Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Crimson Tide engulfing 32 states (77% of the United States in area) absorbs the Blue Ripple vote. What the biennially aroused Democrats don't get!


When it comes to ocean metaphors, the National Democratic Party has its head in the sand. Since the 1960's 64% of these United States experienced a consistently rising political Crimson Tide1, dispersed over 77% of the geographic area, which no electoral Blue Wave will sweep away. In the 21st Century, only California has had a significant, consistent electoral Blue Tide.


A Blue Wave versus a Rising Blue Tide

In the months leading up to the November 2018 election, we were buried in "Blue Wave" hype by Democrats and liberal media.


Of course no electoral Blue Wave materialized. As will be explored here, there have been electoral "Waves" and there have been public policy "Waves." Then there is a California "Blue Tide" pushing away the Crimson Tide sustaining currents from its electoral and public policy shores.

The kind of "Blue Wave" that might really matter - a public policy Blue Wave - we last saw in these United States in 1964-66. More on that later.

If you wonder what an electoral Blue Wave really looks like consider this. In the General Election of 1882 California voters chose to:
  • elect Democratic candidates to all of the then existing state Executive positions - Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Controller, and Superintendent of Public Instruction - all previously held by Republicans
  • switch the State Board of Equalization from 3 Republicans and 1 Democrat to 3 Democrats and 1 Republican
  • replace the Republican majority in the State Senate with an 80% Democratic supermajority and the Republican majority in the State Assembly with a 75% Democratic supermajority; and
  • elect 4 Democrats as its members of the House of Representatives from California, previously 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats.
But as is typical for electoral waves, that wave broke, receded, and within eight years Republicans regained domination in California government until 1959, 68 years later, when Democrats started winning some key races and a majority in the Legislature.

Beginning in the 21st Century, California Democrats expanded, with an occasional short-term exception, control of all of California's state government. Instead of a Blue Wave, we have had a "Blue Tide" that has slowly and steadily drowned the California Republican Party in its own Crimson Tide currents.

In the 2018 General Election our Blue Tide did rise to an unusual high. As the new Legislature was sworn in on December 3rd, at the last count:
  • the new Assembly was Democrats 60 (75% supermajority), Republicans 20 (25%), with a chance one seat could end up with a Democrat instead of a Republican;
  • the new Senate was Democrats 29 (72.5% supermajority), Republicans 11 (27.5%);
  • Democrats control every statewide office; and
  • Representatives from California in the House of Representatives included 46 Democrats to 7 Republicans, versus the previous count of 38 Democrats and 14 Republicans.
At this given moment no meaningful Republican Party exists in California, a state where previous Republican Governors included Earl Warren and Ronald Reagan.


About that current sustaining the electoral Crimson Tide

I am a native Californian, I'm old, but until this November I held a foolish hope that the National Democratic Party was going to attempt to create a party structure that would consistently win outside California. But then this appeared less than a month before the election:

"The first line of resistance against Republicans’ extremist policies starts in the states." - from an October 8, 2018 memo signed by Democratic National Committee CEO Seema Nanda and Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Executive Director Jessica Post

Really? This had to be stated in a memo to the Democratic Party less than a month before the midterms?

Apparently so. Because this week a special election to fill the most important position in Georgia state government - the one that will determine election administrative policy such as whose names to strike off the voter rolls in 2020 - was abandoned by the starry-eyed, celebrity-oriented Democrats who seemingly can only get aroused biennially and then only enough to focus on positions that have celebrity status - like the Governor's position in Georgia that they lost in November (though we must recognize that special arousal that resulted in tens of millions of dollars spent on losing one Georgia Congressional seat special election in 2017, correctly called "a bad and expensive bet"). And so we have this story...


...which tells us...

    Georgia, the site of one of the year's most closely watched races for governor — and before that, its most expensive special House election in history — will hold Tuesday runoffs in a smattering of local races and for two major statewide offices. The duties of one, secretary of state, drew an unusual amount of attention before and just after the Nov. 6 election. Then, the job was held by Abrams's Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, whom Democrats accused of making it more difficult for people of color to vote by purging voter rolls of people who had not voted in recent elections and not supplying enough voting machines at some polling places.
    While Kemp defends his actions, Abrams pointedly did not offer a formal concession when she acknowledged Kemp's win. She is telling voters that their election is not over and is prominently featured in a mailer for John Barrow, the Democrat hoping to replace Kemp.
    "Voter suppression works when people decide their individual voices are too weak or too fragile to bring about change,” Abrams said in a recent interview with The Washington Post. "John Barrow is part of the solution."
    But even with Abrams's urging and the controversy around the Nov. 6 vote, formerly bustling campaign offices are seeing notably less traffic. The celebrities who flew in to endorse Abrams have stayed home. The airwaves have largely been reconquered by local businesses, with only occasional election spots. The relatively low-key election worries Democrats.
    Yet days before the year's final competitive elections, the turnout machine was dramatically smaller than the one that had changed the state's electorate in an unsuccessful attempt to elect Stacey Abrams to the governor's office. "I had 120 canvassers for the November 6 election," said Latrice Benton, the NGP's lead organizer for Gwinnett County, in the Atlanta suburbs. "I had 20 yesterday, but I had to cut them." The reason? "Not enough funding."

The Republican won, of course. Instead, Democrats seem to embrace the following really, really stupid thinking...


Fresh from patting themselves on the back for winning the governor (and attorney general) races in Michigan and Wisconsin, followers of national Democratic "leaders" like Sanders are discovering just how unimportant it is to elect a candidate to a "D-List celebrity" position like governor (or President).

During the lame-duck period before the new Democratic governor-elect takes office in 2019, the Republican legislators - folks who hold the most powerful positions in the United States - are adopting laws which will limit the power of the incoming Democratic governors.

Those legislatures will, of course, remain Republican after the new year begins because the Democrats failed miserably to win the important positions in those states. But those legislatures will not be veto-proof. They needed to act now while a Republican is still governor.

Democrats are grumbling but here's the truth....

There are 132 people in Wisconsin and 148 in Michigan serving as state senators and state representatives. That's 280 legislators, mostly bland, frequently policy-oriented folks not of celebrity status material. They get to decide many details about Obamacare and abortion in those two states, not Donald Trump or any U.S. President, not Congress, and not a Governor. Finding a way to win a simple majority in each state senate and house would have been meaningful.

It's not "fun" to effectively organize a campaign for candidates for those 280 seats. And there are 7,103 other state legislators in these United States, each seat needing the focused attention from the Democratic side, focus comparable to that given by the Koch Bros Neoliberal organization - the current sustaining the American 21st Century Republican Crimson Tide.

In the last quarter of the 20th Century Democrats really didn't seem to want to divert attention away from their Presidential candidates. Thus Democrats lost each election in most of the states whether their Presidential candidate won or not.

During that period the Neoliberals moved the Republicans to victory through the states. That's because they are not confused, as explained here in April 2017:

...Over a period of 70 years, between 1947 and 2016, one group of ideologues - the Neoliberals - achieved effective control of most state government$ in the United States and, at this time somewhat less effectively, taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives. And to some degree their view is strongly represented on the Supreme Court.

In fact, the shift from 1976 to 2016 within the important government$ of the United States, the state legislatures, looks like this (focus on Nebraska which has a unicameral legislature that is supposedly non-partisan).


