Mass. Disaster

The first boulder has fallen in a coming avalanche. Two years ago in an Article for WatchBlog I wrote the following- “In the previous two cycles this election (in the 64th year after the most recent national cataclysm) was disastrous for the winning party, precipitating the death of the Whig Party in the middle 1850s and debilitating the Republican Party for decades in the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s.”
Now it’s Barack Obama’s turn to follow in Herbert Hoover’s footsteps.

To review for a moment the article was about my theory that there is a major 80 year cyclical undercurrent in American politics from cataclysm (Revolutionary War- Civil War- W.W.II) to rebuilding, to maturity, to decay, to splintering, and back to cataclysm. In each of the two previous major cycles the nation has experienced to this point there was a period marked by increasingly strident polarization. In the February, 2008 article I wrote

"In all three cycles as the cycle has worn on the country has become more and more splintered over essential values and unifying concepts. Approaching the elections in the sixty-fourth year in each cycle the nation has been actively running away from issues of great importance, issues capable of causing the collapse of the country. In cycle 1 this was the nation's division over slavery. In cycle 2 the crisis was the nation's refusal to accept the role it must take in the leadership of the world combined with an adherence to obsolete ideas about the value of currency. In cycle 3 we have refused to accept that the promises inherent in Social Security and Medicare as they are currently formulated are impossible to fulfill without collapsing the economy in the not-distant future."
Not only has the Democratic Congress not faced these systemic cancers they have added an additional overburden of debt and magical thinking in their formulation of a health-care bill.

Just as America in 1928 bought the hype that Hoover was the "smartest man in America" in 2008 they bought the hype that Barack Obama represented "change you can believe in". Obama, and Democrats nationally, promised lavishly and were rewarded with enormous surges in congressional representation, including a filibuster-proof Senate. Like the Whigs of the 1840s and the Republicans of the 1920s these Democrats of the new millennium seem clueless to the demands of their age.

We are repeating history. Another thing I said in the article is a simple idea extremely difficult to wrap our undereducated brains around. These cycles happen not because our leaders make them happen, but because we, the people of the United States of America, fail to be the responsible sovereigns of this land we are supposed to be. We can't permit ourselves to fall to the notion the power hungry shills of the privileged elite who occupy our public offices should be trusted with the ring in the nose by which they can lead us wherever it is convenient to have us go.

We have some time to learn from history. This year is this cycle's 1850, and 1930. We can go blithely on being a splintered people heading toward 1860 and 1940 in a world that now has over 10,000 nuclear weapons- or we can look back and seek to understand what our divisions tell us tell us about how human beings think, how they seek power and advantage, and how they deceive themselves into disaster.

In coming weeks there will be Republicans crowing that the Obama agenda is, or should be dead. Democrats, convinced the lesson of the past is that you lose when you don't change the world radically enough will then likely commit political suicide for a generation by ignoring the people of Massachusetts. If that's all that we get out of a Republican Senator sitting in the chair formerly occupied by the most liberal senator in the United States the '20s will see a war to make W.W.II look like a sock hop.

Today it was just Democrats being too stupid to hear the people's cries. That's no reason for Republicans, or anyone else, to be smug.

We're all not hearing.

Posted by Lee Emmerich Jamison at January 20, 2010 1:12 AM
Comment #294227

Congratulations on electing your more liberal than average Massachussetts Republican to a Senate seat inadequately contested by your rival.

Congratulations also on being able to take ownership once again of the concerted effort to obstruct any legislation that doesn’t match the Republican dogma that you’ve run on since the days of Bush. Real winners, don’t you know!

And at least, this time, when the new Senator from Massachussetts, and media pinup of the Right Scott Brown ends up leaving the Senate after half of a term, it will be because of an intervening election, not because they couldn’t take the media pressure.

Speaking of media pressure, how’s Sarah Palin doing with her new job? I guess she won’t be the first Republican to attempt a transition from Fox News to the White House. Though, typically the position they’re trying to fill is press secretary for a Republican Administration.

