Political philosophy – section two

Also see Political philosophy – section one

The Other Big Surprise of 2016 Is the Return of Democratic Socialism By Lawrence Wittner, History News Network, commondreams.org, May 25, 2016  Democratic socialism used to be a vibrant force in American life. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, the Socialist Party of America, headed by the charismatic union leader, Eugene V. Debs, grew rapidly, much like its sister parties in Europe and elsewhere: the British Labour Party, the French Socialist Party, the Swedish Social Democratic Party, the Australian Labor Party, and dozens of similar parties that voters chose to govern their countries

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. Trump has found the key to appealing to authoritarians, which makes him dangerous. The ability of any political party to respond to the anxieties of this group of people is very limited. Do we have institutions and structures in place to prevent the dark side of this growing trend?

Radical Politics in the Age of American Authoritarianism: Connecting the Dots By Henry A. Giroux,  truth-out.org, April 10, 2016, There has never been a more pressing time to rethink the meaning of politics, justice, struggle and collective action.

The New Populism Is A Fight For America’s Values by Elizabeth Warren, The New Populism conference, May 22, 2014  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…We – the people – decide the future of this country.

Trump-Sanders Phenomenon Signals an Oligarchy on the Brink of a Civilization-Threatening Collapse By Sally Goerner, Evonomics,  May 29, 2016    Oligarchies win except when society enacts effective reforms   Scientifically speaking, oligarchies always collapse because they are designed to extract wealth from the lower levels of society, concentrate it at the top, and block adaptation by concentrating oligarchic power as well. Though it may take some time, extraction eventually eviscerates the productive levels of society, and the system becomes increasingly brittle.

America’s New Normal By Robert Zaretsky, THE STONE, New York Times, JUNE 22, 2016

Prosperity Gospel – religion and capitalism – Page 1

see also  Prosperity Gospel – Religion and Capitalism – Page 2

How Hyper-Religious Political Stunts by Republicans Keep Voters Captive to Corporate Ideology by CJ WERLEMAN, AlterNet, Mar-3, 2014  If you want to know why nine out of the 10 poorest states are located in the hyper-religious South, look no further than this calculated right-wing political play, which is designed for one purpose: to ensure Southern and Sunbelt voters continue to vote against their own self-economic interests.

A Christian Nation? Since When? By KEVIN M. KRUSE, New York Times, MARCH 14, 2015 How Business Made Us Christian 

How Corporate America Invented Christian America By KEVIN M. KRUSE, Politico.com, April 16, 2015  Inside one reverend’s big business-backed 1940s crusade to make the country conservative again.

How Big Business Invented the Theology of ‘Christian Libertarianism’ and the Gospel of Free Market By Kevin Kruse / AlterNet, June 1, 2015 The inside history of how Evangelical preachers were used to infuse society with the economic dogma that plagues us today.

Why Christian Fundamentalism Is Still a Big Deal in U.S. Politics and How It Got That Way By Eric C. Miller / Religion Dispatches June 10, 2015 

 

Right wing ideas and actions 2016

There’s a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy Afoot, Fueled by Dark Money, By Eleanor J. Bader, Truthout | Book Review, April 3, 2016

Today’s GOP Might Be Most Dangerous Organization in Human History | by Noam Chomsky, by THE INTELLECTUALIST May 17, 2016

It’s so much worse than Trump: The history of the modern GOP is a history of racism, bigotry and dog whistles By Phillip Cryan, salon.com,  Apr 5, 2016 The party of Lincoln? Sure, in 1858. Today’s GOP wants to pretend Trump is an outlier. They should look in a mirror

 

 

America’s Shadow: The Real Secret of Donald J. Trump

By Deepak Chopra, MD, SF Gate, June 6, 2016 https://www.deepakchopra.com/blog/article/

