The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 15, 2016

The week’s news was dominated by the summit meeting between Paul Ryan and Donald Trump. Going in to the big meeting, Ryan’s staff had an office pool:

COW Office Pool

The GOP feels that the boys will paper over their differences:

COW Paper Over














After the meeting, the Very Reverend Elephant abandoned his scruples:

COW GOP Marriage


Trump now says that the GOP is behind him:

COW GOP Behind Me

Donald’s General Election strategy is to promise only what fits on a ball cap:

COW Promises


Obama Is Visiting Hiroshima on May 27th

When the US president travels, he is accompanied by the “Nuclear Football”, a briefcase containing the nuclear launch codes. Here is a photo of the Football:


The Football allows him to order nuclear war despite being away from the White House or away from a US military installation. It is beyond ironic that Mr. Obama will be visiting Hiroshima Japan as part of the G-7 Summit meeting, and will bring along the Nuclear Football to his May 27th tour of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Obama will also bring a political to Hiroshima. No sitting American president has visited the site of the only nuclear weapon dropped in anger. The question is should he apologize for America dropping the bomb? What should he say to survivors and victim’s relatives?

And back home, what would he say to the veterans and their families who gave and lost so much?

Conservatives are revving up the “Apology Tour” meme. It gives them a free shot at Hillary, while allowing Trump to tout his truculence, by telling us once again that he “never apologizes.”

The Asahi Shimbun English (on line version) is making it clear that Obama will not apologize while in Japan. In fact, although he will be accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Abe, there will be no major speech, and no meeting with the Japanese A-bomb survivors. According to White House Press Spokesman Josh Earnest, there will a wreath-laying and remarks underlining a “look back” at the events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

So, the political football will be how Obama tip-toes between the natural human reaction to so much innocent death, and his role as Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most powerful military, the one that caused all that death 70 years ago.

Obama makes this an issue by going to Hiroshima. There would seem to be no point to the visit unless he intended to use it to make a gesture, such as indicating some level of regret or expressing sympathy for the victims (he should express sentiments short of an apology) and/or to speak about the need foster peace going forward.

Without a clear political or diplomatic objective, his visit merely reopens a long-festering wound in Japan. Although the Japanese have plenty of blood and atrocities on their hands, our use of nuclear weapons is an order of magnitude worse than anything the Japanese did.

The nuclear airburst was a deliberate targeting of civilians with the most powerful weapon ever created, for the sole purpose of fostering civilian terror. Obama could restate that no country should ever consider using nuclear weapons against civilians again, even if he cannot provide an apology.

We set a terrible precedent with the first use of nuclear weapons. Those attacks have enshrined our place in history as the first, and only nation ever to use these weapons in war. It’s a miracle that we have survived the false alarms and crises that could have easily led to nuclear exchanges between the US, its allies and the USSR. We still live under a cloud of potential devastation that could result from nuclear exchanges between India and Pakistan. And yet, we are now busy modernizing and upgrading our nuclear weapons (long after they’ve been recognized as having no essential military value).

Nobody can say for certain that the decision to bomb Hiroshima did or did not bring about a faster end to the war. But we can say that the Americans firebombing Tokyo or the Brits firebombing Cologne or Dresden, all of which caused hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, are not morally equivalent to dropping nukes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Obama will speak at Hiroshima. He will probably offer thoughts as a father, acknowledging the horror that occurred at an earlier time in the history of conflict between the two countries. It is important, as is the acknowledgement that the countries have been allies for what is now a very long time. They now have a common competitor in China, and their joint future is more important than their history in WWII.

Obama will attempt to square the circle, saying that use of nuclear weapons is a terrible, immoral thing, but he can’t forswear their future use without damning Hillary to second place. He can’t apologize for the US dropping nukes without turning the US military against the Democrats.


And You Know That It’s Right

Last week Andy Newman died. You need to be as old as Wrongo to know who he was, but it’s likely you have heard the 1969 song “Something in the Air”, or of the group who recorded it, Thunderclap Newman. Back then, if you weren’t on the LBJ/Nixon Establishment team, you wanted change. Wrongo was discharged from the US Army in 1969. 1969 was Woodstock, the first man on the moon, Vietnam, the Manson family, the Black Panthers, and the 500,000 person march on Washington,

The song captured a moment.

