Saturday, October 21, 2017

“A spectre is haunting America – the spectre of … .”


“A spectre (a.k.a. specter, ghost, phantom) is haunting America – the spectre of socialism.”
Oh, wait, there is another one!
“A spectre (a.k.a. specter, ghost, phantom) is haunting America – the spectre of dictatorship!”
Mr. Frum is a senior editor at The Atlantic and the former speechwriter for President George W. Bush https://www.theatlantic.com/author/david-frum/. He also is an anti-Trump Republican, which makes him a smart and honest representative of the current American establishment.
I hope Mr. Frum is familiar with the origin of the phrase in the title. Here we have a fork.
It feels like most people have moved on, and do not think much about the 2016 Presidential elections anymore.
There is an occasional book about what happened, but the conversation is mostly directed toward the future.
For example, recently 20 of America's top political scientists gathered in Yale University to discuss our democracy. “They are scared.” “Nearly everyone agreed: American democracy is eroding on multiple fronts — socially, culturally, and economically.” “If current trends continue for another 20 or 30 years, democracy will be toast.”
As I see it, that estimation is too optimistic. What we see today is the result of the processes started about 20 years ago. No one paid attention to those processes, until they have become so visible that could not be ignored anymore. So, we may have no more than five to ten years of democracy left – unless something drastic will be done.
It has to be drastic, it has to be outside of the commonly accepted political theories, because the election of Donald J. Trump as the President of the United States was a very drastic deviation from conventional political routes (drastic good, or drastic bad – that depends on one’s personal perspective, but it was – beyond any doubts – drastic).
He had beaten them all: the Democrats, and the Republicans, TV pundits, and think-tank analysts, and the odds.
Outside of his campaign, no one except unnoticed few (https://michaelmoore.com/trumpwillwin/), believed that he had any chance to win. And yet, he did.
Without having a clear understanding of why did he win, planning future political actions is just a self- serving waste of time.
In her book “Unbelievable”, Katy Tur shows a concentrated portrait of Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign. The book screams: “How could such a person become the President?”
My question is: “How could American elite not see the processes which had led to the election of Donald Trump?”
Yes, for everyone living these days, all the events of the recent past are new, and fresh, and emotional, and significant.
But from a historian’s point of view, nothing happening in the U.S. is unseen and unique.
Very similar events had happened in the past in other countries, and unfortunately, often they led to dictatorial (Russia in 1920s, Germany in 1930s; https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimpowell/2013/02/05/how-dictators-come-to-power-in-a-democracy/#52c058c27ff7), or authoritarian (China in 1980s, Russia in 1990s) regimes.
The roots of all political transformations were of economical nature (more on that below).
The roots of the Trump’s Presidency are also economical.
Yes, many Trump supporters could be described as “deplorables”, i.e. racists, bigots, white supremacists, misogynists, or poorly educated.
Yes, for many Trump supporters voting for him was a payback for having eight years of the black President.
But people who lifted Trump to the victory were not from the camp of “deplorables”. Those people have been in America all along; Trump just let them feel powerful and freed them to express themselves. The fact that there are so many Americans who are openly and proudly “deplorable” was one of the shocking discoveries of the 2016 election.
People who lifted Trump to the victory were from the different camp; they were from the shrinking middle class.
Trump won because of the people who were scared of seeing the future for their children would be worse than their own present. Trump won because of the people who lost their trust in the ability or even the intention of the American elite to share its wealth with working folks.
In 2004, and in 2008, many of those people voted for Obama.
They did it in a large part because they wanted to show to the political elite that they did not want to keep the status quo, that they wanted a change. But the elite did not understand the message. Barack Obama was not able to bring any economic relief to the shrinking middle class, in a large part because of the sabotage from Congressional Republicans.  The economic policies he started begin to paying back, but, naturally, Trump claims it is he who gave the boost to the economy. For regular folks, all what has been happening in the Washington D.C., looked like a mud fight. All they saw was a dysfunctional establishment.
And in 2016 the same people who already twice voted for a change, voted for an even bigger change, by throwing at the American elite a “Molotov bomb” in the form of Donald Trump (I borrowed this comparison from Michael Moor, who predicts Trump’s victory in 2020, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/michael-moore-predicts-trump-win-election-2020-1033599). Thinking that the voters did not see what type of a person Trump was is just naïve. The voters knew very well how “kinky” Trump was, but chose to ignore it, because they cared about other issues much more than about “kinkiness” of a Presidential candidate (even if the “kinkiness” meant “racist”, “bigot”, “white supremacist”, and “misogynist”; can you imagine how bad should people live, how badly should they want a change, and how low should they think about Clinton if they chose to ignore all this?).
