One of the most popular talking points of “public intellectuals” who support the CONServative or neoliberal position goes some like this.. the average income of some of the poorest states in USA is often higher than the average income of wealthy west-european countries. They use this bullshit argument to convince people that the american socio-economic system, as it exists now, is the best possible way to run countries. They also use this scam to pretend that the quality of life for the average person in USA is much better than in other affluent countries- when the reverse is in fact true. The rest of this post will show how the relationship between income as measured in USD and quality of life has completely broken down all over the world in the last thirty years.
Now, there are a number of reasons why a significant percentage of people in USA might have believed such bullshit in the past. As many of you know, people in USA did not (and still do not) travel to other affluent countries at percentages that are even remotely comparable to their counterparts in other developed countries. Therefore, in the pre-internet era it was easy to believe propaganda which told them that the USA was the best place to live in the world. This was especially true in the era between 1945-1999 when the economy in USA, despite occasional downturns, seemed to work reasonably OK for a majority of its people. It is also worth nothing that much of the cultural memory of Americans about the quality of life in other European countries was formed in the first 10-15 years after the end of WW2.
The course of events in the world, however, does not stop if you cease to observe them. Nor does the nature and speed of change to accommodate the beliefs and delusions of any particular group of human beings. My point is that saying or believing something to be true does not make it so- regardless of how loudly and frequently you say it or how many “credentials” you possess. But what does the futility of believing in comforting bullshit have to do with the already massive disconnect between proxy measures for economic well-being of average person in various countries? And why is believing in such bullshit actually dangerous to those who choose to believe in it?
Let us start by looking at the correlation between average incomes (measured in USD) in various countries and their average life expectancy- which is one of the better indicators of general socio-economic well-being. While median life expectancy and remaining life expectancy after age 65 are somewhat better measures of socio-economic, the average numbers are good enough for most purposes. So how does USA compare in that respect to other developed countries? Well.. have a look.
You will immediately notice that while the USA spends way more than similar west-european countries, it has by far the lowest average life-expectancy. The high per-capita expenditure on healthcare in USA, as compared to other developed countries, does not translate into better outcomes. Furthermore, bankruptcy and severe financial problems due to medical costs are basically unknown in the rest of the developed world. But it get’s worse.. much worse. A number of developed countries such as South Korea, Chile, Greece and Israel are able to achieve significantly higher life expectancy (than USA) for a fraction of the cost- as measured in USD. The life expectancy in Mexico is almost identical to USA though its per-capita spending on healthcare (as measured in USD) is about a tenth of that in USA.
Even countries as different from each other as China, Jamaica, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Tunisia whose per-capita spending on healthcare is 5% (or less) of USA have average life-expectancies similar to (or better than) early-1990 era USA. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the entire healthcare system in USA is more about rent extraction and job creation than providing.. healthcare. But that is best left for another series of posts- though I have made a brief version of that argument in a previous post. The point I am trying to make in this particular series of posts is that comparing income across countries in USD is delusional and potentially dangerous.
So let us now turn to the costs of housing in USA, especially as regards to what people get for a given amount of money (as measured in USD). While it is possible to make the case that houses in USA tend to be bigger than those in many other developed countries, that is only part of the story. Sure.. you can buy a large and relatively inexpensive house if you are willing to live 50-100 km outside the nearest city in pretty much any part of USA. But how many people want to willingly live in such places? Here is a hint, use google earth or maps to look at satellite pictures of distant suburbs and then compare them to locations near nearby cities. So let us be honest and compare the cost of housing (buy or rent) in desirable locales in USA to those in other developed countries. When you do that, it quickly becomes obvious that housing in many developed countries often costs a bit less and has significantly superior access to everything from shopping to entertainment.
And this brings to the issue of discretionary purchasing power. One might think that the average person in USA would have more discretionary spending power than his or her equivalent in other developed countries. But is that so? I mean, you are far more likely to see a tourist from a west- or east- European country in USA than the other way around. Not only that, people in European countries tend to dress better than their equivalents in USA. So how do those who defend the american system based on income as measured in USD explain all of this? Well.. they try to distract you by lots of hand-waving and sophistry.
Then there is the issue of education or more precisely the cost and quality. While the cost and quality of K-12 education in USA is somewhat close to its equivalents in other developed countries, it still leaves much to be desired. The situation of higher or post-secondary education in USA is however far worse. As many of you know, the cost of obtaining higher education in USA is far higher than in other developed countries. But is the quality any better? In other words, is an engineer from some large and well-known university in USA really better than his equivalent from some German or Japanese university? Or is a doctor from a large and well-known american university any better than his equivalent from some French or British university? What about other areas of higher education? My point, here, is that the american education system (especially its post secondary component) provides incredibly poor value for money and is far more about obtaining credentials from a shiny-looking university. That is why most international students in american universities are from developing countries, rather than other developed countries.
