The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Who Has the Answer For 2016?

We have entered the presidential election year, but we, the people, really do not see any candidate as the answer to our problems. Voters on both sides of the aisle think the country needs to turn a page. We are frightened and angry, and increasingly feel that the two parties have no answers to our questions about tomorrow.

The Democrats say the choice is Hillary or Bernie.

The Republicans say we should choose between Trump, Marco, Ted or Jeb!

Consider what Tom Friedman said in Wednesday’s NYT: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The agenda that could actually make America great again would combine the best ideas of the extreme left and the extreme right. This year is probably too soon for such a radical platform, but by 2020 — after more extreme weather, after machines replace more middle-class jobs, after more mass shootings and after much more global disorder — voters will realize that our stale left-right parties can’t produce the needed answers for our postindustrial era.

Ok, agreed! Friedman argues that it’s time for an extremist, a nonpartisan, whose platform draws ideas from both sides. To give Friedman his due, he outlines a fairly radical agenda that includes universal health care, a form of income guarantee for low wage earners, increased military spending along with some unintelligible tax reform:

Slash all corporate taxes, income taxes, personal deductions and corporate subsidies and replace them with a carbon tax, a value-added consumption tax (except on groceries and other necessities), a tax on bullets and a tax on all sugary drinks — with offsets for the lowest-income earners.

A Value-added Tax? Instead of a progressive income tax? That’s the icing on Tom’s pro-business cake.

So he has some good ideas, and some that won’t work. That makes him the same as our two political parties. Much of the problem can be traced to the Democratic Party walking away from its intellectual base in the New Deal and the Great Society, and failing to offer better choices. As Sam Smith says:

It’s [the Democrats] failure to come up with alternatives, [while following] an agenda that appealed to comfortable and more upscale liberals rather than to ordinary Americans.

Bernie Sanders is a New Deal Democrat in “democratic socialist” clothing. He is the first democrat in decades to look outside the box for solutions to the problems our current economy visits on average people. It is unlikely that he will beat the Clinton political machine in 2016.

Hillary Clinton leads in the primary polls, but is she electable in the general election? No one should enter the 2016 general election thinking that HRC isn’t a vulnerable candidate. Democrats seem to forget that in 2008, she lost to a little known black guy with a minimal political record.

If voters are looking for a political savior, Hillary is more of the same middle of the road economics with a slight tinge of social liberalism that Mr. Obama offered.

The question is, has the country moved past that kind of “political triangulation” that Bill Clinton perfected in the 1990s? In 2008, Mr. Obama won as a new breed of politician. By 2012, with staunch legislative opposition from the GOP, he was triangulating to win a 2nd term. Can triangulation work again for Hillary?

Sam Smith points us to the age issue:

Nobody’s talking about this, in part because Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would each be the oldest presidents except for Ronald Reagan. But what if Clinton at 68 faces Rubio or Cruz, both in the mid-forties? It makes the image of a new future considerably harder to project.

He might add that Bernie Sanders is 74 now. Ronald Reagan was 78 at the end of his 2nd term.

So what’s the alternative? It is too late for 2016. Partly due to the strength of Hillary’s resume, the Democrats have no viable alternatives. If Ms. Clinton stumbles, the Democrats would be trying to win with Bernie Sanders, who might do well, but who could also make the George McGovern 1972 shellacking seem like a win. This is indicative of a huge problem for Democrats: It has no viable bench.

Assuming that Clinton is the Democrats’ choice, her liabilities could be lessened by treating the campaign more like a struggle between opposing parties instead of one between political celebrities. The argument becomes: if you want to retain Constitutional freedoms that are under attack by a conservative Supreme Court, if you want to keep Social Security, Medicare, food stamps and other social programs, if you want less foreign adventurism, then you have to vote Democratic regardless of what you think of Hillary Clinton.

Despite the fact that many of us are desperate for something shiny and new, this contest is not a “Survivor” or “American Idol” TV series.

It’s the 2016 presidential election.


Shouldn’t Democrats Be Doing Better?

