Being back home in Seattle has been a great joy, seeing family and old friends, doing a motorcycle trip, enjoying our great country, and it is a great country. Sure its not perfect, but it is closer to perfection then anywhere we have visited during the last six years of travel. So its painful to watch the psycho GOP candidate question this greatness and declare that he will make America great again. Here are a few thoughts on how we ended up with this maniac.
It started after the 1964 elections.
It started after the 1964 elections.
Above is a map of how states voted in the 1964 election between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater. Not much of a showing for Barry and the GOP. It was proof positive that what the party elites feared was true. The party representing wealth, corporate and personal, had no popular base. They had not won a presidential election since Calvin Coolidge in 1928, excpt when their candidate was Dwight Eisenhower, the much loved WWII supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe. The feeling was that"Normal" Republican candidates would have no chance.
Nixon recognized this, and pitched his campaign to the "silent majority" whose values allegedly were being threatened by the liberal Democratic Party. He promised these folks a return to "law and order" and "traditional values". In particular he sought the votes of southern whites. The south up until then was traditionally Democratic, but feeling betrayed by the Democratic Party that had enacted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that lead to mass enfranchisement of racial minorities, the South was in play. Nixon's promise of law and order and a return to traditional values was seen as code for continued suppression of blacks and maintenance of the old south's social order. His law and order message also resonated with whites outside the south because of their alarm over rioting and the breakdown of law and order in the black inner cities
He found a base: the Silent Majority turned out to be discontented mostly rural, working class whites. With their votes Nixon won a close race. It would have been a landslide except a third party candidate, the racist governor of Alabama, George Wallace took the South. You can see the huge gains made by the Republicans by jumping between the '64 and '68 maps.
Since Nixon, discontented folks in rural America have mostly belonged to the Republicans. The connection has been cultivated mostly through lip service by party leaders, political hacks, corporations.and especially through their propaganda organ.....Fox News.
Anyone who lived through these years knows all this.
But what causes the discontent that leads these folks to support a political party that is clearly their class enemy? I'm not real sure, but historically incomes of rural Americans, mostly farmers and farm workers, has been subject to manipulation by economic interests controlling commodity prices, transportation costs and the cost of farm machinery.. Governments at all levels have also massively influenced income through regulation etc. Check this link for an example of how the Feds can mess with farmers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wickard_v._Filburn Their anger is understandable.
There is more to it though, Republican appeals to hyper-nationalism, bigotry, "family values", pro life sentiment, and assertions that "government is the problem" evidenced by welfare abuse, government waste, poorly conceived trade agreements that cost American jobs, excessive capital gains taxation have all captured the loyalty of a surprising number, to me, of relatively well off whites.
Republican elites are skating on thin ice though. The base they have relied on since Nixon is disconcerted mostly because of governmental policies that have worked against them.. Policies largely implemented by the Republican party.. Up to now the party elites have been able to ignore candidates emerging from the base and get their selected candidates nominated. But this election cycle is different. The base finally succeeded in getting their candidate, reality TV "star" Donald Trump, nominated.
Trump claims to be the only person who can fix the system and make America great again because he is an outsider. And a self described "brilliant" businessman with insider knowledge of how the system really works, evidenced by his "genius" in dodging government regulation and taxation. His argument for changing the system is compelling. And it would interest me if only it was being made by a rational person. This psychopath cannot be allowed anywhere close to the nuclear button.
Trump also scares the hell out of Republican elites. The last thing they want is someone as erratic and uncontrollable as Trump making changes to the system they have crafted over the years that has been so beneficial to their interests..
And then there is Hillary. How did she so capture the nominating process that the only competition she faced was from the ultimate political outsider, self described socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders? I don't know, but its disturbing. She is probably a decent person, but she certainly has a checkered past.
Any normally competent politician could kick the crap out of either one of these characters.
So, what would my ideal candidate espouse?
1. Continued efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation and massive reductions in nuclear arsenals around the world.
2. Real concerted efforts to reduce mankind's impact on climate. We are very very late and way behind in this. We are now above 400 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. I attended a lecture about ten years ago presented by the chairman of the University of Washington meteorology department, He stated that there would be a paradigm change in the way energy was passed through the atmosphere when carbon dioxide concentrations exceeded 400 ppm.. The new equilibrium could be drastically different then any we have seen in the past. And change would be rapid, definitely not at a geological pace. More like a few decades.
3. Re democratization of our politics. There is no chance that our political system will respond to voters until money has been removed from the equation. What the people want is not compelling to politicians making huge money servicing rich special interests. We are seeing the emergence of a neo-feudal society with a corporate aristocracy ruling over serf/employees. The only countervailing power that can exert effective control over corporations is government in service to the people. Maybe this explains why Republican campaign against government. Government is not the problem. The problem is a political party that actively works to undermine it.