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Apocalypse Again: The Boom-and-Bust Cycle of Bipartisan Politics

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Posted on Nov 2, 2010
AP / Scott Sady

The fourth Tea Party Express of the apocalypse: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks to the crowd during the kickoff of the nationwide Tea Party Express bus tour in Reno, Nev., on Oct. 18.

By Scott Tucker

(Page 3)

 

The party line on abortion under the Clinton administration was that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare,” but that ideal can be secured only through real social democracy in health care, housing and education—namely, in all the public goods that advance the material and social well-being of women. The same administration, however, advanced a punitive program of “welfare reform,” dismantling some remnants of the New Deal welfare state that gave shelter to the most exposed women and children.


Two of the signal concessions President Clinton made to the far right concerned the rights of gay people, namely, signing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) into federal law. Both laws have thrown long shadows over the political landscape at the state and local levels. Obama campaigned on a vague program of hope and change, and promised whatever he thought was necessary to any group of likely voters, including gay people. As a self-proclaimed “community organizer,” he might have drafted genuine organizers from all the communities hoping for change. Instead, he hired Wall Street insiders and the usual partisan hacks of all races, religions and sexual persuasions.


Clinton had once been described as “the first black president,” itself a projection of hope upon a Southern white career politician. An honest wish to transcend racist history is just not good enough. But Obama was, in fact, the first black president, and the same wishes and projections are shipwrecked once again on the rocks and reefs of class politics. The very idea of economic class is a poor abstraction unless it is grounded in social relations that are also racial, sexual and cultural. How does a class-divided culture really come to light? Only through the very social system that is saturated with the ruling ideas of a ruling class. The manifold reality of class is tested and proved in real time, and in searing events such as wars and epidemics. Before there is enlightenment there is heartbreak.

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The epidemic of AIDS tracked heavily, though not exclusively, along lines of race, sex and class. Clinton discovered AIDS in earnest only when he left public office and began campaigning for the Nobel Prize. Nowadays Clinton would much rather deal with AIDS in Haiti (certainly a worthy cause) than with the class system that still burdens so many African-Americans with chronic illnesses, including AIDS.


Irony? But there can be no irony if we do not even remember history. Each president graduates from the White House into a kind of Ivy League of philanthropy, and into an alternate universe in which buildings, libraries and foundations bear their names. Besides being tasteless, such people have no sense of shame. There is an inconvenient truth buried in the foundation of all their well-publicized philanthropy. In the words of William Blake: “Pity would be no more / If we did not make somebody poor, / And Mercy no more could be / If all were as happy as we.”


Likewise, the only lesson Clinton learned from the economic counterrevolution led by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher was to make a hard-right U-turn toward deregulation, a kind of Keynesianism in reverse. In this realm, too, certain New Deal restraints on banks and the “free market” were abandoned. (I recommend a 1998 book by the economist Michael Meeropol, “Surrender: How the Clinton Administration Completed the Reagan Revolution,” and the recently published “The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street,” by Robert Scheer.)


In Pennsylvania, the Democratic Party has used the courts as blunt instruments against the candidates of the Green Party. Using the “independent judiciary” as partisan brass knuckles may seem thuggish, but the bipartisan lockdown of elections can also be achieved by selling voters a false bargain. This is what happened when Proposition 14 was sold to Californians as a great electoral reform. It was nothing of the kind; it was designed to bump independent and insurgent parties off the ballot, and it may yet succeed. Recently, the Green gubernatorial candidate in California, Laura Wells, was denied the chance to debate the two corporate candidates at a public forum. When she tried to attend the event as a member of the audience, she was arrested. That story was then broadcast online and went over, under and around much of the traditional news media. Every such attack on basic democracy also speeds the day when career politicians hang themselves with their own rope.