Wrongo watched the first half hour of the Republican Debate. If you feel you must, a transcript of the whole debate is here. The focus was supposedly on the economy. Perhaps the funniest thing was that the media password for WiFi was “stophillary”.

You will be inundated with expert opinion about what was said and who the “winners” were, but none of that is important. All you need are the Wrongologist’s observations: First, the moderators couldn’t be trusted to offer a reality-based picture of the world, any more than the candidates. Maria Bartiromo asked Jeb about unemployment, saying that almost 40% of Americans are without a job and are not even looking. Really? Media Matters checked, and her number included children, retirees, college students, and stay-at-home parents.

Yep, Republican policies will get those kids and retirees into the workforce.

Regarding the candidates:

• There was oratory, little of which sounded informed
• Most denied basic facts about economic and jobs growth
• Most candidates agreed that nobody needs a minimum wage, much less a higher minimum wage
• They agreed we need a small government, but one that still can dominate the world

When a Republican says “small government,” they really mean making the government’s legal and regulatory arm ineffective enough to allow businesses to do whatever the Hades they want until something bad happens. Then Congress can say: “who could have imagined” like the morons they are, and ask the taxpayers to clean up the mess.

You would think that the debate performance by Republicans, and their relative lack of political experience, opens up a window for Democrats in 2016. It should, but Democrats may not be in a position to take advantage. Since the Reagan era, they have deserted the world view and policies that gave them an upper hand politically. They have left the New Deal and Great Society behind, and failed to replace them with anything that anyone thinks is worth getting excited about.

They have morphed into “Republican Lite.” Republicans don’t like Democrats because they won’t agree to the GOP’s fringe ideas on guns, climate change and gutting the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts.

Most of the rest of the country just doesn’t care about these new Dems. Some detest their support of abortion and gay and transgender rights. Democrats aren’t doing better because it is obvious that they have become what we used to call moderate Republicans, and why should right-of-center voters settle for the imitation flavor?

A pundit said last week that Barack Obama is only slightly to the left of Richard Nixon. Judge for yourself: Nixon instituted national price controls, ended convertibility of the dollar into gold, signed legislation that started the EPA, and endorsed the failed Equal Rights Amendment. Would Obama we know today have done all of those things?

Since 2008, Democrats have lost the electoral argument in the states. Republicans now control both houses in 31 state legislatures, and have gained 900 seats in those state legislatures on Obama’s watch.

That doesn’t sound like Democrats are following a winning strategy.

Bernie Sanders is attempting to help the Democratic Party rediscover who they once were. However, that re-discovery is not widespread, and may be occurring too late to be of service in this election cycle. If the re-awakening does not occur in this cycle, there is reason to believe that the oligarchs will have all the votes they need both in Congress and on the Supreme Court to ensure a semi-permanent reign.

So Democrats, the choice is yours: You can endorse centrist, middle-of-the-road issues, or you can represent the issues that the American people actually care about. If you go middle of the road, know that you’re putting the millennial vote in play, since they are a generation that, for the most part, remains politically independent.

This strategy may lead to Hillary taking the White House, but it will make taking back the Senate harder, and it will not reduce the Republican majority in the H0use.

Democrats need to do better.


Waiting for the Great Trumpkin

Today, we focus on this from the WaPo’s Marc Fisher who profiles the kind of people who support Donald Trump and finds they are mostly older white men and women:

The way Joe McCoy sees it, the last time America was great was when Ronald Reagan was president, when people played by the rules. No, it was in the ’70s, Holly Martin says, when you could depend on Americans to work hard. No, to find true American greatness, Steve Trivett contends, you need to go back to before the Vietnam War, ‘when you could still own a home and have a good job even if you didn’t have a college education.’

Fisher says this demographic resonates with the Donald’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”. And even if they don’t agree on exactly why, they do accept Trump’s contention that the US has become “an economic wasteland” and that it is “committing cultural suicide.”

The premise behind “Make America Great Again” is that while the country is no longer great, it can be great again, and Trump is the can-do billionaire who can make that happen.

