Tuesday, July 01, 2008

No Where Else to Go

First off, my thanks to everyone who has sent me good wishes. They are much appreciated! The last few weeks of personal ups and downs, now mostly on an upwards trend, has meant that I have had to step back from the particular issues and arguments being flung about in the political wrangling. It has allowed me to look at some of the larger trends and take stock of the peculiar behavior of various actors in the election season, most important to me the behavior of the Democratic Party. I mean this in the broadest sense, encompassing both elected officials and party office holders as well as the voting constituencies that provide the funding, the activists, the volunteers and (most important) the voters, for whose sake the party supposedly acts and with whose consent the party gains the legitimacy to govern.

The widespread and growing discontent with the campaign for the nomination should tell us something about the problems the party is being forced to face. This is not simply a contest between two very popular candidates with aggressive supporters as most would have it, reducing the post-primary tensions to merely a case of “getting over it”. These are problems that have to do with divergent views of party purpose, significant shifts in demographics and geographic distribution of traditional and prospective Democratic voters, and a fundamental divergence of the role of government in the lives of ordinary citizens – who are increasingly female, young, non-white and vulnerable to the vicissitudes of economy and environment. We could say that the Democrats are going global.

The split of the Democratic electorate itself has been followed by growing resistance to the designated nominee. This is not something I have seen before on the Democratic side, though it certainly begins to look more and more like the 1976 contest between Reagan and Ford, with the establishment candidate barely avoiding a convention floor upset by a rival with a new and energized coalition that is dedicated to the party but unhappy with the party direction. The party leadership, like their Republican counter-parts in 1976, appears determined to yield no ground for the cause of true unity, which would require compromise with their internal rivals and the constituencies these actors represent. Instead, what we hear is some variation on “You have nowhere else to go, so tough.”

It is this arrogance and incapacity to acknowledge legitimate claims and criticisms that has raised the hackles among Democrats who are not necessarily ardent Clinton supporters – though repetition of the dismissal clearly hardens resolve – and which points the way to the underlying problem of the Party, laid bare by this electoral contest. Perhaps it took this particular match up, one that undermines comfortable assumptions about what Democrats believe and are willing to fight for, to expose the fault line I have been discussing for the last few months. It helps to explain the reaction of Hillary supporters to the anointing of Obama as the presumptive nominee, but even more it illuminates the voting patterns observable in the exit polls.

Not only does the Party leadership and large swaths of the Stevensonian elite firmly believe that the Truman rank-and-file have nowhere else to go in a political sense, they have also abandoned any substantive commitment to socio-economic movement for this class. They no longer care to provide there voters anywhere else to go economically or culturally. The Truman wing is seen as an electoral dead end, and no more effort should be expended on their behalf.

Controlling for race, the results of the primary campaign were split between the haves and the have-nots. Exceptions can be found, such as my own household. We’re in the 90th percentile of incomes and hold advanced degrees, are secular humanist, are clearly “creative class” knowledge workers, etc. We should have been Obama supporters; indeed the spousal unit started the campaign as one. However, the overall trends were consistent – the working class and poor were strong Clinton Democrats and the Stevensonians clung to Obama. Look at the makeup of the Clinton Democrats – working class, especially the working poor, the elderly, less than college graduates, women and non-whites voted for Hillary. The missing constituency in this coalition was African American voters, for whom racial identification was a greater determining factor than any other. As I have said repeatedly, while an unfortunate electoral turn of events for Hillary and the only reason Obama won his large states, I see nothing pernicious in this fact, nor does anyone have to invoke racism on either side to explain the phenomenon. It is not “reverse racism”. For all the huffing and puffing from various partisans and pundits about how the Clintons allegedly destroyed their relationship with the AA community, what I remember reading in the paper were statements from ordinary AA voters who said they hated having to choose, and reading Gallup’s analysis that showed AA voters were the most likely of Obama’s supporters to vote for Hillary should she take the nomination.

A large portion of the constituents on both side have said they won’t support the other candidate, but polling shows that the Clinton Democrats who will not cross over are larger in number and stronger in their opinions than Obama supporters. The party leadership is threatened by this disaffection, yet they are consistently unwilling to regard this part of the party as part of the coalition they need to retain. The public relations campaign, insofar as there is one, revolves around threats (Roe! Roe! Roe our boat!), shaming (You’re just racists if you won’t vote Obama), but mostly dismissal - “You have nowhere else to go.” The opposition is dismissed as emotional, racist, low information, culturally backward, and republican dupes instead of driven by very concrete material interests.

