Friday, January 11, 2008

Beware What You Wish For: Kossaks Want Obama Versus Huckabee

This has already scrolled off of daily kos, but yesterday they had a poll of people guessing which were the easiest and the toughest matchups from a Dem perspective in the prez race. While McCain was generally viewed as the toughest opponent, the most popular combo, viewed as easiest, was Obama versus Huckabee. I want to warn that this might be one of those desires one curses having fulfilled.

Key here is my post here earlier on "Who is a 'Populist'?" Among current candidates, they were Edwards, now looking near dead, and Huckabee. Obama is the New Centrist Dem, who does not appeal to poorer people so much, a sucker for a "Reagan Democrat" approach from the guitar playing, Colbert-appearing, Huck. He is ahead of both Romney and McCain in Michigan in the latest polls, and could get the nomination. Nice guy that he is, at least on the surface, he could go all the way. And, lest anybody forgets, his fundamentalism is right in there with the old-timey populists: think William Jennings Bryan. (And, don't forget that lots of Dems in 1980 were hoping for Reagan to get the GOP nomination.)


Brenda Rosser said...

I'm really struggling to find the difference between the policies of the Democrats and the Republicans in the US.

Is there a website that outlines the differences?

Brenda Rosser said...

"in substance [most of the 2008 candidates] occupy a relatively restricted area within the universal political spectrum..."

Jack said...

The differences are in one's perception of the two. Republicans
are overtly intent on shifting wealth and power up the the social scale. Democrats are covertly doing the same thing, but hold out some chance of doing it in a less destructive manner. They may also be a bit more willing to leave a crumb or two for the rest of society to fight over. For Republicans those crumbs represent a drift towards socialism and the welfare state. Personally, I'm endorsing the Jacobin Movement, if and when it returns to finish the job it started. said...

Actually, that would be the Jackobin movement... :-).

A very old difference, certainly evident at the time of the Populist movement at the end of the 19th century was that Republicans tended to be the party of capital and lenders, Dems the party of labor and debtors. Labor unions mostly support the Dems, big business and banks tend to support the GOP. The latter tends to lead to the Republicans being more anti-inflationary rather than anti-unemployment in their policies.

Of course, things are muddled, and there are non-trivial sectors of big business that support the Dems, some investment firms (the Rubin wing, source of the attacks in the Dems against social security, wanting to privatize it), some high tech firms, most of Hollywood, and much of the law profession.

The occasional union has supported the Republicans, in the past most famously the Teamsters, who were for a long time not part of the main labor federation, the AFL-CIO, and were reputed to have more links to organized crime than other unions. More recently, the AFL-CIO has split, which has shown up in the divided endorsements the various unions have been handing out to the various Dem candidates.

Here are some areas the parties differ, at least right now, or appear to.

Foreign policy: Republicans are more hawkish. Many support war on Iran, fewer of the Dems, although Hillary has left a door open on that one. More Dems more critical of the Iraq war, although again, divisions, although Ron Paul, the libertarian among the Repubs has opposed it.

Except for McCain and Paul, the Republicans have all openly advocated torture and want to keep Guantanamo open. None of the Dems do.

Economics, the differences here are indeed murkier. A major irony is that what are supposed to be differences do not show up. Thus, in the more distant past, the Republicans were for balanced budgets and less government spending. However, if one compares the Clinton presidency to the Bush presidency, one gets exactly the opposite outcomes.

Dems are generally better on the environment, with Bush's approach versus Gore's on global warming the big divide.

Dems generally more sympathetic and favorable to minorities. The current flashpoint on this is immigration, where mostly the Dems are saying little, but many Repubs are all for building walls and fences and deporting all illegal aliens, etc., with some such as McCain a bit more moderate.

Social policies, especially relevant to women. Abortion is the huge flashpoint. All the Dem candidates support a woman's right to choose. The only Repub candidate doing so is Giuliani. The rest kiss the behind of the Christian Right, but none more than Huckabee, who does not accept the theory of evolution and is an ordained Baptist minister.

