Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Beginning of the End of Our Populist Nightmare

The backlash to the last three years of the populist, nativist moment has begun.

You can see it most clearly in Britain - where the Brexit vote constellated and presaged a global Blood and Soil movement, retreating from the global stage and building walls to international commerce and culture.

Hard-line Brexiters, willing to scrap a compromise that innevitably hurts Britain, given that there is no leave option that can honestly help, may be pushing the public to support Remain, writes Jenni Russell in the New York Times.

After two years, it's finally dawning on the general British public that the populist promise of a pain-free Brexit producing an economic boon was nothing but a bunch of hooey, sold by power-hungry pols. Britain was already booming before the self-inflicted Brexit wounds. The compromise will be worse, and if Brexiters get their wish of a hard exit, potentially economically disastrous. Now the reality is dawning.

There are those still willing to push Britain off a cliff in order to see their xenophobic plans comes true. But most of Britain is waking up to the idea that self-created economic chaos is not a terribly great idea.

Meanwhile, in the US, Trump now has to contend with a newly energized Democratic congress that was able to assemble a majority across a wide ideological spectrum, while he continues to shrink the Republican Party into a cold,  black hole of resentment, white nationalism, and todying cronyism.

One might be tempted to say that there is no similar economic nightmare scenario that Trump has wroght in the US - but one would be wrong.

As we run out the clock on the economic recovery created by Obama - and juiced for a year by the Republican party's amazingly painfully horrible tax givaway to the 1% - we are about to run out our own fiscal good luck. The debt is soaring, global trade is being eviscerated, the planet is burning, and economic indicators such as housing starts, stocks, and interest rates are starting to blink red.

There's no signal that the US downturn would be anything like a hard-exit Brexit or even the last mini-Depression. But long term, with global climate change only 22 years away from becoming a global crisis, sending millions more scrambling for refugee status, the US populists are running us headlong into economic misery again of our own making.

Heed this warning: “In some parts of the world, national borders will become irrelevant,” said Aromar Revi, director of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements and an author of the report on global climate change. “You can set up a wall to try to contain 10,000 and 20,000 and one million people, but not 10 million.”

Climate change is now inevitable, and the displacements happening today. If we continue on our present trajectory, the next twenty years will more closely resemble a dystopian combination of "Mad Max" and "Z" than the pleasant multi-cultural prosperity on Star Trek. And it may be something that the next President of the US seriously has to deal with.

The Camp Fire engulfs Paradise

The Democrats won their majority on the issue of healthcare, but as other Trumpian follies come to the fore, the full scale of the present populist moment of self-inflicted wounds will become as obvious as they have in Britain.

The solutions for these problems won't come from this White House or this flawed President's recidivist thinking. They will require global cooperation, local engagement, political moderation, complicated compromise, free trade, ethical leadership, common sacrifice, respect for diversity, environmental custodianship, and humanitarian compassion. All qualities of our liberal democracy that have gone up in flames in the trash fire of this administration.

No doubt, our public will wake up from this present Trumpian nightmare as well. My only fear - it will be too late.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Four REAL Take-Away's from Tuesday's Midterm Elections

Forget what pundits are saying on CNN and in the NY Times.

This was not a repudiation of Trump and Trumpism.

This was not a re-alignment of the parties.

Let's look at what really happened in this election.

1. The South is Still the South

Democrats lost major races with charismatic candidates in Florida, Georgia, and Texas. Their strategy was built on turning out progressives and tapping in to the growing demographic shift in these southern states.

They fell short, and Florida once again showed it's really part of the South.

While demographics will continue to shift the Democrats way, now Republicans will have the chance to shore up and gerrymander their way to retaining control of the Old South for the next ten years. Florida especially was a major loss with implications for 2020 and beyond.

2. Blue-color Suburban Workers Voted their Pocketbooks, not their Values

Is the suburban Eisenhower Republican now a thing of the past, as extinct as the DoDo?

No, not really.

Yes, the wealthy, leafy suburban districts in New Jersey, New York, and California flipped Democratic, but don't fool yourselves. Those wealthy suburbanites with five acre horse farms are still card-carrying Republicans. What flipped were the blue-color, middle-class Catholic voters in closer-in, high-tax suburban enclaves that are also part of these same districts.

Those blue-collar voters in high-tax states were killed by the Republican tax "cuts." Theirs were the taxes that actually went up, and the ones most concerned about holding on to healthcare. They flipped because they've been paying through the nose for everyone else's economic "miracle."

3. The Trump Trade War Cost Him the Upper Midwest

While the Trump Street Journal crows about how Trump is really a classic Republican, they conveniently overlook all of Trump's populist, anti-conservative economic policies.

Like huge deficits

Like trade wars

Those policies have hit home in states like Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota where conservative voters like trading with Canada and China, and reigning in interest rates, more than they like bashing immigrants.

4. Democrats Won the Easy Stuff and Lost the Hard Stuff. The Next Time Won't Be So Easy

Flipping college-educated suburban voters hurt by higher taxes, scared by gun violence and antisemitism, and anxious over exploding deficits, slowing housing markets, and a plunging stock market wasn't too hard.

Trump voters don't have stock portfolios and Jewish lawyers and so don't care about those things. They are having too much fun bashing liberals.

Now all the moderates have been flipped and we are left with true deep red and blue, country and urban, two Americas that can't stand, let along talk to, each other.

Where do Democrats go from here in 2020?

In 2016, Democrats got a wake up call - they can't simply coast to elections any more. They woke up, and finally, in 2018, they organized.

But in 2020, that won't be enough.

They need to now start doing  what Republicans have been doing for 30 years - building grass roots money, activists, and think tanks, caring about and electing the right judges, controlling state houses, drawing favorable districts, and staking out sustained, simple, mass media positions that can make inroads in the general population. That is, doing hard work, day after day, to change the conversation, the election game, and the story.

Anything less and they will be sorely disappointed.