The Governing Cancer of Our Time

Excerpt with highlighting by curator of this website – full text as published below

by David Brooks, nytimes.com FEB. 26, 2016 We live in a big, diverse society. There are essentially two ways to maintain order and get things done in such a society — politics or some form of dictatorship. Either through compromise or brute force. Our founding fathers chose politics. Politics is an activity in which you recognize the simultaneous existence of different groups, interests and opinions. You try to find some way to balance or reconcile or compromise those interests, or at least a majority of them. You follow a set of rules, enshrined in a constitution or in custom, to help you reach these compromises in a way everybody considers legitimate…As Bernard Crick wrote in his book, “In Defence of Politics,” “Politics is a way of ruling divided societies without undue violence.” Over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups — best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right ..” They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They’re willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power…They suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don’t accept the legitimacy of other interests and opinions. They don’t recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine. This antipolitics tendency has had a wretched effect on our democracy. It has led to a series of overlapping downward spirals: The antipolitics people elect legislators who have no political skills or experience. That incompetence leads to dysfunctional government, which leads to more disgust with government, which leads to a demand for even more outsiders. The antipolitics people don’t accept that politics is a limited activity. They make soaring promises and raise ridiculous expectations. When those expectations are not met, voters grow cynical and, disgusted, turn even further in the direction of antipolitics. The antipolitics people refuse compromise and so block the legislative process. The absence of accomplishment destroys public trust. The decline in trust makes deal-making harder…And in walks Donald Trump. People say that Trump is an unconventional candidate and that he represents a break from politics as usual. That’s not true. Trump is the culmination of the trends we have been seeing for the last 30 years: the desire for outsiders; the bashing style of rhetoric that makes conversation impossible; the decline of coherent political parties; the declining importance of policy; the tendency to fight cultural battles and identity wars through political means. Trump represents the path the founders rejected…the one trait that best predicts whether you’re a Trump supporter is how high you score on tests that measure authoritarianism. This isn’t just an American phenomenon. Politics is in retreat and authoritarianism is on the rise worldwide. The answer to Trump is politics. It’s acknowledging other people exist. It’s taking pleasure in that difference and hammering out workable arrangements. As Harold Laski put it, “We shall make the basis of our state consent to disagreement. Therein shall we ensure its deepest harmony.”

Full text as posted on NYT website 

We live in a big, diverse society. There are essentially two ways to maintain order and get things done in such a society — politics or some form of dictatorship. Either through compromise or brute force. Our founding fathers chose politics.

Politics is an activity in which you recognize the simultaneous existence of different groups, interests and opinions. You try to find some way to balance or reconcile or compromise those interests, or at least a majority of them. You follow a set of rules, enshrined in a constitution or in custom, to help you reach these compromises in a way everybody considers legitimate.

The downside of politics is that people never really get everything they want. It’s messy, limited and no issue is ever really settled. Politics is a muddled activity in which people have to recognize restraints and settle for less than they want. Disappointment is normal.

But that’s sort of the beauty of politics, too. It involves an endless conversation in which we learn about other people and see things from their vantage point and try to balance their needs against our own. Plus, it’s better than the alternative: rule by some authoritarian tyrant who tries to govern by clobbering everyone in his way.

As Bernard Crick wrote in his book, “In Defence of Politics,” “Politics is a way of ruling divided societies without undue violence.”

Over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups — best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right — want to elect people who have no political experience. They want “outsiders.” They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They’re willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power.

Ultimately, they don’t recognize other people. They suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don’t accept the legitimacy of other interests and opinions. They don’t recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine.

This antipolitics tendency has had a wretched effect on our democracy. It has led to a series of overlapping downward spirals:

The antipolitics people elect legislators who have no political skills or experience. That incompetence leads to dysfunctional government, which leads to more disgust with government, which leads to a demand for even more outsiders.

The antipolitics people don’t accept that politics is a limited activity. They make soaring promises and raise ridiculous expectations. When those expectations are not met, voters grow cynical and, disgusted, turn even further in the direction of antipolitics.

The antipolitics people refuse compromise and so block the legislative process. The absence of accomplishment destroys public trust. The decline in trust makes deal-making harder.

We’re now at a point where the Senate says it won’t even hold hearings on a presidential Supreme Court nominee, in clear defiance of custom and the Constitution. We’re now at a point in which politicians live in fear if they try to compromise and legislate. We’re now at a point in which normal political conversation has broken down. People feel unheard, which makes them shout even louder, which further destroys conversation.

And in walks Donald Trump. People say that Trump is an unconventional candidate and that he represents a break from politics as usual. That’s not true. Trump is the culmination of the trends we have been seeing for the last 30 years: the desire for outsiders; the bashing style of rhetoric that makes conversation impossible; the decline of coherent political parties; the declining importance of policy; the tendency to fight cultural battles and identity wars through political means.

Trump represents the path the founders rejected. There is a hint of violence undergirding his campaign. There is always a whiff, and sometimes more than a whiff, of “I’d like to punch him in the face.”

I printed out a Times list of the insults Trump has hurled on Twitter. The list took up 33 pages. Trump’s style is bashing and pummeling. Everyone who opposes or disagrees with him is an idiot, a moron or a loser. The implied promise of his campaign is that he will come to Washington and bully his way through.

Trump’s supporters aren’t looking for a political process to address their needs. They are looking for a superhero. As the political scientist Matthew MacWilliams found, the one trait that best predicts whether you’re a Trump supporter is how high you score on tests that measure authoritarianism.

This isn’t just an American phenomenon. Politics is in retreat and authoritarianism is on the rise worldwide. The answer to Trump is politics. It’s acknowledging other people exist. It’s taking pleasure in that difference and hammering out workable arrangements. As Harold Laski put it, “We shall make the basis of our state consent to disagreement. Therein shall we ensure its deepest harmony.”

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on February 26, 2016, on page A29 of the New York edition with the headline: A Governing Cancer of Our Time. Today’s Paper|Subscribe

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/26/opinion/the-governing-cancer-of-our-time.html

Politics, money and power

A fundamental war has been waged in this nation since its founding, between progressive forces pushing us forward and regressive forces pulling us backward. We are going to battle once again. Progressives believe in openness, equal opportunity, and tolerance. Progressives assume we’re all in it together…Regressives take the opposite positions…today’s Republican right aren’t really conservatives. Their goal isn’t to conserve what we have. It’s to take us backwards…Yet the great arc of American history reveals an unmistakable pattern. Whenever privilege and power conspire to pull us backward, the nation eventually rallies and moves forward…. The Rise of the Regressive Right and the Reawakening of America by Robert Reich

Republicans/conservatives

A civil war is brewing in the GOP – between the realists who have to get elected and the ultras in the conservative media…the fascinating element of this sure-to-be-brutal conflict lies not in the opposing arguments, but in the make-up of each side. For long years, buoyed by Fox News and a legion of talk radio shockjocks, the conservative media and its allies in radical think tanks have been an integral part of the Republican party…internet scribe Matt Drudge, radio host Rush Limbaugh and anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist…Steve Deace, a radio host in Iowa…Bryan Fischer, a radio host with the American Family Association…Limbaugh…Herman Cain…What do these people all have in common? No one elects them.They are pundits and firebrands whose very existence relies on stirring up the base. That is where they get readers, listeners and donors. These people do not fear election losses. They thrive on them. Opposition suits their purpose… it is a fight between politicians and pundits. It is policy versus talking points, voters versus ratings. Pundits and politicians contend for the soul of the Republican party by Paul Harris, Guardian/UK, November 12, 2012 -

Amy Goodman… Karl Rove has become the ulti­mate party boss.Craig Unger:… it’s worth going back to how he got power back in the 1980s [in] Texas…to show Karl Rove’s power during the Bush years… in 2000…in Ohio in 2004…Rove did a lot of things that were sort of under the radar and that I think have enduring consequences, and they represent real threats to democracy…I don’t think he’s an ideologue. I think he’s about winning….There’s always been this talk of a permanent Republican majority that Rove is trying to forge, and he sees it, the nation, as being entirely Republican….…Karl Rove barely escaped indictment and rose to be the biggest powerhouse, political powerhouse, in America today …President Bush’s State of the Union address that called for war against and launched the war against Iraq. And the allega­tions, of course, were not just false, but they were based on forged documents…this showed that they would stop at nothing to maintain their narrative…it’s most important to understand about this man who has now become perhaps the most powerful political operative in America… Look who’s covertly controlling the GOPKarl Rove, Scheming Election Theft and Raising a Fortune for Vicious Attack Ads, Democracy Now! By Amy Goodman, Craig Unger posted on Alternet.org, August 22, 2012 -

The Sick Social Darwinism Driving Modern Republicans

What Happened to the Traditionally Conservative Republican Party?