The group was the idea of Pete Townshend, and he plays bass on “Something”. The guitarist was Jimmy McCulloch, who went on (in 1974) to be the lead guitarist in Paul McCartney’s band, Wings, and compose the song “Medicine Jar” for the album “Venus and Mars”.  McCulloch died at 26 from a morphine and alcohol overdose.

This is a blip in rock and roll history, but the track survives. It was covered by Tom Petty. Wilco has performed it live for years. Steely Dan performs it live on tour as well. The song has been used in many movies, including The Magic Christian (1969), Almost Famous (2000) and The Girl Next Door (2004), and in commercials for Coca-Cola and British Airways.

It was written by Speedy Keen, who had been Townshend’s chauffeur. Andy Newman was the piano player for Thunderclap Newman, the nickname coming in high school from his heavy-handed playing style. He did not have a long career in music. After this one-hit wonder, he became an electrician.

Here is the song:

Some lyrics:

Call out the instigators
Because there’s something in the air
We’ve got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution’s here, and you know it’s right
And you know that it’s right

1969 and 2016 are similar. It doesn’t matter who wins the presidency this year, there will still be widespread anger and discontent, the populace is no longer willing to accept political lip service instead of solutions. And they want the two Americas that the rich and powerful have foisted on us to be more equal.

Lock up the streets and houses
Because there’s something in the air
We’ve got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution’s here, and you know it’s right
And you know that it’s right

The difference between then and now is that people today no longer believe in the American dream, they are no longer on the same page. We’ve become a strange brew of very narrow interests, all competing for the ears of our politicians, but they never do anything. Back in 1969, many of us wanted change. Today, despite (or because of?) Bernie and The Donald, and the two Establishment parties, we have no change, just political chaos.

Hand out the arms and ammo
We’re going to blast our way through here
We’ve got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution’s here, and you know it’s right
And you know that it’s right

Different from 1969, we don’t have to hand out the ammo, it’s already in most homes.

But, sadly, just like in 1969, we have no answers. Bernie isn’t the answer, Trump isn’t the answer. The Establishments of both parties do not have answers.

And you know that it’s right


The Revolution WILL Be Televised

There is a lot of talk that the 2016 election is the start of a political rebellion in the US. We see the large, enthusiastic Sanders/Trump crowds, and the candidates’ relative success with winning primary elections, and have to ask:

  • Will it remain a political rebellion, one that expresses itself through the electoral process?
  • Will it continue beyond the 2016 election, assuming an Establishment candidate wins?

It began with the failure of the US economy to add permanent jobs for the middle class, and the lower classes after the Great Recession. Our column outlining that all jobs created since 2005 were temporary or contractor jobs showed that people are living paycheck to paycheck, but fewer have benefits, and all are afraid that they could be out of work with any personal or economic hiccup.

And wages are not rising the way corporate profits are, as this chart shows:

Corp Profits to HH income

So, fewer jobs as an employee, and no change in household income. More risk, no more money. Life for the average person in the US is harder and more frightening for a large group of people. Maybe they are not yet a critical mass of voters, but there are enough angry people that the Establishment political machines may be disrupted.

Since many see the worsening of the life of the middle class to be permanent, there is little reason for hope if you are on the fringe of our society. So, we’re watching that play out in the 2016 electoral race.  People are finally getting tired of one or the other of these two campaign pitches:

  • We are the greatest nation on earth, but only if we elect candidate X, because candidate Y will ruin us
  • Or, you can’t have a good job with dignity, or good schools, or ask us to address any other of our serious problems, because we can’t afford it and people won’t pay more taxes

And as Gaius Publius says, there’s no other way to see the Sanders and Trump insurgencies except as a popular rebellion, a rebellion of the people against their “leaders.” On the Sanders side, the rebellion is clearer. Sanders has energized voters across the Democratic-Independent spectrum with his call for a “political revolution,” and that message is especially resonant with the young. From The Guardian:

Analyzing social survey data spanning 34 years reveals that only about a third of adults aged 18-35 think they are part of the US middle class. Meanwhile 56.5% of this age group describe themselves as working class.

