A timely reappraisal of the American ‘political spectrum’

With ‘Pussygate,’ it looks like we can start talking about the post-Trump American political landscape. Our reality-TV driven political farce has rumbled on and we need to start looking forward. We have to salvage something from the past year and a half.

“Leftist” or Progressive politics is any view where the economic or social system itself is seen as generating the ills of society, and the response, correspondingly, must take place at the full ‘social’ level. This historically takes the Keynesian (big government/ welfare state) aspect, but also – and this is crucial – a steady-state economics conception that tends towards a communal or guild motif for society.

“Centrists” can mean many things; essentially stands for simply the dominant conception or ideology of the time. In the contemporary US politics, this means a tepid neoliberalism. To be specific: its the complex web of ideology and powerful interests and their interaction that we call these days – rather clumsily – “the Establishment.” This represents the policies that our government has been pursuing effectively since Reagan. It’s extremely pro-corporate. Big Government Works hand in hand with Big Business. Classical liberal philosophy via John Locke and classical liberal economic theory via Adam Smith has been ‘re-upped’ by the ideas of von Hayek: government regulation and taxes “stifle” economic growth in a downright malicious way.

“Rightists” or conservatives long for a nostalgic return to traditional or religious ‘values.’ This can take many forms, but it is often associated with attempts to recreate a supposed organic community that was imagined to exist. Like ‘cowboys’ or ‘pilgrims.’ It’s a harkening back; the problem is located with the agents of change, usually intellectuals. Conservative sentiment can take the “organic community” route of faith and race or the moody Romantic era genius route of Big Government/Society enslaving the individual and forcing him to conform. The crucial thing to note about conservative ideas is that they are effectively anti-capitalist and anti-neoliberal, even if it takes the guise of extreme nationalism, religiosity, or racism (or something more mundane: like economic protectionism or isolationism).

This is why it’s observed every now and again the simulates between the far Right and the far Left. The progressive hiker and conservative both ender the woods to escape from capitalism, wether it is conceived as a communing with nature or providing for one’s family in a traditional manner “the way it was meant to be.” Both abhor the new suburban development going in and destroying the forest. But the similarities end there; both blame the other for the new development; historically speaking, it seems there could be no reconciliation between these two modes of seeing the world. Capitalism, politically speaking, needs this tension and total incomprehension between Right and Left. The conservative who feels like Leftists are attacking marriage, manhood, guns and God mistakes what is ultimately a symptom with the disease itself.

Conservatives make a series of mistakes here. This is why Leftists are seen as “traitors”; their criticism of the way things are is too valid. For the Leftist to “be wrong” he must have a sinister ulterior motive. This is essentially the Straw Man logic fallacy: If I am pro-choice, I must be obsessed with killing babies. Otherwise my rather reasonable position – that I support a women’s right to choose and acknowledge that abortion is terrible, but there must be some options and things are not black and white – is far too mundane of an opinion to object too so strongly.

The conservative mindset implicitly slams the door on even modest changes to contemporary society or politics; even modest changes (like bike lane construction) must be dismissed as utopian, childish/selfish or totalitarian. It allows no complexity of issue or gradient of thought. It refuses to acknowledge the massively complex nature of each issue; the true variety of view points that one may reasonably maintain. Thus the conservative, wittingly or unwittingly, massively confirms and supports existing evils and injustices in the name of his beliefs regardless of the context, factuality or feasibility. Further, the conservative fails to realize that his intransigence adds fuel to the movement towards change (2nd Amendment enthusiasts stand out here in particular). By failing to acknowledge a given problem the conservative compounds the issue, moving the national debate away from solutions and solving problems towards a zero-sum clash of ideologies.

In this light the fact that the Democrats (a centrist party) and Hilary Clinton (a baby boomer president with technocratic proclivities uninterested in substantial change) will despite the fact that the majority of Americans are “anti-Establishment.” If we where magically able to get every single American to pick a candidate; you would find that a third wants Bernie Sanders, a third for Clinton, and a third for Trump. Obviously, I can’t prove that, but I think that there are some good statistics that largely verify my perception here. The point is that very few Americans actually want a Clinton presidency; there is a widespread rejection (regardless of the rational or expression) of the policies that our government has been pursuing, that is, neoliberalism.

American domestic politics in the context of the Cold War, both parties essentially occupied a the territory of the center in ideological terms (classic liberalism, pro-capitalism, some government intervention). The reality is that both parties increasing became the political nexus for competing webs of interest groups, wealthy individuals, and  corporations.

The GOP was already in electoral and demographic decline, maintained by a stable of billionaire donors, gerrymandering, and Fox News; but will Trump actually be the death of the party? I see a three way split, between a socially conservative branch (old people, evangelicals, anti-abortionists and Southerners more interested in being Southern than anything else: think Mike Huckabee), a libertarian branch (2nd Amendment enthusiasts, Ayn Rand fanboys, fiscal conservatives and others who are conservative but not in the social sense. Paul Ryan?) and the alt-right crowd (racists, survivalists, conspiracy theorists; true Right wing populism. This is Trump territory). As a side note, the term “economically conservative” makes no sense to me. I understand that in terms of a simple political spectrum it means in contemporary parlance “strongly capitalist;” I am simply pointing out that a truly conservative economy would definitely not be capitalist. The term laissez-faire seems to me to be the most accurate in this case.