Barkley said...


A followup here gets back to the gist of my post: Obama and Huckabee to some extent scramble these party identities, and could do so in ways that a lot of Dems who hang out at liberal blogs like daily kos might not pick up on.

Thus, in New Hampshire, Hillary got the votes of women and the poorer, older, and less educated. Obama is popular with the young, well educated, and well off. The latter have a tendency to take the former for granted, "they will vote for the Dem candidate because they have nowhere else to go."

But, unlike the other Repubs, Huckabee has made noises about helping the poor. I do not think most of his actual proposals really help them, his "fair tax" one to replace the federal income tax with a federal sales tax most definitely does not do so. But, hd plays the game and makes the noises, and has supported some social welfare programs, and also comes from a poor background, indeed, ironically, from Hope, Arkansas, the same small town that Bill Clinton is from.

So, he can make a play to the poorer, older, less well educated people who would tend to support the Dems, but if they are more religious and they are put off too much by all the New Centrist yuppieish trappings of Obama, could make a run to support him.

It happened before in 1980, hence the concept of "Reagan Democrats."
Lots of Dems thought Reagan would be easy to beat because he was so far out in the right wing. But he wiped the floor with them. Huckabee even has the aura more than him of populistically being for the poor, even if his policies are not that much so. But the other Repubs are criticizing him for being "too liberal" because of the elements of that sort he supports.


Bruce Webb said...

Brenda if you think of the Democrats as being the equivalent of Blair's Labor Party and the Republican's as the equivalent of Thatcher's Conservatives I don't think you would be far off. Whereas the respective parties in the sixties were a lot closer to Old Labor and New Conservatives, in the intervening decades everything simply got shifted right.

As an example in 'Liberal Fascism' Jonah Goldberg made the claim that in the modern context Richard Nixon would be in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Which he took as a point of pride but just left me shaking my head. Nixon was never in any sense a liberal, he had authoritarian instincts that would have led him to act exactly as Bush is doing, the economic and political consensus was simply not there to let that happen. That consensus was simply dismantled over the course of the Reagan Revolution and swept the Democratic Party with it.
(Blogger is doing odd things, this could show up as many as three times - apologies in advance)

Jack said...

So Brenda, as you can see from both Barkley,s and Bruce,s take on the current state of party politics in the USA, both parties represent big money interests. The Dems hope to get elected by making a few nice sounds that have a progressive, if not populist, ring to them. The Repubs, on the other hand, tend to appeal to the more visceral side of man, war, hatred, greed, etc. Certainly the Dems sing the better song, but as Billy Clinton demonstrated big money interests are the only interests that get the ready ear.

Tangential thought. I only just recognized the common name, Rosser,
that you share with Barkley. Is that a coincidence?

Also, is anyone out there intending to attend the Midwest Poli. Sci. Assoc. Conf in Chicago in April?

Brenda Rosser said...

Thanks Jack, Barkley and Bruce. Any wonder I couldn't compare the policies. It varies from one candidate to another (!!).

In Australia the policies of each political party don't vary like that at all. At least you know what you 'buying' here. (Or, at least theoretically, as there's a stronger and stronger trend to back away from election promises).

I remember when Richard Nixon won his first US election by promising to withdraw troops from Vietnam. Instead he escalated American involvement.

Here is some interesting history on the Democrat President John F Kennedy harvested from the internet and other sources. He "..awarded his chief Cabinet posts to Republicans from the camp of big wealth. Douglas Dillon, Republican and very wealthy heir of the founder of Dillon Read and Company, Forrestal's old firm, was made Secretary of the Treasury. Robert S McNamara, Republican president of the Ford Motor Company, was made Secretary of Defence. McGeorge Bundy, Republican was made liaison man to the CIA. Dean Rusk, a Democrat, but president of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1952 to 1960 was made Secretary of State...

More on McGeorge Bundy.
Harvey Hollister Bundy (McGeorge Bundy's father) was Henry L. Stimson's Assistant Secretary of State (1931-33); then he was Stimson's Special Assistant Secretary of War, alongside Assistant Secretary Robert Lovett of Skull and Bones and Brown Brothers Harriman (for years the largest private bank in the world).