Fewer Millennials (who number about 80 million in the US) are describing themselves as middle class. The number has fallen from 45.6% in 2002 to a record low of 34.8% in 2014. Ms. Clinton will need to rely on Sanders supporters falling in behind her – and faced with the prospect of a Trump presidency, many may do so. She also intends to try to win over “moderate” Republicans, assuming that the Bernie voters have nowhere to go.

That might work, since as Benjamin Studebaker says, Clinton is arguably closer to the Republican establishment than are Trump or Cruz. In fact, the Democratic and Republican establishments are both closer to each other than either is to its own anti-establishment wing.  Consider that Clinton and the Republican Establishment both:

  • Support the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP)
  • Support immigration reform
  • Support foreign aid
  • Oppose Medicare for all
  • Oppose tuition free college
  • Oppose a $15 minimum wage

It would not be unreasonable for moderate Republicans to conclude that Clinton is closer to their ideological needs than are Trump or Cruz. Clinton may play for the other team, but at least she’s in their league.

The Establishments of both parties have no vision when it comes to solving income stagnation for the 99%, or solving our crippling health care cost increases, the trade treaty fiasco, and the military establishment’s continued sucking of more and more money from our budget.

These cumulative burdens will break people’s belief in a better, more secure future. Either policy changes are enacted by the next Establishment president and Congress, or things could start to come unglued.

Which means that for almost every one of us, this could be the most consequential electoral year of our lives.

So, the Establishment wings of both parties need a Monday wake-up call. Here to rouse them from slumber is Iris DeMent with “Livin’ in the Waste Land of the Free”:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.


“The Oven is Preheating, But Your Goose is Not Yet Cooked.”

The quote above is from “City on Fire” (Knopf, 2015) a novel by Garth Risk Hallberg that describes NYC in the 1970s when it was both dangerous and in decay. And it aptly describes the current phase of American politics. What we are seeing with Trump, and to a lesser extent with Sanders, is that angry white working class people have decided to overturn our election process.

Maybe not in 2016, but certainly by 2020.

It shouldn’t be difficult to understand, since wages for working class white males peaked in 1968, 48 years ago. For their entire working lives, conditions for working class males have been getting worse. Here is a chart from the WSJ:

White Men in Labor Force

For white working-class men in their 30s and 40s, in what should be the prime decades for working and raising a family, participation in the labor force dropped from 96% in 1968 to 79% in 2015. Over that same period, the portion of these men who were married dropped from 86% to 52%. (The numbers for nonwhite working-class males show declines as well, though not as steep, and not as continuous.)

More from the WSJ:

In today’s average white working-class neighborhood, about one out of five men in the prime of life isn’t even looking for work; they are living off girlfriends, siblings or parents, on disability, or else subsisting on off-the-books or criminal income. Almost half aren’t married, with all the collateral social problems that go with large numbers of unattached males.

In these communities, about half the children are born to unmarried women, with all the problems that go with growing up without fathers. Drugs also have become a major problem outside of urban areas, in small towns and in the suburbs.

During the same half-century, American corporations exported millions of manufacturing jobs, which were among the best-paying working-class jobs. They were (and are today) predominantly men’s jobs.

The share of the total income of the bottom 80% of US households vs the top 20% of households also peaked in 1968: 57.4% vs 42.6%. As of 2014, the share of total household income of the top 20% has increased from 42.6% to 51.2%, while that of the bottom 80% has declined to 48.8%.

So in 1968, the combined share of the bottom 80% of household income was 14.8% greater than that of the top 20%. In 2014, it was only 2.4% less. That is a 17.2% negative swing. So, the quality of life for the average white male peaked in 1968.

And it’s not just men. Poor women are angry too. One thing everyone in the lower rungs of the ladder (the bottom 50% of the household income scale) have in common is that most of them now realize they are getting screwed. The numbers of white working-class voters will dip to just 30% of all voters by 2020. This is a dramatic decline from 1988, when white working-class voters were 54% of all voters.

