, experience, and “buy-in” of those most directly affected by the problems we face.

The term “living democracy” suggests democracy as both a lived experience and an evolving, organic reality — “easily lost but never finally won,” in the words of the first African-American federal judge William Hastie.

But… are we capable, many might ask?

Didn’t human beings evolve within strict hierarchies, vestiges of which linger today in gender, class, and caste power structures? Actually, no. During 95 percent of our evolution, humans lived in highly egalitarian tribes, anthropologists tell us. We kept them that way through “counter dominance” strategies because we humans thrive best when we work together, not under the thumb of one strong man.

And what does an emergent Living Democracy look and feel like?

In learning…we afford “arts of democracy” — i.e., listening, mediation, negotiation, and more — priority equal to reading, writing and “rithmetic.” Students engage in practical community problem-solving through, for example, what the Maine-based KIDS Consortium calls “apprentice citizenship.” From environmental restoration to teaching younger kids bike safety, children in hundreds of schools are getting a taste for how good it feels to make a difference. Now, in dozens of countries, children are also learning the art of mediating disputes among themselves instead of simply running to an authority or fighting.

In economic life… Seeing through the fiction of a mechanical, autonomous “free market,” an “eco-mind” sees the possibility of democratic system-rules creating values boundaries that keep power widely dispersed and markets fair, open, and aligned with nature’s laws. (Perhaps the “free market” could then be redefined as one in which all are free to participate because it is kept accessible by fair rules.).

And we go beyond “fair distribution” to also embrace “fair production“; for it fulfills the core human need for agency. Fair production suggests opportunities for people to participate in co-production via cooperatives and other forms of co-ownership. And, even now, they’re hardly marginal: Coops of all types worldwide enjoy many more members — a billion!–than there are people with shares in publicly traded companies. Cooperatives produce 20 percent more jobs than do multinational corporations. In rural India, for example, they meet 67 percent of consumer needs.

In political life and civic life… Living Democracy means rules that prevent the influence of concentrated private wealth and corporation in campaigns and lawmaking, along with election rules barring advertising and ensuring candidates’ fair access to media. But fair elections and formal political decision-making accountable to citizens — not private interests — are but the beginning. Living Democracy means multiple avenues for rewarding engagement.

One is the “Citizen Jury” that in the Global South has, for example, brought diverse interests together to come to judgment on the direction of agricultural development, leading to strengthening ecological farming. Another, the “Deliberative Poll”: In Japan in 2012 this practice helped move the government to adopt the goal of ending all reliance on nuclear power before 2040; and in Texas, a Deliberative Poll used by utility companies helped the state become a leader in wind power. A great source for exemplars of Living Democracy is Participedia.net.

In Living Democracy, citizens also become active co-creators of knowledge, as, for example, citizen water monitors responsible for gathering water quality data now in 77 countries. Citizens also contribute to community well-being by sharing their knowledge and monitoring well-being, such as Nepal’s community health volunteers.

In these arenas and more, Living Democracy is showing up worldwide. But it can’t spread quickly as long it’s invisible. So, let’s remember that we humans, too, are shaped by our ecological niche — especially our social ecology. To further the world we want, we can start consciously creating forms of democracy creating the conditions proven to enhance species’ thriving — and thus to the well-being of all species.

Adapted from Ecomind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want and from the Solutions Journal article “EcoMind or ScarcityMind: Where Do They Lead?

Copyright 2013 The Huffington Post

Frances Moore Lappé is the author of EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think to Create the World We Want (Nation Books) and 17 other books including the acclaimed Diet for a Small Planet.

more Frances Moore Lappé


Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/09/18-8

 

Situational analysis – commonly misnamed conspiracy theory

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conspiracy_theory

Chomsky’s distinction of conspiracy theory as the opposite of institutional analysis – Linguist and public scholar Noam Chomsky contrasts conspiracy theory as more or less the opposite of institutional analysis, which focuses mostly on the public, long-term behavior of publicly known institutions, as recorded in, for example, scholarly documents or mainstream media reports, rather than secretive coalitions of individuals.[17]

Proven conspiracies and conspiracy theories, prevalence of conspiracies in large-scale criminal enterprises

Katherine K. Young states, “the fact remains, however, that not all conspiracies are imagined by paranoids. Historians show that every real conspiracy has had at least four characteristic features: groups, not isolated individuals; illegal or sinister aims, not ones that would benefit society as a whole; orchestrated acts, not a series of spontaneous and haphazard ones; and secret planning, not public discussion”. Above all else a real conspiracy is evidenced by provable facts.[19]

A basic American police academy text by a former Homeland Security agent notes, “When a crime requires a large number of people, a conspiracy is formed.”[27]

The Rise of the New New Left

by Peter Beinart, The Daily Beast, Sep 12, 2013

Bill de Blasio’s win in New York’s Democratic primary isn’t a local story. It’s part of a vast shift that could upend three decades of American political thinking. By Peter Beinart

Maybe Bill de Blasio got lucky. Maybe he only won because he cut a sweet ad featuring his biracial son. Or because his rivals were either spectacularly boring, spectacularly pathological, or running for Michael Bloomberg’s fourth term. But I don’t think so. The deeper you look, the stronger the evidence that de Blasio’s victory is an omen of what may become the defining story of America’s next political era: the challenge, to both parties, from the left. It’s a challenge Hillary Clinton should start worrying about now.

To understand why that challenge may prove so destabilizing, start with this core truth: For the past two decades, American politics has been largely a contest between Reaganism and Clintonism. In 1981, Ronald Reagan shattered decades of New Deal consensus by seeking to radically scale back government’s role in the economy. In 1993, Bill Clinton brought the Democrats back to power by accepting that they must live in the world Reagan had made. Located somewhere between Reagan’s anti-government conservatism and the pro-government liberalism that preceded it, Clinton articulated an ideological “third way”: Inclined toward market solutions, not government bureaucracy, focused on economic growth, not economic redistribution, and dedicated to equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. By the end of Clinton’s presidency, government spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product was lower than it had been when Reagan left office.

For a time, small flocks of pre-Reagan Republicans and pre-Clinton Democrats endured, unaware that their species were marked for extinction. Hard as they tried, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole could never muster much rage against the welfare state. Ted Kennedy never understood why Democrats should declare the era of big government over. But over time, the older generation in both parties passed from the scene and the younger politicians who took their place could scarcely conceive of a Republican Party that did not bear Reagan’s stamp or a Democratic Party that did not bear Clinton’s. These Republican children of Reagan and Democratic children of Clinton comprise America’s reigning political generation.