Harvey's son William P. Bundy (S&B 1939) was a CIA officer from 1951 to 1961; as a 1960s defense official, he pushed the Harriman-Dulles scheme for a Vietnam war. Harvey's other son, McGeorge Bundy (S&B 1940), co-authored Stimson's memoirs in 1948. As President John Kennedy's Director of National Security, McGeorge Bundy organized the whitewash of the Kennedy assassination, and immediately switched the U.S. policy away from the Kennedy pullout and back toward war in Vietnam...

More on the Brown Brothers Harriman bank:
"Brown Brothers, Harriman partner Robert Lovett [guided] John F. Kennedy's choice of his cabinet."

The father of Henry Kravis (LBO firm KKR) managed the family fortune of the Kennedy family.

As President Kennedy's family discovered, the trouble with big money financing your election is that there are very dire consequences if you then fail to do their bidding completely.

Brenda Rosser said...

Jack said: "Tangential thought. I only just recognized the common name, Rosser, that you share with Barkley. Is that a coincidence?"

Total coincidence, Jack!! (As well "a pattern of connection that cannot be explained by conventional, efficient causality", Jung would say). said...


What you noted has been noted before. Brenda and I are surely distant relatives, but pretty distant. We have communicated before about the history of our common last name, which is Welsh in origin, although its ultimate origin is a matter of disupte.


A crucial key in this is that the US is not a parliamentary system, like Australia, Britain, and most democracies. In those countries, as you know, the executive is an emanation of the parliament, organized by the leading party or parties in the parliament, with the parties having well-defined platforms that members must obey, although occasionally they are set free to "vote their conscience" by their leaders on this or that issue.

In the US, they are elected separately, and there are no rules about members of Congress obeying their party platforms or lines. So, there are all these factions within the parties, and often conflict between a president of a party and the party's leaders in the Congress. Actually, recently there has been somewhat of a firming up and greater unity within the parties, the Democrats more "liberal" in the US sense, the Republicans more "conservative." But, in the past there were lots of very conservative, and openly racist, southern Democrats, and many quite liberal Republicans.

One of those was the father of current Repub candidate, Mitt Romney, the late George Romney, a governor of Michigan (whose primary is coming up), who briefly ran for president in 1968, withdrawing after admitting that he had been misled about the war in Vietnam by Johnson. I just saw a column by the usually execrable David Broder today in the Washington Post, in which he discussed the views of the elder Romney's successor as governor and close political ally, Millikan. Apparently he views young Mitt has having gone way too far to the right, saying his dad would not have approved of his views. Millikan is supporting McCain, and did so in 2000, but in 2004 supported John Kerry against Bush. So, things can indeed get murky, and I do not blame any foreign observer for wondering what the hell is going on here.


Brenda Rosser said...

Thanks for your comments Barkley. I have a copy of the US Constitution upstairs. Will have a look as I travel to Launceston this morning.
Thanks again

Peter H said...

One of those was the father of current Repub candidate, Mitt Romney, the late George Romney, a governor of Michigan (whose primary is coming up), who briefly ran for president in 1968, withdrawing after admitting that he had been misled about the war in Vietnam by Johnson.

IIRC, George Romney said he'd been "brainwashed" into supporting the war.

Peter H said...


This is a little bit off-topic, but I have some real problems with Obama's economic advisors.

-Austan Goolsbee, Obama's chief advisor on economics, has been praised as the sort of economis yout "would want at the elbow of a Democratic president." (in the Will column, Goolsbee falls hook, line, and sinker for "increasing returns to technology" as the cause of income inequality).

-Jeffrey Liebman, another one of Obama's advisors, is the Democrat name on the Liebman-MacGuineas-Samwick Nonpartisan Social Security Reform Plan, a plan that would partially privatize Social Security.