Trump supporters want to use political power to restore their economic position. As any aware citizen knows, you never get power exactly the way you want it. Therefore, Trump’s supporters think they need to overturn our established politics to make change, and that can only happen if they follow an authoritarian like The Donald. A good current example of this is the Congress’s Freedom Caucus, who with just 40 members, have thrown out a Speaker of the House, and plan to drive the federal legislative process.

Contrast this with the American Civil Rights movement, which was ideologically diverse, incompletely successful, but mainstreamed in our politics. It negotiated a better life for African-Americans. But today’s white underclass are through playing the long game. They do not plan to struggle for as long as the black underclass did, and they are believe that working within the system is futile.

Remember, most of them are armed. Our concern meter should be dialed up to 11.

America is starting to look like a pre-revolutionary society. Life today shouldn’t be “black ties matter.” Unregulated capitalism makes for a mean culture, and today, it is dominating us.

So, the oven is preheating. There is still time to avoid cooking our goose, but we have had a president who called himself a “uniter, not a divider” and failed. We then had a president who promised to be post-partisan, but deepened our political divisions.

And there is no political leader on the horizon who possesses the skills and message to unite us.


What Will The Anger in Today’s Politics Create?

From part one of the WaPo’s four-part article, The Great Unsettling:

So much anger out there in America.

Anger at Wall Street. Anger at Muslims. Anger at trade deals. Anger at Washington. Anger at police shootings of young black men. Anger at President Obama. Anger at Republican obstructionists. Anger about political correctness. Anger about the role of big money in campaigns. Anger about the poisoned water of Flint, Mich. Anger about deportations. Anger about undocumented immigrants. Anger about a career that didn’t go as expected. Anger about a lost way of life. Mob anger at groups of protesters in their midst. Specific anger and undefined anger and even anger about anger.

And more:

In this season of discontent, there were still as many expressions of hope as of fear. On a larger level, there were as many communities enjoying a sense of revival as there were fighting against deterioration and despair.

We do not really know which party will pay the piper in November; the results are not even close to being knowable. Right now, the middle ground between the two parties has become more permeable than ever before in living memory, in large part due to failed expectations by both parties.

The Democratic Party has a deep fault line between its FDR-inspired branch, and its corporatist branch, represented these days by Hillary Clinton, which uses a surface fealty to social issues to differentiate it from the Republicans.

The country lucked out with FDR. He was a pragmatist, with no love of theory, and a willingness to entertain any idea on the basis of whether it would “work” or not. He was better than most other pols because, more than any other president after Lincoln, he was willing to look objectively at the ideas proposed by the left. Here is FDR on October 31, 1936, reflecting on his first term:

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace–business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.

FDR was also willing to look at right wing ideas. In fact, he campaigned in 1932 on the promise of balancing the budget, an idea that could have been catastrophic. He revived the idea in his second term, almost sinking the New Deal, but the better ideas won out.

By contrast, the Republican Party is a collection of “high-minded” people, each with an obsession from which she/he cannot be dissuaded; like believing that tax cuts create massive GNP growth, or as Donald Trump believes, America can have tax cuts, undertake a huge military buildup and balance the budget without any cuts in benefits to Americans over 55.

Republicans continue to think the US is a “Christian” nation, they think only English should be spoken, and that all immigrants should be deported, and some believe that the 16th Amendment (allowing the federal government to levy taxes) should be repealed.

By contrast, the Democratic Party is a coalition of broad-minded people, trying always to stitch together interest groups and their needs with a leader of consequence to deliver change.

There are two schools of political thought when it comes to elections:

  1. Vote for the person, not the party
  2. Vote for the party, not the person

Democrats believe in #1, while Republicans believe in #2. This is why R’s will accept Trump as a presidential candidate, and it is why Dems think that is a crazy idea.

But Republicans didn’t count on Donald Trump, or his hostile takeover of their Party.

The question for the rest of 2016 is whether all of the manifest anger expressed by Americans will be put to good use, or if it will be used to give voice to thuggery and racism (Trump) or religious extremism (Cruz).

Public service is a duty and the calling doesn’t come quickly or easily. And that high-mindedness is absent in those that go into politics to gain personal wealth and power, like The Donald, or most of those in Congress.


