Dan Kervick's picture

    2013 and Beyond

    Although the fall campaign has yet to begin, its inauspicious shape already seems set.  And I believe it is possible to make some general predictions about the outcome, and to ask some large question about what comes after.

    It seems very likely that no grand new ideas are going to emerge; no mandates for sweeping change will be delivered to the victor; no moral clarity will be established; no attenuation of corporate power will be accomplished; no revival of national purpose will take shape. 

    Following the election, Americans will continue to be watched, measured, controlled, distracted, propagandized and dominated.  Their masters will continue to recommend and command the substitution of personal gratification for social hope; of competitive struggle for solidarity and camaraderie; of fabricated reality for real reality; of avarice for sharing; of domination for equality.  We will get a continuation of permanent war; further erosion of the social contract and the social fabric; intensified class struggle along economic and cultural lines; a prolongation of trends toward degradation of the human spirit; perversion of justice; greed and corruption at the highest levels; and barbarous contempt for humane values.

    How will progress be possible in this environment?

    1. Are there any emerging progressive leaders who seem particularly well-positioned to establish themselves as the heralds and organizers of revolutionary change?

    2. What tactics are available, legislative or otherwise, for diminishing corporate power and establishing powerful new instruments of democratic self-determination?

    3. Will it be possible to transform the Democratic Party into a vehicle for progressive change; or are entirely new vehicles necessary?

    4. Are there ways of starving the institutions of economic control of the flows of wealth that sustain them?

    5. How can new forms of genuine human connection and communication emerge to move beyond the empty partisan emotional entertainment of radio, television and blogs?

    6. Is it possible for a new nation to take shape inside the decadent shell of the established political, social and economic order?  Can this happen without violence?


    Thought provoking post.   All queries listed are pertinent.  It will take more time than I have this a.m. to deliver response.  For now, I will repeat that it is always up to We, The People - our inactions/actions have indeed caused 'the government we deserve'.

    Perhaps it is too simplistic to state the obvious, that the 'money' is our money and our leaders, for most part, have been placed in their positions by us, the electorate.  The mess we are in is a result of our letting 'the inmates continue to run the asylum'. 

    I applaud your quest and hope this post will produce many viable and potentially productive ideas.

    The problem, Dan, is that we live in a Panglossian world.  Most of your fellow citizens have allowed themselves to become convinced that this system of ours is as good as it gets for all of humanity.  These are the people who believe that God gave their nose bridges to hold up their spectacles.

    I do not believe that destor.  I work with lots of different kinds of people, and it seems to me that somewhere close to 0% of them believe this is as good as it gets.  They are often confused, and lack expert knowledge of important areas, and tend to focus their blame and anger in different directions.  And a skilled pollster can get them to agree with almost any statement, as long as it is framed the right way.  But they all think the system is not working and the country is not in good shape.

    And despite the efforts of the New York Times, the major television media corporations, NPR, Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, and other elite opinion leaders to persuade us all that the problem with America is the fat, lazy, ignorant and overpaid American masses, and that the road to recovery lies through the valley of discipline and punishment inflicted on the disgusting sinners, most Americans manage to remain clear about the fact that they are being robbed, even as they writhe in the psychic chains of self-hatred forged by the contempt and loathing of their privileged overlords.

    Have you ever watched the programming on networks like ABC and the like?  Most of it is sheer propaganda, as tirelessly oppressive and mind-wrenchingly controlling as the work of a totalitarian state.  The authoritarian message: Your bosses are right and wise; the rich are necessary and virtuous, and have earned their social superiority; you're too fat; you're too immoral; you don't compete hard enough; you're not entrepreneurial enough; your restaurant is a mess; the police and the prosecutors are always right, and have almost unimaginably potent technological means of tracking you and controlling you; there is no escape; there is no hope; you must beg the predators in the Shark Tank for the right to earn a livelihood; you must sing and dance for your supper; surrender Dorothy.

    It's amazing that people have any self-respect and common sense left in the face of this barrage of hatred directed at them by the people who own America.  But they do.

    It may not take a village but it does take a machine.

    Someone inside the old OFA machine needs to do a "Manning" and download that email list to a fake Grateful Dead CD. We had a machine and Pres. Punk junked it.

