Thursday, October 20, 2016

Are the Parties Losing the People?


Bernie Sanders speaks to the Democratic Party's natural constituency at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. Will the Party serve these people, or ask them to serve the Party?

by Gaius Publius

Note: This is not about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It's about change and the status quo.

I want to take a preliminary look at a larger topic than just this election, a topic I'll return to at length after the election. This first look will lean on Matt Taibbi's recent take on the apparently crashing Trump campaign. In a longer piece, I'll add more of my own analysis.

"People represented by literally no one"

Taibbi hits the nail on the head, I think, or rather, both nails, one for each of our major political parties. His overarching metaphor is this — a ruling class that's inbred, played out, self-satisfied, out-of-touch and therefore ripe for a fall. Think for example, as Taibbi reminds us, of the Romanovs, floating in an effete world of fortune-telling and mysticism as Russian soldiers starved and died on the World War I eastern front. Out of touch aristocrats, ripe for a fall.

Here's Taibbi, from the middle of the piece, making that metaphorical point (my emphases):
Trump's early rampage through the Republican field made literary sense. It was classic farce. He was the lewd, unwelcome guest who horrified priggish, decent society, a theme that has mesmerized audiences for centuries, from Vanity Fair to The Government Inspector to (closer to home) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. When you let a hands-y, drunken slob loose at an aristocrats' ball, the satirical power of the story comes from the aristocrats deserving what comes next. And nothing has ever deserved a comeuppance quite like the American presidential electoral process, which had become as exclusive and cut off from the people as a tsarist shooting party.

The first symptom of a degraded aristocracy is a lack of capable candidates for the throne. After years of indulgence, ruling families become frail, inbred and isolated, with no one but mystics, impotents and children to put forward as kings. Think of Nikolai Romanov reading fortunes as his troops starved at the front. Weak princes lead to popular uprisings....
Which lets him pivot perfectly to this:
... Which brings us to this year's Republican field. ...

There wasn't one capable or inspiring person in the infamous "Clown Car" lineup. All 16 of the non-Trump entrants were dunces, religious zealots, wimps or tyrants, all equally out of touch with voters. Scott Walker was a lipless sadist who in centuries past would have worn a leather jerkin and thrown dogs off the castle walls for recreation. Marco Rubio was the young rake with debts. Jeb Bush was the last offering in a fast-diminishing hereditary line. Ted Cruz was the Zodiac Killer. And so on.

The party spent 50 years preaching rich people bromides like "trickle-down economics" and "picking yourself up by your bootstraps" as solutions to the growing alienation and financial privation of the ordinary voter. In place of jobs, exported overseas by the millions by their financial backers, Republicans glibly offered the flag, Jesus and Willie Horton.

In recent years it all went stale. They started to run out of lines to sell the public. Things got so desperate that during the Tea Party phase, some GOP candidates began dabbling in the truth. They told voters that all Washington politicians, including their own leaders, had abandoned them and become whores for special interests. It was a slapstick routine: Throw us bums out!

Republican voters ate it up and spent the whole of last primary season howling for blood as Trump shredded one party-approved hack after another. By the time the other 16 candidates finished their mass-suicide-squad routine, a tail-chasing, sewer-mouthed septuagenarian New Yorker was accepting the nomination of the Family Values Party.
Taibbi's opening paragraph make this Republican-themed point as well:
The Fury and Failure of Donald Trump

Win, lose or drop out, the Republican nominee has laid waste to the American political system. On the trail for the last gasp of the ugliest campaign in our nation's history

Saturday, early October, at a fairground 40 minutes southwest of Milwaukee. The very name of this place, Elkhorn, conjures images of past massacres on now-silent fields across our blood-soaked history. Nobody will die here; this is not Wounded Knee, but it is the end of an era. The modern Republican Party will perish on this stretch of grass.
And near the end of the Republican part of the piece, he concludes:
Duped for a generation by a party that kowtowed to the wealthy while offering scraps to voters, then egged on to a doomed rebellion by a third-rate con man who wilted under pressure and was finally incinerated in a fireball of his own stupidity, people like this found themselves, in the end, represented by literally no one.
The Republican Party, in other words, has lost its voters. They find themselves, in Taibbi's words, "represented by literally no one."

Taibbi on the Democrats

And now on the Democratic side:
Although a lot of Clinton backers believe she's being unfairly weighed down by negative reports about the Clinton Foundation and her e-mails, her most serious obstacles this year were less her faults than her virtues. The best argument for a Clinton presidency is that she's virtually guaranteed to be a capable steward of the status quo, at a time of relative stability and safety. There are criticisms to make of Hillary Clinton, but the grid isn't going to collapse while she's in office, something no one can say with even mild confidence about Donald Trump.

But nearly two-thirds of the population was unhappy with the direction of the country entering the general-election season, and nothing has been more associated with the political inside than the Clinton name.
For Taibbi, Clinton is not a bad choice for president, but she offers what many people simply don't want, the status quo. Remember those crowds at all those Sanders rallies? Those people are the Democratic Party's natural constituency in this time of change. Who will serve them?

The Status Quo in an Era of Change

Two points on the Democratic Party's choices, with fuller explanations later:

1. This "time of change" is now almost a decade old. Barack Obama rode into office on a wave of hope and change, following the economic collapse of 2007-2008. People wanting real structural change is not a one-cycle phenomenon. It's not going away.

2. If the Democratic Party does not in future serve the people in its natural constituency — I don't mean "appear to serve" them, but actually serve them — if the Party doesn't bend to them, and requires instead that its constituency bend to the Party — then both parties will have lost the people.

To put it more plainly: If Hillary Clinton enters office, as it looks like she will do, determined to ignore the masses who don't want more of the status quo, the Democrats' natural constituency will also find itself, in Taibbi's words, "represented by literally no one."