-And David Cutler, Obama's chief advisor on health care, has argued that health care cost inflation is nothing to worry about, since the benefits of increased health care spending exceed the costs (Cutler is virtually the only left-of-center health policy expert whom believes this).

This all fits in with Krugman's point that Obama is the worst of the 3 major candidates on domestic policy issues. That being said, although I support Edwards, I still prefer Obama to Hilary, because (1) he's more dovish on foreign policy issues (2) too many people hate Hilary.

Jack said...

peter h.,
Has Obama made any definitive statements taht would lead the voters to be assured that his foreign policies would be markedly different from those of H. Clinton's? I don't see them. On the other hand, I don't see that H.C. has made any domestic policy pronouncements that would assure a voter that she is beeter than Obama in that sphere. Both stink!!
Both seem inclined to solve problems by allowing their financial supporters to "come to the table'" so to speak. More likely in both their cases those suppoters/advisers will come to sorround that table with the same old, same old "free market" approach to economic problem resolution.

Yes, Edwards is an outsider and there are no assurances that he would be all that different. When we look at the history of government over the past century we see only the same interests served by the very same people or their descendents. Names like Brown Bros Harriman, the Bundys and Skull and Bones make repeated reappearences. That's not a coincidence. Until the financial industry stops calling all the shots, it hardly matters who is their appointed (elelcted??) representative.

John Emerson said...

I posted this on the earlier thread and will repost here for convenience, consolidating my two posts.

I've done a little reading on the Farmer Labor Party in Minnesota (before it merged with the Dems.) It's a stranger and more dramatic story than anyone imagines.

The first anomaly is that it was successful. The FL paper ran the state for several years in the Thirties and were a force for at least two decades. During that time they succesfully implemented a lot of reforms which permanently changed the state, and which became models for the rest of the U.S.
Their most prominent leader, Floyd B. Olson, explicitly called himself a socialist rather than a liberal. Even so, there was a party faction to his left.

A second anomaly is that one major group supporting the FL Party was small-town bankers. They were pinched between big finance and their friends, neighbors, and customers, and rather oddly (probably because of the savageness of big finance) they threw in with the people they knew.

The third anomaly is that the FL was a right-left populist coalition. In 1936 he only US Congressman to vote to support the Spanish Republic was John Bernard of Duluth, who after retirement declared himself a Communist. But in 1942 FL Senator Ledeen was implicated in Nazi propaganda activities. (Charles Lindbergh's father had been a FL Congressman who opposed US entry into WWI, and whose antiwar book was censored by federal agents.)

Gore Vidal believes that calling Charles Lindbergh a Nazi sympathizer was a smear, for what it's worth, and Ledeen may have been smeared too for all I know.

Many of the FL reforms are uncontroversial by now, except among neo-Confedrates, Armageddon Christians, and the most rabid anti-government free-marketers. I think that any discussion of American populism should begin with the FL Party, instead of starting with the most unsavory of them as is usually done.

The dominant, reflexive, and ignorant anti-populist streak among the Democrats (whose leaders are mostly professionals, academics, and administrators) cripples them. Hofstadter has a lot to answer for. Almost anyone who takes a little Poli Sci or American History will get a false picture of the era. The smartest Democrats are the most deluded on this question.

I also think that the isolationists have been misrepresented, but that's a different story.


Democratic elitism is real, but Republican populism is fake. The former makes the latter possible.

The New Deal was put together by a coalition of experts and populists (including labor). A fragile coalition indeed, though not as fragile as the FL coalition in Minnesota. (Bankers and Communists??) But let's not badmouth our successes.

Pomo anti-populism tells me that they have no intention of contributing to an actual political movement, and are primarily academics living of their tenure rents.

wellbasically said...

What was their position on the tariff?

John Emerson said...

I don't know if the question was directed to me, but FL Sen. Shipstead voted against Smoot-Hawley in 1930. I can't be sure that the party was united on that. There's a JSTOR article on the topic that I can't get.

Bruce Webb said...

