The New Populism Is A Fight For America’s Values

by Elizabeth Warren, The New Populism conference, May 22, 2014 https://ourfuture.org/20140522/the-new-populism-is-a-fight-for-americas-values

Excerpt:

populism –  the power of the people to make change in this country… In every fight to build opportunity in this country, in every fight to level the playing field, in every fight for working families, the path has been steep.

Throughout our history, powerful interests have tried to capture Washington and rig the system in their favor. From tax policy to retirement security, the voices of hard-working people get drowned out by powerful industries and well-financed front groups. Those with power fight to make sure that every rule tilts in their favor. Everyone else just gets left behind.

…The tilt in the playing field is everywhere…The game is rigged. The rich and the powerful have lobbyists, lobbyists and lawyers and plenty of friends in Congress. Everyone else, not so much. Now we can whine about it. We can whimper. Or we can fight back. Me? I’m fighting back.This is a fight over economics, over privilege, over power. But deep down, this is a fight over values. Conservatives and their powerful friends will continue to be guided by their age-old principle: “I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.” But we’re guided by principle, too. It’s a simple idea: We all do better when we work together and invest in our future…We – the people – decide the future of this country. https://ourfuture.org/20140522/the-new-populism-is-a-fight-for-americas-values

Full text

Thank you, Bob Borosage and Roger Hickey for all your hard work, for inviting me here today, and for featuring my book, “A Fighting Chance.”

I wrote this book out of gratitude – gratitude to my parents who worked so hard and had so little. And gratitude for an America that gave a kid like me a fighting chance.

I’m told you’ve spent much of the day talking about populism – about the power of the people to make change in this country. This is something I believe in deeply.

In 2009, I was fighting hard for a new consumer agency that would level the playing field for families, by preventing the big banks from pushing people into loading up on credit cards and mortgages with tricks and traps. As you probably remember, the big banks hated the idea. For over a year, they spent more than $1 million dollars a day lobbying Congress to stop financial reforms.

But we were able to fight back. We were able to fight back because people like you – along with people across the country – said: we’re in this fight, too.

And because the people were with us, we won that fight.

And it matters. That little agency has been up and running for only a couple of years, but already it has forced the largest financial institutions in this country to return more than $3 billion to people they cheated. That’s how we can make government work for people!

Our uphill, against-the-odds, can’t-win battle for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wasn’t unique. In every fight to build opportunity in this country, in every fight to level the playing field, in every fight for working families, the path has been steep.

Throughout our history, powerful interests have tried to capture Washington and rig the system in their favor. From tax policy to retirement security, the voices of hard-working people get drowned out by powerful industries and well-financed front groups. Those with power fight to make sure that every rule tilts in their favor. Everyone else just gets left behind.

Just look at the big banks. They cheated American families, crashed the economy, got bailed out, and now the six biggest banks are 37 percent bigger than they were in 2008. They still swagger through Washington, blocking reforms and pushing around agencies. A kid gets caught with a few ounces of pot and goes to jail, but a big bank breaks the law on laundering drug money or manipulating currency, and no one even gets arrested. The game is rigged – and it’s not right!

But it isn’t just the big banks. Look at the choices the Federal government makes: Our college kids are getting crushed by student loan debt. We need to rebuild our roads and bridges and upgrade our power grids. We need more investment in medical research and scientific research. But instead of building a future, this country is bleeding billions of dollars in tax loopholes and subsidies that go to rich and profitable corporations. Many Fortune 500 companies, profitable companies, pay zero in taxes. Billionaires get so many tax loopholes that they pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. But they have lobbyists – and their Republican friends – to protect every loophole and every privilege. The game is rigged – and it’s not right!

Or take a look at what’s happening with trade deals.

For big corporations, trade agreement time is like Christmas morning. They can get special gifts they could never pass through Congress out in public. Because it’s a trade deal, the negotiations are secret and the big corporations can do their work behind closed doors. We’ve seen what happens here at home when our trading partners around the world are allowed to ignore workers rights and environmental rules. From what I hear, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, telecom, big polluters, and outsourcers are all salivating at the chance to rig the upcoming trade deals in their favor.

Why are trade deals secret? I’ve heard the supporters of these deals actually say that they have to be secret because if the American people knew what was going on, they would be opposed. Think about that. Real people – people whose jobs are at stake, small business owners who don’t want to compete with overseas companies that dump their waste in rivers and hire workers for a dollar a day – those people, those people without an army of lobbyists – would be opposed. I believe that if people across this country would be opposed to a particular trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not happen.

