How Did Politics Get So Personal?

By Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times,  JAN. 28, 2015

Political hostility in the United States is more and more becoming personal hostility. New findings suggest that the sources of dispute in contemporary life go far beyond ideological differences or mere polarization. They have become elemental, almost tribal, tapping into in-group loyalty and out-group enmity… Fully 36 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats believe the opposition party’s policies “are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being,” … partisans on both sides believe different facts, use different economic theories, and hold differing views of history… liberals and conservatives process the same set of facts with different cultural thought styles…liberals and conservatives in the same country think as if they were from different cultures… Starting in the 1960s, when race came to the forefront, Poole wrote, other issues involving nothing to do with economics — gun control, gay rights, sexual issues — began to be drawn into the “liberal” vs. “conservative” dimension…the depth of our polarization reflects ingrained personal, cognitive and psychosocial traits — traits that are, in Iyengar’s word, “primal.”…However much they might want to pitch themselves toward the center, politicians will feel the need to tap into the energy, not to mention the primary votes, that ideological purity provides. It is this contradiction between purity and pragmatism that will shape the political landscape for the foreseeable future.

Long excerpt

Political hostility in the United States is more and more becoming personal hostility. New findings suggest that the sources of dispute in contemporary life go far beyond ideological differences or mere polarization. They have become elemental, almost tribal, tapping into in-group loyalty and out-group enmity…. Partisans now discriminate against their adversaries “to a degree that exceeds discrimination based on race.” The authors find that this discrimination pervades decision making of all kinds, from hiring to marriage choices…From 1960 to 2010, the percentage of Democrats and Republicans who said that members of their own party were more intelligent than those in the opposition party grew from 6 percent to 48 percent; the percentage describing members of the opposition party as “selfish” rose from 21 percent to 47 percent…by a 2014 Pew Research Center study that revealed that “the level of antipathy that members of each party feel toward the opposing party has surged over the past two decades.” Fully 36 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats believe the opposition party’s policies “are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being,” …a new line of inquiry into the causes and nature of polarization… that partisans on both sides believe different facts, use different economic theories, and hold differing views of history… Do liberals and conservatives process the same set of facts with different cultural thought styles…liberals and conservatives in the same country think as if they were from different cultures. These researchers argue that liberals share a propensity for analytic thinking and have a stronger preference for deep thought and a rejection of simple solutions. Liberals are more tolerant of ambiguity and uncertainty, and they have less of a need for order, structure and closure.

Analytic thinking, in this view, “emphasizes slicing up the world and analyzing objects individually, divorced from context — much like scientific analysis requires thinkers to separate complex phenomena into separate parts….The analytic thinking typical of liberals is “more conscious, more focused on the rules of logic.”

Conversely, these researchers define holistic thinking – which they consider more typical of conservatives — as “seeing scenes as a whole and seeing people as a product of situations.” Talhelm described this style of thought as “more automatic, caught up in emotions, and in some ways less adherent to the rules of logic.”…Collectivism is not generalized sharing with “other people.” Collectivism is a system of tight social ties and responsibilities, but less trust and weaker ties toward strangers — a stronger in-group/out-group distinction. Conservatives care deeply about close others, but they may dislike welfare programs because those programs serve strangers or even people from out-groups.

Liberal individualism focuses on the self and personal fulfillment. As Talhelm put it:

If you see the world as all individuals, then welfare recipients are individuals too, just like you. Indeed analytic thinkers are more likely to agree with statements about universalism — “all people are equal”; “an African life is worth as much as an American life.”… Starting in the 1960s, when race came to the forefront, Poole wrote, other issues involving nothing to do with economics — gun control, gay rights, sexual issues — began to be drawn into the “liberal” vs. “conservative” dimension. Now almost every issue from foreign policy to taxes to lifestyle issues has been drawn into the left vs. right alignment…political scientists at Princeton, Yale and Berkeley, respectively, have stressed the key role of external factors in deepening our political schism, including inequality, the nationalization of politics, immigration and the fast approaching moment when whites will no longer be in the majoritythe depth of our polarization reflects ingrained personal, cognitive and psychosocial traits — traits that are, in Iyengar’s word, “primal.”

This is not an easy problem for politicians to solve. Republican and Democratic leaders are struggling to moderate their parties’ most extreme ideological positioning. But if polarization reflects primal aspects of the human condition, particularly when we are under stress, it isn’t going anywhere. However much they might want to pitch themselves toward the center, politicians will feel the need to tap into the energy, not to mention the primary votes, that ideological purity provides. It is this contradiction between purity and pragmatism that will shape the political landscape for the foreseeable future.

Full text

Political hostility in the United States is more and more becoming personal hostility. New findings suggest that the sources of dispute in contemporary life go far beyond ideological differences or mere polarization. They have become elemental, almost tribal, tapping into in-group loyalty and out-group enmity.

“Hostile feelings for the opposing party are ingrained or automatic in voters’ minds,” Shanto Iyengar, a political scientist at Stanford, and Sean Westwood, a post-doctoral researcher at Princeton, wrote in a July 2014 paper “Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines.” Partisans now discriminate against their adversaries “to a degree that exceeds discrimination based on race.” The authors find that this discrimination pervades decision making of all kinds, from hiring to marriage choices.

In a separate 2012 study, “Affect, Not Ideology,” Iyengar and two other colleagues used a polling method known as a “thermometer rating” to measure how Democrats and Republicans feel about each other. The temperature scale goes from 1 to 100. One means the respondent feels cold toward the group; 100 implies that the respondent has warm feelings. Iyengar and his colleagues found in 2008 that Democrat and Republican ratings of the opposition party had dropped to just below 32 degrees. In comparison, Protestants gave Catholics a 66 rating, Democrats gave “big business” a 51, and Republicans rated “people on welfare” at 50.

One of the most striking findings of Iyengar’s 2012 paper is the dramatic increase in the percentages of members of both parties who would be upset if their children married someone in the opposition party (shown in figure 1).

From 1960 to 2010, the percentage of Democrats and Republicans who said that members of their own party were more intelligent than those in the opposition party grew from 6 percent to 48 percent; the percentage describing members of the opposition party as “selfish” rose from 21 percent to 47 percent.

Iyengar and Westwood contend that the conflict between Democrats and Republicans is based more on deeply rooted “in group” versus “out group” sensibilities than on ideology.

Not in Our Family

Percent of Democrats and Republicans who would be unhappy if their children married someone of the opposing party.

In an email exchange, Iyengar speculated on a number of reasons for the increase in polarization: Residential neighborhoods are politically homogeneous as are social media networks. I suspect this is one of the principal reasons for the significantly increased rate of same-party marriages. In 1965, a national survey of married couples showed around sixty-five percent agreement among couples. By 2010, the agreement rate was near 90 percent.

The result, according to Iyengar, is that “since inter-personal contact across the party divide is infrequent, it is easier for people to buy into the caricatures and stereotypes of the out party and its supporters.”

Iyengar’s findings are backed up by a 2014 Pew Research Center study that revealed that “the level of antipathy that members of each party feel toward the opposing party has surged over the past two decades.” Fully 36 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats believe the opposition party’s policies “are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being,” Pew found.

More recently, a group of four scholars working with Jonathan Haidt, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, and Thomas Talhelm, a doctoral candidate in social psychology at the University of Virginia, have developed a new line of inquiry into the causes and nature of polarization. Their paper, “Liberals Think More Analytically Than Conservatives,” was published online in December. It argues that

partisans on both sides believe different facts, use different economic theories, and hold differing views of history. But might the differences run even deeper? Do liberals and conservatives process the same set of facts with different cultural thought styles?

The answer, according to Talhelm, Haidt and their colleagues: “liberals and conservatives in the same country think as if they were from different cultures.”

These researchers argue that liberals share a propensity for analytic thinking and have a stronger preference for deep thought and a rejection of simple solutions. Liberals are more tolerant of ambiguity and uncertainty, and they have less of a need for order, structure and closure.

Analytic thinking, in this view, “emphasizes slicing up the world and analyzing objects individually, divorced from context — much like scientific analysis requires thinkers to separate complex phenomena into separate parts.” Talhelm elaborated in a phone conversation: The analytic thinking typical of liberals is “more conscious, more focused on the rules of logic.”

Conversely, these researchers define holistic thinking – which they consider more typical of conservatives — as “seeing scenes as a whole and seeing people as a product of situations.” Talhelm described this style of thought as “more automatic, caught up in emotions, and in some ways less adherent to the rules of logic.”

Talhelm wrote me in an email that “analytic thinkers tend to do better in engineering, and they hold more patents for inventions. But holistic/intuitive thinkers tend to do better in more social fields, such as early childhood education and marketing.” One study in the 1960s, he said, “found that analytic thinkers were more likely to have long hair (for men) and short skirts (women).”

In their 2014 paper, Talhelm and his co-authorshypothesize that liberals think more analytically because liberal culture is more individualistic, with looser social bonds, more emphasis on self-expression, and a priority on individual identities over group identities.

Conservatives, in this analysis, are more dedicated to their communities and to the idea of community than liberals. Conservatism, they write, is often associated with rural areas, where people are enmeshed in tight-knit communities and are more likely to know the people they see walking on the street. Conservatism is also associated with interconnected groups, such as churches, fraternities, and the military.

Talhelm and his colleagues suggest a different interpretation for the words “individualism,” which traditionally is associated with conservatism, and “collectivism,” which is often linked to liberalism:

Collectivism is not generalized sharing with “other people.” Collectivism is a system of tight social ties and responsibilities, but less trust and weaker ties toward strangers — a stronger in-group/out-group distinction. Conservatives care deeply about close others, but they may dislike welfare programs because those programs serve strangers or even people from out-groups.

Liberal individualism focuses on the self and personal fulfillment. As Talhelm put it:

If you see the world as all individuals, then welfare recipients are individuals too, just like you. Indeed analytic thinkers are more likely to agree with statements about universalism — “all people are equal”; “an African life is worth as much as an American life.”

