Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Dissidents in American Politics

The year 2016 had become the most depressing and ominous Presidential election year since 1860. Then out of the fog came Michelle Obama....

This is a face and voice of a 20th Century American telling 20th Century Americans what we should already know, that 2016 is the year we decide what life will be like in 2050 for Americans age 16 and younger - telling us that the focus of our nation over the next decade cannot be about the needs of people who voted for Jack Kennedy or Ronald Reagan.

As Hillary Clinton says:
“Stronger Together” is not just a lesson from our history. It's a guiding principle for the country we've always been and the future we're going to build. So let's be stronger together. Looking to the future with courage and confidence. Building a better tomorrow for our beloved children and our beloved country.

In contrast, in 2016 the 20th Century Republican Party has been declared dead and reborn. Longtime GOP strategist for President George W. Bush and for Senator John McCain, Nicolle Wallace, recently bemoaned that Republican Party candidate is "a man who believes in protectionism, isolationism, and nativism."

(As an aside, we need to note that the Democratic Party survived only because the outsider who attacked it was unsuccessful. Bernie Sanders was never a Democrat and has declared he will continue to serve in the Senate as an independent. Political parties are, of course, private organization whose members and staffs work hard to elect majorities in the Senate, House, and state legislatures where public policy is made.)

One can't help but ponder, to consider the historical context, about how too many 20th Century American dissident voters (and yes, all current voters were born in the 20th Century)  brought America back to where we are today.

It is not like vocal dissidents are a new thing, but what we've seen this year is the worst that is embedded within the American soul. This, at least partially, is the result of an unforgivable ignorance of American and world history, particularly political and economic history.

Voters' attitudes are painfully reminiscent of the "Know Nothing" movement of the 1850's which arose in response to an influx of  Irish and German Catholics and other immigrants, thus reflecting nativist and anti-Catholic sentiment (though in California it was based on opposition to Chinese immigration). It resulted in former President Millard Fillmore running for President in 1856 on the American Party ticket, winning 23% of the popular vote and carrying one state.

It may seem like this is just what happens in America. But history has details that the broad strokes don't tell you.

Yes, if you add to Nicolle Wallace's words "protectionism", "isolationism", and "nativism" the anti-Muslim anti-Hispanic bigotry of Donald Trump's rhetoric and you might think you have Millard Fillmore reborn, just with Islam substituted for Catholicism.

Except that unlike Trump, Fillmore was a knowledgeable, experienced public official who, when it came to government administration and public policy, "had a clue" as they say.

Prior to his run for President on the American Party ticket, Fillmore was an Inspector of the New York Militia's 47th Brigade with the rank of Major, an attorney, a New York State Assemblyman, a Congressman as a Whig Party candidate, a Vice-President as a Whig, and a President as a Whig after the death of President Zachary Taylor.

In Trump we have as a major party nominee someone that spent his life as a con man who gained notoriety as a reality show host. A reality show host....

This happened because we are in a time in which our political discussion has been reduced to the divisiveness of uninformed, dismissive, content-free, frequently hate-filled tweets.

We have literally created in the form of "apps" the mechanism to amplify the worst in ourselves, the worst in America, creating the worst kind of dissidents.

Because those "apps" - whether they are tweets, Facebook posts, or news web sites - generate corporate revenues, they proliferate becoming the source of "The Conventional Wisdom" instead of truthful facts.

For those who do not understand the term "The Conventional Wisdom", economist John Kenneth Galbraith in his 1958 book The Affluent Society prepended "The" to the phrase "conventional wisdom" to emphasize its meaning narrowed to those commonplace beliefs that easily became acceptable and comfortable to society, thus enhancing their ability in the minds of people to resist facts that might diminish or belie them.

In contrast to tweets, I can only offer "for the record" my ruminations on early 21st Century American politics in an historical context, adapting an early-20th-Century-magazine-article-style long-form format divided into 10 more long, though  hopefully provocative and/or informative, blog posts.

Below is a linking "table of contents":
  1. Dissidents in American Politics: "Left", "Right", "Conservative" and "Liberal" are Meaningless Labels
  2. Dissidents in American Politics: 21st Century Political Divisions
  3. Dissidents in American Politics: The Authoritarian U.S. President
  4. Dissidents in American Politics: Who are we angry at?
  5. Dissidents in American Politics: The Shareholder Capitalist Class
  6. Dissidents in American Politics: The Academic Oligarchist Class
  7. Dissidents in American Politics: The Romantic & Mythical in Politics
  8. Dissidents in American Politics: Shareholder Capitalists versus Academic Oligarchists
  9. Dissidents in American Politics: The Prospect of Revolution and Tyranny In the United States
  10. Dissidents in American Politics: Beliefs, Facts, and  Future Shock

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