In the upcoming part of this series, I will show you how the average quality of life for ostensibly middle-class people in USA has more in common with their equivalents in other developing countries rather than developed ones.
What do you think? Comments?
I have been thinking about giving out this piece of information for a couple of months now. Here is the thing.. like some of you, I have multiple profiles on various social media platforms. They are usually keep them separate from each other- for a number of reasons that will not be discussed at this moment. Also, I don’t like to openly connect accounts on one platform to those on others.
However, I have now come to the realization that more engagement on one of Twitter handles with readers of this blog might be a good idea. IMHO, Twitter is by far the less echo-chambery of major social media sites.. at least as far as N. America is concerned.
So here it my preferred Twitter Handle: PharmaHeretic (@Pharmaheretic).
You might realize that I have had that particular handle for over 6 years now. So feel free to follow that handle to find out what I think and read in-between my posts on this blog.
A few years ago, I wrote a two-part series (link 1 and link 2) about how objective evidence throughout human history has repeatedly shown that the so-called elite (irrespective of their era, ethnicity or country) are never actually clever or competent. As I have said in more than a few of my earlier posts (link 3 and link 4), the elite of any given society are almost always greedy con-men and con-women who just happened to get especially lucky at some time in their lives or were born to lucky con-people. The hold of any particular group of elite on power is, therefore, largely linked to continuation of the underlying circumstances which enabled their rise in the first place. A change in underlying circumstances will always push the existing set of elite out of power- irrespective of how secure their hold on power might seem to be.
Readers might be aware of how WW1 and its immediate aftermath destroyed multiple long-lived monarchies and empires- and the elites who supported them. Or consider the rise and fall of communist party elite in USSR and other eastern European countries during the five decades after WW2. Or consider the still ongoing fall in general power and influence of elite from UK and their WASP-y counterparts from USA since the 1970s. I could give you tons more examples- but you get my point. Many cliques of so-called elites have risen and fallen throughout recorded human history. In almost every single case, former elites were never able to regain their previous status in that society. Even worse, the circumstances surrounding their demise always revealed that they did not possess even a small fraction of the ability, power or control they pretended to possess.
But what does elite exposure and failure caused by changing circumstances have to do with the current hysteria about alleged “russian hacking of the 2016 election” which is sweeping establishment democrats and republicans in USA? As it turns out.. a lot!
In the first two paragraphs of this post, I pointed out that changing circumstances always expose inadequacies of the then reigning set of elites- which ultimately results in them being discredited. However, there is often a gap of some years between the first serious exposure of their utter incompetence and their final fall from power and relevance. So what happens between the first widespread public exposures of their incompetence and their ultimate fall? Well.. a lot. For one, the exposed elites will almost always double and triple down on the attitudes and behaviors which were responsible for their initial rise to power. They do so for two reasons. Firstly, they believe that public shows of resoluteness, unflappability and ‘business as usual’ will somehow enable them to weather the ongoing current crisis of legitimacy. Secondly, many of them are actually incapable of thinking or acting outside the box of limited possibilities which they are familiar with.
The prolonged hysteria about “russian hacking of 2016 election” displayed by establishment democrats and republicans falls into both categories. Firstly, their absurdly hysterical reaction to the obviously manufactured allegation is a fallback to an era where “red baiting” was somewhat successful in discrediting other insurgent politicians. It appears that many of establishment critters actually believe that most people in USA are still mentally stuck in the mid-1950s to mid-1980s era. Secondly, and perhaps even more worryingly, it is very likely that they have been unable to come up with a coherent critique of Trump which does not simultaneously expose the fallacy of their neo-liberal belief system. The increasingly strident and absurd accusations by establishment types about Trump being elected because of “russians hacking the electoral system” are therefore only a symptom of a much larger problem- namely, that they are rapidly losing popular legitimacy.
So let us now talk a bit about what actually happened during the 2016 election that is making all these establishment types throw fits of conniption about “russians hacking the election”.
As many of you remember, WikiLeaks was responsible for posting many thousands of emails from key staffers of the democratic national committee (DNC) and later the personal gmail account of John Podesta. While the sources of both leaks are still not definitively known, many believe that east-european hackers were the sources of one (or possibly) both hacked email archives. Of course, it is also possible that the DNC leak came from an insider who was unhappy with how the DNC was run. In any case, these leaks were extremely embarrassing to the upper ranks of the DNC and many powerful establishment figures in the democratic party. The leaked emails revealed, among other things, that the DNC was colluding with the HRC campaign to rig the democratic primary against Bernie Sanders. They also revealed the contents of some of HRC’s infamous paid speeches and the close links of her campaign with important figures in mainstream media.