Looking at the issue of partisan conflict in historical terms, Keith T. Poole, a political scientist at the University of Georgia, explained via email that polarization was very high before the Civil War, and again in the 1880s and 1890s “at the height of industrial capitalism” when the parties split over “gold vs. silver, taxes, tariffs, labor organization and inflation.” Starting in the 1960s, when race came to the forefront, Poole wrote, other issues involving nothing to do with economics — gun control, gay rights, sexual issues — began to be drawn into the “liberal” vs. “conservative” dimension. Now almost every issue from foreign policy to taxes to lifestyle issues has been drawn into the left vs. right alignment.

The work of Iyengar, Talhelm and Haidt adds a new layer to the study of polarization. In seminal work, scholars like Nolan McCarty, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, political scientists at Princeton, Yale and Berkeley, respectively, have stressed the key role of external factors in deepening our political schism, including inequality, the nationalization of politics, immigration and the fast approaching moment when whites will no longer be in the majority.

David Leege, political scientist emeritus at Notre Dame, provided further insight into the economic forces exacerbating polarization: the pool of under-employed and unemployed semi-skilled labor and their former managers, accountants, etc. have been ripped from the productive (assembly-line) and social institutions (organized labor, health care, ethnic and industrial bars) that ordered their lives and assured a meaningful place in their communities. For the persons who worked hard and more or less lived by the rules, there is no longer the pride of breadwinning and self-sufficiency brought to home or church or neighborhood interactions. These people are setups for polarizing political appeals.

Iyengar, Talhelm and Haidt do not reject the importance of these external factors. But they do argue that the depth of our polarization reflects ingrained personal, cognitive and psychosocial traits — traits that are, in Iyengar’s word, “primal.”

This is not an easy problem for politicians to solve. Republican and Democratic leaders are struggling to moderate their parties’ most extreme ideological positioning. But if polarization reflects primal aspects of the human condition, particularly when we are under stress, it isn’t going anywhere. However much they might want to pitch themselves toward the center, politicians will feel the need to tap into the energy, not to mention the primary votes, that ideological purity provides. It is this contradiction between purity and pragmatism that will shape the political landscape for the foreseeable future.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/opinion/how-did-politics-get-so-personal.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

Articles, excerpts Jan 11 to 26, 2015

Worldview – contrast

Can Science Explain the Rage, Reality-Denying and Distorted Thinking Patterns of Tea Party Radicals? Posted by: Josh Kilburn  January 17, 2015 Liberals place a high value on mitigating harm towards others, while conservatives don’t really care, and they’re more worried that someone is going to cheat welfare, cheat disability insurance, or cheat SNAP, to get something they “don’t deserve.”  

Environmental crisis

In Just 60 Years, Neoliberal Capitalism Has Nearly Broken Planet Earth By Jon Queally, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 16, 2015 Pair of new studies show how various forms of human activity, driven by a flawed economic system and vast consumption, is laying waste to Earth’s natural systems. The conclusion that the world’s dominant economic model—a globalized form of neoliberal capitalism, largely based on international trade and fueled by extracting and consuming natural resources—is the driving force behind planetary destruction will not come as a shock, but the model’s detailed description of how this has worked since the middle of the 20th century makes a more substantial case than many previous attempts. Humanity’s rapacious growth and accelerated energy needs over the last generation—particularly fed by an economic system that demands increasing levels of consumption and inputs of natural resources—are fast driving planetary systems towards their breaking point, according to a new pair of related studies. “It is difficult to overestimate the scale and speed of change. In a single lifetime humanity has become a geological force at the planetary-scale.” —Prof. Will Steffen  

‘Doomsday Clock’ Ticks Forward: Climate Change, Nuclear Weapons Push Humanity Closer Towards Global Catastrophe By Andrea Germanos, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 22, 2015 Runaway climate change and the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons have pushed the world closer towards irreversible catastrophe, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced Thursday, as the group pushed the symbolic Doomsday Clock forward to three minutes before midnight.

Mourning Our Planet: Climate Scientists Share Their Grieving Process By Dahr Jamail, Truthout, January 20, 2015

Generational justice

The Most Entitled Generation Isn’t Millennials. It’s Baby Boomers By Ross Pomeroy & William Handke – January 8, 2015 For the first time in America’s history, an entire generation of her citizens is poorer, more indebted, and less employed than the preceding generations. That generation is the Millennials – our generation…

America

Is This Country Crazy? Inquiring Minds Elsewhere Want to Know It’s past time to wake up, America, and look around By Ann Jones, TomDispatch, posted on alternet.org,  January 11, 2015

Culture wars

Culture wars, old and new by E.J. Dionne, New York Times, Jan 25, 2015

Corporations

The Corporate Strategy to Win The War Against Grassroots Activists: Stratfor’s Strategies By Steve Horn, www.mintpressnews.com, July 29, 2013

Economic justice – race

Black Wealth Matters by Chuck Collins, January 11, 2015 Truth-out,  For generations, white households have enjoyed far greater access to wealth and security than their black counterparts…As protesters march through our cities to remind us that black lives matter, grievances about our racially fractured society extend far beyond flashpoints over police violence…. you have to look at wealth and net worth — that is, what people own minus what they owe…The racial wealth gap has persisted for decades. It widened following the Great Recession….“It is time for all of us to tell each other the truth,” Dr. King wrote in 1967, “about who and what have brought the Negro to the condition of deprivation against which he struggles today.”

Capitalism

Don’t Buy the Hype: 20 Years of Data Reveals ‘Free Trade’ Fallacies By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 15, 2015  Fast-tracked international trade deals have led to exploding U.S. trade deficits, soaring food imports into the U.S., increased off-shoring of American jobs, and an “unprecedented rise in income inequality,” according to new data released Thursday by the watchdog group Public Citizen.

In Just 60 Years, Neoliberal Capitalism Has Nearly Broken Planet Earth By Jon Queally, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 16, 2015 Pair of new studies show how various forms of human activity, driven by a flawed economic system and vast consumption, is laying waste to Earth’s natural systems

Inequality

Super Bowl for the Rich: Upper-Class 91, Middle-Class 9 By Paul Buchheit, Common Dreams, January 26, 2015…Making money is all a game to the super-rich—redistribution toward the top, trickle-down delusions, tax avoidance, and even, for some of them, dabbling in criminal activities…$2 of every $5 owned today was created in the last five years, most of it from the financial markets, and almost all of it going to the richest 10%… People with stocks are happy, but the news is a lot different for middle America, which has seen its pay drop a stunning 23 percent since 2009, and its median wealth plummet by about 40 percent… Even though corporate profits are at their highest level in 85 years, corporations aren’t pumping it back into the economy. Instead they’re holding it. S&P companies last year spent an incredible 95% of their profits on stock buybacks to enrich executives and shareholders.  Meanwhile, as the rest of us dutifully pay our taxes, we get blind-sided by wealthy individuals and corporations who defer their taxes, stash income in tax havens, enjoy a special capital gains tax rate, invest their money in tax-free foundations, or simply don’t pay. Boeing, Ford, Chevron, Citigroup, Verizon, JP Morgan, and General Motors, with a combined income last year of $74 billion, paid no taxes, and instead received a combined refund of nearly $2 billion…

Richest 1% Percent To Have More Than Rest of Humanity Combined By Jon Queally, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 19, 2015  New Oxfam report shows the scale of global inequality is ‘simply staggering’ In less than two years, if current trends continued unchecked, the richest 1% percent of people on the planet will own at least half of the world’s wealth. That’s the conclusion of a new report from Oxfam International, released Monday, which states that the rate of global inequality is not only morally obscene, but an existential threat to the economies of the world and the very survival of the planet. Alongside climate change, Oxfam says that spiraling disparity between the super-rich and everyone else, is brewing disaster for humanity as a whole.

Communications

Bring back the Fairness Doctrine, repealed during the Reagan area, to bring parity and responsible reporting back to our airwaves so that we have a better-informed citizenry casting better-informed votes., Big Ideas Project, December 2014 

History

Americans Should Embrace Their Radical History by Harvey J. Kaye, Campaign for America’s Future Blog, BillMoyers.com, October 8, 2014

Democracy

No. Sorry. You’re Not a ‘Constitutional Conservative’ By Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo, January 15, 2015 The central belief of the men who spearheaded the constitution was that only a strong central government could make America great and strong and thus safe….the constitution, the aims, beliefs and goals of the constitution-makers are the polar opposite of what the Rand Paul types and Tea Partiers believe

Searching for Radical Democracy in the Ruins of Capitalism’s Economic Depravity -interview with Henry Giroux By Chuck Mertz, truth-out.org January 17, 2015 The future demands a new political consciousness. We can’t just wait for neoliberal economics to tear apart society and then build from scratch.

Military-industrial complex

We Are a Chickenhawk Nation, Blindly Worshiping the Military; Wasting Enormous Amounts on Useless Military Hardware by Allegra Kirkland / AlterNet, January 9, 2015  

We Are a Chickenhawk Nation, Blindly Worshiping the Military; Wasting Enormous Amounts on Useless Military Hardware A new fleet of F-35 fighter jets will cost the equivalent of the entire Iraq war. By Allegra Kirkland / AlterNet, January 9, 2015  It’s common knowledge that the U.S. devotes more money to our defense budget than any other industrialized nation. But just how much we spend is remarkable. This year, we’re on track to spend over $1 trillion on national security, after factoring in nuclear weapons funding, military pensions and “overseas contingency funds,” in addition to the Pentagon’s $580 billion operating budget. In total, this figure accounts for about 4 percent of the United States’ income—double what most other countries spend.

Politics

The Empty Center: Challenge and Opportunity for Progressives by Robert Borosage, Campaign for America’s Future Blog, January 15, 2015

In U.S., New Record 43% Are Political Independents by Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup Poll, January 2015 n

The root of U.S. political paralysis is intolerance By Clive Crook, Bloomberg News, Jan 26, 2015

Democrats

As Top Democrats Embrace a Robin Hood Tax, It’s Time for Activists to Go Big by John Nichols, The Nation, posted on Progressive Democrats of America, January 12, 2015  Americans who are serious about addressing income inequality have long recognized that the United States needs a Robin Hood Tax—a charge on financial transactions proposed by campaigners who have argued since the Wall Street meltdown of 2008 that “banks, hedge funds and the rest of the financial sector should pay their fair share to clear up the mess they helped create.”

