Feb 9, 2017 (San Diego) We have a resistance rising in the United States to the policies of a minority party that keep winning. More democrats consistently show up at the polls, yet they keep losing power incrementally. Wait, how can Republicans be a minority party, but hold complete control of both houses of Congress, the presidency, and multiple state houses? There are two main reasons:
Gerrymandering and the Electoral College.
Gerrymandering has never been illegal in the United States. It goes back to the first days of the Republic. It simply is defined by drawing congressional districts, or for that matter any other district subject to election, where one party has an oversized advantaged over the other. This has been perfected into an art form by Republicans. It has been so successful, that they essentially have control of the government apparatus, even though they have less of their voters show up. Where they show up, however, is where it matters.
For Congress, this representative bonus is not unusual, According to the Brookings Institution
In the past four congressional elections, then, Republicans, as the party with the majority in the House, received a “seats bonus,” wherein members of their party secured a larger share of the seats in the chamber than the share of votes won nationwide.
Where it is even more obvious, is in state houses that have been systematically targeted by Republicans starting in 2010 According to CNS this should be seen as a crisis for Democrats, since their control of state house seats is to the levels not seen since the Civil War in 1860.
Due to how districts are drawn, the 2018 election should continue this trend, even with the historical pattern that the party in power at the White House tends to lose seats in the midterms. This also means that a country that is hardly center right, has political districts that simulate such.
This has created a system where there is little political accountability for those in power. Those who are in the minority have to conform or face even less influence. Right now, Democrats have very little power at the Federal level and have no role in many state governments. This sets the ground for one party to do whatever it wants, It is also open for abuse by a strong man.
Right now we are seeing the first glimmers of the conflict of interests that many of us expected from the White House. When President Donald Trump tweeted that Nordstrom was unfair to his daughter for dropping her line, he was using the power of the presidency. When Kellyanne Conway promoted Ivanka’s brand on Fox and Friends, she broke multiple ethical rules. When White House Spokesperson Sean Spicer defended the tweet from the president as that of a father protecting his daughter, it was part of this conflict.
These are just the surface level, and symptomatic of the ethics challenge in the government. The fact that Trump invested in the North Dakota Access Pipeline before it was authorized, is also another clear conflict.
However, it behooves the Congress to rein in the executive. They are not going to. They hold the power to do such, but the Congress has its own issues. The fact that they will confirm Tom Price for Health Secretary after there were clear hints of insider trading, is a clear signal that the party in charge has no interest in bringing ethics into this.
There is more. We have evidence that the Russians did meddle in our elections. While their effect was not in the actual tally of the votes, it was an attack on the United States. We must ask, why the silence? Why has a party that would rather be dead than red (and holds the power to investigate) is not doing its duty?
David Corn has asked one of the right questions in Mother Jones:
According to the consensus assessment of US intelligence agencies, Russian intelligence, under the orders of Vladimir Putin, mounted an extensive operation to influence the 2016 campaign to benefit Donald Trump. This was a widespread covert campaign that included hacking Democratic targets and publishing swiped emails via WikiLeaks. And it achieved its objectives. But the nation’s capital remains under-outraged by this subversion. The congressional intelligence committees announced last month that they will investigate the Russian hacking and also examine whether there were any improper contacts between the Trump camp and Russia during the campaign. (A series of memos attributed to a former British counterintelligence officer included allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.) Yet these behind-closed-doors inquiries have generated minimum media notice, and, overall, there has not been much outcry. at Mother Jones:
We know what happened. So do those in both Intelligence Committees. Why are they not looking at this? We are increasingly reminded of the Tea Pot Scandal. While Watergate is a nice recent analogy, it misses the level of greed involved here. It also misses the fact that all this is about energy and public lands.
Here is why the Teapot Scandal is a far more apt description:
Teapot Dome is a geological feature in Wyoming, named for nearby Teapot Rock, and the site of an oil field. In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson designated that oil deposit as Naval Oil Reserve Number 3 (reserves Number 1 and Number 2, in Elk Hills and Buena Vista Hills, California, respectively, had been similarly identified by President William Howard Taft in 1912). These reserves were created to guarantee that the Navy would have a sufficient supply of oil in wartime. However, their establishment was controversial—oil interests believed that the reserves were unnecessary and could be developed privately. In addition, private wells surrounded the naval reserve fields, siphoning off their underground deposits.
That was the situation facing Albert Fall, one of President Harding’s poker pals, when Harding appointed him as Secretary of the Interior in 1921. As a lawyer in New Mexico Territory, Fall had represented mining and timber companies and had invested in mining himself. As a US senator from New Mexico after 1912, he’d shown little interest in the conservation movement, and conservationists, led by Harry Slattery and Gifford Pinchot, viewed him as hostile to their ideas. When Fall tried to open Alaska’s oil, coal, and timber to extensive private development, the conservationists were quick to organize and defeat his plans. Similarly, when Fall tried to move the National Forests and federal Forestry Service under his control at the Department of the Interior, the conservationists blocked him. In their efforts, conservationists could count on help from a number of progressives in Congress, notably Senator Robert La Follette, a leader of the progressive wing of the Republican Party.
Remember, one of the goals is to privatize all public lands as well. This is hardly about just political power. Yes, it is also about personal enrichment. Where does Vladimir Putin fit in? Yes, they had a role here.