    First, I agree with auntsam's comment.  It is a lockdown certainty that it will be up to organized and mobilized citizens to create the pressure and support for movement in the direction of the kinds of changes you are talking about. 

    In response to your questions, here are a few stabs:

    1. I believe there are visionary progressive thinkers, writers and activists who have done important parts of the intellectual work that will be needed.  The issue is the rest of your question: are they well-positioned to establish themselves as heralds of major change?  About that I'm inclined to think not, at least not yet.  One lesson I draw from Occupy is that leadership emergence is probably going to have to be organic (slow).  Choosing leaders is something that the folks associated with Occupy seemed deliberately averse to doing.  Their concept seemed to be that distributed leadership is preferable, partly to ensure against setbacks that can come about due to a movement's vulnerability created by having a single high-profile leader.  The process by which Martin Luther King, Jr. emerged as the most widely recognized (by the media) spokesperson of the civil rights movement up until around 1967 or 1968 is instructive.  King was essentially reluctantly dragged into being the spokesperson for the Mongtomery bus boycott.  Out of which he acquired the national visibility without which he probably would not have emerged in the role that he played. 

    2. The historically useful ones, such as boycotts, demonstrations, civil disobedience, etc., of course need to be on the table and are likely to be useful again.  One of the wildcards in the current situation is whether someone(s) will figure out how to greatly amp up the impact of social media, already significant.  Another, related, is whether relatively coordinated and effective cross-national mobilizations can and will take place.  There is certainly far more global awareness about some of the big issues than there has been in other eras.    

    3. The Democratic party may be the party that benefits most from the type of mobilization of people and consciousness that you are talking about if we are going to get any major traction on the bigger issues.  Historically, at times when we've seen the (often regional) constituency configurations and/or issue stances of the major parties switch (during the 1960s and 1970s most recently), these have often been a response to independent social movements or even third party candidacies (that has perhaps been their greatest positive value, when their consequences are overall positive; I disagree with those who believe that 3rd party candidacy votes are always a "waste of a vote").  I hear old farts like Ed Rollins say the GOP is too too white, too male, too bald and too fat and is on its way to extinction unless it changes and I wonder if, and when, that might happen.  This I have come to believe based on observations over the years: the Democratic party may react to stronger pressure, but it will not lead in the sense you are referring to absent substantially more pressure generated through growing unrest, to the point where a lot more folks get off the couch and supplement what they're doing on their keyboards by getting out there and participating more actively, visibly, or with farther reaching consequences.   (Aren't something like 2/3 of American adults obese?  This could be an effective weight-loss approach.)  The Democratic party will behave as political parties do--usually cautiously with the belief that therein lies the best hope of winning elections.  Political parties don't exist to repair or better society.  They exist to win elections.  You know there is a difference between the two.  If the Democratic party thinks it stands to gain more than it stands to lose by making changes in the directions you favor--or, perhaps if enough of its key officials acquire a mindset over time of panic or desperation--it may do so, may take greater risks on the policies it decides to fight for.    

    4. Perhaps.  But one question is how much citizen support are specific proposed strategies or tactics capable of drawing if there is visible and immediate hardship and pain that goes with that?  And will those who are willing to do such things further or hinder their cause by doing so?   