Money in politics

250 Years of Campaigns, Cash and Corruption By Asawin Suebsaeng, Andy Kroll, and Aaron Ross, Mother Jones, Aug. 9, 2012

Right wing’s unholy alliance

The Angry Right’s Secret Playbook Confessions of a former conservative blowhard. By Edwin Lyngar / Salon, posted on Alternet.org January 12, 2015 

 Neoconservatives

Walter Berns, Whose Ideas Fueled Neoconservative Movement, Dies at 95 By SAM ROBERTS JAN. 14, 2015  

Right wing extremism

You call these “moderates”?! How the far right hopes to fool America (again) By Heather Digby Parton,  Salon.com,, Jan 15, 2015         

Message machine

Forget Lobbyists: Big Business Wants To Control American Minds, Not Just Their Lawmakers By Erin Quinn, Center for Public Integrity, posted on Common Dreams, January 15, 2015 When Washington, D.C.’s biggest trade associations want to wield influence, they often put far more of their money into advertising and public relations, according to a new Center for Public Integrity investigation…37 percent, went toward advertising, public relations and marketing services, more than any other category. The second-highest total…20 percent of the total, was directed toward legal, lobbying and government affairs. By industry sector, the biggest clients of PR, marketing and ad services were energy and natural resources associations. The public relations industry is on a growth tear while the number of federally registered lobbyists is actually shrinking. Public relations work, unlike lobbying, is not subject to federal disclosure rules, and PR and advertising campaigns can potentially influence a broader group of people.

How Did Conservatives Convince the Public to Think Differently About Government?

Part III of a three-part series exploring how conservatives took their worldview to the streets, undermining long-held views about government and society. Click here to read part I, “What We Can Learn from Conservatives About Winning in Politics,” and part II, “Learning from How Conservatives Push Their Cultural Worldview.”

By Sara Robinson / Blog for Our Future, March 14, 2008

The conservative worldview has succeeded so wildly — and is still holding such tenacious sway over the ways Americans approach their current stack of problems — because the conservatives started out 30 years ago with a focused plan that put promoting their model of reality at the center of every other action. Over the past two posts, I’ve been mining the specific strategies that early planners like Paul Weyrich used to advance the conservative worldview, in the hope that we might gain some insight that will help us engage them directly on this deepest, most important territory.

Progressives will not be able to implement their vision of the future until we’re able to supplant the conservative worldview with our own. We won’t win until we take control of the discourse, offer Americans new ways to make meaning and evaluate and prioritize events, and get them to abandon conservative assumptions about how reality works.

I’d like to thank Bruce Wilson at Talk2Actionagain for turning me onto Eric Huebeck’s 2001 document that summarized, updated, and refocused the original Weyrich strategies. In this final piece, we’ll look some of the specific ways the conservatives structured their campaign to take their worldview to the streets, and ultimately replaced long-held democratic assumptions about government, economics, and society with the deadly and wrong-headed assumptions that now drive the thinking of the entire nation.

Capture Cultural Institutions
Thanks to David Brock, Joe Conason, Chris Mooney, Michelle Goldberg, and many others, more and more of us are becoming aware of the ways that conservatives have quietly moved in to take over almost every public and private institution in America. From churches to university faculties to public broadcasting to the Boy Scouts, the vast network of institutions that once taught people how to live in a liberal democracy and reinforced those values across society has been shredded to the point where it no longer functions. In its place is a new network of institutions — some of them operating within the co-opted shells of the old ones, others brand new — that reinforce the conservative worldview at every turn.

This takeover of the very insitutional fabric of the nation was a central part of the conservative plan from the very beginning. Weyrich understood that to change the discourse, you had to capture and control the institutions that were most directly responsible for promoting and sustaining it. And the rising conservatives pursued that goal with a vengeance.

The basic strategy was to build parallel organizations that shadowed the official ones until they could legitimately assume power within their domains. In some cases these were national institutes, professional organizations, formal committees and expert policy groups; in others, they were simply ad hoc groups of conservative citizens who showed up at all the meetings, studied the domain, wrote letters, and eventually became expert in all the same topics and issues the official authorities dealt with. Either way, over the course of a decade or two, there was hardly an influential institution in America that wasn’t operating without a gaggle of conservatives standing by to criticize every decision and thwart every attempt at action.

In some cases, such as government agencies, these self-appointed shadow officials hung around long enough, and demonstrated enough interest and expertise, that they eventually eased themselves into official positions from which they began to enact the conservative agenda. They joined public boards, got themselves appointed to commissions, and inflitrated local offices. In cases where they couldn’t directly take over, they set themselves up as the determined and loyal opposition, acting as political leg weights that hobbled and slowed down every aspect of goverment business for decades on end as they looked for opportunities to press their issues and impose their will. The official policymakers still held sway, but the constant resistance made them far less effective. In time, people would get frustrated with the inaction, and look for other leaders to get the job done. Too often, the people who’d created the resistance in the first place were the first ones tapped to take over.

Massive funding put up by conservative foundations also gave the movement clout over the country’s great non-profits, from which they insinuated themselves into research, health care, social services, education, and the arts. Pressure from investors, advertisers, and avid letter-writers narrowed the range of acceptable narratives in every kind of media. Shadow “professional” groups were established to challenge the basic Enlightenment-era premises of law, medicine, banking, teaching, pharmacy, and other essential professions.

All of this effort was in the service of one goal — to take over these institutions and eventually use them to promote conservative values and worldview. They understood that when you control these institutions, you control the culture — and ultimately, you will also control the very discourse by which everyone inside the culture interprets reality. We’re coming up against the success of this strategy every time a Federalist Society judge comes up for confirmation, every time a hospital refuses to perform abortions, every time the police commission gets a brutality complaint and looks the other way, and every time we try to get a birth control prescription filled.

Huebeck was very clear that none of this about “reform.” He wrote: “We will not reform existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity.” The conservatives knew that of all the various fronts in the war for American hearts and minds, seizing control of the country’s institutional core was is the one that mattered most.

And, unfortunately, we liberals left them to it. Throughout the 1960s, the Boomers had been challenging the authority of the old institutions, which they (often rightly) found stultifying, socially confining, and too often downright criminal. But there was a serious downside to this. When they abandoned the field, they left foundational American institutions (which had been dominated by GI-era rationalists from both parties) wide open for right-wing takeover — and the result is our lives are now dominated by the authority emanating from a new establishment that is far more stultifying, restrictive, and criminal that the 1960s rebels could have ever imagined.

It’s becoming obvious to more and more of us that we will not win until we start taking these institutions back. We’ve made a good start at creating progressive media networks, organizing our own political infrastructure, and defending education at all levels from conservative incursions. We’re having our say in the marketplace, particularly when it comes to agriculture and low-emissions vehicles. Science is not going gently into the ideological good night.

But it’s all just drops in the bottom of a large and leaking bucket. There are vast sectors in which the takeover proceeds unchallenged — and will remain so until we come back with the same pervasive intensity they brought to the job. We need thousands of those same small cadres of dedicated people who make it their business to target one institution, study it, become expert in it, and eventually mount a public challenge to its authority or move in and take it over. We need local MoveOn groups providing those scoutmasters, and local progressive churches taking strong stands against religious right school boards, and teams of local letter-writers who keep our issues on the op-ed pages of the weekly paper. We need professional organizations in every field that stand up to the ideologues and restore the rule of reason. We need to be as pervasive a presence in the life of conservative institutions as they have been in liberal ones.

It took them over 20 years to effect this takeover, so we also need to expect to be in this one for the long haul.

Don’t Trust the Democratic Party
Huebeck noted ruefully that movement conservatives “shot ourselves in the foot by expecting too much from the Republican Party.” It’s a feeling that’s becoming all too familiar to progressives assessing their relationship with the Democrats.

We’re tempted to forget that Progressives are not necessarily Democrats, any more than movement conservatives were necessarily Republicans. In each case, they are a separate movement that often finds its interests in consonance with those of a certain political party. But in both cases, they stand to lose tremendous amounts of power if they allow themselves to become co-opted and turned into an appendage of that party.

In the end, many conservatives — especially the religious right — lost track of that boundary, and forgot to consider their interests apart from the party. Without enough daylight between the two entities, it was easy for the GOP to start taking their Evangelical base for granted. With every passing election, it seemed, the party relied more and more on the religious conservatives for organization, money, and votes — and gave them less and less in return. This year, the conservative churches are in full fury over this betrayal. If the GOP loses, Evangelical disappointment will be at the heart of their defeat.

This is a special problem during election season, while progressives and the party work especially closely together to take back the White House and ensure a Democratic Congress. But, even as we fight the good fight together, progressives need to remember they are not us; and we are not them. Our movement must never forget that its an an entity apart from the Democratic party, with different interests and expectations of a different future. If we allow ourselves to be co-opted by the party, and are diverted into channeling all of our actions into activities that further the Democrats instead of our own progressive agenda, we’ll very quickly end up in the same place Evangelical conservatives are in right now — used, abused, and tossed aside.

It’s basic physics: Holding ourselves at a little more distance gives us extra leverage, forces them to work a little harder for our votes, and ultimately gives us more power to create the changes we seek.

Invest in our own members; grow our own leaders
Political leaders of all stripes like to expand their territory and hoard their power. Weyrich understood that personal empire-building is a selfish indulgence no successful movement can afford — first, because it leads people to put their own interests ahead of the movement, which should never be tolerated; and second, because it stunts the growth of new leaders and inhibits the transmission of leadership skills.

