Why Democrats Keep Losing

Per white, working-class men, part of the problem is that they hear Trump and co. saying, “We’ll bring back jobs,” and they hear liberals saying, “You already have too much white and male privilege, so don’t look to us for help.” So who you gonna vote for? I say this as one who believes that the core Democratic platform is much better for workers than that of the disingenuous Trump Republicans, but the Democratic PR has been hijacked, at least in part, by academic theorists with a message uniquely suited to alienate white working-class men and their families (whose interests should be with the Democratic Party).

 

1960s vs today’s liberals, part two

The difference (when it comes to issues of cultural identity) may be differing views of human nature. In the Civil Rights and hippies decade, there was much struggle but there was much optimism. The liberal assumption was that people of no race were intrinsically racist, that people brought different views and backstories to the table, some wrongheaded and destructive, and some just different. Our role was not to pass judgment but to help each other to find the lighted path with no preconceptions based on race and gender or where you came from. The progressive goal was to find the human goodness in all and celebrate each other across demographic lines, to work joyfully together, without judgment and without shame. Sure, there were problems, but there was an underlying sense that the goodness of the human heart would win out in the end.

Liberalism today (or a large branch of it) seems to take a much darker view of human nature. The assumption seems to be that all white people are racists, all men are sexists, and those who don’t acknowledge their racism and sexism are the worst and most dangerous sort. Instead of looking for ways to celebrate each other across demographic lines, the modus operandus seems to be to search every alleyway to validate one’s own grim premise in this regard. The old liberalism that eschewed shame and judgment and trusted in the goodness of the heart to come through in the end has yielded to a liberalism dedicated almost entirely to identifying targets for shame and judgment. S/he who finds the most racism wins.

The hippie view of human nature had its risks. It was rooted in a naïve idealism that was not always well equipped for the contingencies of the real world. But the risk of the current variant of liberalism is that you end up fostering self-segregation along demographic lines; you end up with people sharing less openly, thinking less outside the box, for fear of offending, and when they do offend, you end up eating your own; you end up with people living under an imminent threat of shame and judgment instead of celebrating each other openly in a spirit of positive affirmation of self and other.

I prefer to go with the hippie risk of “naïve idealism.” Maybe it’s just selfishness. After all, this preference allows me to greet people on the street, regardless of demographics, backstory, or political affiliation, with a good-faith optimism, and a little bit of joy at our shared humanness, rather than greeting them with suspicion and a sharp eye scanning for their sins. Then again, perhaps my preference is simply a function of my age. But I would like to think that it won’t get me scarlet-lettered out of hand by my younger colleagues. There’s still a lot of work we can do together.

For Part One of 1960s vs today’s liberals, click here.

 

 

 

Trump’s big week

WHEREAS, the man who has shown with such consistency that he will lash out childlike and without perspective at any perceived slight makes a speech showing an obsession with “other countries laughing at us”;

WHEREAS to the delight of his friend, Mr. Putin, he pulls out of the climate deal, jeopardizing worldwide collaboration on the environment, ceding leadership of the new energy economy to others, and driving a wedge between the US and its Western European allies while Russia sits back as one of the “good guys” still signed in; and

WHEREAS he launches a junior high bully twitter attack on the mayor of London while that city is in the midst of tragedy (driving in more deeply the aforementioned wedge, to the delight of the aforementioned beneficiary, and suggesting that he is perhaps incapable of understanding his role on the world stage);

NOW, THEREFORE, it is time to bring the alarm levels up a notch.

The Curse of the Confederacy: A Plague on Both Your Houses

As I try to think through both sides (and come to terms with my own ambivalence), I don’t see any good guys in the debate about removing the Confederate monuments in New Orleans. I share the underlying politics of the “removal” side – let’s call them the liberals. Namely, the values of the Confederacy in no way reflect our values today. In fact, the vast majority of people (white and black) I have known in my 50 years in New Orleans agree with that. Thus, removing purely political markers like the Liberty Monument makes sense. Changing selected street names – no problem. But I am uncomfortable with the cleansing of art history, as if art history has no value beyond politics and must be purged to suit today’s political values. For example, the century-old Beauregard sculpture’s lines and shadowed cuts and grandeur impressed me long before I knew who was on the horse. It certainly never gave me the slightest pro-Confederate feeling. If it had been quietly renamed “The Unknown Union Soldier,” most could still have enjoyed the aesthetics and most native New Orleanians would have been none the wiser. (My experience is that outsiders coming in are more aware of the political side and natives are more likely aware of these things as the “furniture” they grew up with.) So my concerns on this side are these:

(1) Where does the cultural cleansing of historical-register artifacts from centuries past stop? If you could give those who ask this question some reasonable sense of the endgame before the steamroller (as they see it) starts rolling, it would go a long way toward alleviating anxiety and opening a dialogue. At least it seems a fair question to ask.