Democrats are not invulnerable, but they’re motivated now. They know the price of failure from fifteen years ago, and besides, we did manage to pass a great many bills last year about this time with one less Senator. We would have had one more, but Republicans were contesting the hopeless Minnesotta election into the ground.

If it seems like I’m sniping here, it’s because I sense a lot of BS in the Republican resurgence, a lot of fake-it-til-you-make-it. That’s fine for beginners, but these people in Washington are supposed to do more for us than just sit on their butts, and get in the way of each other. Democrats know their prestige will depend on having successes to campaign upon. Republicans are content to campaign upon the failures they intend to create, and the failures they have not yet owned up to or admitted to anybody else.

It’s indicative of their attitude that while this nation languishes in a Deflationary downturn, the Republicans are suggesting we do what it was that Hoover tried to do when the country’s economy crashed: let the banks fail, and the government try to balance its budgets in the midst of economic failure.

If making a mistake over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, then I guess it’s time for America to move past the insanity of Republican policy.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 20, 2010 9:05 PM
Comment #294235

Stephen if your this angry after one defeat, what’s it going to be like in November if you lose more seats in both houses. Yes Democrats are motivated now, motivated in trying to keep from getting booted out in Nov. Democrats up for reelection realize they could get ousted.

Posted by: KAP at January 20, 2010 9:49 PM
Comment #294238

Republicans just don’t grasp what anti-incumbent independent voters are about. They actually think their own incumbents will be immune in Nov. WRONG!

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 20, 2010 10:32 PM
Comment #294240

Stephen D. said: “Democrats are not invulnerable, but they’re motivated now.”

Yes, motivated to self-destruct. If the leadership of the Democratic Party were wise, they would follow Ed Rendell’s advice imparted on MSNBC this evening. See the latter paragraphs in my article on the Mass. election import, in the Center column.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 20, 2010 10:37 PM
Comment #294246

I agree republicans aren’t immune from the boot, but I do think they realized from the last congressional elections their mistakes, something Democrats are just comming to grips with. At least some Democrats anyway. Ed did make a few good points that Dems should take.

Posted by: KAP at January 20, 2010 11:31 PM
Comment #294253

KAP, Brown who said he is going to bring home the pork to Massachusetts in so many words, does not reveal to me that Republicans seeking office have learned much from the last elections.

Well, I take that back. Republicans have learned to be even louder with their rhetorical lies like fiscal responsibility and circumventing the Constitution, but, that’s about it. Anyone who falls for Republicans tired old promises about deficits and debt and adherence to the Constitution is a prime candidate for inclusion in PT Barnum’s maxim.

The GOP is in horrible disarray, and there is a war being fought behind the scenes between the social conservatives and the fiscal and Constitutional conservatives over the direction of the Party and its priorities. GOP ratings are also still in the toilet.

The main GOP problem however, is that independents simply refuse to believe their rhetoric anymore. They always campaign on fiscal responsibility, and the Constitution, but, their record in power this last decade is indelibly etched into the memory of not only adult independents but, a great many young high schoolers, as well. It will be a very long time for these memories to fade, and therefore, it will be a very long time before the GOP is positioned to regain a majority in federal government again.

That said, the one opening for the GOP to begin to acquire some credibility again, is if they can put forth an Obama-like president, pragmatic, non-ideological, whose focus is on the needs the majority of Americans are concerned about and who can successfully get Congress to support such an agenda. That would improve the GOP image significantly. Mitt Romney is the only candidate I see out there who approximates that potential. He is viewed as damaged goods however, by portions of the Republican base. In politics, however, almost anything is possible.

There is however, one enormous obstacle for Republicans going forward. Their adoption of the Just Say No in Lockstep response to Democrats taking control of Congress, is not lost on Democrats. Should, Republicans one day, achieve a majority again in one or both houses of Congress, Democrats are likely to exercise the same tactic, which will not bode well for that Republican majority getting much done. It is sad, and wrong, but, many Democrats will rationalize that turnabout is fair play. And our nation will suffer even more into the future.