War is more truly our national religion than the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount, so making a class-conscious case for peace is rank heresy in many houses of worship and in both houses of Congress. Protestantism has largely devolved into the gospel of prosperity, and God has become the gatekeeper of a gated community— for in my Father’s house there are many mansions.


The First Amendment to our Constitution forbids the establishment of any state religion, but the deism of Jefferson and other Founding Fathers is no better than atheism to Christian crusaders. For that matter, if the Bill of Rights can be neatly reduced to the right to own guns and form far-right militias, then the rest of the text is a damn nuisance. Much of our national history has not even been forgotten, since it was never learned or taught in the first place. This is why right-wing candidates for public office can invent any original intent they please for the Founding Fathers and not have any idea of the original text of our country’s Constitution. The First Amendment was breaking news to Christine O’Donnell, a conservative Christian and a Republican candidate from Delaware for the U.S. Senate, during an Oct. 19 televised debate with her Democratic opponent .


If Abraham Lincoln were to rise from the grave and talk as plainly about labor and capital as he once did in Congress, many Democrats and Republicans would think he sounded like a socialist. That’s not far wrong, since Lincoln was (within the limits of his time and place) a social democrat within the republican tradition. In other words, our devolved Democrats have long since abandoned plain talk about social democracy, even as our devolved Republicans have abandoned the constitutional ground of the republic.


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By Nelly, April 27, 2011 at 5:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s spooky how clever some ppl are. Thakns!

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basho's avatar

By basho, November 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm Link to this comment

great article scott.

should be required reading for anyone with an attention span of more than 2 minutes.

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, November 4, 2010 at 8:18 am Link to this comment

A THREE PARTY SYSTEM?

DJC: American elections don’t serve any good purpose because near every person participating in them votes defensively within the corporate party.

Those who feel this way should come live in a multi-party system with its merry-go-round elections.

It’s got so bad that some countries institute a double-barrel electoral process. The first to separate the wheat from the chaff and the second to select one of the remaining two.

Which is, some say, tantamount to our Primary System in the US. But, I tend to disagree. In a large plurality, there are more voices to be heard in the debate. But that is just the problem—too many voices lead to cacophony and thus confusion.

Perhaps the Brits are ahead of us, but, then they always had the plurality of a three-party system. The Liberal-Democrats always came in third and sometimes second, but never first. And yet, they played king-maker in the last British election.

We could as well, perhaps, establish a Social Democrat party, truly Left-of-Center, but not extreme. One that championed, for instance, a Public Health Option (as all the countries of the EU enjoy today) and nearly-free education up to and beyond post-secondary schooling. And, lest we forget, Income Fairness.

Unlike Britain, however, this would leave the traditional Democrat Party in the Center - since a Social Democrat Party would be even further to the Left.

And the beauty of this political setup is the following: Were Social Dems voted into Congress by their constituencies, then, in order to govern in Congress, the Center would have to deal with the Center-Left. And that could make all the difference. Why?

Here’s why: The Americans, in this last mid-term election, did no vote “For the Republicans” as much as they voted “Against the Democrats”. What would have been the outcome had the body-politic a third choice, the Social Democrats? Would that have brought those who stayed on the sidelines into the voting booths? Methinks, yes.

If the outcome followed the same pattern as in Europe, in stead of fleeing to the Right in disgust—many Dems would have voted further to the Left.

And the Democratic Center and Left would be in power in Congress today—With BO as PotUS.

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By David J. Cyr, November 3, 2010 at 11:31 am Link to this comment

QUOTE: mdgr wrote, “I certainly won’t be voting for [Greens] this election, partly because they don’t have it together enough to have anyone to vote for.”
___________________
The 2010 Green candidate for Governor of New York, Howie Hawkins, definitely has “it” together.

If voters had their shit together (instead of piled between their ears), Andrew Cuomo, the real retrograde (D) that the corporate party pre-installed would be in court today seeking to overturn the popular vote landslide that had truly “historically” seated Hawkins.