Yes, in November 2018 Democrats did win a majority in the House of Representatives - thereby winning control of half of one of the three branches of the U.S. government. Yes, control of half of one of the three branches of the U.S. government. That's not a Blue Wave, just a Blue Ripple. At the same time, there was an election that looked like this from the standpoint of political control of the states:


In this context, the "Blue Wave" enthusiasm in the end apparently meant that a few purple states (split control of the legislature) turned totally blue (Democratic control of both houses). And some turned red (Republican control of both houses). As explained by the New York Times:

    In a stark display of the nation’s divide, the lower and upper chamber of every legislature but one — Minnesota — will be controlled by the same party following Tuesday’s midterm elections. It will be the first time in 104 years that only one state will have a divided legislature.
    That emerging political dynamic has potentially serious policy implications. Without a divided government, these single-party state houses are in a position to enact legislation at a time when Washington faces a new round of gridlock after Democrats captured the House and Republicans expanded their control of the Senate.
    The political lineup of the legislatures came into focus as the Democrats captured control of seven statehouse chambers on Tuesday, a relatively weak showing that left Republicans dominant in an overwhelming majority of state governments. By contrast, Republicans seized more than 20 statehouse chambers from Democrats in the critical 2010 midterm elections, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
    The district maps drawn by Republicans who took power in state legislatures in 2010 — a midterm election under President Barack Obama that saw steep losses for his party across the board — was one of the reasons for the modest Democratic gains, analysts said.
    With the election results, the Republican Party will control both houses in 30 states, while Democrats will hold complete control in 18 states.
    Republicans dismissed the Democratic gains in the statehouses, noting how modest they were and that Republicans held onto legislative majorities in crucial states like Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin.
    “We see this as a significantly fumbled opportunity by the Democrats to make gains,” said Matt Walter, the president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, adding that the states where Democrats flipped chambers on Tuesday were all states Ms. Clinton won in 2016. For Democrats, he said, it was a “disappointing night given all the spending and hype.”
    Democrats did not succeed in flipping statehouse chambers in key Midwestern states where Mr. Trump triumphed in 2016. Indeed, Republicans held or extended their majorities in some of those states, including in the Wisconsin Senate and the Iowa Senate.
    In Ohio, where Mr. Trump won by eight points, Democrats fell short of winning the governor seat. While Democrats picked up a handful of seats in the House chamber, they appeared to have lost a seat in the Senate. And even though Republicans lost seats in the state House, the party will retain a three-fifths supermajority in both legislative chambers, giving them the ability to override gubernatorial vetoes.
    In New Hampshire, Democrats flipped both chambers and took control of the Executive Council, which effectively functions as an additional branch of government. Although Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, was re-elected, the fact that he will have to deal with a Democratic legislature and Executive Council could make it difficult for him to implement policy.
    The vote on Tuesday represented the first stage of elections that will set the parameters for reapportionment after the 2020 census is conducted. About 800 of the lawmakers elected Tuesday will have a voice in that realignment — for the most part, state senators whose terms are longer than two years. Another 5,000 will be elected in 2020.

When liberals go hat-in-hand to beg the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn state laws on subjects like gay marriage or abortion, they are going there because those liberals failed to do the hard work and spend the money to win their state legislatures. Unless or until the National Democratic Party starts explaining this to their members, it will fail as a political party in the Union known as these United States.

As I've noted here numerous times, it is those who are elected to state legislatures that are in the most important political positions. I know this is difficult for many Democrats to accept. And that is exactly why the Democrats have so little clout over domestic policy within a significant majority of states.


The 1964 Civil Rights Act

Keep within your vision the state-level directional change from 1978 to 2016 when you consider this:


The U.S. Constitution, designed to create a Union of internally independent states, was structured to retain the broadest government power within the state governments.

Or to put it another way, the 10th Amendment emphasizes that the United States Union was created to smooth out commerce across state and international boundaries, provide for a common defense of all states in the case of an attack by an outside foreign government, and a few other minor related items.

Not included in the list were things like inter-personal relationships, health care, education, etc. These were things state legislatures were supposed to take care of. And if you haven't noticed, whether it's Obamacare or land use, it is the legislatures that create the regulatory framework for those issues, and in a majority of cases not in a way we Democrats like because we don't do the work and spend the money on winning all those legislative seats.

Yes, one exception exists to the powers of the state legislatures which was a somewhat confusing result of the Civil War. That is the 14th Amendment, not put in place by our Founding Fathers, which specifically provides that: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Note that it does not give Congress any specific additional powers. But it does give the federal court system a standard by which state laws can be reviewed.

Now reconsider the graphic above containing the images of Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Donald Trump.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 based on the 14th Amendment was a law of the United States government making unlawful segregation in public places and banning employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The legislation had been proposed by Democratic President John F. Kennedy in June 1963, but opposed by filibuster in the Senate. It is considered one of the crowning legislative achievements of the Democratic President Lyndon Johnson. But was it a the death knell of the Democratic Party within the Union (let's be clear, the Union is not a Union of people, but a Union of states). Consider these two graphics:

Notice the block of states in the south that were Democratic or Mostly Democratic in 1964. Then notice that most of the "No" votes on the 1964 Civil Rights Act came from the solidly Democratic states.

Now reconsider this...


...graphic showing the changes in partisan control resulting from the Democratic leadership sponsored 1964 Civil Rights Act as you consider the following from Wikipedia:

Note: "Southern", as used in this section, refers to members of Congress from the eleven states that made up the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. "Northern" refers to members from the other 39 states, regardless of the geographic location of those states.

The original House version:
  • Southern Democrats: 7–87   (7–93%)
  • Southern Republicans: 0–10   (0–100%)
  • Northern Democrats: 145–9   (94–6%)
  • Northern Republicans: 138–24   (85–15%)
The Senate version:
  • Southern Democrats: 1–20   (5–95%) (only Ralph Yarborough of Texas voted in favor)
  • Southern Republicans: 0–1   (0–100%) (John Tower of Texas)
  • Northern Democrats: 45–1   (98–2%) (only Robert Byrd of West Virginia voted against)
  • Northern Republicans: 27–5   (84–16%)


The 1965-66 Public Policy Blue Wave

Give some thought to those economic/environmental programs of Johnson's Great Society outlined in the graphic with images of Presidents Johnson and Trump above in the context of how the Koch Bros Neoliberals generally must have reacted. The Great Society explains why they settled in to plan, and then carry out, a long term strategy to take control of the state governments through a Crimson Tide.

In that time, not only have significant elements the 1964-66 policy Blue Wave legislation been rolled back, there is little likelihood of reconciling the political divide among the states. This was reflected in the struggle to implement the Obamacare Medicaid provisions designed to help provide medical care to all U.S. families with income up to an effective 138% of the poverty line who would qualify for coverage in any state that participated in the Medicaid program. The federal government paid 100% of the cost of Medicaid eligibility expansion in participating states in 2014-16, 95% in 2017, 94% in 2018, 93% in 2019, and 90% thereafter. In case it is unclear, the goal was to assure that routine medical care is available to children and larges sums of money were available - but that wasn't enough for the non-green states.

We residents of these not-so-United States seem to have at the personal level slowly evolving questions in the political divide context - who are we and whose pain should we not care about?

