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There Are Two Possible Futures

by Montereyan Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 04:50:49 PM EST

Originally posted at Daily Kos as There Are Two Possible Futures - Ron Paul or Progressivism. Crossposted here at Jerome's request, and also because I'm interested to see to what degree this plays out in European politics.

America's 21st century has two distinct political futures. This election is already seeing their emergence.

The first is embodied by Ron Paul. It is a future where government is dramatically scaled back as a presence in our lives, and people are left to fend for themselves. It is a future where inequality is embraced, where those with less are given no aid whatsoever and blamed for their condition. It is a future where America tries to maintain the fiction that it is a white nation, of, by, and for white people. It is a nation racked by crisis, where survival is conditioned on how much money you make.

The second is embodied by us [i.e. the social democratic wing of the netroots]. It is a democratic future, where instead of abolishing government, we both expand and reform it. Where we work to end inequality, address the multiple crises of climate and economy. Where we embrace a pluralist, diverse, international future. It is a nation that has learned to do more with less, and where basic human needs are met, not left to the market.

Which future will it be?

The old party system is dying. Liberalism too - it was based on using a government-corporate alliance to mitigate the class struggle of the late 19th and early 20th century by raining wages and benefits down onto the masses. This enriched both workers and managers - but only worked as long as there was material plenty, as long as we had cheap resources.

Now, we don't. And with scarcity, with reduced buying power, with massive deficits, the old liberal concordat is no longer viable. Liberals and business cannot come together as they did under FDR or JFK or Clinton because there is nothing left to share. Corporations want it all for themselves. Liberals have to choose - either go along, or fight. In short, they must choose to be Ron Paul or be us.

Liberalism always died, you know. It never survived, because the left and the right were unhappy with its compromises. And the death was always depressingly similar - the left got a little taste, and in response the right slammed the door shut on both liberals and the left. The only reason liberals ever came back was a new period of plenty - the '60s, the '80s/'90s.

Now that option is foreclosed. This time is different - the right took over before the left could even raise a voice. And with scarcity, Liberalism will die and not return. Unfortunately, most of our Democratic candidates still think 20th century liberalism is viable - that we can work with corporations to provide a better future that provides for mass needs. This is the genesis of "cap and trade" carbon reduction programs, or the odious individual mandate that relies on corporations who have a habit of denying health care coverage to give us all universal care.

It's not only that liberalism is no longer possible. Changing demographics are ensuring that our future options are either a white supremacist libertarianism, or a pluralist progressivism. As explained by Chris Bowers at Open Left:

While Republicans were able to break the New Deal coalition through these mono-culture appeals, changing American demographics resulted in this strategy containing the seeds of its own eventual defeat. Non-whites and / or non-Christians represent more than 100% of American population growth. Further, while 65% of Americans born before 1965 self-identify as white Christian, only 41% of Americans born between 1965 and 1994 self-identify as white Christian (if you want to know why young voters are so pro-Democrat, that is why). Thus, Bill O'Reilly's worst nightmare comes to pass. America is currently undergoing a profound, and broadly based, cultural shift that holds the potential not only for a sustainable, long-term Democratic governing majority, but also for a more progressive and pluralistic society. At some point in the next ten years or fifteen years, America will no longer be a majority white Christian nation. A few years later, probably in 2024, and certainly by 2028, the American electorate will no longer be majority white Christian. Given this, if maintained, or even expanded, the Democratic advantage within each of the ethnic and religious minorities listed above will lead to a long-term Democratic governing majority over the next two or three decades.

It is my argument that Ron Paul represents the reaction against this. His is a campaign that seeks to preserve white male supremacy in America and forestall the inevitable maturation of America as an international, multicultural, equal democracy. Doubt me? Look at his racist statements. He has well known ties to racist groups and has refused to repudiate them. He opposes women's rights to control their own bodies, hates immigrants, opposes gay marriage, and thinks the Voting Rights Act sucks. In short, his "libertarianism" only applies to white men with money. And his support, I posit, is based primarily among such people, with some cover from people who don't know any better.

Even without those odious stances, Ron Paul's hatred of government alone is a major threat to women and people of color. Because of persistent discrimination - women continue to get paid less than men for the same work, and African Americans and Latinos persistently lag in household income - government-provided opportunity, from subsidized higher ed to jobs programs to universal health care to family leave and anti-discrimination legislation is essential to their success. It was no accident that it took government to help African Americans achieve political equality in the 1960s, and when the War on Poverty was operating, they began to make economic strides as well. When that effort was abruptly ended in 1969-70, it left many communities stuck in a cycle of unemployment and crime without the resources to adequately react.