That’s why the early conservatives insisted that leadership should actively seek out leadership talent, nurture it, and groom it to assume power on its own. The more well-trained leaders the movement has, the bigger it can get, the more it can get done, and the faster its agenda will be adopted. Success depends on building a culture in which leaders are evaluated not by how much territory they control, but by the number and quality of new leaders emerging from underneath their wings.

Furthermore, giving people the chance to learn new skills and offering them new opportunities for personal growth is the most powerful way to bond them emotionally, socially, and even economically to the movement. In a time when people aren’t often given the chance to grow to their potential on the job, political work can provide a far more engaging and satisfying outlet for their ambitions. “Every member [must] be given the support to reach his maximum potential,” wrote Huebeck, who also observed that when we raise each others’ personal confidence and skill, it increases the confidence and skill of the movement as a whole.
This was the clause in the plan that launched a thousand wingnut welfare programs, stocked a hundred think tanks, and catapulted countless Young Republicans to positions of real power. But this lesson is far older than that. Earlier progressives understood the role that unions, churches, and civic organizations played in bringing along people who could become local, regional, and eventually national leaders. This isn’t something that happens just inside the Beltway. Finding and grooming emergent talent everybody’s job; and those who do it well have earned their place among our most esteemed leaders.

Ask people to invest in return
Changing the world is not a spectator sport. The early conservatives weren’t afraid to ask their members for incredible investments of time, energy, and money — investments that were essential if their perceived life-or-death struggle for the hearts and minds of America was to be won.

The money, in particular, matters. The conservatives realized that they would need to fund the the early years of their movement themselves until they racked up enough wins to attract foundation support. We progressives are short on corporate white knights; instead, we’ve built our movement on small donations from millions of Americans. Those people are making investments in us — and with every PayPal transfer they send, they are deepening their emotional bonds to our cause.

However, the problem with a lot of progressive fundraising is that it’s too often aimed at winning short-term battles. Pass or defeat this legislation. Win this election. Fund this organization for another year or two. Once that milestone has passed, groups have to conjure a new reason to get people to pony up. Donors figure that the battle’s won, and they can slack off now. Or it wasn’t won, and there’s no point in continuing to give. Either way, it doesn’t take long for donor fatigue to set in.

The conservatives largely avoided that problem by setting out one huge long-range goal that provided the all-in-one justification for an entire lifetime of generous giving. They were in it for nothing less than a total cultural transformation. Every smaller battle was just another step in the long war, which they expected to outlast their lifetimes. The leaders kept up their high expectations that their members would make enormous sacrifices — not just in the early years, but for decades on end until that transformation was complete. Nobody was allowed to slack off — and few wanted to. As the victories racked up and the stakes grew higher, the atmosphere got positively giddy — and the money pile kept getting bigger as people got more and more excited about the movement’s momentum.

We need to remind the progressive donor base that they play the deciding role in a battle that we, too, can expect to be fighting for the rest of our lives — and which will probably be the most important work of all of our lives. As such, we will continue to expect their full support until the job is done. And the more we win, the more we’ll prove that we deserve it.

Think nationally. Organize locally.
The original progressive movements drew on (and helped build up) a vast network of local political gathering places. By the 1920s, there wasn’t a county or town in the nation that didn’t have a permanent progressive hangout — a place where people came together for news, education, organizing, good times, and help when they needed it. Most of these places were union and grange halls; some were civic clubs, Democratic party offices, lodges, churches, pubs, or just some old place the local folks bought and fixed up for their own use.

The collapse of this physical infrastructure is one of the biggest losses we’ve sustained in the conservative attack on American institutions. Even as the country’s last union and grange halls were being emptied out by Republican labor and farm policies, the rising conservative movement was busy building a shadow network of its own. The religious right’s biggest contribution to the cause may have been the ready-made national chain of conservative meeting halls it provided in every small hamlet and burg. Every Evangelical church in the country was a potential nucleus around which a revolutionary cell could form. (Using churches is dicey business, but ministers were taught where the lines were, and the IRS often enough looked the other way. Besides, the broad “cultural transformation” frame meant that a lot of the most important work wasn’t political at all, but rather social and cultural, and therefore entirely appropriate to a church setting.) The GOP money guys still met (as always) at the exclusive downtown and country clubs; but the churches provided a place where conservatives of all classes could gather for social support, education, training, and coordinated local action in service of their revolution.

We’ve suffered mightily by not having that same ubiquitous network of public outposts from which to run our ground game. MoveOn.org has been our biggest boon in re-creating this: it took the lead in using the Internet to help local progressives find each other, and helped them begin to form permanent organizations in remote parts of the country. (Until MoveOn and the Dean meetups brought them together, many rural liberals had spent years believing they were the only ones in town.) The 50-State Strategy is also seeking to correct this, by opening Democratic party offices in as many towns and counties as possible across the country. But, though these are two good starts, we need to stay focused on the task of making sure there isn’t a village in America that doesn’t have a permanent space that progressives can call home. Once we restore our place as an integral part of the country’s physical landscape, becoming a natural and accepted part of its cultural landscape will follow on naturally.

Don’t just talk. ACT.
Huebeck’s definition of political action is pointed and narrow. Action is “1) the subversion of leftist-controlled institutions, or 2) the creation of our own institutions of civil society, whose sole purpose is outreach to, and the conversion of, non-traditionalists.” All action needs to have direct results, and should also deepen the skills of the members who engage in it. And it’s an important way of bonding people to the movement: “Action in the world encourages the identification of the member with, and dedication to the group.”

“For example, we will go to public lectures given by leftists and ask them ‘impolite’ and highly critical questions. We must, of course, be fully prepared beforehand for these sorts of excursions, and we must also be prepared to embarrass ourselves, especially at first,” wrote Huebeck. He also advises local groups to do charity work that will both build esprit de corps and generate good PR. “Bonding with others in one’s generation or society is the means by which values are strengthened and perpetuated. It is vitally important that we bond in such a way that the values perpetuated are our own.”

In other words: Our actions need to be good for the movement’s long-term goal of cultural change; good for the community; good for our group’s reputation; good for our own internal cohesion; and good for us as individuals. It’s an excellent set of criteria, and one that we might want to borrow as a sturdy yardstick for the essential worthiness of every activity we plan.

Concentrate on students and young adults
Conservatives capitalized handsomely on the energy of their youngest members. Weyrich and the rest of the early planners carefully nurtured the small handful of disaffected conservative students remaining on the nation’s campuses. They gave them enormous roles at very young ages, while they still had high enough energy and few enough encumbrances to work crazy hours under insane conditions. They also richly funded conservative college newspapers and journals; granted scholarships to promising students with a conservative bent in law, politics, media, and business; and opened their social and business networks to graduates looking for high-paying work. In a very real sense, they found these kids in their cradles, and promised to look after them to their graves.

They made this investment because they realized that if you get them while they’re young, they’ll stay with you for life. Thirty years later, looking at Washington’s middle-aged conservative True Believers, it’s obvious that this investment in nurturing the party’s most promising young sprouts paid off for them many times over.

We have our moment now, with the vast numbers of young voters who are rushing to the Democrats this election. But the conservative success with an earlier generation of young voters tells us that we need to be very proactive about bringing these kids into the process, giving them some real power and some serious training, and returning their loyalty by attending well to their individual futures using every means available to us. If we want to build a progressive nation that will stand for the next 50 years, it’s not too early to start cultivating solid careers for those who will take over for us when we’re gone.

Be there for each other — especially when the pressure builds
Many of the above strategies — from creating permanent physical structures and solid career paths to establishing reliable internal funding flows — reflects the conservative battlefield mentality. They were determined to be self-sustaining and self-sufficient, beholden to no one in the liberal world. Another piece of this was social independence: Weyrich knew that conservatives had to learn to rely on each other, not the larger culture, for their social and emotional validation.

People creating change take a lot of flak from those profiting handsomely from the status quo. The more you start to win, the stronger and uglier this resistance gets. Movements often crack under this pressure — often when they’re right on the cusp of winning all the marbles, and the opposition is at its most intense.

But the founders of movement conservatism knew that people can withstand almost anything if they have the firm support and acceptance of their peers. They strengthened their followers against this pressure by teaching them not to give two hoots about what the rest of us think. To them, the only people who matter are the ones who believe as they do — the ones they trust to actually have their backs, look after their kids, and throw their bail when the opposition takes out after them with ugly intent.

The changes we seek now will eventually create equally tectonic shifts as we set the country back to right. The money and power is all lined up behind the conservatives; and they’ve already demonstrated their willingness to use it to viciously punish progressives who dare to challenge it.

We will only survive this if we learn to be equally self-sufficient. We cannot care what they think, do, or say about us. We need to make a point of being there for each other when the heat is on, and the cons come after one or another of us, hoping to pick us off. And that kind of defiance comes a lot easier when we make a point of looking to each other for validation, and building bonds of trust that will hold us tightly together when trouble comes.

Don’t Ever Give Up. We’re In This for The Long Haul.
Movement conservatism first started chipping away at the dominant liberal culture in the early 1970s. The strategies in these three articles were largely formulated in the decade that followed; and they’ve been the basic principles governing conservative behavior ever since.

From the very beginning, they realistically viewed their goal of cultural domination as a multi-generational fight. Those who started it didn’t expect to live to see the end of it — and they were right. The people who first plotted strategy and tactics 30 years ago are now passing into death and retirement; their movement is now in the hands of a carefully-nurtured second generation, and a third is already coming of age. The humiliations of the Bush era are sending them back to their local gathering spots to take stock and regroup; but just because they vanish from the scene for a few years, we mustn’t ever delude ourselves that they’ve finally gone away. They will be back — and, no doubt, their comeback will be largely constructed out of these same strategies.

Weyrich and Huebeck warned the faithful about just these kinds of setbacks. “We will not hunker down and wait for the storm to blow over. Our strategy will be to bleed this corrupt culture dry.” They told conservatives that good efforts and good intentions count for nothing, because losing is not an option for them. “The real question is: if the fight is winnable, why have we not won it? If it is not, why are we diverting our efforts elsewhere?”