Power

…Power…is best understood in terms of command and control. It is either the capacity to make others do as you wish (the command function) or to reorder the environment around you (the control function)…power in America and elsewhere is undergoing directional changes…Yes, there are still cultural arbiters, and yes, presidents and lawmakers and executives obviously exert enormous influence. It is arguable, though, that technology has given us a more democratic culture (if not politics) than the world has seen since perhaps the founding… the Internet has…lowered barriers to information and has given virtually anyone with something to say the means to say it. The Web is not only a source but a stage on which we can engage in the life of the nation and of the world armed with facts we have weighed in the light of reason. “Knowledge is now once again connected to power,” says [Al] Gore. The Story of Power by John Meacham, Newsweek, December 19, 2008

…slogans and proposals and will mean nothing without the requi­site power standing behind them…We need politicians more afraid of voter outrage than they are of corporate retribution…it’s in the interest of some of the most powerful players on earth to prolong the status quo… [changes] go against the power of the status quo, and hence they will be enacted only if we build movements strong enough to force them…We’ll never get the solutions we need—the solutions everyone has known about for two decades—unless we build the move­ment first. It’s Time to Fight the Sta­tus Quo by Bill McKibben

Eighty-Six Percent of Americans Think the Government Should Fight Poverty by Zoë Carpenter, The Nation, January 8, 2014

How a Shadowy Network of Corporate Front Groups Distorts the Marketplace of Ideas

Polarization and Gridlock Work Well for the Wealthiest Americans

The Source of Cor­po­rate Power

Money in politics

financiers who presided over the market collapse… could have and should have seen it coming.…the financial crisis was not an accident and they were not powerless. The crisis was the result of irresponsibility and misjudgments by many people…Congress’s efforts at financial reform appear to be weakened daily by politicians who are more concerned with campaign donations than regulating the financial system. Who’s Not Sorry Now? Editorial, New York Times, April 11, 2010 

 “You and I don’t have a lobbyist and so we are not represented in this melee. There is no balance here. There’s a drastic imbalance between the people who created the problem and the people who had to pay the problem and it has not been addressed.”  Gretchen Morgenson, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times business and finance reporter — How Big Money Bought Our Democ­racy, Cor­rupted Both Par­ties, and Set Us Up for Another Finan­cial Cri­sis

The power of money trumps the power of democracy today…democracy should be a break on unbridled greed and power. Democracy Should Be a Brake on Unbridled Greed and PowerBill Moyers

Koch-backed political coalition, designed to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012

Billionaire Koch Brothers Spending Millions To Deny Health Coverage To Low-Income Americans 

 

Overview – Politics, Power and Money

 Politics

A fundamental war has been waged in this nation since its founding, between progressive forces pushing us forward and regressive forces pulling us backward. We are going to battle once again. Progressives believe in openness, equal opportunity, and tolerance. Progressives assume we’re all in it together…Regressives take the opposite positions…today’s Republican right aren’t really conservatives. Their goal isn’t to conserve what we have. It’s to take us backwards…Yet the great arc of American history reveals an unmistakable pattern. Whenever privilege and power conspire to pull us backward, the nation eventually rallies and moves forward…. The Rise of the Regressive Right and the Reawakening of America by Robert Reich

Republicans/conservatives

A civil war is brewing in the GOP – between the realists who have to get elected and the ultras in the conservative media…the fascinating element of this sure-to-be-brutal conflict lies not in the opposing arguments, but in the make-up of each side. For long years, buoyed by Fox News and a legion of talk radio shockjocks, the conservative media and its allies in radical think tanks have been an integral part of the Republican party…internet scribe Matt Drudge, radio host Rush Limbaugh and anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist…Steve Deace, a radio host in Iowa…Bryan Fischer, a radio host with the American Family Association…Limbaugh…Herman Cain…What do these people all have in common? No one elects them.They are pundits and firebrands whose very existence relies on stirring up the base. That is where they get readers, listeners and donors. These people do not fear election losses. They thrive on them. Opposition suits their purpose…Among the GOP’s elected representatives – and its more traditional elites – there is a sudden outbreak of moderation.…it is not really a battle between two sets of warring politicians. Instead, it is a fight between politicians and pundits. It is policy versus talking points, voters versus ratings. Even Democrats should hope the politicians win. Pundits and politicians contend for the soul of the Republican party by Paul Harris, Guardian/UK, November 12, 2012 -

Amy Goodman… Karl Rove has become the ulti­mate party boss.…Craig Unger:… it’s worth going back to how he got power back in the 1980s [in] Texas…to show Karl Rove’s power during the Bush years… in 2000…in Ohio in 2004…Rove did a lot of things that were sort of under the radar and that I think have enduring consequences, and they represent real threats to democracy…I don’t think he’s an ideologue. I think he’s about winning….There’s always been this talk of a permanent Republican majority that Rove is trying to forge, and he sees it, the nation, as being entirely Republican….…Karl Rove barely escaped indictment and rose to be the biggest powerhouse, political powerhouse, in America today …President Bush’s State of the Union address that called for war against and launched the war against Iraq. And the allega­tions, of course, were not just false, but they were based on forged documents…this showed that they would stop at nothing to maintain their narrative…it’s most important to understand about this man who has now become perhaps the most powerful political operative in America…Look who’s covertly controlling the GOP – Look who’s covertly controlling the GOPKarl Rove, Scheming Election Theft and Raising a Fortune for Vicious Attack Ads, Democracy Now! By Amy Goodman, Craig Unger posted on Alternet.org, August 22, 2012 -

The Sick Social Darwinism Driving Modern Republicans

What Happened to the Traditionally Conservative Republican Party?

Power

…Power…is best understood in terms of command and control. It is either the capacity to make others do as you wish (the command function) or to reorder the environment around you (the control function)…power in America and elsewhere is undergoing directional changes…Yes, there are still cultural arbiters, and yes, presidents and lawmakers and executives obviously exert enormous influence. It is arguable, though, that technology has given us a more democratic culture (if not politics) than the world has seen since perhaps the founding… the Internet has…lowered barriers to information and has given virtually anyone with something to say the means to say it. The Web is not only a source but a stage on which we can engage in the life of the nation and of the world armed with facts we have weighed in the light of reason. “Knowledge is now once again connected to power,” says [Al] Gore. The Story of Power by John Meacham, Newsweek, December 19, 2008

…slogans and proposals and will mean nothing without the requi­site power standing behind them…We need politicians more afraid of voter outrage than they are of corporate retribution…it’s in the interest of some of the most powerful players on earth to prolong the status quo… [changes] go against the power of the status quo, and hence they will be enacted only if we build movements strong enough to force them…We’ll never get the solutions we need—the solutions everyone has known about for two decades—unless we build the move­ment first. It’s Time to Fight the Sta­tus Quo by Bill McKibben

Eighty-Six Percent of Americans Think the Government Should Fight Poverty by Zoë Carpenter, The Nation, January 8, 2014 

How a Shadowy Network of Corporate Front Groups Distorts the Marketplace of Ideas

Polarization and Gridlock Work Well for the Wealthiest Americans

The Source of Cor­po­rate Power

Money in politics

financiers who presided over the market collapse… could have and should have seen it coming.…the financial crisis was not an accident and they were not powerless. The crisis was the result of irresponsibility and misjudgments by many people…Congress’s efforts at financial reform appear to be weakened daily by politicians who are more concerned with campaign donations than regulating the financial system. Who’s Not Sorry Now? Editorial, New York Times, April 11, 2010 

“Crony cap­i­tal­ism is about the aggres­sive and proac­tive use of polit­i­cal resources, lob­by­ing, cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions, influence-peddling of one type or another to gain some­thing from the gov­ern­men­tal process that wouldn’t oth­er­wise be achiev­able in the mar­ket…Money dom­i­nates pol­i­tics. As a result we have nei­ther cap­i­tal­ism nor democ­racy. We have crony cap­i­tal­ism.” David Stock­man, for­mer bud­get direc­tor for Pres­i­dent Reagan