There’s a powerful way to explain the rise of Donald Trump that most commentators have missed entirely or undervalued. The standard line describes Trump as a bizarre anomaly…But in reality Trump isn’t bizarre or anomalous. He stands for something universal, something right before our eyes. It’s an aspect of the human psyche that we feel embarrassed and ashamed of, which makes it our collective secret.  Going back a century in the field of depth psychology, the secret side of human nature acquired a special name: the shadow. The shadow compounds all the dark impulses–hatred, aggression, sadism, selfishness, jealousy, resentment, sexual transgression–that are hidden out of sight. The name originated with Carl Jung, but its basic origin came from Freud’s insight that our psyches are dualistic, sharply divided between the conscious and unconscious. The rise of civilization is a tribute to how well we obey our conscious mind and suppress our unconscious side. But what hides in the shadows will out. When it does, societies that look well-ordered and rational, fair and just, cultured and refined, suddenly erupt in horrible displays of everything they are not about: violence, prejudice, chaos, and ungovernable irrationality…he’s [Trump] expressing in public our ashamed impulse to stop obeying the rules.The Republican party has kept the shadow on a slow simmer for decades, ever since Nixon discovered how to make hay form Southern racism, law-and-order aggression against minorities, and us-versus-them attitudes to the Vietnam anti-war movement. In order to make themselves feel unashamed, the good people on the right found figureheads after Nixon who exuded respectability. The irony is that as with civilized societies that seem the least likely to allow the shadow to run free, the more benign a Reagan or Bush acted, the stronger the shadow became behind the facade….The present situation finds us trapped between denial and disaster. Denial is when you ignore the shadow; disaster is when you totally surrender to it…1. See Trumpism for what it is, a confrontation with the shadow.2. Instead of demonizing him, acknowledge that the shadow is in everyone and always has been.3. At the same time, realize that the shadow never wins in the end. 4. Find every opening to reinforce the value of returning to right and reason in your own life.5. Don’t fight the shadow with the shadow, which means not stooping to play by Trump’s nihilistic rules–he will always be willing to go lower than you are willing to go…. The rational constraints that allow for human evolution have been successful for millennia, as the higher brain became dominant over the lower brain. That dominance still holds good, no matter how close we flirt with the primitive areas of the mind. Trump represents something authentic in human nature, and in troubled times he’s the bad boy who becomes a folk hero. No one can predict if his Wrong-Right stance will carry him to the White House. The contest with our own shadow isn’t over yet.

Full text

America has been fortunate in our ability to let off steam and recognize that we have demons. In the Great Depression bank robbers became folk heroes, but nobody suggested electing Bonnie and Clyde president. The rational constraints that allow for human evolution have been successful for millennia, as the higher brain became dominant over the lower brain. That dominance still holds good, no matter how close we flirt with the primitive areas of the mind. Trump represents something authentic in human nature, and in troubled times he’s the bad boy who becomes a folk hero. No one can predict if his Wrong=Right stance will carry him to the White House. The contest with our own shadow isn’t over yet.

There’s a powerful way to explain the rise of Donald Trump that most commentators have missed entirely or undervalued. The standard line describes Trump as a bizarre anomaly. Beginning as an improbable celebrity candidate, he has defied all the conventional rules of politics, which should have been fatal. Instead Trump has swept all before him on the Republican side. Possessing a “genius” for grabbing the limelight, he continues to dominate the scene in ways no previous politician ever has in modern times–so the conventional view goes.

But in reality Trump isn’t bizarre or anomalous. He stands for something universal, something right before our eyes. It’s an aspect of the human psyche that we feel embarrassed and ashamed of, which makes it our collective secret.  Going back a century in the field of depth psychology, the secret side of human nature acquired a special name: the shadow.

The shadow compounds all the dark impulses–hatred, aggression, sadism, selfishness, jealousy, resentment, sexual transgression–that are hidden out of sight. The name originated with Carl Jung, but its basic origin came from Freud’s insight that our psyches are dualistic, sharply divided between the conscious and unconscious. The rise of civilization is a tribute to how well we obey our conscious mind and suppress our unconscious side. But what hides in the shadows will out.

When it does, societies that look well-ordered and rational, fair and just, cultured and refined, suddenly erupt in horrible displays of everything they are not about: violence, prejudice, chaos, and ungovernable irrationality. In fact, the tragic irony is that the worst eruptions of the shadow occur in societies that on the surface have the least to worry about. This explains why all of Europe, at the height of settled, civilized behavior, threw itself into the inferno of World War I.

If Trump is the latest expression of the shadow, he isn’t a bizarre anomaly, which would be true if normal, rational values are your only standard of measure. Turn the coin over, making the unconscious your standard of measure, and he is absolutely typical. When the shadow breaks out, what’s wrong is right. Being transgressive feels like a relief, because suddenly the collective psyche can gambol in forbidden fields. When Trump indulges in rampant bad behavior and at the same time says to his riotous audiences, “This is fun, isn’t it?” he’s expressing in public our ashamed impulse to stop obeying the rules.