By “political generation,” I mean something particular. Pollsters slice Americans into generations at roughly 20-year intervals: Baby Boomers (born mid-1940s to mid-1960s); Generation X (mid-1960s to early 1980s); Millennials (early 1980s to 2000). But politically, these distinctions are arbitrary. To understand what constitutes a political generation, it makes more sense to follow the definition laid out by the early-20th-century sociologist Karl Mannheim. For Mannheim, generations were born from historical disruption. As he argued—and later scholars have confirmedpeople are disproportionately influenced by events that occur between their late teens and mid-twenties. During that period—between the time they leave their parents’ home and the time they create a stable home of their own—individuals are most prone to change cities, religions, political parties, brands of toothpaste. After that, lifestyles and attitudes calcify. For Mannheim, what defined a generation was the particular slice of history people experienced during those plastic years. A generation had no set length. A new one could emerge “every year, every thirty, every hundred.” What mattered was whether the events people experienced while at their most malleable were sufficiently different from those experienced by people older or younger than themselves.

Mannheim didn’t believe that everyone who experienced the same formative events would interpret them the same way. Germans who came of age in the early 1800s, he argued, were shaped by the Napoleonic wars. Some responded by becoming romantic-conservatives, others by becoming liberal-rationalists. What they shared was a distinct generational experience, which became the basis for a distinct intra-generational argument.

If Mannheim’s Germans constituted a political generation because in their plastic years they experienced the Napoleonic Wars, the men and women who today dominate American politics constitute a political generation because during their plastic years they experienced some part of the Reagan-Clinton era. That era lasted a long time. If you are in your late 50s, you are probably too young to remember the high tide of Kennedy-Johnson big government liberalism. You came of age during its collapse, a collapse that culminated with the defeat of Jimmy Carter. Then you watched Reagan rewrite America’s political rules. If you are in your early ‘40s, you may have caught the tail end of Reagan. But even if you didn’t, you were shaped by Clinton, who maneuvered within the constraints Reagan had built. To pollsters, a late 50-something is a Baby Boomer and an early 40-something is a Gen-Xer. But in Mannheim’s terms, they constitute a single generation because no great disruption in American politics divides them. They came of age as Reagan defined a new political era and Clinton ratified it. And as a rule, they play out their political struggles between the ideological poles that Reagan and Clinton set out.

To understand how this plays out in practice, look at the rising, younger politicians in both parties. Start with the GOP. If you look at the political biographies of nationally prominent 40-something Republicans—Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz—what they all have in common is Reagan. Jindal has said about growing up in Louisiana, “I grew up in a time when there weren’t a whole lot of Republicans in this state. But I identified with President Reagan.” At age 17, Scott Walker was chosen to represent his home state of Colorado in a Boys Nation trip to Washington. There he met “his hero, Ronald Reagan,” who “played a big role in inspiring me.” At age 21, Paul Ryan interned for Robert Kasten, who had ridden into the Senate in 1980 on Reagan’s coattails. Two years later he took a job with Jack Kemp, whose 1981 Kemp-Roth tax cut had helped usher in Reaganomics. Growing up in a fiercely anti-communist Cuban exile family in Miami, Marco Rubio writes in his autobiography that “Reagan’s election and my grandfather’s allegiance to him were defining influences on me politically.” Ted Cruz is most explicit of all. “I was 10 when Reagan became president,” he told a conservative group earlier this year. “I was 18 when he left the White House … I’ll go to my grave with Ronald Wilson Reagan defining what it means to be president … and when I look at this new generation of [Republican] leaders I see leaders that are all echoing Reagan.”

Younger Democratic politicians are less worshipful of Clinton. Yet his influence on their worldview is no less profound. Start with the most famous, still-youngish Democrat, a man who although a decade older than Rubio, Jindal, and Cruz, hails from the same Reagan-Clinton generation: Barack Obama. Because he opposed the Iraq War, and sometimes critiqued the Clintons as too cautious when running against Hillary in 2008, some commentators depicted Obama’s victory as a rejection of Clintonism. But to read The Audacity of Hope—Obama’s most detailed exposition of his political outlook—is to be reminded how much of a Clintonian Obama actually is. At Clintonism’s core was the conviction that to revive their party, Democrats must first acknowledge what Reagan got right.

Obama, in describing his own political evolution, does that again and again: “as disturbed as I might have been by Ronald Reagan’s election … I understood his appeal” (page 31). “Reagan’s central insight … contained a good deal of truth” (page 157). “In arguments with some of my friends on the left, I would find myself in the curious position of defending aspects of Reagan’s worldview” (page 289). Having given Reagan his due, Obama then sketches out a worldview in between the Reaganite right and unreconstructed, pre-Reagan left. “The explanations of both the right and the left have become mirror images of each other” (page 24), he declares in a chapter in which he derides “either/or thinking” (page 40). “It was Bill Clinton’s singular contribution that he tried to transcend this ideological deadlock” (page 34). Had the term not already been taken, Obama might well have called his intermediary path the “third way.”

The nationally visible Democrats rising behind Obama generally share his pro-capitalist, anti-bureaucratic, Reaganized liberalism. The most prominent is 43-year-old Cory Booker, who is famously close to Wall Street and supports introducing market competition into education via government-funded vouchers for private schools. In the words of New York magazine, “Booker is essentially a Clinton Democrat.” Gavin Newsom, the 45-year-old lieutenant governor of California, has embraced Silicon Valley in the same way Booker has embraced Wall Street. His book, Citizenville, calls for Americans to “reinvent government,” a phrase cribbed from Al Gore’s effort to strip away government bureaucracy in the 1990s. “In the private sector,” he told Time, “leaders are willing to take risks and find innovative solutions. In the public sector, politicians are risk-averse.” Julian Castro, the 39-year-old mayor of San Antonio and 2012 Democratic convention keynote speaker, is a fiscal conservative who supports NAFTA.

The argument between the children of Reagan and the children of Clinton is fierce, but ideologically, it tilts toward the right. Even after the financial crisis, the Clinton Democrats who lead their party don’t want to nationalize the banks, institute a single-payer health-care system, raise the top tax rate back to its pre-Reagan high, stop negotiating free-trade deals, launch a war on poverty, or appoint labor leaders rather than Wall Streeters to top economic posts. They want to regulate capitalism modestly. Their Reaganite Republican adversaries, by contrast, want to deregulate it radically. By pre-Reagan standards, the economic debate is taking place on the conservative side of the field. But—and this is the key point--there’s reason to believe that America’s next political generation will challenge those limits in ways that cause the leaders of both parties fits.

America’s youngest adults are called “Millennials” because the 21st century was dawning as they entered their plastic years. Coming of age in the 21st century is of no inherent political significance. But this calendric shift has coincided with a genuine historical disruption. Compared to their Reagan-Clinton generation elders, Millennials are entering adulthood in an America where government provides much less economic security. And their economic experience in this newly deregulated America has been horrendous. This experience has not produced a common generational outlook. No such thing ever exists. But it is producing a distinct intragenerational argument, one that does not respect the ideological boundaries to which Americans have become accustomed. The Millennials are unlikely to play out their political conflicts between the yard lines Reagan and Clinton set out.

Even if they are only a decade older than Millennials, politicians like Cruz, Rubio, and Walker hail from a different political generation.