The shrewdest, and least obvious option for the GOP to regain the public’s trust, is by doing a complete about face, and taking an intensely bi-partisan approach which ensures passage of bills that really will benefit Americans even if Republicans have to hold their nose while voting for such bills. In effect, stealing the thunder and glory for getting things done right out from under Democrats.

That is the express route back into public favor for the GOP. But, I see not a hint of that kind of wisdom in the Republican Party today.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 21, 2010 6:10 AM
Comment #294256

“In cycle 3 we have refused to accept that the promises inherent in Social Security and Medicare as they are currently formulated are impossible to fulfill without collapsing the economy in the not-distant future.”

Lee good to see you posting again. My question to you, regarding your hypothesis, is why would you think OASDI and Medicare are the issues that will make the “‘20s will see a war to make W.W.II look like a sock hop.”

Posted by: j2t2 at January 21, 2010 9:46 AM
Comment #294262

I don’t see it as pork, I see it as standing up more for his Home state, just like I hope that my 2 senators will do and your 2 senators would look after your state more. But I think to that this is a wake up call to DC and people saying quit with the BS and get to work and do what WE sent you there to do. Reid, I give him credit I think he heard the message and not trying to stall seating Brown. Pelosi, I think she is just an arogant B—-H, but I guess she don’t have much to worry about saving her seat.

Posted by: KAP at January 21, 2010 11:05 AM
Comment #294268

KAP, you can of course, view it that way and think that is a good thing. But, the reality is, 50 states fighting for federal tax dollar largesse is part of the reason our debt and deficits are what they are. We elect State Representatives to run our state government’s affairs. We elect our federal representatives to run our national affairs.

Brown’s comment indicates he doesn’t understand this. Not surprising since he comes from State Government positions. However, Brown will either change his view or, become part of the federal problem and a candidate for anti-incumbent voting himself at his next election.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 21, 2010 11:42 AM
Comment #294270

KAP, my chief complaint against Pelosi is the same as with most representatives in Congress, she puts Party needs and objectives ahead of national needs and objectives. That is what independent anti-incumbent voters can change with growing numbers, forcing the Parties to put the people’s and nation’s needs in the driver’s seat as their means of getting reelected.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 21, 2010 11:45 AM
Comment #294273

I actually laugh a little bit when I write about these things.

The absurdity of the Republican’s behavior has become extreme, and if the future of the country wasn’t at stake, we’d sit back and be amused.

So many places where the emperor has no close, where if you didn’t have party loyalties and the need to rationalize things, you would look at it yourself and say that’s freaking odd, or funked up. (I’m bowlderizing, for the sake of virgin ears.)

I mean Palin. You could quote her, and it would sound like a comedy skit. Same thing with Bush. Republicans, all too often, do things folks outside party find hard to take seriously, and they’re often the last ones to be in on the joke, if ever. That’s why Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart do such good business nowadays. The satire often just writes itself.

The Republicans aren’t on the rebound. They’re taking a pause on their downward slide. When they realize that they have to suceed at things by everybody else’s standards, not just their own, then they might hit an inflection point, and rise for real again.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 21, 2010 11:56 AM
Comment #294274

I guess Brown better learn quick then. I agree that most reps if not all are party oriented, but I hope now that party first crap will change to Nation first. I watched CNN, MSNBC, and Fox and interviews with reps and some have good ideas on how to get HC reform going. But my main concern is economy, JOBS, HC reform in that order.

Posted by: KAP at January 21, 2010 12:02 PM
Comment #294275

I never brought up republicans. Personelly I don’t give a crap about Browns political orientation, I liked his message. I would think the same if he were an independent or Democrat.