“You and I don’t have a lobbyist and so we are not represented in this melee. There is no balance here. There’s a drastic imbalance between the people who created the problem and the people who had to pay the problem and it has not been addressed.”  Gretchen Morgenson, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times business and finance reporter – How Big Money Bought Our Democ­racy, Cor­rupted Both Par­ties, and Set Us Up for Another Finan­cial Cri­sis

The power of money trumps the power of democracy today…democracy should be a break on unbridled greed and power. Democracy Should Be a Brake on Unbridled Greed and PowerBill Moyers

Koch-backed political coalition, designed to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012

Billionaire Koch Brothers Spending Millions To Deny Health Coverage To Low-Income Americans 

Tea Party Radicalism Is Misunderstood: Meet the “Newest Right”

By Michael Lind, Salon.com, posted on Alternet.org,  October 6, 2013

To judge from the commentary inspired by the shutdown, most progressives and centrists, and even many non-Tea Party conservatives, do not understand the radical force that has captured the Republican Party and paralyzed the federal government. Having grown up in what is rapidly becoming a Tea Party heartland–Texas–I think I do understand it. Allow me to clear away a few misconceptions about what really should be called, not the Tea Party Right, but the Newest Right.

The first misconception that is widespread in the commentariat is that the Newest Right can be thought of as being simply a group of “extremists” who happen to be further on the same political spectrum on which leftists, liberals, centrists and moderate conservatives find their places. But reducing politics to points on a single line is more confusing than enlightening. Most political movements result from the intersection of several axes—ideology, class, occupation, religion, ethnicity and region—of which abstract ideology is seldom the most important.

The second misconception is that the Newest Right or Tea Party Right is populist. The data, however, show that Tea Party activists and leaders on average are more affluent than the average American. The white working class often votes for the Newest Right, but then the white working class has voted for Republicans ever since Nixon. For all its Jacksonian populist rhetoric, the Newest Right is no more a rebellion of the white working class than was the original faux-populist Jacksonian movement, led by rich slaveowners like Andrew Jackson and agents of New York banks like Martin Van Buren.

The third misconception is that the Newest Right is irrational. The American center-left, whose white social base is among highly-educated, credentialed individuals like professors and professionals, repeatedly has committed political suicide by assuming that anyone who disagrees with its views is an ignorant “Neanderthal.” Progressive snobs to the contrary, the leaders of the Newest Right, including Harvard-educated Ted Cruz, like the leaders of any successful political movement, tend to be highly educated and well-off. The self-described members of the Tea Party tend to be more affluent and educated [2] than the general public.

The Newest Right, then, cannot be explained in terms of abstract ideological extremism, working-class populism or ignorance and stupidity. What, then, is the Newest Right?

The Newest Right is the simply the old Jeffersonian-Jacksonian right, adopting new strategies in response to changed circumstances. While it has followers nationwide, its territorial bases are the South and the West, particularly the South, whose population dwarfs that of the Mountain and Prairie West. According to one study [3] by scholars at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas:

While less than one in five (19.4%) minority non-Southerners and about 36% of Anglo non-Southerners report supporting the movement, almost half of white Southerners (47.1%) express support….

In fact, the role that antigovernment sentiment in the South plays in Tea Party movement support is the strongest in our analysis.

The Tea Party right is not only disproportionately Southern [4] but also disproportionately upscale. Its social base consists of what, in other countries, are called the “local notables”—provincial elites whose power and privileges are threatened from above by a stronger central government they do not control and from below by the local poor and the local working class.

Even though, like the Jacksonians and Confederates of the nineteenth century, they have allies in places like Wisconsin and Massachusetts, the dominant members of the Newest Right are white Southern local notables—the Big Mules, as the Southern populist Big Jim Folsom once described the lords of the local car dealership, country club and chamber of commerce.  These are not the super-rich of Silicon Valley or Wall Street (although they have Wall Street allies). The Koch dynasty rooted in Texas notwithstanding, those who make up the backbone of the Newest Right are more likely to be millionaires than billionaires, more likely to run low-wage construction or auto supply businesses than multinational corporations. They are second-tier people on a national level but first-tier people in their states and counties and cities.

For nearly a century, from the end of Reconstruction, when white Southern terrorism drove federal troops out of the conquered South, until the Civil Rights Revolution, the South’s local notables maintained their control over a region of the U.S. larger than Western Europe by means of segregation, disenfranchisement, and bloc voting and the filibuster at the federal level. Segregation created a powerless black workforce and helped the South’s notables pit poor whites against poor blacks. The local notables also used literacy tests and other tricks to disenfranchise lower-income whites as well as blacks in the South, creating a distinctly upscale electorate. Finally, by voting as a unit in Congress and presidential elections, the “Solid South” sought to thwart any federal reforms that could undermine the power of Southern notables at the state, county and city level. When the Solid South failed, Southern senators made a specialty of the filibuster, the last defense of the embattled former Confederacy.

When the post-Civil War system broke down during the Civil Rights Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, the South’s local notable class and its Northern and Western allies unexpectedly won a temporary three-decade reprieve, thanks to the “Reagan Democrats.” From the 1970s to the 2000s, white working-class voters alienated from the Democratic Party by civil rights and cultural liberalism made possible Republican presidential dominance from Reagan to George W. Bush and Republican dominance of Congress from 1994 to 2008. Because their politicians dominated the federal government much of the time, the conservative notables were less threatened by federal power, and some of them, like the second Bush, could even imagine a “governing conservatism” which, I have argued [5], sought to “Southernize” the entire U.S.

But then, by the 2000s, demography destroyed the temporary Nixon-to-Bush conservative majority (although conceivably it could enjoy an illusory Indian summer if Republicans pick up the Senate and retain the House in 2016). Absent ever-growing shares of the white vote, in the long run the Republican Party cannot win without attracting more black and Latino support.

That may well happen, in the long run. But right now most conservative white local notables in the South and elsewhere in the country don’t want black and Latino support. They would rather disenfranchise blacks and Latinos than compete for their votes. And they would rather dismantle the federal government than surrender their local power and privilege.

The political strategy of the Newest Right, then, is simply a new strategy for the very old, chiefly-Southern Jefferson-Jackson right. It is a perfectly rational strategy, given its goal: maximizing the political power and wealth of white local notables who find themselves living in states, and eventually a nation, with present or potential nonwhite majorities.

Although racial segregation can no longer be employed, the tool kit of the older Southern white right is pretty much the same as that of the Newest Right:

The Solid South. By means of partisan and racial gerrymandering—packing white liberal voters into conservative majority districts and ghettoizing black and Latino voters–Republicans in Texas and other Southern and Western states control the U.S. Congress, even though in the last election more Americans voted for Democrats than Republicans. The same undemocratic technique makes the South far more Republican in its political representation than it really is in terms of voters.

The Filibuster. By using a semi-filibuster to help shut down the government rather than implement Obamacare, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is acting rationally on behalf of his constituency—the surburban and exurban white local notables of Texas and other states, whom the demagogic Senator seems to confuse with “the American people.” Newt Gingrich, another Southern conservative demagogue, pioneered the modern use of government shutdowns and debt-ceiling negotiations as supplements to the classic filibuster used by embattled white provincial elites who prefer to paralyze a federal government they cannot control.

Disenfranchisement. In state after state controlled by Republican governors and legislators, a fictitious epidemic of voter fraud is being used as an excuse for onerous voter registration requirements which have the effect, and the manifest purpose, of disenfranchising disproportionately poor blacks and Latinos. The upscale leaders of the Newest Right also tend to have be more supportive of mass immigration than their downscale populist supporters—on the condition, however, that “guest workers” and amnestied illegal immigrants not be allowed to vote or become citizens any time soon. In the twenty-first century, as in the twentieth and nineteenth, the Southern ideal is a society in which local white elites lord it over a largely-nonwhite population of poor workers who can’t vote.

Localization and privatization of federal programs. It is perfectly rational for the white local notables of the South and their allies in other regions to oppose universal, federal social programs, if they expect to lose control of the federal government to a new, largely-nonwhite national electoral majority.

Turning over federal programs to the states allows Southern states controlled by local conservative elites to make those programs less generous—thereby attracting investment to their states by national and global corporations seeking low wages.