These revelations, which were largely ignored and buried by the MSM, found a large audience on social media site like FaceBook and Twitter. Now it is an open question if they actually swung the results of the election to any worthwhile extent. As many of you already know, the contents of those leaked emails were not exactly earth-shattering and simply reinforced the already negative perceptions about HRC among the general population. Then again, she was running against a reality game-show host/celebrity with zero experience in any electoral office and even higher negative ratings than her. My point is that the leaked emails should not have been anything more than an interesting sideshow, and we would have seen them as that if HRC had won the election. But she lost the election to Trump, for a number of reasons which I have talked about in some of my previous posts.
HRC and her surrogates were pushing the line that Trump was being helped by Putin even before the election, they have only doubled and tripled down on that meme after his victory. While we can certainly speculate on the possible reasons behind that decision- two stands out. Firstly, it allows them to transfer the blame of losing the presidential election on a mysterious external force and escape personal culpability and the need for self-reflection. Secondly, it gives them an excuse to continue their attempts to de-legitimize Trump after his electoral victory. It is interesting to note that their actions, to date, do not match their stated beliefs. In other words, I would have expected them to lead an actual insurrection against Trump IF they really believed that he was a treasonous puppet of Putin. But their unwillingness to actually stop Trump from becoming the president strongly suggests that establishment democrats do not actually believe what they are shouting from every rooftop.
On a more personal level, the constant attempts by establishment democrats to blame Putin for the rise and victory of Trump are almost comedic. I mean.. isn’t it funny to watch establishment politicians from the allegedly only superpower ascribe such capability, competence and foresight to the leader of Russia- a country which they, as late as last year, dismissed as a “large gas station with some nuclear weapons”. I find blaming establishment republicans Putin for HRC’s loss in the presidential election oddly similar to illiterate villagers in the middle ages blaming the Devil and witches for bad harvests, plagues and other misfortunes. There is also more than a passing resemblance between nervous children seeing monsters under their beds and establishment democrats seeing the hand of russian hackers in everything from occasional power failures and poorly manged TV broadcast streams.
What do you think? Comments?
Let me begin by telling you that I first considered writing this particular article a few months ago. However, I decided against doing so at that time because its conclusions would have been seen as controversial- even by the standards of what I usually write about. The social media environment at that time was, also, especially toxic for posts like this one. Since then, things have gotten a bit more normal and the major controversial prediction in the current post is starting to come true.
So what series of events inspired me to consider writing this post in the first place? Well.. there have been many over the years, but one set stand out. Many of you might recall that in 2016, a then largely unknown senator from Vermont known as Bernie Sanders came very close to becoming the democratic party’s candidate for president. Were it not for the democratic party establishment (especially the DNC) rigging the democratic primary in favor of HRC, he would have been the democratic nominee and almost certainly won the 2016 presidential election.
The subsequent mistreatment of Bernie supporters by the democratic party establishment combined with Wikileaks exposing the democratic establishment conspiracy against him almost certainly made enough potential democratic voters stay home (especially in the Midwest) resulting in Trump winning those states and the electoral college in the presidential election. Now many partisan democratic voters, especially of the astroturf type, still maintain that Bernie would have lost against Trump in the general election. While I would like to destroy the many versions of that particular myth, doing so is best left for another day and post.
This post shall instead focus on the identity and motivations of one specific subset of media personalities pushing various versions of that argument. I am talking about black media personalities- both in traditional media as well as “new” media. To be clear- the loudest pushers of this myth have always been white establishment democratic operatives. Having said that, it is also fair to point out that many black media personalities were also very active in pushing this myth- and some are still busy doing so.
It is no secret that some of the most public critics of Bernie Sander’s candidacy were black. Most of you have heard names such as Joy-Ann Reid, Jamelle Bouie and Don Lemon or pseudo-journalists such as Donna Brazile. But perhaps more interesting was the unusual prominence of certain black print journalists and new “media” types such as Yamiche Alcindor, Imani Gandy, Marcus H. Johnson and a number of black bloggers who wrote anti-Bernie sanders hit pieces for a wide variety of online media outlets.
I initially considered the possibility that all of this negative reaction to Bernie’s candidacy by black media personalities was due to latent antisemitism with certain parts of that community. I have heard more than a couple black comedians remark that Bernie reminded them of their (Jewish) landlord. However reading the contents of these increasingly numerous hit pieces made me consider a different possibility- namely that is was due to greed rather than simple antisemitism. Here is why..