This can be difficult to watch, like a slowly-developing accident on the freeway. People seem so easily misled, and they say such unsophisticated things about immigration, about Putin and Syria, about our economy, about the threat from Muslims who live in America.

But do we have good Party establishment choices in the 2016 election? No, voters don’t have good, clear choices, despite the unprecedented number of candidates.

Republicans made their voters a bunch of promises over the past 10 years, some of which they had no hope of keeping, and others which they had no intention of actually delivering. It’s also clear that the Republican “Establishment” is frustrated with the Republican candidates, and their supporters who actually expected the Party to be more effective. That’s why so many Republican voters have no interest in Jeb Bush or Scott Walker, and it’s clear that the GOP Establishment misunderstands their own base.

So, Donald Trump appeals to many Republicans as someone who’s pretty effective at holding the media’s attention and driving the national conversation. Someone who looks to be a better bet to actually shake things up and make possible a few things that currently look impossible.

It might be a GOP Hail Mary pass, but what’s the alternative?

For Democrats, Hillary Clinton looks like the candidate who’s “turn” has finally come. She is a product of their “establishment” as much as Jeb Bush is of the GOP’s.

And is it really all that different that the progressive left looks to Bernie Sanders to create a “revolution” in the political climate, making a progressive America possible? Sanders may be more of a Hail Mary pass than Trump.

Since both parties suck and won’t work together, many on both sides are looking for an anti-establishment Messiah to lead them to the political Promised Land. What makes this risk seem worth it is that, while folks understand they’re inviting chaos, they feel our politics are already chaotic. So, people think “What’s the difference?”

And it’s hard to argue with them. American politics feels like a metaphor of Easter Island: Some of us spend our lives trying to get new trees to grow, while the majority are happy to keep chopping down the old ones as fast as they can.

Trump is saying if we vote for him, he’ll make it all better. And if you read Senator Sander’s stump speech, you’d know he is saying he can’t do it alone, that people have to get together and organize to effect change.

That is “a substantive difference” between these two “insurgents”.

That’s why Bernie Sanders’ use of the Democratic Socialist label is disorienting. It shakes people out of their normal process enough to wonder how he thinks he could possibly win. He can’t.

And the mainstream media and both party establishments say: “things really aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be.” They hope that in the end, most voters will agree with their sentiment, and vote for their establishment candidates.

But voters have spent decades lowering their expectations (in Wrongo’s case, except for a short-lived upswing in 2008). Screw that. People need to raise their expectations. Because lower expectations and the “what did you expect” attitude is essentially giving permission for poor results.

We need to expect MORE, demand more.

Because it’s better to have high expectations with the risk of disappointment, than it is to have low expectations that guarantee more of the same old stuff.


You Say You Want a Revolution

The Nation describes Bernie Sanders’s “Political Revolution”: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

When Sanders speaks of that political revolution, he is asking Americans—especially younger Americans like the crowds of Iowans in their teens and twenties who packed the Sanders bleachers in Des Moines’ Hy-Vee Hall for the Jefferson-Jackson dinner—to believe that electoral politics might actually change something. Sanders knows that won’t happen unless people who are frustrated and disengaged and disenchanted see him as a candidate who is distinctly different from the rest.

For Sanders, “Political Revolution” means a protracted, grassroots effort to fix a broken political, economic and social system. He says it will take millions of people to get involved and then stay mobilized after the election to bring about a political revolution.

That’s what Bernie Sanders’s campaign is all about.

So, if you agree that our politics is broken, shouldn’t we actually be working to fix the underlying problems? Without something that looks like a “political revolution”, fixing these problems is difficult if not highly unlikely. Consider the following:

• Capitalism as an economic engine has created unheard of levels of wealth, but since the 1980s, that wealth only accrued to those at the very top.
• Democracy is in trouble, because Capitalism needs a plutocratic system of government to operate.
• Democracy gets in Capitalism’s way because the interests of the people are not congruent with the interests of the corporations. They are often in direct competition.
• In order for corporations to keep their preferred position in this conflict of ideas, the voice of the people must be weaker than the voice of the corporations. Hence, Shelby County vs. Holder, Citizens United and the soon-to-be decided Evenwel v. Abbott.