American elections don’t serve any good purpose because near every person participating in them votes defensively within the corporate party. The (R)s get defensive votes from the corporate party faction that fears being contaminated by depraved liberals, and the (D)s get defensive votes from the corporate party faction that fears everything that might not always be nice and very pleasant to them — and them alone — in their special backyards. The (R) and (D) voters routinely choose the dictatorship they each hope will be more benevolent to their (entitled to special privilege) corporate state supporting faction… while it’s being all the medieval malevolent it can be to everyone and everything upon the planet (including those who vote for it).

The result is regular 99% corporate (R) & (D) party popular vote mandates for a diseased global corporate culture continuum that exploits everything natural, with the same concern that cancer has for its host… a continuum that, if continued, will surely eventually result in the extermination of all of the corporate culture’s hosts. Cancer kills until it kills itself.

For elections to be useful, for some possible good, a large majority of voters need to purposefully defend natural persons and Nature (whom we all existentially depend upon), by always very aggressively voting as offensively as possible against the corporate (R) & (D) party.

There’s not much time left for natural persons to keep wasting elections.

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By Jimnp72, November 3, 2010 at 10:29 am Link to this comment

you all can bloviate all you want about the dorky spineless dems.
TRY AS YOU LIKE, YOU CANNOT, MR AUTHOR INCLUDED, DENY THE PLAIN FACT
THAT THE REPUGS OBSTRUCTED EVERY SINGLE ISSUE THAT WAS PRESENTED. WHY
CANT PEOPLE SEE THIS GLARING TRUTH??

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By Bia, November 3, 2010 at 10:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This article and this ELECTION are perfect examples of why we NEED IRV (Instant Runoff Voting)  or some other system of ranked voting to re-establish our Democracy!

If everyone could have a back-up vote for their second-choice candidate, they would be free to vote their conscience as their FIRST choice without having to constantly leverage against the Spoiler Effect.
Counting would be only a little more complicated than the existing system ( First Choice gets TWO points, Second Choice gets ONE…add em up!) but well worth it for the health and RESPONSIVENESS and health of our Representative Democracy!

As it is, this Binary system of “GoodCop/BadCop only serves the power elite, especially now after the horrid SCROTUS “Citizens United” ruling allowing Corporations to rape the system with their obscenely huge and secret tonguebaths of cash!
This election has been a perfect example everything that’s WRONG with our system.

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By tedmurphy41, November 3, 2010 at 9:58 am Link to this comment

The Governments we elect are the real problem and, as it stands and without any real, radical change to this electoral system, we are just as well to pick the winning candidates, who would form a Government, out of a (un?)lucky bag.

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By Lafayette, November 3, 2010 at 5:25 am Link to this comment

VOX POPULI

Heaven or hell, it’s a free country and it’s your choice.

Pray tell, do explain:
* What is the purpose of “freedom” when one is incarcerated in poverty?
* What is the benefit of “choice”, when the two sole options are pathetically incompetent?

It’s time for a third-way, called Centrist. Which, summed up, means leaving the Capitalist Cash-Cow as it is, but learning how to milk it such that its produce leads to a better distribution for everyone. Communist propaganda, you think?

Not really. The above premise wont happen until Americans learn the facts about their economic predicament, which boils down to this: If you are a member of the middle and lower class of America (meaning that you earn less than $350K per year), then you a part of the 80% of Americans that are sharing 7% of the country’s financial wealth. Yep, all the rest – all 93% of it – goes to the upper-class 20% of the population. (Don’t believe that sad fact of exceptionally warped distribution of America’s Financial Wealth? Then go here.)

Now, knowing that, do explain why anyone should work themselves to exhaustion for the benefit of just 20% of the population that live off their rents? Answer: Because one does not have much choice in a highly competitive America, where the Law of the Jungle prevails far too often.

More foolish, yet, America is one of the very few countries that has such a meager number of vacation days – and yet 17% of the working population give at least 10% of their vacation time back to their employers?