Posted by: KAP at January 21, 2010 12:07 PM
Comment #294276

But also, calling Obama Hoover. It’s ignoring whose watch the economy cratered on. Bush is your Hoover. The luck of the draw is, though, that Hoover’s depression came at the beginning of his term, and he spent years trying to budget cut and tax cut his way back into a prosperous economy. He let the banks fail, kept any stimulus to a minimum, relying on private charities and private business organizations.

Obama’s done things differently, and Our economy may be growing now, rather than groaning as it might have been.

The irony here is that Republicans have blasted Obama for policies that actually did their job, reducing deficits, minimizing unemployment, promoting growth.

But of course, ask any of them, and they blame him. You can’t ever admit that Obama did right, or chose right, because he didn’t follow the Republican way of doing things. Plus, he’s energizing Democrats, so he has to be destroyed. and you guys tried. He’s still largely popular.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 21, 2010 12:11 PM
Comment #294279


I always have a problem with people looking for magical timing cycles. They don’t work for the stock market, historical events, or people in general. As much as the moon and stars follow circadian rhythms, people just don’t.

Every candidate has a winning slogan. “No new taxes”, or “Compassionate Conservatism”, which always turns out to be hype.

I just posted in the center column that the seeds for revolution may have just been planted with the corporate contribution decision by the Supreme Court. It won’t be the first time they’ve started a war. I doubt either party will abide the interests of the common man. We just need a new rabble rouser like Sam Adams to come along.

As much as I dislike Roy Ellis’ posts about a third party and corporatism, maybe he has a point.

Posted by: gergle at January 21, 2010 12:26 PM
Comment #294284

Mr. Remer wrote; “The shrewdest, and least obvious option for the GOP to regain the public’s trust, is by doing a complete about face, and taking an intensely bi-partisan approach which ensures passage of bills that really will benefit Americans even if Republicans have to hold their nose while voting for such bills. In effect, stealing the thunder and glory for getting things done right out from under Democrats.”

I must disagree that Republicans are against bills that really will benefit Americans. That’s the rub. If one isn’t convinced a certain bill is beneficial why in the world would they vote for it? I understand sausage making when it comes to congress…you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. And, we have had plenty of that with our pork spending.

However, when it comes to what really benefits America we have always had, and will always have, different views. That’s why we have two political parties and sometimes more than two.

Rarely have American’s agreed to anything by a vast majority. Not even in war, much less with non-war issues. We are a contentious nation of individual thinking. We don’t march in lockstep. We loose our way occasionally and then find it. We experience pendulum swings from left to right of center. But, the center is where the power is.

In November we will see many incumbents of both parties replaced both in the primary and general elections. The winners, I believe, will be those men and women who are best able to convince the populace that they will represent the people and not the party.

Posted by: Royal Flush at January 21, 2010 12:47 PM
Comment #294286
Just out of curiosity, what effect will the mass election have on the 2010 elections? Anyone care to give an opinion?

Not much, really. It will be a distant memory by November and was more about current attitudes in Mass, not the country, at the present time. It was a bad campagin run by the Dem assuming a win, a good campaign run by a guy claiming to be something that the people wanted (the proof will be in the pudding there) and the disenfranchising (and at times overreaching insulting) of independant voters for over a year.

What happens between now and then will have much more effect than the one election did, despite the noise of the hype machines making it seem like the end (or the saving) of the country.

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 21, 2010 1:04 PM
Comment #294289
The news has said that 73% of independent voters, voted for Scott Brown. Why do you think they voted for him? Do you believe it pertained to only Mass issues, or did universal healthcare have anything to do with the election? Some are saying it had nothig to do with healthcare.

It was more about fiscal responsibility, but healthcare had something to do with it. But, the fact that Scott is in favor of universal healthcare only means that he was against THIS proposal, not the idea in general.

Health care has been a huge issue in this election. Fifty-two percent (52%) of Brown voters say it was the most important issue in determining their vote. Sixty-three percent (63%) of Coakley voters say health care was the top issue:

· 78% of Brown voters Strongly Oppose the health care legislation before Congress.