Notes on the Supreme Court Nominee

(Wrongo is watching the NCAA Basketball tournament. This takes a yuuge amount of time, and beer. Therefore, this is a brief, poorly researched post. Luckily, it has a great cartoon!)

Obama has nominated a potential new justice, Merrick Garland. Now, the ball is in the GOP’s court to consent or not:

COW 2040

The smart move by the GOP would be to schedule or hold confirmation hearings so it looked as if Garland Merrick has a shot.

Of course, it would be smart, if the GOP Senators hadn’t already staked out the position of “no hearings, no votes, no nothing” the day after Scalia died. The problem is that some of these Republican Senators have their primaries as late as August, so they have to fend off attacks from their right flank until then.

Going back on their position now would give their further-right opponents something to run on, and they really don’t want that. So they will want to delay any hearings until after August, at which point we’re into election season, and, it gets easier to say “we’re holding hearings” even though you’ve spent months giving the media quotes about why there would be no hearings. If there are no hearings, the Dems get to target those Republican Senators who are in tight races, saying that they are simply blocking the nomination because they hate Obama, an idea that doesn’t test well with independents.

McConnell could have said, of course there will be hearings, but that Obama shouldn’t expect any of his nominees to get confirmed because of “grave concerns” that the Republicans in the Senate had about the politics of a confirmation battle during an election year, how they prefer not to turn the Court process into presidential partisan politics.

In other words, he should have taken the high road. Instead, he just said “NO”, (like Nancy Reagan did, and we know how great that worked out).

Mitch the Turtle made the GOPs red meat base happy, but has also made this into a mess that makes the GOP look as petty and incompetent as possible. A big part of the value of the Garland nomination is that he comes “pre-approved” by prominent Senate Republicans which forces their hand: Either cave on their obstruction threats (which would frustrate their base) or see their empty posturing exposed for what it is.

Either way they look like chumps.

The Garland nomination could help increase turnout against the GOP in the general election, and put a few Senate races in play.


Careful What You Wish For in The Primaries

After Super Tuesday, Part Three, it is hard to see how anyone but Trump wins the GOP nomination. But given that there are still powerful forces who stand against him being the Republican presidential candidate, the fight will continue, particularly if he doesn’t win enough delegates in the primary season to win on the first ballot.

On the Democratic side, Hillary won big. As of this writing, all of the delegates have not yet been awarded, but so far, Clinton has won the race 326/220 (60%/40%). As primary night wore on, Wrongo heard many Dems saying how happy they would be to run against Donald Trump in the general election.

Dems should be careful what they wish for. It isn’t a completely new phenomenon for Dems to root for a Republican presidential candidate that they perceived to be an easy target, and be wrong.

Think back to 1968. This wasn’t a great year for Dems, considering that the convention was held in Chicago during a year of riots in more than 100 cities following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Both Kennedy and Sen. Eugene McCarthy had been running against the eventual Democratic presidential nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey. There was violence on the convention floor, outside the convention center and at Grand Park.

With all that going on, it is doubtful that Dems paid much attention to the GOP primary contest, but they were relieved when Nixon was nominated. After all, a Democrat had beaten him in 1960 (JFK) and 1962, when Nixon lost the California gubernatorial election to Pat Brown, and famously said: “You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.

But, in 1968, Nixon won the popular vote by the very narrow margin of 0.7 of a percentage point, while easily winning the Electoral College, 301-191.

In 1976, Dems probably were unhappy to be running against Gerald Ford, who had replaced Nixon when he resigned in 1974, since incumbents have a strong advantage. Ford defeated Ronald Reagan by a narrow margin on the first ballot, but Jimmy Carter won the general, pitching himself as a reformer.

In 1980, Dems probably were happy to run against Ronald Reagan instead of George HW Bush, but they lost in a three-way contest.

By 1988, Dems thought George HW Bush couldn’t possibly win. But the Dems ran Michael Dukakis, and Bush won.

In 2000, Dems were delighted to be running against George W. Bush instead of John McCain, and proceeded to lose to him twice.