Ron Paul wants to return to the 1830s, before the New Deal, before the Progressive Era, before even the  American System of Henry Clay and the Whig Party. He wants people to have NO opportunities to advance in life through government, even though government has been essential for that to happen throughout our history. His opposition to the Iraq War isn't based in a desire for global peace but a Children of Men like desire to close America off from the world around it.

Opposed to Ron Paul will be us, a diverse, pluralist progressivism. 21st century America will be VERY different from what has come before. As the US loses its place as the global power, as its economy declines, America's relationships with other countries will become more important than ever. The fiction that America is a white nation isolated from - and better than - the world will no longer be credible or possible to maintain.

The question then becomes not only how will we work with other people here in the US, but how will we do so with people abroad? Especially at a time when old racial and national identities are changing. Whites are declining as a percentage of the population and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. As the US enters a long decline, more young people will go overseas for opportunities - either for their college education or for a career. This offers opportunities for new political alliances, but also reminds us of persistent questions.

An ideal progressive leader would be someone who has not just the willingness, but also the ability, to move beyond old divides. Who doesn't see America as a white and/or Christian nation, who isn't bound up in the old identity politics but also understands that racial and gender identities are important, valuable, and can be aids, not impediments, to coalition-building. That leader may themselves be multiracial, have experience abroad - like Australia's new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who speaks fluent Chinese - and is someone who prefers to craft US foreign policy around multinational projects, not around American global dominance. That leader would be someone who can inspire not just hope, but action, and who is committed to building a progressive, inclusive future, where government is used to help people, not to help corporations, and certainly not abolished for the sake of a small group of wealthy people.

It may sound like I just described Barack Obama. To some degree I did, but I do NOT believe he is the one who will champion 21st century progressivism. He clearly represents a new direction, to a degree, in American politics toward pluralism and away from white supremacy. He believes he can build broad coalitions, although the Donnie McClurkin affair should call into question his effectiveness.

The main problem with Obama is that he is not promoting progressive policy principles, the way Ron Paul is promoting libertarian principles. Obama still believes that 20th century liberalism is viable, that government and corporations can work together for the public benefit. You see it in his health care and climate plans, for example. No, without a clear stand FOR progressive policies Obama won't be the champion we need, although he can and probably will help 21st century progressivism emerge and organize, setting up some other leader 8-12 years down the line.

If we could merge Obama's leadership possibilities with Kucinich's stand on the issues, THEN we would have something powerful. It will instead emerge in 2012, 2016, 2020 - but it WILL emerge, and it will be met with the further emergence of a white male supremacist libertarianism in the GOP.

Politics is already starting to move in this direction. Ron Paul is playing the role in the GOP that Barry Goldwater did earlier - championing a new direction for the party that later activists and leaders will consolidate. Already the GOP itself does much of what Ron Paul suggests. In both Congress and the California legislature they demand massive tax cuts and enormous spending cuts, without caring about the consequences. Ron Paul's stance on women's rights, civil rights, and gay rights are all in absolute lockstep with the GOP leadership.

True, under Reagan-Bush-Bush the GOP has been close to corporations, preferring to use government to direct largesse their way. But Ron Paul's views are very favorable to corporations, as he would protect their wealth from seizure and eliminate limits on their behavior. Corporations will, very soon, find that Ron Paul and his ideas work very well for them, and over the next 8-12 years - by the 2012 election at the soonest, the 2020 election at the latest - Ron Paul's ideas will be those of the Republican Party itself.

Meanwhile, we continue to fight to defeat the old guard within the Democratic Party, the sellouts that brought us the Iraq War and a shredded Constitution and inaction on the important issues in our lives. We fight for a progressive future.

Which are you? There are only two answers:

-Do you believe subprime is caused by foolish borrowers who should suffer, or were they victimized by a fucked up system?

-When government is abused, is the solution to end the abuse and restore virtuous government, or abolish government?

-When a hurricane hits, should people fend for themselves or have government help them?

-When your employer interrogates you, you complain and are fired, is it your fault for complaining or the employer's fault for mistreating you?

-Will unions help restore our middle class or are they decrepit relics?

-Should America embrace the rest of the world, teach our children foreign languages, or should we retreat into a Fortress America?

As I suggest above, there are only two answers - a libertarian and a progressive answer. There is no liberal third way possible any longer. We're going to have to choose.

And that's why I don't mind when I see so-called Democrats going over to Ron Paul. He isn't drawing progressives or liberals to his side. He's drawing people who at some point in the last 15 years became libertarians, whether they knew it or not. They were always going to leave us, sooner or later. Better that they leave now and let us build a pluralist progressivism without their interference.