But the fun of world War I, which almost gleefully sent young men off to fight, quickly turned to horror, and the shadow closed an insidious trap. Once released, it is very hard to force the shadow back into its underground bunker. The Republican party has kept the shadow on a slow simmer for decades, ever since Nixon discovered how to make hay form Southern racism, law-and-order aggression against minorities, and us-versus-them attitudes to the Vietnam anti-war movement. In order to make themselves feel unashamed, the good people on the right found figureheads after Nixon who exuded respectability. The irony is that as with civilized societies that seem the least likely to allow the shadow to run free, the more benign a Reagan or Bush acted, the stronger the shadow became behind the facade.

Trump has stripped away the facade, intoxicated by the “fun” of letting his demons run and discovering to his surprise (much as Nixon did) that millions of people roared with approval. Yet by comparison, Nixon retained relative control over the forces he unleashed, while Trump may be riding a tiger–that part of the story has yet to play itself out.

If the shadow refuses to go back underground, which is always the case, what outcomes can we anticipate over the next six months? The present situation finds us trapped between denial and disaster. Denial is when you ignore the shadow; disaster is when you totally surrender to it. Without being at either extreme, right now many Americans feel the unsettling symptom of being out of control. Trump glorifies being out of control, and until this outbreak runs its course–which no one can predict–he will remain immune to all the normal constraints.

What to do in the meantime? A few things come to mind.

1. See Trumpism for what it is, a confrontation with the shadow.

2. Instead of demonizing him, acknowledge that the shadow is in everyone and always has been.

3. At the same time, realize that the shadow never wins in the end.

4. Find every opening to reinforce the value of returning to right and reason in your own life.

5. Don’t fight the shadow with the shadow, which means not stooping to play by Trump’s nihilistic rules–he will always be willing to go lower than you are willing to go.

America has been fortunate in our ability to let off steam and recognize that we have demons. In the Great Depression bank robbers became folk heroes, but nobody suggested electing Bonnie and Clyde president. The rational constraints that allow for human evolution have been successful for millennia, as the higher brain became dominant over the lower brain. That dominance still holds good, no matter how close we flirt with the primitive areas of the mind. Trump represents something authentic in human nature, and in troubled times he’s the bad boy who becomes a folk hero. No one can predict if his Wrong=Right stance will carry him to the White House. The contest with our own shadow isn’t over yet.

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph Tanzi, PhD  and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.  www.deepakchopra.com

https://www.deepakchopra.com/blog/article

Political philosophy – Section One

 also see Political Philosophy – Section Two

Is a New Political System Emerging in This Country? by Tom Engelhardt, billmoyers.com from TomDispatch,.March 25, 2015 … based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name. And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so….it seems to be based, at least in part, on the increasing concentration of wealth and power in a new plutocratic class and in that ever-expanding national security state. Certainly, something out of the ordinary is underway and yet its birth pangs, while widely reported, are generally categorized as aspects of an exceedingly familiar American system somewhat in disarray.

Trump and the Transformation of Politics  by John Feffer, commondreams.org, by  Foreign Policy In Focus, August 27, 2016 - Excerpt – The current politic al order is coming apart… Illiberal populists all over the world are benefiting from three simultaneous backlashes. The history of political parties is rather boring. Not much has changed since the French Revolution, which produced the the terms “Left” and “Right” to reflect where people sat in the National Assembly. The early 20th century saw the rise of Communist parties on the far left. Shortly later, fascist parties began to emerge on the far right. Aside from these challenges from the margins, most countries have produced some version of a conservative (Christian Democrat, Republican) party and a liberal (Labor, Social Democratic) party. These parties have alternated in power, sometimes even ruling in coalition….full text

Perle Denies Any Neoconservative Influence in Bush Administration, February 19, 2009: — In a speech at the Nixon Center, neoconservative guru Richard Perle attempts to drastically rewrite the history of the Bush administration and his role in the invasion of Iraq. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank writes that listening to Perle gave him “a sense of falling down the rabbit hole.” Milbank notes: “In real life, Perle was the ideological architect of the Iraq war and of the Bush doctrine of preemptive attack…But at yesterday’s forum of foreign policy intellectuals, he created a fantastic world in which: Perle is not a neoconservative. Neoconservatives do not exist. Even if neoconservatives did exist, they certainly couldn’t be blamed for the disasters of the past eight years.” http://progressivevalues.org.s150046.gridserver.com/iraq-war-timeline-highlights-1965-to-2009/