In 2008, no GOP candidate had a chance to win unless they repudiated the 8 years of the Bush/Cheney administration. So McCain was no longer feared by Dems.

In 2012, none of the GOP candidates came anywhere near close to being strong enough to deprive Obama of a second term.

Therefore, Democrats who want to run against the person they believe to be the weakest GOP candidate have a poor track record, one that blinds them to the weaknesses of their own candidates during the Democratic primaries.

Trump vs. Clinton is the general election race that the establishment Dems want, but it seems risky to Wrongo. Hillary isn’t an inspiring candidate, rather, she’s probably about on par with John Kerry, another career politician.

OTOH, Trump’s campaign style is almost tailor-made to defeat an elitist associated with practically every economic and political failure of the past 30 years. He now has months to refine how to go after her, and years of material to use.

So be careful what you wish for, Democrats.


Has The Progressive Moment Returned?

(This is the second and final column on the Progressive Movement)

Few issues in the history of 20th and 21st century America have inspired more disagreement than the value of the Progressive movement to our society. Our high school texts taught that it was a movement by the people to curb the power of the special interests in our government:

COW Bosses

The Bosses of the Senate by Joseph Keppler, 1889

The 1890s Progressive Movement was a response to dislocations in American life. There had been rapid industrialization of the economy, but there had been no corresponding changes in social and political institutions. Economic power had moved to ever larger private businesses, while social and political life remained centered primarily in local communities, even within rapidly growing cities, with great variability in quality of life.

But early Progressives believed that the problems society faced (poverty, violence, greed, racism, class warfare) could best be addressed by providing good education, better working conditions and an efficient workplace. The desire to regulate big business was mostly focused on creating a fair(er) deal for small businesses and workers. Others encouraged Americans to register to vote, fight political corruption, and let the voting public decide how issues should best be addressed (via direct election of senators, the initiative, and the referendum).

Essentially the struggle was a clash between the “public interest” and “corporate privilege.”

Daniel Rodgers’s Atlantic Crossings (1998), shows how European reforms at the time influenced American progressives, suggesting that the movement was not just an American phenomenon, but had roots in a European process of change. He describes the international roots of social reforms such as city planning, workplace regulation, rural cooperatives, municipal transportation, and public housing that traveled across the ocean to our shores.

This is something we see today. Populist movements from the left and the right are roiling Europe, just as they are in America.

In the mid-1930s, the New Deal allowed the country to return to a pent-up agenda of its Progressive past. Once again, we had an economic crisis, once again, the power of business was outsized versus the power of the worker.

Another Roosevelt reformer stepped into the role of Progressive-in-Chief. But where Teddy was a Republican, FDR was a Democrat. Regardless, change again ensued.

We hear Progressivism referred to as synonymous with the American welfare state. But, the original Progressives did not believe that a ‘welfare state’ was an end goal. In fact, the term ‘welfare state’ did not come into currency until the end of the 1940s, as a new label in the Republican Party’s attack on Social Security and other programs of the New Deal.

As we wrote in the review of One Nation Under God (2015) by Kevin Kruse, James Fifield, a minister who worked to bring Corporate America and Christians together said in 1935:

Every Christian should oppose the totalitarian trends of the New Deal…

Overall, Kruse’s book is an excellent analysis of how Christian fundamentalism and capitalism were conflated in the 1950s to erode the divide between church and state, re-casting Progressive political philosophy as both “un-American”, and “anti-Christian” at the same time.

Progressives were called Reds or socialists. It was a charge that would follow Progressives throughout the 20th Century, whenever Progressives returned to the cause of economic equality.

In American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation (2012), Michael Kazin shows that the US is unique among Western nations in that we never developed a viable, left-wing political movement. Unlike Europe, a progressive party has never succeeded in establishing more than a temporary foothold in American politics, despite the hysterical rhetoric of conservatives. We have had a Congressional Progressive Caucus only since 1991. It is comprised of one Senator and 75 Congress people, all Democrats.

Yet, Progressives still have had great success in shaping American society. During presidencies from LBJ to GW Bush, there was far more radical dissent in the US than at any time in the 1950s. Millions of Americans, perhaps a majority, came to reject racial and sexual discrimination, to question the need for and morality of military intervention abroad, and to worry that industrial growth might be destroying the climate.