A parallel political divide can be found in Britain which has been explained as follows:

    The public are divided down the middle. One of the reasons they’re divided down the middle — and this is not dissimilar to the US — is because Brexit has activated a values divide.
    This isn’t a traditional left-right thing. This is almost our equivalent to a culture war. If you want to predict how people voted, it’s their views on diversity, on gay rights, on gender equality, on the death penalty. It’s those values issues that people are coalescing around.
    What we know about those issues is once they’ve been ignited in political debate, they’re very hard to put out again. People hold those beliefs very deeply and find it hard to change them. That’s one of the reasons why people aren’t changing their minds. It’s one of the reasons why the Brexit division is proving to be a very deep division indeed. A majority of British people now identify themselves as Leaver or Remainer rather than Labour or Tory.
    At the same time, no one has a huge amount of faith in any of our political leaders because the perception is that both Theresa May and [Labour Party leader] Jeremy Corbyn just aren’t very competent at their jobs.
    Finally, one of the reasons this is messy is because we have a series of crises going on at the same time, all of which, except Brexit, were brewing before the referendum, and all of which have been made worse by the referendum.
    We’ve got a crisis of economics because of high levels of inequality and an enormous amount of economic pain being placed upon those least able to deal with it....

Here in the U.S., the election of Donald Trump served as a referendum on the old messy, amorphous 20th Century post-Civil Rights Act political party structures of Lyndon Johnson and George H.W. Bush.

That structure was the losing side in 2016 as we found ourselves in an election in which our economic Neoliberal ideologues and cultural religious traditionalists coalesced, taking over the Republican Party name. These should be "strange bedfellows" but for the time being they appear to make up about a reliable 30% of the voting public, or even 40% with a celebrity like Trump leading this Crimson Tide.


California's Blue Tide policy agenda

The Democratic Blue Tide supermajority in California has some ideas about what ought to be done as explained by long-time observer George Skelton:

    [Governor-elect Gavin] Newsom will target early childhood education, focusing on what he calls the “readiness gap” — kids not being adequately prepared to start school. The governor-elect says he has a “sense of urgency” for “universal access to preschool.”
    That’s also the [Assembly Speaker Anthony] Rendon’s top priority.
    Rendon says he and Newsom are “definitely on the same page. Get the kids early and break the cycle of poverty.” He wants to expand access and also modernize programs.
    But how poor will a family need to be to qualify for a state-funded program? That may upset many people.
    “The consensus in the Legislature is that it’s not our goal to serve kids whose parents have the means to afford their own” early childhood education, Rendon says
    Newsom also will take a stab at universal healthcare, although not necessarily the single-payer, all-government system many of his supporters adamantly advocate.
    “I’m going to push the envelope, lean in on this and see how far we can take it,” Newsom told me in October. “I’ve got over 30 people working on it as we speak.”
    This also is a top priority for Senate leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). Last year she coauthored a colossally expensive single-payer plan that passed the Senate and was quickly killed in the Assembly by Rendon because it lacked details and funding.
    Rendon points out that only roughly 7 percent of Californians aren’t covered by medical insurance, thanks largely to the federal Affordable Care Act.
    “Closing that final gap,” he says, “makes more sense” than trying to create a costly single-payer system.
    Another pressing problem Democrats have promised to keep working on is homelessness. Newsom says it’s a priority. So does Atkins. California has by far the largest homeless population of any state, with an estimated 23,000 living on L.A. streets.
    Voters last month approved $5 billion in bonds for various homeless and low-income housing programs, but that’s just a start.

No, it's not "just a start" which is why as an old California Democrat I can be both enthused and a bit depressed. Consider the discussion above in the context of the bottom portion of the graphic that includes Johnson and Trump - here's what I'm talking about:


What we will be creating in California will look much like a "Project Head Start (1965)" and a "Medicaid (1965) and a "Housing and Urban Development Act (1965)". Today we must create  programs to assure the availability of preschool, medical care, and housing for all children. Of course, we're doing it at the state level, where it might not be undone by other states.

I am a native Californian, I'm old, and I remember 1965, which was 53 years ago. At the current time, I feel as politically alienated from 77% of the area of these United States as Jeff Sessions would likely feel in Coastal California.

I keep using that 77% number because - as many learned in 2000 and 2016 Presidents are elected by geography not necessarily number of votes, and as we see every day in votes in the U.S. Senate which is based on geography not population - each state must be considered separately.

In my humble opinion it's time for the National Democratic Party and its supporters to quit looking for a popular Blue Wave in some biennial election and start working to roll back the electoral Crimson Tide state-by-state in 32 states. It will be difficult as it means struggling for victory within that 77% of the geographic area of these United States.

In the meantime,  dealing at the personal level with those slowly evolving questions in the political divide context, all I can answer is "I'm a Californian" who believes the current Democratic Party state-by-state must counter the Koch Bros Neoliberal organization using their own organizational model. To get a more complete picture of the history and organization of the Neoliberal organization  click here.

                                                   
FOOTNOTES:

  1. "Crimson Tide" is a metaphor used here to reflect both the poisonous effects of a Red Tide, a phenomenon associated with wildlife mortalities and harmful human exposure caused by the bloom of an algal species, as well as the name by the University of Alabama sports teams; see Red tide found on Alabama coast; health officials urge caution.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

How the death of a 20th Century President with family ties to early California history amplifies the struggle to reconcile history with today's politics

I am a native Californian, I'm old, and find myself in a struggle to reconcile history with today's politics.

In 2016 as we found ourselves facing an election in which American economic Neoliberal ideologues and cultural Christian traditionalists coalesced to finally take the Republican Party away from the likes of the Bush Yankee Republican dynasty founded by Obadiah Newcomb Bush great-great-grandfather of President George H.W. Bush who died this past week.

This post isn't about the death of President George H.W. Bush whose memory needs no additional positive recognition from me as most of the press has done an excellent job of pointing out how he was the last of a kind as a President. But his death reminded me of the ties of the Bush Yankee Republican dynasty to early California history and to a long tradition of advocating for human rights.

Obadiah Bush and his brother Henry, grandsons of a American Revolution militia captain, were abolitionists. Obadiah, vice president of the American Anti-Slavery Society, petitioned the New York State Legislature to secede from the Union in a protest against slavery, after which The Rochester Daily Advertiser accused him of encouraging anarchy.

His sister-in-law Abigail Norton Bush (c. 1810 – c. 1899) was a women's rights activist in Rochester, New York. She served as president of the Rochester Women's Rights Convention, which was held in 1848.

In 1849 Obadiah traveled to California among the forty-niners in the gold rush. Two years later he died aboard a ship on his way back to California and was given a sea burial, leaving seven children.

One of his sons, Rev. James Smith Bush, was was an American attorney, Episcopal priest, and religious writer. In 1865–66 James also traveled to San Francisco via the Straits of Magellan, but on the ironclad monitor USS Monadnock. In 1867–1872, James served at San Francisco's Grace Church (later Cathedral).

James was the grandfather of the late Republican United States Senator from Connecticut Prescott Sheldon Bush who was the father of President George H. W. Bush and the paternal grandfather of President George W. Bush and Governor Jeb Bush.