Lindbergh's pro-Nazi position is pretty well documented. There are numerous photographs of him meeting with uniformed Nazi's, he earned several Nazi-era medals. The following is from a on the whole neutral Lindbergh site.

Gore Vidal may think it a smear, that doesn't seem to be the consensus in real time. At least not according to the NYT and George Gallup. At a minimum Lindberg was arguing a defeatist position. But in my opinion the subhead of his 'America First' slogan was 'Britain Last'. His organization didn't in fact dissolve itself until four days after Pearl Harbor.

Bruce Webb said...

peter h makes the point I have been making everywhere. The Obama economics team is an active threat to the progressive agenda. I don't see anything remotely like that threat out of Clinton, her response to the Social Security question was in fact perfect, we do need to sit back and examine the General Fund deficit, Medicare, and Social Security in context of their respective threats going forwards and if we do it becomes readily apparent that in a list of top ten priorities for action Social Security scores about no 40.

If the LMS plan actually delivered a 'fix' to 'crisis' we might be able to talk about it. But it doesn't, for lower income workers the end result of LMS is pretty much the same result at a sharply higher cost. In the context of Social Security as currently configured a cap increase in absence of any other changes actually is counterproductive for long-term solvency, it is however a key component of the LMS plan. Supposedly Liebman was brought on board to be the Trade guy, but all of his background seems to be in pensions and his name leads the LMS plan, it seems that on this one that Obama has some 'splaining to do.

John Emerson said...

Lindbergh did fight on the American side in WWII, and he brought back useful information about German aircraft from his trip, which he shared with the American military.

There's no doubt that he was friendlier to the Nazis than he should have been, but his isolationist anti-war position was the dominant one. It's the same kind of thing that happens with Saddam -- anyone who opposed the Iraq War and pointed out that Saddam was being demonized was accused of being a Saddam-lover. (And I believe that Hitler did deserve to be demonized, but that set a horrible precedent, where Chavez might soon be Hitler too.)

Even just and unavoidable wars have enormous costs in term of long-term changes in the militarized society. During Iraq War II I've become more sympthetic to (some of the) libertarians on this point. The internationalist war party is dominant in the U.S. and has been since 1941, to the extent that there no major political candidate from either party has entirely repudiated the Iraq War or the forthcoming Iran War (much less the foerign policy that makes these wars inevitable).

In fact, a mainstream candidate who does repudiate the war, as Dodd did, becomes a non-major candidate by that very fact.

Brenda Rosser said...

John Emerson said: "CONCLUSION:
Democratic elitism is real, but Republican populism is fake. The former makes the latter possible..."

I don't agree. I've been observing the Democrats and Republicans in the US and comparing their behaviour with the two major political parties in Australia for some time. The only conclusion a close observer can make is that the political convergence to the far right that has occured makes the 'two-party' system a very dangerous illusion.

I'm frankly surprised at the lack of a call on this forum, and elsewhere, for the public to vote for something other than these empty brand names. Particularly as the environmental and financial dominoes fall. Now that they've threatened our very existence on the planet what exactly does it take for the public to throw these charlatans out?

..Why, in 1993, did the newly elected Bill Clinton pass the North American Free Trade Agreement, a pro-business measure invented by his political adversaries and opposed by his allies in labor and the environment? The answer, according to [Jeff] Faux , is that Clinton was less devoted to his base than to his fellow elites, rewarding their donations to the Democratic Party with access to Mexico's cheap labor and lax environmental standards. With a fluid grasp of both history and economics, Faux, founder of the Economic Policy Institute, critiques both Democrats and Republicans for protecting transnational corporations "while abandoning the rest of us to an unregulated, and therefore brutal and merciless, global market." Faux describes how free trade and globalization have encouraged businesses to become nationless enterprises detached from the economic well-being of any single country, to the detriment of all but transnational elites. He details the genesis of NAFTA and the failure of the agreement to deliver on its promises to workers, predicting a severe American recession as its legacy… "Jeff Faux's astonishing story of how class works will scandalize the best names in Wall Street and Washington-especially the much admired Robert Rubin, who along with other elites colluded behind the backs of ordinary citizens in Mexico, Canada, and the United States. The most cynical Americans will be shocked by the sordid details. This really is an important book."
-William Greider, author of The Soul of Capitalism and Secrets of the Temple… Mexico ..a socio-economic bomb waiting to explode, and on how NAFTA and the deliberate tolerance of illegal immigration have essentially served as a pressure value, where the US imports poverty from Mexico in order to keep it from a worse explosion.”