· 52% of Coakley supporters Strongly Favor the health care plan. Another 41% Somewhat Favor the legislation.

· 61% of Brown voters say deficit reduction is more important than health care reform.

· 46% of Coakley voters say health care legislation more important than deficit reduction.

· 86% of Coakley voters say it’s better to pass the bill before Congress rather than nothing at all.

· 88% of Brown voters say it’s better to pass nothing at all.

Does that translate to what the country will be feeling in November? Doesn’t it makes sense that what transpires between now and then would have a much bigger impact? How will the campaigns of each house and 1/3 of the senate run, will they be able to make the mood of THEIR constitutents a positive or negative for them?

Will we get anything other than a 90%+ reelection rate among the house and senate? Tuesday Night’s vote speaks very little to that to be honest.

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 21, 2010 1:32 PM
Comment #294296
You do understand that the bill was not only deficit neutral, but a money saver?

LOL, it’s so cute that you actually believe that…

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 21, 2010 2:03 PM
Comment #294300

“I just posted in the center column that the seeds for revolution may have just been planted with the corporate contribution decision by the Supreme Court. It won’t be the first time they’ve started a war. I doubt either party will abide the interests of the common man.We just need a new rabble rouser like Sam Adams to come along.”

Gergle I also think it will be corporate America that will as Lee says “the ’20s will see a war to make W.W.II look like a sock hop.”

As for your Sam Adams here is one for you

Posted by: j2t2 at January 21, 2010 2:39 PM
Comment #294303

I wonder if the intense scrutiny of ACORN, curtailing their usual polling activities, had any impact on the MASS election. Your thoughts?

Posted by: Royal Flush at January 21, 2010 5:34 PM
Comment #294309

I STILL don’t know what you people are arguing about, from today’s Supreme Court ruling, we have one party in this country, the Who Wants To Give Me Money For Votes Party, with a minority who can’t run called “The people with common sense, real lives, and don’t make over $250,000 a year.”

I dare anyone to find ONE person who truly thinks that someone who has cancer should DIE because they can’t afford the treatment or insurance, because if they do think that way, then this country is worth less than a Zimbabwean dollar.*

I dare anyone to find a citizen who thinks that people who have no money, are poor,or aren’t multi-millionares shouldn’t have a voice in government.*

Yes, history repeats itself, but only due to the ignorance of people not mindful of the past, otherwise, we’d have jailed the executives of Goldman, Merrill, AIG, etc. from the lesson of 1929-1933.

Posted by: Jon at January 21, 2010 7:16 PM
Comment #294310

President Obama said in an interview aired today, he made some mistakes. How refreshing. A sitting president admitting mistakes. Every president makes them. It comes with hindsight. It is a rare president who isn’t afraid to see them, admit them, and improve upon them, instead of reasserting them to maintain the appearance of having intended those rationalized negative consequences, all along.

Obama was elected with 53% of the vote. His approval rating remains at around 53%. So far, Obama has not lost anything in terms of public likability or approval. Yes, according to Republicans Obama messed up on the Health Care push, and the same can be said of Progressives in the Democratic Party. When you incur disfavor from the Left and Right on an issue, you must be a centrist and or moderate.

Obama’s approval rating is about to start rising again with his bold moves on the Banks and Wall St. The public has been waiting a year for this, and they are finally going to see some balance restored after years of Wall St. dictating policy to K Street and Pennsylvania Ave.

And the election of Brown to the Senate will not deter Obama for a minute. Where there is a will, there is a way, Obama’s life reflects. Obama’s first year, like all president’s first year, was a break in period, full of a million details coming all at once, from SCOTUS and Agency nominees, to laying out both the long and short range plans and agenda. Obama had all this plus a failed economy, and two wars handed him on Day 1 in office.

He has 3 more years, and Democrats have 8 more months to prove their value to the American public. Time will tell. Even adversity can be turned into opportunity with an intelligent and creative enough person. Losing a filibuster proof majority on the Health Care bill, while inconvenient, may just bring about the kind of results the majority of voters expected from these agents of change back in Nov. of 2008. And, of course, maybe not.