    5. Well it just may be the case that, as some here have maintained, things will have to get worse before there is a possibility that they may get better.  Heaven help us and I do not wish for that.  Many who have participated in them have tried to warn us that social or political crises or upheavals are not romantic and good-exciting as some may like to imagine they are or as they are sometimes portrayed in movies or fiction.  They tend to last not that long, a few years at most, because, I surmise, it is emotionally exhausting as well as often materially unpleasant, to live amidst a widespread sense of crisis and because most individuals prefer some sense of order and stability to their lives.  I would think that living in the midst of a widely perceived social or political crisis would in fact reduce the high degree of disengagement or alienation from public affairs that seems so prevalent in our society today.  In times where there is a lot of social and political change, lots of folks who are not habitually politically active get active or at least engaged.  In that sense, a widespread sense of social or political crisis down the road a bit might well provide some of the sense of experiential urgency, vividness, or immediacy that draws some people to war, others to daredevil stunts or high-stakes athletics or other forms of competition.  But that would come with large and costs that would be unacceptable to many people who would be hurt.  By no means is it a foregone conclusion that we would come out of a period of intensifying social disruption better off overall at the end for it.  Personally I would rather see us go the more boring and less disruptive, less destabilizing routes to the kind of historically rapid changes I think we need.  But our institutions as they are currently functioning, or not functioning as the case may be, may not permit a more orderly and conventional and less disruptive approach that will still be effective.  Just looking at the major changes our society has been through, when has it ever not been highly disruptive and bumpy?  But I find it impossible to make any meaningful predictions about how historical change processes are most likely to play out.  They emerge organically and have a life of their own.  I think that if there are folks who fashion themselves as something like masters of the universe, able to channel and control an increasingly restive public indefinitely and on their terms, they are quite wrong about that. The US public remains mostly asleep.  That will not continue indefinitely on current trajectories.  I would have thought that there would have been more modern-day plutocrats and oligarchs, like Buffett in some ways, who by now would have seen the wisdom of helping shape more manageable change in directions they may not particularly welcome, the better to reduce the chances of more radical and disruptive changes which they would see as dangerous or disastrous or merely very much unwanted.  But that would require more of them seeing themselves as, and acting like, leaders of our society and our world who adhere to a stewardship and more broadly life-affirming and democratic ethic.  We are a long way from that; there appears to be no critical mass of such individuals that has emerged to play helpful roles in permitting, let alone advocating, changes in the operative rules that might enable us to get traction dealing with some of more fundamental and tougher issues we face today.

    6. a. Yes.  Many futures are possible, including ones directionally similar to what you are talking about.  b. I sure as hell hope so.  I will not engage in violent actions--by that I mean actions that involve direct physical injury to other people, not necessarily ruling out tactics such as boycotts, which in some cases predictably can harm oneself or others.  I oppose the use of such tactics.  I will not support them in any way and if I see opportunities to try to dissuade others from doing so I think I should seize them, and will try to do so.

    Becoming King: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Making of a National Leader, by Troy Jackson, is the book I was referring to that was my source for the claim about King's evolution in paragraph 1 of my comment above: http://www.powells.com/biblio/72-9780813133904-0

    The King analogy is interesting.  Ultimately the civil rights movement seemed to coalesce around a few very ambitious but well-defined goals: the end of Jim Crow and the doctrine of separate but equal, and the securing of voting rights. Parts of the movement retained more radical and goals even more ambitious.

    With Occupy at the present time, the problem does not appear to be just an absence of coordinated leadership, but an absence of clear goals.  They are enamored with the concept of "direct action", but the actions do not appear to be tactical supports for the achievement of clear goals.  For example, the freedom rides were both a protest against segregated transportation, and a clear attempt to break down the laws and policies that permitted segregated transportation by defying those restrictive laws directly and making them unworkable and unenforceable, thus winning new legal rights.

    But, in a general way, what Occupy seems to be protesting is not overly restrictive laws that forbid certain practices, but overly permissive laws that allow certain practices - such as laws that now permit the wealthy to donate in virtually unlimited amounts to the candidates of their choice; or permit commercial lending banks to speculate with their customers' money; or permit companies to pay their executives astronomical fortunes while paying other workers a pittance; or permit media companies to form cable oligopolies; or permit corporations to destroy the Earth and its climate.

    So you can't attack these laws by defying them personally or as a group, since they are not restrictions on one's own behavior.  Somehow ways must be found of thwarting their effective operation of these laws, so that their maintenance becomes practically and politically untenable.

    I think these are good insights.  To again try to learn from the civil rights experience there is no question that the movement faced an internal crisis and a collapse of what consensus existed within it following passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  At that point, it had exhausted the legislative limits of what mainstream public opinion was prepared to support at that time.  

    King then turned to the problem of poverty and economic injustice more broadly.  But, in line with your comments, these are problems which did not permit something like a fix through legislation prohibiting specific kinds of conduct.  Lyndon Johnson in his Howard University speech stated explicitly that a society could not just tear down particular barriers that had had a massive, cumulative historical effect of disempowering and impoverishing African Americans (among others), line everyone up at the starting line of life's "race", and expect a fair competition and results.