We're returning to an era where the fight between capital and labor, between corporation and citizen, will dominate public life. And it will do so against the backdrop of a crisis - global warming, peak oil, decaying infrastructure, insufficient health care, economic decline - the likes of which few of us have ever seen.

So what future will it be, America? Ron Paul and the white supremacist libertarian nation of the 1830s? Or a pluralist progressive future?

Obviously there are important differences between US domestic politics and European domestic politics, but I wonder to what degree the European future will be characterized by a similar contest between a regressive corporatism and a renewed and reinvigorated social democracy.

Ultimately, I believe that the progressive, socially democratic American future lies in creating a strong working relationship with the rest of the world. And I believe that has political dimensions - we need to build a global political movement that links domestic political movements together to advance common causes to solve common problems. A crucial fight in the USA in the first half of the 21st century will be about whether we embrace this internationalist politics or shun it.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 05:02:26 PM EST
A Europe moving to the Right is very possible. In fact at this point it's the default outcome.

The problem is that there's no organised progressive movement in Europe. There are plenty of issue-based factions and interest groups promoting their own special interests. And plenty of oppositional protest.

But there's no single-point progressive focus for the whole of Europe.

The Right, meanwhile, has been trying to prepare and organise, and it has plenty of support on issues like immigration (i.e. xenophobia) and tax cuts (i.e. 'I've got mine - fuck you.')

Plurality is always a progressive weakness. No matter how correct we are, practical politics demands strong and charismatic leadership, or - at worst - capable and tough not-so charismatic leadership.

Policies don't just happen because they're the right choice, they have to be sold. And the Right is always much better at selling than progressives seem to be.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 07:29:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your moto is my moto.

Want to do soemthing for progessive policies? "buy media."

Your words. my words.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 08:07:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is that there's no organised progressive movement in Europe.

But there is, in fact a number of them. Most notably the Altermondialists, itself an amalgam including previous networks. Problem is, their reach is still too narrow.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Dec 4th, 2007 at 02:44:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
to build up support for this kind of movement, you need strong local backing and numbers.

to go supernational, communication defaults to english, and a glitch occurs between leaders and the grassroots they sprang from...

(this one of the best things about ET, imo, the common use of english to a surprisingly high level by so many to whom english is not mothertongue.)

my compliments (and appreciation) to all of you...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Dec 8th, 2007 at 06:47:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The outcome will also depend on how the next U.S. president responds to the first major catastrophes of the Climate Crisis on U.S. soil.  Will it be the Shock Doctrine giving the oligarchy their dictatorship?  Or will it be a return to sanity, pluralism, compassion and shared responsibility?

While I compliment this fine, thought-provoking statement,I would be careful however in formulating the two sides to avoid placing all white males or all white people in one category, even rhetorically. It really doesn't help anybody.

"The end of all intelligent analysis is to clear the way for synthesis." H.G. Wells "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." Bob Dylan

by Captain Future (captainfuture is at sbcglobal dot net) on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 07:27:20 PM EST
I agree that the climate crisis - which is already affecting us in the states (we're looking at water rationing here in CA in the next few weeks) - will help determine the outcome. I posit a political debate and struggle that'll last several decades but I agree that the next few years and particularly how we respond to these crises will shape the details and structure of that debate.

I don't believe all white males will sign up with a nativist libertarianism - as a white male myself I'm quite opposed to it. But I think that underlying Ron Paul's agenda is a defense of white male privilege. Part of building a pluralist social democracy is to show other white males that our needs can be taken care of without having to smack down other people's rights and equality.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 09:04:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
did I mention that I'm running for POTUS?  Check out  http://www.spencerforpresident2008.com  and let me know your thoughts.  Try the Summary first.

paul spencer
by paul spencer (paulgspencer@gmail.com) on Tue Dec 4th, 2007 at 04:13:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The summary hurt my eyes! Ze light, it stings!

Try perhaps a darker shade of blue...

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Dec 7th, 2007 at 09:35:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]

My comment on your post got so long I decided to post it as a separate diary. http://www.eurotrib.com/?op=displaystory;sid=2007/12/2/203732/043

It tries to present a European perspective on what is essentially an American choice.

I hope you find it interesting even if it does not agree with your conclusions.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 08:43:44 PM EST
american shock doctrine fascism.

not all regimes rest on demographic majorities.

by wu ming on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 02:12:39 AM EST
I gave that a lot of thought. Obviously I believe that is a possible future, and is pretty much our present reality. My guess, and it may be little more than that, is that the main political movements that contend for public support will be the white libertarian nativism (which has always been friendly to shock doctrine fascism) and a pluralist progressivism. Shock doctrine fascism doesn't really rely on any political base, it just terrorizes the public into accepting it as a fait accompli.