Privatizing other federal programs allows affluent whites in the South and elsewhere to turn the welfare state into a private country club for those who can afford to pay the fees, with underfunded public clinics and emergency rooms for the lower orders. In the words of Mitt Romney [6]: “We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.”

When the election of Lincoln seemed to foreshadow a future national political majority based outside of the South, the local notables of the South tried to create a smaller system they could dominate by seceding from the U.S. That effort failed, after having killed more Americans than have been killed in all our foreign wars combined. However, during Reconstruction the Southern elite snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and succeeded in turning the South into a nation-within-a-nation within U.S. borders until the 1950s and 1960s.

Today the white notables of the South increasingly live in states like Texas, which already have nonwhite majorities. They fear that Obama’s election, like Lincoln’s, foreshadows the emergence of a new national majority coalition that excludes them and will act against their interest. Having been reduced to the status of members of a minority race, they fear they will next lose their status as members of the dominant local class.

While each of the Newest Right’s proposals and policies might be defended by libertarians or conservatives on other grounds, the package as a whole—from privatizing Social Security and Medicare to disenfranchising likely Democratic voters to opposing voting rights and citizenship for illegal immigrants to chopping federal programs into 50 state programs that can be controlled by right-wing state legislatures—represents a coherent and rational strategy for maximizing the relative power of provincial white elites at a time when their numbers are in decline and history has turned against them. They are not ignoramuses, any more than Jacksonian, Confederate and Dixiecrat elites were idiots. They know what they want and they have a plan to get it—which may be more than can be said for their opponents.

See more stories tagged with:

tea party [7],

radicalism [8],

the south [9],

the right [10],

republican party [11],

Editor’s Picks [12],

white people [13],

civil war [14],

politics news [15]


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/tea-party-radicalism-misunderstood-meet-newest-right

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/michael-lind
[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/us/politics/15poll.html?_r=0
[3] http://www.shsu.edu/~sgu001/mpsa2011.pdf
[4] http://www.salon.com/2011/08/02/lind_tea_party/
[5] http://www.amazon.com/Made-Texas-Southern-Takeover-American/dp/0465041213
[6] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/romney-let-them-go-to-emergency-rooms/2012/09/24/3ac90b0e-0680-11e2-afff-d6c7f20a83bf_blog.html
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/tea-party-0
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/radicalism
[9] http://www.alternet.org/tags/south-0
[10] http://www.alternet.org/tags/right-0
[11] http://www.alternet.org/tags/republican-party
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/editors-picks
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/white-people
[14] http://www.alternet.org/tags/civil-war
[15] http://www.alternet.org/tags/politics-news-0
[16] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Are We Being Ruled by Self-Centered Jerks? What New Studies Reveals About the Ultra Wealthy

By Joshua HollandBillMoyers.com, posted on Alternet.org, August 29, 2013

Two studies released last week confirmed what most of us already knew: the ultra-wealthy tend to be narcissistic and have a greater sense of entitlement than the rest of us, and Congress only pays attention to their interests. Both studies are consistent with earlier research….“higher social class is associated with increased entitlement and narcissism”… “upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals.” This included being more likely to “display unethical decision-making,” steal, lie during a negotiation and cheat in order to win a contest… upper-class individuals also “showed reduced sensitivity to others’ suffering” as compared with working- and middle-class people. Lower-class individuals are more likely to spend time taking care of others, and they are more embedded in social networks that depend on mutual aid. By contrast, upper-class individuals prioritize independence from others: They are less motivated than lower-class individuals to build social relationships and instead seek to differentiate themselves from others…U.S. senators respond almost exclusively to the interests of their wealthiest constituents …From 2007 through 2010, U.S. senators were somewhat responsive to the interests of the middle class, but hadn’t been for the first 6 years Hayes studied. The views of the poor didn’t factor into legislators’ voting tendencies at all...Democrats were not any more responsive to the poor than Republicans.” …analysis “suggests oligarchic tendencies in the American system, a finding echoed in other research.”…this kind of political inequality is a product of widening economic disparities. “It’s a general pattern throughout history…When economic inequality increases, the people who have become economically more powerful will often attempt to use that power in order to gain even more political power. And once they are able to monopolize political power, they will start using that for changing the rules in their favor. And that sort of political inequality is the real danger that’s facing the United States.”

Full text

Two studies released last week confirmed what most of us already knew: the ultra-wealthy tend to be narcissistic and have a greater sense of entitlement than the rest of us, and Congress only pays attention to their interests. Both studies are consistent with earlier research.

In the first study [3], published in the current Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Paul Piff of UC Berkeley conducted five experiments which demonstrated that “higher social class is associated with increased entitlement and narcissism.” Given the opportunity, Piff also found that they were more likely to check themselves out in a mirror than were those of lesser means.

Piff looked at how participants scored on a standard scale of “psychological entitlement,” and found that those of a high social class — based on income levels, education and occupational prestige — were more likely to say “I honestly feel I’m just more deserving than others,” while people further down the social ladder were likelier to respond, “I do not necessarily deserve special treatment.”

In an earlier study [4], published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Piff and four researchers from the University of Toronto conducted a series of experiments which found that “upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals.” This included being more likely to “display unethical decision-making,” steal, lie during a negotiation and cheat in order to win a contest.

In one telling experiment, the researchers observed a busy intersection, and found that drivers of luxury cars were more likely to cut off other drivers and less likely to stop for pedestrians crossing the street than those behind the wheels of more modest vehicles. “In our crosswalk study, none of the cars in the beater-car category drove through the crosswalk,” Piff told The New York Times [5]. “But you see this huge boost in a driver’s likelihood to commit infractions in more expensive cars.” He added: “BMW drivers are the worst.”

Summing up previous research on the topic, Piff notes that upper-class individuals also “showed reduced sensitivity to others’ suffering” as compared with working- and middle-class people.

Lower-class individuals are more likely to spend time taking care of others, and they are more embedded in social networks that depend on mutual aid. By contrast, upper-class individuals prioritize independence from others: They are less motivated than lower-class individuals to build social relationships and instead seek to differentiate themselves from others.

These findings may appear to represent a bit of psychological trivia, but a study [6] to be published in Political Science Quarterly by Thomas Hayes, a scholar at Trinity University, finds that U.S. senators respond almost exclusively to the interests of their wealthiest constituents – those more likely to be unethical and less sensitive to the suffering of others, according to Piff.

Hayes took data from the Annenberg Election Survey — a massive database of public opinion representing the views of 90,000 voters — and compared them with their senators’ voting records from 2001 through 2010. From 2007 through 2010, U.S. senators were somewhat responsive to the interests of the middle class, but hadn’t been for the first 6 years Hayes studied. The views of the poor didn’t factor into legislators’ voting tendencies at all.

As Eric Dolan noted for The Raw Story [7], “The neglect of lower income groups was a bipartisan affair. Democrats were not any more responsive to the poor than Republicans.” Hayes wrote that his analysis “suggests oligarchic tendencies in the American system, a finding echoed in other research.”

Hayes’ study is consistent with earlier research, including Princeton University scholar Larry Bartels’ 2005 study [8] of “Economic Inequality and Political Representation.”

There are a few of ways of looking at these findings. They could be the result of genuinely held ideological beliefs which happen to justify inequality and privilege.

According to OpenSecrets [9], the average net worth of senators in 2011 was $11.9 million, so it could be a matter of legislators advancing their own interests and those of the people with whom they socialize and associate.

But MIT economist Daron Acemoglu, who co-authored Why Nations Fail [10] with Harvard’s James Robinson, says that this kind of political inequality is a product of widening economic disparities. “It’s a general pattern throughout history,” he told Think Progress [11]. “When economic inequality increases, the people who have become economically more powerful will often attempt to use that power in order to gain even more political power. And once they are able to monopolize political power, they will start using that for changing the rules in their favor. And that sort of political inequality is the real danger that’s facing the United States.”

http://www.alternet.org/economy/are-we-being-ruled-self-centered-jerks-what-new-studies-reveals-about-ultra-wealthy

Links:

Mankind: Death by Corporation

Dr Brian Moench, 26 June 2013  By  Truthout | Op-Ed

The word “corporation,” derived from the Latin corporare, means to physically embody. In his History of the Corporation, Bruce Brown notes how in the first thousand years after the fall of the Roman Empire, “the world’s most powerful corporations were all trying to embody the Christian God.” In 1534, Saint Thomas More spoke of Jesus Christ as the ultimate corporation. “He [Jesus] doth . . . incorporate all christen folke and hys owne bodye together in one corporacyon mistical.”