    The problem of trying to reconstruct an economy into a system that is generative rather than extractive, to use Marjorie Kelly's terms from her latest, is a very different matter. Kelly agrees that one part of what needs to be done is to reign in, through public policy decisions, the destructive tendencies of the currently dominant US model of capitalism.  Her book seeks to advance thinking about what alternative institutional designs and structures might look like.  The second broad part of what needs to be done is to build and expand on the surprisingly prevalent generative institutional designs and structures already in existence.  Public policy can play a helpful role in doing that but it is good news that is plenty of room for expansion of generative enterprises even given some of the barriers that the current policy environment creates to doing that.  

    Part of what holds us back is not being able to imagine a plausible, doable alternative way to organize an economy.  This was the criticism that was heaped upon the folks who staged the Battle in Seattle protests at the World Trade Organization in the late 1990s: they seemed a lot more clear communicating some of the things they were against than they were articulating what they were for.

    Maybe if more of the public can envision, even literally observe, alternatives to the current system which do not strike them as alien to their experiences and values, which strike them as really much more doable than they might have feared--well, maybe to the degree that evolution in public consciousness can be heightened in that respect, there might emerge along with that a greater willingness to also insist on reigning in through necessary public policies the destructive behaviors towards workers, communities, the environment, and future generations that Kelly sees as the inevitable consequence of what she articulates and describes as "extractive" institutional designs.

    If all you can imagine is pretty much the current reality, if you don't have any sense of what change instigators are proposing, then it doesn't seem surprising that common responses would be skepticism, fear and close-mindedness to alternatives.  Change is frightening to most people, particularly when it is not initiated by them and when they do not know what the alternative reality they may face looks or feels like, or what its consequences likely would be.  

    Those in behavior change fields of work are known to ruefully recount some of the typical reactions they encounter in their efforts, such as, "Change is good.  You go first."

    Part of the reason we can't imagine a plausible alternative way to organize an economy is that all the alternatives that were tried turned out to be worse.

    Part of what holds us back is not being able to imagine a plausible, doable alternative way to organize an economy. 

    Maybe if more of the public can envision, even literally observe, alternatives to the current system which do not strike them as alien to their experiences and values, which strike them as really much more doable than they might have feared--well, maybe to the degree that evolution in public consciousness can be heightened in that respect, there might emerge along with that a greater willingness to also insist on reigning in through necessary public policies the destructive behaviors towards workers, communities, the environment, and future generations that Kelly sees as the inevitable consequence of what she articulates and describes as "extractive" institutional designs.

    I think this is the key.

    I think using King and the civil rights movement analogy is misplaced.  Remember those involved - black Americans - had a shared life experience, background, history and agenda. It was natural and expected for them to come together and to fight for the same things.

    For the progressive community - which is splintered at best - and so called middle America - it is not natural and far to many people do not have a shared life experience and agenda. 

    This is why even the revolutionaries of the past had to generate propaganda to create a share experience and agenda.

    And why now when ever the president wants the country to back him/her (usually for a war) they do exactly the same thing.


    #6  You wont be able to stop the agitated sea (1), you'll be swept away.

    (1) Sea of mankind

     Find an ARK. 

    This just in:"All not lost-

    This just in:"All not lost :-

    An interesting and sobering take on America which I just came across is a 2009 book, The Eliminationists, from Amazon review:

     Neiwert.....links the proliferation of radical conservative ideas in the political mainstream to the looming specter of "eliminationism," an ideology rejecting dialogue and debate "in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and eviction, or extermination." Eliminationism has taken many forms in American history,...a perversion of nationalism and so-called patriotism is not just sprees of deadly shootings such as we saw in.........(it is) the death of discourse itself.

    Instead of offering an opposing idea, it simply shuts down intellectual exchange and replaces it with the brute intention to silence and eliminate." And at the heart of democracy lies the belief that no matter our differences, we are committed to communication. When silence falls, democracy loses, and the author here maintains that when hate rhetoric is employed, at its base it really is a hatred of America itself--with its stated ideals of pluralism--that is the unacknowledged target.

    That it is the users of hate rhetoric who actually hate America--or hate some groups of Americans or what they see as the wrong accommodations made to address issues affecting members of such groups--is certainly consistent with the view that the right-wing noise machine habitually accuses Democrats, liberals, leftists and other opponents of what is actually true of itself.

    I happened to catch a snippet of a rerun of the cartoon show "The Family Guy" which featured a mini-parody of Hannity and Colmes:

    Hannity: Democrats just HATE America!