Democrats say “vote for us because we’re not as crazy as the Republicans” (even though they actually support the same corporate interests). The Dems will also offer you a few social policy crumbs that you should enjoy on your way to becoming the big losers in our latest Gilded Age. And those crumbs will expire when Republicans control all three branches of government.

The last political revolution began when Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. That revolution has continued through two Democratic and two Republican administrations, for more than 35 years.

• It resulted in higher taxes for the middle classes which paid for lower taxes on the wealthy.
• It reversed progress toward voting rights, racial equality and equal rights for women, progress that was made in the 1960s and 1970s
• It has prevented universal health insurance.
• It led to increased terrorism and endless war.

So, it’s been a wild success! And it’s still going strong under its second Democratic president.

Bernie’s “political revolution” is to attempt to turn Democrats back to being the party of the people, to give Capitalism a conscience. The theory goes, if Democrats embraced Bernie’s point of view, people will vote in large numbers. If they vote in large numbers, change will come.

This is the fight Bernie is leading.

But Bernie has no real chance at the nomination, and if he got it, there is a high probability he’d lose the general election in a blow-out. And since he’s not doing the things he needs to build a constituency in Congress, or it other down-ticket races, his populism is unlikely to translate into a movement. America has to hit rock bottom for that to happen, and we’re not there yet.

OTOH, Hillary doesn’t seem to have a plan to win the House or Senate in 2016 either.

But the fact that it is unlikely that he can win doesn’t mean that Bernie and his supporters shouldn’t fight for his policies. He has already forced Hillary to recant a few illiberal positions. And his pursuit of right-leaning white working class voters could help forge a new populist coalition down the road. Poor white folks have been clinging to the GOP for the past forty-odd years, and they are still poor, and getting poorer.

They might be willing to embrace his populist economic message even while they hold their noses when they hear his social justice views.

So, when you hear about Sanders’ political revolution, it doesn’t sound so much like a revolution as a return to policies that had been in place for much of the 20th century, those policies that began during the FDR era.

What Sanders describes is a political restoration, not a revolution.

Little that he proposes is radical from the point of view of where the country was in the 1970s.

Back before the Regan revolution began.


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 18, 2015

Happy Sunday! From The Hill:

With the House still clueless about who its next Speaker will be, Congress has just 10 legislative days to tackle a topic at the center of some of the most pitched fiscal battles of the last several years. The deadline was moved up Thursday by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who told Congress it has only until Nov. 3 to raise the government’s $18.1 trillion borrowing cap.

Paul Ryan is still avoiding the opening for Speaker:

COW Speaker Opening

Mr. Obama decided to keep troops in Afghanistan until at least the end of 2017. He says that combat operations in Afghanistan are over. He says the job of “train, advise, assist” won’t change. Mr. Obama says our troops just need to stick around until the training begins to take hold:

COW President Chelsea

Bernie gives Hillary a hand at the Democratic debate:

COW Thanks Bernie

And the Benghazi hearings are about to start:

COW Benghazi Hearings

Here is the NRA/GOP vision of school safety:

COW Skool Gunz



An important survey by Pew released this week says that Republicans are looking for “New Ideas”: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

Since March, the share of all registered voters who say it is more important for a presidential candidate to have “new ideas and a different approach” has surged – with virtually all of the increase coming among Republican and Republican-leaning voters. Today, by more than two-to-one (65% to 29%), Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters say it is more important that a candidate have new ideas than “experience and a proven record.”

(The survey was conducted on Sept. 22-27 among 1,502 adults, including 1,136 registered voters.)

Pew reports that Democrats have less interest in new ideas: 50% say it is more important for a candidate to have experience and a proven record, while 42% view new ideas and a different approach as more important. This is little changed from March (46% experience, 49% new ideas).