Needless to say, in the 21st century, corporations as creations of civilization make no pretense of embodying the Christian God. In fact, today, corporations come much closer to embodying Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein than Jesus Christ. Ironically, created by and managed by humans, corporations have become almost robotic monsters, perpetrating, even feeding off human misery, threatening every aspect of human life – the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat – and even the future of mankind itself. What have these corporate Frankenstein monsters done for us lately?

At least 1,127 people have died in a collapsed garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the deadliest such accident in world history. As of this writing, the largest American clothing corporations, Gap, Walmart and Target, who are end users of these death-trap factories, are still unwilling to commit to any safety improvements. Fifteen people were killed and over 200 injured in West, Texas, from an explosion at a fertilizer plant. Despite the deaths of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary school, no meaningful legislation to subdue ongoing gun slaughter in the United States will get passed.

All of these recent tragic headlines have a common denominator. Corporate profits were, and are, allowed primacy over all other considerations. Even Wayne LaPierre’s foaming-at-the-mouth speech about freedom, liberty and second amendment rights is a smokescreen for ginning up profits for gun manufacturers, because American gun owners are on a steady, 30-year decline. The death certificate of all these victims – at Dhaka, West and Sandy Hook – should read, “Death by corporation.”

But rummaging over the current and historical larger-scale threats to entire societies, countries and mankind in general, we see a grotesque, recurrent theme – corporations willing to kill, maim and destroy even their own creators in the name of profit.

The science on the broad consequences of cigarette smoking was well established in Nazi Germany by the early 1940s. Nonetheless, tobacco corporations successfully fought any substantive regulation for the next three decades, while tens of millions of people died early deaths in the name of tobacco profits. Recall the testimony in 1994 from the CEOs of the seven largest tobacco corporations before Congress unanimously declaring that nicotine is not addictive, knowing full well that killing people was part of making them rich. Marketing cigarette addiction to children was an integral part of the strategy.

But the tobacco industry was no worse than the lead industry for the first 70 years of the 20th century.  Awareness of lead’s serious health consequences – including madness and death – dates back to the Romans, the first to use it extensively. Symptoms of “plumbism,” or lead poisoning, were already apparent as early as the first century BCE. Mental incompetence from lead exposure came to be synonymous with the Roman elite, manifest by the shockingly imbecilic emperors Caligula, Nero and Commodus.

Fast forward to 1980. In paint, gasoline and a myriad of other products, Americans were using 10 times more lead per capita than the Romans according to Jerome O. Nriagu, the world’s leading authority on lead poisoning in antiquity. The average American lost about 6 IQ points from leaded gasoline and paint. Much worse for the nation as a whole, that loss of IQ also decreased the percentage of the population qualifying as “intellectually gifted” by about 40 percent and increased the population of “mentally challenged” by a similar amount. Numerous studies also showed a tight correlation between blood lead levels and aggressive, anti-social and criminal behavior

For over 50 years, the Ethyl Corp., General Motors, Standard Oil, Du Pont and the American Petroleum Institute obscured, obstructed and lied about the mounting evidence of a public health catastrophe from tetraethyl lead, aggressively marketing it worldwide and fighting every attempt to regulate or curtail its use. Ethyl Corp. even increased its overseas business 10-fold between 1964 and 1981 while its product came under growing harsh scrutiny in the United States.  C.M. Shy, of the University of North Carolina School of Public Health, in a paper published by the World Health Statistics Quarterly, declared leaded gasoline is “The Mistake of the 20th Century.”

A report commissioned by the United Nations calculated the yearly global cost of lead in gasoline had reached 1.1 million deaths, 322 million lost IQ points, 60 million crimes committed and an economic loss of 4 percent of global GDP, or $2.4 trillion. Lead didn’t even benefit engine performance. Lead, like other heavy metals, does not degrade, is not combustible and is never destroyed. The world was permanently blanketed with this deadly metal purely for corporate profit.

By 1898, asbestos was declared in Great Britain to be an extremely hazardous dust. By the 1920s, lawsuits began to be filed against the asbestos industry. The Johns-Manville Corporation then successfully lobbied for national legislation – shunting asbestos workers’ claims to workers’ compensation panels and away from juries. With the industry effectively shielded from costly plaintiff lawsuits, they proceeded to fund medical studies, whose published results were falsified, exonerating asbestos as a cause of cancer. When independent studies revealed widespread disease from asbestos, internal corporation memos callously mocked their workers, stating, “if you have enjoyed a good life for working with asbestos products, why not die from it?”

Publicly, asbestos companies claimed there was no evidence people could become sick and die from asbestos exposure. Internally however, asbestos executives admitted that the disease process begins as soon as asbestos is inhaled, is progressive and irreversible, and is very advanced by the time it is diagnosed. Eventually, Johns-Manville filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. David Oster, the attorney in charge of the Manville trust, said the documents show that corporations knew the dangers of asbestos back in 1934 and that there was a corporate conspiracy to prevent workers from discovering that their exposure to asbestos could kill them. “Manville officers, directors and employees held secret information, that had it been revealed would have prevented the deaths of thousands of people.”

The World Health Organization estimates that worldwide 125 million people are still exposed to asbestos in the workplace, and over 107,000 people die every year from asbestos-related diseases. Corporations in countries like Russia, China, Brazil, Kazakhstan and Canada still mine and sell massive quantities of the deadly mineral. Approximately 600 asbestos companies producing 60,000 asbestos-laden products operated worldwide in 2011. None of them can claim ignorance about their deadly product. None of the people who run these corporations can claim they don’t realize that they make their living serving up a slow, miserable death for others.

Enter Monsanto. Forbes Magazine gave Monsanto its “Company of the Year Award” in 2009. Perhaps it is no surprise that readers of Natural News overwhelming awarded Monsanto a slightly different award, “World’s Most Evil Corporation.” What has Monsanto done to achieve this lofty perch? None other than seek to monopolize the world’s food supply with expensive genetically modified (GM) seeds that have to be purchased each year and require expensive and toxic pesticides, which Monsanto also happens to produce. It doesn’t take the geniuses at Forbes magazine to figure out that if you own the rights to all the food grown everywhere, you literally rule the world.

In pursuing this business model, Monsanto has managed to do more damage to the world’s food supply and public health than any other single entity. About 90 percent of all US-grown corn, soybeans, canola, and sugar beets are genetically modified versions, which means that virtually all processed food items contain at least one or more genetically modified ingredients. You simply cannot avoid Monsanto’s genetically modified food, no matter how hard you may try.

Exactly none of the supposed benefits of GM crops – increased yields, more food production, controlled pests and weeds, reductions in chemical use in agriculture or drought-tolerant seeds – have actually materialized. The Global Citizen’s report on the State of GMOs points out that, in fact, the opposite has occurred. GMOs have resulted in greater pesticide use and the predictable emergence of herbicide resistant super weeds. In fact, 130 types of weeds in 40 states are now herbicide-resistant, increasing costs, cutting yields and leading to the use of more powerful and increasingly toxic chemical herbicides.

Numerous studies with animals and humans call into serious question the safety of GMOs – even disregarding the added pesticide exposure. In particular, Monsanto’s Bt toxin, the genes of a toxic bacteria inserted into the seed DNA of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, squash and cotton, kills insects by splitting open their stomachs when they bite on the plant. Monsanto claimed that Bt toxin is broken down in the human digestive system, so “don’t worry, be happy.” A new study shows that claim to be Monsanto propaganda. When humans eat Bt toxin, it transfers into the DNA of bacteria living inside our intestines, which continue to function like mini-pesticide factories. Blood samples from 93 percent of pregnant mothers and 80 percent of fetuses show the presence of active Bt toxin.