Leo Strauss and the “Crazies in the Basement” By Donald Archer,  OpEdNews Op Eds 4/24/2008 – From the beginning of his presidency, George W. Bush has surrounded himself with radical neo-conservatives, with what his father, the first President Bush, called “crazies in the basement.”   They have advised him on everything from political strategy to foreign policy.   What they have in common is the warped worldview of Leo Strauss: a charismatic and influential professor of political philosophy at the University of Chicago during the 1950s and 60s.…The ideology of Leo Strauss and the neo-conservatives is the antithesis of the Enlightenment wisdom that inspired the ideal, if not the actuality, of the American Revolution and the modern constitutional democracy—a liberal society that promotes and is maintained by critical thinking, a well-informed electorate, and an open, transparent government.     This is the ideological war now being fought.

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. Trump has found the key to appealing to authoritarians, which makes him dangerous. The ability of any political party to respond to the anxieties of this group of people is very limited. Do we have institutions and structures in place to prevent the dark side of this growing trend? This is a long but essential article to read and understand.

The Progressive Movement and the Transformation of American Politics By Thomas G. West, Ph.D. and William A. Schambra, Heritage Foundation, 2007 Progressivism was the reform movement that ran from the late 19th century through the first decades of the 20th century, during which leading intellectuals and social reformers in the United States sought to address the economic, political, and cultural questions that had arisen in the context of the rapid changes brought with the Industrial Revolution and the growth of modern capitalism in America. The Progressives believed that these changes marked the end of the old order and required the creation of a new order appropriate for the new industrial age. There are, of course, many different representations of Progressivism: the literature of Upton Sinclair, the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, the history of Charles Beard, the educational system of John Dewey. In politics and political thought, the movement is associated with political leaders such as Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt and thinkers such as Herbert Croly and Charles Merriam. Remarks by Thomas G. West: The thesis of our book, The Progressive Revolution in Politics and Political Science, is that Progressivism transformed American politics. What was that transformation? It was a total rejection in theory, and a partial rejection in practice, of the principles and policies on which America had been founded and on the basis of which the Civil War had been fought and won only a few years earlier. When I speak of Progressivism, I mean the movement that rose to prominence between about 1880 and 1920. In a moment I will turn to the content of the Progressive conception of politics and to the contrast between that approach and the tradition, stemming from the founding, that it aimed to replace. But I would like first to emphasize how different is the assessment of Progressivism presented in our book, The Progressive Revolution, from the understanding that prevails among most scholars…My own view is this: … the most important cause was a change in the prevailing understanding of justice among leading American intellectuals and, to a lesser extent, in the American people. Today’s liberalism and the policies that it has generated arose from a conscious repudiation of the principles of the American founding.

Leo Strauss and the “Crazies in the Basement”

See excerpts of articles re: political philosophy

By Donald Archer,  OpEdNews Op Eds 4/24/2008

Excerpt

From the beginning of his presidency, George W. Bush has surrounded himself with radical neo-conservatives, with what his father, the first President Bush, called “crazies in the basement.”   They have advised him on everything from political strategy to foreign policy.   What they have in common is the warped worldview of Leo Strauss: a charismatic and influential professor of political philosophy at the University of Chicago during the 1950s and 60s….The ideology of Leo Strauss and the neo-conservatives is the antithesis of the Enlightenment wisdom that inspired the ideal, if not the actuality, of the American Revolution and the modern constitutional democracy—a liberal society that promotes and is maintained by critical thinking, a well-informed electorate, and an open, transparent government.     This is the ideological war now being fought.

Full text

There is no question that we are engaged in a war of ideologies, or that democracy is under siege.   But, contrary to prevalent misinformation and myth, the significant threat is within, not outside the halls of our government.

From the beginning of his presidency, George W. Bush has surrounded himself with radical neo-conservatives, with what his father, the first President Bush, called “crazies in the basement.”   They have advised him on everything from political strategy to foreign policy.   What they have in common is the warped worldview of Leo Strauss: a charismatic and influential professor of political philosophy at the University of Chicago during the 1950s and 60s.

When he died in 1973, Strauss left what could be called a cult-following of obsessive acolytes, including former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, “Prince of Darkness” Richard Perle, and Republican pundit William Kristol.