Firstly, almost every single black media personality who criticized the Sanders candidacy was also full of effusive praise and unconditional support for HRC. It is well-known that the ‘get-tough-on-crime’ policies of her husband (Bill Clinton) resulted in the single largest increase in rates of incarceration for the black community. His other trademark policies, from ‘welfare reform’ to ‘free trade’ also caused disproportionate damage to the black community. Moreover, all of this occurred during the 1990s- less than 20 years ago. So you can see why all of that praise and support for HRC by black media personalities (who criticized Sanders) sounded so.. odd.
Secondly, the general themes for criticism of Sanders by different black media personalities (at any given time) were almost identical. Even more telling, the shift in themes for such critiques changed almost simultaneously across multiple media platforms. It was as if they were on the same mailing lists. The criticisms leveled against Sanders were also peculiar. They ranged from outright lies and misrepresentations to saying that he only represented the white working class to a lot of academic sounding bullshit talk about ‘intersectionality’. It was almost as if all these black media personalities were parroting talking points written up by people working from a certain office in Brooklyn.
But why were they doing that? Why were so many black media personalities (especially of the ‘new media’ kind) so enthusiastic about supporting a candidate as untrustworthy and reviled as HRC?
Now.. I am sure that a few well-known black media personalities were financially (and otherwise) compensated for their efforts by the HRC campaign. However it appears that the vast majority of ‘new media’ types did not receive any worthwhile financial compensation for their efforts. So why did they do it? What was their motivation? Some of you might think they did so due to group-think or personal stupidity. I think otherwise. While the willingness of people to work for free might seem irrational to most people- it is not so to those who actually believe in neo-liberalism.
Neo-liberal ideology, you see, is like a religion- albeit a secular one. And like all other religions and ideologies, it is a pyramid scheme requiring an endless supply of suckers willing to slave for others so that they may, one day, have the chance to do the same to other newer suckers. Isn’t that why so many white university-educated “millennials” slave away in long and unpaid internships at otherwise profitable corporations? Or consider the number of young, and largely white, people who try their luck in the entertainment industry each year. My point is that actions of black media personalities who dissed Sanders and cheered on HRC during the democratic primary make sense if you assume that they are true believers in the neoliberal way.
Some of you might say.. So what? Aren’t all these black media personalities just doing what their white counterparts have been doing for much longer?
Well.. it is true that black media personalities who shill for rich white oligarchs are just following the footsteps of their white counterparts. Also, I am not suggesting that members of one ethnic group should hold itself to higher standards than those of another ethic group. My critique is that black media personalities who shill for rich white oligarchs are not getting remunerated for their work at rates approaching their white counterparts. Furthermore- white media shills.. I mean media personalities, seem to be far more successful at turning their poorly paid shill gigs into reasonably OK, if mediocre, careers. Black media personalities, on the other hand, can seldom transform their sucking up to the elite into decent careers.
To be clear, this has nothing to do with their relative competence. But it has everything to do with how the democratic establishment sees black people- even those who help them win elections. As far as the democratic establishment is concerned, blacks exist largely to vote for them in elections and thereby make them look better than republicans- at least to themselves. Once the elections are over, they see blacks as a group to be aggressively policed, heavily incarcerated and otherwise ignored. There is a reason that cops legally murder as many black men in states and cities governed by the democratic party as its republican equivalent. That is also why democrats talk a lot suppression of black voters by republicans but do precious little to fix it.
I am guessing that the rise of Obama during the previous eight years might have provided some false hope to aspiring social climbers in the black community. It is likely that many of them believed that towing the establishment neoliberal line would translate into a decent chance at getting the kinds of gigs and careers that their white counterparts used to get. Well.. that is definitely not going to happen now as HRC lost the election. But I think it would not have occurred even if she had won the election as throwing average black supporters under the bus after the elections is second nature to the Clinton family and the democratic party establishment.
What do you think? Comments?
In the previous and third part of this series- I pointed out that the democratic party, in its current form, is highly dependent upon continued support by the professional (and wannabe professional) class. In that post, I also talked about why this particular socio-economic group has such an outsize influence on the actual policy positions of democratic party. To quickly summarize: a number of overlapping factors such as their geographic distribution, co-localization with other groups of reliably democratic voters, importance in fund-raising, filling the lower ranks of their party apparatus etc make them an especially important category of likely voters for establishment democratic candidates. It is worth mentioning that the professional (and wannabe professional) class also benefit and profit from their association with, and their support of, the democratic party.