Studies in humans are limited, something much to Monsanto’s liking. But numerous animal studies have linked Bt toxin and GMOs to allergic reactions, infertility, immune dysregulation, gastrointestinal and kidney disease, and accelerated aging (1).   There is circumstantial evidence in animals and humans that GMOs may be contributing to the epidemic of autism. Calling for a moratorium on GM foods, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) in 2009, citing several animal studies, concluded, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects,” adding, “GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health.”  The consensus among scientists at the FDA was that GMOs are dangerous, but key Monsanto executives, appointed to federal agencies under multiple administrations, including Obama’s, squashed that information. For example, Obama appointed Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former vice president, as food safety czar at the FDA.  That’s like having a tobacco executive crafting regulations on cigarettes.

Virtually every branch of the US government, including the Supreme Court and the World Bank, has acted as Monsanto’s handmaiden, often times using taxpayer money to do so. Monsanto’s ruthless business practices, high seed prices and vicious legal attacks have played a key role in the disappearance of small and medium-size farms, bankrupting small farmers and driving world agriculture further toward huge monocultures and complete control by a handful of agribusinesses and food-processing corporations. There is a growing epidemic among small farmers in many countries, especially India, where in the past 16 years, well over 250,000 have committed suicide, most of them small cotton farmers where Monsanto controls 95 percent of the cotton seed and makes its living off of suing farmers trapped in debt.

In part two of “Death by Corporation,” we’ll talk about the fossil fuel corporations, the nuclear industry, financial, and pharmaceutical corporations and the TransPacific Trade Partnership that is poised to let all of them rule the world like a gang of Frankensteins.

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/17178-mankind-death-by-corporation

Are the Bible Thumpers Losing Their Grip on Our Politics?

AlterNet [1] / By Amanda Marcotte [2]  June 20, 2013

Excerpt

Is the religious right, which has been the electoral backbone of the Republican Party since the creation of the Moral Majority in the ’70s and the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, in trouble? …the religious right…still wholly owns the Republican Party…Evangelical writer and pastor John S. Dickerson certainly seems to think so. In a piece published for the New York Times in December 2012, Dickerson bluntly declared [4] that evangelical Christians have become a tiny minority in America… research… found that Christians who call themselves evangelicals account for just 7 percent of Americans….Of course, if you were gauging by the behavior of Republican politicians, you’d think that evangelical Christianity was not only growing in popularity but growing in conservatism… This change was the direct result of many years of liberals highlighting, protesting, and fighting the Christian right’s abuses of power. To make sure this change takes, it’s important for liberals to keep up the fight.

Full text

Is the religious right, which has been the electoral backbone of the Republican Party since the creation of the Moral Majority in the ’70s and the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, in trouble? The strongly right-wing Washington Times reports rather dimly on the conference for the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a group founded by religious right luminary Ralph Reed, because it couldn’t even gather 400 audience members, despite having a deep bench of fundamentalist-beloved politicians and celebrities like Pat Robertson, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry and Scott Walker. The Times contrasted the small conference with its ’80s and ’90s counterpart, the Christian Coalition’s Road to the White House conventions, which drew thousands of participants every year.

If such a right-wing publication as the Washington Times is willing to hint at it, maybe it’s really time to ask the question: Is the Christian right beginning to lose its numbers, its mojo, and even its power? While it’s definitely too early to count them out—after all, the religious right, weird fantasies about masturbating fetuses [3] and all—still wholly owns the Republican Party at this point. Still, is there some hope on the horizon that their once-mighty numbers and power are beginning to dwindle?

Evangelical writer and pastor John S. Dickerson certainly seems to think so. In a piece published for the New York Times in December 2012, Dickerson bluntly declared [4] that evangelical Christians have become a tiny minority in America:

In the 1980s heyday of the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, some estimates accounted evangelicals as a third or even close to half of the population, but research by the Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith recently found that Christians who call themselves evangelicals account for just 7 percent of Americans. (Other research has reported that some 25 percent of Americans belong to evangelical denominations, though they may not, in fact, consider themselves evangelicals.) Dr. Smith’s findings are derived from a three-year national study of evangelical identity and influence, financed by the Pew Research Center. They suggest that American evangelicals now number around 20 million, about the population of New York State.

One major reason is strictly demographic: Older fundamentalists are dying off and not being replaced by younger ones. Research by the Christian Barna Group shows that the 43% of young people raised as evangelicals [5] stop going to church once they grow up. The reasons that young people get disillusioned [6] with the church track nicely to the reasons the religious right is such a danger to American democracy and freedom: They disagree with the homophobic and sexually judgmental teachings. They disapprove of the church’s attacks on science. They find conservative Christianity intolerant and stifling.

Evangelical leaders themselves certainly believe they’re seeing a decline in influence in the United States. In a 2011 Pew Forum poll of evangelical leaders around the world, 82 percent of American evangelical leaders [7] said that evangelical Christianity was losing influence. Compare this to evangelical leaders in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and most of Asia, 58 percent who said that their faith was gaining influence. Which, sadly for the people of those countries, means more gay-bashing, more attacks on women’s rights, and more scientific illiteracy, though presumably the evangelical leaders see all these effects as good things.

Of course, if you were gauging by the behavior of Republican politicians, you’d think that evangelical Christianity was not only growing in popularity but growing in conservatism. The past few years have seen a dramatic escalation in the attacks on women’s rights [8], which politically can only be a bid for the fundamentalist votes, as most people outside the world of conservative Christianity are either pro-choice or don’t care enough about the issue to vote on it. (Yes, there are also Catholics, but despite their leadership, the majority of Catholics are pro-choice [9].) Not only that, but Republicans seem to have grown bolder in portraying themselves as religious extremists to pander to the religious right, often embracing absolutist approaches to abortion, opening up the war on choice to attacks on contraception, and sharing the bizarre, anti-science attitudes towards rape and pregnancy they pick up in their churches. While the majority of Americans turn toward favoring marriage equality for gays and straights, Republicans attack like the country still views the issue the way a megachurch pastor would, even going so far as to hire separate lawyers to defend DOMA when the Obama administration refused to do it.

All of this, as Todd Akin can attest, hurts you in the polls, and yet Republicans keep at it like they’re facing a country on the verge of having an evangelical majority, when in fact the exact opposite is happening. What gives?

Part of the problem is that while politicians have a reputation for being able to change their views on a dime, the reality is that they’re often thrown off by change and struggle to adapt. Many, possible most, Republican politicians are fundamentalist Christians themselves, and they started out in politics during the multi-decade heyday when being a Bible thumper was a sure path to power. It’s hard for them to accept that things have changed that quickly.

Akin is a classic example. Since 1988, Akin’s schtick as a wild-eyed anti-choice lunatic spouting every fundamentalist conspiracy theory [10] under the sun helped him win one office after another, usually annihilating his competition at the polls. When he made the move to run for Senate, it’s not surprising he thought the same strategy would work. After all, he’s tight with Paul Ryan [11], whom Republicans think of as their “mainstream” offering. They even authored anti-choice legislation together. Indeed, it’s easy to see how Akin would have easily won a few election cycles ago, “legitimate rape” comment and all. Back in the Bush era, being a dim-witted Bible thumper didn’t even block you from the presidency, so a Senate seat from highly religious Missouri should have been a breeze. The change has been happening so fast it’s no surprise Akin didn’t see it. Really, who could have?

Of course, as things can swiftly change for the better, they can just easily take a turn for the worse, so liberals shouldn’t sit on their laurels, confident that this decline in fundamentalism will last. This change was the direct result of many years of liberals highlighting, protesting, and fighting the Christian right’s abuses of power. To make sure this change takes, it’s important for liberals to keep up the fight.


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/belief/christian-right-0

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/amanda-marcotte
[3] http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/06/18/rep_mike_burgess_of_texas_suggests_banning_abortion_because_fetuses_masturbate.html
[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/opinion/sunday/the-decline-of-evangelical-america.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
[5] http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/16/opinion/stepp-millennials-church
[6] http://www.barna.org/teens-next-gen-articles/528-six-reasons-young-christians-leave-church
[7] http://www.pewforum.org/Christian/Evangelical-Protestant-Churches/Global-Survey-of-Evangelical-Protestant-Leaders.aspx
[8] http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/06/16/conservatives-double-down-on-the-war-on-women/
[9] http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/topics/catholicsandchoice/documents/BRSCatholic.pdf
[10] http://stlouis.cbslocal.com/2012/10/03/akin-in-2008-doctors-give-abortions-to-patients-who-arent-pregnant/
[11] http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/08/20/712501/paul-ryan-and-todd-akin-partnered-on-radical-personhood-bill-outlawing-abortion-and-many-birth-control-pills/
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/christian-right
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/bible
[14] http://www.alternet.org/tags/politics-0
[15] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

The Two Political Parties Are Remarkably Far Apart on Basic Issues

By David Morris, Institute for Local Self Reliance, June 18, 2013 – The following content was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website [2]. posted on Alternet,org

Excerpt

The gridlock that plagues Washington leads many, fairly or unfairly, to lump together the two parties and declare a pox on both their houses.  But most state governments are not gridlocked. Just the opposite.  In almost two thirds one party controls both legislative houses (Nebraska has a unicameral legislature) and the governorship:  Republicans 20, Democrats 13. In these states, parties can translate ideology into policies virtually unimpeded.  An examination of these policies allows us to get behind the name-calling and 30-second sound bites and discover the remarkable difference between the two parties on fundamental issues.