Strauss’ radical teaching pervades not only the Bush administration but many of the major conservative think-tanks as well—the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and the American Enterprise Institute, in particular.

Becoming familiar with Strauss’ philosophy sheds light on our current political crisis and brings the challenge to focus.   Above all, Strauss had contempt for the democratic process—he was an elitist who labeled the majority of human beings ‘the vulgar-many.’    His philosophy is an odd combination of the idealism of ancient Plato and the pragmatism of modern Machiavelli.

His ideal: the philosopher-king—The Decider, the authoritarian leader who knows what’s best for the befuddled majority.

His weapons: ‘the Noble Lie’ and perpetual war—empowered by a fearful and ignorant electorate, a deferential Congress, a lock-step Supreme Court, and a compliant media; in other words, the total breakdown of the constitutional system of checks and balances.

Leo Strauss believed that ‘mankind is intrinsically wicked’ and that it was up to the ‘wise-few,’ indeed it was their responsibility, to maintain order in an otherwise chaotic world.     

Ironically, he was an atheist who promoted the practice of religion—one of his ‘Noble Lies.’   While Strauss taught that faith could control and subdue the ‘unruly masses,’ he believed that rulers need not be bound by it… A secular society, in his neo-conservative view, is most dangerous because it leads to individualism, liberalism, and relativism—traits that encourage dissent and challenge the hierarchical authoritarian society he envisioned… Straussian worldview forever needs a devil, or an ‘axis of evil,’ to coalesce the masses.    Strauss wrote that “governance can only be established…when men are united – and they can only be united against other people.”

Straussians embrace the following principles:

  1. The Few Must Rule The Many.
  2. Virtue Is Defined By The Elite.
  3. The Strong Must Rule The Weak
  4. There Is Only One Natural Right: The Right Of The Wise Few To Rule Over The Vulgar Many.
  5. “The Rule Of The Wise” Is Unquestionable, Authoritarian, Absolute and Covert.
  6. There Are Three Classes: The Wise-Few, The Vulgar-Many And The Gentlemen.
  7. Religion Is Essential In Order To Impose Moral Law On The Masses.
  8. The State Maintains Omnipotence Through Militaristic Nationalism.
  9. Order And Security Are To Be Insured By A State Of Perpetual War.
  10. The Wise Must Maintain A Culture Of Deception And Carry On A Perpetual Confusion Campaign.
  11. The Many Are Told What They Need To Know And No More.
  12. Lies Are Held To Be Necessary And Noble.

If our most powerful leaders adhere to these principles, it should come as no surprise that the will of the majority is systematically ignored, that secrecy is paramount, that confusion is rampant, that lies have become the norm, that a state of war is constant, that the separation of church and state is attacked, that our constitutional system of checks and balances is all but myth, and that an increasingly unaccountable president considers himself ‘The Decider.”

The ideology of Leo Strauss and the neo-conservatives is the antithesis of the Enlightenment wisdom that inspired the ideal, if not the actuality, of the American Revolution and the modern constitutional democracy—a liberal society that promotes and is maintained by critical thinking, a well-informed electorate, and an open, transparent government.     This is the ideological war now being fought.

 


Why Did We Stop Teaching Political History?

By FREDRIK LOGEVALL and KENNETH OSGOODAUG. 29, 2016

American political history, it would seem, is everywhere. Hardly a day passes without some columnist comparing Donald J. Trump to Huey Long, Father Coughlin or George Wallace. “All the Way,” a play about Lyndon B. Johnson, won a slew of awards and was turned into an HBO film.

But the public’s love for political stories belies a crisis in the profession. American political history as a field of study has cratered. Fewer scholars build careers on studying the political process, in part because few universities make space for them. Fewer courses are available, and fewer students are exposed to it. What was once a central part of the historical profession, a vital part of this country’s continuing democratic discussion, is disappearing.

This wasn’t always the case. Political history — a specialization in elections and elected officials, policy and policy making, parties and party politics — was once a dominant, if not the dominant, pursuit of American historians. Many of them, in turn, made vital contributions to the political process itself, whether it was Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s role in the Kennedy White House or C. Vann Woodward’s “The Strange Career of Jim Crow,” which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the “bible of the civil rights movement.”

But somewhere along the way, such work fell out of favor with history departments. According to the American Historical Association’s listing of academic departments, three-quarters of colleges and universities now lack full-time researchers and teachers in the subject.

