Revisiting Revolution

I recently posted the ten items on a list of features Jerry Stark suggested best describe the ressentiment felt by a great many people in this country at the present time — as reflected in their continued support of an incompetent president. In doing so I may have suggested that this was the dominant thinking of a majority of people in this country. Jerry recently posted a comment in which he tells us such is almost certainly not the case. He guesses this is about one-third of the people: there are other forces at work in our troubled country at this time, some of which must give us hope.

Thus it behooves me to quote a portion of the comment Jerry himself made to that post, expanding on this theme. What he said in his comment is worth pondering, though he reminds us his ideas are still germinating. And you may notice that he has added to his comment if you check the above link. In any event,  he suggests that there is at least one other element in this country that is learning to find its voice and this voice may indeed have the last word. That voice exhibits:

(1) An appreciation, not merely a tolerance, of cultural diversity.

(2) A skepticism about how well traditional institutions and traditional institutional leaders serve the public– corporations, religions, governments, schools, etc.

(3) The traditional gender stereotypes of males and females are widely questioned, to the point where they are regarded as irrelevant or harmful.

(4) Acceptance of political and economic ideas once considered “communist / socialist” by large percentages of the American populace, especially the young, under the general terms of “progressivism”, “fairness”, and “public safety”. (Think health care, education funding, and gun control, for example.)

(5) A greater commitment to political engagement and increased support for candidates who challenge traditional party platforms and candidates.

(6) A high regard for science and technology, and a subsequent acceptance of the reality and critical importance of climate change.

This list is broadly stated. It leaves much room for specifics and nuances, to be sure.
The [previously posted] list of emergent moral standards [that appear to be dominant at the present time] is depressing. No question about that. Equally depressing is that it represents the thinking of almost a third of the adults in this country. That is also frightening, but bear in mind that this sector of the population tends to be older, Evangelical, Republican, disproportionately rural, male, and white.

This category of the public will not last long, as a simple matter of demographics; further, this sector is shrinking politically. One of the reasons the support for Trump appears to be rising among his base of Republicans [percentage-wise] is precisely because the number of people who call themselves such is steadily diminishing. This leaves the harder-core supporters representing a larger percentage of Republicans without an increase in their actual numbers. The same holds true for Evangelicals, whom I hesitate to refer to as Christians.

The sector of the population likely to express opposition to the emergent morality listed in [the earlier] post also appears at this point to be about a third of the populace. Crucially, however, it is younger and growing. It is increasingly non-white, it includes a wider variety of religious and non-religious views, it has little faith in the so-called “free market,” it is more urban and suburban, and it strongly values economic and social fairness.

Whatever the attitudes this sector of the population bring to the table, one important point is unavoidable: these people will be around for a long time. Republicans have known this for decades and have been working to take over state and local governments, to undermine labor, to defund the public sector, to rig elections, to pack the courts, and even to pursue amending the Constitution to maintain the power of wealth and whiteness in this country. To a remarkable degree, they have succeeded.

The ultimate measure of the success conservatives have enjoyed in the past forty years will depend largely upon whether this emerging third of the population does, indeed, develop and act upon a conscious ressentiment of its own. An inflection point where this country could go one way or the other appears close at hand.

I would only question the depth of the commitment of the young to the political process [#5 above], since that commitment seems a bit whimsical.  But when the voice of the young is heard it can be effective, to be sure. And I do wonder what will happen if and when the remaining third of the population of this country, if it is not thoroughly “pro-establishment,” wakes up and becomes politically active.

In any event, Jerry suggests that his ideas are still aborning.  So I urge those of you who are interested to revisit his latest comment to the post mentioned above. What he has provided us with is an insight into the darkness of our current cultural ethos, and I thank him for that. That’s what this blog is for: to stir up the mud a bit and get us to think.It is anything but simple, but it demands that we take notice since, however we slice it, we are in the midst of a cultural revolution — for better or worse.

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Impeachment?

I predicted quite some time ago that impeachment of this president would not be long in coming. After all, he alienates everyone he works with and is determined to ignore Constitutional restraints as he does things his way — even if his way leads down a blind alley. There are simply too many powerful men and women in Washington whose egos are as big as Trump’s to allow him to have his way! Apparently the movement to impeach is growing as a recent article in Huffington Post reports. I quote a part of that article here in order to give my post some credibility:

Trump has been trying to govern by impulse, on whim, for personal retribution, for profit, by decree ― as if he had been elected dictator. It doesn’t work, and the wheels are coming off the bus. After a week!