And Pew reports that Hillary has a bigger lead over Sanders than other polls show. Their poll includes Biden:

PEW Support for Dem CandidatesThis is a very different result from other polls which tend to show Sanders just a few points behind Clinton, (at least in New Hampshire) and which say that Biden hurts Clinton enough to open a path to the nomination for Sanders, should Biden enter the race.

But despite the Pew results, many Democrats think 2016 looks grim. Here is the Denver Post reporting that Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper used those exact words:

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday became the latest Hillary Clinton supporter to express doubt about her candidacy for president, telling a Denver audience that the 2016 election is ‘kind of grim, to be blunt’.

The Denver Post also quoted former Democratic Gov. Dick Lamm, who (speaking about the email issue) said he believes:

There’s a one in three chance that if something worse does happen, that will cost her the nomination.

From 30,000 feet, the presidential race includes Hillary, a person many people don’t trust, who seems to lack the vision thing, and Bernie Sanders, who self-describes as a democratic socialist when he’s merely an FDR Democrat.

It just shows how ingrained the memes of the right are in our society, when a New Deal Democrat honestly believes that he is a Democratic Socialist.

Bernie should call himself an FDR Democrat, since he has to deal with corporate media in order to win. The Democratic Socialist label easily morphs into socialist, and then on to Marxist by our media elite. This means that intellectually lazy voters will misunderstand what Sanders is really about. Better for him to conflate his candidacy with a period of American economic recovery than for him to get twisted by the media echo chamber into a second coming of Lenin, or a Jewish Fidel.

And right now, Pew says that the Republican voters are more engaged in the process:

PEW More engaged votersThis shows that Dems are about as engaged as they were when Barak Obama was running against Hillary for the nomination, but Republican engagement has increased steadily since 2007.

Considering that the Democratic base seems mostly on auto pilot, it could be a lot worse, particularly since the Democratic National Committee is headed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who gave us a Republican House and Senate.



The key question is which candidate can keep the Obama coalition together. Today, it seems to be Hillary:

• If Bernie is the candidate, money is going to be a huge problem and not just for him. How does the DNC raise money? How do other Democratic candidates raise money with Bernie running against the big money donors? It’s all well and good to rail against the campaign financing laws, but Senate and Congressional candidates have to raise money too.
• Can the Dems win the White House AND the Senate on $30 individual donations?

If Hillary is the candidate, the issue will be Hillary making the case that she won’t preside over a third Obama term. Or, the central issue in Hillary’s candidacy could be her husband Bill, and a third Clinton term.

The assumption by Democrats in the primary contests should be that Republicans will still control the House. Even with a Democratic win, neither Hillary nor Sanders would be able to get much of a domestic agenda passed.

Either way, 2016 will be a repeat, more or less, of 2012, with the significant addition of Iran, Russia, and ISIS on the foreign policy front. That may make 2016 more of a balanced issue election.

All Dems can reasonably expect from a presidential win in 2016 is Supreme Court nominations, holding on to the Obama gains, and pushing the country to return towards more economic equality than in the years since 2008.


Monday Wake Up Call – October 5, 2015

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Saturday that he opposes a unilateral American no-fly zone in Syria. This differentiates him from Hillary Clinton who wants to create one. Mr. Sanders:

We must be very careful about not making a complex and dangerous situation in Syria even worse…I support President Obama’s efforts to combat ISIS in Syria while at the same time supporting those in that country trying to remove the brutal dictatorship of Bashar Assad.

Ms. Clinton’s position is the same as Republican contenders Florida governor Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and failed CEO Carly Fiorina, making all of them the “Quagmire Candidates”. Think about it: A US enforced no-fly zone over northern Syria could mean starting a war with Russia, who now controls that air space.

The Quagmire Candidates are ok with possibly attacking Russian forces in order to defend al-Qaeda?

Remember, our CIA and our Gulf State allies are funding al-Qaeda-affiliated groups. The NYT says: (brackets and emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The fighters advancing on that [northern] front were not from the Islamic State but from the Army of Conquest, a group that includes an affiliate of Al Qaeda known as the Nusra Front and other Islamist groups, including several more secular groups that have been covertly armed and trained by the US.