The level and depth of support by this class of the democratic party does however bring up another seldom asked question- Why are members of the professional (and wannabe professional) class in USA so likely to support, and vote for, establishment democratic candidates? I mean.. why are people in the top 10-20% of the income distribution scale, at least on the national scale, so supportive of a party which still brands itself as pro-working-class? Now some of you will point out that not all people who make a decent income tend vote for democrats.. and that is true. There is however a big difference between people who make a upper-middle class level income for 5-20 years of their life and those who are part of that class.
A working class person with a decent paying job (cop, electrician, tradesman or some other blue-collar type) is not part of the upper-middle class even if they, in some parts of the country, make an almost upper middle-class income for a couple of decades in their life. On the other hand- somebody born in a family where both parents, and frequently close relatives, have post-graduate degrees will almost always end up as part of the professional (and wannabe professional) class. Curiously people born into that class tend to remain part of it even if they are not as financially successful, at least in the short-term, as their parents. So while the kids of a professor, doctor or lawyer might not end up in occupations similar to their parents, they are rather unlikely to end up as electricians or plumbers.
But what does our brief discussion on socio-economic class in USA have to do with future electoral prospects of the democratic party? As you will see in the remainder of this post- a lot!
To better understand what I am going to say next, ask yourself another simple question- What is the idealized self-image of the professional (and wannabe professional) class? Who, and what, do they see themselves as? What do they aspire to become? At the risk of making an over generalized statement, it is fair to say that this particular class sees itself as the truly deserving elite- though most of them would never admit it loudly in public. But why would they think like that? Well.. because it is kinda true. All highly unequal and pyramidal wealth distributions owe their continued existence to the striving of those in the levels immediately below the uppermost level of the social order. To put it another way, it is the professional class who do all the hard work that keeps the status quo going- which benefits the rich elites far more than it benefits them.
And this brings us to peculiar relationship between the professional class and the rich elites. The former, you see, want to become the later. There are however only two pathways for them to realistically achieve that goal. They can either replace them through violent revolution or ingratiate themselves further to the elites. If you have read enough history, it becomes obvious that ingratiation is by far more common than outright replacement- largely because most members of the professional class are clever but spineless creatures who are better at being courtiers than warriors. The professional class therefore spend a lot of effort imitating the moneyed elite. Such mimicry ranges from the fairly harmless copying of their masters tastes in food, drink, dress, mannerisms and leisure activities to the far more insidious process of adopting their worldview as their own.
But why is the false consciousness of the professional (and wannabe professional) class in USA so problematic for the future viability of the democratic party? And why now?
To better answer this question we have to ask ourselves: has the class composition of decision makers and their flunkies in the democratic party (aka the establishment) changed over the decades? As many of you know- the answer to that is a big fucking YES! The democratic party establishment, right upto the early 1990s, represented a far wider range of social classes than in 2016. My point is that, while the party establishment then was just as (or more) corrupt and hierarchical as it is now- it was not the near perfect echo chamber of ideological conformity we see in 2016. But why is having high levels of self-imposed ideological conformity in an organization dangerous for its future? I mean.. didn’t state communism in eastern European countries last for decades under similar levels of self-imposed ideological conformity?
Which brings me to the real reason why extensive support by the professional class is so damaging to the future of the democratic party. Rigid ideological conformity, you see, works pretty well as long as external conditions don’t change too much. Think about using cruise control on a car.. it works great as long as you are driving on a road (and under conditions) similar to the one under which it was turned on. However you cannot keep on using the cruise control setting you turned on a straight and uncrowded stretch of the freeway once you reach its more crowded sections or exit onto a smaller road with different speed limits. And you certainly cannot drive on a snow-covered road like you would do on a dry road in southern California. In other words, keeping yourself on the road requires you to adapt the way you drive according to prevailing road conditions and traffic.
Similarly large human organizations such as political parties have to adjust their mode of functioning and strategies to the prevailing conditions. But how do they “know” about changes in the political and socio-economic climate? In a democracy, elections are supposed to provide such a feedback. But what if they are unable to do so? What if the entire electoral process is so rigged and gerrymandered that most incumbent candidates of either political party keeps on winning “fair and free” elections until the whole underlying system is literally about to collapse? What if a political party is capable of consistently winning elections in certain parts of the country regardless of their policies and performance in office? In case you didn’t realize it- I was talking about the electoral process in USA.
Anyway.. my point, here, is that elections are basically unable to effect any real change in the policy directions of established political parties. Any change in that area (short of the public losing all faith in the system) has therefore to come from people inside the establishment of political parties. We already know that “leaders” and other high-ranking officials in any political party will never change their ways or accept the need for such change. And this brings us to the loyal rank-and-file of political parties. As far as the democratic party is concerned, its loyal rank-and-file = professional (and wannabe professional) class. To put it another way, the loyal rank-and-file of the democratic party is basically a large echo chamber which supports and vigorously defends the interests and worldview of rich elites.