Prescott was involved with the American Birth Control League as early as 1942 and served as the treasurer of the first national capital campaign of Planned Parenthood in 1947. His support for hurt him in strongly-Catholic Connecticut, and were the basis of a last-minute campaign in churches by Bush's opponents during his first two runs for the Senate seat which he lost. He was also an early supporter of the United Negro College Fund, serving as chairman of the Connecticut branch in 1951.

This is the history of the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, I understood. Truthfully, within this Union of states called the United States, I simply cannot see any similarity between Mississippi, which just elected an avowed segregationist Republican to the United States Senate, and California where founders of the Bush dynasty, steeped in anti-slavery and women's rights activism, spent their early years.

In fact, being an old native Californian I don't understand how in the 21st Century America either...
  • Senator Kamala Harris, born to a Tamil Indian mother, a breast cancer researcher, who emigrated from Madras, Tamil Nadu, India, in 1960, and a Stanford University economics professor father who emigrated from Jamaica in 1961, or
  • California Senator Dianne Feinstein, whose paternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Poland and maternal grandparents of German-Jewish ancestry were immigrants from Saint Petersburg, Russia,
...can stand to be in the same room with Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith who:
  • went to a segregation academy for grade school like the one she sent her daughter to, now attended by her granddaughter;
  • joked about lynching, saying she would “be on the front row” if a constituent asked her to go to “a public hanging";
  • voted against Senate Bill 1114 proposed by Dianne Feinstein on May 11, 2017 which would have nullified President Trump’s Executive Order 13798, which directing the Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor to consider issuing “conscience-based” protections for religious discrimination in a period of time of increasing violent attacks on the American Jewish community.


I know that necessarily Harris and Feinstein must attend Senate sessions. But particularly troubling is the 21st Century Republican woman segregation advocate pictured at the right standing next to Mississippi's state flag which enshrines the Confederate Battle Flag. Cindy Hyde-Smith won her election to the U.S. Senate with the strong support of the shouted bigotry of 21st Century Republican Donald Trump.

That she won in the same year that President George H.W. Bush died, a man whose family has been advocating for equality and human rights for over 150 years, is disheartening.

I am a native Californian, I'm old, and find myself in a struggle to reconcile history with today. It is almost enough to become an advocate for the California secession movement known as Calexit.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Don't misread California's 2018 election as a "crisis for the Republicans" since it is a death-knell for all traditional political parties to the benefit of Trump

As an old-school native son of California who was active in the Democratic Party back in 1964, it is discouraging to regularly see my state's politics interpreted through an Atlantic Coast filter.

I understand that Ronald Brownstein wrote for the LA Times. So it is frustrating that his article in The Atlantic - California Has Become a Crisis for the Republicans - about California's political history leading to the Republican losses this year is misleading and even inaccurate. Let's begin with the following:

    After Lyndon Johnson’s landslide win in 1964, Republicans again won California six straight times from 1968 through 1988, with native sons Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan as the presidential nominee in four of those races.

"Native son" means "a person born in a particular place." Some broaden it to include someone raised in that place.

Ronald Reagan was not a native son of California. Now that might not seem important. But two native sons of Californian are significant to California's 20th Century post-Depression political history, Republican Earl Warren and Democrat Pat Brown. Neither is mentioned despite the fact that the New York Times in Brown's obituary noted:

    Governor Brown once described his politics as "liberal and responsible" and as "reasonable, rational and realistic." He was very much a part of the bipartisan era of California politics, and shared the philosophy of one of his progressive Republican predecessors, Earl Warren, later Chief Justice of the United States.
    "One had a suspicion Earl Warren was happy to see Pat Brown as Governor," said Mr. Kevin Starr ... who is now the state librarian of California.
    As Governor, Mr. Brown oversaw the creation of a state commission on fair employment practices and the passage of two fair-housing laws, pushed the development of expanded water supplies for Southern California and worked for the creation of jobs outside the military industry.
    Under his administration the state produced its Master Plan for Higher Education, a landmark document that plotted the expansion of California's college system. During his eight years as Governor, the University of California added three new campuses and the state college system added six.
    He also increased benefits for the unemployed, the blind and the elderly....


The most significant 21st Century change in California's political reality is the Primary system that led in the 2018 election to two Democrats running against each other in the General Election for numerous offices including the U.S. Senate. This is not mentioned.

California's Hispanic and Asian ethnic groups are culturally conservative. If it weren't for the traditional American bigotry found in California's history and the politics of current "Red" California counties, a conservative political grouping could be created outside the current party structure.

During 2016 I was regularly amused by Bernie Sanders advocacy of tuition-free higher education. We actually had that in California in 1964 because of Governor Pat Brown (Jerry's dad).

Most people do not remember that Ronald Reagan's years as Governor began when he defeated Pat Brown in 1967 and ended when Jerry became Governor at the end of Reagan's second term in 1975.

We lost that low cost higher education because of Prop 13 approved by the voters in 1978 during Jerry's first term because, as the first post-Reagan Governor, he focused on maintaining his celebrity status.

"Celebrity" was locked into American politics by California just before Reagan's Presidential win to the detriment of policy considerations. Right now California is focused on making parties irrelevant which could leave the focus on "celebrity" in political contests.

Trump changed the meaning of political parties at the national level using a superficial populist-makeover to allow "celebrity" to dominate elections. Trump took over the Republican Party because the Republican Party in selecting a Presidential candidate turned the matter completely over to Primary voters who allowed "celebrity" populism to sway how they would vote.

Many of us in California hope, after Arnold and Jerry, that the focus on "celebrity" is shifting to include some consideration of policy and the ability of the candidate to deliver policy changes. We hope that voters will note that populist Bernie Sanders failed to deliver during his 35 years in holding public office - in his case, there aren't even tuition-free colleges in tiny Vermont.

The role of party control through populism will matter in the future. Just ask Depression-era Germany.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The 1981-2020 Republican undoing of American society's Democratic compassionate greatness





It was no Blue tsunami and waves recede immediately

It's hard being old for many reasons. But being an old Democrat who remembers what was achieved in America and in California by 1966 causes one heartache. As can be seen above President Lyndon Johnson had successfully led the country in major policy achievements. His goal was "The Great Society" outlined in a speech in 1964.

In California we had our own stuff - for instance, a tuition-free state college system available to all, the result of efforts by our Governor Edmond G. "Pat" Brown. It was the kind of thing Bernie Sanders never implemented in his tiny state of Vermont but thinks in the early 21st Century he can impose nationwide.

And I use the word "impose" deliberately.  You see, California was liberal back then until the voting middle class discovered being liberal actually cost them money. Pat Brown was able to work through tuition-free policies because at the time skyrocketing property tax revenues were funding K-12 permitting the state to use rising sales and income tax revenues for such things as tuition-free college for everyone.

Paying for things has never really been a liberal strength, even in California regarded today as the bluest of blue states. Red is always there waiting to pounce. In California the Neoliberal influence became evident in 1967 when Ronald Reagan defeated Pat Brown in his attempt at a third term.

(FYI - Reagan went on to become President in 1981 because he was the America's most effective spokesperson for Neoliberalism using the alternative reality game. His internship among the Neoliberals started 26 years before he was nominated for President. Reagan was hired by General Electric (GE) in 1954 to host the General Electric Theater, a weekly TV drama series and to give talks to over 200,000 GE employees as a motivational speaker. His speeches carried the Neoliberal re-education message influenced by Lemuel Boulware, a senior GE executive whose ideas have been called "Boulwarism.")