Impeachment is gaining ground because it is the only way to get him out, and because Republicans are already deserting this president in droves, and because the man is psychologically incapable of checking whether something is legal before he does it.

Impeachment is gaining ground because it’s so horribly clear that Trump is unfit for office. The grownups around Trump, even the most slavishly loyal ones, spend half their time trying to rein him in, but it can’t be done.

They spend the other half fielding frantic calls from Republican chieftains, business elites and foreign leaders. Trump did what? Poor Reince Priebus has finally attained the pinnacle of power, and it can’t be fun.

It is one thing to live in your own reality when you are a candidate and it’s just words. You can fool enough of the people enough of the time maybe even to get elected. But when you try to govern that way, there is a reality to reality—and reality pushes back.

One by one, Trump has decreed impulsive orders, un-vetted by legal, policy, or political staff, much less by serious planning. Almost immediately he is forced to walk them back by a combination of political and legal pressure—and by reality.

I also noted some time ago that Trump is an impulsive man and thought at the time that his impulsiveness would get him into big trouble. He is clearly incapable of seeing the broad canvas or imagining the consequences of his actions — or caring what is legal or moral. He simply has a notion and then acts — usually tweeting about it as he does it. And then he waits for the glory to descend on him, people giving him the applause he thinks he richly deserves. If no one else will shout how great he is, he shouts it himself. He seeks to impose his sense of reality on the world around him, to force others to see the world as he sees it — with him at the center. He is a spoiled, delusional child who needs constant reassurance that his way is the only way. It was clear from his campaign that this man would be unable to work within the confines of a republican system of checks and balances. He has always seen himself as a dictator — like the men he praises to the skies.

In any event after only a week on the job it is becoming increasingly clear that he will be removed in the not too distant future. I suspect the Republican powers in Washington will approach him and offer him the opportunity to resign — as was done with Richard Nixon. Given Trump’s ego he will probably refuse and impeachment will proceed. It will be ugly and there will be a hue and cry from Trump’s mindless minions who will be convinced (as they have been throughout) that this man can walk on water.

My main concern, which I share with a couple of my favorite bloggers, is the damage he will do in the meantime. But I try to find solace in the thought that the damage will be less than it would be if he were to remain in office for the full term.

Foot-In-Mouth Disease

As though Mitt Romney hasn’t heard enough about his gaffe dismissing the 47% of the people in this country as chronically poor and lazy to boot (and therefore not worth his time), there has come to light another comment from the same talk that has caused ripples in the press. The man does seem to suffer from foot-in-mouth disease! He also claimed in the same speech at the infamous Republican fund-raiser that “95 percent of life is set up for you if you’re born in this country.” The story reported in Mother Jones and picked up by Huff Post goes on to note:

If 95 percent of life is set up in this country, however, it certainly doesn’t reach 95 percent of the people. The U.S. poverty rate has hovered at or near 15 percent for the past few years. Moreover, the same 15 percent of the population is not constantly poor. In fact, recent research suggests that only 15 percent of Americans will not experience some type of economic insecurity in their lives. . . .

Fully 85 percent of Americans by age 60 will have experienced unemployment, sharply lower income, poverty or the use of welfare for at least a year of their adult lives, according to a 2012 longitudinal analysis by Mark R. Rank, the Herbert S. Hadley professor of social welfare at Washington University in St. Louis.

In a word this man just doesn’t get it. If he really believes what he is saying and isn’t just telling people with fat wallets what he thinks they want to hear, then he lives in a golden-gated community somewhere removed from the world around him watching his wife’s horses go through their paces; he is simply unaware of what is going on in the real world. Indeed, he is so out of touch with the realities of this country one begins to wonder if he suffers from dementia. He certainly isn’t presidential material — even if he were more astute when it comes to foreign affairs where has shown himself astonishingly inept.

It is tiresome to repeat what is clear to anyone whose mind isn’t closed, but the poor in this country are not a static group. As suggested in the quote above it is ever-changing and it includes some of our friends and neighbors. If it doesn’t at present it may very well  in the not-too-distant future. Note the comment in the quote above — only 15% of the people in this country will NOT experience “some type of economic insecurity in their lives.” Think about that while reading Mitt’s comments about how 95% of the people in this country can make it as he did. And, of course, he would have us believe he made it on his own. He and his ilk remind me of what the wags used to say about George W. Bush: he was born on third base convinced he had hit a triple!

