Just yesterday I wrote about there being some hope of Americans across the political spectrum finding common ground. This morning, Robert Reich is thinking about the same topic. He is on a book tour through a number of red states where he finds even T-party types agree with him. They see they are being screwed and they don’t like it. They oppose crony capitalism, too-big-to-fail banks, factory farms, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and the Trans Pacific Partnership. Basically, “they see government as the vehicle for big corporations and Wall Street to exert their power in ways that hurt the little guy,” writes Reich at Salon. They want that power back:
They call themselves Republicans but many of the inhabitants of America’s heartland are populists in the tradition of William Jennings Brian.
I also began to understand why many of them are attracted to Donald Trump. I had assumed they were attracted by Trump’s blunderbuss and his scapegoating of immigrants.
That’s part of it. But mostly, I think, they see Trump as someone who’ll stand up for them – a countervailing power against the perceived conspiracy of big corporations, Wall Street, and big government.
Backing Trump is their revenge against the status quo. Trump can’t be bought, they believe. Republicans who plan to support Bernie Sanders have told me the same thing.
A couple of links I came across over the weekend gave me just a moment’s pause to think that maybe, just maybe, we are not doomed. Nancy LeTourneau at Political Animal points to a conversation Robert Reich had with a Republican former member of Congress:
Me: “So what do really you think of these candidates?”
Him: “You want my unvarnished opinion?’
Me: “Please. That’s why I called.”
Him: “They’re all nuts.”
Me: “Seriously. What do you really think of them?”
Him: “I just told you. They’re bonkers. Bizarre. They’re like a Star Wars bar room.”
Me: “How did it happen? How did your party manage to come up with this collection?”
Him: “We didn’t. They came up with themselves. There’s no party any more. It’s chaos. Anybody can just decide they want to be the Republican nominee, and make a run for it. Carson? Trump? They’re in the lead, and they’re both out of their f*cking minds.”
Me: “That’s not reassuring.”
Him: “It’s a disaster. I’m telling you, if either of them is elected, this country is going to hell. The rest of them aren’t much better. I mean, Carly Fiorina? Really? Rubio? Please. Ted Cruz? Oh my god. And the people we thought had it sewn up, who are halfway sane — Bush and Christie — they’re sounding almost as batty as the rest.”
Me: “Who’s to blame for this mess?”
Him: “Roger Ailes, David and Charles Koch, Rupert Murdoch, Rush Limbaugh. I could go on. They’ve poisoned the American mind and destroyed the Republican Party.
So maybe there is some common ground out there.
It was their party and they’ll cry if they want to. Centrist Democrats threatened by the party’s Warren Wing find themselves out of step with a more populist message. Is it really a “lurch” to the left, or are Democrats beginning to find their voices again? Liberal is no longer the epithet conservatives once made it.
The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank explained last week how a few remaining Blue Dogs made protest votes during the election for Speaker of the House. “Colin Powell,” declared Tennessee Democrat Jim Cooper. “Jim Cooper,” voted Gwen Graham of Florida, another centrist Democrat. Other Democrats voted in unison for Nancy Pelosi. Except for Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. She voted for Rep. John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat.
Third Way, “a vestige of the New Democratic movement,” issued a report that blames the populist wing for the Democrats losing ground and registration since 2008. Democrats should “rigorously question the electoral value of today’s populist agenda,” Third Way argues. Milbank is not so sure:
It was a good effort, but Third Way came up short. First, there really aren’t two wings of the party anymore; the pro-business Democrats have lost. “There’s zero question,” Jonathan Cowan, president of Third Way, acknowledged in an interview Tuesday, “that the party is now a populist party.”
It’s also dubious to say, as Third Way does, that the elections of 2010, 2012 and 2014 were about Democratic populism; that theme has only become prominent recently. Also suspect is the Third Way argument, often heard from corporate interests, that reducing inequality could hurt growth. Plenty of evidence says otherwise.
Because as Charlie Pierce observed yesterday, “America is the greatest country ever invented to be completely out of your mind,” we’re suffering a little insanity overload this morning.
Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s emergency appendectomy gave him a chance to experience America’s “best in the world” health care system this week. Raw Story:
The host said he periodically fainted from the pain of a perforated appendix, but the nurse told him he was not allowed to faint in the waiting area and should instead go to triage to lose consciousness.
