Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day

Sunday, September 25, 2016

September 25, 2016
There might have been reason to think that Hillary Clinton could win the election by being a centrist. After the Republicans nominated an embarrassment, peeling off right-of-center votes seemed a reasonable strategy. (I speculated, not entirely seriously, that her logo, "I’m with Her," with a right-pointing arrow for the crossbar of the H, was a hint). However, relegating half of Trump supporters to a basket of deplorables and patronizing the other half wasn’t the way to attract them away from the Donald, or to seduce right-leaning undecideds. It illustrated two of Mrs. Clinton’s major weaknesses: she isn’t a natural or skillful campaigner, and her understanding of ordinary people seems limited.
Another potential weakness is the flip side of the centrist image: to some she’s too liberal to support, to others too conservative. I quoted one of the former persuasion on July 16; he worried about a "politically correct, free-milk-and-cookies, European-style social democracy" under Hillary. On the other side we have this: she is a "hideous imperial corporatist." Also, we mustn’t "ignore the plutocratic, racist, ecocidal, sexist, repressive and military-imperial havoc that Democrats inflict at home and abroad in dark, co-dependent alliance with the ever more radically reactionary Republicans."[67]
At least the Hillary-is-a-leftist writer admitted that he probably would vote for Trump, a bad decision but one oriented toward the real world. Our Hillary-is-an imperial-corporatist writer will toss away his vote in a noble gesture/fit of pique by voting Green. He feels safe in doing so because the threat of Trumpism isn’t real: Clinton will win.
Maybe she will, no thanks to our leftist scold, but if she doesn’t, don’t bother him; he’s too busy dreaming of a true liberal world.

_fascism_is_ not_coming_20160923

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

September 20, 2016

We need to address the divisions in the country, sometimes dressed up in "nationalisms" — white, Christian, Southern — which seek exclusion or separation. Who would better deal with such problems? In last Friday’s Washington Post, George Will worried that the election might produce "an unleashed, and perhaps unhinged, Democratic majority" in the Senate. How awful! We wouldn’t want policy to be made, problems to be addressed, by such wild, irrational people. Fortunately, we can turn to a Republican, who had a better and nobler view of nationalism, one which seeks to unite Americans in common cause.
We are all Americans. Our common interests are as broad as the continent. I speak to you here in Kansas exactly as I would speak in New York or Georgia, for the most vital problems are those which affect us all alike. The National Government belongs to the whole American people, and where the whole American people are interested, that interest can be guarded effectively only by the National Government.
So said Theodore Roosevelt in a speech entitled "The New Nationalism."
Adopting this vision would require that we think of ourselves as Americans, something — apart from slogans — we often have had some difficulty doing, and which seems a distant hope at present. It requires a sense of, and a commitment to, common goals and welfare: in short, a sense of community. "The New Nationalism puts the national need before sectional or personal advantage." TR quoted another Republican, Abraham Lincoln: "I hold that while man exists it is his duty to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind."
Sadly, their Republican Party no longer exists. Blathering, as the current Republican candidate does, about making America great while fanning flames of division, demonstrates that it is not the Democrats who have become unhinged.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