That is why the democratic establishment and its loyal supporters have been able to consistently reelect their repeatedly unsuccessful leadership. That is why they keep on acting as if they were not badly defeated in 2016. That is why they keep on nominating mediocre insider presidential candidates like Dukakis, Gore, Kerry and HRC. That is why all the electoral reverses of the previous eight years had little to no effect on their political strategies. That is also why they are busy blaming everybody but their own strategies and policies for their electoral setbacks. That is also why they are so interested in getting the votes of “moderate” republicans rather than increasing their turnout among the working class.
To make a long story short, establishment democrats will very likely continue on their disastrous trajectory because everybody who has any real say in making that decision believes it to be the only path. Perhaps more troublingly, they will continue to win enough elections in certain populous parts of the party to keep them relevant as a national party and thereby allow them to dismiss (or stifle) emerging internal dissent in the party. Unless some combination of persons and events discredits the current democratic establishment and their flunkies, in the near future, to an extent which makes it impossible for them to be seen as a credible national political party- they have no worthwhile future.
What do you think? Comments?
In a previous (and second) post of this series, I wrote about the largely unspoken reasons underlying the inability and unwillingness of establishment democrats to change their political strategy and choice of electoral candidates. I made a case that the “managed” version of democracy (actually an illusion of democratic legitimacy) which was prevalent in western countries over the previous 40 years has now experienced irreversible systematic failure. The real question, then, is “when” (not “if”) the current status quo will implode.
To be clear, I am not implying that this hollow and rotten edifice will come down tumbling in the near future. It is, in fact, unlikely to fail over the next few months or even the few (say.. 2-4) years. I am merely pointing out that the current setup has demonstrated its inability to maintain the status quo which perpetuates its own existence. The exact sequence of events that will trigger its final implosion are still a matter of chance. My guess is that they will unfold over a time-span of the next 2-12 years, with my best guesstimate being 3-7 years. But that is a topic for a future post or series.
Readers might recall that my previous two posts in the current series were about the numerous systemic failures of the democratic party establishment over previous 40 years. As they might also recall, these failures have become especially obvious over the last decade. But are establishment democrats the only group responsible for their own slow motion destruction and increasing irrelevance? Have other identifiable groups contributed to, or accelerated, the pace of destruction and loss of relevance for democrats? Well.. as much as I would like to assign all blame for their (own) destruction on establishment democrats, it is clear that they had lots of external help.
The rest of this post is about one external group, which more than any other, has facilitated the ongoing slow motion destruction of the democratic party. To better understand what I am going to say next, ask yourself a simple question: how can any political party, as well-funded as it might be, keep on winning elections at any level of government if it cannot get enough people to vote for it? In other words- tribal minded voters who will loyally vote for a given political party, no matter what, are crucial to the continued survival of that party. This dependence on a core of enthusiastic and tribal minded voters is especially important for political parties in stage-managed “democracies” such as USA.
You might have noticed that party primaries in USA tend to favor candidates who can fake fidelity to the most extreme version of what their most loyal and tribal minded voters want to hear. That is why republican primaries (at all levels of government) have traditionally been dominated by candidates who profess extreme religiosity, want to eliminate income taxes, cut “deficit spending”, expand the military-industrial and prison-surveillance-industrial complex, support racist incarceration policies and want to restrict the right of women to get abortions. Similarly, democratic primaries have historically been dominated by candidates who pretend to profess fidelity to ideals such as defending and expanding credentialism, promoting and expanding rule by technocrats, maintaining the economic status quo, paying lip service to racial equality and pretending to support expanded access to better education, healthcare etc.
In other words- beyond promoting the interests of their big money donors, candidates of any political party are most beholden to issues that animate their most loyal and tribal minded voters. And this brings us to the next question- what kind of person reliably votes for democratic candidates in party primaries? As it turns out, most of these super loyal democratic voters fall into one of two major categories. One category consists of middle-aged and elderly black women who live in predominantly urban or black-majority neighborhoods. Voters in this particular category are also promptly forgotten and ignored by establishment democrats after each election season.
The other reliably enthusiastic category of democratic voters consists of the professional (and wannabe professional) class- and they have carry more clout with the party establishment than black women. This category of voters is also an important secondary source of campaign funds in addition to providing the bulk of their electoral campaign volunteers. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the policies of establishment democrats, beyond those required by the big money financiers, are mostly driven by the concerns and needs of their professional (and wannabe professional) class supporters- who have become increasingly concentrated in a few coastal states and major metropolitan areas.