What was Hillary offering that rallied this constituency behind her and which has remained an amazingly strong identification? She offered material improvements to ordinary lives, and an explicit commitment to use the power of the state to achieve those ends. The two most prominent examples are her lifelong commitment t health care and her current response to the mortgage crisis. It is a difference of political style, but also of political philosophy. Hillary has demonstrated that she believes a politician is someone who has to earn people’s votes by understanding where they are coming from and being on their side. “You are not invisible to me.” It is also a way of diffusing social grievances by substituting festering resentment which can be channeled into resentment-fueled backlash (the hallmark of movement conservatism) with amelioration of socio-economic threat through practical policy to stabilize conditions for the working class. In contrast, Obama has run as a conversion experience (You are not Democrat or Republican, you are an Obamacan.), calling people to their better selves, which inherently presupposes that what they currently are doing is wrong, corrupt, and unworthy. It substitutes morality for interests, focuses on the inner-life of the voter rather than on the material needs of the population, and individualizes broad social concerns. If only you racist hicks would improve yourselves we would have a wonderful nation. It is a top-down approach that dictates behavior rather than provides solutions, which is why it ends up sounding very conservative.

There are times when a nation does need to be called to something higher and to set aside particularity in service of a cause. With Obama, however, these are sacrifices with no specificity. It is not a bad message to whack complacent well-off liberals over the head with, mind you, because my class (yes, it is a class and I’m thoroughly a product of it) gets a little too enamored of its own wonderfulness, but even for the privileged in this country, you have to ask – Sacrifice on behalf of what? What is being relinquished and for what reason?

The historic answer for the modern Democratic Party is for the economic interests of the working class. High-income earners give up money for the cause of economic equity. Workers agree to collective bargaining and forswear revolution. The government acts in deliberate ways to socialize the risks of mere living through measures like education, insurance, public health and safety, regulation of industry and so forth. If the average Joe is secure, the party has done its job.

Symptomatic of the deep problem of the party as a whole is the turn by the leadership towards privatization of social risk. Health insurance is not a mandate, and thus a right, but a choice to be exercised if desired. This ignores power, especially the power of the state to defend the citizen against the encroachment of moneyed interests. The well-off Stevensonians are no longer interested in defending the material needs of those who are not a part of Whole Foods Nation, and they hide their abandonment under the guise of rejecting racism. If the problem is the state of your soul and not the condition of your medical care, then you must heal yourself, and they can smugly pat themselves on the back for having defended the right moral stance.

Obama appears to think of himself as a world-historic actor called upon to guide the people through the moral crises of the nation. This is the common intellectual deformation of a Stevensonian, imagining that social problems are simply a matter of will and right thinking. It’s a love affair with the beauty of the forms and contempt for an imperfect world, and its usual mode is a hunt for intellectual inconsistency cast as political hypocrisy.

And, yet, there is a need for “that vision thing” as Bush the Elder so eloquently put it, because even material interests carry within them a valuation – this interest and not that one is deserving of social resources. The interests of exploitative companies, though clearly of benefit to the owners and stockholders, should not be valued above the physical safety of coal miners, for example. Nations do face extreme crises, usually under conditions of war. JFK, the most successful of all Stevensonians, bent the powers of the nation to the cause of winning the Cold War. The single minded pursuit of this cause was also an implicit critique of the New Deal, a slightly scornful judgment that FDR had settled for mere interest group liberalism, whereas the New Frontier looked to a higher calling – beating the Russkies. The space race, the Peace Corps, advances in science and technology, containment of Communism in far flung corners of the globe, the origins of the Internet (though it took Al Gore to deliver that promise to the ordinary schmuck like me), all of the initiatives of the Best and the Brightest were in the service of the cause of the Cold War. We were going into the future.

But what Kennedy, like Stevenson before him, resisted was the road less exalted, less clear and pure, less prone to domestic upset and the messiness of particular lives, the present that needed to be addressed if the George Jetson futurama was to have substance, and that was civil rights. Had he lived, he would have had no choice except to address it. And the dream of the New Frontier was done in by the attempt to contain Communism in Vietnam, though the military industrial complex burbled merrily along. Those two events – the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War – created the fault lines breaking up beneath the party today.

The party may be unified on paper, as demonstrated by the bleating of the Blogistan useful fools like Kevin Drum and Big Tent Democrat, that there is “no difference” between the Democratic candidates, but the difference can be seen in the philosophical commitments of the final two contenders. One looks at Obama and there is no political substance. Nothing. There is no issue, no cause, no certain pledge that says he and his faction intend to do anything for the working class or any interest that might involve true political contestation. This is what Krugman has pointed out from the start. Everything is on the table to be negotiated away for the sake of “unifying the nation.” When pushed, there will be no shove back. He has nowhere he wants to go.