By 1978 California voters passed Proposition 13 which basically defunded higher education. By 1982 California voters placed an index on the income tax. Lest anyone think California is, and has always been politically liberal, it hasn't. And the conservative California gift to America was Reagan beginning the task of dismantling The Great Society.

In the meantime, heartened Neoliberals moved forward to take over the state legislatures and executive offices in other states. They succeeded.

As the Neoliberals moved to victory through the states, the Democrats lost state legislative seats, whether their Presidential candidate won or not. That's because their opponents are not confused, as explained here in April 2017:

...Over a period of 70 years, between 1947 and 2016, one group of ideologues - the Neoliberals - achieved effective control of most state government$ in the United States and, at this time somewhat less effectively, taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives. And to some degree their view is strongly represented on the Supreme Court.

In fact, the shift from 1976 to 2016 within the important government$ of the United States, the state legislatures, looks like this (focus on Nebraska which has a unicameral legislature that is supposedly non-partisan).


And then notice the map that has been added subsequent to the 2018 mid-terms. Democrats did firm up control in Washington, New Mexico, New York, and Maine while winning the ever-changeable New Hampshire. But it was not really a loss for the Koch Brothers Neoliberal organizations because they firmed up control in Kentucky and Iowa. These changes are minor compared to the 2010 election, when Democrats lost 24 chambers.

As I've noted here numerous times, important political positions exist in the United States in the state legislatures (followed by state executive positions). I know this is difficult for many Democrats to accept because it's more fun to campaign for a few days every four years for a Presidential candidate than to spend many, many days out of every year assuring the election of thousands of Democratic candidates to the lower house of the state legislature. And that is exactly why the Democrats have so little clout over domestic policy within the majority of states.

The U.S. Constitutio,n designed to create a Union of internally independent states, was structured to retain the broadest government power within the state governments.

Or to put it another way, the 10th Amendment explains that the United States Union was created to smooth out commerce across state and international boundaries, provide for a common defense of all states in the case of an attack by an outside foreign government, and a few other minor related items.

Not included in the list were things like inter-personal relationships (marriage), health care (abortion), education, etc.

These were things state legislatures were supposed to take care of. And if you haven't noticed, whether it's Obamacare or abortion, it is the legislatures that address those issues, and in a majority of cases not in a way we Democrats like.

There is, of course, one exception to the grant of powers to the legislatures not put in place by our Founding Fathers, but rather the result of the Civil War. That is the 14th Amendment which specifically provides that: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Note that it does not give Congress any additional powers. But it does give the federal court system a standard by which state laws can be reviewed.

Now reconsider the graphic containing the images of Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Donald Trump.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a law of the United States government making unlawful segregation in public places and banning employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The legislation had been proposed by Democratic President John F. Kennedy in June 1963, but opposed by filibuster in the Senate. It is considered one of the crowning legislative achievements of the Democratic President Lyndon Johnson. But was it a the death knell of the Democratic Party within the Union (let's be clear, the Union is not a Union of people, but a Union of states). Consider these two graphics:

Notice the block of states in the south that were Democratic or Mostly Democratic and the lack of such states in the Midwest. Then notice that most of the "No" votes on the 1964 Civil Rights Act came from the solidly Democratic states.

Now reconsider the graphic showing the changes in partisan control as you consider the following from Wikipedia:

Note: "Southern", as used in this section, refers to members of Congress from the eleven states that made up the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. "Northern" refers to members from the other 39 states, regardless of the geographic location of those states.

The original House version:
  • Southern Democrats: 7–87   (7–93%)
  • Southern Republicans: 0–10   (0–100%)
  • Northern Democrats: 145–9   (94–6%)
  • Northern Republicans: 138–24   (85–15%)

The Senate version:
  • Southern Democrats: 1–20   (5–95%) (only Ralph Yarborough of Texas voted in favor)
  • Southern Republicans: 0–1   (0–100%) (John Tower of Texas)
  • Northern Democrats: 45–1   (98–2%) (only Robert Byrd of West Virginia voted against)
  • Northern Republicans: 27–5   (84–16%)

Simply, the 1964 Civil Rights Act caused the Democratic Party to lose the South. But though much of the support came from the Midwest, the Democratic Party did not gain those states.

Finally, give some thought to those economic/environmental programs of  Johnson's Great Society in the context of how the Koch Bros and the Neoliberals generally must have reacted. It explains why they settled in to plan and then carry out a long term strategy to take control of the state governments.

Finally, recognize that in the 1966 "mid-term" Ronald Reagan ran in California against Pat Brown and won big time (see map to the left). And a "new" Ronald Reagan would win again in California if some well-intentioned liberal succeeded in raising enough tax revenue to cover the cost of a tuition-free higher education.

Priorities are priorities. In this election, Californian's just approved a major gas tax increase for maintenance of highways and roads. As noted by The Road Ahead: The Automobile's Impact on California: "Since 1898, the automobile has helped to shape and define the California way of life, creating what has been called the world's first 'auto-civilization.'” And that is a true, albeit unfortunate, fact about California in the face of Climate Change. We aren't that different from the rest of the United States even if we push alternative energy sources.

As of last year, 356,241 electric cars were registered in California—comprising just slightly more than 5% of the total autos found on the state’s freeways. While that number also represents nearly half of the more than 700,000 EVs in the entire country, we're a long way from not needing gasoline. Nonetheless, California's gas consumption has fallen almost twice as fast as U.S. gas consumption. California gas consumption peaked in 2005 at 15.9 billion gallons. The Great Recession had a major negative impact on gas consumption. However the trend may be changing as gasoline demand in California has climbed each year since 2013.

Anyway, in this fine 2018 Midterm Election Year ... hmmm. "mid term?" I guess because it's in between Presidential election years, we name it that.

But every second year - every even numbered year - is a legislators' regular election year, and many of those positions are two-year terms. It isn't "mid" term for thousands of legislators. But that's how unimportant the social and news media dialogue has made the most important political offices in the United States.

Many of the state legislators elected on Tuesday, along with legislators elected in 2020, will get to redesign the Congressional District maps along with their own district maps, hopefully without as much gerrymandering favoring Republicans. Those district boundaries will be set for 10-years thereby creating disadvantages for Democratic candidates in Red States for a decade.

Not that Democrats don't officially notice this.

"The first line of resistance against Republicans’ extremist policies starts in the states." - from an October 8, 2018 memo signed by Democratic National Committee CEO Seema Nanda and Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Executive Director Jessica Post

Really? This had to be stated in a memo to the Democratic Party explaining:

With less than 30 days left until Election Day, there is no question this is the most important election of our lifetime. From the Supreme Court to voting rights to education to health care to redistricting — our democracy is on the ballot. With more than 6,000 legislative seats up for election, Democrats have the opportunity to flip seats across the country, even in districts that Trump won in 2016.