The tilt in the playing field is everywhere. When conservatives talk about opportunity, they mean opportunities for the rich to get richer, for the powerful to get more powerful. They don’t mean opportunities for a young person facing $100,000 in student loan debt to start a life, for someone out of work to get back on his feet, for someone who worked hard all her life to retire with dignity.

The game is rigged. The rich and the powerful have lobbyists, lobbyists and lawyers and plenty of friends in Congress. Everyone else, not so much.

Now we can whine about it. We can whimper. Or we can fight back. Me? I’m fighting back.

This is a fight over economics, over privilege, over power. But deep down, this is a fight over values. Conservatives and their powerful friends will continue to be guided by their age-old principle: “I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.”

But we’re guided by principle, too. It’s a simple idea: We all do better when we work together and invest in our future.

We know that the economy grows when hard-working families have the opportunity to improve their lives. We know that the country gets stronger when we invest in helping people succeed. We know that our lives improve when we care for our neighbors and help build a future not just for some of our kids – but for all of our kids.

These are progressive values. These are America’s values.

These values play out every day. These values are what we’re willing to fight for.

We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we’re willing to fight for it.

We believe no one should work full-time and live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage – and we’re willing to fight for it.

We believe people should retire with dignity, and that means strengthening Social Security – and we’re willing to fight for it.

We believe that a kid should have a chance to go to college without getting crushed by debt – and we’re willing to fight for it.

We believe workers have a right to come together, to bargain together and to rebuild America’s middle class – and we’re willing to fight for it.

We believe in equal pay for equal work – and we’re willing to fight for it.

We believe equal means equal, and that’s true in the workplace and in marriage, true for all our families – and we’re winning that fight right now.

We – the people – decide the future of this country.

These are our shared values. And we are willing to fight for them.

This is our fight!

https://ourfuture.org/20140522/the-new-populism-is-a-fight-for-americas-values

Politics 2016 from a perspective of worldview – selections

The Beast Is Us By Timothy Egan, The New York Times, MARCH 4, 2016  …it’s time to place the blame for the elevation of a tyrant as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee where it belongs — with the people. Yes, you. Donald Trump’s supporters know exactly what he stands for: hatred of immigrants, racial superiority, a sneering disregard of the basic civility that binds a society. Educated and poorly educated alike, men and women — they know what they’re getting from him… it’s certainly no coincidence that the race haters, immigrant bashers and religious hucksters who’ve been at the fringe for some time are all in for Donald Trump. With media complicity, Trump has unleashed the beast that has long resided not far from the American hearth…Granted, a huge portion of the population is woefully ignorant…But ignorance is not the problem with Trump’s people. They’re sick and tired of tolerance. In Super Tuesday exit polls, Trump dominated among those who want someone to “tell it like it is.” And that translates to an explicit “play to our worst fears,” as Meg Whitman, the prominent Republican business leader, said. “He’s saying how the people really feel,” one Trump supporter from Massachusetts, Janet Aguilar, told The Times. “We’re all afraid to say it.” They’re saying it now. “I hate to say it, but I’m becoming mainstream,” [Trump] said…The German magazine Der Spiegel called Trump “the world’s most dangerous man.” The Germans know a thing or two about the topic. I would like to think our better angels always prevail. But there are also dark episodes, when the beast is loose, and what stares back at us from the mirror is something ugly and frightful. Now is one of those times.