[A review of the book mentioned below]

..During the [Clinton election] campaign, Clinton had hedged. He had said that he would not support NAFTA unless enforceable workers’ rights and minimum environmental standards were added. “I’d be for expanded trade with Mexico and all these other countries,” he said in San Diego, “but only, only if they lifted their waged rates and their labor standards and cleaned up the environment so we could both go up together instead of being dragged down.” [2] Latter, in Raleigh, North Caroline, he repeated that he would not sign NAFTA unless it was amended to protect environmental standards and workers rights. [3]. On November 4, 1992, he was elected president. One major cause of his victory was the turnout of the Democratic base, particularly low-and moderate- income working-class families reacting to the 1991-1992 recession. “It’s the economy, stupid,” his campaign manager famously said. Had the unemployment rate in the fall of 1992 been 5.5 percent rather than 7.5 percent, George HW Bush would have no doubt been re-elected. The other cause was the maverick businessman Ross Perot, who used his considerable fortune to buy his way into the presidential campaign. Perot pulled business, conservative, and right-wing populist votes away from Bush by hammering the Republican president on his budget deficits and his support of NAFTA…”

From: The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future - and What It Will Take to Win It Back by Jeff Faux. 2006.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about Lindbergh's Nazi relations in context -- I remember discovering to my shock many years ago that Stanford Libraries have quite a number of books with a swastika bookplate inscribed "Gabe des deutschen Reiches."

For what it's worth I once knew a person who had a very junior position in an institution frequented by Lindbergh in his later years and her report was very definitely that he was as far as possible from the "kiss-up, kick-down" ethos of Stanford's own Condi Rice (and, frankly, a lot more Stanfordites than Condi). said...


The answer why you are hearing nothing about third parties this year, unless maybe it is a centrist non-party candidacy by Mayor Bloomberg of New York, is the experience of 2000. There are a whole lot of people who think that the Green Party candidacy of Ralph Nader, gave the White House to George W. Bush. Indeed, I for one am quite convinced of it. Bill Clinton did many not so great things, but the rhetoric of there being "no difference between the parties" that sold so well to many in 2000 is not selling at all right now. Bush has gone so far to the right, it is truly horrifying.

Just to pick on one obvious thing: if Al Gore had been president, most of us are reasonably convinced that the US would not have invaded Iraq and would not be there right now, with all the horrible related outcomes that have been associated with that. I would call that a very big difference.


Brenda Rosser said...

Testing...testing (6th try to post. Will try to post my response to Barkley later).


What's going on over there??

DESCRIPTION: HR 1955, proposed by Jane Harman (D-Calif.) criminalizes all dissident freedom of speech as essentially seditious and supportive of "terror" or some other bogeyman being trotted out by the system. It was passed by near unanimity in the House, with only 6 votes abstaining or not voting. Trust the Democrats!


H.R. 393: Universal National Service Act of 2007
Bill Status
Introduced: Jan 10, 2007
Sponsor: Rep. Charles Rangel [D-NY]
Status: Introduced
Go to Bill Status Page

You are viewing the following version of this bill:

Introduced in House: This is the original text of the bill as it was written by its sponsor and submitted to the House for consideration.
Text of Legislation

HR 393 IH


1st Session

H. R. 393

To require all persons in the United States between the ages of 18 and 42 to perform national service, either as a member of the uniformed services or in civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, to authorize the induction of persons in the uniformed services during wartime to meet end-strength requirements of the uniformed services, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to make permanent the favorable treatment afforded combat pay under the earned income tax credit, and for other purposes...

Brenda Rosser said...