Contrary to popular wisdom, the fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats is not on the size of government but the purpose and goals of government.  Both parties believe in taxing heavily and spending lavishly when it comes to protecting our nation from external attack.  Both parties fervently embrace the Declaration of Independence’s insistence that among our “unalienable rights” are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  But their conceptions of security and liberty differ radically…What Democrats see as steps to enhance security Republicans view as steps that restrict libertyIt is important to note that these Republican actions often result less in a tax reduction than in a tax shift from income taxes to sales or property taxes that burden lower income households most heavily…One could hope that in 2014 the stark evidence emerging from state capitols about the difference between the parties can lay the foundation for a nationwide debate on the purpose of government and the ends to which collective authority should aspire that goes beyond the are-you-for-it-or-against-it attitude that contaminates and diminishes that debate.

Full text

The gridlock that plagues Washington leads many, fairly or unfairly, to lump together the two parties and declare a pox on both their houses.  But most state governments are not gridlocked. Just the opposite.  In almost two thirds one party controls both legislative houses (Nebraska has a unicameral legislature) and the governorship:  Republicans 20, Democrats 13.

In these states, parties can translate ideology into policies virtually unimpeded.  An examination of these policies allows us to get behind the name-calling and 30-second sound bites and discover the remarkable difference between the two parties on fundamental issues.

Contrary to popular wisdom, the fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats is not on the size of government but the purpose and goals of government.  Both parties believe in taxing heavily and spending lavishly when it comes to protecting our nation from external attack.  Both parties fervently embrace the Declaration of Independence’s insistence that among our “unalienable rights” are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  But their conceptions of security and liberty differ radically.

Democrats believe that governments should not only secure our borders but also advance our personal security.  As reflected in recently enacted state laws, that belief translates into policies extending health care access to as many as possible, raising the minimum wage and expanding unemployment insurance. Republicans vigorously oppose this use of government.  They insist we should not be compelled to be our brothers’ keeper. Of the 13 states that so far have refused the federal government’s offer to pay 100 percent of the costs of expanding health care coverage to millions of their residents, for example, Republicans dominate 12.  All six of the states that are leaning that way are Republican controlled.

What Democrats see as steps to enhance security Republicans view as steps that restrict liberty.  They assert that government-created health exchanges interfere with the right of insurance companies to manage their own affairs while the requirement that everyone have health insurance constitutes an act of tyranny.  Minimum wage laws interfere with the economic liberty of business and the freedom of the marketplace.

Republicans argue that taxes, especially those that tax the rich at higher rates than the poor, interfere with our liberty to pursue happiness by amassing unrestrained wealth.   In the last legislative session Democrat-controlled California, Maryland, Massachusetts and Minnesota raised the income tax rate on millionaires while in the last two legislative sessions, Republican-controlled Kansas reduced such rates by 75 percent and legislators in Kansas as well as in North Carolina and Nebraska are openly pushing for the complete elimination of the income tax.

It is important to note that these Republican actions often result less in a tax reduction than in a tax shift from income taxes to sales or property taxes that burden lower income households most heavily.

When it comes to personal liberty, however, Republicans believe in big government. As former Republican Senator and Presidential candidate Rick Santorum observed, “The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire.”  Even if their wants or passions do not harm others.

This legislative session Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota joined 9 other states and the District of Columbia in extending the freedom to marry to include those of the same sex. Meanwhile, of the 25 states with constitutional prohibitions on same sex marriage, 22 are completely controlled by Republicans.  None are Democrat dominant.

Of the 17 states that have enacted medical marijuana laws, 10 are Democratic and only two are Republican. (The rest are not controlled by a single party.) As if to put an exclamation point on this difference, the same day last November that voters in Washington and Colorado approved the legalization of marijuana, voters in Arkansas handily defeated a proposal to allow the drug to be used for medicinal purposes with a doctor’s prescription.

Gun control is an issue that for Republicans and Democrats affects both liberty and security. For Republicans the ability to own unlimited numbers of guns and carry them whenever and wherever one wants with a minimum of government oversight, constitutes an essential part of freedom while allowing the owner to protect herself from physical harm.  For Democrats widespread gun ownership significantly contributes to physical violence inside and outside the gun owner’s household; thus in this case unrestrained liberty must give way to regulation.

In this legislative session while Democratic states like New York and Connecticut and Maryland tightened gun laws, more than a dozen GOP states scaled back their already minimal gun laws. Statistician Nate Silver insists, “Whether someone owns a gun is a more powerful predictor of a person’s political party than her gender, whether she identifies as gay or lesbian, whether she is Hispanic (or) whether she lives in the south…”

For both Democrats and Republicans liberty means being able to participate in influencing the political decisions that affect our lives and futures.  But here again their conception of liberty differs significantly. For Republicans it means the liberty of money, allowing individuals to spend unlimited amounts to elect candidates and lobby legislators while restricting the liberty of people by making voter access more difficult.  For Democrats it means the opposite.

Recently Colorado, Delaware and Maryland have enacted laws making it easier for people to register and vote while Arkansas, Indiana, Nebraska, Tennessee and Virginia have made it harder. Nine of ten states that have voter photo ID laws are Republican dominated.

One could hope that in 2014 the stark evidence emerging from state capitols about the difference between the parties can lay the foundation for a nationwide debate on the purpose of government and the ends to which collective authority should aspire that goes beyond the are-you-for-it-or-against-it attitude that contaminates and diminishes that debate.

 

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/democrats-and-republicans-differ-drastically-liberty-and-security

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/david-morris
[2] http://www.ilsr.org/liberty-security-democrats-republicans-differ/:
[3] http://www.alternet.org/tags/arkansas
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/candidate-position
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/colorado
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/connecticut
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/declaration-independence
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/delaware-0
[9] http://www.alternet.org/tags/democratic-party
[10] http://www.alternet.org/tags/district-columbia
[11] http://www.alternet.org/tags/indiana
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/institute-local-self-reliance
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/kansas
[14] http://www.alternet.org/tags/maryland
[15] http://www.alternet.org/tags/massachusetts-0
[16] http://www.alternet.org/tags/minnesota
[17] http://www.alternet.org/tags/nate-silver
[18] http://www.alternet.org/tags/nebraska
[19] http://www.alternet.org/tags/new-york
[20] http://www.alternet.org/tags/north-carolina
[21] http://www.alternet.org/tags/person-career
[22] http://www.alternet.org/tags/person-location
[23] http://www.alternet.org/tags/political-parties-united-states
[24] http://www.alternet.org/tags/politics-0
[25] http://www.alternet.org/tags/republican-party
[26] http://www.alternet.org/tags/republican-senator
[27] http://www.alternet.org/tags/rhode-island
[28] http://www.alternet.org/tags/rick-santorum-0
[29] http://www.alternet.org/tags/statistician
[30] http://www.alternet.org/tags/tennessee
[31] http://www.alternet.org/tags/virginia-0
[32] http://www.alternet.org/tags/washington-0
[33] http://www.alternet.org/tags/candidate
[34] http://www.alternet.org/tags/federal-government
[35] http://www.alternet.org/tags/health-insurance
[36] http://www.alternet.org/tags/insurance-0
[37] http://www.alternet.org/tags/unemployment-insurance-0
[38] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

Our ‘Government of Laws’ Is Now Above the Law

by Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Washington Post, March 13, 2013

“The government of the United States,” wrote Chief Justice John Marshall in his famous decision in Marbury v. Madison, “has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men.” This principle — grounded in the Constitution, enforced by an independent judiciary — is central to the American creed. Citizens have rights, and fundamental to these is due process of the law.