That’s dumber than dumb. So, please, enough of the “Liberty Bell” BS. All that mellifluous pap for the masses is just folklore, long since past.

Our founding fathers would not recognize today the United States they worked so hard to create.

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By C.Curtis.Dillon, November 3, 2010 at 3:47 am Link to this comment

This was a nice declaration of principles and may even be a declaration of war on the elites.  I’m certain in for the long haul on this struggle.  We need to start at the local level and build a new way of doing business in this country.

I’ve been pondering the current rightward drift all over the world of late and have concluded that it is really a drift toward the Chinese way of doing government.  I know for a fact that several governments here in Eastern Europe are seeking to emulate the Chinese model, with a single political entity closely tied to the wealthy elite of the country.  Russia is almost completely there while Ukraine is making a strong move in that direction with the elections on Sunday.  I also can see European politicians salivating at the idea of eliminating all this dirty, uncomfortable political wrangling and replacing it with something cleaner and easier (for them).  One need not look too far to see the same ideas being pushed in America and elsewhere.  And why not ... China is blowing the world apart with their state capitalist model.  It’s like the wild west with the sheriff on the crook’s side.

The revolution we need to make is not one of violence although conscious civil disobedience is certainly needed.  The rule of law no longer applies when the laws have been distorted and stacked against us.  So we need to form small groups, like the nurses did, and then grow the organizations through affiliation and common goals.  We need to make governing impossible for the elites, to throw their stupid laws and bones back in their faces.  We can refuse to participate and can, eventually, win.  Think about your town when most of the people refuse to go along with decisions made by your local mayor or city council.  How do you think they will prevail?  They can’t.  If we say no, they have no choice but to go along with us.  That is our revolution ... not deciding between worthless Republicans or worthless Democrats.

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By lichen, November 3, 2010 at 1:08 am Link to this comment

The republicans/most democrats can be lumped together as corporatist serial killer right wing scum.  We need real democracy, which will mean the end of corporate funding, career politicians, the murdochs and coch’s and clintons, and the time when we can really rule instead of the plutocracy.

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By bodhidharma, November 3, 2010 at 12:23 am Link to this comment

Morpheus, some of the stuff on the Revolution site is true. We could do a lot better if we used our technology to reduce work hours and supplied people fairly with the things they need instead of creating economic crises with it by reducing our workforce and lining the pockets of big business. What he’s talking about would be true democratic socialism.  The problem is how you institute such a thing in a country so highly controlled as ours. I’ve been preaching this stuff for decades, but changing people’s minds is harder than finding a tea-bagger with a PH.D.

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By Morpheus, November 2, 2010 at 11:40 pm Link to this comment

Wake the Hell up America! - Join the Revolution!

Read “Common Sense 3.1” at ( http://www.revolution2.osixs.org )
We don’t have to live like this anymore.

Things are only going to get worse because of you. You refuse to take any action while you wait for Democrats and Republicans to save the day. I have news for you. This is not another financial downturn or downcycle. Democrats, Republicans and economist don’t know squat.

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By bodhidharma, November 2, 2010 at 10:50 pm Link to this comment

I can relate to the deep feelings of disillusionment with our government that the author certainly felt.It seems that we are constantly going from bad to worse,and taking our government back from the wealthy elite seems to be near impossible as they control the media and suppress our rights to protest as they turn us into another third world country. We watch helplessly as our jobs are shipped overseas, our trade deficits increase and our middle class disappears. Labor unions are becoming a thing of the past as the jobs they protected vanish. In the last few decades we have watched as our government became a hollow shell, most of the functions it used to perform for the public good being privatized to corporations interested only in making as much profit as possible.  We are now 47th in life expectancy in this country, and still they try to tell us we are ‘the greatest nation on earth’! I keep trying to figure out how so many of our people can be so gullible. Have we just become intellectually lazy?  Has life just become too complicated, have we lost faith in ourselves? I am amazed constantly when I talk to people just how uninformed they seem to be, and just how much misinformation they seem to have absorbed. Maybe when things get bad enough, we will see a change.  Maybe then a third party with the average person’s welfare in mind will become viable.  I am starting to wonder just how bad things will have to get first, though!

