Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Monied Elite Realignment Into Single Party 
Excluding Economic Populists & 
Ethnic & Religious Tribalists


-by emorej a Hong Kong

The current Presidential campaign has evolved much further, towards a potential major ‘realignment moment’, than is widely appreciated. Much of the Hillary-supporting drumbeat of pressure on Bernie includes realignment concerns in its undisclosed agenda. The end game remains unpredictable-- even without any Hillary-damaging ‘wild cards’ popping up directly or indirectly from the FBI or the Panama Papers. Bernie and Trump have been wild cards enough to make the entire alignment of national politics look as much like a house of cards as the 2008 crash revealed the US-led international banking system to be.

I. The recently disclosed April 11, 2016 Greenberg-Carville memo (posted in pdf here) helps clarify certain options and decisions of Hillary’s Presidential campaign, of the Republican establishment and of Bernie’s campaign. The memo is no less useful because it is being publicized by right-wingers, or because its express analysis contains some weaknesses.

The memo helps clarify the Democratic establishment’s awareness that the Republican party’s fast-formalizing formal disintegration offers an opportunity, which money-focused Democrats led by Hillary are actively moving to seize, to pursue:

Monied elites’ formal realignment into a single dominant Democratic Party
which would (in order to include the all-important big donors, lobbyists and employers)
would exclude (from policy influence):
economic populists (like Bernie, Elizabeth Warren and Alan Grayson) and
ethnic tribalists (at core of Trump’s support) and
religious tribalists (at core of Cruz’s support)
… thereby leaving these excluded demographics divided into two (or more) powerless fringes.

II. Although it can be argued that an informal but substantive version of this alignment has been gelling at least since 1980 or even 1972, the mechanism used to formalize it is important, and now appears likely, in the 2016 Presidential election, to include:
A. Democratic Party structure becoming the formal home of the most of the monied establishment;

B. Republican Party structure (at least at the federal level) being abandoned by most types of big donors, and being left entirely to ethnic tribalists and/or religious tribalists (who need each other, and who overlap, probably enough to coexist in that single party)

C. Economic populists will be forced to choose between being a powerless fringe in an existing major party, or coalescing around a third party, created anew and/or through mergers of existing parties such as the Green, Working Families, Peace & Freedom &/or Democratic Socialists of America (whose brand has been invigorated by Bernie’s campaign).

D. Libertarians logically should divide along (and should support different parties in accordance with) the following lines:
Pseudo-Libertarians who conflate ethnic & religious privileges with their supposedly neutral ideology.
Gullible-Libertarians who are blind to the "socialism for the rich."
Honest-Libertarians who realize the impossibility of extending libertarianism beyond social tolerance to reach the economic structure of our technological civilization, complex economy, and over-burdened global climate and biosphere.
III. While not persuasive in all of its express or implied analysis, the April Greenberg-Carville memo highlights several important elements of the Republican fracturing, the Democratic semi-fracturing, and the resulting options underlying the Hillary campaign’s actions and messaging of recent weeks. The contents and consequences of the memo can be summarized as follows:
A. Everybody at higher levels of Hillary’s campaign has been aware since early April of opportunities to expand the Democratic-supporting electorate, in a context where:
1. Blacks & Hispanic general election turnout for Dems will be high in response to Republican extremism directed at them.

2. Younger generations’ attention to politics & concern about inequality is surging.

3. Many Republican-supporting voters of recent decades can be pulled back to the Dem side among:

Higher income socially moderate “fiscal conservative” Whites, 
low-income whites

B. It now seems clear that Hillary’s campaign has decided to prioritize Democratic Party big tent expansion through (relative to Bernie’s very popular campaign platform) "fiscal conservatism" that will continue the bipartisan establishment donor-driven policies under which non-elites must fight over crumbs from elites’ huge slice of the economic pie. It is not clear whether one or the other of the following reasons mainly caused this decision (or even whether these two reasons can be disentangled from each other):
1. Hillary’s campaign early on was forced to prioritize raising cash after heavy and frontloaded spending collided with narrowness of donor base and with Bernie’s popularity and much broader donor base.
2. Hillary’s campaign, from its inner circles outwards through its surrogates, endorsers and donors, are people whose career status and income, and accumulated wealth, benefits to the point of complete dependency, on:

