Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bearclaw meets Pancake

Appearances are a substantial part of politics.  One has to look the part,

even if one is short, pot-bellied and bald. Appearances are to humans what alpha-smell is to dogs. 

Sniffing the hormones, it was obvious that Sanders lost Wednesday night’s debate with Clinton.  He looked like a wet bunny who had been hit on the back of its head while Mme. Clinton puffed and strutted on stage like a cock.

Clinton was full of double-daring and aggro-victimhood.  “Enough is enough” she cried, as if her patience were truly exhausted beyond human endurance at having to put up with “insinuations” that she was Goldman’s Girl.

Mark Hannah's Boy

One could but feel for poor President McKinnley...

But instead of ripping Hillary a third asshole, Sanders just hunkered down and mumbled that money had too much influence in politics. 

Hillary’s reply the previous day that she had accepted $650,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sacks because “that’s what they offered” was the kind of clueless insouciance that has marked others in history with indelible infamy. In Hillary’s case the cluelessness was faux and Sanders ought to have raked her over her words seven times over.  He didn’t.

Far worse, was Sander’s complete failure rally his own cause and define himself as the standard-bearer for American “progressives."

The issue came up when Clinton was asked if she considered herself a “progressive.”  With shameless sophistry, Clinton replied that she did because she believed in making progress.

By that definition, Louis XIV, Peter the Great and Herr Autobahn himself were “progressives.”  But that is not what the word means in U.S. political history.  In terms of this country’s historical traditions, “progressivism” has a defined ideological meaning which neither Clinton nor Obama meet.

By the end of the 19th century, it was obvious to most disinterested people that laissez faire capitalism was corrosive to civil society and that economic individualism had to be replaced with mechanisms of economic responsibility.

Voices as disparate as Bismarck’s and Pope Leo X called for an end to predatory capitalism and for measures that would guarantee the economic security and social welfare of the working class.  As Bismarck stated,

The real grievance of the worker is the insecurity of his existence;... If he falls into poverty, even if only through a prolonged illness, he is then completely helpless, left to his own devices,

Before century’s close, Germany had enacted health insurance (1883), accident insurance (1884)  old age and disability (1889) and  worker protections (1891). These were of course first steps but significant enough that the flow of German emmigration to America was stopped.

Why should not the labor soldier receive
a pension as much as the veteran?

Bismarck’s programs were dubbed state socialism.  Unlike Marxist socialism, they did not call for the abolishment of capitalism but rather for government regulated “cooperation” between capital and labor for the benefit of that nation as a whole.  Both sides of the class divide had responsibilities to one another and to the commonwealth as an organic entity.

In the United States, such ideas began to take hold under a call for a New Nationalism to replace antiquated notions of “state sovereignty” and unregulated private enterprise.

By the 1880’s, corporate power, assisted by corrupt legislatures and a reactionary judiciary, had completely subverted any meaningful existence of “democracy.” Not surprisingly social and cultural deterioration ensued.  Around the country, under the banner of “progressivism,” reformist movements strove to correct various perceived failings in the system. 

Two key players emerged: Herbert Croly the intellectual and Theodore Roosevelt, the politician.  It is typically said that Roosevelt’s famous New Nationalism speech in Osawatomie Kansas (August 1910) was “influenced” by Croly’s book The Promise of American Life (November 1909)

However, Croly’s book itself discusses various “nationalist” and trust-busting reforms Roosevelt had advocated as president. The truth is that Croly and Roosevelt played off one another, reinforcing each other’s goals until their partnership ended in 1916.

Croly was frankly impressed by Bismarck’s national reforms which he felt had far exceed in scope and effect the merely liberal ameliorations tepidly introduced in France and England.

"The German Empire presents still another phase of the relation between democracy and nationality,  ...    She is at the present time a very striking example of what can be accomplished for the popular welfare by a fearless acceptance on the part of the official leaders of economic as well as political responsibility, and by the efficient and intelligent use of all available means to that end.  ... ".
Given the traditions and temperament of Americans, Croly envisioned a democratic "bottom up" version of Bismark's "top down" socialism. 

Like Bismarck’s state socialism, the essence of Croly and Roosevelt’s progressive, new nationalism was a rejection of the concept of the state as the mere container of competing selfish interests.  Rather, government stood for and in service of an overarching commonwealth from which all parties derived benefits but to which all parties owed responsibilities.   As articulated by Roosevelt,

"Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights.... Nor should this lead to awar upon the owners of property."
"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.   ...

"One of the chief factors in progress is the destruction of special privilege.   ...  At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition of progress.

"In our day it appears as the struggle of freemen to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will.

"...  our government, national and State, must be freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests.   ...  so now the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit.

"Combinations in industry are the result of an imperative economic law which cannot be repealed by political legislation. The effort at prohibiting all combination has substantially failed. The way out lies, not in attempting to prevent such combinations, but in completely controlling them in the interest of the public welfare."

These principles became the under-structure of Roosevelt’s Progressive Party which he co-founded in 1912.   Because, by 1912, the United States was so utterly out-of wack and behind the times both politically and economically (although not in the accumulation of private profits), much of the Progressive Party’s platform sounds merely reformist and ad hoc. Indeed Croly felt that it did not go far enough.

But Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism” went beyond tinkering at the edges and beyond calling for government to merely be “the chief almoner of the nation” (as Justice McReynolds would later scathingly characterize FDR’s plan for social security).  Roosevelt’s progressive platform rejected Jeffersonian individualism as the beacon of U.S. politics in favor of  a more socially unitary concept of the state as “the family of us all” in which all segments played co-responsible parts.  As Roosevelt put it from porch of the railroad car,

"The right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted. Let us admit also the right to regulate the terms and conditions of labor, which is the chief element of wealth, directly in the interest of the common good.

"The national government belongs to the whole American people, and where the whole American people are interested, that interest can be guarded effectively only by the national government.

"The New Nationalism puts the national need before sectional or personal advantage. It is impatient of the utter confusion that results from local legislatures attempting to treat national issues as local issues. It is still more impatient of the impotence which springs from overdivision of governmental powers, the impotence which makes it possible for local selfishness or for legal cunning, hired by wealthy special interests, to bring national activities to a deadlock.

"This New Nationalism regards the executive power as the steward of the public welfare. It demands of the judiciary that it shall be interested primarily in human welfare rather than in property, just as it demands that the representative body shall represent all the people rather than any one class or section of the people.
That was the banner Sanders supposedly raised with his advocacy of “democratic socialism.”   That was the banner Sanders let fall to the ground with his failure to nail Clinton on her weaseling definition of “progressive.”

When Sanders agreed that Obama was a progressive he all but undercut the raison d’etre of his own candidacy.   If Obambi is a progressive, then vote for Hillary because there is hardly a wit of difference between the two.  Both (as Hillary correctly pointed out) were recipients of Wall Street’s largesse.  Both are as much “Mark Hannah’s Boys” as McKinley.    Teddy Roosevelt would never, ever have said (as Obama did ) that he did “not begrudge” Lloyd Blankenfein or Jamie Dimon their billions.

No real progressive would have shrugged off the colossal, disparate accumulation of wealth with Obambi's insulting insouciance “That’s part of the free market system,"

We were loathe and reluctant to believe those more cynical observers on the  U.S. left who from the start denounced Sanders as a mere stalking horse for the DNC, who would get  younger voters all enthused only to switch the bait once Hillary rode her triumphal chariot into the convention hall.   (Ave! Ave!)   But his performance the other night was so tepid and pathetic that one is left thinking that perhaps the cynics were right.


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