Bill Clinton, for all his faults, had a cause when he entered the White House, which was utterly political – it was to undo the self-inflicted damage of the party since Johnson and make liberalism credible again to the millions of ordinary citizens who had given up on it. He meant to be, and be seen to be, on the side of people who “worked hard and played by the rules.” He organized his administrations around this cause, which could succeed only by improving the material conditions of people who felt themselves abandoned by the post-Watergate Democrats yet no longer trusted the bluster and bullying of the Republicans. Debate its worth or whether it did enough, but he was effective in this cause. The foundations of the current Democratic revival were laid in the mid-90s, and Obama is running as the ghost of Clinton past, right down to the message of hope and “can do” optimism.

The Reagan Democrats are now Clinton Democrats and have come back to the party, but the party leadership is more interested in nursing its wounded pride than in actually cementing its coalition. It would rather moralize than act. And, given the moral equivocation their selected leader has been showing in the last few weeks, it is uncertain they have a moral leg to stand on.

The message of economic justice still resonates with the majority of Democrats, as shown by Hillary’s intense support, but that message is not accepted as true. When we talk about it, we’re met by screams of “Racist! Racist!”and sneers that we have nowhere else to go. How can Obama’s content-free message make contact with the real world? There is nothing to attach his rhetoric to, no central organizing principle. He talks about the “smallness of our politics,” so what is it precisely that is to be enlarged? He has always backed away from the hard choice of throwing the power of the state behind the cause of social justice. At every point, Obama backs away from requiring these efforts, while Hillary embraced them. The Stevensonians have forced their preferred candidate on the party on their own terms, paying no mind to where they stand and what they want to accomplish. They may be centrists, but they no longer have a center to hold.

For Clinton Democrats, there is nowhere else to go with Obama because there was never anything there to begin with.



Anonymous said...

Welcome back to the virtual barricades of the working class. Like your spousal unit, mine is also creative class and actually well off, still we all feel as part of the working class. It started with my late father to his grandchildren, two of whom were or are union organizers.

The Stevensonian fraction of the Democratic party is a mystery to me. I grow up in a foreign landed and as a high school student watched Stevenson with little understanding but with a feeling of a lose of a kid who was always on the left of center side. Therefore, my reading of the situation does not include Stevensonians.

Obama's emptiness was obvious late in 2007. In Early 2008, we saw the creative class "self-determination" as The Democratic party and their first act as independent actors was to expel the working class as the previous colonizers from the Party.

The downfall of the US under the Bush regime has imperiled the affluence and future affluence of the creative class. They saw the working class outsourced to Asia and want, against all odds, to stop their own outsourcing that has already begun.

They attached themselves to Obama as a messiah that will, without ever promising to, bring them power that will sustain them in the future.

Fake lefties such as the Boyz saw in Obama other things, but they are a small, stupid and negligible but noisy group.

Thus, there are two Democratic parties now with little or no commonality. We, the Hillary's, call on the other party to come back and restore our core values. The "new improved" Democratic party calls us to surrender to the powers to be since we are surrounded and our chances are slim and none. The only way out from this impasse is for Obama to lose.

Sadly, and for me personally it's sad indeed, McCain (as my youngest said months ago) shows strong signs that he is going to implode. McCain is a lousy candidate created by a media that was always willing to turn a blind eye to his inconsistencies. It's sad, because, first and foremost, I reject Obama because he is a hate monger and for me that's the worst of all worlds.

gendergappers said...

Glad to read that things are going better for you and we all get to share your insight, Anglachel.

My mail now brings letters asking for donations from some of the Dem party luminaries. The last one included me as a "professional person". Little did they note or care that I'm also old and poor.

A postage paid envelope is enclosed, but one is urged to use a stamp, "to save the Party's money".

I have replied by stuffing the envelope with printouts of Riverdaughter's great reply to Ed Randell's hounds.

Deep Trunk said...

Excellent post. I hope you are wrong. I was thinking about a bumper sticker that reads:
Old White Hillary Supporter
For Obama

but it seemed too snarky.

Besides, he never climbed into a fighter jet and got shot down.

campskunk said...

i have somewhere else to go... the house. i can sit home on election day and STILL say i've voted for every legitimately chosen democratic nominee since 1972.

nemo said...

I, too, am happy to hear that you are weathering your recent troubles. Like you, I should be in the Stevenson camp (English professor, etc) but never saw the appeal of Obama. Perhaps being the daughter of two middle-school teachers (and union leaders) did the trick.

Peregrine said...

I love that, Campskunk! Me too, for almost 40 years.

Excellent analysis, Anglachel. Thank you for your clear articulation of things that many of us feel but don't know the political history well enough to put it into context.

What do you make of the claims that George Soros is funding the Dem Party so that it will reflect his Popper-ized vision of the Democracy? I don't mean conspiracy theory view, but the fact that he is funneling millions into Moveon, etc, and The Precious has renounced public financing so that he can make use of all the 527s?

Does this fit some larger scheme of the Stevensonians? Is it a viable area of criticism, since Moveon et al have come to represent to the Whole Foods branch of the party?

Cathy said...