There appears to be little effort to fill the void. A search of the leading website advertising academic jobs in history, H-Net, yielded just 15 advertisements in the last 10 years specifically seeking a tenure-track, junior historian specializing in American political history. That’s right: just 15 new jobs in the last decade.

As a result, the study of America’s political past is being marginalized. Many college catalogs list precious few specialized courses on the subject, and survey courses often give scant attention to political topics. The pipelines for new Ph.D.s in the subject, and therefore new faculty, are drying up, and in many graduate programs one can earn a doctorate in American history with little exposure to politics.

How did it come to this? The trend began in the 1960s. America’s misadventure in Vietnam led to broad questioning of elite decision making and conventional politics, and by extension those historical narratives that merely recounted the doings of powerful men. Likewise, the movements of the 1960s and 1970s by African-Americans, Latinos, women, homosexuals and environmental activists brought a new emphasis on history from the bottom up, spotlighting the role of social movements in shaping the nation’s past.

The long overdue diversification of the academy also fostered changing perspectives. As a field once dominated by middle-class white males opened its doors to women, minorities and people from working-class backgrounds, recovering the lost experiences of these groups understandably became priority No. 1.

These transformations enriched the national story. But they also carried costs. Perceived “traditional” types of history that examined the doings of governing elites fell into disfavor, and political history suffered the effects (as did its cousins, diplomatic and military history).

The ramifications extend well beyond higher education. The drying up of scholarly expertise affects universities’ ability to educate teachers — as well as aspiring lawyers, politicians, journalists and business leaders — who will enter their professions having learned too little about the nation’s political history. Not least, in this age of extreme partisanship, they’ll be insufficiently aware of the importance that compromise has played in America’s past, of the vital role of mutual give-and-take in the democratic process.

Change will not be easy, and will not come from history departments facing tight budgets and competing demands. What is needed, to begin with, is for university administrators to identify political history as a priority, for students and families to lobby their schools, for benefactors to endow professorships and graduate fellowships and for lawmakers and school boards to enact policies that bolster its teaching — and without politicizing the enterprise.

This matters. Knowledge of our political past is important because it can serve as an antidote to the misuse of history by our leaders and save us from being bamboozled by analogies, by the easy “lessons of the past.” It can make us less egocentric by showing us how other politicians and governments in other times have responded to division and challenge. And it can help us better understand the likely effects of our actions, a vital step in the acquisition of insight and maturity.

Judging by the state of our political discourse during this dismal campaign season, the change can’t come soon enough.

Fredrik Logevall is a professor of history and international affairs at Harvard. Kenneth Osgood is a professor of history at the Colorado School of Mines.

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A version of this op-ed appears in print on August 29, 2016, on page A17 of the New York edition with the headline: The End of Political History?. Today’s Paper|Subscribe

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/29/opinion/why-did-we-stop-teaching-political-history.html

By Trying To Destroy President Obama, The GOP Ended-Up Destroying Itself

By Richard Wolffe, THE INTELLECTUALIST, The Guardian, August 10, 2016

Excerpt

…[President Barack Obama] can thank the freak show that is Donald Trump’s Republican party for restoring his stature as a unifying, national leader with a moderated and mature approach to a complex and unstable world.

Eight years ago, Obama represented an existential threat to the Republican party, and not just because he was going to lead the Democratic party to win the White House and Congress by large margins. No, Obama’s biggest threat was that he could realign American politics, shifting it fundamentally towards progressives for a generation…With his appeal to independents and moderate Republicans, Obama could break the Republican party as a national force. With his appeal to minority voters – a rapidly emerging majority across the country – he could lock in the fastest growing demographics that could turn red states blue.

So the GOP leadership chose to make Obama unacceptable, unpalatable and un-American. On the night of his first inauguration, House Republican leaders met at a Washington steakhouse to plot their path back to power. They would not reform their policies or consider the root cause of their defeat. Instead, they would oppose Obama on everything, well before he tried to pass a giant stimulus bill or healthcare reform.

They needed to deny him a reputation for bipartisanship and mainstream politics, and they succeeded…The party of Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Roger Ailes had turned him into their own kind of freak. Before he finished his second year in office, Obama was such an object of Republican loathing that the Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell could say – with impunity – that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” If your political priorities are the total defeat of a single politician – not the advancement of your own policies through debate or legislation – then you are already in pretty desperate shape. You render it impossible to compromise with your opponents, and you fan the flames of extremism that will burn anyone in the center.