The challenges are set. The obstacles are now clearly known. It remains only to chart a course around them rendering them ineffective as obstacles. Putting forth piece meal Health Care reform measures whose objectives Republicans dare not say No to, can achieve the bi-partisanship Obama promised as a change in D.C. He seemed to allude to understanding this now.

Obama’s rejection of Summers and Geithner’s advice on the dealings with the banking and financial sector, in favor of Paul Voelker’s advice to break up the behemoths and put a firewall between investments in dark market instruments and commercial lending and banking, is what both history and the American people atuned to these issues, want to see happen.

That break in period for a president is evident in every presidency. Some last longer than others. Whether Obama wants it or not, his break in period is over, as far as the public is concerned. And so is the break in period for the Democratic majority in both Houses of Congress. That was made evident by the Mass. election, as well.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 21, 2010 7:21 PM
Comment #294311

Jon, your commentary fails to account for the 5-4 ruling. 4 Conservatives with a swing Justice, and 4 liberal Justices dissenting, in the strongest terms and way, from the bench for more than 20 minutes.

There are differences between the parties. Republicans are tied to corporate largess because they historically lack a majority of public support. Democrats historically hold a majority of the public’s support, making them often unafraid to tackle corporate and capitalist imbalances.

That said, I have to agree with you that when it comes to taking money for legislation and votes, the politicians are bear few signs of difference between them. The few signs are the identities of the special minority interests which each party traditionally takes money from. Unions for example and Democrats, and financial and energy sectors, for example, and Republicans. You are right, they both capable of being bought and sold.

And that is why the rise of the independents and anti-incumbent voting is so very necessary to convey to the parties that it won’t be tolerated any more, minority special interests usurping the needs of the majority and requirements for the nation’s future.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 21, 2010 7:33 PM
Comment #294312


Obama was elected with 53% of the vote. His approval rating remains at around 53%.

When Obama was elected in 2008 with 53% of the vote he had an approval rating of 70%.

Currently Obama’s average approval is a hair under 50%

He is the least popular president ever recorded at this stage of the presidency. (one year).

On the positive side Reagan was just about as popular at this stage of his presidency.

Posted by: Craig Holmes at January 21, 2010 7:36 PM
Comment #294313


Just curious who you are considering the “swing” vote here. Kennedy or Roberts? I think this vote has made clear there is not a swing vote in any substantive way.

Posted by: gergle at January 21, 2010 8:23 PM
Comment #294335

gergle, Kennedy. He has a record of voting conservative on some issues, and moderate to liberal on others. A swing voter depending on the issue. On the issue of corporate personhood and money as speech, he voted conservative.

The founding fathers clearly never envisioned their government be controlled by corporate wealth and greed. But, Adam Smith went to great lengths to define the difference between greed and enlightened self-interest, and he was a contemporary of the founding fathers, and read by many of them. We are now witnessing the death knell for governance by those of enlightened self-interest, and surge to power of the infinitely greedy.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 22, 2010 2:34 AM
Comment #294336

Craig, you miss the point. He only needed 53% approval rating to win, and did. He may very well only need 53% approval rating in 2012 to get reelected. Ergo, so far, Obama has lost nothing in terms of re-electability.

You can have a million dollars, but it still only costs $24,000 to buy a Toyota. His margin of approval rating has dropped over the year. So? What president’s hasn’t? And many of them were reelected. Reagan started out with a big drop, as did Clinton.

He won with 53% of voter’s approval. He still has 53% of the public’s approval. Don’t get distracted by the irrelevant.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 22, 2010 2:39 AM
Comment #294372


Well you could read my response a bit closer. You are cherry picking polls to get 53%. Obama’s polling data do not average 53% they average a bit less than 50% which puts him squarely in the flashing red light category. (see link above) No reason to panic, but reason for concern about getting reelected.