Breathtaking - as always. Glad to see you are back in action.

What worries me is where anyone is going to go after this election. Moderate Republicans will go down in flames if McCain can't pull it off. The Clinton Dems have been evicted, not unlike the serfs forced off the land.

The democratic party has been tottering for some many years that not even a victory will save it. But too many of us are caught up with day to day living to actually fix it. Plus we run into things like gerrymanding, and the other benefits of entrenched incumbency, that still protect the rotting corpse.

Obviously Obama is worrying or else we would not see his sudden support of gay marriage in CA. Though I've started an internal pool for how long it takes him to toss it aside.

If McCain still manages a win then I perversely have hope for this country. If nothing else, people will show they have the independence to defy both the elites and the media. However, I fear most won't vote.

That leads me to the darker road. We will watch the play to it's tragic end until it's replaced by some form of strong arm government. After awhile a populace gets impatient with incompetence. Bush II has stripped this country to the bone and not much is left.

Anna Belle said...

Breathless, thats a good word for this essay, Cathy. It felt like sweet relief, every single paragraph. I had to take short breaks just so I could absorb it all. I hate to just rave, but I really admire a thoughtful analysis like this. It leaves me feeling buzzed on truth.

That said, maybe we should think about August before we get to thinking about November. While I do believe that all is lost for Hillary at the top of the ticket, I also believe we are building the leverage that a) might get her the VP spot, and/or b) WILL get us an opportunity to shape the platform and the Convention. It's an opportunity to protect our turf, and to build our power in the process, to say that not only does the S-Wing of the party not have the right to kick us out, but because they tried we'll come back better than before. Best of all, it puts a weak and ineffective leadership on notice. Really change, or lose your own power.

Unknown said...

Great post Anglachel! You're dead on, although I may be a tad more optimistic today after reading that Obama has just hired some of the best policy minds from Hillary's camp. I think the Dems know they won't win without bringing the "Stevensonian elite" and the "Truman rank-and-file" together, as Bill Clinton did, the only democrat in the last forty years to do so and win. A necessary condition for this is that Obama's message must become content-full. Maybe this is wishful thinking, but I do sense that with Hillary's hand, Obama will take form. Ever since I started watching back in May 2007, I've noticed how he follows her lead. I'm not convinced he has stopped.

pm317 said...

Welcome back!

Hillary Clinton alluded to this same division in the party in her interview with the NY Magazine, John Heilemann's article and points out that this division was always present in Gore's and Kerry's campaigns but came to surface this primary {because it played itself out to reveal this.}

On another note, Anglachel, you make a wonderful case for Obama's candidacy that he himself never made. I tend to think he is incapable of making it and that is thankfully resonated in what you say here "One looks at Obama and there is no political substance. Nothing. There is no issue, no cause, no certain pledge that says he and his faction intend to do anything for the working class or any interest that might involve true political contestation." I am glad you said that and other things in that same vein. I am not willing to give him and his candidacy an inch -- there is no high minded politics in him but a marketing strategy with words that the left-wing wanted to hear. That was the easier faction to rip away from the centrist Clinton to start building his coalition, so he told them what they wanted to hear -- that and the anti-Clinton group and he told them what they wanted to hear too!-- throw in the youth somewhere in there who fell for both messages.

Unknown said...

oops. I meant "in the last 28 years" not "forty". sorry.

Unknown said...

I wouldn't believe any Obama promises. Talk is cheap. As president, he would say, Hey, sorry, there's no money, suckers. Hello, Shock Doctrine.

It's not just Obama. The party elite drove Hillary out because she has an agenda that would cut against their funders.

Expect more looting of whatever the Bush gang didn't steal. Start with that notorious cesspool HUD. And, of course, Social Security.

janicen said...

I rarely disagree with you, but this time I must. Your statement that the Reagan Democrats are now the Clinton Democrats has been made by others and always makes me bristle.

I was never a Reagan Democrat, but I will always be a Clinton Democrat.

Nancy Wilkinson said...

Off topic a little, but I wanted to share this. I got my first call from the Obama campaign today. The young woman I spoke to kept talking about the necessity to support "the cause". I told her I hadn't made my decision yet and she asked if I had been a Hillary supporter then launched into all the reasons why I should get on board now that he is the presumptive nominee. She didn't know how I was situated financially, but a lot of Americans are really suffering and we need to help the cause to change things. She slipped up and mentioned that the primary campaigns had gone on "too long" so that it was critical for me to decide now, that the cause really needed my contribution since he wasn't taking federal lobbyist money. Excuse me? Don't you mean that he decided not to take public campaign funds? Yes, he turned down the federal lobbyist money. I tried to explain the concept of public funding of elections, but I don't think I got through. She gave up before I could even get started on the FISA bill.

Anonymous said...

