Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Political Divide and How Diversity Drives It

Two Pauls that personify the gulf between liberals and conservatives.

I was happy I caught a couple of Salon articles on related topics. One was a piece on how diversity is driving the nation toward more progressive policy solutions. What I hadn't considered was how the white backlash highlighted by Republican candidates' rhetoric was exacerbating the gulf:
Noting that “we’ve gone beyond the tipping point on the demographic changes taking place in the country,” Greenberg credited “ongoing, extraordinary, disruptive changes” with “producing a different kind of politics” that allows for a more robust progressive debate.
“That bigger story is what is creating our politics,” Greenberg explained. “There is a new American majority. It’s growing at an extraordinary rate driven by these revolutions.”
“A rural, white, married, evangelical, religious,” Republican Party, Greenberg argued, is waging a “furious counter-revolution” to blunt the rise of a more diverse, liberal populace, but is actually working to further marginalize itself.
“The Republican Party essentially exists — particularly in the last decade — to deny that new American majority the ability to govern based on its values.”
This effort has “alienated the Republican Party from the country,” according to Greenberg, who says a GOP “implosion” is already underway.
I'd been watching this growing white Christian male-driven backlash for a number of years now, unleashed in response to an African-American Democrat in the Oval Office. Though, to be sure, this gulf has been widening long before Obama. It may trace its roots all the way back to Reagan, even Carter, who may have been the last religious white southern Democratic president, certainly of a dying breed.

What I hadn't grasped was that this "furious counter-revolution" was highly counter-productive, as the staunchly conservative base of the GOP was only further marginalizing themselves. Hence we get Trump and Carson with matching 26% in the primary race. Trump represents the hysterical whites who fear the brown and the black; Carson, in spite of his blackness, represents the evangelical in the party. Together, the unlikely alliance holds 52% of the GOP vote. I'd say go figure, except it's not hard to figure: The angry GOP base is highly religious in a dual way: They express a secular religiosity in as much as they embrace discredited laissez-faire, free market economics and a real religiosity in finding in Jesus Christ a contempt for the poor that is nowhere to be found in the Gospels. That does indeed elicit a go figure.

Kos -- Marcos Moulitsas of Daily Kos -- once referred to this conservative Christian belief structure as the "bad-ass Jesus," a messiah that would embrace both free markets and the Second Amendment and the death penalty to boot. Bad-ass fer sure.

That's pretty mental and explains why Trump and Carson have gotten so far in these still-early days of the 2016 race. They may crash and burn -- the establishment expects them to -- but what Republican Party do they leave in their wake? A bunch of furious white people ready to embrace Marco Rubio, who once embraced immigration reform with a path to citizenship for 12 million brown people?

I wonder.

If indeed this disadvantages the Republicans and their disjointed conservative base, we may be headed for wiser heads to prevail on taxes and the economy. That's where a second article at Salon makes a good primer on the future, penned by Paul Rosenburg and built around a new study, by Mark Zandi and Alan Binder, of how we got out of the Great Recession:
On this second [economic] front, the GOP blame-shifting centers on Obama, in order to virtually erase the epic market failure from history. Just as Bush is supposed to get a pass for 9/11, while getting credit for “keeping us safe” afterwards, he’s also given a pass for the housing bubble and the financial crisis which gave us the Great Recession, so that all blame can be focused on Obama, who supposedly made things worse with his “job-killing” policies.
In the real world, empirically-based economists know this is ridiculous. In the third quarter of 2010, for example, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the stimulus bill “increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.6 million.” This was typical of CBO reporting of the impact the stimulus had, but the totality of policy responses was much broader than that, and a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities by economists Alan Binder of Princeton and Mark Zandi of Moody Analytics updates their earlier work in 2010 to first provide a comprehensive overview and then draw lessons for the future.
The article goes on to be a good discussion of how we got out of the Great Recession and how the three major tools -- TARP, the ARA stimulus act, and the Fed's quantitative easing programs -- worked together to save our economic bacon. A major message is that we can use a number of tools, including clean-energy spending and other forms of fiscal and monetary moves, to get out of the inevitable next crisis.

None of these economic remedies are favored in the slightest by any of the GOP candidates, which is why Rosenberg's article is called, "Paul Krugman has taught them nothing: Republicans would tank the economy again, given the chance."


No! My tax cuts are totally bigger than yours!

 Yes, there is a stark divide even as some progressives say there's not a dime's worth of difference between the parties. Republicans want to hand yet more money to the rich to trickle down; the Democrats want to give more money to the middle and lower classes, paying for it with tax increases on the wealthy. There's also laissez-faire policies driving the GOP -- free markets will fix recessions! -- with Keynesian stimulus and activist monetary policy preferred by Democrats.

Obama, who was more centrist that most Democrats care to admit, nonetheless went with policies that got us out of the economic ditch. No amount of GOP clown-car blathering will be able to erase that reality. And Americans -- a growing number of them -- believe it.

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