I assume that voter suppression, gerrymandering, even Facebook ads played some role, too, but not as much as the economic downturn for millions of Americans. If they really wanted, the Democrats could have DONE something about those issues (pointing fingers and screaming "look at the bad things those evil Republicans do" is NOT doing), but they didn’t. NOW all the excuses they use sound like "if only people who did not vote for us could vote". When I hear this, I always want to ask - what DID you do to make them vote?
For many Americans, Trump represents a new type of a “politician”. But for a historian, Trump is just one of many reincarnations of a “political opportunist” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_opportunism).
Trump is not the first American political opportunist (http://www.cambriapress.com/cambriapress.cfm?template=4&bid=392).
Trump is the first American political opportunist who succeeded.
When any political opportunist succeeds, it does not say much about him or her, because they all are essentially the same; narcissistic psychopaths.
When any political opportunist succeeds it says much more about the state of the society.
Trump is merely a thermometer exposing the social temperature of the Country;
and the reading screams “Fever!”
There is a disease which is eating up the Country from the inside.
The search for the cure depends on the right diagnosis. But no doctor so far had offered a meaningful explanation of what is wrong, how did the Country get there, and what is the treatment plan. The Republicans want cuts - they want to cut everything the can lay a hand on. After this operation the patient may be alive, but what life will she have? The Democrats have no idea about anything. The liberals and progressives (including Bernie Sanders) offer nice dreams, but no real steps to bring them into a reality. The disease is getting spread deeper and wider.
Is the disease curable, or lethal?
That remains to be seen.
That heavily depends on the actions the elite will be undertaking within the upcoming two to four years.
And those actions heavily depend on the actions regular folks will be undertaking within the upcoming two to four years (since so far, the democracy is alive, regular folks still have capabilities needed to put a pressure on the elite; but the time is running out).
And those actions heavily depend on the state of mind of the politically active regular folks (because a kitchen talk does not have any political influence).
One couldn’t not notice how heavily I use the word “elite”. That is because every country – no exceptions –  is ruled by its elite. The difference is how can people enter the elite social stratum, how can they become a part of the elite. For example, in a monarchy, the elite status is preserved by blood (a.k.a. by a birth). In a dictatorship, to enter the elite, one has to “kiss the ring” of the leader of the gang, and the rank of the one is linked to the rank of his gang. In a democracy, anyone can become an elite by convincing enough people to trust him or her.
However, all elites in all times and countries have the same weakness; they tend to become a self-serving bureaucracy. Interestingly enough, that usually happens when people from a large part of the society have a relatively comfortable life, and do not pay much of attention to the everyday dealings happening between different parts of the elite. As the result, a growing gap between the self-serving interests of the elite and the everyday needs of the rest reaches the critical size, and – boom!
A revolution – of some kind.
Sometime a revolution is bloody; sometime a revolution is “soft”.
But, eventually, the old elite is being replaced by the new elite, and the history begins its next cycle.
The form of the governing after the revolution depends mostly on the cultural traditions of the country.
For example, for more than a thousand years, Russian people always ended up installing a new Tsar (a.k.a. an emperor, a.k.a. a king). A Tsar has to be smart, and kind, and fair, and make people feel good about themselves and the country. As long as the Tsar is smart, and kind, and fair, he can rule with an “iron fist”.
Will American democracy survive the challenges brought on her and on the whole world by the globalization, rise of rival economic powers, robotisation, technological advances, climate and demographic changes?
I would give a 50–50 chance to it to happen.
But, as you can see, I’m trying to tilt the chances into the favor of the Democracy.
And for me, random actions do not make any sense, but reasonable actions need to be based on a reason – that is why we call them “reasonable”.
My reasoning tells me not to count on the Republicans.
The strongest and growing movement within the Republican party is represented by Stephen K. Bannon. He is an anti-establishment politician; his economic agenda is actually not much different from the Bernie Sanders’s agenda – tax on the rich, leave trade agreements; but he wants that all the economic benefits went only to the American whites. And since the whites comprise the bulk of the shrinking American middle class, Bannon’s ideas of economic nationalism find a broad acceptance outside and within of the Republican party. Naturally, economic nationalism does not necessarily require sustainable functioning of the democratic institutions; on the contrary, democratic institutions represent an obstacle on the way to the new economic regime. A democracy is deeply rooted in pluralism, but for the economic nationalism to succeed, only one philosophical system should dominate in the politics – the Bannon’s one. Essentially, the Bannon’s Republicans want to follow the steps of Vladimir Putin in adopting the Chinese approach to the political and economic structure of the Country.