You also look weak and foolish when you lose, surrendering the stage to someone who can vilify his opponents better than you. So don’t look dazed and confused at Donald Trump when he runs your playbook more convincingly than your own team. It’s too late to fret about endorsing his kooky positions … when they are only logical extensions of your own..

 

 

Full text

It may seem too early to call, but we already have a winner in the 2016 election.

He’s someone the pundits wrote off long ago. An improbable outsider who rode an insurgent wave to snatch the nomination from the establishment. An unconventional politician whose raucous rallies underscored his appeal to voters far outside his party base.

His name is Barack Obama. And he can thank the freak show that is Donald Trump’s Republican party for restoring his [Barack Obama] stature as a unifying, national leader with a moderated and mature approach to a complex and unstable world.

Eight years ago, Obama represented an existential threat to the Republican party, and not just because he was going to lead the Democratic party to win the White House and Congress by large margins.

No, Obama’s biggest threat was that he could realign American politics, shifting it fundamentally towards progressives for a generation. He and his campaign aides talked privately of being the Reagan of the left: a transformative figure who would leave an indelible legislative mark at home and restore America’s position on the world stage.

With his appeal to independents and moderate Republicans, Obama could break the Republican party as a national force. With his appeal to minority voters – a rapidly emerging majority across the country – he could lock in the fastest growing demographics that could turn red states blue.

So the GOP leadership chose to make Obama unacceptable, unpalatable and un-American. On the night of his first inauguration, House Republican leaders met at a Washington steakhouse to plot their path back to power. They would not reform their policies or consider the root cause of their defeat. Instead, they would oppose Obama on everything, well before he tried to pass a giant stimulus bill or healthcare reform.

They needed to deny him a reputation for bipartisanship and mainstream politics, and they succeeded. He wasn’t reasonable; he was an ideologue. His vision of healthcare reform wasn’t a free-market system based on Republican plans; it was a socialist takeover that would destroy the American way of life. He was inviting terrorist attacks on the homeland, not hunting down Osama bin Laden. He was acting in unconstitutional ways because he wasn’t really American at all.

The party of Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Roger Ailes had turned him into their own kind of freak.

Before he finished his second year in office, Obama was such an object of Republican loathing that the Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell could say – with impunity – that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

If your political priorities are the total defeat of a single politician – not the advancement of your own policies through debate or legislation – then you are already in pretty desperate shape. You render it impossible to compromise with your opponents, and you fan the flames of extremism that will burn anyone in the center.

 

 

 

 

 

The Age of Post-Truth Politics

By WILLIAM DAVIES, New York Times,

Facts hold a sacred place in Western liberal democracies. Whenever democracy seems to be going awry, when voters are manipulated or politicians are ducking questions, we turn to facts for salvation.

But they seem to be losing their ability to support consensus. PolitiFact has found that about 70 percent of Donald Trump’s “factual” statements actually fall into the categories of “mostly false,” “false” and “pants on fire” untruth.

For the Brexit referendum, Leave argued that European Union membership costs Britain 350 million pounds a week, but failed to account for the money received in return.

The sense is widespread: We have entered an age of post-truth politics.

As politics becomes more adversarial and dominated by television performances, the status of facts in public debate rises too high. We place expectations on statistics and expert testimony that strains them to breaking point. Rather than sit coolly outside the fray of political argument, facts are now one of the main rhetorical weapons within it.

How can we still be speaking of “facts” when they no longer provide us with a reality that we all agree on? The problem is that the experts and agencies involved in producing facts have multiplied, and many are now for hire. If you really want to find an expert willing to endorse a fact, and have sufficient money or political clout behind you, you probably can.

The combination of populist movements with social media is often held responsible for post-truth politics. Individuals have growing opportunities to shape their media consumption around their own opinions and prejudices, and populist leaders are ready to encourage them.

But to focus on recent, more egregious abuses of facts is to overlook the ways in which the authority of facts has been in decline for quite some time. Newspapers might provide resistance to the excesses of populist demagogy, but not to the broader crisis of facts.

The problem is the oversupply of facts in the 21st century: There are too many sources, too many methods, with varying levels of credibility, depending on who funded a given study and how the eye-catching number was selected.