    Colmes: Actually, Sean, I disagree with that...

    Hannity: But clearly they do--they HATE America!!

    Colmes: Sean, if I might get a word in...

    Hannity: Democrats HATE America!!!

    Not so much a parody, though, when you think about it.

    bad link. Go here instead.

    I think it will simply take more Julian Assanges and Bradley Mannings committing career suicide to expose and derail the corruption.

    In the same week that Benjamin Lawsky broke the accepted rules and exposed a multi-billion "get-out-of-jail-free" card by theTreasury/Fed for a corrupt bank, the DoJ codified that lying to Congress is no longer a crime if you're a corporation.

    Daily Howler noted that 2 long-time TV analysts are now no longer welcome on TV because they quit playing the "both sides do it" game.

    We've had these debates here at Dagblog, where people think it's acceptable to punish freedom of speech if it's not our approved kind - labeling it hate speech, unacceptable, divisive, etc.

    But that's how the game is played - anyone who's not on board with the scams, the accepted framing of our situations - gets disappeared for being too fringe.

    In this case, it *doesn't* really matter if it's Democrat or GOP except in a few details - speak differently than the team expects, and you're off to cultural Siberia, or you have to scrape and bow to get re-accepted into the club.

    At one point Schneiderman was going to lead the fight against mortgage theft - 6 months after he was co-opted, he's singing with the choir again.

    It's a conflict of interest and too political at NPR to support Occupy Wall Street - buh bye - but to be political and support the Banks means your own show and career enhancement.

    In short, to end this charade and bring some accountability means a whole lot of people not shutting up, but doing their job, and committing career suicide. Which might seem like more dissidents than we have - but when Occupy Wall Street is no longer a street movement, but an ethical in-workplace, in-goverment vow, there is a chance.

    But it will take hundreds of those actions yearly to even stanch the flow, to even get a mention in the media most people read.

    If not? The system will continue as it is, a corrupted rigged freight train moving down the tracks, 2 sides claiming they're leading us in a better direction but only one set of rails.


    The Simeone fiasco was particularly egregious-what, they were afraid she'd show partiality to operas like The East Is Red? N(ot ) P(progressive) R(adio) has proven without peradventure, when you take the King's shilling, you do the king's bidding shilling.

    In this case, it *doesn't* really matter if it's Democrat or GOP except in a few details.

    I don't think that follows either from what Dan or I have written in this thread, and I disagree with it.

    Given the rules, formal and unspoken, and current imbalances of power that define how our political system currently operates, combined with the still mostly somnambulent and de-politicized (parallel to wildly oscillating strands of activism we've seen in recent years--electing Obama, Tea Party, Occupy) public, it isn't as though any forseeable results in November are going to mean the difference, starting in January 2013, between far-reaching progressive legislative initiatives or not.  

    However, if Romney wins and the Republicans take the Senate and keep the House, we will see far-reaching reactionary legislative initiatives.  Much energy that otherwise might be directed towards creating pressure for progressive change either will have to be directed to playing defense and thwarting such efforts, or else some of these efforts that will set us back may very well succeed.

    Another broad way the presidential outcome matters is in the differential sensibilities and likely responses to any organized efforts to press for progressive change of the two people running for President.

    John Kennedy has been widely criticized over the decades for being, in the eyes of some, too slow to embrace the civil rights cause.  What his brother Robert said about him after the fact was that he was bright enough to realize that Birmingham and Bull Connor and the televised brutality changed the climate of public opinion to the point where it became possible to imagine that segregationist Democratic senators who had the power to block civil rights legislation, and had been blocking it, might relent enough for it to pass.  

    One can argue ad nauseum about whether Kennedy's beliefs and commitments on civil rights were, or were not, sufficiently forward-thinking and enlightened pre-Birmingham.  But the fact of the matter is that, when pressures created by ordinary citizens working together in ways that commanded widespread public respect ended up causing Bull Connor to crack and self-destruct, Kennedy did respond to that opening in helpful ways, such as his televised national address declaring unequivocally that discrimination against African Americans was simply morally wrong and demanded a governmental response.