The comment about how the Steves love ideas because it keeps them from having to deal with the messy world really got to me. I tend to be abstract in thought, but it's always driven me BONKERS the way a lot of liberals seem to think that just by being their fabulous enlightened selves, that their golden perfectness will fill the universe like a pure, white light and everything will be okay. Honestly, that's the (false) truth behind "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Because it's totally fucking insufficient. And because it's usually spoken by people who don't have any real stake in the game. Translation: I've never heard anyone who doesn't have rich parents say it.

It's fearful, spoken by people who don't want to get down off their ivory towers and go out and mingle with the dirty, smelly hoi polloi who do things like make inappropriate eye contact and pick their noses and chew with their mouths open.

It's also lazy -- how stupid to imagine that you can change the world by not really putting out any specific effort toward doing it.

And it's egotistical -- the world doesn't really give a shit for your wonderfulness, Prince/Princess. Believe it or not, you do not exert a force just by yourself that defines the center of the universe.

It's the perfect aristocratic philosophy -- lazy, egotistical, and allows one to remain separate from the common herd. No wonder they all love it.

I think it's also the major failing of third wave feminism. I've read some REAL EFFIN STOOPIT blogs by some REAL EFFIN STOOPIT WOMEN who seem to think that them blogging about cute dresses and their latest shoe purchase is a feminist act. As if just by walking around in their cute post-feminist shoes being their fabulous post-feminist selves, that all women everywhere are slightly more free.

Man, they sure assign a shedload of world-changing power to their fucking SHOES, don't they? I think that's why working-class women ended up giving it all a pass. Not because they didn't appreciate the importance of critically viewing popular culture, but because they couldn't give two half-craps for some rich princess's fucking shoes.

That "Be the change" saying makes me scream. It's got a kernel or truth to it, but it's always poured through some rich asshole's filter, who doesn't want to make eye contact with poor people, and who doesn't want to lift a finger specifically to change the world. And it's egotistical as all hell to act like you're so fabulous that your eyeshadow will change the world.

News flash: the world dun't give a shit for your eyeshadow purchases, and just because you're a feminist or a liberal, it doesn't mean everything you do is automatically feminist OR liberal. I care about global warming, but that label, self-applied to my lapel, doesn't turn my car exhaust into fairy farts.

sallywally said...

Thanks so much for this analysis, Anglachel. It's great to hear the truth stated so clearly and rationally.
I still don't grasp what smart, supposedly alert people saw in Obama. The members of my extended family (just went to the family reunion!) who support him are either trendy or intellectual or both.

One of these cousins said he favored Obama because "we need a completely new energy" in the party/in DC.

I told him having universal health care, a restored social safety net, and opportunities for more citizens in jobs and education would feel like a completely new energy to me!

He could never buy my statements that it was not because she is a woman, it was her policies. And he sent me a variety of articles (without comment) that spoke of racism, including that awful "Your Whiteness is Showing."

Now, it makes me sick to realize the party forced Obama on us, and deliberately ignored the votes of more than have of the Dem electorate.

I, too, have come to think this is just to protect their own power. Talk about the "old politics" and the "Washington elite" - they're still going on but the wrong folks are being blamed. It's not Clinton who stands for those politics, it's Obama.

I can't believe that half the Dems in the country have no power to take this nomination back. That's what the DNC and party "leaders" think, though. We are verboten.

I still harbor the delusion that somehow that first roll call vote at the convention will occur and there will be enough delegates with brains in their heads, Democratic values in their hearts, buyers' remorse, and the cohones to insist on a roll call vote, hand the official nomination to Clinton, and dump the presumptive nominee out.

I know it's unlikely but I still dream of it.

I, too, feel, as a post-sexual Second-Wave feminist, racist, low information, lazy ass old bag (snark), that the party has expelled me. I know there are a huge number of us who feel this way.

They think Hillary voters are too weak and too stupid to affect the future of this party.

But I am hoping we will prove them wrong.

So where to go from here?

PUMA? I can't seem to work with their Web site.

Are there other groups who might be taking action?

Get that Clinton sign back up in my yard! This time, leave the Obama sign in the garage.

Contact the party, contact the party, contact the party "leaders" and tell them I'm ready to throw them under the bus.

What are others doing?

HenryFTP said...

A brilliant and incisive post which has been commented upon elsewhere and I trust is being widely read.

I am aware of at least one sacrifice that Obama has called for -- in "reaching across" to Republicans, we are being asked to sacrifice a proper accounting for their abuse of power over the past seven years.

Charles Pierce put it very well in his Esquire piece on Obama (www.esquire.com/features/barack-obama-0608-2) when he says (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) that he was susceptible to appeals to the "better angels of our nature" but "this time around, he wanted those angels to be carrying flaming swords."