He has run the Russian Federation as a way to not just personally enrich himself, but also reward his friends and buddies with great wealth. He is a kleptocrat, and what we are seeing emerge in DC is not that dissimilar. A president complaining because a business drops the poorly selling line from his daughter is a sign of that.
But so are the series of cabinet appointments that will ensure the public lands (and public wealth) are privatized. The media should be talking of this, but the media is bombarded constantly by new actions, It is not about the tweet, and some of them are funny incidentally, it is a pattern.
Why do Democrats keep losing?
Democrats keep losing for several reasons. The first is that they abandoned their own traditional constituencies in favor of Wall Street a generation ago. They are getting punished for this by those traditional constituencies. They also have made promises to those constituencies repeatedly, during elections. These were promises they did not intend to fulfill since they go against the interest of the same Wall Street interests that fill their campaign coffers. Two perfect recent examples were card check and single payer. The former was promised to labor, which will face its greatest crisis in its history, and might not survive, The latter was made to voters, with no intention of putting it in the legislation when the Affordable Care Act was written.
Yes, while Leader Nancy Pelosi now says this:
“I wanted single payer– I mean, I’d love a single payer, but we’re not there. I wanted a public option, which would address that,” Pelosi responded, adding that Democrats want to improve the health care law, while Republicans want to repeal it.
It was the same kind of doublespeak that Democrats have been engaged in for a generation. They still know what kind of policies their base wants. These policies are far more progressive than their donors. When a member of congress has to spend at least half his or her time raising money for the next election, this means Wall Street Funds.
This brings us to the next item of why there is resistance, and why people will be forced to pick sides. This is globalization
First off, this is not the first time that elites have tried this. In the late 1800s they did. They knew that larger economies and the rise of an industrial economy demanded the creation of markets outside their borders to sell such goods. It can be an alluring thing, especially for at the time large national corporations, who saw opportunities to expand outside their borders. For this, they needed governments.
This was not, however, the first time this was attempted. The era of exploration in the 16th to 18th centuries was also a very early attempt. Both matched increasing communications technology. Yet, in the present there is a clearer split on this:
Some see globalization as a good thing. According to Amartya Sen, a Nobel-Prize winning economist, globalization “has enriched the world scientifically and culturally, and benefited many people economically as well”. The United Nations has even predicted that the forces of globalization may have the power to eradicate poverty in the 21st century.
Others disagree. Globalization has been attacked by critics of free market economics, like the economists Joseph Stiglitz and Ha-Joon Chang, for perpetuating inequality in the world rather than reducing it. Some agree that they may have a point. The International Monetary Fund admitted in 2007 that inequality levels may have been increased by the introduction of new technology and the investment of foreign capital in developing countries. Others, in developed nations, distrust globalisation as well. They fear that it often allows employers to move jobs away to cheaper places. In France, “globalisation” and “délocalisation” have become derogatory terms for free market policies. An April 2012 survey by IFOP, a pollster, found that only 22% of French people thought globalisation a “good thing” for their country.
(Ed Note: Americanized the spelling)
This election was a referendum on globalization. Brexit was about globalization. The National Front in France is about globalization. Radical Islam is about globalization. The White Identity movement is about globalization. They are all answers to a tricky problem. When you globalize, you increase the flow of information, and you increase multiculturalism.
However, this does not mean they are all about the same issues. While a Mujaheddin might be fighting to keep the invader out of his country, Trump (and Bernie Sanders) were about how free trade agreements have destroyed a working class that has enjoyed a modern standard of living. Incidentally, this was the reason for Brexit as well. While Trump, and many of his followers, do not see it, the election was a critique of rising inequality as well.
The current form of globalization has certainly created a very wealthy one percent (for shorthand, the number is actually more appalling). This, with a political system that does not respond to the needs of that middle class, let alone the poor, has led to anger. So like 1929, the response to this corporate order has been to clamp down, close borders and blame the outsider.
These two critiques, from both the left and the right, are correct. The current form of globalization, which relies on corporate interests, is threatening nation states, and jobs, It is also increasing inequality and destroying the planet. This is where both sides should find commonality because their anger is not unique to them.
A Class One Civilization: Making the Leap.
However, here is where we are going to take a stab at philosophy.
MIchio Kaku has spoken a few times of our civilization, and by that, I mean a global civilization, as a Class Zero civilization that is becoming a class one civilization. We are still divided by race (as artificial a construct as this is), religion, (another artificial construct), and tribe. Whether you call that tribe a nation state, or for that matter any of the clans in the mountains of Afghanistan, they are both tribes and try to keep the outsider out. Making the leap from a class zero civilization, to a global one, might be the difference between species survival or extinction. The question is how that is going to happen, and how much we have to change how we think of different problems.
If we keep putting wealth accumulation at the heart of all we do, other problems that a class one civilization would tackle will just get worst. Climate change is one of them. It requires a global response. It does not respect borders. It is accelerating. Nor does species extinction, and we as an apex species depend on a vibrant ecological system.
The response to this crisis has been increased greed and electing people who are allergic to these global changes. In fact, individuals who are not elected, but hold incredible power within the administration, are tribalistic and believe in the end of days. They are also the nihilist among us.
This also brings me to another aspect. We are used to thinking of a left-right continuum, It is convenient and familiar, but in some ways, it might have outlived its usefulness. We might have to start talking about a pro-science, pro-species survival, vs a pro-greed, anti-science agenda. Using this metric, many politicians from both parties fail the test, horribly so.