    It is not too much of a reach for me to imagine Obama responding, more or less in a similar spirit as Kennedy responded, helpfully and constructively to similar kinds of openings which the creative initiatives of individuals working together might create by bringing about changes in the climate of public opinion.  At any rate, that is probably what is going to have to happen if we are going to get any near-term forward motion on public policy, meaning over the next 4 1/2 years.  Otherwise we will have 4 1/2 years as pretty much a wheel-spinning throwaway in terms of significant positive policy change at the national level.  (I would say the same types of organized public pressure will need to be created even if Obama wins, the Senate stays Democratic, and a late surge results in the public throwing the retrograde, traitorous House Republicans out of majority status.)

    Some governments, you know, in the face of pressure, respond by repressing it, seeking to sabatoge it behind the scenes through their minions, or just ignoring it but not saying or doing self-destructive things that might give those pressures more public traction.  These types of responses strike me as the more likely ones from a Romney Administration in response to any substantial pressures for progressive change that can be generated in 2013 and beyond.  

    I think Obama has been corrupted by what he has been through.  I think he has strayed far from the spirit of his 2008 campaign.  He does not, not yet, strike me as so far gone as to be incapable of becoming more a part of the various solutions that we need instead of the mixed bag and overall disappointment he has been from my point of view.  Romney does.  Obama once, not too long ago, had a visible, appealing moral compass and soul.  Romney never has. And nothing suggests to me that he ever will.  

    So, yes, I think it does matter who wins, in these two broad ways. 

    The American public can be likened to a Bull; strong and mighty.

    Except; We go, where the master leads us,  because of the nose ring.

    We are being led to the slaughter.

    On a recent family vacation in Colorado, I had occasion to watch a rodeo.  During which I was reminded that bulls have minds of their own.  

    As a farmer's son, I would like to note the phenomenon of "the steer."

    Still bitter, I see - it was an accident, how many times must I apologize?


    Still haven't found what you're looking for? Maybe here? http://www.phallus.is

    Obama isn't JFK and he hasn't been "corrupted". What you see is what he is - a child of the system. And much of this doesn't rise to level of president - it's just how the media, the judiciary, the lower level executive branches, the police force, etc. work.

    Frisk-and-search will only change if it's accepted it's a problem, GOP or Democratic government at fed or local level. If we've decided as a people that targeted assassinations are okay, it doesn't matter who's in office - we'll get that result.

    If corporate handouts are one of the main purposes of government, that is the government we get.

    And if everyone in the system turns a blind eye and tilts the field towards corporates, makes exemptions in the law for executive branch because they're "trying" and being "patriotic", then we're screwed.

    It's when people do what's right against what's accepted and corrupt that we can return to normalcy. And that's little to do with Romney vs. Obama. Look at what Manning did. Look at what a few like Grayson did investigating the Fed, or Kaufman looking into naked short selling. Look at the few judges who pushed back on automatic executive privilege for anything related to "terror" and "non-ending war". Sure I can hope for an executive who'll push for right from top down, but we've seen that movie and the sequel sucks. So we get choice of "Bad/Impotent" vs. "Worse/Empowered" if that's the way you want to frame it, and neither is palatable.

    More Mannings, more Graysons, etc. We're going to work each day ankle deep in shit, and we've accepted it as the norm - "Panglossian" as someone referred to it. If you're used to giving kickbacks to the local cop, you start thinking this is the way the world is. In our case, we're giving kickbacks and extended power to dozens of organizations and we've structured our democracy to be un-democratic except in the glossy, tabloid kind of way.

    Well, was Kennedy likewise a child of the system?  Did it matter to the course of whether we got civil rights in this country how he responded versus how a 1963 Mitt Romney might have responded?  I say it well might have and I don't believe I could dismiss that possibility. 

    That was my point.  Perhaps I wasn't clear enough.  Progressive change of the sort that is contemplated in this thread is certain to require substantial, creative public pressure.  I'm saying that who our elected officials happen to be at the time when such pressures are applied can make a large difference to the outcome, to whether the ball gets moved forward, remains stuck in neutral, or even moves backwards.

    Kennedy was a child of the system, but in this case he pushed back hard on the status quo in a particular area, so he's remembered fondly. If he didn't do civil rights, he would have been just another cold war warrior with a lot of cronyist ties.

    So yes, he did what I say we need more of. LBJ ruined his career over Civil Rights more than Vietnam - because he'd done the right thing, he couldn't maintain the party support in the South. But history will still treat him kindly.

