Monday, July 18, 2016

7. Dissidents in American Politics: The Romantic & Mythical in Politics

"Dissidents" are people who actively challenge established doctrine, policy, or institutions. This post is the seventh in a series of 10 posts regarding the confusing "revolutions" of the 2016 Presidential Election.

Romantic Populists

Populism is a political position which holds that the "virtuous" citizens are being mistreated by a small circle of elites, who can be overthrown if the people recognize the danger and work together.

The elites (aka The Establishment) are depicted as trampling in illegitimate fashion upon the rights, values, and voice of the "legitimate" people. The "legitimate" people are, of course, the Romantic Populists who rarely constitute more than 20% of the population, plus everyone else they believe they have the right to speak and think for.

One of the reasons as an American I call it "romantic" populism is that most of the American adherents, who appear out of the ether every four years, seem to believe that solely by winning the Presidency that will have solved all their problems by having overthrown Academic Oligarchists in a revolution.

The followers of Bernie Sanders primarily fall into that category (as do many of those who voted for Brexit) because the bulk of financial benefits of 21st Century economic growth have gone to upper middle class (in terms of per person income over $80,000 a year) and wealthy (in terms of asset value per owner over $10 million).

Romantic Populists are, of course, delusional dissidents when they see Academic Oligarchists as the The Establishment that has brought about the dysfunctional growth of economic inequality by its failure to restrain the Shareholder Capitalists.

To understand how that inequality came about they would need to take a quick look in the mirror, then in recognition of the truth turn off their iPhones and contemplate them. They should see in their phones the $181 billion held offshore by Apple to avoid taxes on wealth accumulation by the corporation, wealth from profits not distributed to shareholders. They should see the manipulation of consumers by Steve Jobs.

If they thought about it, even that lack of distribution of profits may seem illogical based on theoretical capitalism. But remember that a true Shareholder Capitalist within the corporation looks to advance corporate wealth without regard to the well-being of persons. And, after all, the shareholders are the owners of the $181 billion which has been set aside to assure longer term corporate goals which will enrich the corporation they own, so its all good.

Romantic Populists think the Academic Oligarchists controlling the power of the Presidency could correct this situation. But in fact that kind of governmental policy must come from laws passed by Congress which, as we know, is not controlled by Academic Oligarchists.

Rather it is controlled by other people elected to their positions by voters, voters who were persuaded to elect them by publicity and advertising bought by Shareholder Capitalists involved in the State Policy Network (more on that group below).The key elections regarding that kind of governmental policy occur two years after each Presidential election when the Romantic Populists seem to disappear, even from the voting booth.

Through their ignorance of American history, Romantic Populists seem to forget that at the beginning of the 20th Century, the Robber Barons were the target of a number "progressive" changes to be instituted by Academic Oligarchists (Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, Harvard) which, of course, the new Shareholder Capitalists had rolled back or bypassed with the cooperation of Congress and the state governments by the end of the 20th Century.

For American Romantic Populists to achieve economic egalitarian change without a violent socialist revolution, they would have to never again buy an iPhone, symbolically rejecting the current world of Shareholder Capitalists and particularly the current world of entrepreneurial Shareholder Capitalists. They would have to spend much of their time every day working to elect new members of Congress and state legislatures, new members who also reject the current world of Shareholder Capitalists.

Or they can pretend it is enough to get enthused about a Presidential candidate once every four years and spend the rest of their time streaming "Game of Thrones" on their Apple TV, which is certainly ironic.

Mythical Reactionaries

A reactionary is a dissident who holds political views that favor a return to a previous political state of society, which they believe possessed characteristics (discipline, respect for authority, etc.) that are negatively absent from the contemporary society.

Those who voted for Brexit to "take back" Britain - mostly white folks - did have a real time to remember. At least those over 500 years old had a real time to remember. It was before the British Empire. Britain was just a little island with no significant wealth, generally fighting wars with the French and each other. What they think they remember is a time that was before the industrial revolution and before immigration from the colonies.

The followers of  Donald Trump primarily fall into that category also. The reason I call them "mythical" reactionaries is the previous political state of American society with the characteristics they long for never existed.

In some cases American Mythical Reactionaries believe that there was the "Leave It to Beaver" 1950's  - when "fairly" paid hard working men went home to a three bedroom, two bath home they owned where their homemaker wives and 2.6 children greeted them. Their economic situation was the result of their hard work and adherence to values. In this mythical time all that happened without unions and without having had The New Deal government intervention or the myth wouldn't be mythical enough.

