Sunday, October 30, 2011

Political Spectrum, 1931 vs. 2011

[In response to Jay Ackroyd at Balloon Juice, comment, Eschaton, post, and DougJ at Balloon Juice, post. Originally posted in response to DougJ, lightly edited.]

A generation ago what Jay and Stuart are calling “centrism” and what you are calling “centrist corporatism” would have been simply called “conservatism.” Two generations ago, what you are calling “the outright insanity of conservatism” would have been called fascism.

In FDR’s time, the far right of the political spectrum was fascist and the far left was communist; the center was what FDR called liberal. Now the political spectrum is between the Tea Party Republicans—fascist in all but name—and the liberals. Unsurprisingly, then, the center of debate in Congress is what Doug has called “centrist corporatism.”

We had, until recently, lost the far left of the political spectrum, and the moderate had been marginalized. The how and why of this are not entirely clear. The anti-union activism of Reagan and his successors was part of the story, as was the fall of the Soviet Union. Probably the imperial Presidency; the intense militarism of the Cold War period, which continues to this day; and the consolidation and politicization of the national news media that was enabled by Reagan-era policies also contributed

So a big part of the story was a successful reactionary movement that has emerged into politics as “centrism.”

And now Occupy, enabled by new technology, ideology, and vaguely Gandhian tactics, brings back left anarchism. It’s an astonishing development, and one which I only dimly foresaw. In stated policy Occupy is liberal: at the popular center. But in practice it is pure left anarchist. How this will play out in electoral politics—or if it will play out, or if it will be silenced for years to come—remains to be seen.

Thinking it over, I think I see the short-term triumph of centrism. Occupy has already shifted the terms of debate far enough that the radical right looks less credible and I think this will tell in the 2012 elections. But I do not see actual liberal, or even a bit further left, policies being adopted at the Federal level for some years to come. I've been predicting 2020 as the watershed year and this still seems plausible: it will take time to raise a new generation of liberal politicians and bring the Supreme Court back to the true center. But just possibly it will be faster: if the Obama administration, like that of LBJ, decides that it is best to side with the reformers. On the other hand, it could also be slower: the reactionaries are deeply entrenched and very wealthy.

How do we shift the balance? Can we?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Important Ideas Have Been Discovered—or, Rather, Rediscovered"

Mark Thoma commenting on John Cassidy's article on Keynes, link.

Paul Krugman commenting on Thoma and Cassidy in The Amnesiac Economy.

And then I read Andrew Sullivan writing about how he learned to love the "hippies" of Occupy, link. Sully says some sensible things:

The theme that connects them all is disenfranchisement, the sense that the world is shifting deeply and inexorably beyond our ability to control it through our democratic institutions. You can call this many things, but a “democratic deficit” gets to the nub of it. Democracy means rule by the people—however rough-edged, however blunted by representative government, however imperfect. But everywhere, the people feel as if someone else is now ruling them—and see no way to regain control.
This could have been written in 1931. It isn't only economists who have forgotten. Activists, commentators, and political scientists have forgotten, too.

I wonder if Occupy remembers?

Iraqi Veteran Critically Injured by Police at Occupy Oakland

The Oakland Tribune has the story.

Trying to feed the corvids, are we?

What's striking is that the decision of police to undertake action against OWS seems to bear no relationship to the conduct of the protesters. OWS seems to be a kind of Rorschach blot for local governments: they see what they want in it, and act accordingly.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Afterthought: OWS and the Overton Window

Cole, missing the point,
Now if we can just focus this energy into primary challenges and swing the Democratic members of the money party to the left

Not going to be the Democrats, John. May not be any party like we recognize. I don't see how any major US political party can win on liberalism in the current media and rhetorical environment.

I am starting to believe that electronic media has broken the forms of the US government. It is hard to escape the sense that any Presidential candidate now must act a bit like Ronald Reagan: that looking Presidential has overwhelmed executive competence as the requirement for gaining office. In the system, top to bottom, we have a triumph of symbol over substance. And so people hold liberal beliefs, but make conservative votes.

There's a lot to be thought out here, and I have only the time for occasional croaks. But what would a government for a mediated world look like?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hoocoodanode: OWS and the Overton Window

John Cole, editor and publisher of Balloon Juice, magnificently missing the point:
I have to admit to being kind of shocked that we are a month into #OWS and no one has pointed out that THIS is how you move the Overton window. Not by writing whiny blog posts about how Obama let you down. Now if we can just focus this energy into primary challenges and swing the Democratic members of the money party to the left…, post
Phoenix Woman, at Firedoglake, about a week previous:
The greatest value so far (and possibly in the long run as well) of the Occupy Wall Street movement has been not so much in the shaping of electoral politics — though it’s already starting to influence that somewhat — but in its shoving the Overton Window away from the far right end of the spectrum, far enough away to make talk of meaningful solutions possible, which is the first step towards making them politically viable, post
Editorial FAIL!

John missed it because he hates FDL so much. But there's another point: I am not sure that Occupy could have made a difference earlier. We had to get to the point where the consensus on austerity had emerged, which it did in the 10-year deficit-reduction deal, before an opposition could form. It all sounds very Hegelian.


[2011.10.20 Weasel-sentence removed.]

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Feeding Corvids: the Death Penalty

On Troy Davis:
I am struck by the way all of the highest authorities of the USA found reasons not to intervene. The Supreme Court, Congress, the President, all found reasons not to act, and now a man who is likely innocent has been killed by the state of Georgia. No citizen is safe from a corrupt state government, it appears. Why is there not more concern for your own lives and freedoms, if not compassion for Troy Davis? 
On Awlaki:
And what is to prevent any future administration from declaring any of you “enemies of the state” and ordering you killed without a trial?
On Amanda Knox:
Released, Guardian article, link.

"If Amanda Knox had been in Georgia’s legal system, she would probably be dead instead of on an airplane home."--Juan Cole, link.

But Juan, you forget that Knox is white.