In 2001, just as the first Millennials were entering the workforce, the United States fell into recession. By 2007 the unemployment rate had still not returned to its pre-recession level. Then the financial crisis hit. By 2012, data showed how economically bleak the Millennials’ first decade of adulthood had been. Between 1989 and 2000, when younger members of the Reagan-Clinton generation were entering the job market, inflation-adjusted wages for recent college graduates rose almost 11 percent, and wages for recent high school graduates rose 12 percent. Between 2000 and 2012, it was the reverse. Inflation-adjusted wages dropped 13 percent among recent high school graduates and 8 percent among recent graduates of college.

But it was worse than that. If Millennials were victims of a 21st-century downward slide in wages, they were also victims of a longer-term downward slide in benefits. The percentage of recent college graduates with employer-provided health care, for instance, dropped by half between 1989 and 2011.

The Great Recession hurt older Americans, too. But because they were more likely to already have secured some foothold in the job market, they were more cushioned from the blow. By 2009, the net worth of households headed by someone over 65 was 47 times the net worth of households headed by someone under 35, almost five times the margin that existed in 1984.

One reason is that in addition to coming of age in a terrible economy, Millennials have come of age at a time when the government safety net is far more threadbare for the young than for the middle-aged and old. As the Economic Policy Institute has pointed out, younger Americans are less likely than their elders to qualify for unemployment insurance, food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or the Earned Income Tax Credit. (Not to mention Medicare and Social Security.)

Millennials have also borne the brunt of declines in government spending on higher education. In 2012, according to The New York Times, state and local spending per college student hit a 25-year low. As government has cut back, universities have passed on the (ever-increasing) costs of college to students. Nationally, the share of households owing student debt doubled between 1989 and 2010, and the average amount of debt per household tripled, to $26,000.

Economic hardship has not always pushed Americans to the left. In the Clinton-Reagan era, for instance, the right often used culture and foreign policy to convince economically struggling Americans to vote against bigger government. But a mountain of survey data—plus the heavily Democratic tilt of Millennials in every national election in which they have voted—suggests that they are less susceptible to these right-wing populist appeals. For one thing, right-wing populism generally requires rousing white, Christian, straight, native-born Americans against Americans who are not all those things. But among Millennials, there are fewer white, Christian non-immigrants to rouse. Forty percent of Millennials are racial or ethnic minorities. Less than half say religion is “very important” to their lives.

And even those Millennials who are white, Christian, straight, and native-born are less resentful of people who are not. According to a 2010 Pew survey, whites under the age of 30 were more than 50 points more likely than whites over 65 to say they were comfortable with someone in their family marrying someone of another ethnicity or race. A 2011 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that almost 50 percent of evangelicals under the age of 30 back gay marriage.

Of course, new racial, ethnic, and sexual fault lines could emerge. But today, a Republican seeking to divert Millennial frustrations in a conservative cultural direction must reckon with the fact that Millennials are dramatically more liberal than the elderly and substantially more liberal than the Reagan-Clinton generation on every major culture war issue except abortion (where there is no significant generational divide).

They are also more dovish on foreign policy. According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials are close to half as likely as the Reagan-Clinton generation to accept sacrificing civil liberties in the fight against terrorism  and much less likely to say the best way to fight terrorism is through military force.

It is these two factors—their economic hardship in an age of limited government protection and their resistance to right-wing cultural populism—that best explain why on economic issues, Millennials lean so far left. In 2010, Pew found that two-thirds of Millennials favored a bigger government with more services over a cheaper one with fewer services, a margin 25 points above the rest of the population. While large majorities of older and middle-aged Americans favored repealing Obamacare in late 2012, Millennials favored expanding it, by 17 points. Millennials are substantially more pro–labor union than the population at large.

The only economic issue on which Millennials show much libertarian instinct is the privatization of Social Security, which they disproportionately favor. But this may be less significant than it first appears. Historically, younger voters have long been more pro–Social Security privatization than older ones, with support dropping as they near retirement age. In fact, when asked if the government should spend more money on Social Security, Millennials are significantly more likely than past cohorts of young people to say yes.

Most striking of all, Millennials are more willing than their elders to challenge cherished American myths about capitalism and class. According to a 2011 Pew study, Americans under 30 are the only segment of the population to describe themselves as “have nots” rather than “haves.” They are far more likely than older Americans to say that business enjoys more control over their lives than government.  And unlike older Americans, who favor capitalism over socialism by roughly 25 points, Millennials, narrowly, favor socialism.

There is more reason to believe these attitudes will persist as Millennials age than to believe they will change. For starters, the liberalism of Millennials cannot be explained merely by the fact that they are young, because young Americans have not always been liberal. In recent years, polls have shown young Americans to be the segment of the population most supportive of government-run health care. But in 1978, they were the least supportive. In the last two elections, young Americans voted heavily for Obama. But in 1984 and 1988, Americans under 30 voted Republican for president.

Nor is it true that Americans necessarily grow more conservative as they age. Sometimes they do. But academic studies suggest that party identification, once forged in young adulthood, is more likely to persist than to change. There’s also strong evidence from a 2009 National Bureau of Economic Research paper that people who experience a recession in their plastic years support a larger state role in the economy throughout their lives.

The economic circumstances that have pushed Millennials left are also unlikely to change dramatically anytime soon. A 2010 study by Yale economist Lisa Kahn found that even 17 years later, people who had entered the workforce during a recession still earned 10 percent less than those who entered when the economy was strong.  In other words, even if the economy booms tomorrow, Millennials will still be suffering the Great Recession’s aftershocks for decades.

And the economy is not likely to boom. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke doesn’t believe the unemployment rate will reach 6 percent until 2016, and even that will be higher than the 1990s average. Nor are the government protections Millennials crave likely to appear anytime soon. To the contrary, as a result of the spending cuts signed into law in 2010 and the sequester that began this year, non-defense discretionary spending is set to decline by decade’s end to its lowest level in 50 years.

If Millennials remain on the left, the consequences for American politics over the next two decades could be profound. In the 2008 presidential election, Millennials constituted one-fifth of America’s voters. In 2012, they were one-quarter. In 2016, according to predictions by political demographer Ruy Teixeira, they will be one-third. And they will go on constituting between one-third and two-fifths of America’s voters through at least 2028.

This rise will challenge each party, but in different ways. In the runup to 2016, the media will likely feature stories about how 40-something Republicans like Marco Rubio, who blasts Snoop Dog from his car, or Paul Ryan, who enjoys Rage Against the Machine, may appeal to Millennials in ways that geezers like McCain and Romney did not. Don’t believe it. According to a 2012 Harvard survey, young Americans were more than twice as likely to say Mitt Romney’s selection of Ryan made them feel more negative about the ticket than more positive. In his 2010 Senate race, Rubio fared worse among young voters than any other age group. The same goes for Rand Paul in his Senate race that year in Kentucky, and Scott Walker in his 2010 race for governor of Wisconsin  and his recall battle in 2012.

Pre-election polls in Ted Cruz’s 2012 senate race in Texas (there were no exit polls) also showed him faring worst among the young.