The willingness of the democratic establishment to promote ideas such as gun control, transgender bathrooms, even more credentialism, “free trade” policies, increased immigration, austerity and policy wonkism is largely due to their desire to satisfy their professional (and wannabe professional) class voters. The desire to maintain support of this particular category of voters is also behind the reluctance of establishment democrats to support ideas such as increasing the minimum wage, reducing immigration and job outsourcing, reducing growing economic inequality, investing in infrastructure development, reducing the costs of housing, education and healthcare etc. You get the picture..
But why is reliable support of professional (and wannabe professional) class so harmful to the future electoral prospects of the democratic party? And why did such support apparently not hurt them in past elections?
Well.. for starters, it has hurt them in the past. The loss of a majority in the house after almost fifty years in 1994, Gore losing the electoral college to Bush in the 2000 election, Kerry losing to Bush in 2004, the loss of a majority of state legislatures and governorships by democrats (between 2008-2016) in addition to their loss of majorities in the house (in 2010) and senate (2014) during that same time period owe a lot to major policy positions of establishment democrats and the type of candidates chosen in party primaries. I should add that HRC, who was the dream candidate of this voter class, lost the 2016 presidential election to Trump.
But it gets worse.. Establishment democrats have responded to these electoral setbacks by doubling down on widely unpopular policy positions favored by the professional (and wannabe professional) class. While there is certainly an element of ego in not admitting to screwing up, I believe that maintaining the continued allegiance of this voter class also plays a role in democrats maintaining their current course. It is not exactly a secret that winning elections without much effort in certain populous and highly urbanized states such as CA, NY and MA requires democrats to promote the beliefs and concerns of this professional (and wannabe professional) class.
To make a long story short- the 2008 financial crisis and it’s still ongoing aftermath has made it hard for democrats to win elections in non-coastal and non-metropolitan areas of the country. The majority of eligible voters in most parts of USA don’t want to vote for them or prefer the other party. It seems that the whole ‘socially liberal + fiscally conservative republican-lite’ shtick is no longer capable of convincing enough people to vote for them. Even worse, these electoral loses have made democrats even more dependent on continued electoral victories in coastal states and major metropolitan areas. In other words, trying to keep this particular class of loyal voters has forced establishment democrats to double down on the very policy positions and type of candidates responsible for their continued electoral losses in the rest of USA.
What do you think? Comments?
In the previous post of this series, I had written about how the democratic party establishment plus its major supporters and financiers have been thrown in total disarray by the surprising (to them) election of Donald Trump. It seems that most of them are still in deep denial about the combination of factors and trends which led to the humiliating defeat of their chosen candidate in the 2016 presidential election. Even more troubling, is their almost complete unwillingness to analyse and act upon factors behind the slow-motion electoral rout of their party at multiple levels of government throughout the entire country. While the democratic establishment and its flunkies have put forth a number of reasons for their massive electoral losses at both the federal and state levels, it is clear that they are trying to avoid the proverbial elephant in the room- low turnout of voters for their candidates.
So why is the democratic establishment so unwilling to confront the real reasons behind low voter turnout for their candidates? Why are democrats so obsessed with talking about various voter suppression laws passed by republicans which have, at best, a marginal effect on the ultimate outcome? Why are they unwilling to address the far higher numbers and percentages of eligible voters who choose to not vote in any election? Would it not make sense to increase the low turnout among working class voters- who tend to vote for democratic candidates? Furthermore, why have democratic politicians been rather unwilling to actually pass legislation which would increase electoral turnout (for example- by making voting easier and more convenient) when they had the ability to do so. Why are establishment democrats obsessed with who votes for them, rather than how many cast their votes for them?
Well.. it comes down to one the conspicuously unsaid but fundamental precepts of the neoliberal worldview that is the official ideology of both major parties in USA and indeed all major political parties in countries of the so-called “democratic west”. Neoliberalism works only as long it operates in a command-control type of socio-economic-legal environment. In other words, neoliberalism cannot function in anything approaching a functional democratic socio-economic-legal environment. Now, this inherent contradiction poses a peculiar problem for all those supposedly democratic countries in the “west”. How can the government and elites in such countries retain the veneer of democratic legitimacy while continuing to act in an undemocratic and authoritarian manner? For almost 40 years, elected officials from all major political countries in the so-called “democratic” west have addressed this contradiction by increasing levels of voter suppression by consciously, and unconsciously, discouraging them from voting.
Ever wondered the rates of voter participation have kept on dropping in almost every single “democratic” western country over the last 40 years? Why are so many people, especially in younger age groups, not interested in voting? Perhaps most tellingly, why are the majority of political parties in these countries not concerned about this progressive decline? Why do they almost never do anything to address this issue beyond paying lip-service to it near election time? If you ask people who do not vote about the reasons behind their decision- they will tell you, almost to the last person, that they do not believe that their vote makes a difference. If you dig down a bit further, they will tell you they do not believe (with good reason) that their elected representatives will ever legislate in their interests.