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By the worm, November 2, 2010 at 8:43 pm Link to this comment

The recent visual vividly illustrating the Obama administration’s failure, shows
Obama in a ‘backyard session’, ‘listening’ to the American people.

If President Obama had been listening for the last two years, he’d have heard
American people wanted change in three areas:

1 The American people wanted a government administered plan like Medicare -
for everyone. (72% - CBS/New York Times poll June 2009)

1A. Democrats gave private sector insurers a windfall: mandated customers, with
a taxpayer-paid overhead rate of 20% for ‘mandated customers’ (20% of our
premium spent on administration, CEO salaries, bonuses, Boards to set rates and
decide who’s covered and ‘profits’).

2 64% of the American people opposed expanding the war in Afghanistan and
wanted to disentangle from Bush-era ‘War on Terror’ and ‘preventive war’
policies.

2B. Democrats gave us an expansion of the war in Afghanistan.

3 The vast majority of Americans opposed the transfer of taxpayer wealth to
cover private company debt – the bailout.

3B. Democrats kept the 6 too-big-to-fail banks – now bigger than ever; kept
deposits at risk by maintaining huge grey areas between commercial and
investment banking; didn’t ‘punish’ the financial industry - now even more
profitable, with bonuses among the biggest ever.

None are so blind as those who will not see, nor deaf as those who will not hear.

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By lasmog, November 2, 2010 at 7:14 pm Link to this comment

What a choice; two corporatist parties to choose from.  There doesn’t seem to be anyway to punish the sleazy Democrats without rewarding the sleazier Republicans. We deserve much better than Clinton or Obama but do deserve President Palin?

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By mdgr, November 2, 2010 at 6:01 pm Link to this comment

This article reflects all that is good and not so good about the Green Party.

First of all, let it be said that Scott Tucker can write. On the other hand, he is even wordier than Scott Ritter, and unlike the former, after just a little while he begins to lose the forest through the trees.

We’re talking about a serious need for an editor, and this is true for the Green Party in general. I mean, in the state of Washington, the Green’s didn’t even have a Senate candidate, and their site looked like it had been constructed by culturally deprived four year old.

They are strong on idealism, yes, but in matters of execution, they typically get lost in their own patter and become excessively cerebral. While they may be able to play three-dimensional chess in their heads, they typically are unable to put forward succinctly compelling points without inadvertently “screwing the pooch” in the presentation.

And they continue to nominate totally unelectable candidates, while patting themselves on the back and feeling very martyr-like. Still, I generally agree with the thrust of Mr. Ticker’s argument even if the Green’s are unable to maintain much of a state presence, much less a national presence. I certainly won’t be voting for them this election, partly because they don’t have it together enough to have anyone to vote for.

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By grumps, November 2, 2010 at 5:09 pm Link to this comment

Excellent article and personally I came to the same conclusion for this election. I refused to be fear mongered into voting for the “lesser evil” again.
I like Nader’s suggestion also: vote your conscience.

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By Matzpen, November 2, 2010 at 4:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

That’s the terrible thing about American politics. The two parties already have too much in common but then they add bipartisanship into the mix. Why bother even voting at this point
http://sherrytalksback.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/why-im-not-voting/

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By Smoove, November 2, 2010 at 4:40 pm Link to this comment

“Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Roots of an Individualist Ideology”

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1665934

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By ralph, November 2, 2010 at 4:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mills wrote in detail about the power elite and the masses. Written in 1956 but as fresh and pertinent as then. ” The Power Elite” says it all. Truly remarkable.

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