The likeliest explanation for this is that while younger Republican candidates may have a greater cultural connection to young voters, the ideological gulf is vast. Even if they are only a decade older than Millennials, politicians like Cruz, Rubio, and Walker hail from a different political generation both because they came of age at a time of relative prosperity and because they were shaped by Reagan, whom Millennials don’t remember. In fact, the militantly anti-government vision espoused by ultra-Reaganites like Cruz, Rubio, and Walker isn’t even that popular among Millennial Republicans. As a July Pew survey notes, Republicans under 30 are more hostile to the Tea Party than any other Republican age group. By double digits, they’re also more likely than other Republicans to support increasing the minimum wage.

Republicans may modestly increase their standing among young voters by becoming more tolerant on cultural issues and less hawkish on foreign policy, but it’s unlikely they will become truly competitive unless they follow the counsel of conservative commentators Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam and “adapt to a new reality—namely, that today, Americans are increasingly worried about their economic security.” If there’s hope for the GOP, it’s that Millennials, while hungry for government to provide them that economic security, are also distrustful of its capacity to do so. As a result of growing up in what Chris Hayes’ has called the “fail decade” —the decade of the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina and the financial crisis—Millennials are even more cynical about government than the past generations of young Americans who wanted less from it. If a Republican presidential candidate could match his Democratic opponent as a champion of economic security and yet do so in a way that required less faith in Washington’s competence and benevolence, he might boost the GOP with young voters in a way no number of pop-culture references ever could.

If the Millennials challenge Reaganite orthodoxy, they will likely challenge Clintonian orthodoxy, too. Over the past three decades, Democratic politicians have grown accustomed to campaigning and governing in the absence of a mobilized left. This absence has weakened them: Unlike Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama could never credibly threaten American conservatives that if they didn’t pass liberal reforms, left-wing radicals might disrupt social order. But Democrats of the Reagan-Clinton generation have also grown comfortable with that absence. From Tony Coelho, who during the Reagan years taught House Democrats to raise money from corporate lobbyists to Bill Clinton, who made Goldman Sachs co-chairman Robert Rubin his chief economic adviser, to Barack Obama, who gave the job to Rubin’s former deputy and alter ego, Larry Summers, Democrats have found it easier to forge relationships with the conservative worlds of big business and high finance because they have not faced much countervailing pressure from an independent movement of the left.

But that may be changing. Look at the forces that created Occupy Wall Street. The men and women who assembled in September 2011 in Zuccotti Park bore three key characteristics. First, they were young. According to a survey published by City University of New York’s Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor, 40 percent of the core activists involved taking over the park were under 30 years old. Second, they were highly educated. Eighty percent possessed at least a bachelors’ degree, more than twice the percentage of New Yorkers overall. Third, they were frustrated economically. According to the CUNY study, more than half the Occupy activists under 30 owed at least $1,000 in student debt. More than a one-third had lost a job or been laid off in the previous five years. In the words of David Graeber, the man widely credited with coining the slogan “We are the 99 percent,” the Occupy activists were “forward-looking people who had been stopped dead in their tracks” by bad economic times.

For a moment, Occupy shook the country. At one point in December 2011, Todd Gitlin points out in Occupy Nation, the movement had branches in one-third of the cities and towns in California. Then it collapsed. But as the political scientist Frances Fox Piven has argued, “The great protest movements of history … did not expand in the shape of a simple rising arc of popular defiance. Rather, they began in a particular place, sputtered and subsided, only to re-emerge elsewhere in perhaps a different form, influenced by local particularities of circumstance and culture.”

It’s impossible to know whether the protest against inequality will be such a movement. But the forces that drove it are unlikely to subside. Many young Americans feel that economic unfairness is costing them a shot at a decent life. Such sentiments have long been widespread among the poor. What’s new is their prevalence among people who saw their parents achieve—and expected for themselves—some measure of prosperity, the people Chris Hayes calls the “newly radicalized upper-middle class.”

If history is any guide, the sentiments behind Occupy will find their way into the political process, just as the anti-Vietnam movement helped create Eugene McCarthy’s presidential bid in 1968, and the civil-rights movement bred politicians like Andrew Young, Tom Bradley, and Jesse Jackson. That’s especially likely because Occupy’s message enjoys significant support among the young. A November 2011 Public Policy Polling survey found that while Americans over 30 opposed Occupy’s goals by close to 20 points, Millennials supported them by 12.

Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign offers a glimpse into what an Occupy-inspired challenge to Clintonism might look like. In important ways, New York politics has mirrored national politics in the Reagan-Clinton era. Since 1978, the mayoralty has been dominated by three men—Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani, and Michael Bloomberg—who although liberal on many cultural issues have closely identified Wall Street’s interests with the city’s. During their time in office, New York has become far safer, cleaner, more expensive, and more unequal. In Bloomberg’s words, New York is now a “high-end product.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, despite her roots on the left as a housing and LGBT activist, became Bloomberg’s heir apparent by stymieing bills that would have required businesses to give their employees paid sick leave and mandated a higher minimum wage for companies that receive government subsidies. Early in the campaign, many commentators considered this a wise strategy and anticipated that as New York’s first lesbian mayor, Quinn would symbolize the city’s unprecedented cultural tolerance while continuing its Clintonian economic policies.

Then strange things happened. First, Anthony Weiner entered the race and snatched support from Quinn before exploding in a blaze of late-night comedy. But when Weiner crashed, his support went not back to Quinn but to de Blasio, the candidate who most bluntly challenged Bloomberg’s economic philosophy. Calling it “an act of equalization in a city that is desperately falling into the habit of disparity,” de Blasio made his central proposal a tax on people making over $500,000 to fund universal childcare. He also called for requiring developers to build more affordable housing and ending the New York Police Department’s “stop and frisk” policies that had angered many African-Americans and Latinos. Bloomberg’s deputy mayor Howard Wolfson tweeted that de Blasio’s “agenda is clear: higher taxes, bigger govt, more biz mandates. A u-turn back to the 70s.”

But in truth, it was Wolfson who was out of date: Fewer and fewer New Yorkers remember the 1970s, when economic stagnation, rising crime, and bloated government helped elect both Ed Koch and Ronald Reagan. What concerns them more today is that, as The New Yorker recently noted, “If the borough of Manhattan were a country, the income gap between the richest twenty per cent and the poorest twenty per cent would be on par with countries like Sierra Leone, Namibia, and Lesotho.”  In Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Quinn defeated de Blasio in those parts of New York where average income tops $175,000 per year.  But he beat her by 25 points overall.

Democrats in New York are more liberal than Democrats nationally. Still, the right presidential candidate, following de Blasio’s model, could seriously challenge Hillary Clinton. If that sounds far-fetched, consider the last two Democratic presidential primary campaigns. In October 2002, Howard Dean was so obscure that at a Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin repeatedly referred to him as “John.” But in the summer of 2003, running against the Iraq War amidst a field of Washington Democrats who had voted to authorize it, Dean caught fire. In the first quarter of the year he raised just under $3 million, less than one-third of John Kerry’s total. In the second quarter, he shocked insiders by beating Kerry and raising over $7 million. In the third quarter, he raised almost $15 million, far more than any Democrat ever had. By November, Harkin, Al Gore, and the nation’s two most powerful labor unions had endorsed Dean and he was well ahead in the Iowa polls.