August 28, 2016
In an eloquent speech following the shooting of police officers in Dallas, President Obama said, "I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem." Unfortunately, we are divided, broadly and deeply. There are any number of indications.
Starting with the context of Mr. Obama’s remarks, there is the deadly gulf between police and black citizens. This is not the only indicator of racial division; the attacks on the President often reflect bias. White nationalism, white pride, white whatever is based on fear and hatred of blacks and Latinos. Here is a typical white-nationalist claim: "Only those of pure White blood, whatever their creed, may be members of the nation. Non-citizens may live in America only as guests and must be subject to laws for aliens."[47]
Donald Trump is a demagogue and a rabble-rouser, who has encouraged or condoned violence at his rallies, and has used and magnified racial, cultural and religious divisions and resentments. The rebellious nature of his followers, and loose talk at rallies and at the GOP convention, has led to speculation that, when he is sent back to Trump Tower, his followers may not take it quietly, especially as he is claiming that, if he loses, it will be due to fraud. One article, referring to "the angry, unhinged mob formerly known as the Republican base," warned that "people who call for their opponents to be arrested or killed, while imbuing their own candidate with messianic powers, do not accept political defeat easily."[48]  A revolt isn’t likely, but concern about it is a sign of how bad things are.
Trump is supported by the loony but popular conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who seems to think that every violent event, such as 9-11, the Oklahoma City bombing and Sandy Hook, was really staged by the government.[49]  Trump returns the compliment: "Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down."[50]  Jones’ fear and hatred of government includes, not surprisingly, the question of gun possession: "I'm here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!"[51]
Gun nuts, of whom the NRA is the leader and mouthpiece, fit nicely into the speculation about a rebellion by Trump’s followers. The NRA has endorsed Trump, and has run an ad attacking Mrs. Clinton and urging a vote for Trump. Of course, it encourages everyone to be armed. The country is awash in guns and many have dangerous ideas about what they are for. As an article in The Atlantic[52] put it, "in recent years, the belief in widespread gun ownership as a defense against tyrannical government has become an alluring idea, gaining traction with members of Congress as well as fringe conspiracy theorists." As an example of the former, it quoted Senator Tom Coburn: "The Second Amendment wasn't written so you can go hunting, it was to create a force to balance a tyrannical force here." (Ted Cruz agrees [53]) As to fringe groups, it quoted something called Three Percenters: "all politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war." As to ordinary citizens, the article cited a 2013 poll reporting that sixty-five percent of Americans see gun rights as a protection against tyranny.
The Southern Poverty Law Center identified 998 anti-government groups active in 2015. It noted that the anti-government movement has experienced a resurgence since President Obama was elected. Immigration and economic worries help fuel the movement, as does racism. Of the 998 groups, 276 were militias.[54]
Many of the groups are made up of "sovereign citizens." Such people believe that government is illegitimate, and that they are not bound by its laws. They invent odd theories to justify their above-the-law status. According to one web site, "The first thing a Sovereign becomes is immune to law, I.E. statutory, civil and vehicle codes. You no longer are subject to those laws they just do not apply to you."[sic][55]  A sovereign, it tells us, can avoid paying state or federal income taxes, and can discharge debts by self-created "bonds."
Much of the activity of self-proclaimed sovereigns is confined to evading taxes or license fees and creating false paperwork, such as liens on property, but some have engaged in violence. "The FBI considers sovereign-citizen extremists as comprising a domestic terrorist movement . . . with well-known members, such as Terry Nichols, who helped plan the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, bombing."[56]
A frequent claim by such people is that the federal government was replaced by a corporation mysteriously created many years ago; the date varies from the 1860s to the 1930s. One version tells us that "a for-profit corporate entity known as the UNITED STATES Government. . . has been posing as the lawful government for nearly 150 years. . . ." Because of its fraud, abuse and theft, righteous lawful government must be restored. That, we are told, has been done; there is a new government: "The Republic for the United States of America [RUSA], has been the only lawful de jure government in America since 2010."[57]  It is a parallel, interim entity which will be fully substituted for the corporation when proper elections somehow are held, at a date to be determined. In the meantime, RUSA does not consent to the use by the false, corporate federal government of any federal property or resources. RUSA is an offshoot of The Guardians of the Free Republic, which issued letters to governors in 2010 directing them to resign within three days or be removed. All of this is delusional, but it’s none the less an example of the suspicion, resentment and withdrawal that seems to be rampant.
The web site of RUSA urges support for "Constitutional Sheriffs," and links to the web site of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), a group which claims membership — or support, or training, something — of 400 or more sheriffs. It claims that sheriffs are the highest elected officials in each county and have the right to prevent enforcement of laws by state or federal agencies. It would prevent the "[a]rrest of citizens or seizure of persons or property [by outside agencies] without first notifying and obtaining the express consent of the local sheriff."[58]  The CSPOA has, peculiarly for a law enforcement group, an obsession with gun-possession rights.