A second NYT article on 10/1 about the Army of Conquest: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The alliance consists of a number of mostly Islamist factions, including the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate; Ahrar al-Sham, another large group; and more moderate rebel factions that have received covert arms support from the intelligence services of the United States and its allies.

Clinton, Fiorina, Bush and Kasich have all endorsed the idea of forbidding Russian use of air space and operations in Syria and a willingness to fight the Russians to enforce such a thing. So, we have SEVERAL presidential candidates who should never be allowed near the position of Commander-In-Chief.

And why? What is there about (or in) Syria that is worth the risk of nuclear war to America? The Russians would have to agree to any US “no-fly zone” and it is difficult understanding how they would agree to it. Would we really engage Russia in an air war to settle the point about who controls the skies over Syria?

Will the main stream media even ask Hillary, Jeb, Carly or Kasich why they want to start World War III? Or, why America is supporting Jihadists in Syria?

This is potentially more dangerous than the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it is beyond aggravating that these candidates can’t see it.

Our national security policy skews macho, and has since the 1950s. And the chest-beaters in Congress want Mr. Obama to appear weak, while our media continues to stir up trouble to keep these contradictions on the front burner.

This is why some Democrats have problems with Hillary Clinton. Her foreign policy position is “Republican Lite.” She consistently holds a near-bellicose position, similar to many Republicans. She supported our actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

Apparently quagmires poll well.

So, our wake-up is for the America voter: Here are Lords of the New Church doing “Open Your Eyes (to the lies right in front of you)”. Their line, ‘the acting’s lousy but the blind don’t know’ is as true today as it was in 1982 when this was recorded:

The Lords were fronted by the late Stiv Bators, who previously fronted the Dead Boys. Wrongo and Ms. Oh So Right hosted Mr. Bators and crew at our place in 1978. But, talk of recording an album there never materialized.

Sample Lyrics:
Video games train the kids for war
Army chic in high-fashion stores
Law and order’s done their job
Prisons filled while the rich still rob
Assassination politics
Violence rules within’ our nation’s midst
Well ignorance is their power tool
You’ll only know what they want you to know
The television cannot lie
Controlling media with smokescreen eyes
Nuclear politicians’ picture show
The acting’s lousy but the blind don’t know

Open your eyes see the lies right in front of ya.

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 3, 2015

Baltimore riots, Nepal earthquakes, same sex marriage in front of the Supremes, Bernie Sanders runs against Hillary. Quite the week.

Did the Baltimore riot result in a move towards justice for Freddie Gray? It is more than an exaggeration to say the rioting caused manslaughter indictments against 6 Baltimore police officers. With the city electing Marilyn Mosby, a daughter and granddaughter of police officers as the Maryland state’s attorney for Baltimore City over an incumbent white Democrat, maybe the indictments would have happened without the riots. Could the justice system now be working a bit better because people in Baltimore voted?

Seven months after Michael Brown, systematic failure to deliver justice in our cities is playing with fire, possibly, a little like 1965 all over again. The number of people in the streets in other cities in solidarity with Baltimore has been growing. And the hot spots are New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atlanta and poor suburban cities with police departments that grift with fines and court penalties.

Indictments notwithstanding, this is Baltimore and many other cities:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

If you watched mainstream media coverage, all of Baltimore was on fire:

COW Balto Media


Gay marriage discussion brought out the best in our politicians:

COW SS Marriage

And ministers now have a new take on the old question:

COW Same Sex Marriage


Same Sex wasn’t the only type of marriage decided by the Supremes:

COW Marry Millionaires


Bernie Sanders threw hat in the ring, and almost no media covered it:

Fugelsang on Sanders

Nepal was on everyone’s mind, including Christian bigots:

COW Nepal


Ever hear of Tony Miano? He’s a former LA cop who seems to be a Christian. He should ask “What would Jesus tweet?” because what he did was an epic fail for a human, much less a Christian. Miano could be organizing a drive to collect donations, but instead, he’s tweeting about “pagan temples” and how the people of Nepal need to repent and receive Christ.

Onward, Christian soldiers!