At the last minute, Dean flamed out, undone by harsh attacks from his rivals and his campaign’s lack of discipline. Still, he established a template for toppling a Democratic frontrunner: inspire young voters, raise vast funds via small donations over the Web, and attack those elements of Clintonian orthodoxy that are accepted by Democratic elites but loathed by liberal activists on the ground.

In 2008, that became the template for Barack Obama. As late as October 2007, Hillary enjoyed a 33-point lead in national polls. But Obama made her support for the Iraq War a symbol of her alleged timidity in challenging the right-leaning consensus in Washington. As liberals began to see him as embodying the historic change they sought, Obama started raising ungodly amounts via small donors over the Internet, which in turned won him credibility with insiders in Washington. He overwhelmed Hillary Clinton in caucus states, where liberal activists wield greater power. And he overwhelmed her among younger voters. In the 2008 Iowa caucuses, youth turnout rose 30 percent and among voters under the age of 30, Obama beat Hillary by 46 points.

Hillary starts the 2016 race with formidable strengths. After a widely applauded term as secretary of state, her approval rating is 10 points higher than it was when she began running in 2008. Her vote to authorize Iraq will be less of a liability this time. Her campaign cannot possibly be as poorly managed. And she won’t have to run against Barack Obama.

Still, Hillary is vulnerable to a candidate who can inspire passion and embody fundamental change, especially on the subject of economic inequality and corporate power, a subject with deep resonance among Millennial Democrats. And the candidate who best fits that description is Elizabeth Warren.

First, as a woman, Warren would drain the deepest reservoir of pro-Hillary passion: the prospect of a female president. While Hillary would raise vast sums, Dean and Obama have both shown that in the digital age, an insurgent can compete financially by inspiring huge numbers of small donations. Elizabeth Warren can do that. She’s already shown a knack for going viral. A video of her first Senate banking committee hearing, where she scolded regulators that “too-big-to-fail has become too-big-for-trial,”  garnered 1 million hits on YouTube. In her 2012 Senate race, despite never before having sought elected office, she raised $42 million, more than twice as much as the second-highest-raising Democrat. After Bill Clinton and the Obamas, no other speaker at last summer’s Democratic convention so electrified the crowd.

Warren has done it by challenging corporate power with an intensity Clinton Democrats rarely muster. At the convention, she attacked the “Wall Street CEOs—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—[who] still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.”

And in one of the biggest applause lines of the entire convention, taken straight from Occupy, she thundered that “we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people.”

Don’t be fooled by Warren’s advanced age. If she runs, Millennials will be her base. No candidate is as well positioned to appeal to the young and economically insecure. Warren won her Senate race by eight points overall, but by 30 points among the young. The first bill she introduced in the Senate was a proposal to charge college students the same interest rates for their loans that the Federal Reserve offers big banks. It soon garnered 100,000 hits on YouTube.

A big reason Warren’s speech went viral was its promotion by Upworthy, a website dedicated to publicizing progressive narratives. And that speaks to another, underappreciated, advantage Warren would enjoy. Clinton Democrats once boasted a potent intellectual and media infrastructure. In the late 1980s and 1990s, the Democratic Leadership Council and its think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute, were the Democratic Party’s hottest ideas shops, and they dedicated themselves to restoring the party’s reputation as business-friendly. Influential New Democratic–aligned magazines like The New Republic and Washington Monthly also championed the cause.

Today, that New Democratic infrastructure barely exists. The DLC has closed down. The New Republic and Washington Monthly have moved left. And all the new powerhouses of the liberal media—from Paul Krugman (who was radicalized during the Bush years) to Jon Stewart (who took over The Daily Show in 1999) to MSNBC (which as late as 2008 still carried a show hosted by Tucker Carlson)—believe the Democrats are too soft on Wall Street.

You can see that shift in the race for governor of the Federal Reserve, where the liberal media has rallied behind Janet Yellen and against the more Wall Street–identified Larry Summers. In the age of MSNBC, populist Democrats enjoy a media echo chamber that gives them an advantage over pro-business Democrats that did not exist a decade ago. And if Clinton, who liberal pundits respect, runs against Warren, who liberal pundits revere, that echo chamber will benefit Warren.

Of course, Warren might not run. Or she might prove unready for the national stage. (She has no foreign-policy experience). But the youthful, anti-corporate passion that could propel her candidacy will be there either way. If Hillary Clinton is shrewd, she will embrace it, and thus narrow the path for a populist challenger. Just as New York by electing Ed Koch in 1978 foreshadowed a national shift to the right, New York in 2013 is foreshadowing a national shift to the left. The door is closing on the Reagan-Clinton era. It would be ironic if it was a Clinton herself who sealed it shut.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/12/the-rise-of-the-new-new-left.html

Prince of Darkness Denies Own Existence

by Dana Milbank, Washington Post, February 20, 2009

Listening to neoconservative mastermind Richard Perle at the Nixon Center yesterday, there was a sense of falling down the rabbit hole.

In real life, Perle was the ideological architect of the Iraq war and of the Bush doctrine of preemptive attack. But at yesterday’s forum of foreign policy intellectuals, he created a fantastic world in which:

1. Perle is not a neoconservative.

2. Neoconservatives do not exist.

3. Even if neoconservatives did exist, they certainly couldn’t be blamed for the disasters of the past eight years.

“There is no such thing as a neoconservative foreign policy,” Perle informed the gathering, hosted by National Interest magazine. “It is a left critique of what is believed by the commentator to be a right-wing policy.”

So what about the 1996 report he co-authored that is widely seen as the cornerstone of neoconservative foreign policy? “My name was on it because I signed up for the study group,” Perle explained. “I didn’t approve it. I didn’t read it.”

Mm-hmm. And the two letters to the president, signed by Perle, giving a “moral” basis to Middle East policy and demanding military means to remove Saddam Hussein? “I don’t have the letters in front of me,” Perle replied.

Right. And the Bush administration National Security Strategy, enshrining the neoconservative themes of preemptive war and using American power to spread freedom? “I don’t know whether President Bush ever read any of those statements,” Perle maintained. “My guess is he didn’t.”

The Prince of Darkness — so dubbed during his days opposing arms control in the Reagan Pentagon — was not about to let details get in the way of his argument that “50 million conspiracy theorists have it wrong,” as the subtitle of his article for National Interest put it. “I see a number of people here who believe and have expressed themselves abundantly that there is a neoconservative foreign policy and it was the policy that dominated the Bush administration, and they ascribe to it responsibility for the deplorable state of the world,” Perle told the foreign policy luminaries at yesterday’s lunch. “None of that is true, of course.”

Of course.

He had been a leading cheerleader for the Iraq war, predicting that the effort would take few troops and last only a few days, and that Iraq would pay for its own reconstruction. Perle was chairman of Bush’s Defense Policy Board — and the president clearly took the advice of Perle and his fellow neocons. And Perle, in turn, said back then that Bush “knows exactly what he’s doing.”