“You’re telling me where I can and cannot faint?” he said.
Noah was finally taken, trembling with pain, to another room for treatment — where he was followed by the same nurse, who brought still more forms and asked how he would be paying for treatment of his life-threatening condition.
“With my life, clearly,” he said.
She decided because she recognized Noah from the billboards that he could pay whether or not he had insurance.
Credit Mary Shelley with the “creation gone wrong” trope. Or perhaps Genesis. Yet, the evil mega-corporation is as much a staple of popular fiction as the radiation-spawned monstrosities and failed experiments we grew up with at matinees as kids. Omni Consumer Products (OCP) from Robocop, for example, Ridley Scott’s Tyrell Corporation from Blade Runner, or the Weyland-Yutani Corporation (“The Company”) from his Alien films. All fictional. But like those, it seems the real beasties are neither biological nor technological, but legal.
Enter TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The full text was released yesterday, but as a series of PDFs. The Washington Post has made the full agreement searchable. (Note: some English spellings are internationalized.) At Vox, Timothy Lee explains that it may take a month to examine and sort out its impact:
But the agreement is also a lot more than a trade deal. It has more than two dozen chapters that cover everything from tariffs to the handling of international investment disputes. The reason these deals have gotten so complex is that people realized that they were a good vehicle for creating binding international agreements.
Modern trade deals include a dispute settlement process that helps ensure countries keep the commitments they make under trade deals. If one country fails to keep its commitment, another country can file a complaint that’s heard by an impartial tribunal. If the complaining country prevails, it can impose retaliatory tariffs on the loser.
Following on the heels of last week’s New York Times three-part series on how arbitration agreements have essentially privatized the courts to the benefit of corporations and to the harm of consumers, one wonders how much more extra-judicial authority TPP may be handing our budding Weyland-Yutanis in shifting power from the people to the plutocrats. How much of the thousands of pages is fine print?
Weird municipal election this week. Maybe we should change it to “Friday can of worms”?
A friend who worked for a local news crew once got to ride with police officers practicing tactical driving on the training center’s skid pad. “You do not want to mess with them afterwards,” he told me. “They are so pumped full of adrenaline they could really hurt you.” One officer admitted that once while swinging his nightstick to knock a fleeing suspect off his feet, he had broken the man’s arm.
Adrenaline. Is that all there is to it?
“To be honest, I was afraid,” Rivera said. “I saw them get out of their car with nightsticks. I heard one of them call me a spic. I hadn’t done anything wrong, so I took off. I shouldn’t have, but I was scared of them.”
Given recent, highly publicized police encounters, he may have had reason to be scared.
How far down the rabbit hole have we gone that Republican candidates for president think they are entitled to a list of demands from networks hosting debates (and I use that term reservedly) that would make rock bands blush? (Remember, no brown M&Ms.) The Washington Post obtained the list. Here are just a few:
- Will there be questions from the audience or social media? How many? How will they be presented to the candidates? Will you acknowledge that you, as the sponsor, take responsibilities for all questions asked, even if not asked by your personnel?
- Will there be a gong/buzzer/bell when time is up? How will the moderator enforce the time limits?
- Will you commit that you will not:
- Ask the candidate to raise their hands to answer a question
- Ask yes/no questions without time to provide a substantive answer
- Allow candidate-to-candidate questioning
- Allow props or pledges by the candidates
- Have reaction shots of members of the audience or moderators during debates
- Show an empty podium after a break (describe how far away the bathrooms are)
- Use behind shots of the candidates showing their notes
- Leave microphones on during the breaks
- Allow members of the audience to wear political messages (shirts, buttons, signs, etc.). Who enforces?
- What is the size of the audience? Who is receiving tickets in addition to the candidates? Who’s in charge of distributing those tickets and filling the seats?
- What instructions will you provide the audience about cheering during the debate?
- What are your plans for the lead-in to the debate (Pre-shot video? Announcer to moderator? Director to Moderator?) and how long is it?
- What type of microphones (lavs or podium)?
- Can you pledge that the temperature in the hall be kept below 67 degrees?
Dude, can I get on the “guest list” and a backstage pass to hang out with the band?