(2) How does “us vs them” identity politics ever get us back to the “all-in-this-together” model of Martin Luther King and Mary Wollstonecraft, Frederick Douglass and Olaudah Equiano, Gandhi and Mandela, all of whom placed shared humanness at the center of their visions? Sectioning off white, male, black, female, etc., reifying those characteristics and prejudging people accordingly, seems to keep us on the wrong path.

Pro-monument voices – let’s call them the conservatives here – have, for the most part, been even worse. All the waving of Confederate flags and “Southern pride,” in this context, suggests that they really do still believe in the lost cause of Confederate values. This is almost mind-boggling. Even the ones who complain about “erasing history” seem to be clinging to the political history of a vicious past. I haven’t heard every voice, but has no one disavowed the political values of the Confederacy in no uncertain terms and made the case that art history may have some small value that goes beyond politics?

Removal of the Liberty Monument was an easy call. Removal of the Jefferson Davis statue should also have been an easy compromise, as any art historical significance it had beyond its political point seemed slight. But Lee and Beauregard were on the National Historical Register for a reason, and that reason is not because the National Historical Register favors Confederate values. I would like to think it has something to do with preserving art history as, to some extent, valuable in its own right, irrespective of politics.

In the end, maybe removal of all the monuments was a good thing. I haven’t really canvassed all the neighborhoods to see what people were actually thinking, and I might be swayed by more voices on the ground. I suspect, though, that the most public voices on both sides represent their own fairly small but very active political circles. But each side seems to thrive in its own way on polarization, ready to shut its ears and throw everything under the bus to make its political point. This makes me think that maybe politics itself is the problem. Maybe we should throw politics under the bus …

Click here for “The end of all politics.”

8 things you should know about Trump and the Environment

  1. Joe Pizarchik spent more than seven years working on a (recently passed) regulation to protect streams from mountaintop removal coal mining. It took Congress 25 hours to kill it. This is just one of dozens of regulations that Republicans have begun erasing. (Politico, 02/12/2017)
  2. The Trump administration is requiring that political appointees review all Environmental Protection Agency studies and data prior to public release, according to a report from the Associated Press. The controversial new rules, which will also apply to information displayed on the EPA’s website, have sparked outrage from scientists and journalists.
  3. Trump has said he will cancel Obama’s moratorium on selling coal from federal lands and Obama’s order that federal agencies take climate change into account in environmental reviews.
  4. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) director nominee believes the issue of whether climate change is happening is “far from settled.” In fact, he is the man who led the fossil fuel industry’s lawsuit against the EPA’s clean power plan.
  5. Trump himself said last year that “climate change” was a hoax created by the Chinese to hurt the U. S. economy (although he has since shifted to “undecided”).
  6. Trump’s nominee to head the Dept. of the Interior “supports the Keystone pipeline and supported measures to remove protections of endangered species, while opposing legislation to regulate fracking.”
  7. US representative Jason Chaffetz has legislation to direct the Interior secretary to immediately sell off an area of public land the size of Connecticut, arguing that public ownership serves “no purpose for taxpayers.”
  8. Trump’s nominee to run the Dept of Energy is none other than Rick Perry, the man who promised to eliminate the Dept of Energy during his own presidential campaign.

Trump runs the government like a business

In the corporate world, when the executive makes all the final decisions and those who disagree are replaced, it’s called business as usual. In government, it’s called fascism. The reason democratic governments are not run like businesses is because there’s a different set of risks associated with the concentration of power. When you refuse access to unfavorable press and discredit judges for checking executive power, you have just gone after the two basic firewalls between us and fascism. This is why Michael Moore says that a coup is underway in the U.S. and no one realizes it. In fact, Trump himself may not realize it, as I suspect he is just managing the only way he knows how, oblivious to the historical implications.

I think U.S. institutions are strong enough to stave off the coup, but people need to stay vigilant and vocal about the implications of Trump’s manner of using institutional leverage (with a crude authoritarian nationalism) to silence dissent.