Yesterday, however, Perle said Bush’s foreign policy had “no philosophical underpinnings and certainly nothing like the demonic influence of neoconservatives that is alleged.” He also took issue with the common view that neocons favored using American might to spread democratic values. “There’s no documentation!” he argued. “I can’t find a single example of a neoconservative supposed to have influence over the Bush administration arguing that we should impose democracy by force.”

Those in the room were skeptical of Perle’s efforts to recast himself as a pragmatist.

Richard Burt, who clashed with Perle in the Reagan administration, took issue with “this argument that neoconservatism maybe actually doesn’t exist.” He reminded Perle of the longtime rift between foreign policy realists and neoconservative interventionists. “You’ve got to kind of acknowledge there is a neoconservative school of thought,” Burt challenged.

“I don’t accept the approach, not at all,” the Prince of Darkness replied.

Jacob Heilbrunn of National Interest asked Perle to square his newfound realism with the rather idealistic title of his book, “An End to Evil.”

“We had a publisher who chose the title,” Perle claimed, adding: “There’s hardly an ideology in that book.” (An excerpt: “There is no middle way for Americans: It is victory or holocaust. This book is a manual for victory.”)

Regardless of the title, Heilbrunn pursued, how could so many people — including lapsed neoconservative Francis Fukuyama — all be so wrong about what neoconservatives represent?

“It’s not surprising that a lot of people get something wrong,” Perle reasoned.

At times, the Prince of Darkness turned on his questioners. Fielding a question from the Financial Times, he said that the newspaper “propagated this myth of neoconservative influence.” He informed Stefan Halper of Cambridge University that “you have contributed significantly to this mythology.”

“There are some 5,000 footnotes,” Halper replied. “Documents that you’ve signed.”

But documents did not deter denials. “I’ve never advocated attacking Iran,” he said, to a few chuckles. “Regime change does not imply military force, at least not when I use the term,” he said, to raised eyebrows. Accusations that neoconservatives manipulated intelligence on Iraq? “There’s no truth to it.” At one point, he argued that the word “neoconservative” has been used as an anti-Semitic slur, just moments after complaining that prominent figures such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — Christians both — had been grouped in with the neoconservatives.

“I don’t know that I persuaded anyone,” Perle speculated when the session ended.

No worries, said the moderator. “You certainly kept us all entertained.”

© 2009 The Washington Post Company

The Short American Century

by Andrew Bacevich, Moyers & Company, March 22, 2012

Excerpted from the final chapter of The Short American Century: A Postmortem

The problem for the United States today is that sanitizing history no longer serves U.S. interests. Instead, it blinds Americans to the challenges that they confront. Self-serving mendacities — that the attacks of September 11, 2001, reprising those of December 7, 1941, “came out of nowhere” to strike an innocent nation — don’t enhance the safety and well-being of the American people. If anything, the reverse is true. The Disneyfication of the Iraq War — now well advanced by those depicting “the surge” in Iraq as an epic feat of arms and keen to enshrine General David Petraeus as one of history’s Great Captains — might discreetly camouflage, but cannot conceal, the irreversible collapse of George W. Bush’s “Freedom Agenda,” predicated on expectations that the concerted application of American military power will democratize or at least pacify the Islamic world. The conviction that “the remoralization of America at home ultimately requires the remoralization of American foreign policy”— wars waged to incorporate dark quarters of the Islamic world into the American Century fostering renewal and revitalization at home — has likewise proven baseless and even fanciful. Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, the revival of waterboarding and other forms of torture, and the policy of so-called extraordinary rendition have left the “incandescent moral clarity” that some observers attributed to U.S. policy after 9/11 more than a little worse for wear.

The argument here is not to invert the American Century, fingering the United States with responsibility for every recurrence of war, famine, pestilence, and persecution that crops up on our deeply troubled planet. Nor is the argument that the United States, no longer the “almighty superpower” of yore, has entered a period of irreversible “decline,” pointing ineluctably to retreat, withdrawal, passivity, and irrelevance. Rather, the argument, amply sustained by the essays collected in this volume, is this: To further indulge old illusions of the United States presiding over and directing the course of history will not only impede the ability of Americans to understand the world and themselves but may well pose a positive danger to both. Faced with a reality that includes, within the last decade alone,

an inability to anticipate, whether the events of 9/11, the consequences of invading Iraq, or revolutionary upheaval in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world;

an inability to control, with wars begun in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, along with various and sundry financial scandals, economic crises, and natural disasters, exposing the limits of American influence, power, and perspicacity;

an inability to afford, as manifested by a badly overstretched military, trillion dollar annual deficits, increasingly unaffordable entitlement programs, and rapidly escalating foreign debt;

an inability to respond, demonstrated by the dysfunction pervading the American political system, especially at the national level, whether in Congress, at senior levels of the executive branch, or in the bureaucracy; and

an inability to comprehend what God intends or the human heart desires, with little to indicate that the wonders of the information age, however dazzling, the impact of globalization, however far reaching, or the forces of corporate capitalism, however relentless, will provide answers to such elusive questions,

Americans today would do well to temper any claims or expectations of completing the world’s redemption. In light of such sobering facts, which Americans ignore at their peril, it no longer makes sense to pretend that the United States is promoting a special message in pursuit of a special mission. Like every other country that confronts circumstances of vast complexity and pervasive uncertainty, the United States is merely attempting to cope. Prudence and common sense should oblige Americans to admit as much.

Electronically reproduced by permission of the publisher from The Short American Century: A Postmortem, edited by Andrew Bacevich. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, Copyright © 2012 The President and Fellows of Harvard College.

http://billmoyers.com/content/excerpt-not-so-different-after-all/

The Conservative Crackup: How the Republican Party Lost Its Mind

By Kim Messick, Salon.com, September 1, 2013

In a recent article, I argued [2] that the Republican Party has been captured by a faction whose political psychology makes it highly intransigent and uninterested in compromise. That article focused on the roots of this psychology and how it shapes the Tea Party’s view of its place in American politics. It did not pursue the question of exactly how this capture took place — of how a major political party, once a broad coalition of diverse elements, came to be so dependent on a narrow range of strident voices. This is the question I propose to explore below.

In doing so, we should keep in mind three terms from political science (and much political journalism) — “realignment,” “polarization” and “gridlock.” These concepts are often bandied about as if their connections are obvious, even intuitive. Sometimes, indeed, a writer leaves the impression that they are virtually synonymous. I think this is mistaken, and that it keeps us from appreciating just how strange our present political moment really is.

“Realignment,” for instance, refers to a systematic shift in the patterns of electoral support for a political party. The most spectacular recent example of this is the movement of white Southerners from the Democratic to the Republican Party after the passage of major civil rights laws in the mid-1960s. Not coincidentally, this event was critically important for the evolution of today’s Republican Party.