It’s one last thing to bear in mind, a final challenge from the conservative movement’s master strategists. If the fight is winnable, why have we not won it? If it is not, then why are we diverting our efforts elsewhere? This struggle for America’s heart and soul and mind has gone on from the beginning, and it will never end. Being progressive means committing our entire lives to the work of promoting America’s founding Enlightenment worldview, building a thriving movement that will outlast us, and raising up people who will carry on when we’re gone. As long as conservative culture warriors are out there trying to undermine the very model of reality that defines American democracy, we’re going to need to be out there resisting their incursions and reminding the country why that foundation matters. We, too, are in this for the long haul.

http://www.alternet.org/story/79776/how_did_conservatives_convince_the_public_to_think_differently_about_government

Needed: A progressive Christianity to restore the nation’s civic virtues

By Tom Ehrich, Religion News Service, Washington Post,  November 11, 2014

Election 2014: Something important has just happened. Big money bought an election. Fear prevailed over confidence and loathing over reason. The majority chose not to vote, allowing a passionate minority — older, whiter — to change the balance of power. Attack ads drowned out issues. A broken political system tolerated cheating and bullying.

Most worrisome is the absence of the virtues that enable a democracy to function in a challenging world. Civic-mindedness gave way to clever voter-suppression tactics. Freedom of the press got lost in attack ads and deliberate distortions of reality. Respect for opponents is gone. So too is the search for common ground, competing ideas, confidence in the nation, confidence in government, confidence in the future. Gone, gone, gone.

How could this happen? Several reasons — from intellectual laziness to self-serving leaders. The reason that touches my world is the collapse of progressive Christianity as a teacher of civic virtues.

Progressive Christianity is only one voice on the spectrum of religious opinions. But over the years it has had a large impact in its insistence on honesty, fairness, tolerance and humility. Progressive Christians have fought slavery, racial injustice and oppression of the vulnerable. Our search for truth has allowed room for other truths, other voices — a critical attitude in preserving democracy.

Our voice, however, has gotten weak. Our obsession with sexuality and institutional survival rendered us self-referential and timid. As we fought battles that were too much about us, we left the door open to a tragic re-emergence of racism and practices oppressing the poor.

I know that, individually, many of us are deeply concerned and eager to act. Nothing will change, however, until we speak as a community with a more forceful and coherent voice to the very real issues that people are facing. We know our voice can make a difference. Look at what Christian witness contributed to the call for justice in Ferguson, Mo. Look at the Moral Monday demonstrations in North Carolina.

For that voice to grow, we need to let politics into our pews. Not church politics, which are safe, but national and local politics, which tend to be unsafe. We need, for example, to be asking why racism is suddenly out in the open. We need to ask what our own people have contributed to economic injustice. Jesus spoke truth to power. We have tended to send them pledge cards.

We need to respond with theological and ethical clarity to critical issues, not just discern whether we “like” this or that cause. And certainly not sit back while Bible bullies make outlandish claims about what God wants and loathes.

We need to be forming alliances with minorities, the bruised and marginalized, and with people who want to make a difference, especially young adults. We need to stand for generosity and civility and against the politics of meanness that would suppress votes, deny benefits, punish women and minorities and wink at overzealous police power.

Our national and local politics are awash in money and fear. Gone missing are ideas and solutions, and a sense of confidence. Progressive Christianity needs to call out the destructive forces pursuing oligarchy, even when they sit in our own pews.

(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/needed-a-progressive-christianity-to-restore-the-

We Need to Advocate Radical Solutions to Systemic Problems

- Interview By Mark Karlin with Robert McChesney, Truthout, January 4, 2015

In this interview, Robert McChesney, author of “Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century,” discusses net neutrality advocacy, how the concentration of capital and media monopolies stifle democracy, and his hopes for a post-capitalist democracy in the United States.

Robert McChesney, a leader in challenging the corporate media’s role in degrading democracy, carries on this fight with Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century. In the book, he makes an urgent and compelling argument for ending communication monopolies and building a post-capitalist democracy that serves people over corporations. You can obtain the book now with a contribution to Truthout by clicking here.

Mark Karlin: In a Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week interview in 2013 about your book, Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy, you reflected profound pessimism about the capture of the internet by large corporations – and the evolution of net consumers into marketing “products.” Is the trend of the co-option of the web by a few large corporations accelerating?

Robert McChesney: Whether the process is accelerating is a difficult question to measure or to answer. That the process exists and that it is the dominant fact about the internet is not controversial. Barring radical policy intervention, the domination of the internet by a handful of gigantic monopolists will continue and remain the order of the day. After Digital Disconnect was published, I had a meeting in October 2013 with Sue Gardner, who was then the person in charge of Wikipedia. Sue told me that it would be impossible for Wikipedia or anything like it to get launched by then, because the system was locked down by the giants and privileged commercial values. I was left with the impression that Wikipedia got in just before the deadline, so to speak.

If economic power is concentrated in a few powerful hands you have the political economy for feudalism, or authoritarianism, not democracy.

What is striking about this corporate monopolization of the internet is that all the wealth and power has gone to a small number of absolutely enormous firms. As we enter 2015, 13 of the 33 most valuable corporations in the United States are internet firms, and nearly all of them enjoy monopolistic market power as economists have traditionally used the term. If you continue to scan down the list there are precious few internet firms to be found. There is not much of a middle class or even an upper-middle class of internet corporations to be found.

This poses a fundamental problem for democracy, though it is one that mainstream commentators and scholars appear reluctant to acknowledge: If economic power is concentrated in a few powerful hands you have the political economy for feudalism, or authoritarianism, not democracy. Concentrated economic power invariably overwhelms the political equality democracy requires, leading to routinized corruption and an end of the rule of law. That is where we are today in the United States.

You were a co-founder with John Nichols of Free Press, the leading citizens’ advocate for net neutrality. Do you have any expectation that the FCC [Federal Communications Commission], headed by a former lobbyist and shill for mass communication corporations, will actually preserve net neutrality – such as it is – by bestowing “common carrier” status on the internet?

Everything structurally points to a pessimistic answer, as your question implies. There are grounds for hope. First, understand that what net neutrality is trying to prevent is the privatization of the internet – its conversion to cable TV – by the handful of behemoths that have created a cartel for internet service provision (ISP), most notably Comcast, Verizon and AT&T. These firms are parasites who enjoy spectacular profitability due to their ability to build on government monopoly licenses and their ownership of politicians and regulators. But the balance of the corporate community has no particular reason to be enthusiastic about eliminating net neutrality.

When people tune out politics, they are not being hip or cool or ironic. They are being played.

It will simply mean that the ISPs will be able to shake them down for more money to have access to their networks. The ISP cartel has tried to buy off or at least neutralize key internet monopolists with varying degrees of success, but they cannot make an especially compelling argument. Corporations like Google are frustrated by the crappy, overpriced service the ISP cartels provide, and it is affecting their business models. So proponents of net neutrality have some important moneyed interests who are sympathetic to their cause. And in American politics today – where democracy in the textbook sense does not exist – that means everything. It is worth noting that in the scores of US cities with municipally owned and operated broadband networks, local businesses form an enthusiastic base of support. They love getting much better service – for them and their customers – at a lower cost.

Second, there is near unanimous public support for net neutrality among those who know what the issue is and what it is about. This is true across the political spectrum. Free Press has led the organizing coalition and the support is simply off the charts. Behind much of the so-called grassroots support for abolishing net neutrality among (the absurdly misnamed) “libertarian” groups on the right or civil rights groups of the left, one can find a direct or indirect payoff from the cartel. So a politician like Barack Obama used his unconditional support for net neutrality as a rallying cry for his presidential campaign in 2007-08. That has put him in an uncomfortable position in view of the cartel’s pressure on the FCC to accede to the cartel’s wishes. But Obama, to his credit, has recently restated his commitment to net neutrality and his support for seeing the internet regulated like a telecommunication industry would be by law. So there are grounds for hope.

Your latest book, Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century: Media, Politics, and the Struggle for Post-Capitalist Democracy, returns – as you almost always do in your writing – to the issue of how the concentration of capital and corporate behemoths stifle democracy. Do you have any expectation – given how the internet offered so much promise of being a tool to invigorate a robust democracy and then was co-opted – that the course of unbridled capitalism can be reversed?

How the tension between really existing capitalism and democracy plays out in the United States is impossible to predict, but it is the definitional issue of our times and will be until it is resolved. Every other issue of note – from militarism and the environment to the quality of our lives and the status of our liberties – runs through it. In the book, I address the pessimism that pervades our times because of the sense that the powers-that-be are all-powerful, and resistance is therefore futile. Although understandable, and a safe position to take, it is also absurdly ahistorical. Humans invariably think that tomorrow will be an extension of today. Change is impossible to anticipate in a precise sense. Then once it happens everyone acts like they saw it coming. What we can do is understand the problems in our system and be prepared to resolve them in a humane and equitable manner when they grow so severe as to create crisis points. We do not have the luxury of giving up, because pessimism is self-fulfilling. And, as I discuss in the book, those in power are obsessed with depoliticizing society because they know we have the numbers on our side and they cannot win a fair fight. When people tune out politics, they are not being hip or cool or ironic. They are being played.

How do two of your chapters, “The US Imperial Triangle and Military Spending” and “The Penal State in an Age of Crisis,” illustrate the degeneration of capitalism in the US?

US capitalism is fundamentally flawed, and has a strong tendency toward stagnation. Left to its own devises, without exogenous factors, the private economy cannot generate sufficient jobs and incomes for full employment. That means low growth rates, rising poverty and growing inequality. Due to popular pressure, government politics can arrest these tendencies, with public works programs, progressive taxation, support for unions and the like. Capitalists generally oppose these measures as an impingement on their prerogatives and their control over the economy. Even in Scandinavia, where working-class victories created a much-admired social democracy (unless you are a FOX News fan), capitalists lie in wait always keen to reverse the victories and turn back the clock. In the United States, military spending became the one form of government stimulus spending that faced no serious opposition from capitalists coming out of World War II, and instead it created an army of corporate supporters: Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex. Militarism is now so hard-wired into really existing capitalism in the United States that the call to reduce it to a level approaching sanity becomes a demand to rethink the entire structure of the economy.