According to Right Wing Watch, the leader of CSPOA, Richard Mack, claims that "states and counties need to enforce their ‘sovereignty’ in areas like marriage equality and gun control, or else ‘we will lose liberty in America, and we will not get it back unless there’s bloodshed’." [59]  Mack is part of a group that is "seeking to stage a political takeover of [an Arizona] county as an experiment in creating a local government that will ignore and ‘nullify’ federal laws — such as federal lands restrictions and gun regulations — that its leaders believe to be unconstitutional."[60]
Similarly, The Tenth Amendment Center peddles the notion that states have the right to nullify federal laws, an invitation to chaos. I won’t add to my extensive comments[61] on that theory, but it is high on the worrisome list of symptoms of national fracturing, and the Center’s web site toys with secession. That is made more explicit by the League of the South, which advocates the secession of the Southern States and the formation of a Southern republic. [62]
Cliven Bundy became a hero to the sovereigns by running his cattle on federal land, refusing to pay grazing fees, ignoring court orders, and finally arranging an armed standoff with federal officers. He declared that "I don’t recognize [the] United States Government as even existing." His defiance encouraged others, including the CSPOA and, of course, led to the occupation led by his sons of a wildlife refuge in Oregon. The Republican national platform pandered to the resentment of federal land ownership in this proposal: "Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing for a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to states."
Disdain for government and radical individualism aren’t limited to fringe groups. The preamble to the Libertarian Party’s 2016 platform declares: "As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others." To be sure, the Libertarians disavow the aggressive use of force against other citizens. Therefore, we could regard this as a peaceful, political form of self-sovereignty, distinct from the kooky sovereign citizens.
However, the platform is directed primarily at freeing the individual from government, many of the activities of which are declared to be illegitimate, and asserts the right to use force to protect property. "This right inheres in the individual, who may agree to be aided by any other individual or group." That seems to encourage armed resistance, such as Bundy’s. To make clear that it has arms in mind, the platform declares: "We affirm the individual right recognized by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms. . . . We oppose all laws at any level of government restricting, registering, or monitoring the ownership, manufacture, or transfer of firearms or ammunition."
In a final flourish, the platform states: "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of individual liberty, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it . . . ." The present government, in the Libertarians’ view, meets that description.
Divisiveness has become the aim of one of our major parties. One could go on at length on this topic, but let these comments from The Party is Over suffice. "The Republican Party is no longer a party of governance, because it has no positive agenda. . . It has become the ‘anti’ party par excellence." The author, noting that he was "not alone in ascribing nihilistic and destructive motives to the former party of Lincoln," offered a 2011 quote by Bruce Bartlett, who served in the Reagan and Bush I administrations. Referring to failure of the government to make progress in combating the economic slump, Bartlett said the problem is that "we now have a crazy party in charge of one of the houses of our Congress, and they won’t allow anything to happen, because it’s in their vested interest to make things worse."[63]
Then we have the Tea Party, in effect the right wing of a right-wing party, which pretends to be dedicated to defending the Constitution. However, one study found that to be ironic. Despite their fondness for the Founding Fathers, Tea Party members espoused positions similar to those of the anti-federalists, the Founders’ opponents. Their toying with disunion doesn’t recall only the founding era: "The Tea Partiers we met did not show any awareness that they are echoing arguments made by the Nullifiers and Secessionists before and during the U.S. Civil War, or that their stress on ‘states' rights’ is eerily reminiscent of dead-ender white opposition to Civil Rights laws in the 196os."[64]
Economic inequality is at indefensible levels, and yet we have rich people who hide money overseas, agitate for the repeal of the estate tax — and even the income tax — and buy elections to accomplish those antisocial aims. Dark Money, a recent study of political spending, especially by the Koch brothers, described their program (and that of other members of the economic elite), starting with funding free-market think tanks, and moving on to political spending through front groups. "While amassing one of the most lucrative fortunes in the world, the Kochs had also created an ideological assembly line justifying it [and] a powerful political machine to protect it."[65]  A former Koch employee summarized the theory and reality: "They call themselves libertarians. For lack of a better word, what it means is that if you're big enough to get away with it, you can get away with it. No government."[66]
Finally, consider the influence of modern media. Right-wing radio and television, and much of the internet, not only have encouraged division, but have created an alternative, hostile reality. Donald Trump didn’t create division; the Trump phenomenon is the product, but also the abetter of this dangerous trend.