In other words, of the movements that are created to produce an America that isn't "shock doctrine fascism" the two options will be Ron Paulism and a diverse social democracy. And Ron Paulism can easily find a concordat with "shock doctrine fascism."

I don't believe demographic majorities alone produce political movements, but they will help an organized progressivism find a wider audience.

I didn't intend this piece as a complete view of our future, more to spell out the differences between white libertarian nativism and a pluralist progressivism, and why a mushy centrist liberalism is no longer possible.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 10:36:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
sometimes the ron paul phenomenon seems straight out of upton sinclair...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Dec 8th, 2007 at 06:49:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your analysis seems to draw on the idea that in the future, there will be more potential progressive voters, mainly in minority groups.

Now, it is dangerous to judge these things from across the ocean, but I always understood the US already has a large reservoir of mainly poor people who do not vote. but that has not lead to a (strong) political group more progressive than the current Democratic party.

I suppose that poor people of any ethnic descent would be at least as reliable as progressive voters as minorities, given that they stand to benefit from progressive politics, while this is much less given for minorities in general. Besides, your statistic showing young people to be more progressive can be misleading: it is widely assumed that people get more conservative as they get older and calmer ( and richer and more settled with more to lose). So your potential electorate might not be that progressive anymore in 20 years time.

So, if there are currently forces in politics that prevent your desired progressive party even though the electorate for it might be there, why do you suppose this will be different in the future?    

by GreatZamfir on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 03:48:05 AM EST
but rarely borne out in polling. reagan won the young voters in the 80s, and that cohort of late boomers-early x'ers is still voting for him today. while political realignments do happen, people's political beliefs are surprisingly durable.

voters under 35 are the most democratic generation in modern history, and liberal on a broad range of issues. as the bulk of gen y moves into the voting pool, that effect will be hard to miss.

now whether that leads to a stronger democratic party, or a growing split b/w them and a left minor party depends on what democrats do with this crisis.

by wu ming on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 04:20:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are some unstated assumptions at work:

-That as the middle class is destroyed, they'll have to choose between nativist libertarianism and pluralist progressivism, and that many will and already are choosing the latter, perhaps enough to make its politics viable.

-The sheer numerical growth in the nonwhite population is unlike anything seen in the US since it became independent. I don't believe it will alone guarantee political mobilization. But it provides opportunities that progressive activists can use, and gives reason to believe that white libertarian nativism can be beaten. "Can," not "will."

Maybe I spoke too inevitably here, but my goal was to suggest that to people dissatisfied with the direction of the nation, they really only have two options in organizing for something different. Centrist liberalism isn't viable, it's either something deeply regressive or something hopefully more inclusive.

Nothing is guaranteed or inevitable, but doors are opening.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 10:41:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I do not really understand why you expect the middle classes, and the 'middle way' in politics to be destroyed for sure. Since elcetions in the US seem to get pretty much perfect 50-50 outcomes, that suggest that politicians are very accurately aware of the median of (at least the voting part of) the public. I would suggest this gives the opinions of this middle class a very strong 'leverage': no matter what the more extreme wings think, if the middle groups shift their opinion slightly, this is immediately reflected in election outcomes, or changed party lines.

I can't help thinking that the median American voter is in fact not too unhappy with the current political situation, and that mild Republican ppolicies are exactly what they want. Even with the current Iraq backlash, political victory for the Democrats still seems far from certain, and the previous 'big shift' in Congress and Senate was, compared to the shifts in ordinary European elections, not that extreme at all.

by GreatZamfir on Tue Dec 4th, 2007 at 04:45:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the middle class as a big group spanning the median (of the voting public) is destroyed or diminished so that it no longer spans the median, the median will still matter but would move down in income and presumably be more radical.

Example: a society with three classe, 4% rich, 16% middle and 80% poor needs to keep the poor from voting or making sure their votes don't count as much. 19th century Prussia solved this by formalising the groups and giving them 1/3 of the seats each.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Dec 4th, 2007 at 09:52:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll ignore the discussions about the candidates which has made dKos into a fan club, not open to much policy discussion, and focus on what I think are the generalities being expressed.

I think there is a false dichotomy being defined. The real split (as always) is between the haves and the have-nots. In the US, until recently, the haves were WASP's (white anglo-saxon protestants). This has been broadened to now include white catholics and certain Asian groups. The have-nots disproportionately include Hispanics and blacks, but a surprisingly large sector are also WASP's (especially in the South).