“fiscal conservatism”,
leaving only crumbs outside the 1%’s huge slice of the economic pie, and
keeping political donations flowing from the 0.1% and 0.01%.
C. The need to select among mutually exclusive priorities would have been clear to all key players, because (using the categories highlighted in the Greenberg-Carville memo):
1. The “fiscal conservatism” of highly educated socially moderate White Republican-supporters conflicts with the concerns about unequal economic opportunity held by both:
Younger generations, and

low-income whites

2. Only a break with "fiscal conservatism" could enable simultaneous success in:

Preserving and expanding rights of Blacks, Hispanics & immigrants, and
Addressing the worry among low-income whites that, with "fiscal conservatism" being largely code for "non-elites must fight over crumbs from the 1%’s huge slice of the economic pie," the portion of those crumbs available for low-income whites is reduced by every action that preserves and expands rights, especially of immigrants, but also of all Hispanics & Blacks.
D. The consequences of the above decision are most obvious in Hillary supporters’ efforts to gin up Black and Hispanic anxiety about the exaggerated Whiteness and largely fabricated "racism" (not to mention totally fabricated "English only-ism") of the "Bernie Bro" stereotype that they partially succeeded in spreading. Although this was probably motivated mainly by Hillary’s campaign’s need to distract Blacks and Hispanics from Bernie’s economic and racial justice positions, it has likely had the important side effect of confirming the longstanding presumption, among low-income whites, that they are the main losers from alliances between the Democratic establishment and Blacks & Hispanics… And perhaps has foreclosed any possibility (if there ever was one) that the Democratic establishment would subordinate many of its big donors’ interests to economic policy outreach to low-income whites.

E. This leaves us with the same, but starker than ever, ‘chicken-&-egg’ question that has dominated moderate Left American politics since the 1960s:
Which of these mutually reinforcing tendencies came first?
Are Democratic politicians driven to rely on (and do policy favors for) big donors because low-income whites are too racist and tribalist to join a coalition with minorities?
Or are Low-Income Whites driven by big donor-favoring economic policies into intense opposition to sharing pie crumbs with Blacks, Hispanics and immigrants?
Some Hillary supporters have expressly argued that it’s simply not possible-- or moral-- to build a coalition with people who so easily line up behind racial, tribal and religious supremacism. Of course the "moral" element is secondary, as shown by Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, and some of his later policy decisions, which created memorable memes like "a Sister Souljah moment," along with an expanded drug war and incarceration industry complex.

But is this type of a coalition still possible in today’s demographic context, as the numerical majority long held by White voters inexorably decreases, and as Black and Hispanic voters’ influence over Democratic party policies increases. Evidence, that this coalition is still possible, can be found in Bernie’s having attracted significant numbers of votes from low-income Whites, even while highlighting his commitment to:
(along with economic justice for all)
racial justice,
related criminal justice reform, and
respectful economic and political treatment of undocumented immigrants.
How can Bernie be making inroads into the same demographics that Trump has dominated largely by highlighting rhetoric that is diametrically opposite on immigrants, and dismissive of the need for respect towards minorities and women?

One longstanding hypothesis seems to have been tested by the primary cycle, and proven to have some validity, as follows:

Trump shares with Bernie an emphasis on corrupt dominance of politics and economics by insiders, notably through international trade deals like the existing NAFTA and the impending TPP. Clearly low-income whites supporting Trump are (as they so often have done in the past) conflating:
their fear and anger at being forced to fight for economic crumbs left over from elites’ pie-slicing
their socially inherited reflexes of suspicion, dislike and supremacism towards Blacks and other minorities.
But those who respond positively to Bernie are showing that:

1. If offered a chance to cut elites’ pie share down to a fairer size, leaving more for everybody else to divide (and/or a chance to vent and act on their anger at those elites), then

2. They don’t cling so tightly to racism or tribalism as to cast, as the now-hoary cliché goes, a "vote against their economic self-interest."

F.  All of this matters now more than ever because:
1. If Hillary, as the Democratic Presidential nominee, is seen as the champion of both Democratic and Republican establishments and their donors, there is potential for Trump to win a huge majority of low-income whites, who are still the largest demographic.

2. Although Trump’s primary campaign has been so extreme and bizarre as to constitute an archetype of the evil that anti-racist and anti-tribalist "lesser-evil" voters would vote against, Trump has much more (virtually unlimited) room for maneuver (in his Veep selection, his policies and his tone) than Hillary seems to feel she has-- or needs-- towards adopting Bernie’s proposed policies.

3. If the Democratic establishment doubles down on the money-driven politics that have catalyzed support for Bernie’s campaign, then the value, to Bernie’s supporters and sympathizers, of remaining in the Democratic Party will transition from "limited like before" to "squeezed more than ever." If these groups see Hillary recruiting the Republican establishment into the Democratic Party, further diluting the policy influence of economic populists, and also see Hillary’s electoral positioning driving into Trump's arms the largest demographic that these groups have spent the last year reaching out to, then these groups could increase their pressure on Bernie to organize a third party, or perhaps to parachute into the existing Green Party Presidential ballot line for the 2016 Presidential election.

4. Although Ralph Nader’s Green Party presidential candidacy in 2000 had no chance to be more than the spoiler it turned out to be, the "Green" Party's name alone makes it a very suitable vehicle for the now-emerging climate-cliff "Wyle E. Coyote moment." If Hillary’s Presidential campaign continues her history of splitting the difference on climate policy, she would be only one climate-related disaster away from losing her front-runner status to a Green nominee named Bernie, who has now added enormous name recognition, and a primary-vetted platform, to his lengthy legislative experience and policy consistency. The next "Hurricane Sandy" will most likely be bigger and more destructive and demoralizing. Will its dates be similar to the last one (October 22, 2012- November 2)? 
Is there a simple solution to a problem with this kind of complexity? This could prove helpful:
Goal Thermometer

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At 2:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see where the Greenberg-Carville memo could prove to be as influential over the conduct of political action as was the Powell Memo of over 40 years ago. Powell set the stage, and now Greenberg-Carville is slamming shut the doors of opportunity for the vast majority of the population. Not just the American population, but that of the world.