Also, have you seen the correlation between unemployment direction and chances of reelection?

You mentioned up there somewhere that Obama’s poll numbers should start to rise. Presidental approval is tied to the drection of the unemployment rate. That being true, one would expect Obama to stay where he is until we see some changes in the employment picture.

Posted by: Craig Holmes at January 22, 2010 1:12 PM
Comment #294400

“The irony here is that Republicans have blasted Obama for policies that actually did their job, reducing deficits, minimizing unemployment, promoting growth.”

Where you gettin’ that stuff your smokin’.
Unemployment up to almost 11%.
Where is the growth? Oh, ya, government employment has increased, particularly in the Executive Branch in WDC.
Reducing deficits? Reduce means to lower. Nobody can honestly say he has lowered deficits.

“Yes, history repeats itself, but only due to the ignorance of people not mindful of the past, otherwise, we’d have jailed the executives of Goldman, Merrill, AIG, etc. from the lesson of 1929-1933.”
Maybe it is because those in charge of the Justice department are part and parcel of those who should be convicted and sent to the Madoff suite of a correctional institution.

This latest crap of Congress and their un-constitutional actions can be stated as the latest chapter in the book, “The Downfall of Western Civilization”.

360 members of the House have signed on to have the Fed audited. Why does the so called leadership refuse to do what the vast majority of the body want as well as the American people. It is really simple; do it!

Posted by: tom humes at January 22, 2010 9:20 PM
Comment #294435


Lee good to see you posting again. My question to you, regarding your hypothesis, is why would you think OASDI and Medicare are the issues that will make the “‘20s will see a war to make W.W.II look like a sock hop.”
Both prior to the Civil War and prior to W.W.II the American people became consumed in issues that divided them to the detriment of those more important things they either held in common or that could destroy the peace of the planet. My concern for today is based on my observation that, while our arguments are more like those before the Civil War, the distribution of our angst more closely resembles pre-revolutionary France than it does middle nineteenth century America. We have also developed the sort of conceptual and cultural brittility that characterized that time and Europe between the World Wars.

It’s not that there are no answers for us to see, it is that the way we describe our world is unrevealing of those answers. The clearest example is the way we describe political discussion in America with the linear continuum between “conservative” and “liberal”. It is a totally unrevealing dichotomy. Most “liberals” see George W. Bush, for example, as a “conservative”. Most American “conservatives” don’t. Liberals then think we’re nuts. Why is that? Politics can’t be described on a linear continuum. That’s why.

To get anything like a revealing discussion you have to visualize American politics on at least a two-dimensional continuum. I’m working on an article on this and hopefully can do a decent job of describing the idea, but, for the time being imagine freedom vs centralization being on the vertical axis and, on the horizontal, all property being collective at one extreme versus all property being private at the other. Play with such a chart for a while and one would soon realize the politcal parties would be focused in different regions of the chart than the general run of their constituencies.

Having played with this idea for a while it’s obvious to me why Republicans resent George Bush. While he favors (generally) private property he is also, like most of the Republican Party’s partizans, a friend of concentrations of power, albeit in “corporate” hands. To the vast majority of liberals, people who favor individual freedom but are suspicious of “profit and greed”, this looks like the path to corporate totalitarianism.

The same liberals, though, see the power grasping and opacity of the Obama administration as a threat to human freedom, explaining why there could have been a 35% swing in the vote in the Massachusetts senatorial election this week. Democrat partizans and office-holders, like their Republican counterparts, are more interested in concentrating political power at the expense of freedom than their constituents.

On a linear continuum this bipartisan dichotomy is invisible.

If we don’t learn how to intelligibly express to the public what we all believe, desire, and fear our polarization can only become more and more severe.

Politics is not a contest of good and evil, no matter what pudits and politicians say. It is a balance of several competing elements of private and public desire. If we don’t learn how to talk revealingly about it and understand each other’s concerns we will die of the failure.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at January 23, 2010 11:54 AM
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