A significant percentage of people in the supposedly “democratic” west have come to the realization that their elected representatives are not answerable to those who elected them. Even worse, every conventional political party in countries as (allegedly) diverse as USA, UK, France and Sweden is utterly beholden to elites- especially of the financial and managerial type. For a long time (late 1970s- 2012?) there was no real alternative for the rapidly rising percentage of people who were unhappy with the official range of choices for political representation. The elected representatives of conventional political parties were, however, quite happy with this situation as it allowed them to maintain the veneer of democratic legitimacy while they were servicing their moneyed elite masters. It is worth mentioning that this situation was tenable for so long largely because inertia kept covering up (if somewhat incompletely) the growing numbers of cracks in the system. Then 2008 happened..
Sophistic CONmen (academics from “famous” universities) and other assorted public “intellectuals” want people to believe that the 2008 financial crisis was the direct initiator for our current era of political instability. I would argue otherwise. The financial crisis of 2008 was, if anything, the end of an era. More specifically, it marked the end of an era marked by widespread public support for the neoliberal worldview. Prior to 2008 a majority of people in the west were willing to believe that the neoliberal way of doing things might, one day, let them become part of elite or at least the upper-middle class. The financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent establishment reactions to it destroyed the last vestige of hope that kept people from challenging the increasingly disconnected and authoritarian nature of their “democratically elected” governments.
I would argue that the response and reactions of credentialed “experts” and elected officials to the 2008 crisis between 2009 and 2012, rather than the actual event, heralded the current era of political instability. The resurgence of hard leftist and populist right-wing parties in western European countries, the Brexit vote in 2016 and the election of Trump in 2016 are therefore responses to exposure of the almost complete incompetence of the conventional political establishment in those countries. It does not help that all conventional political parties in these countries are almost totally controlled by moneyed elites. The aftermath of the 2008 crisis also reopened supposedly settled questions such as the inevitability, let alone the desirability, of “free trade” and “internationalism”. In short, it made many once respectable ideas and their promoters people look like greedy tools and confabulating idiots.
But what does any of the stuff I talked about in the preceding paragraphs have to do with the future of the democratic party in USA and its inability to increase voters turnout for its candidates? As it turns out.. a lot!
The democratic party in the USA, like its republican counterpart, is a conventional political party full of politicians and advisers who cannot imagine a world that is not based in neoliberalism. Consequently they will do anything and everything in their power to maintain the status quo- even if doing so destroys them in the end. That is why the democrats keep blaming everybody except HRC and themselves for their shitty performance in the most recent election cycles. You might have noticed that even an electoral defeat as humiliating as the one dealt to them in 2016 has not resulted in any worthwhile changes in their focus, overall strategy and leadership. They have, if anything, doubled down on all their pre- Nov 8 positions and will make themselves irrelevant in the near future- at least in their current form. I predict that the republicans will also suffer the same fate once they become the incumbent (and largely unopposed) party at all levels of the federal government.
Establishment democrats are not, and were never really, interested in raising general voter turnout for their candidates because that would result in the selection and election of candidates who were not beholden to their moneyed elite patrons. That is a reason that establishment democrats punch left, rather than right. That is why HRC was far more interested in getting the votes of suburban white republican women than poor working class whites. It was always about finding enough voters who were willing to vote for perpetuating neoliberal agendas. Establishment democrats don’t hate working class whites because the later might be racist. They hate them because getting their votes requires making and keeping some populist promises. Establishment democrats love black voters because getting their votes has (at least until now) not required them to make and keep any populist promises. Similarly they love hispanic voters because getting their votes does not require them to promise anything that is not on a neoliberal checklist.
The preference of establishment democrats for getting votes by appealing to identity politics, rather than class politics, should therefore be seen as part of a strategy to win elections without making promises which might contradict the neoliberal agenda. While they have had some success with this general strategy in past elections (especially in 2008 and 2012), it is clear that it is not working- inspite of demographic trends which were supposed to make it even more successful. As it turns out, an increasing number of people are no longer interested in voting for candidates who have no desire (or ability) to improve their lives. However the magnitude of institutional inertia in the democratic establishment is still too high for it to make the necessary strategy and personal changes necessary to win in 2020, let alone 2018. I expect them to double, triple and quadruple down on their positions and ride their hobby horses into electoral irrelevancy. But don’t worry.. establishment republicans will join them in that quest within 2-4 years.
What do you think? Comments?