Racism is one of the defining areas of discrimination and has been used successfully by the GOP to hold control of the government for most of the past 40 years. This may be changing somewhat, but the substitution of immigrants from Latin America and Muslims for blacks may just indicate a new focus.

We see a similar thing in Europe as a new wave of racism is starting to appear based upon new immigration patterns.

On the economic side the libertarians and free-marketeers have had too much influence on fiscal policy and this has resulted in gross income inequality and economic inefficiency. The current downturn may give those with a more rational outlook a chance to restore the balance, but this is not a sure thing - the Dems get their financing from big business just as does the GOP.

The next battle will be over resources. There is a possibility that the US will turn into a real police state. It is already on the way having installed the infrastructure needed to control the populace. This includes eliminating legal protections against search and seizure, unlimited surveillance, and a huge police, prison and military sector. All that needs to happen is for the government to redirect its propaganda focus from "terrorists" to domestic "subversives". The game plan is well established. It is what the Nazis did, it is what the Bolsheviks did and it is what Putin seems to be doing at the moment.

One defines a vague set of characteristics that the subversives have and then anyone who opposes those in power is lumped into the class. The US has done this, itself, several times in the past, the most notable being the Palmer Raids (10 - 15,000 imprisoned) and the Japanese-American Internment (120,000+ imprisoned).

There is a path to avoid the looming police state, but no one is willing to discuss it or work towards it. This requires that the population in the developed countries redesign their societies to be sustainable and not based upon excessive consumption. Unfortunately no politicians are willing to consider this possibility. All that we hear are various schemes as to what are the best way to promote "growth" and the need for ever stronger military power.

The DoD already has plans on how to fight the next war which is assumed to be either with China or Russia. The explicit motivation is the need to control foreign resources so that we can maintain our "national interests".

Certainly the election of one person over another can have some important effects, but these are small compared with the long-range trends that haven't changed in 100 years.  

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 09:36:28 AM EST
I think your point that classic 20th century American liberalism is no more viable due to scarcity, and due to corporations' unwillingness to go along in cooperation to provide a better future that provides for mass needs. That partly echoes 19th century Socialist and 20th century Green sentiments.

From a socialist viewpoint, I would further observe that the elephant in the kitchen is class, and, sad irony, the underlying reason corporations aren't up for cooperation is NOT scarcity, but losing fear of the masses with the death of 'Soviet-style real-existing socialism'. (E.g., 20th century liberal-corporate cooperation was originally based on fears of a revolution.)

On your title theme of only two choices, while I know this is a pointed political pamphlet and not academic discussion, I must emphatically protest: there are never only two choices. Your two-party system predestinates a dualist view on issues, but even considering two sides: there are many ways for progressives to blow it, and there may be a couple of more ways for the Repubs to fool the majority, white or not white.

On your specific choices:

-Do you believe subprime is caused by foolish borrowers who should suffer, or were they victimized by a fucked up system?

I think the fucked-up system was built on foolish borrowers. I don't believe responsibility is (ever) singular. While I won't say the foolish borrowers should suffer, they may deserve to bear some material consequence.

-When government is abused, is the solution to end the abuse and restore virtuous government, or abolish government?

The first if possible, the second if not. Crude example: the US liquor ban in the twenties. I'd say alcohol is the cause of more social problems and costs and suffering for people other than the consumers (from building walls through spouses and children to victims of road collisions) than any drug illegal at present, so government ban may be justified, but unworkable.

-When a hurricane hits, should people fend for themselves or have government help them?

Here I very clearly favour the second, with the quibble that government should mandate beforehand that people be prepared individually too, with zoning laws in endangered areas and laws on stocking supplies and such.

-When your employer interrogates you, you complain and are fired, is it your fault for complaining or the employer's fault for mistreating you?

Clearly the second.

-Will unions help restore our middle class or are they decrepit relics?

Unions are working class in origin, not middle class, even though they contributed to the groth of the middle-class (and that IMO more in post-WWII Western Europe than the US). Beyond push by business, I see three structural reasons behind their erosion:

  1. the growth of just the middle class since the New Deal, which is relatively well-off, and thus doesn't feel that confronting employers is vital;
  2. the growth of the service class more recently, which is employed too dispersed to effectively unionise;
  3. the corruptibility of union cadre (and I am thinking less of famous mob connections and more of bosses buying union inaction by buying union leaders).

-Should America embrace the rest of the world, teach our children foreign languages, or should we retreat into a Fortress America?

Definitely the first. Should be walid with Europe in place of America, too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Dec 4th, 2007 at 02:32:23 PM EST

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