Since Teddy Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party in 1912, Progressives have had little historic influence on electoral politics. In the earliest days of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, it was thought that his role was not to win the election, but to slip a few liberal planks into Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. But on the campaign trail, Sanders started drawing crowds of thousands, his ratings surged, and his became a Progressive moment in electoral politics.

Today, Progressivism is a cause in search of a candidate.

Many have called our time a new Gilded Age.

If so, the question then becomes whether Progressivism can once again move back into the halls of government, and be a positive force for change.


Hillary’s Under-reported Uphill Slough

Wrongo didn’t watch the Democratic debate because it was up against the series finale of “Downton Abbey”. Some think that the effort to bury the Dem debates in popular TV time slots is a conscious decision by DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, designed to make Bernie Sanders less competitive with Hillary Clinton.

Conscious or not, few people are watching these debates.

One thing that is overstated in the Democratic primary process is Bernie’s uphill slough with African Americans. The accepted pundit logic is that he does so badly with AA’s that he has no chance to win.

What is overlooked in that analysis is that the 20 primaries held so far have split 12-8 in favor of Clinton (based on who won the majority of committed state delegates). Clinton does have a big lead in delegates, 1130 to Sanders’s 499.

So, consider what Bernie has been able to accomplish. In winning 8 states, he’s exposed a Clinton weakness: She doesn’t do well among the most committed white Democrats – the kind of folks who turn out for caucuses in states like Iowa, Minnesota, and Colorado.

And then there is the under-reported uphill slough by Hillary Clinton: That the Sanders campaign is out raising Clinton’s funds. He’s raising his money from ordinary citizens (five million individual donations at this point). And, unlike Clinton, WaPo reports that he does it easily:

Sanders outraised Clinton again in February for the second month in a row, bringing in $42.7 million to her $30 million. On the last day of the month alone, he brought in $6 million online as the campaign used social media to egg on his backers to give, give and give again.

The WaPo also reported that Clinton has had to take two days off the campaign trail to raise money in California for use against Sanders in the primaries. And in a one-week stretch later this month, she is scheduled to make seven fundraising stops in six states — Georgia, Tennessee, Connecticut, Virginia, Washington and California.

Bernie’s funds-raising power has triggered concern among some Clinton allies that it will weaken her — not only because she must spend so much money competing against him, but also because he is criticizing her in ways that could dampen enthusiasm for her in the fall. She may risk donor fatigue when the general election gets under way.

Perhaps one reason why Clinton may risk donor fatigue in the late stages of the election is that she has already tapped many large potential investors. From 2013-15, she earned $21.4 million in speaking fees from 91 organizations. Those funds did not go into her campaign, or into one of her Super PACs. The funds went into her own accounts, making her a member of the 1%.

You can see the listing of the organizations that paid her an average of $235k per speech here.

As Scott Lemieux of LGM said, paying people six figures (plus luxury perks) to deliver rote speeches is one of the more egregious mechanisms by which America’s overcompensated elites reward each other.

More from Scott:

The speaking fees do not constitute quid pro quo bribes, and they will not turn Hillary Clinton into a right-winger. But they’re nonetheless one of the many ways in which the wealthy exert disproportionate influence on the political process.

So, Clinton’s uphill sloughs come first, from needing money to blunt the Sanders insurgency. She needs to take days out of campaigning to pin down more funding by the wealthy to match the funding of everyday people for Sanders. Second, she needs to explain her awesome ability to get paid by US corporations.

This hurts in a few ways: When she talks about inequality and opportunity, she often starts with canned stories of her middle class upbringing – stories which she says prove that she has more in common with the cashier than the CEO. That can’t seem genuine to many low income people.

And when Clinton’s speaking fees come up, she knows that it also rubs lots of people the wrong way. She should say something along the lines of:

This is exactly why I think people like me should pay much higher taxes in this economy, so middle-class people could pay less.

Her tax plans seem to say she believes that, but she has not used her own plan as a direct response to the speaking fees question.

Hill has two different uphill sloughs, both occurring at the same time.