I strongly suspect that either the Libertarian Party will become a major party, or the GOP will essentially ‘adopt’ the Libertarian platform, leaving the social conservatives to coalesce around what would be essentially a regional party of the Mid-West and South. Most people who see themselves as Libertarian harbor a deep anti-neoliberal/capitalist impulse. It is clear that Americans resent “big government,” or the omnipresence of government, be it politically motivated laws and policies or simply going to the DMV or welfare “handouts.” The simple conception that say, stopping rape culture, doesn’t need to come through legislation or should even be a topic of political debate or governmental intervention. This is the old fantasy of the “nightwatchman’s state;” it stands guard, but has no positive role. Few Libertarians have fully reasoned through what reaching such a state would actually entail. For one, our entire society is based on a conception that places the government in the roll of social arbitrator.

Remember, we live in a classically liberal society (via John Locke and Hobbes), which views each individual as a monad; an atom; an island unto itself that exists for pure rational self-interest, the homo economicus. Society is primordially a war of all against all; society is established and maintained by the Sovereign so the monads may work together better for their own self-benefit. Thus our Sovereign, technically is The People (an outdated and obviously insufficient metaphysical conception) as represented in Congress. This means that these social issues like gay marriage, abortion, transgender bathrooms, yes, wind up in Congress. Our government and society is structured that way. While this view, with a little consideration, is clearly inadequate, it is none-the-less, the way our nation was founded.

But there is more to it than that. One has to take into account the larger social reality. This is one of globalization and capitalism that has little to do with classical political theory a la Plato and Locke. The reality of our society is that no politician is in control. There is no “inner clique” or “conspiracy” or “New World Order”. There is only systematic profit maximization. This is our fundamental organizing principal; no conspiracy, just individuals making basic assumptions and decisions everyday that guarantee that greed comes first over our nation or the individuals that make up this nation. For a truly non-dystopian night watchman’s state, one has to acknowledge the power of corporations and take action against them. Think about this. Already our government, if anything, does not regulation corporations enough. Global Warming? The 2008 Financial Crisis? So to say, I want less government regulation; less tax-and-spend government; what this really means is profoundly anti-capitalist. Because Big Government and Big Business go hand in hand; think about how Wal-Mart employees are subsided by welfare, or the tax brakes that oil companies get. Think about the relationship between the military-industrial complex and the government. If you really want a small government, both of these must go away. They are intrinsically linked.

Further, the impulse that says “individuals should make their own way” and “I don’t want government legislating on everything” is a Progressive impulse. It’s a utopian impulse. If you want individuals to bare more responsibility, you must acknowledge that capitalism isn’t doing that. It’s making us into consumers and conformers, not citizens or much less, rugged individuals. Libertarianism is therefore a fundamentally conservative idea; it ignores the true depth of the longing that sustains it. It buys into the fundamental Republican lie that government regulation and taxes stifle the economy and point towards a totalitarian Stalinist society. It refuses to acknowledge that if you truly want to empower individuals you have to invest in them, not strip away the layers of the welfare state. The wealth in our society is held by a mere handful of individuals; its mostly in large corporations and in the government. To empower individuals means redistributing this wealth to the actual human individuals that make up this nation.

To conclude. The Democrats have established themselves as the party of The Establishment (witness all those GOP neoconservative advisors that got us into Iraq flocking to Hilary). When it comes down to it, Democrats are committed to their financial backers, not a progressive ideology. They have always done this; look at Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy. In this election, they turned down the chance to be a bold progressive party of the future. They chose to alienate Millennials instead, in the name of an outdated and failed Baby-Boomer Reaganesqe neoliberal centrism. This means that the Democrats themselves have set themselves up for chronic trouble. They will most likely win this election cycle, but at the potential cost of many others. Millennials will still be up for grabs between a progressive program and a libertarian program.

The forbidden leftwing alternative – forbidden because of the Cold War and the Republican need to stay relevant while having no ideas – is the missing piece of this puzzle. Put your coached (and well funded), knee-jerk reactions aside – this isn’t childish, uniformed, utopian or totalitarian – this is factually the way forward. The Left wing (Bernie Sanders or Green Party alternative) conceptions is actually going to tackle the important fundamental issues like climate change, income inequality, a capitalism run amok, and restore the important of the individuals and society. We are really given no real options in this “democracy” of ours. The only change that is acceptable is one that is an unacceptable right-wing populism. So we again we find ourselves with an Establishment candidate. How long do they think this will last? Most Americans seem ready to burn the whole thing down instead.




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