And that's where things stand in the country. Are both parties losing the people? It's the third quarter of the political game of the century, and the opponents are not the parties, but the bipartisan system and those they represent. You don't want to live in a system that frustrates and battles those they represent.

I'll leave it there for now. As I wrote at the top, this is not about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It's about change and the status quo. (It's also about the "consent of the governed," if you think about it. But be careful. The ramifications of that line of thought will keep you up at night.)


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At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trump and the republicans deserve the scorn, but your failure to also forcefully call out the Democratic Party and Clinton's major weaknesses just makes you look like silly and pandering to the her supporters. The Democratic Party is also in major trouble as its leaders are determined to shed all their association with everything Democrats have stood for over the last 100 years other than in speeches only. When TPP passes and social security and Medicare are gutted, when Hillary, chuck schumer and Debbie Wasserman Schultz have fully turned the party into the global military, corporate, Stasi spying party, what are you going to say and do then? It was the best we could do? Enjoy the fall of Rome on a global scale, since you've helped make it happen.

At 3:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay Gaius! Another great piece. When Trump was giving Hillary a tough time, the status quo was looking good, with the choice being status quo vs. megalomaniacal dictator. The dangers of Trump appeared to escape much of the masses' thought processes. How pathetic is that and what does it say about Americans? I was petrified!! Another Hitler, here we come!! No joke.

Thank goodness for the heroic people who released that video and the few pages of his tax return. At the last minute, too. Whoever they are, they saved this country from possibly throwing democracy off of a cliff. That said, yes, people want real change and Hillary had better produce some. At least she must try. The Republicans will surely obstruct her as they have been doing with Obama. Obama did not produce much change, with all of his talk. But hey, I sympathize with him as racism was surely one of his fiercest foes. Soon, with a female President, we'll see all those old white men in Congress showing their sexist colors.

At 3:27 PM, Blogger Empy said...

My choices for Senate this term are Republican Rubio or Democratic Rubio. Both are lazy, corrupt fools that offer nothing for 99% of the voters. This is exactly what our current leadership wants and why the crowds for Bernie were so large and vocal. Chuck Schumer could not care less about what Democratic voters want. He craves two things. Power and money and will install any toadie that will further those goals. Patrick Murphy is the poison Chuck thinks we will swallow to help him take back the Senate. Sorry Chuck. That's no choice.

At 6:51 PM, Blogger The Owl said...

Yes, you are really on to something. Go with that. But by the way, the jobs didn't go overseas, the jobs went away from the planet because the rich started to speculate w the money instead of building things. We have to wake up to that.

At 7:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nobody spews truth quite like Taibbi. Yet even his piece stops WAAAAY short.

If you have been watching and analyzing for the past 36 years, there is one aspect that must be acknowledged and factored: Though voters of nearly the whole spectrum (save the top .01%) have no representation, they still vote with passion for those who won't change anything (for the better).

$lick willie got re-elected for no particular reason except he wasn't #bobdole. cheney/bush won a clearly fraudulent election and was coronated by a court coup that was illogical and illegal (votes should not be counted because it would harm the false winner declared by the media?!?!?!?), failed in every respect and started 2 arbitrary wars and then got re-elected. obamanation was elected "bigly", then immediately became the most corrupt and unrepresentative D admin in history. He then got re-elected.
This cycle we'll get obamanation III and, really, reagan X, even though NOTHING in $hillbillary's past indicate $he is willing or capable of representing anyone but her$elf. The money $hall be served... and maybe women won't be as thoroughly buggered as they might... but that's about all you can say.

Yet, with Jill Stein again on the ballot, 99% of the electorate will still pick either the buffoon or the corrupt tool.

Yes, a fair number of the left did get behind someone who SEEMED to be better. But after not enough of them did that, and overt fraud was uncovered but was ignored -- AGAIN... STILL -- that someone took his voters and burned them to the ground by endorsing and campaigning for the one who is and always has been against everything he SAID he stood for. So will nearly all those lefty voters go with the quisling Sanders' endorsement? Um... yeah.

It is correct to note the lack of any representation for the 99.99%. But it is incomplete to fail to note that the 99.99% will still elect the same nonrepresentative party functionaries without even considering the Greens or Socialists.

Personally, I cannot imagine any sort of bolshevik or french type revolution by this perfectly domesticated and cowed electorate.

I'll dismiss all such speculation until the populace rises up and burns down just the DNC or just one precinct office after overt voter fraud, but why do that when nobody seems to give a shit?

What seems FAAAAR more likely to me is the kind of "revolution" seen in Germany in the '30s. We'll demand our delusion of democracy be replaced by some strongman who promises he'll make everyone whole while ridding society of those evil "others" who have made their lives miserable. We saw some of that with cheneybush but they were too engrossed in oil wars. Drumpf has done some of that but is too focused on his own perceived slights and revenge... and is a complete buffoon. But an electorate this evil and stupid will find someone who can and SHALL feed the beast (without being a complete dumbfuck) long before it demands capable representation.
We've got part of it already -- normalized arbitrary agressive wars whenever we want, fear/hatred of islam and arabs, renewed and more delusional russophobia (as policy!) and 99.99% of society who continues to see their socioeconomic plight degrade.

A vacuum like this WILL BE FILLED.

At 6:51 AM, Blogger jvb2718 said...

Easy answer. No.
the "people" keep voting 99% for their party's offerings.

Each "party" gets around a third of the eligible electorate with a third abstaining for whatever reason (like maybe there has never been anyone worthy).

If that last third jumped in and voted Stein... maybe some movement in the future. But I don't see that ever happening.


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