Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Which Turn on the U.S. Political Road?

an old and less traveled road
between Templeton and Cambria

recovery or precipice
     Wise analysts remind us we should never say never in politics. What is true today can change in a flash, or a tweet.
      During decades of reporting, I considered politics the greatest American spectator sport. It is not so great anymore, but we are all governed by the tawdry game. The great parties are in tatters, unsure of their future. Citizens demand a better system. The nation is divided, depressed, angry and must make hard choices. 
      Politics has become a profession, attended to by an industry of consultants and specialists; opposition researchers, analysts, pollsters, communication directors, fund raisers, etc. and it all comes down to money. Consequently the government we have given ourselves has been commercialized. Follow the money. It is all about money. H.L. Mencken was right "In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advanced auction of stolen goods."  The complete quote will follow below in this post.
      Regardless, we must live with and endure the consequence of the government and those we elect to govern and those who feed, fuel and whisper in their ears.

into the woods we go
     Despite the invocation of the seasonal cliche' this election is the most important ever, the November mid-terms will have significant impact on where we head. It is the starter's gun for the 2020 Presidential election and the life altering fall out that follows. The mid-terms also have a more immediate importance to this presidency, the investigations, and the discord in America.

the big circus
     What does it mean to be a Republican? What does it mean to be a Democrat? I've posted previously on the irrelevance of such, though those who self identify, and those of us who live under their rule will pay attention as both parties try to find either their soul and/or a standard bearer. Who will be their Presidential candidate?
     Before we look at the possible choices and scenarios-

the democrats right turn
and its consequence

    Here are some unknowables, but worthy of pondering. What if Al Gore or Gary Hart had won the Democrat nomination in 1988 instead of Michael Dukakis? More importantly, what if Jerry Brown or Paul Tsongas would have won the 1992 nomination instead of Bill Clinton? 
    Gore and Hart had Washington experience and were wiser in the wonky ways of budgets, defense programs, technology and yes social entitlements. But, the big chip is the 92 nomination of Slick Willie over more liberal candidates of Brown and Tsongas.
     Clinton and his DLC, Democratic Leadership Council, were all about moving the Democrats toward the right and steering away from the leftward lean of the 60's, 70's and 80's. 
    John Kerry might have been able to move the party back to the left. The death of Ted Kennedy also created a lack of a leftward steering wind in the party. But Clinton's tenure and later Hillary's influence pushed the Democrat party right and into the laps of big money, big business and resulted in NAFTA, repeal of Glass-Steagall, and tried to rewrite Democrat ethos. 
    It also allowed Republicans to abandon their once centrist views and to pander to the right wing, one issue zealots and their kook fringe. As we know they fed that cousin they kept under the basement stairs until it got strong enough to eat and dismember the traditional Republican party. Remember the slew of old line Republicans who retired or who got caught up being "primaried" by the Tea Party/Liberty Caucus?
     People who consider Barack Obama a liberal are caught in this kind of psychological optical illusion. It was created by the Democrats move to the right and the Republican move to the extreme right, populated by self-centered philosophy, that in turns makes Obama look liberal by comparison. That or people simply don't know what they are talking about, and are disconnected from history and knowledge. Bernie Sanders may be liberal, Barack Obama was not. Clinton was a major enabler of big money influence in and on government. Clinton took the Democrat party to bed with forces liberal Democrats and old Democrats warred with.
     Since Clinton the U.S. "center" has moved right and we even have populations that cheer and celebrate bully authoritarianism. 

the hard scrabble trail ahead
     Both parties now face a challenge and who they select, and how they do it will have influence on the nation as well as the parties, long beyond the 2020 Presidential race.
the democrats
      The Democrats are at odds, more so than usual. Modern Democrats have frequently resembled a knife fight or rumble but now they have deeper issues. It is my take they must also resolve generational leadership issues as well as determine what they believe. Is lashing together coalitions to take precedence over advocating social agendas, defense policies and etc? 
       Soon we will begin to see the Democrat talent show as we watch a leader emerge. Who will the Democrats turn to? At this writing the list of potential contenders is long.
--Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu
--Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown
--New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
--Conn. Senator Chris Murphy
--Former NY Mayor Bloomberg
--Former Atty. General Eric Holder
--Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe
--Former Mass. Governor Deval Patrick
--New York Senator Kirsten Gillenbrand
--New Jersey Senator Cory Booker
--California Senator Kamala Harris
--Mass. Senator Elizabeth Warren
--Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
--Former Vice President Joe Biden

And there are others who have been getting attention.