Instead, we're being told that the Holy Grail of "national unity" is more important than this "petty partisan" desire for justice. Obama apparently thinks that he can achieve a realignment of politics if we can just bring ourselves to hold no high Republican official accountable for his or her misdeeds over the past 7 years.

I think he's making a fundamental and rather obvious miscalculation. Notwithstanding all of the lugubrious history of the trumped-up Clinton "scandals", he thinks that forbearance will win him reciprocal forbearance from the Right Wing Noise Machine in "post-partisan transcendence".

Even if he's right, because the Powers That Be in the corporate media have a quid pro quo with Obama to ignore the Noise Machine in exchange for immunity and whitewashing of the past 7 years, how revealing is it that the "sacrifice" he calls for consolidates his power but leaves the Party and indeed our republic vulnerable to a renewal of tyranny.

Unknown said...

I keep going back to this post because it makes me think of why I left the ivory tower in the first place and how my own generalized feelings of resentment may be a signifier of what to expect with the working class voter (=true swing voter.) It will take me a while to get there, bare with me.

It is my perception that Obama was handed the nomination, even though he is less qualified, for two reasons: identity politics and the simple fact that Hillary didn't wrap it up on Feb 5 and went on to lose the next 11 contests.

I think those losses fueled panic in the Democratic party. The obvious candidate was no longer obvious and avoiding a protracted fight, ie another 1968, became the modus operandi of Dean and Pelosi. I really believe that both of them would have been fine with Hillary as the candidate at the beginning of the contest. They might have shared a personal preference for Obama. Who knows. But I don't think they had it in for Hillary.

A testament to Hillary's passion and fortitude was her ability to come back and tie Obama in the popular vote. The race ended with the widespread perception that she was treated unfairly by the DNC.

Of course all along a dominant narrative was being shoved down our throat by Big Media. The super-delegates had a *moral* responsibility to give it to Obama. This is the role identity politics played.

Here is my fear. McCain wins because there will be a backlash among people who are not coddled and have watched with resentment others, less experienced and gifted, being promoted and propped up for ridiculous reasons including, racial identity.

I believe that this perception will be stoked by Big Media. I know this may sound counter-intuitive. Most people think Matthews and Olbermann love Obama. I don't believe Matthews does based on studying too many YouTube clips to count. In very subtle and backhanded ways, Obama will be portrayed as inexperienced and handed the nomination because he is black, oops, I mean exotic.

In other words, I fear that the race card Obama played and the fetishization of identity among his supporters is going to come back and bite them in the ass.

daily democrat said...

Your blade cuts deep, Anglachel!
Here is my comment regarding use of the term “class” -

Though the term middle-class is used in America, the idea of class in itself is both foreign and antiquated. The Old World idea of class, which remains strong in parts of Asia, but today is only vestigial in most of Europe, implied that someone was born into a class and would remain in the that class no what their state of education, wealth, or other merit.

This was never the case in the United States. The USA developed as a classless society, not only because the majority of its immigrants were working class, but also because its Declaration of Independence had specified that theoretically, “all men are created equal”.

The Declaration of Independence of 1776, the United States Constitution of 1787, and the French Revolution of 1789 share philosophical roots in Enlightenment philosophy, but created very different historical paths based on different initial conditions. The struggle to rid Europe of hereditary class that started with the French Revolution arguably ended with the dismantling of the Berlin Wall 200 years later. During the same period in America, we struggled to interpret, to obey, and to expand upon the Declaration’s admonition of equality.

So the American class struggle has not been a struggle to rid America of class, but to prevent class from developing in Old World form.

Most Democrats would probably agree that the most significant parts of the struggle for equality within living memory are the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, commonly called “Women’s Suffrage”, passed in June 1919; the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which included Title IV, encouraging desegregation of schools, and Title VII, prohibiting discrimination in the workplace; and the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe vs. Wade, making laws against abortion unconstitutional.

But as you point out, Anglachel, the struggle for "material improvements to ordinary lives" is also part of the struggle for equality, and is as fair and important a territory for government as other ‘civil rights’.

jangles said...

Anglachel this post is one of your very best among many best posts. I too am pleased that you are back and thinking, causing us to think. It seems to me that this is exemplary of what blogging can mean for all of us.

I think you are carefully refining for us what the Stevensonian part of the party was and is. In some ways it is Obama is an odd fit for the Steves because he has so little in his life work history to bring to the table. What does make him a fit is the history of his political life in Illinois. He does have a trail in housing and education and it fits the "visionary" pattern of grand ideas that are initiated but not monitored, reviewed, adjusted, worked over and prodded forward to bring about the results intended. Anyone who reads his work and leadership in these two areas would immediately see that this is his pattern---big ideas with no follow through. This is a huge contrast with HRC who strikes me as a maniac in making sure ideas are held accountable for getting results. She is the doer; he is the dreamer. The Steves love the dreaming; Truman loved the doing---making things work.

