Monday, November 21, 2016

Musings on the Old Old Right, the Old Right, the Old New Right, and the New New Right

Generally speaking, historians and other social scientists have delineated three broad forms of American conservatism in the post-WWII period. Type one: the intellectual variant of conservatism symbolised by Willam Buckley, National Review, and the various sects that came out of National Review. Type two: the "new" Christian right. Type three: libertarianism. Often forgotten in this polite typology is the paranoid right represented by the John Birch Society and the so-called alt right.

Are these four types of Ebenezer Scrooge liberalism really new? Nor treally. National Review style neoliberalism has roots in the negative reaction to the French Revolution in the late 17th and 18th century, The new Christian Right with its authoritarianism, apocalypticism, anti-communism, god gave us capitalism, anti-Semitism, and beware of the big government mentality, has roots in the old Christian Right of the New Deal era. Libertarianism has roots in Hobbes and the Austrian libertarians. The paranoid right has roots that go back to the Book of Revelation.

Are their similarities betwen these four groups? I think there are. Bill Buckley, seems to be exemplary here. While presenting an intellectually sophisticated image to the public Gore Vidal showed in 1968 that beneath Buckley's calm and "intellectual" exterior lurked a paranoid Christian conservative with a host of phobias, homophobia and commiephobia amongst them. And let's not forget that Buckley was one of the key apologists for that most paranoid of post-WWII neoliberals, Joseph McCarthy. Needless to say, Donald Trump with his universalisation of capitalism, his paranoias about Muslims and Mexicans, his Norman Vincent Peale Christianism, and his fifth grade bully mentality, seems to me to be a Bill Buckley for the 21st century. Trump just doesn't hide his bully boy, authoritarian, and phobic interior behind a pleasing public veneer. As the French say, the more things change the more they stay the same.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Death of Hope

Obama told us, when he first ran for president in 2008, to hope. You have to, however, give people more than hope. You have to give people more than hope that after they get an affordable community college or college education they will have a real job with real living wages and with real benefits they can afford. You have to give people more than hope that Americans will be able to get a living wage job with real benefits not only in the information sector of the economy but also in the service sector of the economy. You have to give people more than hope that they too will be able to get reasonably priced health insurance that they can pay for on their real wages. You have to give people more than the hope that they will be able to enjoy the good things of life, including the ability to relax and have fun, on their real wages. You have to give people more than hope that they too, like the elite politicians typically pander will be treated fairly and will be treated with and given respect. Donald Trump has given a lot of his supporters hope, hope that they will no longer feel ignored. I will say here and now that I don't expect him to live up to his promises anymore than Barack Obama did. The political and economic realities of America and the world argue and augur against it.

The Wacky World of the American Right in the Age of Trump

There is a lingload or shitload of false logic here, which is not surprising, given the broader cultural and ideological contexts in the US.

First, virtually every American, some libertarians and anarchists along with right and left freedom of speechers perhaps excepted, engage in so called political correctness. When right wingers, for example, censor textbooks, that is, political correctness as well as a violation of freedom of speech. Whenever the religious right pushes for public rather than individual silent prayer in schools that is political correctness and a violation of freedom of speech and freedom from religious theocracy. Ironically, a lot of those pushing for the dominance of the role of Christianity in the public sphere are often those most critical of Islamic theocratism.

Second, isn't it ironic that those who proclaim that their freedom of speech is being violated demand, proclaim, in the next breath, that flag burning, which the Supreme Court has ruled is freedom of speech, must be eliminated? Obviously, those who want flag burning, which isn't numerically speaking all that prevalent by any political group, are engaging in political correctness and are undermining guarantees in the Constitution they claim to be devoted to?

Third, banning SOME types of assault rifles and some types of bullets is NOT banning ALL guns or ALL bullets. That is simple logic.

Fourth, Christians are individually free to do anything that doesn't violate the law including pray to their imaginary gods in their public school. The law we have in the US is, when it comes to the public square, freedom from religious domination. The Founding Fathers did not like theocracy, which they saw in action, which is why they wrote separation into the laws of the land. Again, ironies abound here. What is the irony that abounds? Those who proclaim devotion to the Constitution out of one side of their mouth, proclaim their willingness to destroy it out of the other side of their mouth. I suggest to those of you who don't like the separation of religion and state guaranteed in the US Constitution move to a place where they don't have it such as Saudi Arabia. Love it or leave it dudes and dudettes.

Fifth, Republicans AND Democrats both supported deindustrialisation and trade deals, two things that sent jobs overseas. Bush the first negotiated NAFTA. Clinton got it passed. The reason they did it is because of their ties to economic elites who like cheap labour because it allows them to line their pockets even more than they already do. The fact that many of those who blame one party or one political ideology or another can't see the obvious, that both parties work for Wall Street, shows how ideologically blind they are.

Sixth, the tax rate on the wealthiest Americans has fluctuated over the 20th century. It was high during WWI and declined afterwards. It was in the 90% range under Eisenhower, fell to 70 some percent under Kennedy, and fell to 50 some percent under Nixon. The neoliberals, Republican or Democrat, those compassionate neoliberals, brought down tax rates on the rich during their years of dominance and have essentially and effectively undermined the progressive nature of American taxation since the 19801s. Taxation, by the way, varies cross culturally. The Scandinavian countries have, generally speaking, higher tax rates on the wealthy than the US. We must also be cognisant of the fact that official tax rates are not, for a variety of reasons, the real tax rates on the rich. The rich, like Trump, in reality, have gotten away with paying zero taxes for a variety of reasons. Tell Trump to do the same for you if you have the balls or ovaries and see what you get in response.

Seventh, single payer health care makes more economic and moral sense than that labyrinthian piece of legislation which the Democrats gave us. I know, in the age of runaway narcissism it is hard to think of anyone else but yourselves. By the way, the fact that the Democrats didn't, when they controlled the federal executive and legislative branches, give us the most economically and morally--greatest good for the greatest number--forgrounds how weak as water Democrats are.

Eighth, dudes are not being emasculated though I sometimes think we should cut off the cocks of rapists. Transformations in the economy are transforming gender and work. More women are working because they have to to help their families make it in a world dominated by the shit paying and little benefits service sector. By the way, Trump, for all his bluster, will not be able to bring manufacturing back to the US unless wages decline to levels similar to that in poor semi-peripheral countries and poorer peripheral countries where wages are low. But I know, as Barnum said people will swallow anything.

A last obvious fact: If you help destroy the planet you are killing yourselves and those who come after you including your children and grandchildren.

Let me close this missive by bemoaning that it is a pity that so many on all sides of the political spectrum prefer stereotypes and caricatures to simple humanity. Many liberals and leftists did not support Clinton. I didn't. I did not vote for either major party candidate. Many of them offered real critiques of Clinton as opposed to demonisation of Clinton. But I know, generally people prefer simplistic and naive either/ors to reality.