"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Friday, November 18, 2016

Round up the usual suspects

I'm shocked!  Shocked!

The Democratic Party postmortems continue to roll in.  Even the BBC World Service is doing it.  They interviewed voters in Ohio who remember the heyday of the steel mills, when unions provided good wages and everybody prospered and voted Democratic.  Those days are gone, so now they vote for Trump, not because they love him, but to "shake things up."  And then Bernie Sanders comes on, to tell us the problem is Democrats are too busy chasing corporate donors to care about the working class.  And then some apologist for the Democratic way comes on, mealy-mouthed and spouting statistics which prove (yet don't!  See, he admits it!) things are better now than they were, if only people were rational instead of emotional.

And I think of Aristotle, and how his four elements of rhetoric are ethos (character of the speaker), logos (reasoning, logic), pathos (empathy) and kairos (the crisis, the present situation of the audience), and how of those four three are aimed at the audience.  Because arguing statistics, especially economic statistics and poll numbers, is more of the same that cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency.

So let's blame NAFTA and corporations and economists, because they are such easy targets to despise.

Except NAFTA is correlation, not causation.  Middle class security started crumbling in the 1970's, not in the 1990's.  Reagan declared "Morning in America" and then fired all the workers of PATCO, and made it clear unions got no special favors from him.  Not for nothing, because union power was crumbling by then, anyway.  And still the "Reagan Democrats" loved him.  Inflation started tearing up the middle class in the '60's when Nixon was in office, took off under Ford and Carter, and was only stopped when Volcker applied the tourniquet so tightly the economy fell to its knees and almost had to amputate a limb.  Wall Street recovered; Main Street didn't (usury laws, in place for decades before Volcker, were amended or repealed in order to keep up with the Fed.  Interest rates went back down, allowable interest rates stayed high.  Nobody even mentions usury anymore, because it hurts people we don't really care about.).

Watch any movie or TV show from the period, and a bad economy is reflected in the story line.  Recessions were as common as snowfall in winter.  Wall Street boomed under Reagan, but the economy didn't.  Main Street recovered under Clinton.  Heavy industry was already on the way out when NAFTA, proposed under Bush, was supported and passed under Clinton.  What foreign competition was doing to our factories eventually was replaced by automation, something Kurt Vonnegut had foreseen with his first novel, Player Piano, in 1952.  It just took us half a century to catch up with him, but now assembly lines in Detroit are a memory not because of GM or Roger Smith, but because of robots.  And it may be why quality of production has gone up, too; but don't tell a former union member that.  Of course, auto manufacturing just shifted from Detroit to "open shop" states where unions didn't have a foothold; so there was the, too.  We still have autoworkers in America; they just don't feel beholden to the Democrats, and they don't give union dues that can be turned into donations.

Recession and job loss was the story of Reagan's America, and of W.'s, too; only he did it bigger and louder, and left the mess for Barack Obama and a recalcitrant GOP Congress to clean up.  And yes, the Democrats turned to corporations for money, because where were the unions?  Where all the flowers had gone, a turn the Democrats started making in 1968, and which continued through 2016.  How may working class people did Bernie Sanders appeal to?  Do you think of Peter Boyle's Joe Curran when you think of Sanders?  Or of a college student anxious to get his tuition paid for by someone else?  "Joe" came out in 1970, but Peter Boyle's "hardhat" working stiff became the image of Reagan's Democrats a decade later, and the GOP has been running with that ever since.

So if Democrats take money from corporations and don't support working stiffs, are they fools, or are the GOP hypocrites and the working stiffs the fools?  It's easy to blame "big money" for corrupting politics, but money is the mother's milk of politics, and always has been.  You think you can run a national party on $10 donations from supporters of a single candidate in a single Presidential election year?  If you do, I've got some land in southern Louisiana to sell you.  Trust me....

When it wasn't country-club Republicans, it was hardhat labor unions, which were seen as just as corrupt as corporations are today.  Now the unions are gone, and the workers have no one to represent them, and no money to give to anyone, and they are the prey of Pied Pipers like Donald Trump.

And who speaks for them now, really? Anxious liberals wringing their hands over someone being mean to someone else?  Irrationalists like Donald Trump who promises to round up 2 or 3 million immigrants who are violent criminals, when the actual number is likely less than 100,000?  A man who makes wild claims about what our problems are and how he will fix them, when his declarations are lies and his powers far more limited than he imagines?

As the croupier said to Captain Renault:  "Your winnings, sir."


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