Civilian spending remained constant because a significant portion of what had been social spending was converted to prison spending, which is included in the civilian (non-military) spending category.

Since the 1970s, the far right has come to dominate American politics and both political parties have become more preoccupied with serving large corporations and billionaire investors – and much less concerned with the needs of the general population. In doing research on the matter of whether Obama might launch a new “New Deal” upon his election in 2008, my friend John Bellamy Foster and I wrote an essay that is in the book arguing that the key determinant of a new New Deal will be if the amount of government spending for civilian (non-military) purposes increases as a percentage of GDP above the level it had been stuck at since the New Deal raised it in the late 1930s. We argued that it was highly unlikely because of the strong corporate political pressures that exist, and we have been proven right.

But we were also struck by the fact that civilian spending at all levels of government had not changed much as a percentage of GDP for decades, despite all the right-wing attacks on social spending that have dominated the past three or four decades. How could that be? The answer became clear: Civilian spending remained constant because a significant portion of what had been social spending was converted to prison spending, which is included in the civilian (non-military) spending category. Factoring this in, the actual provision of social services had declined as a percentage of GDP. And now, as with the military, there is a huge private sector that benefits from the prison-industrial complex and lobbies for its expansion at every turn, while no major corporate interests oppose the expansion of prisons.

What does this illustrate about the degeneration of US capitalism? As a system, it requires extensive government spending, but it tends toward military and police spending as the preferred option, and that creates all sorts of spectacular problems for anything remotely close to democracy. This point was well understood by the [constitutional] framers who wanted to eliminate as much as possible the scourge of militarism from coming into existence. As Madison and Jefferson repeatedly wrote, a nation that is permanently at war cannot remain free. Militarism generated secrecy, inequality, corruption and what we would call jingoism that in combination would overwhelm democratic institutions and practices.

Truer words have never been written.

What do you mean by the term “post-capitalist” democracy?

If one believes, as I do, that the evidence points squarely to the conclusion that really existing capitalism is fundamentally flawed and increasingly incompatible with democracy and possibly human existence, then establishing an alternative is of paramount importance. I should qualify this immediately. I use the term “really existing capitalism” to describe what actually exists in the United States (and, to varying degrees, worldwide): massive corporations, unfettered greed, corrupt governance, hollowed-out democracy, endless corporate propaganda, obscene inequality, crumbling physical and social infrastructure, crappy, dead-end jobs and a mindless, narcissistic culture. I do not refer to the PR pabulum spewed by politicians and pundits about free markets, entrepreneurs, upward mobility, meritocracy and the invisible hand. That has as much to do with capitalism in the United States today as paeans to workers democracy did to describing the Soviet experience.

The problem with capitalism is ultimately that it radically increases the productive capacity of society but it keeps control over the wealth in the hands of profit-driven individuals and firms.

Why not call the alternative socialism? Well, I am a socialist and I understand that [socialism] to be a system where the vast wealth of society is controlled democratically and put to social purposes; it is not controlled by a narrow sliver of society to do with as suits them. I think the general Marxist assessment of capitalism’s fatal flaw applies today more than ever: The problem with capitalism is ultimately that it radically increases the productive capacity of society but it keeps control over the wealth in the hands of profit-driven individuals and firms, who control how this potential will be developed to suit their own interests. So it is that the productivity of the average worker is many times greater today than is was 50 years ago. But that increase in productivity has not translated into higher living standards, a shorter working week and/or a huge buildout of the infrastructure. Instead we see living standards in decline, inequality mushrooming and infrastructure in varying states of collapse, while there is a record number of gazillionaires. These are clear signs of an economic system that no longer plays a productive role and needs to be replaced.

But the term socialism begs as many questions as it answers and from my experience tends to get people off-track. I think we have to begin tangible discussions and debates over how to take important aspects of our society where capitalist control is clearly dangerous and inimical to democratic practices and values and eliminate it there. For example, take the profit out of militarism and prisons. No one should have a vested interest in war. Take the profit out of financial speculation, that serves no public good. Take the profit out of energy, if we agree that we have a handful of mega-corporations flossing their teeth with politicians’ underpants while the earth gets flame-broiled like a marshmallow. Let’s create nonprofit, accountable alternatives. The point is to replace profit-driven institutions with democratically run alternatives in key sectors, all the while extending democratic freedoms and practices. I could go on and on.

I have no particular antagonism to small business, and a great deal of respect for the people who launch and run them. I started two concerns in my life, one a for-profit rock magazine in Seattle and another a nonprofit public interest group called Free Press. Both succeeded not by exploiting the labor of its workers as much as exploiting the labor of its owners and management. We worked our butts off. I see small business as an extension of labor as much as an extension of capital. In this sense, I am influenced by Lincoln.

So to me the debate should not concern whether some dude selling falafel sandwiches out of his van near a football game should have his enterprise nationalized. That is idiotic. The debate has to be whether we can afford to have so much of the commanding heights of our economy under the control of billionaires and monopolists who use their immense power to enrich themselves but impoverish the rest of us. Until we start having that debate we will not make much headway on the great problems we face.

Can you expand upon your statement in the book that “many liberals who wish to reform and humanize capitalism are uncomfortable with seemingly radical movements, and often work to distance themselves from them”? What are the implications of such a stance?

One of the ironies of American politics is that an element of the progressive community recoils from what I just said because they fear it will antagonize people in power and limit their effectiveness when, say, Democrats win office. The argument is that we can only argue for positions that are acceptable to the mainstream liberal community or else we will lose our ability to influence policy because we will get cast into the wilderness as certified weirdos. The evidence is now in: that approach does not work.

What was most striking about the Occupy movement was how it instantly changed the discussion – albeit briefly – on inequality. Even the Republicans mouthed pieties that this was a real problem that needs a policy solution. That shows what happens when people take principled positions and stick to them. It also shows what happens when people take to the streets for nonviolent protest. It is why the right to assemble and redress grievances is as important a part of the First Amendment as freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

The paradox is that when there are radicals in the streets raising hell on a principled position, it creates space for the “inside-the-system” crowd to actually get reforms accomplished. The 1960s and early 1970s is a great example of this. But the “inside-the-system” progressive crowd never quite gets that. To some extent it is because they gain their legitimacy by being border policemen, and denigrating those outside the corridors of power as irresponsible and not serious players.

How do you respond to those who argue that revolutionary economic change in the US is not possible because those who earn the minimum wage or are unemployed as a result of capitalist indifference often are ardently pro-capitalist and anti-socialist? This is documented particularly among whites who have only a high school education. What is the disconnect here in getting this demographic to join in systemic economic change that would benefit them?

Neil Postman tells the great story of two priests in a monastery who enjoy smoking every day during their morning prayers. They begin to wonder if this is sacrilegious, so they each wrote to the pope to get his benediction for their daily smoking fest. The first priest gets a letter back from the pope saying it is an insult to the faith to smoke during prayer time. The second priest gets a letter from the pope saying it is wonderful to smoke during prayer time. They looked at the two letters they had sent to the pope. The first priest asked the pope if it was OK to smoke during morning prayers and the pope was aghast in his response. The second priest asked if it was OK to go into a prayer while having a morning smoke. The pope was delighted to see the priest extending his spiritual commitment.

The problems we face are social problems – not individual ones – and require social solutions. That means political movements and activism.

The moral of the story: It is how one asks a question that shapes the type of answer you get. Because many of the best-known pollsters are stuck within a mainstream framework their questions accept and reinforce that framework. So one could probably ask a series of questions of white working-class people on fairness and justice that would make them look amenable to radical social change. These are not the sorts of questions that generally get asked.

It is striking that in recent years a few major pollsters have asked people whether they preferred capitalism or socialism. This would seem a loaded question because Americans know nothing about socialism except that it is a pejorative term to dismiss anyone whose ideas are considered out of bounds. Yet in recent years socialism has been almost as popular across the population as capitalism, and more popular among young Americans. That doesn’t say much about socialism, but it tells us a great deal about what the acceptance of really existing capitalism actually is. And that includes a lot for white working-class people.

This does not diminish the basis of your question, and the series of significant issues it raises, in particular, white supremacy and white racism and the role it plays. There are times that I am optimistic that we have made important headway on this issue and times that I am troubled by the lack of progress. It is a central issue in political organizing. In the book, I have a long chapter on the prison-industrial complex, and it is impossible to understand that phenomenon except through the lens of white racism.

You are a professor of communications at the University of Illinois. Are you seeing increased activism for economic change among the young people you teach and come in contact with?

Not really. There is clearly a willingness to take a harder look at capitalism and be critical of the obvious problems of the economic system today that was largely absent prior to 2008. Even my most conservative students want to get past the PR BS on free markets and understand why their future looks so grim. Students are more open-minded.

But the depoliticization of the past 40 years still weighs like a nightmare on their brains. Students are encouraged to see the world as it is and the solution is an individual solution, not a social one. Being “political” is a sign that someone is not cool and is a weirdo, and God forbid that is the last thing anyone wants to be accused of. This is an issue I write about at some length in the book, because those atop our society regard it as mission critical to keep the nation depoliticized. Their survival depends upon it.

But the problems we face are social problems – not individual ones – and require social solutions. That means political movements and activism. I am optimistic we are moving toward a more political moment as there really is no other credible option.

The book contains a chapter on the 2011 Wisconsin uprising against Scott Walker. What do you say to people who dismiss the historic, massive and lengthy protests in Madison as an anomaly – that the re-election of Scott Walker as governor of the state this year (2014) indicates that the revolt had no long-term impact?