Assuming that climate change doesn't make the Earth uninhabitable for life, and that historians still exist in a future time, these two memos will be required reading to understand the ear of corporate rule.

At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Sasha said...

As a low income white woman who'll be voting for Sanders in the California Primary, I find much of this nausea-inducing. We "don’t cling so tightly to racism or tribalism" as to vote against our "economic self-interest"? Gee, thanks. But, generally speaking, we're still racist AF, right? And we're probably guilty of a whole bunch of other isms too? Unlike all those enlightened middle class and upper middle class white people who refuse to rent to black people on AirBnB.

Here's the thing: Middle class white people are much more likely to vote Republican in general and to support Trump in particular (median income of Trump voters: $72,000) than low income white people, who are more likely to vote Dem. In a general election matchup against Trump, Sanders does way better among white voters making less than $25,000/yr than he does among white voters on the whole.

One of the things that really bothers me about the widespread tendency among supposed progressives/liberals to blame all low income whites for the votes of a minority of us (especially when all middle class whites aren't considered backwards racists although a majority of them does reliably vote GOP) is that it's clear you don't actually know us and are basing your opinion of us on offensive stereotypes.

If you knew us, you'd know that our families, friends and workplaces are much more likely to be racially diverse. My family, for instance, is multi-racial, as is my partner's. Our family also includes first and second generation immigrants. About half of the married poor and working class white people we know around here are married to non-white people. We are not who you think we are.

Concerns about immigration among the people we know (of all races, but especially among whites and blacks) aren't motivated by xenophobia or racism but rather the fear that having to compete for already scarce jobs, affordable housing and services with even more people will make their already hard lives even harder and threaten their ability to eke out an existence. Also, the fact that a large number of immigrants from Latin America speak only Spanish has resulted in employers in places like Southern California increasingly requiring or preferring that applicants for working class jobs speak Spanish. That puts non-Spanish speakers at a severe disadvantage, especially in rural areas with high unemployment, and explains why many want immigrants to learn English.

Now, I do have some friends and coworkers who vote Republican but even they aren't motivated by racism. In fact, they support many progressive policies like much higher taxes on the rich and Single Payer health care; however, they believe the Democrats have no intention of fighting to get any of that done. They also believe that the Democrats hate or don't care about people like them. When so-called progressives are celebrating the news that the life expectancy of women like me is rapidly declining, it's hard to argue with that.

At "best," Democrats and the left simply don't care about us, like when police shootings of unarmed poor whites or deaths in custody and police profiling/stops of poor whites are completely ignored (note: middle class white people's experiences with police aren't ours). At worst, supposed progressives openly hate us, laugh about us and broadcast their contempt for us. Makes it a little hard to believe those people are on our side.

At 6:40 PM, Anonymous Sasha said...

Continued below:

One thing you're right about is that the Clinton campaign has made it crystal clear that we don't belong in their coalition. Don't think I've ever heard so many disparaging statements about poor and working class white people, especially from rural areas, as from Clinton people in this Democratic Primary. It's clear to me that Clinton and her surrogates and supporters absolutely loathe us. The feeling is entirely mutual at this point.

I didn't hate Hillary Clinton at the start of this Democratic Primary. She wasn't my kind of politician but I didn't despise her. Now I do. I will never vote for her or anyone who endorsed her and I'll do my best to convince everyone I know to do the same.

It's blatantly obvious that Clinton plans to double down on making the Democrats the party of the affluent, while playing to identity politics and fears of the Big Bad GOP to keep minorities, women and LGBT people in line. Poverty and inequality will continue to skyrocket and people will continue to suffer and die because they can't afford health care, but hey, they'll put a woman on the $20 bill and name an airport after Obama, so it's all good. THAT is the future of the Democratic Party. No thanks.

At 7:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sasha - I am an older, retired white woman living in a red neck town. I used to be a Hillary supporter until I saw what she really is about. I have been a Democrat all of my adult life, because it was supposed to be the party that helped the people in our country who need help - the poor, elderly, disabled. The party elite have changed those values to what I see as basically republican values of greed and self-interest. It has been very disheartening to me. I hear you and I agree with you. Even though I have never been poor, I have had opportunities and have also been willing to work really hard to get where I am now. But, my beliefs have never changed about what the Democratic party should stand for and even as I watch with much disappointment my contemporaries become republicans, I will never change these beliefs that everyone in this country deserves fair treatment, equal opportunity and respect. I hope you know that all Democrats have not sacrificed their principles as Hillary obviously has.


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