47. . See my note of 3/3/16.


49. See my note of 5/30/10.







57. . See my note of 8/13/13.


. See my notes of 10/29, 11/6, and 11/7/2013


63. Mike Lofgren, The Party Is Over, pp. 40-41. 
 The Bartlett quote also is at

64. Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson, The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism, p. 50.

65. Jane Mayer, Dark Money, pp. 312-13.

66. Id. at p. 377

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

August 15, 2016
A few years ago, I bought a coffee mug in Ireland — where everyone is a philosopher — which reads: "Trust me. At my age I’m an expert on everything." I doubt that I can claim that, but age does carry with it longer memories, including those of better times, which leads one to imagine that he can advise the world as to its current failings. Hence these ramblings.
A retrospective view can be dangerous if it consists mainly in demanding conditions which would be better only in a self-centered sense, achieved by disadvantaging someone else. When the view of the past is false or imaginary, the results only can be worse. The Trump phenomenon illustrates aspects of this.
However, not all memories are false; consider real wages and living standards, present and past, for ordinary people. Average hourly wages, in inflation-adjusted dollars barely have moved since the mid-60s; the value of the federal minimum wage in present dollars has declined since then. Lagging wages and increasing inequality are reflected in charts prepared by the Economic Policy Institute,[46] such as the following: Wages have not kept pace with productivity; from 1973 to 2013, productivity rose 74.4%, hourly wages only 9.2% (EPI Figure 2). The minimum wage would be much higher if it had kept pace with productivity (Figure 8). Incomes for the top 10% rose 138%, but for the bottom 90% only 15% from 1979 to 2013 (Figure 3). The ratio of CEO compensation to that of average workers was 20 to 1 in the late 60s, 30 to 1 in the late 70s, and in 2013 296 to 1 (Figure 7).  
In recent years, Democrats have not done enough to persuade people of ordinary means that the Party is on their side, but are saddled, in part justly, with an reputation of elitism. The dominant Democratic/liberal position, or at least image, has been a peculiar mixture: socially a rerun of the 6os, economically of the 80s (more accurately, of the Clinton 90s, the Democratic version of the 80s). Fortunately for the Party the Sanders campaign has revived an earlier economic vision, and much of that is reflected in the national platform. It remains to be seen whether Hillary Clinton, as President, will drift back to the former position, but her economic plan was described as "disastrous" by the National Review and "insanity" by Larry Kudlow, a good sign.



Monday, August 1, 2016

August 1, 2016

"It is not often that careful students of American politics talk seriously about the possible demise of a major party." However, some felt "that the suicidal trend to the right has passed beyond the point where it can be reversed." Such predictions were prompted by the capture of the GOP by an uncompromising right wing. What happened at the Republican convention "convinced many Americans that those extremists everyone had been hearing about were really in control . . . ."
No, that doesn’t describe the 2016 campaign, although it certainly could. Those and the following comments were published in 1966 in From Disaster to Distinction, a small book published by the Ripon Society, a Republican organization, criticizing the condition of the Party leading up to and through the election of 1964, when Senator Barry Goldwater was the GOP candidate. Then, as now, the Republican campaign was founded on reactionary fantasy: "If Goldwater's words were heresy to those who had painfully come to terms with the unpleasantness of a changing world, they were prophecy to those who dared to think that such a reconciliation might yet be avoided, that their illusions might still be spared."
Goldwater led the Republicans to a crushing defeat. Like Trump, his strategy aimed at "a consensus of discontent." Whether Trump will lead the Party to a similar loss and crisis of conscience is, at this point, very much in doubt. Even if that were to happen, its not at all clear that the remedy adopted would be that which the authors suggested after the Goldwater debacle: "The GOP cannot regenerate and rebuild itself without making an unapologetic commitment to the center of American politics. But the Republican party can never win the center of American politics unless it assigns the major responsibilities for leadership to dynamic Republican moderates." The book described the Ripon Society as "a group of young, progressive Republicans." How often recently have the last two words of that description appeared together?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