After the Civil War and the collapse of Reconstruction in the 1870s, the identification of white Southerners as Democrats was so stubborn and pervasive as to make the region into the “solid South” [3] – solidly Democratic, that is. Despite this well-known fact, there is reason to suspect that the South’s Democratic alliance was always a bit uneasy. As the Gilded Age gave way to the first decades of the 20th century, the electoral identities of the two major parties began to firm up. Outside the South, the Democrats were the party of the cities, with their polyglot populations and unionized workforces. The Republicans drew most of their support from the rural Midwest and the small towns of the North. The Democrats’ appeal was populist, while Republicans extolled the virtues of an ascendant business class: self-sufficiency, propriety, personal responsibility.

It will be immediately evident that the Republican Party was in many ways a more natural fit for the South, which at the time was largely rural and whose white citizens were overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon Protestants. The South’s class structure, less fluid than that of the industrial and urban North, would have chimed with the more hierarchical strains of Republican politics, and Southern elites had ample reason to prefer the “small government” preached by Republican doctrine. But the legacy of Lincoln’s Republicanism was hard to overcome, and the first serious stirrings of disillusion with the Democratic Party had to wait until 1948. That year, South Carolina Gov. Strom Thurmond, enraged by President Truman’s support for some early civil rights measures, led a walkout of 35 Southern delegates from the Democratic Convention. Thurmond went on to become the presidential nominee of a Southern splinter group, the States’ Rights Democratic Party (better known as “Dixiecrats” [4]), and won four states in the deep South.

The first Republican successes in the South came in the elections of 1952 and 1956 [5], when Dwight Eisenhower won five and eight states, respectively*. These victories, however, were only marginally related to racial politics; Eisenhower’s stature as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in World War II had a much larger role, as did his party’s virulent anti-communism. Nixon held only five of these states in 1960.

The real turning point came in 1964. After passage of the Civil Rights Act, Barry Goldwater’s conservative campaign, with its emphasis on limited government and states’ rights, carried five Southern states, four of which had not been won by a Republican in the 20th century. No Democratic presidential candidate has won a majority of Southern states since, with the single exception of former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign. The South is now the most reliably Republican region [6] of the country, and supplies the party with most of its Electoral College support.

The South’s realignment explains a lot about our politics. But it doesn’t, in itself, explain one very important fact: why the post-civil rights Republican Party went on to become the monolithically conservative party we have today. We can put this point as a question: Why didn’t the Republican Party end up looking more like the pre-realignment Democrats, with a coalition of Northern moderates and liberals yoked to conservative Southerners? (And the Midwest along for the ride.) In effect, we’re asking how realignment is related to “polarization” — the ideological sorting out that has led to our present party system, in which nearly all moderates and liberals identify as Democrats and nearly all conservatives as Republicans.

It’s important to ask this question for at least two reasons. First, because it highlights the fact that realignment and polarization are analytically distinct concepts — a point often passed over in discussions of this subject. The sudden migration of Southern whites into Republican ranks is obviously connected with polarization; what we need to know is exactly how and why. Which brings us to the second reason. Because the answer we’re led to is so refreshingly old-fashioned and therefore, in today’s intellectual culture, completely counterintuitive: They are connected through the agency of political actors.

In “Rule and Ruin,” [7] his wonderful history of the collapse of Republican moderation, the historian Geoffrey Kabaservice documents the process by which conservative activists remade the Republican Party in their image. (If I could recommend only one book this year to students of American history, it would be this one.) Filling a broad canvas with an enormous wealth of detail, Kabaservice shows us that conservatives always thought of themselves as engaged on two fronts: Moderate Republicans were as much the enemy as liberal Democrats. William Rusher, Bill Buckley’s colleague at National Review, remarked revealingly that the modern conservative movement formed itself “in opposition to the Eisenhower administration.”

One can’t help but admire the tenacity, focus and creativity that conservative activists brought to their task. They transformed the Republican Party at every level: from the grass roots, where they assumed control of local bodies such as city councils, caucuses and county commissions, to the state and national party machinery. They also built a network of institutions [8] designed to cultivate and publicize conservative ideas. These ranged from relatively sophisticated periodicals and think tanks (National Review, the early Heritage Foundation) to rawer, more demotic facsimiles (the American Spectator, the Cato Institute). Groups such as the Moral Majority arose, especially on the religious right, and new media technologies allowed for the consolidation of conservative voices on talk radio and cable television.

These actions were all part of the same relentless design: to purge the Republican Party of moderate voices and to install conservatives in every position of meaningful power and influence. But they had another side as well. Because as a party shapes itself it also shapes its electorate. And a party engaged in a process of purification, if it wants to continue to win elections, needs a similarly purified electorate.

The realignment of Southern whites must be understood in this context. When they deserted the Democratic Party in the mid-’60s, they presented Republicans with a huge electoral windfall. Republicans then had to decide how to invest this unexpected capital. In doing so they had to balance at least two things: numbers and intensity. Numbers are important, of course — you can’t win elections without them — but it’s an old adage in politics that an intense 51 percent is better than a relaxed 55 percent. The Republican decision to embrace an increasingly radical version of conservatism should be seen, in effect, as an attempt to leverage the intensity and loyalty of their new Southern voters. These qualities were expected to offset the loss of any moderate or liberal supporters who might abandon the party as it lurched to the right.

It was a perfectly rational strategy, and it worked brilliantly. Between 1968 and 1992 — 24 years, an entire generation — Democrats won exactly one presidential election, the post-Watergate campaign of 1976. But after ’92 the strategy began to break down on the national level, due mainly to demographic factors: There simply weren’t enough rural white voters anymore to win presidential elections in a consistent way. But by then the right was fully in control of Republican politics and uninterested in sharing power (or policy) with their moderate brethren. They developed a narrative to counter any suggestion that ideological rigidity was the cause of the party’s losses in national (and, increasingly, statewide) races: the quixotic claim [9] that it had nominated “moderates” unable to bring out the conservative majorities who lurk, abandoned and bereft, in the heartland.

In the meantime the ritual purges have continued — the immediate denunciations, thundered from various media pulpits, whenever a Republican politician utters an unorthodox opinion; the threat (or reality) of primary challenges to silence dissent; the invocation of paranoid fantasies that inflame “the base” and make them ever more agitated and vindictive.

Now, in 2013, we have the politics that 50 years of this process have created. The Democratic Party has fewer conservatives than it once did, but is still a broadly coalitional party with liberal and moderate elements. It controls the coasts, has strength in the industrial Midwest, and is making inroads in the upper, more urbanized South and in Florida. It confronts a Republican Party almost wholly dependent on the interior states of the old Confederacy. (The party continues to win in the mountain and prairie West, but the region is too sparsely populated to provide any real electoral heft.) Because of its demographic weakness, it is more beholden than ever to the intensity of its most extreme voters. This has engendered a death spiral in which it must take increasingly radical positions to drive these voters to the polls, positions that in turn alienate ever larger segments of the population, making these core voters even more crucial — and so on. We have a name these days for the electoral residue produced by this series of increasingly rigorous purifications. We call it “the Tea Party.”