This is a remarkable country, but the Horatio  Alger myth has become just that. If you aren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth — as Romney assuredly was — then chances are better than even that you won’t make it rich. And if you don’t make it you may end up hoping your government will help you out, as well it should. Because the vast majority of those in need sincerely need our help. As a fellow blogger who works with struggling people on a daily basis said in this regard,

Using our homeless families we help as an example, out of about 200 families we helped during the last year, 84% had employment. The remaining 16% were employable, but the economy limited their hiring opportunities. These 84% are teachers, teacher assistants, nursing assistants, bus-drivers, retail and restaurant workers, etc. Their median family wage is $9.00 an hour. It should be noted, in my area, a living wage for a single person is $9.67 per hour while a living wage for a one adult family with one child is $17.68 per hour. These people are making less than is needed to support housing, utilities and food for their family. What we do is help them climb the ladder to self-sufficiency. What we have found is lack of education is key to their circumstances. So  is lack of health care. They are living beneath paycheck to paycheck, meaning the check is not covering the bills. Yet, they work hard and are not irresponsible.

The poor are assuredly not the lazy bums wealthy people like Mitt Romney would make them out to be. But aside from that, given Romney’s proclivity for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time the truly astonishing thing to me is that the race for the presidency at this point is neck and neck. Aren’t people paying attention? Barack Obama isn’t perfect, heaven knows. But at least he lives in the same world you and I live in and that’s rather important, it seems to me. I just don’t get it. Nor does Mitt Romney, even though he somehow manages to persevere even with his mouth full of his own feet.

Opposites Repel

In an earlier blog I mentioned an editorial by Michael Brune in the Sierra Magazine who expressed his optimism about the possibility of bipartisan cooperation in Washington, D.C. on climate change. He mentioned his meetings with several political big-wigs on both sides of the aisle, one of whom indicated that “on climate change there’s really not much separating us.” He was speaking for the Republicans with whom he is identified and to whom his loyalties lie — to the point where he fears possible repercussions from his colleagues should he speak his mind. As he himself went on to say “there’s no way I can say that publicly.” He spoke to Mr. Brune “off the record.”

What we have here is a politician — described by Brune as a “prominent Republican” — who is unable to speak publicly about his concerns over one of the most pressing issues facing this nation if not humankind because of party loyalty. Think about that. Washington politics is no longer about what is good for the country — if it ever was — it is about what is good for the party (and the folks who have bought the party and now run the show).

In the era of what the editors of Sierra magazine called “The Worst Congress” ever it is not possible for the two sides to come together to hammer out some sort of compromise on energy and climate change. The “Worst Congress” — even worse than Newt Gingrich’s  104th Congress — has passed 247 anti-environmental measures and voted 77 times to undermine Clean Air protections. 94% of the Republican members of this Congress have cast anti-environmental votes and there have been 37 votes to block any action whatever on climate change.

This is why one of the more powerful members of that political party cannot speak publicly about his own concerns regarding one of the major issues of the day: he might be ostracized by his fellow party members and once outside he may never get back in. What we have is people on both sides of the aisle who are apparently concerned about climate change and the damage we are doing to the environment but who cannot get together for fear the they will be called “disloyal” — not to their country, but to their political party.

This impasse is not peculiar to environmental issues, of course, and it may well be the reason the confidence of voters around the country in the political system has fallen to new lows and Barack Obama has recently sounded like the great mediator, promising to work “with both sides” in the coming years if re-elected. Even the dullest person in the local bar complaining to his buddies can see that this system is broken. If the two sides cannot come together to work some sort of compromise on issues such as climate change, the repercussions will be heard around the world. This is not hyperbole or exaggeration. The system seems to be broken, and if it is then the American experiment in democracy must be deemed a failure.

I couch these dire pronouncements in the conditional mode because there is always the possibility that even the dullest politician whose loyalties are deep and true to his or her political party may at some point realize that there are larger issues at stake and that party loyalty is not worth beans if the experiment does indeed fail. At some point, let us hope, a strong voice will be heard in the Congress that rises above the din of party loyalties and rallies colleagues on both sides of the political aisle to the deeper cause — which is to save the country, if not the planet.

In the meantime, thank goodness, small but encouraging steps are being taken by bright, innovative, and caring individuals and small groups — even some state legislatures — that give us hope that even without a national environmental policy which makes sense, we will somehow turn the tide.