I noted one comment on the Reagan Dems now Clinton Dems. I don't think you ever meant to imply that Clinton Dems were all returning Reagan Dems. I was a happy JFK Dem and have always voted Dem since my first election in '60---never a Reagan Dem (and ardently opposed to him). However I do think what I have always liked about the Democratic party is that working class commitment and support for the middle class working men and women and it appears that this is also what Reagan Dems cared about and why those who were Reagan Dems identify with HRC.

Anonymous said...

The USA developed as a classless society ...

Daily Dem, you are KIDDING me.

I also understand why Anglachel is using the term "Reagan Democrat" here. bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan definitely attracted the same sort of voters, and I saw that in my own neighborhood. I'm not saying that all Clinton voters were once Reagan fans, but I'm saying that most working-class-dog Reagan Dems were happy to vote for Clinton once it became clear that someone on the Dem side also respected them, and was even one of them.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful and articulate. So glad to read your words again. I lurk and read, but rarely comment.

Me 2 ... economics professor, 1 daughter in med school, other starting university this year ... we are sticking with Hillary and don't see Obama as any one's voice but more of a Zelig that refracts what he needs to in order to feed his ego, opportunistic nature, and bank account.

No matter what, you can't take this girl away from her kansas and mo dirt farming grandparents. I come from the truman side of the demcractic party ... that with the little 'd'. I think Hillary and Bill (and maybe it's the time in AK) channel that too ... no matter how manner post high school degrees i've earned ( 4 now) I never forget where I come from. That would be an insult to the folks that worked so hard all their lives to put me and my children and my cousins and their children where we are today ...

daily democrat said...

Thanks for your question, janiscortese.
My answer is also in the question form:

Do you think there is anyone in American society who is "better" than you for hereditary reasons?

Or do you think that there isn't anywhere in American society that you couldn't go if you had the money, the education, the talent, the right things to say...

Anonymous said...

Or do you think that there isn't anywhere in American society that you couldn't go if you had the money, the education, the talent, the right things to say...

Do you think that these things don't come almost effortlessly if you have parents who can teach them to you?

Are you actually naive enough to imagine that a working-class person can really tap into this as a second language?

How much money did your parents make? When people in your family die, do they worry about wills or just go to funerals and divvy up book collections?

This sort of garbage is why the Steves are morally bankrupt. "Correct in theory" is just another way of saying "wrong."

daily democrat said...

Well...janiscortese, you didn't answer my question, but never mind.

I do agree with you that whatever is only right in theory is really wrong, if the people who put forward the theory don't have follow through in practice, the "Steves", as you put it.

But I also think that theories can be used as tools to encourage good practice, which is what the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have always been for the USA, statements of theory.

And though I'm sure you're right about social mobility being easier if your parents can teach you the right stuff, I think we still have social mobility in the USA, despite the Republican's best efforts.

In one of your replies to Anglachel's piece, Cause for General Concern, you seem to agree:

And America's cities aren't ALL filed with fat-cats squillionaires, either. And a lot of us "creative class" white collar types come from blue- and pink-collar roots.

For all their mouthing of platitudes about the American Dream, they seem strangely willing to forget that and act like white-collar and blue-collar Americans are some separate species. I thought this country was the land of class mobility. Silly me.

And, for the record, I'm from poor Oklahoma white folks. The political lessons they taught me I reject because they are both right wing Republicans.

The savings they managed with one salary and four children they are currently spending down to pay for my verging on 90yr old mother’s medical care. She’s in a Texas nursing home with a broken leg, diabetes, blindness (macular degeneration), deafness, memory loss, bedsores, claustridium difficile and a bad attitude.

Yes, I have asked for the book collection. AND the photographs. How did you know?

CMike said...

It's hard to know exactly where to join in this debate about whether or not there is much in the way of class discrimination in the United States. Thankfully, we are past the days of considering whether or not the humbly born or the non-white can expect service in the swankiest restaurants and hotels if they have the money to pay the bill.

Rather, this discussion is about what economic opportunities are available throughout their lives to those born to low and moderate circumstance.

True, for the humbly born but exceptional person there are paths to great success in our society. However for most of us our parent's socio-economic station will play a large role in determining the socio-economic station most of us will occupy throughout our lives.

I'll not link to the data that demonstrates this but here's what Paul Krugman wrote in December, 2003:

The Death of Haratio Alger

The other day I found myself reading a leftist rag that made outrageous claims about America. It said that we are becoming a society in which the poor tend to stay poor, no matter how hard they work; in which sons are much more likely to inherit the socioeconomic status of their father than they were a generation ago.

The name of the leftist rag?
Business Week, which published an article titled "Waking Up From the American Dream." The article summarizes recent research showing that social mobility in the United States (which was never as high as legend had it) has declined considerably over the past few decades


And guess what? Our political leaders are doing everything they can to fortify class inequality, while denouncing anyone who complains--or even points out what is happening--as a practitioner of "class warfare."