This ideal, of course, has often been trampled in practice, particularly in times of war or national panic. But the standard remains, central to the legitimacy of the republic.

What if the war has no end, no defined enemy, no defined territory? How can markets work if the financial behemoths are too big to fail and too big to jail?

Yet last week Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking for the administration with an alarmingly casual nonchalance, traduced the whole notion of a nation of laws.

First, the attorney general responded to Sen. Rand Paul’s inquiry as to whether the president claimed the “power to authorize a lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil and without trial.” After noting that the United States has never done so and has no intention of doing so, Holder wrote that, speaking hypothetically, it is “possible to imagine” an extraordinary circumstance in which that power might become “necessary and appropriate.”

This triggered Paul’s now-famous 13-hour filibuster against the nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA, as Paul (R-Ky.) promised to “speak until I can no longer speak” to sound the alarm that “no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime” and being found guilty in a court of law.

In response to the growing furor, Holder sent Paul another letter, stating clearly that the president has no authority to use a “weaponized drone” against an American in the United States who is “not engaged in combat.”

But that, of course, only begs the question. The country is waging a war on terrorism that admits no boundary and no end. Now Holder is saying that the president has the authority to kill Americans in the United States if they are “engaged in combat.” No hearing, no review, no due process of law. For those who remember how the FBI deemed Martin Luther King Jr. a communist, and how the national security apparatus termed Nelson Mandela a terrorist, alarm is surely justified.

Then, the attorney general, while testifying before the Judiciary Committee, was challenged by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) about the glaring absence of any indictments against leading bankers or big banks coming out of the financial collapse. Holder responded that, essentially, these banks were too big to jail.

“The size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy,” he said.

This astounding admission of what clearly has been administration policy helped spur newly elected Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to grill regulators at a separate banking committee hearing. Asking why there was no indictment of the big British bank HSBC, which settled after after an investigation found that it laundered billions of dollars from Iran, Libya and drug cartels despite repeated cease-and-desist warnings, Warren expressed the public’s exasperation.

“If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to go to jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life,” Warren said. “But, evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your bed at night — every single individual associated with this. And I think that’s fundamentally wrong.”

Taken together, the attorney general’s astounding claims undermine the whole notion of a nation of laws.

The national security state, operating under the president’s power as commander in chief, now claims the right to make war or peace, and to kill an American citizen even in America without a hearing.

The 12 largest U.S. banks — “systemically significant financial institutions,” in the words of the Dodd-Frank reform legislation— control 69 percent of all financial assets, according to the conservative president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Richard Fisher. As we have seen, they have the capacity to blow up the economy from their own excesses. Yet they now can apparently trample the laws with impunity, confident that they risk, at worst, an infrequent fine that is the equivalent in relation to their earnings of a New Yorker paying a parking ticket.

The laws, Cicero wrote in the days of the Roman Republic, “are silent in time of war.” But what if the war has no end, no defined enemy, no defined territory? How can markets work if the financial behemoths are too big to fail and too big to jail?

If the national security state has the power of life or death above the law, and Wall Street has the power to plunder beyond the law, in what way does this remain a nation of laws?

© 2013 The Washington Post

Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation.

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/03/13-0

The Source of Corporate Power

by Robert C. Koehler, January 28, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

Excerpt

…Cit­i­zens United vs. Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion case over­turns restric­tions on cor­po­rate spend­ing to influ­ence elec­tion results, giv­ing enti­ties with mil­lions (in some cases, bil­lions) of dol­lars at their dis­posal unlim­ited license to elec­tion­eer for the can­di­date with the friend­liest atti­tude toward their inter­ests. The ten­dency of money and power is to con­cen­trate, of course. The big trick, from a human per­spec­tive, is to make sure our core val­ues remain pre-eminent, that they are served by the ways in which we con­cen­trate power. Democ­racy is the great mech­a­nism for doing so…the con­cept of democ­racy is mor­tally wounded…This is an “activist” judi­cial deci­sion, that is to say, a deci­sion that serves a prior agenda, with any prin­ci­ples cited (e.g., the sanc­tity of free speech) sheer win­dow dress­ing in ser­vice to a larger, and covert, cause…I see lit­tle hope for a gullible nation that allows the tube to hem­or­rhage urgent inani­ties directly into its con­scious­ness for 18 hours a day. This gulli­bil­ity is the source of cor­po­rate power. Democ­racy can only thrive where peo­ple think for themselves.

Full text

“If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.”

The words are those of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in last week’s landmark Supreme Court decision marking some sort of culmination in the long corporate trek to personhood. It’s the word “simply” that gets to me: Exxon-Pinocchio is a real boy now, and has his opinions, and the government has no right to stop him from “simply engaging in political speech.”

What a cheap cover story; it’s up there with “bringing democracy to Iraq” in its tawdry manipulation of iconic national values to justify a raw power grab. The 5-4 decision in the long-awaited Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case overturns restrictions on corporate spending to influence election results, giving entities with millions (in some cases, billions) of dollars at their disposal unlimited license to electioneer for the candidate with the friendliest attitude toward their interests.

The tendency of money and power is to concentrate, of course. The big trick, from a human perspective, is to make sure our core values remain pre-eminent, that they are served by the ways in which we concentrate power. Democracy is the great mechanism for doing so, the hope of the world, or so we are told, but the wakeup message in this nakedly cynical ruling by the Roberts Court, with its slim (but sufficient) right-wing majority, is that the concept of democracy is mortally wounded.

As former Sen. Bob Kerrey wrote recently on Huffington Post: “Instead of doing the nation’s business, elected officials are spending a third of their time or more dialing for special interest dollars in never-ending campaigns for re-election.

“Industry lobbyists,” he goes on, “are helping to write the very bills in Congress that affect their bottom line, placing private profit ahead of the public good. Billions of taxpayer dollars are going to benefit big contributors through earmarks, subsidies, and special regulations.”

And as Chris Hedges explains on TruthDig: “Corporations have 35,000 lobbyists in Washington and thousands more in state capitals that dole out corporate money to shape and write legislation.”

The interests of Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Coal, agribusiness, the financial sector, the insurance sector and, of course, the military-industrial complex, have infinitely more clout in government than the collective popular will and the voices calling for eco-sanity, universal health care and an end to war. Note: This is already the case.

Corporate entities have thoroughly gamed the system, leaving us with little more than a textbook-democracy façade. What the latest Supreme Court decision does is legitimize all this, shoving the corruption in our faces by declaring the absurd: Corporations are people too! They have a right to weigh in on the candidates just like the rest of us – to get their billion-dollar opinions out to the public throughout the election campaign.

This is an “activist” judicial decision, that is to say, a decision that serves a prior agenda, with any principles cited (e.g., the sanctity of free speech) sheer window dressing in service to a larger, and covert, cause.

As a New York Times story points out, the case itself – involving a conservative, not-for-profit corporation called Citizens United, which was restricted in its ability to distribute an attack film about Hillary Clinton, “Hillary: The Movie,” during the 2008 presidential primary elections – could have been decided on narrow grounds. The court chose instead to expand the scope of the case, making it into a challenge of existing laws that regulate corporate election spending, most notably the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, a.k.a. McCain-Feingold, which prohibits corporate electioneering within 60 days of an election. This is what we’ve lost.

The good news is that the decision has generated a huge outpouring of anger around the country. Within a day of the ruling, the website MoveToAmend.org had garnered some 40,000 signatures (it’s now close to 50,000) in support of a constitutional amendment to establish that money is not speech and only human beings have constitutional rights. The amendment would also guarantee our right to vote and participate in elections, and to have our votes count.

A number of bills and legislative actions are also in the works, attempting to circumvent the Supremes. The proposals range from patch jobs to cries for profound change, both of which are necessary in the process of resuscitating democracy.

No matter what, though, the Roberts Court has hastened the propagandizing of the national discourse, mostly through the medium of television, as corporate interests amp up their thought-control machines in the name of free speech. I see little hope for a gullible nation that allows the tube to hemorrhage urgent inanities directly into its consciousness for 18 hours a day. This gullibility is the source of corporate power. Democracy can only thrive where people think for themselves.

© 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is now available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

https://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/01/28-2