The dangerous worldview at the core of Trump’s intimidation By Michael Gerson, Washington Post, February 29, 2016 …Trump roots his intimidation in a worldview — the need for the strong hand. It is the most consistent commitment of Trumpism…”Our country is right now perceived as weak . . . as being spit on by the rest of the world.” …And Trump’s supporters seem to welcome this aspect of his appeal. According to a Vox analysis of the South Carolina Republican primary vote, the best statistical predictor of Trump support is an inclination toward authoritarianism — a belief in the need for “aggressive leaders and policies.” So Trump, if he wins the nomination and the presidency, will feel a mandate for his menace….We have seen the lengths to which Trump will go to threaten and intimidate his enemies, armed mainly with social media. It seems reckless beyond reason — reckless with the republic itself — to arm him with the immense power of the executive branch….The grant of vast influence to a leader of such vindictive temperament is utterly frightening…Trump has no evident knowledge of American history or of a conservative ideology. He lives only in the vivid present of his wants and needs. He is squandering an inheritance he does not value, that he does not even understand…Trump’s conception of leadership is to become large by making others small.In a reality television star, this is a job qualification. In a president, it would raise the prospect of serious damage to our democratic system.Don’t reward Trump’s assault on democracy By Editorial Board, Washington Post, February 29, 2016   Mini-excerpt… you don’t have to go back to history’s most famous example, Adolf Hitler, to understand that authoritarian rulers can achieve power through the ballot box. In the world today, it has become almost common. In the world today, it has become almost commonplace for elected leaders to lock the door behind them once they achieve power….Even if he did win, are not American institutions too resilient, and our system of checks and balances too deeply rooted, to be threatened by a populist demagogue like Mr. Trump? We hope so. But even Mr. Trump’s campaign is an assault on democratic values… challenges to the core functioning of any democracy…Plenty of patriotic Americans are concerned about the country’s direction and are disgusted by phony, consultant-driven politicians…But Mr. Trump is pandering to those fears, not offering solutions. In so doing, he is insulting voters with genuine concerns. We continue to believe that Americans deserve better than that — and are better than that.Thomas Edsall’s breakthrough insight to understanding Trump’s appeal By Eric Black, MinnPost.com, 03/03/16  … He [Thomas Edsall] asks big questions and takes ambitious big swings at answers. He relies on scholars…he is not predictable. He is the kind of critical thinker journalism needs, to get past the obsession with the latest poll results, sound bites or lying ads. His most recent column — headlined “Why Trump now?” — is not about Donald Trump until the last paragraph. It’s about the middle-class and working-class anger that made the Trump phenomenon possible…. He’s describing the source of middle-class anger that eventually gave rise to the Trump phenomenon, which leads to this short, brilliant sentence: “Voter anger was directed at two targets — the ‘undeserving rich’ and the ‘undeserving poor.’” If [Trump] is shoved out of the field somehow, his supporters will remain bitter and enraged, convinced that a self-serving and malign elite defeated their leader. If he prevails, a constituency that could force politicians to confront the problems of the working and middle class will waste its energies on a candidate incompetent to improve the lives of the credulous men and women lining up to support him. Don’t take my word for it. Read the whole Edsall column: Why Trump Now? By Thomas B. Edsall MARCH 1, 2016

The rise of American authoritarianism by Amanda Taub, VOX.com, March 1, 2016  A niche group of political scientists may have uncovered what’s driving Donald Trump’s ascent. What they found has implications that go well beyond 2016.

James Gertmenian Facebook, 3/5/16 I’m truly weary of hearing Trump supporters argue, with admiration, that he “gives voice to the things most people are thinking but aren’t able to say.” By my reading, one of the pillars of civilized society is precisely that we DON’T allow every stray thought, every turgid emotion, every reactive impulse to make its way to our lips. No one is innocent of base or violent imaginings. They stir, acrid and troubling, in each of us. One foundation of human community, however, is the ability to deal with these impulses creatively and with humility . . . and before their power makes us dangerous to others. Repression is unhealthy, but restraint is a sign of a mature human being, fit for society. Trump supporters boast that he’s “not a typical politician.” What they mean is that he’s not evasive; he says things straight out. But to be “politic” (judicious and sensible) is NOT a bad thing. The business of politicians is to meet at the shared frontier of two opposing ideas and to work, artfully and peacefully, to resolve conflict. It’s hard work. It takes skill and practice. Frankly, I think we need more and better politicians – not fewer.