According to the cultural historian Mary Poovey, the tendency to represent society in terms of facts first arose in late medieval times with the birth of accounting. What was new about merchant bookkeeping, Dr. Poovey argued, was that it presented a type of truth that could apparently stand alone, without requiring any interpretation or faith on the part of the person reading it.

In the centuries that followed, accounting was joined by statistics, economics, surveys and a range of other numerical methods. But even as these methods expanded, they tended to be the preserve of small, tight-knit institutions, academic societies and professional associations who could uphold standards. National statistical associations, for example, soon provided the know-how for official statistics offices, affiliated with and funded by governments.

In the 20th century, an industry for facts emerged. Market-research companies began to conduct surveys in the 1920s and extended into opinion polling in the 1930s. Think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute were established during and after World War II to apply statistics and economics to the design of new government policies, typically in the service of one political agenda or another. The idea of “evidence-based policy,” popular among liberal politicians in the late 1990s and early 2000s, saw economics being heavily leaned on to justify government programs, in an allegedly post-ideological age.

Of course the term “fact” isn’t reserved exclusively for numbers. But it does imply a type of knowledge that can be reliably parceled out in public, without constant need for verification or interpretation.

Yet there is one much more radical contributor to our post-truth politics that could ultimately be as transformative of our society as accounting proved to be 500 years ago.

We are in the middle of a transition from a society of facts to a society of data. During this interim, confusion abounds surrounding the exact status of knowledge and numbers in public life, exacerbating the sense that truth itself is being abandoned.

The place to start in understanding this transition is with the spread of “smart” technologies into everyday life, sometimes called the “internet of things.” Thanks to the presence of smartphones and smartcards in our pockets, the dramatic uptake of social media, the rise of e-commerce as a means of purchasing goods and services, and the spread of sensory devices across public spaces, we leave a vast quantity of data in our wake as we go about our daily activities.

Like statistics or other traditional facts, this data is quantitative in nature. What’s new is both its unprecedented volume (the “big” in big data) and also the fact that it is being constantly collected by default, rather than by deliberate expert design. Numbers are being generated much faster than we have any specific use for. But they can nevertheless be mined to get a sense of how people are behaving and what they are thinking.

The promise of facts is to settle arguments between warring perspectives and simplify the issues at stake. For instance, politicians might disagree over the right economic policy, but if they can agree that “the economy has grown by 2 percent” and “unemployment is 5 percent,” then there is at least a shared stable reality that they can argue over.

The promise of data, by contrast, is to sense shifts in public sentiment. By analyzing Twitter using algorithms, for example, it is possible to get virtually real-time updates on how a given politician is perceived. This is what’s known as “sentiment analysis.”

There are precedents for this, such as the “worm” that monitors live audience reaction during a televised presidential debate, rising and falling in response to each moment of a candidate’s rhetoric. Financial markets represent the sentiments of traders as they fluctuate throughout the day. Stock markets never produce a fact as to what Cisco is worth in the way that an accountant can; they provide a window into how thousands of people around the world are feeling about Cisco, from one minute to the next.

Journalists and politicians can no more ignore a constant audit of collective mood than C.E.O.s can ignore the fluctuations in their companies’ share prices. If the British government had spent more time trying to track public sentiment toward the European Union and less time repeating the facts of how the British economy benefited from membership in the union, it might have fought the Brexit referendum campaign differently and more successfully.

Dominic Cummings, one of the leading pro-Brexit campaigners, mocked what he called outdated polling techniques. He also asked one pollster to add a question on “enthusiasm,” and, employing scientists to mine very large, up-to-the-minute data sets, to gauge voter mood and to react accordingly with ads and voter-turnout volunteers.

It is possible to live in a world of data but no facts. Think of how we employ weather forecasts: We understand that it is not a fact that it will be 75 degrees on Thursday, and that figure will fluctuate all the time. Weather forecasting works in a similar way to sentiment analysis, bringing data from a wide range of sensory devices, and converting this into a constantly evolving narrative about the near future.

However, this produces some chilling possibilities for politics. Once numbers are viewed more as indicators of current sentiment, rather than as statements about reality, how are we to achieve any consensus on the nature of social, economic and environmental problems, never mind agree on the solutions?

Conspiracy theories prosper under such conditions. And while we will have far greater means of knowing how many people believe those theories, we will have far fewer means of persuading them to abandon them.

William Davies is an associate professor in political economy at Goldsmiths, University of London, and the author of “The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being.”