Maybe I can hope that the National Democratic Party can provide me with a party that wins outside California. But sometimes I think 21st Century Democrats embrace the idea of being U.S. citizens without being state citizens or county citizens. They apparently lost interest as soon as the 14th Amendment was adopted because it says: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

But what they don't get is that  "privileges or immunities of" U.S. citizens are pretty much limited to interstate commerce, national defense, and Bill of Rights (first 10 Amendments) issues. And "due process of law" is all that is needed for any state to "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property." The only fuzzy constraint is that a state cannot deny any person "the equal protection of the laws." In other words, being an active U.S. citizen every four years without being an active state citizen every day doesn't get you much.

Beginning in 2019 we here in California again will have a Democratic supermajority in both houses of the State Legislature and our new Governor, Gavin Newsom, holds strongly liberal positions. So it remains to be seen whether we can screw things up bad enough to create a Neoliberal resurgence among California's middle and upper classes in the next decade.

We just aren't that blue. After all, our 2018 Governor's race results by county looks like this:


Sunday, November 11, 2018

California's devastating wildfires are a slow moving yearly rehearsal for our future with Climate Change


One of the saddest facts related to the recent disastrous wildfires in Democratic California is the lack of any state and local planning effort to significantly reduce the risk.

I don't want to confuse anyone. I'm not talking about reducing Climate Change which underlies that current increase wildfire disaster-loading. California's extra effort in implementing anti-Climate Change policy notwithstanding, Climate Change is going to happen, at near-maximum catastrophic impact.

Official agencies of both the United States and China determined that this year (yes, the U.S. government under Donald Trump). See the post in this blog As the midterm election approaches we should be in great fear of Climate Change. Why aren't we?

As indicated in the article linked from the image above:

    “It’s like a tragic replay of last year, with strong winds in both Northern California and Southern California blowing fire,” said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara, recalling the devastating Wine Country fires in October 2017 and the Thomas Fire, which burned through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in December.
    There is a common denominator between all the fires — bone dry vegetation and hot, dry winds out of the northeast that many scientists believe were exacerbated by climate change. But the remarkable thing, Moritz said, is that nothing has been done to prepare communities like Paradise, or Santa Rosa, for the kind of devastation they were destined to face.
    “We had a lot of discussion after the fires last year about the liability issue with utilities, but it’s interesting to see what didn't happen,” Moritz said. “Nobody has talked about mapping neighborhoods and homes in fire-prone areas like they do in flood plain hazard zones, engineering resilience into communities or building a little smarter.”

Simply put, California liberal environmentalism has no playbook for addressing the social and economic details of problem, details which are also explained:

    It is important given that more than 2 million homes throughout California — about 15 percent of the state’s housing — are at high risk for wildfire, according to the Center for Insurance Policy and Research. That’s more than any other state.
    The stakes are high, said Tom Bonnicksen, a retired forestry and wildfire expert who spent years researching fires in California.
    “There are millions and millions and millions of dollars going into fighting fires,” Bonnicksen said, “but there are not millions and millions and millions of dollars going into preventing the fires.”
    The situation is especially bad in and around Paradise, an incorporated town of 27,000 where dozens of homes, businesses and ranches were incinerated, prompting a state of emergency to be declared. Bonnicksen said the forests around Paradise contained some 2,000 trees per acre — including many small, shrub-like saplings that can serve as fuel ladders — when he studied the area about a decade ago. A healthy forest should have between 60 and 80 trees per acre. The densities have only gotten worse since then, he said.

If you do the quick math using the numbers offered by Tom Bonnicksen, a decade ago officials governing the area around Paradise, California, in the Sierra Foothills, needed to eliminate about 95% of the shrub and tree growth within the region's forested lands, both public and private.

Professor Bonnicksen is the author of numerous articles. His 2000 book America's Ancient Forests: From the Ice Age to the Age of Discovery is both...
  1. the definitive work on impact of the Paleo-Indians and their descendants on North American forest development and
     
  2. the basis for subsequent attacks on Bonnicksen by extreme environmentalist misusing the normal peer review process
...such as the balancing comments reflected in this typical review. The underlying problem, of course, is that the computerized data assembled 8000 years ago by the Paleo-Indians was lost in a wildfire. If you didn't understand that last sentence as sarcasm you probably should stop reading now. Otherwise, here is discussion from that review:

    ...The drastic effects of European settlement on North American ecosystems have caused many ecologists to overlook the role that Native Americans once played in shaping the landscape prior to European arrival. For this reason, the presettlement forests of North America are often assumed to have been primeval wildernesses, whose structure and composition were determined solely by physical and biotic forces.
    In the first part of America’s Ancient Forests: From the Ice Age to the Age of Discovery, Bonnicksen (2000) attempts to correct this overly simple perspective by describing the climatic events and cultural practices that shaped the development of North American forests from the last glacial maximum (21,000 years ago) to the moment prior to European settlement. An explicit theme running through the book is that American forests prior to European settlement were not pristine wildernesses, but rather the product of millennia of usage and management by Native Americans. Or, as Bonnicksen states on page 142, “... there can be no doubt that North America would have been a different place when Europeans arrived if American Indians had not lived here.” In the second part, Bonnicksen describes the state of the presettlement forests, combining eyewitness accounts from early European explorers, trappers, soldiers, and missionaries with a review of the ecological, paleoecological, and archaeological literature.
    Because Bonnicksen, a professor in the Department of Forest Science at Texas A&M University, places such emphasis on the role played by the Paleoindians and their descendants in shaping North American forests, his book is, despite its title, as much a cultural history as an account of forest development. Although Bonnicksen briefly summarizes the main climatic events that took place during the Pleistocene and Holocene and assesses the vegetational responses, the bulk of the first part of the book is devoted to a description of Native American cultural practices and a discussion of their impact on North American ecosystems. These effects included hunting, small-scale logging, agriculture, and, above all else, fire....
    America’s Ancient Forests provides persuasive evidence that Native American activities had at least some consequences for North American ecosystems. Perhaps the most dramatic example is the extinction of most large mammal species in North America between 10,800 and 10,000 years ago, which was probably a result of the effective (and perhaps wasteful) hunting practices of Paleoindians, coupled with rapid environmental changes. Fire is another clear example of how Native Americans may have significantly changed forest composition and openness....
    However, the crucial question for ecologists is not whether Native Americans modified their environment (they undoubtedly did), but how significant these effects were relative to natural agents such as lightning-induced fires, disease, storms, or climate change. Were these anthropogenic disturbances confined primarily to local areas next to streams, for example, or did the accumulated impact of small disturbances transform a continent? Despite the detailed picture of Native American practices, Bonnicksen never explicitly evaluates their ecological significance within a larger context....
    The debate over the influence of Native Americans upon the structure of presettlement North American forests has implications for resource managers and conservation ecologists. After all, an implicit goal of many current conservation efforts is to preserve or restore ecosystems to their "natural" presettlement condition, after which active human management should be minimized. This view is expressed in our management decision to set aside some portions of national forests as wildernesses. However, if Bonnicksen is correct in his assertion that Native Americans fundamentally transformed North American ecosystems, then maintaining them in their presettlement appearance will, on the contrary, require continued and active management.
    America’s Ancient Forests does well to call attention to this debate, but it is too strongly tilted in favor of anthropogenic effects to be read uncritically. The most compelling feature of the book is the numerous and well-integrated eyewitness accounts of the American forests and Native American land-use practices. However, the writing is choppy at times, and the book suffers from a lack of accompanying figures....