July 27, 2016
Entirely by happenstance, two days before looking up the 2016 Republican national platform I had read an essay, "The Illusion of American Omnipotence," written in 1952. The Author, [45] a Brit with a generally high opinion of the United States, encapsulated an attitude which doesn’t seem to have changed much. He referred to "the existence, in the American mind, of what I call the illusion of omnipotence," which leads to the belief "that the world must go the American way if the Americans want it strongly enough and give firm orders to their agents to see that it is done."
Of course, if that doesn’t happen it must be someone’s fault. This is the domestic-political form of the illusion, "that any situation which distresses or endangers the United States can only exist because some Americans have been fools of knaves," probably one’s political foes. Such a reaction is "the American equivalent of that disastrous French cry, ‘nous sommes trahis’ "[we are betrayed].
Here’s what the Republican platform has to say about that: "We believe that American exceptionalism — the notion that our ideas and principles as a nation give us a unique place of moral leadership in the world — requires the United States to retake its natural position as leader of the free world. . . . " Again, under the heading "America: The Indispensable Nation," we are told that under Republican presidents, there was a tradition of "world leadership" based on "enormous power," which "requires consultation, not permission to act." With that policy we could "lead the world into a new century of greater peace and prosperity — another American Century."
However, "[f]or the past 8 years America has been led in the wrong direction. . . . Our standing in world affairs has declined significantly — our enemies no longer fear us . . .." Why is that? "After nearly eight years of a Democratic Commander-in-Chief who has frequently placed strategic and ideological limitations and shackles on our military, our enemies have been emboldened and our national security is at great risk. . . . In all of our country’s history, there is no parallel to what President Obama and his former Secretary of State have done to weaken our nation." Trahison.
Political platforms tend to be ignored, and the current GOP version seems designed to ensure that. It covers sixty-four pages; even if we ignore the artwork and the lists of committee members, there are fifty-six pages of text, including the preamble. Only the masochistic (yes, that includes me) would read all of it. It is a combination of ideology, fantasy, evasion, misstatement and blame-shifting. 
Much of its philosophy is expressed in generalities; its most consistent message is the need to weaken the oppressive federal government. Its positions include opposition to regulation of business, opposition to a national minimum wage, and reduction of the national debt (although it complains of cuts to defense spending). It opposes limits on "political speech," and advocates "free-market approaches to free speech unregulated by government," central to which is "raising or repealing contribution limits." Money, after all, is speech.
The tax code must be rewritten completely; the new code must be "pro-growth." Republicans "oppose tax policies that deliberately divide Americans or promote class warfare," i.e., we mustn’t tax the rich. "We also support making the federal tax code so simple and easy to understand that the IRS becomes obsolete and can be abolished." Hovering in the background, apparently, is a proposal to make a sales tax the prime source of revenue, for we are told this: "To guard against hypertaxation of the American people in any restructuring of the federal tax system, any value added tax or national sales tax must be tied to the simultaneous repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, which established the federal income tax."
The platform supports "constitutional [gun-]carry statutes," and opposes "laws that would restrict magazine capacity or ban the sale of the most popular and common modern rifle;" in other words, we all should have semi-automatic (assault) weapons. It opposes federal licensing or registration.
In one departure from reining in the federal government, the platform not only "support[s] the right of states to enact Right-to-Work laws," but "call[s] for a national law to protect the economic liberty of the modern workforce," thereby coining another euphemism for union-busting.
The authors wanted to advocate returning to the gold standard, but they couldn’t quite bring themselves to do so. Instead, they noted that President Reagan had created a commission to "consider the feasibility of a metallic basis for U.S. currency," and that the 2012 platform proposed a commission "to investigate possible ways to set a fixed value for the dollar." Having crept that far, they boldly proposed a commission to explore "ways to secure the integrity of our currency." Apparently they are afraid that saying "gold standard" out loud would tip off the inattentive to the nuttiness of the proposal.
There is much more, a small amount of it sensible, a few parts fairly debatable, but on the whole it illustrates why the Republican Party should not be in charge of government.