    Kennedy had to be hauled kicking and screaming into a leadership role over civil rights.  He made enemies in the black community that took some time to heal because of his reluctance to do the right thing.

    John Kennedy was elected president in 1960 partly because of his promise to secure equal rights for black Americans. Yet, once in office, he and his brother Robert, the attorney general, sought to avoid too great an involvement in the politically divisive struggle. Violent Southern conflict about black civil rights overtook the Kennedys, forcing them to intervene on the side of the integrationists. Still, President Kennedy resisted sending strong civil rights legislation to Congress, unwilling to risk further alienating the powerful Southern conservatives blocking his domestic program.

    Reminds me of Obama in many ways, including the wish to be all things to all people.  It could be that if Obama gets his second term he'll finally roll up his sleeves and work harder at fulfilling his promises.  Sometimes it takes a whole lot of push for even the smartest to see the light.

    The democratic establishment were not that fond of the Kennedys. For that and their stand against organized crime (mostly Robert) and wars such as Vietnam (which Jack wanted to end). As well as the financial sector.

    Shared. -- "Dagblog, by the way, is well worth subscribing to: highly intelligent people, posting irregularly, always worth reading."

    Interesting post, Dan. Brings up a number of problems. Demographics for one.

    We have now additional demographics we did not have after WWII.

    Suburban for one.  It was not initially a separate demographic as those who lived in suburbia originally came from the cities or from the rural areas.  Now a distinct demographic as we now have people who have been raised in and lived entirely in the burbs as it were.

    And a sub group -  the gated suburban community which is usually of the higher income bracket.

    The questions you pose were difficult enough to answer when there were only the city dwellers and rural/farm dwellers who had each there own views and there fore agendas and wants.

    True that some of these agendas do overlap but not enough, I feel, to create a strong consensus. 

    The small towns, which at one time were extensions of the rural/agrarian culture - being mostly to support it - are now not so much and could be considered a separate demographic unto themselves. 

    All of which makes reaching an accord much more difficult.

    Fewer and fewer groups with similar shared experiences.

    This post is very much on the long-run side of what I've come to see as the short-run vs long-run divide on the left.  Much of the debate here revolves around this dichotomy.  Short-runners are constantly arguing about how the Dems are preferable to the GOP on the margin.  While this is frequently true, what the long-runners argue is also true: there are a growing number of issues where supporting either party represents continuing the inexorable march in the wrong direction.

    Think Supreme Court vs the WOD.  Short-runners are technically correct (the best kind of correct!) when they argue that Obama is likely to appoint non-heinous individuals to the SCOTUS.  At the same time, the last three of our fine Presidents have openly admitted to using drugs.  The current guy admits to what sounds like fairly frequent recreational drug use, but ask him about reforming drug law in this country and he giggles like it's a Cheech and Chong joke.  On this issue, he and his party are the joke.  One more representation of "do as I say, not as I do" elitism from the titular adults in the room.  We all know what would have happened to Barack Obama had he ever been caught, especially if it had been with the brothers in the gym and not in the white frat boy's van.  In the meantime, enhanced sentences for minorities, privatization of prisons and militarization of the civilian police force continue unabated under either party you might pick to support.

    Another issue that gets no traction from either party is climate change.  This issue is going to be a serious test of political systems, moral conviction and temporal cognition around the world.  What have we done here in America to alleviate the problem?  Nothing significant under either party.  This isn't really an issue where we all get to weigh in with our normative preferences.  If the models currently being used are accurate, there are going to be unavoidable consequences for nearly everyone.

    The national debt is another issue.  The world wants to pay us to borrow money right now.  Neither party can seem to connect this, no matter how much hand-wringing about the debt, to an opportunity to grow the economy again.  This depression was man-made and it continues because we insist on it.

    In fact, more and more we face problems of our own creation that continue as a result of political failures.  Look at the EU crisis right now.  It's no different, though I'm not sure whether it's heartening that America isn't the only Western nation facing this dilemma right now.

    So, for now, the short-runners can be right.  Can I name issues where I prefer Obama to Romney?  Sure.  The only problem is that in far too many of these cases the issues aren't the most important and the superiority is out at the margin.  The list of issues that never seem to get better - how about income inequality and stagnating wages for the middle class - grows and grows under either banner.

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