Bonnicksen's biggest problem has been his long-term advocacy for "continued and active management." He has been the subject of unrestrained attacks as noted in 2006:

    Ten distinguished professors from across the United States have issued an open letter to the media supporting Texas A&M University Professor Emeritus Thomas Bonnicksen and criticizing three professors with differing views for trying to stifle the debate over forest management.
    "Their attack is a violation of professional standards of conduct in science: the free exchange of ideas and collegiality among scholars," the professors say in an open letter to the media. "We adamantly oppose any effort to stifle his contribution to the debate on proper management of our nation's forests."
    The professors are from Yale University, University of California, Berkeley, Humboldt State University, Clemson University and the universities of Minnesota, Tennessee and the University of Washington. They say they are appalled at an open letter to the media published recently by three professors and an adjunct faculty member that attacked Dr. Bonnicksen.

The reality facing Californians (and other Americans) is a costly one consisting of a need to fund
  • adaptation through land use planning leading to the engineering of resilience into high-fire risk communities or not build such communities by building alternative desirable and affordable housing elsewhere, and
  • rescuing our forests, at least as much as possible in the face inevitable Climate Change, through what  Bonnicksen terms "Restoration Forestry." 
What Bonnicksen describes as "Restoration Forestry" is theoretically the policy of professional foresters. But Bonnicksen knows they have a problem. He doesn't think Californians (or anyothers) are going to go without a new iPhone every year and instead shell out that $800-$1,000 annually to fund through taxes "Restoration Forestry." In truth, he just doesn't believe that our liberalism extends very deeply into our wallets. He's correct, of course.

So he has a plan that would prevent the situation like Paradise where the 2000 trees per acre have been reduced by fire to the point that his 60-80 trees per acre to be maintained also are gone. It's one of those plans that neither political side in the forest management political argument will embrace because they don't trust each other. It is available online in the form of a booklet in PDF format created ten years ago in 2008 Protecting Communities and Saving Forests:


Until something like his proposal is put into effect, neighborhoods and even whole communities will regularly disappear in flames and people will die.

All of this has given Donald Trump just enough space in which to tweet again on the subject of Democrats failing to manage the forests. Ironically, it is a failure only in the context of the impacts of Climate Change which Trump won't acknowledge.

But when it comes to action he needs his National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with the cooperation of his U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and his U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Year 2021–2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks acknowledges a 4.387°C (7.876°F) global temperature rise by 2100, a near worst case scenario.

It is a failure across both parties, really a generational failure. As I've noted here before, Al Gore's campaign on climate policy began 40 years ago.  He..., well, kids....  My generation failed him and you.

And it appears that we haven't done any better with regard to California's forests which are dying as can be seen in this photo from an April 2017 piece on the Pacific Crest Trail Association's website:


As explained in that post:

    Our forests are dying. ...Notice how the vast conifer ocean that we live within for so many miles is rapidly changing. Look closely and you’ll see.
    A decade ago, I saw it on my PCT thru-hike. Two decades ago, as a tenderfoot scout, a naturalist had me touch the trees so that I could see what was already happening....
    Ozone from our cars and industries, lingering low to the ground, is one of the most toxic pollutants affecting our forests.... This pollution causes ozone mottling in which needles drop from the trees.
    ...With our changing forests, we’re all in this together....
    Experts based in the Vallejo, Calif., Forest Service office that manages that Pacific Crest Trail fly small planes across California to survey the extent of the damage. The agency estimates that 102 million trees have died across all ownership boundaries in California since 2010. In 2016 alone, 62 million trees died.


    In 2015, California Gov. Jerry Brown called a state of emergency, saying this was “the worst epidemic of tree mortality” the state has ever seen. More funds flow in, state laws are passed, actions explored. It’s all hands on deck. Gov. Brown issued an executive order and established the Tree Mortality Task Force. The task force was the nexus for the U.S. Forest Service, local governments, public utility providers and other stakeholders to combine efforts and work collaboratively for the greater good.
    “These dead and dying trees continue to elevate the risk of wildfire, complicate our efforts to respond safely and effectively to fires when they do occur, and pose a host of threats to life and property across California,” said Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary under President Barack Obama in a November 2016 press release.
    Public safety is a top priority. State and federal land managers must cope with increasingly massive wildfires that sweep through dead or weakened forests, especially in the urban-wildland interface where so many have recently built homes. Their job is to ensure that roads and other crucial infrastructure remain safe. Recreation sites – trails such as the PCT – are often closed after a fire because of safety concerns.

This "we're all in this together" effort has seen some success as the Tree Mortality Task Force has removed more than 1.2 million dead or dying trees from the state’s forests since 2015. In May after the release of an alarming 350-page report by the California Environmental Protection Agency that documents the ruinous domino effect of climate change Governor Brown issued executive order will launch a slate of projects to improve forest conditions and increase fire protection, including a doubling of the amount of land managed by controlled burns, tree thinning and other forest-management tactics.

Still, there was this (click on it to go the website where you can download numerous documents and meeting agendas):


The draft document lays out goals to address the myriad of forest health/wildfire issues with programs to be in place within five years. The October 29, 2018, date with a five-year timeline certainly is frustrating when one considers it in the context of the quote above: "Two decades ago, as a tenderfoot scout, a naturalist had me touch the trees so that I could see what was already happening...." And Bonnicksen's pamphlet was printed 10 years ago!

It is, however, among the many California government programs for adaptation to Climate Change which the Trump Administration says doesn't exist (except to put in place policy acknowledging it will have reached a near worst case scenario by 2100).

Except that draft document will now face political scrutiny in California and Washington. So as our communities burn up and people die, we'll be deciding how to fund the programs, if we are going to fund them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The U.S. feels like fascist Italy in 1922 because, as predicted, the 21st Century plebiscitary presidency has finally led to the establishment of caesarism



Most Americans recognize the name "Hitler" when you say it. Most Americans think you're talking about a singer-songwriter when you say "Lenin." Most Americans don't recognize the name "Mussolini" and that's a serious problem as it means they have no idea what "fascism" is.

It isn't completely their fault. As you can see from the explanation if you click on the image at the right, over a period of time "intellectual" political philosophers have turned "fascism" into a complicated political term - really far, far more complicated than was necessary.

Part of the problem is that fascism was a 20th Century ideology developed in Italy.  The term fascio literally refers to "a bundle" or "a sheaf" similar to the one shown in the image at the right, and figuratively "league" which was used in the late 19th century to refer to political groups of many different (and sometimes opposing) orientations.

In this post the subject is the 20th Century political phenomenon Italian Fascism, also known as Classical Fascism or simply fascism, as clearly explained in the linked Wikipedia entry. It is explored here because of marked similarities to what is occurring now in the United States.

The Fasci of Revolutionary Action (Fasci d'Azione Rivoluzionaria, FAR), was an Italian organization, created by Benito Mussolini in 1914. The term "Fascism" was first used in 1915 by members of Mussolini's movement.

In the first meeting of the Fasci d'Azione Rivoluzionaria held on January 24, 1915, Mussolini declared that it was necessary for Europe to resolve its national problems - including national borders - of Italy and elsewhere "for the ideals of justice and liberty for which oppressed peoples must acquire the right to belong to those national communities from which they descended." At that point, "nationalism" because the first continuing element of fascism.

