As I’ve stated before, I don’t plan to cover the elections until October. Doing anything before that is being reduced to one of the paying customers at a clown circus — a predictable circus at that. We’ve had two new (and opposed) political ideas since the 1930’s: FDR and his Keynesian nudges vs. Reagan’s supply-side economics. The rest is semantics and journalists trying to make a living.
So instead, I’ll spend some time reading about the history of American politics. You know yourself that the more things change, the more they remain merely the same old, same old — but with better technology and more make-up. It’s the minute difference between “a chicken in every pot” and flights of fancy about “hope” and “change.” Yawn…
Then, last night, reading the English online version of Sweden’s paper The Local, I was brought up short by an opinion piece from Dr. Gregg Bucken-Knapp, a senior lecturer in political science.
“Don’t reduce Democratic primaries to ‘skirt or negro’”
What a difference culture makes for p.c. language rules! And being by nature an Irish troublemaker, I couldn’t resist passing the article on to you. It’s not just the picture’s title that would have some ever-alert reptilian readers hissing “racist, racist, racist” or “sexist, sexist, sexist”; it’s also the waaaay-over-there flinty-eyed left-wingers in Europe who hope for a real socialist to take the controls in the US, instead of the capitalist warmongers currently fighting for face time. I mean, did you know that the Socialists in Sweden consider the 6,000 socialists in the US their very special friends? Get this take on our current situation, from Åsa Linderborg, an Aftonbladet columnist:
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First things first.
In this year’s Democratic contest, organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) know that the stakes are too high to sit on the sidelines. The 6,000 member sister-organization to the Swedish Social Democratic Party, DSA has played an active part in supporting the election campaigns of progressive politicians fighting against American capitalism. Their most visible success story is Bernie Sanders, the only openly-socialist member of the U.S. Senate, who rose to national prominence as the first Congressperson to organize “prescription drug bus tours” to Canada, allowing Americans to buy medicine at much lower prices than in the US.
So what if the Honorable Mr. Sanders is a party of one? So what if his simplistic solution doesn’t really solve anything? Wave that reality away in favor of some tasty rhetoric instead:
“DSA believes that progressives must cooperate to do everything possible to prevent Hillary Clinton — the epitome of neoliberal cynical opportunism — from being the Democratic nominee.”
Hmmm… no soap for the skirt, then. But is the negro any better? Not by any measure used by The Aftonbladet columnist featured by our Swdish political scientist:
[To] Åsa Linderborg, this doesn’t seem to be of much importance. As she put it prior to the Iowa caucuses, “it doesn’t matter so much who becomes president — skirt or negro — it’s still the market that rules.” For Americans seeking to transform their society, her voice is the counsel of despair: so long as there is capitalism, choosing between these two Democrats is a waste of time. Indeed, Linderborg’s analysis of American politics implies that campaigns are nothing more than a thinly-veiled puppet show, in which candidates are marionettes, where big corporations dictate campaign promises, and where special interest groups determine the foreign policy stances held by candidates. The only saving grace in Linderborg’s eyes is that class struggle drives how “yanks” actually vote.
But The Local‘s author, Dr. Bucken-Knapp isn’t so sure:
Many activists on the American left — who share her disregard for capitalism — view the Democratic primaries as an important opportunity for limiting the influence of market forces. Nor do Swedes necessarily benefit from her sweeping claims about the role of money in American politics or the importance of class struggle as a factor shaping the vote. Asserting that big business controls the policy agenda isn’t the same as demonstrating it.
But the good Dr. Bucken-Knapp forgets the first rule of political propaganda: you don’t have to demonstrate it, you just have to say something over and over again, relentlessly. Why do you think Noam Chomsky hasn’t been committed to an asylum years ago? He’s always on message, and the message never changes.
Dr. Bucken-Knapp quotes two American political scientists on the habits of American voters. And it has naught to do with the class struggle so central to socialist thinking. He says:
Those arguing that big business pulls the strings in American politics frequently claim that interest groups buy legislative outcomes through campaign donations. Yet, John Wright, a professor at Ohio State University… demonstrates that while the tobacco industry is able to get what it wants from Washington policymakers, [it is because]… legislators hold specifically pro-business and anti-regulatory ideologies.
Linderborg also claims “pocket book issues — that is, the class
struggle” are decisive for Americans when they enter the ballot box.
Nearly thirty years ago, Morris Fiorina demonstrated that Americans cast their vote on the basis of whether they believe the nation’s economy as a whole (and not their personal financial situation) had gone well during the previous administration.
Fiorina’s findings not only shaped an entire generation of voting behavior specialists, they were central to the internal rallying cry of the 1992 Clinton campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid!”
And remember Reagan’s theme during his first campaign: are you better off than you were four years ago? Following Carter’s dystopian reign, the answer was a no-brainer and led to Reagan’s eight years in office. Years in which the Left called him stupid, a loser, illiterate, etc. Yet he transformed the world… left us with a new set of problems, but transformations do that.
Though this analysis of American politicians failed to mention the Republican side of the battle — as though the Democrats were running only against one another — you can’t help but ask: will it be the war hero with anger management problems and a loose understanding of the Constitution, or do we get the evangelist from Arkansas, or the Mormon from Massachusetts? Not as catchy as “the skirt or the negro,” however.
Maybe our readers can come up with something pithier…?