Reply to Barkley's post above:

Barkley, it surely is an act of faith that prompts you to suppose that Al Gore's imagined presidency would have kept America out of Iraq. Al Gore did not contest the 2000 election result even in the face of (extremely) compelling evidence of widespread fraud and corruption. He betrayed many Democrat voters by his inaction. If he couldn't challenge a fraudulent election result then how likely was he to be able to fend off pressures by vested interests to go to war?

I beg to differ with you about the reasons for the Bush 'win' in 2000. In the face of such humungous evidence of fraud (overwhelmingly, but not solely, on the Republican side) it would be extremely difficult to place the onus of defeat of Gore on Ralph Nader or any other third party.

But what a system, though! Any successful voter block that supports a genuine people's alternative is sure to be rewarded with the election win of the most rightwing fanatics from the Republican party. Is it any wonder the Dem-Repubs turn into slobs and quite literally get away with murder.

You said: "Bush has gone so far to the right, it is truly horrifying.

Exactly what level of institutional dysfunction allows Bush to head in this direction at such of time of global multiple systems collapse!?

The political convergence occuring in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (also in Europe?) provides strong evidence, in my mind, of the emergence of a coordinated group of business elite. Finally freed (almost completely) from the fetters of national regulation. This was bound to happen under the political structures that we have.

"..Hotelling was among the first to observe that would happen on a beach where there were only two icecream vendors could also happen on the left-right political spectrum where there were only two major parties. He wrote in 1929 that in the US competition for votes did not lead to “two strongly contrasted positions between which voters may choose. Instead, each party strives to make its platform as much like the other as possible.” But not in the UK. There, with for a time three major political parties, each found it worthwhile to actually stand for something. It could happen in Australia if the Greens became our third major political force. But Hotelling’s Law and the experience of Australian companies that have tried to break into a duopoly suggests that if that looks like happening each of the two majors will do everything in their power to cut off the emerging third force at the knees. Kevin Rudd’s [current Australian Prime Minister's] record in state politics suggests that he will run his administration as do many Labor state Premiers – in permanent campaign mode, never for a second allowing a slither of light to emerge that could cost votes...

John Emerson said...

Me:Democratic elitism is real, but Republican populism is fake. The former makes the latter possible..."

Brenda: I don't agree..... The only conclusion a close observer can make is that the political convergence to the far right that has occured makes the 'two-party' system a very dangerous illusion.

I'm frankly surprised at the lack of a call on this forum, and elsewhere, for the public to vote for something other than these empty brand names.

Me: Because of its state-by-state winner-take-all nature, our present system is stacked against third parties. They've had some success at the statewide level, but at the national level they haven't come close to winning since before the civil war. Nationally they only serve as ways of putting pressure on one of the other parties (or rarely, as in the Perot case, both) -- it's like sitting out an election in order to get a better deal . At worst (John Anderson in 1980) they can be deliberate sabotage.

So, what Barkley said. I did vote for Nader in 2000 and now regret it. It obviously was not the right year to sit out an election in order to get leverage within the party. (Beyond the question of the two-party system, I've spent 40 years or so learning that most Americans are much more willing to accept an imperialist foreign and military policy than I am.)

Beyond that, I don't see how your 9:20 post disagrees with your citation from me. All I said is that Americans usually face a choice between real elitists (Democrats) and fake populists (Republicans, who are more elitist than Democrats, albeit less academic, but hire actors who can fake populism.)

When I voted for Gore I was much more optimistic than I am now, and that's why I made my mistake. I'll be a lesser-evil voter from here on out, fully aware of what that means. said...


But Gore did contest the election result, with the outcome being held up for over a month. It went to the Supreme Court, where it was decided in a very partisan 5-4 vote, all the more reason why who is on the Supreme Court matters, which is determined by who is president.

I would also point out that Bush pulled a fast one on the electorate. His father was associated with the moderate wing of the Republican Party, and while it was known that he was more conservative than his dad, this was viewed mostly as just part of the general rigthward shift of the party, and he ran as a "compassionate conservative" who would "unite the country," and bragged of how well he got along with the legislature in Texas when it was controlled by (mostly pretty conservative) Democrats.