Political Winds Do Blow

Months before Michelle Bachmann dropped out of the Presidential race, she had an interview in which she had the following to say about Mitt Romney’s chances of winning in November: “He cannot beat Obama. . . It’s not going to happen.” Later in the interview she elaborated a bit. “No, he cannot beat Obama because his policy is the basis for Obamacare,” Bachmann said. “The signature issue of Obama is Obamacare. You can’t have a candidate who has given the blueprint for Obamacare. It’s too identical. It’s not going to happen. We have to have a candidate, a bold distinct candidate in the likeness of Ronald Reagan.”

The candidate “we have to have,” of course, was Michelle Bachmann (“in the likeness of Ronald Reagan.” No false modesty here, folks!). But that was when she was still one of the players in the game. Now, Bachman has endorsed Romney for President. That’s par for the course, as we all know, but it’s also somewhat amusing. The woman who saw how weak a candidate Mitt Romney would be on a large stage is now determined to rally to Romney’s side the support of those on the far right who backed her. It’s politics as usual, of course. But it is also a human comedy if we keep our distance and watch with suspended concern.

Failed candidates almost always rally behind the candidate who wins his or her party’s nomination. It’s all about party loyalty. But the differences within the Republican party these days are so great that the swing of support often seems like a turn-about to the rear. Michelle Bachmann leans so far to the right her shoulder often gets dirty. Romney is adept at finding some ground that appeals to everyone: he leans both left and right — often at the same time. But the change to Romney’s side on Bachmann’s part amounts to a complete abandonment of all she believes in — if, indeed, she really believes in anything. Politicians frequently do not. They prefer pragmatism whereby change can come about as the political winds alter direction. Bachmann seems to be learning the lesson.

In any event, the man who cannot beat Obama because of Obamacare is now joined by the woman who insisted a few months ago he has no chance. I dare say she would now contend that with her help he is a viable candidate, though one would think Romney would prefer to dance with someone else this time around. Bachmann is liable to drive away as many voters as she manages to bring with her. Most of those who supported her in the early stages of her campaign will find Romney unpalatable: for them politics is not a game where you switch sides depending on the way the political winds happen to blow. It will be fascinating to see how things shake out.

In many ways this will be an interesting election (if we can survive the preliminaries): the billionaire Republican who speaks out of both sides of his mouth opposed by the conciliatory Democrat who seems afraid to take a firm position on any issue for fear of alienating someone. Neither man seems to be able to take a stand on principle. Political pragmatism ofttimes looks a lot like believing in nothing, sad to say.

Gobbledegook

The Illinois Republican primary battle between Romney and Santorum is a bit like watching paint dry. The two men are exhausted and didn’t have much to say to begin with. Santorum allowed as how he doesn’t worry about unemployment — a slip of the tongue that will surely catch up with him if her were to win the nomination. But this is doubtful as Romney seems to be slowly gaining the delegates he needs to do battle with Obama. But don’t bet on it. It’s a slow and boring race and you just can’t say who will win in the end.

But Romney, who isn’t the brightest bulb on the tree anyway, was asked how he would deal with the situation in Afghanistan, how his approach would differ from President Obama’s. He  had this to say in an interview on Fox “News” (he won’t go live on any other network):

“Well, the timing of withdrawal is going to be dependent about what you hear from the conditions on the ground. That you understand by speaking with commanders, as well as, of course, the people of Afghanistan and their ability to maintain their sovereignty and to have the capacity—to have a military that can stand up to the challenges they face.”

Speaking with commanders? How, exactly, does that differ from Obama’s policy? Clearly, the man has nothing to say. But, perhaps even more interesting are the thought-fragments and the run-on sentence that shows clear evidence of the master politician watching his rear, hedging his claims in order not to have to eat his words later. This isn’t new, and it isn’t even surprising. And it certainly isn’t restricted to Republicans.  It’s just depressing. One would have liked to hear a politician (any politician) speak his or her mind in clear, concise English (or even American) so that listeners and readers could tell where they stand on issues. But politicians have developed a kind of politicospeak that is designed to hide meanings behind a rush of words that don’t always hang together — or mean anything. No wonder people stop listening. And no wonder politicians now rank below  used-car salesmen in trust.

When you go back to some of the political speeches a hundred years ago and imagine people standing in the hot Illinois sun for hours listening to politicians debate important topics — not just the economy which has become the only topic that holds anyone’s interest these days — you are struck by the lower level of discourse today and the growing inability of an audience to listen. But, then, when politicians sounds like Romney it is hard to listen without wondering just what on earth he is trying to say. Hours of this in the hot sun would be cruel and unusual punishment.