At the end of World War I Italian Fascists identified their primary opponents as the majority of socialists on the left who had opposed intervention in the War. The Fascists could comfortably hold Marxism in contempt, and join the right discounting class consciousness and supporting in the rule of elites. The Fascists assisted the anti-socialist campaign by allying with the other parties and the conservative right in a mutual effort to destroy...
  1. the Italian Socialist Party and labor organizations committed to class identity and
  2. the cultural divisions of geographical areas around Italy committed to group identity
...both considered a threat to national identity.

Prior to Italian Fascism's accommodations to the political right, Fascism was a small, urban, northern Italian movement that had about a thousand members. After Fascism's accommodation of the political right, the Italian Fascist movement's membership soared to approximately 250,000 by 1921.

Italian Fascism sought to accommodate conservatives by making major alterations to its political agenda—abandoning its previous populism, republicanism and anticlericalism, adopting policies in support of free enterprise and accepting the Catholic Church and the monarchy as institutions in Italy.

To appeal to Italian conservatives, Fascism adopted policies such as promoting family values, including promotion policies designed to reduce the number of women in the workforce limiting the woman's role to that of a mother. The fascists banned literature on birth control and increased penalties for abortion in 1926, declaring both crimes against the state. Fascism adopted a number of anti-modern positions designed to appeal to people upset with the new trends in sexuality and women's rights while seeking to secure law and order to appeal to conservatives, syndicalists, and corporatists.

In March 1921, French philosopher Georges Sorel wrote that Mussolini was "a man no less extraordinary than Lenin". After Sorel's death in 1922, Agostino Lanzillo, a one-time syndicalist leader who had become a fascist, wrote in the Italian fascist review Gerarchia, which was edited by Mussolini: "Perhaps fascism may have the good fortune to fulfill a mission that is the implicit aspiration of the whole oeuvre of the master of syndicalism: to tear away the proletariat from the domination of the Socialist party, to reconstitute it on the basis of spiritual liberty, and to animate it with the breath of creative violence. This would be the true revolution that would mold the forms of the Italy of tomorrow."

In 1921 Mussolini's organization became the National Fascist Party (Italian: Partito Nazionale Fascista, PNF) winning 37 of 535 seats in the Italian Parliament.

Beginning in 1922, Fascist paramilitaries escalated their strategy from one of attacking socialist offices and homes of socialist leadership figures to one of violent occupation of cities. The Fascists met little serious resistance from authorities and proceeded to take over several northern Italian cities. The Fascists attacked the headquarters of socialist and Catholic labour unions in Cremona and imposed forced Italianization upon the German-speaking population of Trent and Bolzano. After seizing these cities, the Fascists made plans to take Rome.

On October 24, 1922, the Fascist party held its annual congress in Naples, where Mussolini ordered Blackshirts to take control of public buildings and trains and to converge on three points around Rome. The Fascists managed to seize control of several post offices and trains in northern Italy while the Italian government, led by a left-wing coalition, was internally divided and unable to respond to the Fascist advances.

King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy perceived the risk of bloodshed in Rome in response to attempting to disperse the Fascists to be too high, so he appointed Mussolini as Prime Minister of Italy and Mussolini arrived in Rome on 30 October to accept the appointment.

(To create a time context relative to Lenin and Hitler, when Vladimir Lenin died of a stroke on January 21, 1924, he had already headed the Soviet government for six years. At that time, Mussolini had headed the Italian Government for 15 months. Adolph Hitler was still a small-time rabble-rouser in jail awaiting trial in February at which he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment at Landsberg Prison though he was pardoned after a year in prison.)

Mussolini's Fascist regime created a corporatist economic system in 1925 with creation of the Palazzo Vidioni Pact, in which the Italian employers' association Confindustria and Fascist trade unions agreed to recognize each other as the sole representatives of Italy's employers and employees, excluding non-Fascist trade unions.

A Ministry of Corporations was created that organized the Italian economy into 22 sectoral corporations, banned workers' strikes and lock-outs and in 1927 created the Charter of Labour, which established workers' rights and duties and created labour tribunals to arbitrate employer-employee disputes. In practice, the sectoral corporations exercised little independence and were largely controlled by the regime and employee organizations were rarely led by employees themselves, but instead by appointed Fascist party members.

By 1928 Mussolini's Fascist Party controlled the government, the military, and the economy of Italy.

Again, for time context  note that by 1928 Adolph Hitler's NSDAP held 12 seats of 490 in the Reichstag and he would not become Chancellor until 1933 after the Great Depression had demolished the German economy. But because he was leader of what we consider to be an essentially evil movement, Americans use Hitler's name regularly but know almost nothing about Mussolini's Italy and fascism. And that's unfortunate political ignorance.

Remember that fascism is an Italian creation built on the ideas of
The best explanation of Caesarism comes from Gerhard Casper's 2007 Caesarism in Democratic Politics: Reflections on Max Weber which tell us Weber employed the term to stress the plebiscitary character of elections, disdain for legislatures, the non-toleration of autonomous powers within the government bureaucracy, and a failure to suffer independent political minds.

Ceasarism explains the concept of a plebiscitary presidency which relies on powers that exceed the Constitution and that is accountable only during elections or impeachment, rather than daily to the Congress, the press, and the public.

Casper provides the insight into the plebiscitary presidency in this interview of President Richard Nixon after he had resigned and left office:

    Frost: So what ... you’re saying is that there are certain situations, where the president can decide that it’s in the best interest of the nation or something, and do something illegal.
    Nixon: Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.
    Frost: By definition.
    Nixon: Exactly. Exactly. If the president, for example, approves something because of the national security, or in this case because of a threat to internal peace and order of significant magnitude, then the president’s decision in that instance is one that enables those who carry it out, to carry it out without violating the law.

Finally, Casper notes this warning:

    ...One of its best known invocations is, of course, by Oswald Spengler in The Decline of the West, a book that first came out in 1918, i.e., more or less contemporaneously with Weber’s essay. In a world history table on “political epochs” that accompanied The Decline of the West, Spengler identified the period from 1800 to 2000 as the period where, in the West, economic power permeates the political forms of “democracy” (a word he placed in quotes) to be followed in the years 2000 to 2100 by the formation of caesarism. The caesarism that Spengler predicted for the 21st century he described, inter alia, as “Increasing Primitiveness of Political Forms. Inward decline of the nations into a formless population, and constitution thereof as an Imperium of gradually-increasing crudity of despotism.”

Benito Mussolini said in Rome on September 24, 1928: "E' meglio vivere un giorno da leone che 100 anni da pecora" (it is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a lamb). Or as tweeted by Trump:

Perhaps in 2018 we are clearly seeing the caesarism that Spengler predicted for the 21st century. By proudly with gusto issuing numerous legally questionable Executive Orders, Donald Trump is acknowledging Nixon's statement "If the president, for example, approves something...then the president’s decision in that instance is one that enables those who carry it out, to carry it out without violating the law."

And one can certainly understand why Spengler would put "democracy" in quotes. No political body of the U.S. government represents the majority of the voters, not President Trump, not the U.S. Senate, not the U.S. House of Representatives, not the U.S. Supreme Court.

Of course, it remains to be seen how it all plays out. America in 2018 is different from Italy in 1922. But it does appear that a Faustian bargain has been made by Americans just as it was by Italians. And the fascist model is spreading again.