The myth of income mobility has always exceeded the reality: As a general rule, once they've reached their 30s, people don't move up and down the income ladder very much. Conservatives often cite studies like a 1992 report by Glenn Hubbard, a Treasury official under the elder Bush who later became chief economic adviser to the younger Bush, that purport to show large numbers of Americans moving from low-wage to high-wage jobs during their working lives.

But what these studies measure, as the economist Kevin Murphy put it, is mainly "the guy who works in the college bookstore and has a real job by his early 30s." Serious studies that exclude this sort of pseudo-mobility show that inequality in average incomes over long periods isn't much smaller than inequality in annual incomes.


And wouldn't you know it, as income mobility has been diminishing income inequality has been growing. Here's Krugman in April, 2007.

Gilded Once More

Last year, according to Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine, James Simons, a hedge fund manager, took home $1.7 billion, more than 38,000 times the average income. Two other hedge fund managers also made more than $1 billion, and the top 25 combined made $14 billion.

How much is $14 billion? It’s more than it would cost to provide health care for a year to eight million children — the number of children in America who, unlike children in any other advanced country, don’t have health insurance.

The hedge fund billionaires are simply extreme examples of a much bigger phenomenon: every available measure of income concentration shows that we’ve gone back to levels of inequality not seen since the 1920s.


You might have thought that in the face of growing inequality, there would have been a move to reinforce these moderating institutions — to raise taxes on the rich and use the money to strengthen the safety net. That’s why comparing the incomes of hedge fund managers with the cost of children’s health care isn’t an idle exercise: there’s a real trade-off involved.

But for the past three decades, such trade-offs have been consistently settled in favor of the haves and have-mores.


Krugman and fellow Princeton Professor Larry Bartels see the Republicans as the bad guys in this devolution. Here's Krugman going after this idea in a lengthier article.

The Great Wealth Transfer

Today, Wal-Mart is America's largest corporation, with 1.3 million employees. H. Lee Scott, its chairman, is paid almost $23 million -- more than five times Roche's inflation-adjusted salary. Yet Scott's compensation excites relatively little comment, since it's not exceptional for the CEO of a large corporation these days. The wages paid to Wal-Mart's workers, on the other hand, do attract attention, because they are low even by current standards.

On average, Wal-Mart's non-supervisory employees are paid $18,000 a year, far less than half what GM workers were paid thirty-five years ago, adjusted for inflation. And Wal-Mart is notorious both for how few of its workers receive health benefits and for the stinginess of those scarce benefits.


Why isn't Wal-Mart unionized? The answer is simple and brutal: Business interests went on the offensive against unions. And we're not talking about gentle persuasion; we're talking about hardball tactics.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, at least one in every twenty workers who voted for a union was illegally fired; some estimates put the number as high as one in eight. And once Ronald Reagan took office, the anti-union campaign was aided and abetted by political support at the highest levels.


I think something much more fundamental is happening in America than what Krugman is discussing here. In the late '70s, early eighties that glib Libertarian talk started cowering the members of our democracy. "If you want a raise, get a second job," was one of those snarling arguments you'd used to hear. The idea was that if your circumstance was not improving it was your own damn fault, GDP was doing just fine thank-you. (Of course GDP in the '80s wasn't doing all that hot but that's another story.)

It was analogous to the view of the early days of the Great Depression era, back at the tail end of Capitalism 1.0, when the capitalists made no small number of the unemployed feel ashamed of themselves for not having a job.

I strongly recommend to those unfamiliar with the work of Elizabeth Warren that they invest an hour and watch this lecture. The lecture is an updated presentation of the thesis Warren presents in this book.

CMike said...

Whoops, I realize now the actual YouTube link is the better link to use for that Elizabeth Warren lecture.

jangles said...

CMike: What a great diary post; thank you. This puts a research background around the economic despair that seems to weigh so heavily on the blue collar/middle class. I remember reading those old Horatio Alger books in a neighbors wash room book cupboards when I was a kid. The post WWII blue collars and returning vets experienced a burst of economic parity and their grandchildren are watching it fade away. I think these inequalities and immobility are the desperate revolution with which HRC and WJC connected. The way this cuts so broadly and deeply in American life explains the power and loyalty in that connection. The meme of national security so artfully conflated by the Republicans on the back of 911 and on into Iraq is the huge distraction that has neutralized Democratic attraction. How clever of Rove and Co. to add to that distraction the noise of social and cultural security contained in the alleged threats of reproductive choice and civil rights for LGBT. And Democrats have played their game on their court. Except for Clinton. No wonder the Republicans fear and attack them. I am not sure how you excuse the myopia of the Democrats.