This was a fraud. The minute he got in he tacked hard right and pushed very conservative and ideological agendas, with an occasional bone thrown to bipartisanship (his education bill). His reelection in 2004, which gave us a long term, hard right tilt to the Supreme Court, was won basically on a combo of the fact that a huge percentage of the American population still believed that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11 (War on Terror!!!), which was probably responsible for Bush's popular vote win that year, and the gay marriage issue, which probably tilted Ohio, and thus the final electoral college outcome, which ironically became a national issue because of a 4-3 state Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts earlier that year, ironic because that is Kerry's state.

I will also point out, that while earlier presidents have done lots of unadmirable things and have been unwilling to really stand up to the monied interests, the opinion around the world of the US was not all that unfavorable. Thanks to things Bush has done, the popularity of the US around the world has never been lower, and I fear that this disdain is all too well deserved.

And, regarding Gore and Iraq, well, he strongly opposed the war all along, without ifs ands or buts. Gore is a very smart guy, as his climate change work shows. Maybe he would have gone into Iraq if he had been prez, but I doubt it. It was really a stupid move ultimately, and he is not stupid. Bush is both stupid and ignorant.

Brenda Rosser said...


I didn't know about Gore challenging the election outcome in court. Thanks for clarifying. Gore certainly comes across as intelligent and articulate, I agree.

I take your point also about the wide discretionary powers of the US President and how Bush Jr has abused this freedom.

As for George Herbert Walker Bush Sr, I have very strong doubts about his status as a 'moderate' anything.

"By April 15 [1964] Bush had been informed that there were some 33 million Americans living in poverty, to which he replied: "I cannot see how draping a socialistic Medi-care program around the sagging neck of our social security program will be a blow to poverty. And I can see only one answer to [the problem of poverty]: Let us turn our free enterprise system loose from government control."

Bush on Vietnam in 1964: "And so I stand here as one who says I will back up the President and military leaders no matter what weapons they use in Southeast Asia."

Looking at the consequence of only two of Bush Sr's decisions (i) to engage the Gulf War (especially in the light of no changes to US energy policy) and (ii) his strong support of NAFTA have had absolutely horrific environmental consequences.

..According to the World Resources Institute, an environmental policy group in Washington, the fires Iraqi troops set in Kuwait spewed 500 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, "emissions greater than all but the eight largest polluting countries for 1991." In an assessment of the damage on its site, the group also says that "the deposition of oil, soot, sulfur, and acid rain on croplands up to 1,200 miles in all directions from the oil fires turned fields untillable and led to food shortages." And "the oil that did not burn in the fires traveled on the wind in the form of nearly invisible droplets resulting in an oil mist or fog that poisoned trees and grazing sheep, contaminated fresh water supplies, and found refuge in the lungs of people and animals throughout the Gulf." And the spilled oil "killed more than 25,000 birds," leaving a "toxic residue will continue to affect fisheries in the Gulf for over 100 years. . .

Mexican forests and jungle disappeared at the rate of 3 million hectares (on average) between 1994 and 2000. That's only one country!

+ the very uncomfortable questions raised in connection to (as well as strong associations with) President Kennedy's assassination.

(Much more too numerous to mention.) said...

In 1964 Bush, Sr. was a supporter of Barry Goldwater and it showed. He became more moderate later. He was clearly the moderate in the race with Ronald Reagan for the presidential nomination in 1980, daring to call Reagan's drive to simultaneously cut taxes, increase defense spending, and balance the budget, "voodoo economics," although he had to wash his mouth out with soap when he bought into being Reagan's vice president.

In 1964, he was also trying to fit in to his new home state of Texas, which is more right wing, having come from toney, elitist Connecticut, where his father, Prescott, was still a US senator, and one with a clearly "northeastern moderate" image, which then young George H.W. needed to separate himself from to show he was part of the Texas cowboy oil gang.