It is too early to know what to make of the Wisconsin uprising, and to dismiss it categorically at this point is absurd. I was at the demonstrations almost every day for six weeks, and I was there as a member of the crowd and not as a “leader.” It was an extraordinary experience. What it taught me was that there is a wellspring of progressive and humane politics in people that is being repressed. The energy, the enthusiasm, the intelligence, the solidarity of the demonstrations was entirely unexpected and almost defies description. (Fortunately it does not, or I could not have written a chapter on it.)

The experience, like Occupy later in the year, raises all sorts of serious questions and issues for organizers going forward. But the idea that the re-election of Scott Walker proves it flopped seems wrong to me, though I can understand the idea. Walker’s victory in the 2012 recall election and then his 2014 re-election has much more to do with: 1) the idiocy of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, which ran incomprehensibly terrible campaigns, especially in 2012; 2) how low voter turnout is crucial to right-wing success – Scott Walker could not win a statewide election in a presidential year when the turnout is closer to 60 percent than 40 percent of adults; 3) money means everything and Scott Walker had unbelievable amounts of it, largely from out-of-state gazillionaires; 4) the absence of journalism means people were increasingly reliant upon asinine TV political ads; and 5) Scott Walker had enough money to flood the airwaves with his propaganda. And it was world-class propaganda.

The importance of media reform in achieving a robust democracy is something you frequently return to. Can you briefly discuss the top three media reform steps that you recommend at the end of the book?

I argue that some of the most brilliant left thinkers of the postwar era moved toward a position that democratizing the media system was central to creating a democratic socialism. I did this research with my buddy Duke Foster because much of it has been ignored or forgotten with the demise of the New Left and the long winter of neoliberalism in the 1970s.

I believe that is still the case, and I believe that communication is an area where there are immediate demands to be developed that can be foundational to a post-capitalist democracy in the United States. I also believe – in fact, I know from personal experience – that each of these issues has the potential for support outside of the political left, even among self-described conservatives. First, let’s eliminate the ISP cartel of Verizon, Comcast and AT&T. Those mega-corporations have divvied up the broadband market and as a result the US pays a fortune for crappy service for broadband, cable, satellite and cell phones. These firms are parasites pure and simple, and play no productive role. There is a magnificent already successful alternative with municipal broadband, and we should have that nationally. These firms – all based on government monopoly franchises and their control of politicians and regulators – have to go. Broadband should be ubiquitous and free.

Ironically, as I motioned before, as radical as this sounds, it is actually a measure that has great appeal to businesses that do not benefit directly from the existence of the cartel. Businesses would love to lower their own costs and also have much better speeds and service for their markets.

What we need is to recognize that journalism is a public good, something society desperately needs but that the market cannot and will not generate in sufficient quantity or quality.

Second, as I also mentioned above, the digital revolution has spawned a dozen or so super-monopolies that dominate not only communication, but capitalism itself. The digital revolution permeates every aspect of the economy. These dozen or so firms simply have too much power for democracy to successfully co-exist with it. It is not just economic power, but political power, that is the concern. This is not simply a left-wing concern. Indeed, it was Henry Simons, Milton Friedman’s mentor at the University of Chicago, who said monopolies were unacceptable, because they destroyed competitive capitalism as well as genuine democracy and the rule of law. The laissez faire champion Simons said if the giants could not be effectively broken into smaller pieces, they should be taken over by the government and run like the post office. I think that is a good way to understand what to do with these giants, especially now that we know the dreadful consequences of their lucrative and secretive marriage with the national security state.

Finally, the resources going toward journalism are in free fall collapse, as the commercial model is evaporating. I have written about this at length for years and will not repeat the analysis here. Nor will I discuss how the absence of journalism produces an existential crisis for any known theory of self-government, and with that the preservation of our freedoms. In a nutshell, advertising provided the lion’s share of support for news media for the past 125 years, and, with the internet, that support has disappeared for the most part. Hence we have maybe 40 percent of the working reporters and editors as we did a generation ago on a per capita basis. It is only going to get worse. (In the book, I have some new research on how Walter Lippmann assessed the last great crisis in journalism almost 100 years ago. It has some important lessons for us.)

What we need is to recognize that journalism is a public good, something society desperately needs but that the market cannot and will not generate in sufficient quantity or quality. We need extensive public support but without government control over who gets the money. That is the great public policy issue we face and a lot is riding on whether we rise to the occasion. The same problem faces every nation on the planet, though each country has somewhat different circumstances.

In the book, I develop an idea that I have written about a good deal in the past, the notion of the $200 voucher. Basically every person over 18 can allocate $200 of government money to any recognized nonprofit news medium of her choice. The core idea comes from Milton Friedman, who accepted that it was necessary to have government funding for education, but did not want to have government-run schools. Friedman’s voucher scheme proved to be a crappy idea for public education, but it is a brilliant idea for news media. You get up to a $40 billion annual subsidy with no government control over who gets the money. Anyone who accepts the vouchers cannot also accept advertising so there is no competition for what little remains of commercial news media. Anything produced as a result of the vouchers must be put online for free immediately and enter the public domain, so anyone can use the work. And people can change their allocation every year so there is tremendous competition to win support.

The idea is becoming increasingly popular. I think it is an idea whose time has come.

Mark Karlin

Mark Karlin is the editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout.  He served as editor and publisher of BuzzFlash for 10 years before joining Truthout in 2010.  BuzzFlash has won four Project Censored Awards. Karlin writes a commentary five days a week for BuzzFlash, as well as articles for Truthout. He also interviews authors and filmmakers whose works are featured in Truthout’s Progressive Picks of the Week.

http://www.truth-out.org/progressivepicks/item/28294-robert-mcchesney-we-need-to-advocate-radical-solutions-to-systemic-problems

Articles, excerpts Jan 7 to 10, 2015

Worldview – contrast

The Brainwashing Of My Dad’ Exposes Fox, Hate Media & Rush Limbaugh (VIDEO)

Paul Krugman ridicules GOP for believing “facts have a liberal bias” by Elias Isquith, salon.com, Jan 9, 2015

Moral Politics

The Inner Life of Rebellion, On Being with Krista Tippett, 1/10/15  podcast – excerpt The history of rebellion is rife with excess and burnout. But new generations have a distinctive commitment to be reflective and activist at once, to be in service as much as in charge, and to learn from history while bringing very new realities into being. It’s a cross-generational conversation about the inner work of sustainable, resilient social change.

War and/or peace?

What Would Today’s American Insecurity Look Like to Someone From 1963? by Tom Engelhardt, Bill Moyers.com, January 9, 2015 (overview of militarism in US)

“A Clash of Barbarisms”: After Paris Attack, How US Policy in Middle East Helps Fuel Extremism By Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, Democracy Now!, January 9, 2015

Government

Robert Reich 1/10/15 Facebook – Look at the priorities of the new Republican congressional – the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Trans-Pacific Trade agreement, tax cuts for big corporations and the wealthy, rollbacks of Dodd-Frank regulations on Wall Street, cutbacks on Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, and decimating the Affordable Care Act – and connect the dots. Republicans want the public to think the central issue of our time is the size of government. Wrong. The central issue of our time is who government is for. Every one of their initiatives advances big corporations and Wall Street, and worsens or weakens everyone else. Elizabeth Warren is correct: The game is rigged. And the only way to unrig it is through a new progressive movement that includes not only the Democratic base but also any and all Independents and Republicans equally determined to take the economy and democracy back from the axis of Wall Street, K Street, and big corporations. Can we rely on the Democratic Party to lead the way, or will a new third party be necessary?

Science-Denying Troglodyte Ted Cruz to Chair Senate Science Subcommittee Posted by: Bob Cull in Election 2014, Environment, Science November 7, 2014

The right’s wrong idea of governance By E.J. Dionne Jr. Opinion writer, Washington Post, January 7, 2015 …the Republicans’ own measure of success will be out of line not only with President Obama’s priorities but also with what most middle-of-the-road Americans would take as a reasonable test of what it means for government to work…new House rules he [Boehner] and the Republican leadership have concocted. They’re designed to rig the legislative playing field in favor of right-leaning policy…

‘Hostage-Takers’: Republicans Go After Social Security on Very First Day By Jon Queally, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 07, 2015

For the Planet and Future Generations, New Congress May Be Most Dangerous Yet By Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Blog posted on Common Dreams, January 06, 2015

GOP Rule Change in Congress Signals New Dawn for ‘Voodoo Economics’ by Jon Queally, staff writer, Common Dreams, January 07, 2015

Democrats

How Can Democrats Take Back the States? By JOHN GUIDA, NYT, 1-8-15- Not since the Jazz Age have Democrats been in such a poor position in the states. Some worry that it might hurt the party nationally as well.

Progressives Seek Control Of The Democratic Party By Sahil Kapur, Talking Points memo, January 9, 2015

Politics

Robert Reich Facebook 1-8-15 Despite Republican’s predominance in Congress and state legislatures, a dwindling minority of Americans consider themselves Republican. According a new Gallup’s poll released today, 30% say they’re Democrats, 26% Republican, and 43% independent. As a practical matter, though, regardless of official party affiliation, the largest party in America is the party of non-voters. And, increasingly, elections depend on how many of its members temporarily desert this non-voting party and turn out to vote. Suppose, in considering their presidential candidates for 2016, the two official parties asked themselves what candidate would have most appeal to the party of non-voters. Would they choose Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush? If not, who?