--Montana Governor Steve Bullock
--Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro
--Col Governor John Hickenlooper
--LA Mayor Eric Garcetti
--Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley
--Washington Governor Jay Inslee
--Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz

   The debates, forums, town halls and speeches will provide a context for the nation to watch a tone, policy and approach begin to emerge. That will help to shape and form what this new iteration of the party may become. 
   I suspect one of the toughest matters for Democrats is how to absorb, accommodate or perhaps dismiss the kind of insurgency we see in candidates who identify with Democratic Socialism, non traditional or radical approaches.
   I anticipate more of that in the years ahead. By nature of this force, Democrats may steer again toward liberal thinking. 

the republicans
     The Republican party is in tatters. The speaker of the House resigns from government because he cannot discipline the party and especially the disruptive liberty caucus. The Senate is playing footsie with the occupant of the White House as crazy and malicious as he is. They are in the sway of a Shakespearian tragedy. They have sacrificed their decades of value on foreign policy to lay down with a Russian stooge.
      Think how the world would be so much different and the enmity in the US so much less if John Kasich, or Marco Rubio or even Ted Cruz had won the nomination. Speculate even if one of them had defeated their reviled Lady Hillary.
A much different reality emerges.
       The nation watches to see if the vestige of traditional Republican values will find a standard bearer to rise up and fight what even his staff refers to as the vile and mad idiot.
       Republicans could begin the road to redemption if someone challenges Trump. Possibilities?
--Ohio Governor and former Congressman Kasich
--Arizona Senator Jeff Flake
--Texas Senator Ted Cruz 
--Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse

    Our culture has a tendency to mythologize. People often look a little better when time works as a lapidary. Politics has always been rough, but we seem stuck in a phase where a sense of vision is lacking, where principle is discarded for expediency and where money rules. Perhaps these internal fights in the two major parties will lead to something better.
We can hope.

     "The state-or, to make matters more concrete, the government-consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to seek out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get, and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time it is made good by looting 'A' to satisfy 'B'. In other words, government is a broker in pillage and every election is a sort of advanced auction on stolen goods." H.L. Mencken

   See you down the trail.




  1. There isn't a republican on your list of challengers who wouldn't have signed every bill trump has signed, there are no policy differences on the republican side, none. This tax cut has increased the deficit like it's been tied to a Saturn booster, we are going to hit a trillion dollars early in 2019. The corporate tax cut and the holiday on repatriation of overseas funds has done nothing for the economy, the majority of the money has gone for stock by-backs. Any of the r's on your list have any hesitation about that? No they don't. As for the dems...too soon to tell and they shouldn't talk about it. Bernie and Biden are too damn old and it's a tough job if you want to work at, unlike the current president. I'm encouraged by the polling 2 months out, Cuz may get a big surprise in November, along with a few other r senators. The focus has to be on November because more and more sleepy people are recognizing Obama was right after George Bush said after trump's inauguration speech, "That was some weird shit." Obama replied, "He's a bull shitter." As I reminded my RWNJ bro in law, "Trump couldn't even get a home town boy vote in NYC, Clinton got 91% of the vote by the people who know trump the best." if anything November 6th is a referendum on trump and we shall see what happens. For the republicans, it's over, the demographics are going to kill them dead and it won't be long either and they know it.

  2. What if Nelson Rockefeller had become the Republican Party's nominee for president in 1964?

  3. Hell with Nelson Rockefeller. Where is Willie Nelson now that we need him?

  4. Excellent essay Tom, perceptive as always. Mencken is an appropriate touchstone these days and I am sure he would have noted that "booboisie" has been fooled once again by the Kleptocrats. You have to give one thing to the Republikers, they know how to follow the money. Pretty much nothing else matters to them and Trump nailed that.

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