In other cases, American Mythical Reactionaries believe that there was a time like the 1880's in the West where brave hardworking pioneers made it on their own. This was achieved without having the government pushing in railroad capitalism and pushing out the Native Americans using genocide when necessary or the myth wouldn't be mythical enough.

At that time governmental intervention was necessary, of course, to offer government benefits to the European immigrant ancestors of the Mythical Reactionaries. The benefits were the various Homestead Acts giving those immigrants land specifically to take pressure off an economic unstable Eastern United States, a time in which Catholic immigration was a significant disruptive force.

Mythical Reactionaries among the general population too suffer the delusion that by overthrowing the Academic Oligarchists through winning the Presidency, some outsider will solve all their problems.

However, over the past two decades, unlike the Romantic Populists who are too busy to be bothered with uninteresting people like members of Congress and their state legislatures, some Mythical Reactionaries have been effective in electing a Congress and state legislatures that push for social policies they think will return America to one of those mythical previous state of society.

Unfortunately for the Mythical Reactionaries from the general populace,  members of Congress and the legislatures they have elected are catering to the economic interests of Shareholder Capitalists. This is not an accident. Their success was facilitated by the State Policy Network, a consortium of conservative and libertarian groups which focus on state-level politics funding a successful ongoing coordinated strategy across 34 states (the other 16 states are pretty much blue despite their best efforts) which was a blueprint for the Mythical Reactionary conservative political success.

In December 2013, The Guardian, in collaboration with The Texas Observer and the Portland Press Herald, obtained, analyzed, and published 40 grant proposals from SPN regular member organizations. The grant proposals sought funding through SPN from the Searle Freedom Trust. According to The Guardian, the proposals documented a coordinated strategy across 34 states, "a blueprint for the conservative agenda in 2014." The reports described the grant proposals in six states as suggesting campaigns designed to cut pay to state government employees; oppose public sector collective bargaining; reduce public sector services in education and healthcare; promote school vouchers; oppose efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions; reduce or eliminate income and sales taxes; and study a proposed block grant reform to Medicare.

A month earlier, the State Policy Network was tied to the billionaire Shareholder Capitalists Koch Brothers. This year the Koch Brothers have offered clarity as noted by The Washington Post:
The Koch political network, which has steadfastly refused to engage in the 2016 presidential contest, plans to invoke Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in paid messages to voters as part of its campaigns supporting GOP Senate candidates, top officials said Saturday.

“We are going to tie the Democrat candidates to Hillary Clinton and the failed policies that she supports, and highlight the differences with the Republican candidates that we favor and that we’re supporting,” said Mark Holden, chairman of the board of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the network’s funding arm.

But Holden said the network has no plans to run an explicit campaign opposing Clinton’s efforts to reach the White House, saying: “We are going to differentiate on policies alone. It’s not going to be anti-Hillary.”

The plans to invoke Clinton in Senate ads come as the network is under pressure from some of its wealthy donors to get off the sidelines and use its national field infrastructure and paid advertising capacity to back GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. But Koch Industries chief executive Charles Koch has refused to budge, repeatedly expressing his dismay with Trump's tone and policy positions.

But the billionaire Shareholder Capitalists Koch Brothers not withstanding, the Mythical Reactionaries candidate to assure replacement of the Academic Oligarchists in the Executive and Judicial Branches is Donald Trump, a Shareholder Capitalist who ironically qualifies as an automatic Academic Oligarchist.

He will be helped by his Vice-Presidential Candidate Mike Pence who in 1991 became president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, an organization that is part of the State Policy Network.

Pence was placed in the Vice-President candidate position under confusing circumstances and generally dismissed by the press as someone there to appeal to the religious right. Of course he will appeal to the religious right, but he likely will have a significant role in facilitating the State Policy Network agenda with support from Congress and the States. As The Washington Post article notes: "Still, the invocation of Clinton in Koch-backed ads is another way that the operation could end up indirectly boosting Trump."

As a Shareholder Capitalist Trump has embraced some of the worst abuses and misuses of the corporation, turning the impersonal into personal, and showcasing it on television. It's hard to imagine how he and Pence will perform, what goals they will have, where up to now the standard is how best to achieve the goals of the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But even the Koch Brothers have serious problems with Trump.

It would, of course, be against the wishes of a substantial majority of Americans. However, protests movements can easily be shut down by an authoritarian President.

Let's now take a look at how the Shareholder Capitalists and Academic Oligarchists struggle with issues that place them on opposite sides.

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