Monday, February 25, 2013

Divide and Conquer

It's all just sturm und drang, but who's telling the stories?
This is a hard post to write.  The goal is to postulate a systematic kind of oppression, without descending into ridiculous conspiracy theories and fearful involuntary urination.  I come to you without evidence in the traditional measure, but merely observation, anecdote and a sense that we're trying to understand something larger and more powerful than we generally accept.

The premise is simple - real wages have been stagnant since the 70s, the labor movement is dead and people work more hours for less remuneration than ever before, even as corporate profits are skyrocketing, the stock market is at all time highs and even the worst offenders, the financial behemoths, saved as private capitalist entities by massive infusions of public funds, are now, along with energy, pharmaceutical and other noted criminal actors on the corporate stage, are earning unprecedented profits and paying executive salaries way out of line with global standards.

So, in this environment where the middle and lower "classes" (a term that should NEVER have a viable application in a democratic nation under the rule of law) have suffered huge setbacks over the last fifty years, where even a basic college education leaves people drowning in debt they cannot hope to pay and the basic model of the "American Dream" is all but out of reach, you would rationally expect Americans to use the democratic tools available to them to change the system, wouldn't you?  And yet, the system rolls on, unchallenged, unhampered, even as meager efforts to question the status quo like "Occupy Wall Street" whither and die for lack of sustained effort.

And then you look over at the so-called "Tea Party".  They have all the same exposures to the virulent capitalism that we on the left have.  They are often living paycheck-to-paycheck, only one bad event from homelessness.  Unemployment is every bit as high in the Old South, if not higher, and every economic problem faced by a liberal in San Francisco is faced by a conservative in Tulsa.  And yet, there is no concerted political effort to demand that government support and assist working people at least as much as wealthy people and corporations.  And you cannot help but ask why.

So here's where we maybe go off the rails.  When we ask WHY the American people aren't challenging their loss of political access, their loss of economic growth, their utter loss of economic security, we cannot help but acknowledge that there is an equal and opposite force arrayed against that goal.  That force is movement conservatism, and if you observe that it is isn't rational for them to be willing to sacrifice their own aspirations in the name of political ideology, then, of course, you'd be right.

So that leads to the BIG question.  Movement conservatives, more than anything else, more than socialists or redistribution or labor, hate liberals.  They hate anything they can construe as being part of a "liberal" ideology.  They actually seek, and actively WANT, violent conflict with American liberals.  They are fully prepared to accept that a basic social democratic viewpoint is completely equivalent to some kind of subversive, destructive, seditious movement, something that needs to be snuffed out no matter what the cost.  So if you take a step back and look at the larger picture, you again have to ask why?  The idea of American democracy is I can do what I choose, and you can do what you choose, and as long as we stay out of each other's way, it's all to the good.  So all this wondering leads to the real question - is this ideological conflict a completely false construct, created and built and stoked to divide Americans effectively into two blocs, essentially preventing them from coming together politically to force the government "of the people, by the people and for the people" to serve the actual people?

Now, to be honest, I don't think anybody was smart enough to think about this in the beginning.  I think it started with Medicare, and led to abortion, and is all tied up in race.  But at some point, probably during the Clinton administration, it's not unreasonable to think that some of the wealthiest and most powerful Americans, what we have come to call the 1%, came together and concluded that they could preserve their political hegemony for all time by making certain that Americans could not ever find common cause, that there could never be a critical mass of people standing together and demanding what they were promised.  Then it was a simple matter of marketing, of defining ideologies and steering agendas, of testing words and labels for their power and appealing to the basic human tribal nature.

Ultimately, though, it doesn't matter.  The only way we can ever take back the kind of democratic freedoms pundits and politicians laughably claim we still enjoy is to build a large enough coalition to actually drive democratic change.  Force them to come out of the shadows and take undemocratic action in response - martial law, detention, deadly force - or acquiesce to the demands of a unified America.  Whether it was done intentionally or developed organically, this pernicious divide between "Right" and "Left" that has grown so bitter serves the wealthy and powerful who have corrupted our system of governance for their own gain like no other political tool in their toolbox.  And until we can find a way to recognize our common ground and our common enemy, we will continue to fight over their scraps.


  1. Chomsky has bee saying for years that there is only one party in the U.S. The business party which has an extreme right wing and a right of centre wing.
    I don't think that there is a single group behind it all I think it has grown more organically as more and more grifters have realised that there is a whacking good living to be made by stirring up the fear and hate.
    In NZ we have a similar experience in the labour market as more and more of it becomes casualised. It is not happening by accident, I don't think anyone is organising it, it is individuals with similar interests.
    Probably I've said this badly, You have to be careful not to sound too whacko.

    1. Indeed. At the same time, however, one cannot help but notice that the one eventuality that could challenge the status quo is precluded by irrational, tribal hatred.

      It would be irresponsible not to speculate...

  2. And anyone who knows what "Industrial-Military Complex" means cannot help but notice...stuff.

  3. It's not just conservatives, mikey.

    When the right epically fucks up, as they did during Bush and Cheney, they lose elections. Bigtime.

    But the neoliberals who control the Democratic party keep the pendulum from swinging back.

    Clinton deregulated the financial industry.