Threats to democracy

How Soaring Inequality May Lead the World Down the Path of Fascism By Janet AllonAlterNet , January 2, 2015

Poverty/inequality

Growing Up on Easy Street Has Its Own Dangers By RON LIEBER, New York Times, JAN. 9, 2015

Political and legislative dynamics 2015 – 2016

Time for the GOP to pitch in By Eugene Robinson Opinion writer, Washington Post, January 5, 2015

10 Dynamics That Will Shape the Next Two Years of American Politics by Joshua Holland, BillMoyers.com, December 30, 2014

New Senate majority leader’s main goal for GOP: Don’t be scary By Paul Kane, Washington Post, January 4, 2015

New GOP Senate chairmen aim to undo Obama policies By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER and DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press, January 3, 2015

Articles, excerpts Jan 1 to 6, 2015

Worldview – contrast

Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are…Conservative By Chris Mooney, Mother Jones,    Jul. 15, 2014  Ten years ago, it was wildly controversial to talk about psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. Today, it’s becoming hard not to…A large body of political scientists and political psychologists now concur that liberals and conservatives disagree about politics in part because they are different people at the level of personality, psychology, and even traits like physiology and genetics….It is a “virtually inescapable conclusion” that the “cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different.”… political conservatives have a “negativity bias,” meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments… the conservative ideology, and especially one of its major facets—centered on a strong military, tough law enforcement, resistance to immigration, widespread availability of guns—would seem well tailored for an underlying, threat-oriented biology…Granted, there are still many issues yet to be worked out in the science of ideology…All of this matters, of course, because we still operate in politics and in media as if minds can be changed by the best honed arguments, the most compelling facts. And yet if our political opponents are simply perceiving the world differently, that idea starts to crumble. Out of the rubble just might arise a better way of acting in politics that leads to less dysfunction and less gridlock…thanks to science.

Environment – climate change

For the Planet and Future Generations, New Congress May Be Most Dangerous Yet By Wenonah Hauter  Food & Water Watch Blog, January 06, 2015

House Passes Bill that Prohibits Expert Scientific Advice to the EPA by Beverley Mitchell, 11/20/14 

A Threat to Us All: Millions Buying into Apocalyptic Religion Pose a Direct Threat to Modern Society By Jeffrey Tayler,  Salon, January 4, 2015 http://www.alternet.org/belief/threat-us-all-millions-buying-apocalyptic-religion-pose-direct-threat-modern-society…Rationalistsare assertively making their case because religion, since the Reagan years, has been abandoning the realm of private conscience (where it has every right to be) and intruding itself into national life, with politicians and public figures flaunting their belief, advocating and (passing) legislation that restricts women’s reproductive rights, attempting to impose preposterous fairy tales (think intelligent design) on defenseless children in science classes, and even, in the case of Texas, recasting the Constitution in school textbooks as a document inspired by the Bible.  Abroad, militants pursuing Islamist agendas have been raining death and destruction on entire populations, with religious extremism the main cause of terrorism the world over.  Given the possibility that terrorists may acquire weapons of mass destruction and nuclear states with faith-based conflicts may let fly their missiles, religion may be said to endanger humanity as a wholeNo one who cares about our future can quietly abide the continuing propagation and influence of apocalyptic fables that large numbers of people take seriously and not raise a loud, persistent, even strident cry of alarm… three-fourths of Americans believe the Bible to be the word of God – numbers that, to the shame of the Republic, find reflection in our resolutely anti-science Congress…

War and/or Peace

Our National Security State: A Self-Perpetuating Machine for American Insecurity by Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, January 06, 2015

Generational justice

How Corporations Are Cheating Millions of School Children Out of Billions in Education Funds By Paul Buchheit, AlterNet, January 4, 2015 http://www.alternet.org/education/how-corporations-are-cheating-millions-school-children-out-billions-education-funds?akid=12650.125622.TY0Q8k&rd=1&src=newsletter1029733&t=21

Class wars

How the Wall Street weasels won: Elizabeth Warren, Paul Krugman and the 1 percent’s desperate battle to save themselves Barry Eichengreen, Salon.com,   Jan 4, 2015

Poverty/Inequality

How income inequality harms societies – TED talk by Richard Wilkinson July 2011 http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_wilkinson

Corporations

The Finance Industry Is Gorging Itself on Your Future—The Trend Lines Will Blow You Away By Les Leopold, AlterNet, December 31, 2014 http://www.alternet.org/economy/finance-industry-gorging-itself-your-future-trend-lines-will-blow-you-away?akid=12650.125622.TY0Q8k&rd=1&src=newsletter1029733&t=3

Stopping the Biggest Corporate Power Grab in Years [Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)]by Arthur Stamoulis, commondreams.org, January 06, 2015 http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/01/06/stopping-biggest-corporate-power-grab-years

Corporate social responsibility

Finding Common Ground Between Progressives and Business Is Essential By Rob Kall, OpEdNews 1/6/2015 http://www.opednews.com/articles/2/Finding-Common-Ground-Betw-by-Rob-Kall-Business-Industry_Corporations-Health-Care_Energy_Money-150106-642.html

Education

How Corporations Are Cheating Millions of School Children Out of Billions in Education Funds By Paul Buchheit, AlterNet, January 4, 2015 http://www.alternet.org/education/how-corporations-are-cheating-millions-school-children-out-billions-education-funds?akid=12650.125622.TY0Q8k&rd=1&src=newsletter1029733&t=21

Right wing message machine

Endless War and the Victory of ‘Perception Management’ By Robert Parry, Consortium News, December 30, 2014 https://consortiumnews.com/2014/12/28/the-victory-of-perception-management/

Nonlinear Warfare – A New System of Political Control (2014) A short film by Adam Curtis - shows the how deliberate undermining of peoples perception of the world, by manipulating the media and civil society, creates confusion and contradiction, undermining any opposition to existing power structures. This strategy has allowed quantitative easing to go almost unnoticed and unchallenged, even though it is the biggest transfer of wealth to the rich in recent documented history.

Political and legislative dynamics 2015 – 2016

Time for the GOP to pitch in By Eugene Robinson Opinion writer, Washington Post, January 5, 2015

10 Dynamics That Will Shape the Next Two Years of American Politics by Joshua Holland, BillMoyers.com, December 30, 2014

New Senate majority leader’s main goal for GOP: Don’t be scary By Paul Kane, Washington Post, January 4, 2015

Government

New GOP Senate chairmen aim to undo Obama policies By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER and DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press, January 3, 2015 8:1  AM h

Right wing extremism

GOP’s Louie Gohmert, wannabe speaker, headlines the House’s latest freak show By Dana Milbank Opinion writer, Washington Post, January 5, 2015

Right wing religious extremism

A Threat to Us All: Millions Buying into Apocalyptic Religion Pose a Direct Threat to Modern Society By Jeffrey Tayler,  Salon, January 4, 2015 Rationalistsare assertively making their case because religion, since the Reagan years, has been abandoning the realm of private conscience (where it has every right to be) and intruding itself into national life, with politicians and public figures flaunting their belief, advocating and (passing) legislation that restricts women’s reproductive rights, attempting to impose preposterous fairy tales (think intelligent design) on defenseless children in science classes, and even, in the case of Texas, recasting the Constitution in school textbooks as a document inspired by the Bible.  Abroad, militants pursuing Islamist agendas have been raining death and destruction on entire populations, with religious extremism the main cause of terrorism the world over.  Given the possibility that terrorists may acquire weapons of mass destruction and nuclear states with faith-based conflicts may let fly their missiles, religion may be said to endanger humanity as a wholeNo one who cares about our future can quietly abide the continuing propagation and influence of apocalyptic fables that large numbers of people take seriously and not raise a loud, persistent, even strident cry of alarm… three-fourths of Americans believe the Bible to be the word of God – numbers that, to the shame of the Republic, find reflection in our resolutely anti-science Congress…

Progressive movement – issues, agenda

Three secrets to revitalizing liberal America – New year, same old problems by Sean McElwee, Salon.com, Jan 4, 2015  2014 was not a good year for the left. Republicans now have a stranglehold on the House, where they control the most seats they’ve had since 1948. That lead will likely last for decades. Democrats didn’t just lose the Senate, they have significantly diminished their chance of regaining it in 2016. Republicans control 31 governorships, as well as 68 of 98 legislative chambers. And of, course, the Democratic party has shown itself to be only nominally liberal, with the current frontrunner for 2016 raising money from Wall Street financiers. The left then has two problems: how to get Democrats winning and how to get Democrats to avoid becoming a party permanently in the callous hands of capital. Currently, much of the hope for a more liberal Democratic party rests on the shoulders of Elizabeth Warren, who is being drafted to run against Hillary Clinton. While Warren is formidable, it was only six years ago that the left laid its hopes for victory on a single individual and found itself sorely disappointed. The left must remember that leaders do not make movements; rather, movements make leaders. Instead of vacillating from one hero to another, the left must create a formidable power base from which to both defeat Republicans and shift Democrats to the left. This will require a three-pronged approach: mass mobilization of the non-voting population, a stable of progressive leaders and a reduction in the influence of money in politics.

New Year’s Resolution for America by Dennis Kucinich, Huffington Post, January 01, 2015 When anyone of us resolves toward self-improvement, it can impact the lives of those we love. How much more impact can we have, if in the new year we work to recreate the future of this country we love, by resolving to take bold steps in a new direction in a new year?…I have seen miracles occur, outcomes change, new directions taken when people courageously strive to challenge a seemingly unshakeable status quo, on matters both personal and public…Today, our nation’s government has been taken over by special interest groups and ideologues, who have rapidly distributed our nation’s wealth upwards, built a national security state to protect its hold on power and wealth, involved America in destructive, unnecessary wars abroad, ignored the escalating violence at home, and broken the laws of our nation with impunity, while punishing those who expose their unlawfulness…1. Ensure a full employment economy by reclaiming control of our money system. 2. Reclaim our right to privacy. 3. Make America a more peaceful place. 4. Transform America’s role in the world; focus on the needs of people here at home. 5. Establish a US Commission on Truth and Reconciliation. 6. Restore our relationship with nature and restore our planet.

Progressive movement – creative and higher level thinking

We Need to Advocate Radical Solutions to Systemic Problems by Robert McChesney – Interview By Mark Karlin, Truthout, January 4, 2015

Progressive movement – inspiration and motivation – trends

Robert Reich’s 2014 Year in Review by BillMoyers.com StaffThis video first appeared at MoveOn.org. January 2, 2015 – As we head into 2015, it’s important to remember how quickly progressive change that seemed radical — if not a crazy pipe dream — at one time, becomes inevitable when enough people make a ruckus!

Progressive vision

Fight for Our Progressive Vision By Bernie Sanders, Common Dreams, December 29, 2014