Denis William Brogan, later Sir Denis. The essay is in Treasury of Great Writers, p. 602.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

July 19, 2016
Presidential polls that I looked at yesterday, taken in July, range from a dead heat to a lead for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump of seven points, when the choice is between only those two. When the of the Libertarian and Green Parties are added, the margins change, but not consistently; in one, Trump gains, in one there is no change (the dead heat), and in three Clinton gains. Another muddling factor may be the "silent" Trump vote, potential votes by people who are shy about admitting their support, including those who don’t like him but like Mrs. Clinton less.
An example of that attitude was set forth on the Washington Post page on June 28. The writer, identified as a retired financial adviser, had this to say: "I’m part of the new silent majority: those who don’t like Donald Trump but might vote for him anyway." He’s hardly part of a majority as he defines it, but he and others might make a majority for Trump. Why, if he doesn’t like Trump would he vote for him? "For many of us, Trump has only one redeeming quality: He isn’t Hillary Clinton. He doesn’t want to turn the United States into a politically correct, free-milk-and-cookies, European-style social democracy where every kid (and adult, too) gets a trophy just for showing up." There are legitimate reasons to have reservations about Mrs. Clinton, but a fantasy of corrupting socialism and stifling political correctness isn’t among them.
The writer claims to be under no illusions about Trump, "a classic bully and a world-class demagogue in his personal, professional and political lives." Trump "will continue to demonize his perceived enemies and take the low road at every opportunity." So why then, he asks, appropriately, "would rational, affluent, informed citizens consider voting for The Donald?"
Trump, he tells us, is "the only one who appears to want to preserve the American way of life as we know it." What is the threat? (We might ask as well: what does he think is the American way of life?) Here is his attempt at an answer: "For the new silent majority, the alternative to Trump is bleak: a wealthy, entitled progressive with a national security scandal in her hip pocket." Mrs. Clinton’s sense of entitlement is annoying but, although her performance as Secretary of State leaves much to be desired, a national security scandal is a stretch. "In our view, the thought of four to eight more years of a progressive agenda polluting the American Dream is even more dangerous to the survival of this country than Trump is." It would be interesting to know where he found that agenda, and what it contains, but it hardly matters. He’s with Glenn Beck in thinking that "progressive" is a pejorative, so much so that even Trump is acceptable.
"So come Nov. 8, you’ll find many of us sheepishly sneaking into voting booths across the United States. Even after warily pulling the curtain closed behind us, we’ll still be looking over our shoulders to make sure the deed is shielded from view. Then, fighting a gag reflex, we’ll pull the lever." Perhaps that describes the supposed silent mass, but the coyness is a bit out of place for the author after declaring his intentions in a major publication.
He and his rational, informed fellows ought to consult a New Yorker article by Jane Mayer,[44] which describes the reactions to Trump’s candidacy of the author of Trump’s supposed memoir, The Art of the Deal. That author, Tony Schwartz, who spent a year following Trump around in an attempt to learn who he was, considers The Donald to be "pathologically impulsive and self-centered." He says that if he were to write a book today about Trump, he would title it "The Sociopath."
Interviewing Trump for the book posed a problem: "He has no attention span" or, put another way, "it’s impossible to keep him focused on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes." Confirming the impression one gets watching Trump, Schwartz "believes that Trump’s short attention span has left him with ‘a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance’." As President, his impulsiveness and inability to concentrate would be dangerous.
Our retired financial advisor describes his reluctantly-for-Trump group as affluent and fiscally conservative. ("We’re not uneducated, uninformed, unemployed or low-income zealots.") Their possible votes for Trump presumably come at least in part from the notion that Trump shares their viewpoint because he is a self-made, successful businessman. Reading Jane Mayer’s article might disabuse them of that notion. In any case, the American Dream, even that of the smugly superior, would be at risk with Trump in the White House.