    Obama made sure the people responsible for blowing up the economy never faced prosecution, and were showered with money instead.

    So here we are: record corporate profits, unemployment at 7.9%, and the battle between our two parties is about how best to cut the deficit.

    There's certainly no need for austerity of any sort right now. We need the opposite.

    1. Interestingly, Thunder, your argument is self-refuting. Blowing up the economy is OBVIOUSLY orders of magnitude worse than not prosecuting those who blew it up. Invading and occupying two countries and murdering hundreds of thousands of people is OBVIOUSLY orders of magnitude worse than murdering a few thousand from the air. Fighting to take away things like abortion, unemployment insurance and environmental protection is OBVIOUSLY orders of magnitude worse than fighting to protect those things. So while the premise is "it's not just conservatives", they clearly represent the greatest threat to my future - any yours...

    2. Interestingly, you didn't address my argument at all.

      It's not that Obama is "just as bad as Bush".

      It's that Bush performs as he did, and an Obama comes along and says, this is all I've got to do to be better.

      E.g. Next GOP President nukes Paris and Berlin for no reason.

      Democrat after him nukes London. STILL THE LESSER EVIL!

      P.S. You're wrong about how the economy got blown up. Clinton lit that fire. Bush and Cheney sat around while the town burned down.

      And then Obama hired from the same gang of arsonists that Clinton did.

    3. Except that Obama has terminated the two wars that Bush started. No nuking of London.

      It's not only a non sequiter, the idea that the economic disaster was Clinton's fault and that Bush had no culpability is just unsupportable.

      And interestingly, you didn't address mikey's argument at all. You put "Obama just as bad as Bush" in quotes but mikey never said that. Never even implied it.

  4. I don't think mikey said it was just conservatives, thunder.

    What he DID say, though, was that the Right is the side who are willing to just blow everything up to get what they want. It's not an attitude prevalent in democratic circles, for good or ill.

    And underlying all of that is the 1%, who are perfectly happy to see you and I at each other's throats while idiots wander around public buildings with assault weapons.

  5. Yeah. I just keep wondering, all Americans who are not rich face the same disastrous present and catastrophic future. We all are one bad event, one arbitrary layoff or disease away from bankruptcy and homelessness. And the only thing that is preventing overwhelming numbers of Americans from demanding a better system is a mostly artificial ideological divide premised on really pointless tribal taboos and resentments. And I wonder if there is structure underlying that divide...

    1. I think good old fashioned terror is part of it also. As you point out, everyone's on a knife edge. And as long as we don't have to acknowledge the precariousness of our own position,it is somewhat easier to think that OTHER people have made poor choices or are we are otherwise somehow more blessed than they.

      I don't think the 1% have created that situation, at least not consciously (I don't think they're that smart) but they are certainly willing to use it to their advantage.

      and opposing steps toward universal health care, or income equality, or strenghtening the social safety features, what there are of them, simply locks the proles into their terror fueled subjugation even deeper.

      The ideological divide is more two sides of the same coin, I think. Bread and Circuses.

    2. Name the last GOP President to put Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles in charge of a "Bipartisan Deficit Commission" when unemployment was over 8%?


      Maybe I can get through to you two this way:

      If McCain had been elected President in November of 2008, and then proceeded to do every single thing Obama has done, would you be making excuses for him?

      The Richest 1 Percent Have Captured 121 Percent Of Income Gains During The Recovery

      This isn't because the GOP made him do it. This is a direct and predictable result of Obama-Geithner trickle-down economics.

    3. Name the last GOP President to put Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles in charge of a "Bipartisan Deficit Commission" when unemployment was over 8%?

      The totally failed commission that did nothing? The commission that was set up to fail by putting Reasonable Republicans like Paul Ryan in a position of veto on it?

      How about this: Name the last Democratic President to enact health care reform legislation. Name the last President to make strides in LGBT civil rights. Name the last President who raised taxes on the top 1%. Name the last President to stop TWO wars.

      Name the last President to cut entitlements. TRICK QUESTION.

      If McCain had been elected President in November of 2008, and then proceeded to do every single thing Obama has done, would you be making excuses for him?

      I dunno, perhaps if you hate Obama enough, McCain will be elected and we can find out. But You're right, that's a trick question. McCain would never have done any of those things, would have cut taxes even more, and would have started an additional war or two.

      Although if he had been elected in 2008 and done all those things, I would have been shocked. Because his stated platform contained actually none of them.

      It's a moot point anyway. If he had been elected, Snowbilly would have engineered an unfortunate stroke.


  6. Maybe I can get through to you two this way:

    I doubt it though. As you like to point out, I am unusually dim. And I live in Milwaukee, so there you go.

  7. would you be making excuses for him?

    Of course not. This is the most frustrating straw man of the whole argument - I am not and have never "made excuses" for Obama. I have called him out on everything you mention. But I KNOW that he is better on rights, better on social insurance and better on International Relations than McCain/Palin ever would have been. And better on the economy than Romney/Ryan would have been. So, as I have explained inumerable times, I chose the better option in a two party system. You effective chose the worse option. You can spend the rest of your days trying to justify that decision, but it's impossible.

  8. A guy I know who's very active in Canadian politics and he's really happy that the middle is being destroyed. He figures the polarization benefits the right more.