Why Trump? By George Lakoff in georgelakoff.com, March 2, 2016  Donald Trump is winning Republican presidential primaries at such a great rate that he seems likely to become the next Republican presidential nominee and perhaps the next president. …Many people are mystified. He seems to have come out of nowhere. His positions on issues don’t fit a common mold. What is going on? The answer requires a bit of background not discussed in the media to date…The answer came from a realization that we tend to understand the nation metaphorically in family terms…The conservative and progressive worldviews dividing our country can most readily be understood in terms of moral worldviews that are encapsulated in two very different common forms of family life: The Nurturant Parent family (progressive) and the Strict Father family (conservative). What do social issues and the politics have to do with the family? We are first governed in our families, and so we grow up understanding governing institutions in terms of the governing systems of families. In the strict father family, father knows best. He knows right from wrong and has the ultimate authority to make sure his children and his spouse do what he says, which is taken to be what is right… What if they don’t prosper? That means they are not disciplined, and therefore cannot be moral, and so deserve their poverty. This reasoning shows up in conservative politics in which the poor are seen as lazy and undeserving, and the rich as deserving their wealth. Responsibility is thus taken to be personal responsibility not social responsibility. What you become is only up to you; society has nothing to do with it. You are responsible for yourself, not for others — who are responsible for themselves. – The Moral Hierarchy – The strict father logic extends further. The basic idea is that authority is justified by morality (the strict father version), and that, in a well-ordered world, there should be (and traditionally has been) a moral hierarchy in which those who have traditionally dominated should dominate. The hierarchy is: God above Man, Man above Nature, The Disciplined (Strong) above the Undisciplined (Weak), The Rich above the Poor, Employers above Employees, Adults above Children, Western culture above other cultures, Our Country above other countries. The hierarchy extends to: Men above women, Whites above Nonwhites, Christians above non-Christians, Straights above Gays….White Evangelicals…Those whites who have a strict father personal worldview and who are religious tend toward Evangelical Christianity, since God, in Evangelical Christianity, is the Ultimate Strict Father: You follow His commandments and you go to heaven; you defy His commandments and you burn in hell for all eternity…Evangelicals are highly organized politically and exert control over a great many local political races. Thus Republican candidates mostly have to go along with the evangelicals if they want to be nominated and win local elections. – Pragmatic Conservatives – Pragmatic conservatives, on the other hand, may not have a religious orientation at all. Instead, they may care primarily about their own personal authority, not the authority of the church or Christ, or God. They want to be strict fathers in their own domains, with authority primarily over their own lives. ..Trump is a pragmatic conservative…- Laissez-faire Free Marketeers – Establishment conservative policies have not only been shaped by the political power of white evangelical churches, but also by the political power of those who seek maximally laissez-faire free markets, where wealthy people and corporations set market rules in their favor with minimal government regulation and enforcement…. They like government power when it works for them… – Direct vs. Systemic Causation – Direct causation is dealing with a problem via direct action. Systemic causation recognizes that many problems arise from the system they are in and must be dealt with via systemic causation…Direct causation is easy to understand, and appears to be represented in the grammars of all languages around the world. Systemic causation is more complex and is not represented in the grammar of any language. It just has to be learned. Empirical research has shown that conservatives tend to reason with direct causation and that progressives have a much easier time reasoning with systemic causation….Many of Trump’s policy proposals are framed in terms of direct causation…- Political Correctness – There are at least tens of millions of conservatives in America who share strict father morality and its moral hierarchy. Many of them are poor or middle class and many are white men who see themselves as superior to immigrants, nonwhites, women, non-Christians, gays — and people who rely on public assistance. In other words, they are what liberals would call “bigots.” For many years, such bigotry has not been publicly acceptable… As liberal anti-bigotry organizations have loudly pointed out and made a public issue of the unAmerican nature of such bigotry, those conservatives have felt more and more oppressed by what they call “political correctness” — public pressure against their views and against what they see as “free speech.” This has become exaggerated since 911, when anti-Muslim feelings became strong. The election of President Barack Hussein Obama created outrage among those conservatives, and they refused to see him as a legitimate American (as in the birther movement), much less as a legitimate authority, especially as his liberal views contradicted almost everything else they believe as conservatives. Donald Trump expresses out loud everything they feel — with force, aggression, anger, and no shame….He gives them a sense of self-respect, authority, and the possibility of power. – Biconceptuals – There is no middle in American politics. There are moderates, but there is no ideology of the moderate, no single ideology that all moderates agree on moderates have both political moral worldviews, but mostly use one of themLanguage that fits that worldview activates that worldview, strengthening it, while turning off the other worldview and weakening it. The more Trump’s views are discussed in the media, the more they are activated and the stronger they get, both in the minds of hardcore conservatives and in the minds of moderate progressives….- Why Has Trump been Winning in the Republican Primaries? – Look at all the conservatives groups he appeals to! The Democratic Party has not been taking seriously many of the reasons for Trump’s support and the range of that support. And the media has not been discussing many of the reasons for Trump’s support. That needs to change.