The cry of the hour is that our politics is “dysfunctional” [10] — mired in “gridlock,” all bipartisanship lost. This is of course true, but it must be seen as merely the latest result of the conservative politics of purity. After all, when does a politician, in the normal course of affairs, have a reason to do something? When he thinks it will gain him a vote, or that not doing it will cost him a vote. It follows that politicians have a reason to be bipartisan — to work with the opposition — only when doing so will increase, not decrease, their electoral support. And this can only happen if they potentially share voters with their opposition. But the Republican electorate is now almost as purified as the Republican Party. Not only is it unlikely to support Democratic candidates, it’s virtually certain to punish any Republican politician who works with Democrats. The electoral logic of bipartisanship has collapsed for most Republicans; they have very little to gain, and much to lose, if they practice it. And so they don’t.

Unfortunately, our government isn’t designed to function in these conditions.  The peculiarities of our system — a Senate, armed with the filibuster, that gives Wyoming’s 576,000 people as much power as California’s 38,000,000; gerrymandered districts in the House; separate selection of the executive and the legislature; a chronically underfunded elections process, generally in partisan hands and in desperate need of rationalization — simply won’t permit it. What we get instead is paralysis — or worse. The Republican Party, particularly in the House, has turned into the legislative equivalent of North Korea — a political outlier so extreme it has lost the ability to achieve its objectives through normal political means. Its only recourse is to threats (increasingly believable) that it will blow up the system rather than countenance this-or-that lapse from conservative dogma. This was the strategy it pursued in the debt ceiling debacle [11] of 2011, and if firebrands such as Ted Cruz and Mike Lee have their way it will guide the party’s approach to the same issue this fall, and perhaps to government funding (including “Obamacare”) as well. Realignment and polarization have led us to gridlock and instability.

The relentless radicalization of the Republican Party since 1964 is the most important single event in the political history of the United States since the New Deal. It has significantly shaped the course of our government and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. But this means it has also shaped the individual life of every citizen— the complex amalgam of possibilities and opportunities available (or not) to each of us. The conservative visionaries of the ‘50s and ‘60s wanted a new world. We’re all living in it now.

* The 1928 election is something of an exception to this statement; eight Southern states, offended by Democratic candidate Al Smith’s Catholicism, voted instead for Herbert Hoover. But it seems safe to regard this election as an outlier; FDR won every Southern state in the next four presidential elections.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/conservative-crackup-how-republican-party-lost-its-mind

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/kim-messick
[2] http://www.salon.com/2013/08/10/the_tea_partys_paranoid_aesthetic/
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid_South
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dixiecrat
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid_South#South_in_Presidential_elections
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid_South#.22Southern_strategy.22_today
[7] http://www.amazon.com/Rule-Ruin-Moderation-Destruction-Development/dp/0199768404/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377452992&sr=1-1&keywords=Rule+and+ruin
[8] http://www.amazon.com/The-Rise-Counter-Establishment-Conservative-Political/dp/1402759118/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
[9] http://spectator.org/archives/2012/11/08/when-conservatism-is-a-secon
[10] http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2010/08/19/our_dysfunctional_politics_106815.html
[11] http://www.amazon.com/Not-Ask-What-Good-Representatives/dp/1451642083/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377461798&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=%22ask+not+what+good+we+do%22
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/republican-party
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/tea-party-0
[14] http://www.alternet.org/tags/conservativism
[15] http://www.alternet.org/tags/editors-picks
[16] http://www.alternet.org/tags/south
[17] http://www.alternet.org/tags/democratic-party
[18] http://www.alternet.org/tags/civil-war
[19] http://www.alternet.org/tags/politics-news-0
[20] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

Contagious: Why Things Catch On

by Jay Connor, August 1, 2013

Six Elements to Turn Your Ideas of Collective Impact Viral, http://vibrantcanada.ca/blog

Jonah Berger in his recently published book, “Contagious,” has given us a very good read that builds on “Switch” and “The Tipping Point.”  In essence we are introduced to a means to put into practice what were simply observations in the Heath’s and Gladwell’s separate takes on how to influence others.  Those of us who work across sectors in community are always trying to find the magic formula for engaging and moving our respective audiences to action.

For Berger, there are six essential factors that contribute to contagious ideas: think of them as the STEPPS to having your ideas catch on.  Not all elements are necessary for an idea to catch on, but a combination of some or all these elements would certainly increase the likelihood. (A key note here is that this is not all about virality in an Internet context — according to Berger only 7% of real world contagion occurs on the web; the vast majority of ideas that catch on are still transported word of mouth.)  A quick look at some of the most successful viral campaigns reveals each of these elements at work.

Social currency. We share things that make us look good or help us compare favorably to others. Exclusive restaurants utilize social currency all the time to create demand.  In community: involvement in an effort to solve seemingly intractable problems would provide social currency, but if jargon makes it too hard to explain either the issue or the solution we preclude virality.

Triggers. Ideas that are top of mind spread. Like parasites, viral ideas attach themselves to top of mind stories, occurrences or environments. For example, Mars bar sales spiked when in 1997 when NASA’s Pathfinder mission explored the red planet.  In community: think of how to frame your ideas in order that they might have triggers for the larger community.  For example: your work on poverty reduction might have more triggers if you were also able to talk about it in economic development or community betterment terms.

Emotion. When we care, we share. Jonah analyzed over six months of data from the New York Times most emailed list to discover that certain high arousal emotions can dramatically increase our need to share ideas - like the outrage triggered by Dave Carroll’s “United Breaks Guitars” video.  In community: we’ve been fairly adept at the first part of the equation – care – but we have had more difficulty with creating the vehicle for sharing, be it a video, website or story.

Public. People tend to follow others, but only when they can see what those others are doing. There is a reason why baristas put money in their own tip jar at the beginning of a shift. Ideas need to be public to be copied.  In community: the question should be: what is the behavior we want repeated and how to we publicly model it.

Practical. Humans crave the opportunity to give advice and offer tips (one reason why advocate marketing works – your best customers love to help out), but especially if they offer practical value. It’s why we `pay it forward’ and help others. Sharing is caring.  In community: have you provided your advocates with a story, checklist or tool to share that brings practical value.  Many communities have developed a “kindergarten-readiness checklist” for this purpose.

Stories.People do not just share information, they tell stories. And stories are like Trojan horses, vessels that carry ideas, brands, and information. To benefit the brand, stories must not only be shared but also relate to a sponsoring company’s products. Thus the epic failure of viral sensations like Evian’s roller baby video (50M views) that did little to stem Evian’s 25% drop in sales.

As you are developing your marketing campaign or community engagement strategy, you should put it through the test of the STEPPS elements.  It will move you from your frame of reference to your audiences’ and that is the beginning of being contagious!

- See more at: http://vibrantcanada.ca/blogs/jay-connor/contagious-why-things-catch#sthash.aiLAhioz.dpuf

http://vibrantcanada.ca/blogs/jay-connor/contagious-why-things-catch