My reasoning also tells me not to count on the Democrats.
The main reason is that the Democrats have lost the trust of the large part of the working (and voting) middle-class Americans, and they do not do much to regain this trust. For about two decades the liberals of all kind have been talking to each other about how great they are, how progressive their ideas are, seeking the attention of liberally inclined moguls, and turning their back on the middle class.
And now the middle-class Americans had shown the Democrats the middle finger. 
Plus, the Democratic establishment is deep in the internal struggle for the control over the party. This situation will last for years to come. As the result of the internal chaos, the Democratic party will not be able to form a unified front to fight the Republicans. And the weakening of the Democratic party will inevitably lead to the weakening of the Democratic institutions.
The Republicans are attacking the Democracy, the Democrats are not capable of building a strong opposition.
That is why many people turned to the search for the third political power, which could at least mitigate the strength of the Republicans, and the impotency of the Democrats.
The leading candidate for this third political power is Senator Bernie Sanders. Half a Democrat and half an Independent; for some people he represents the force for reforming the Democratic party, and for others he is the father of the future third political party. In reality, he is neither. In reality, Bernie Sanders is a manifestation of the “Buridan's ass” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buridan%27s_ass); his political position is not dual, it is ambiguous. He will not be able to seat forever on two chairs; deeper into 2018 election season he will have to make the decision – will he run again as an Independent, or he will remain to be a Democrat. It would be better for him and for everyone else if he would make this decision as soon as possible.
I am not so smart to figure out everything on my own; that is why I read what other people say about things.
No matter what decision will Senator Sanders make, he will remain a strong political figure with millions of followers. So, I’d read his latest book “Guide to Political Revolution”.
First thing to say – this is not a guide.
A guide, like a manual (IKEA manuals would be a good example of a guide), describes specific steps which have to be done in order to achieve the specific goal starting from the specific initial state.
I know about one person who wrote a guide to a political revolution (which I read) and who eventually used that guide to make a revolution to happen. That person was Vladimir Lenin, who wrote (among other books) “What is to be done?” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Is_To_Be_Done%3F). Senator Sander’s book is more of a description of “what is to be built”, i.e. what society do we want. He says "we are here, and we want to be there", but the mapping of the trail leading "from here to there" is yet missing. His book is more like “The Manifesto”; “A spectre is haunting America – the spectre of socialism” (http://marxist.net/marx/index.html).

Senator Sander’s book provides a clear and concentrated description of what is wrong with the current state of the Country, and how did the Country come to it. I strongly recommend to read the book.
In short, it tells us that some time ago Americans had a good and comfortable life. When people are happy, they are relaxed and do not pay attention to politics. That was the time when the financial elite of America has pushed of the political throne the manufacturing elite of America. Wall Street businessmen were making big money, and they wanted to make even more. So, they said to the politicians: “Hey, we could make even more money, and you could do it with us, if we had more freedom and less regulations”. And both parties said: “Great! Let’s deregulate financial speculations!” Then Wall Street businessmen said to the politicians: “Hey, we could make even more money, and you could do it with us, if we could move the money between the countries freely and quickly”. And both parties said: “Great! Let’s sign trade agreements! (let’s call them about trade, but make them about money)”. And just like that, slowly but surely, American elite refocused its efforts from making money of making things, to making money of making money. The Federal Reserve was printing dollars. The Wall Street was printing stocks. Abracadabra, and all those papers settled down in the volts of banks and hedge funds. In the meantime, sixty thousand factories across America were closed (http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/mar/24/donald-trump/trump-china-joined-wto-us-has-lost-60000-factories/).
The collateral damage of “a profit trumps everything” approach is a gradual and broad decline in the quality of products and services (due to “good but expensive” is being replaced by “cheap but OK-ish”).
When a stock market was invented, one would buy a stock in order to “loan” money to a company, and in exchange to have a continues return in the form of a portion of the company’s profit (usually on an annual basis). Overtime, the return would reach the amount of the “loan”, and from that time the stock would bring to the owner a pure profit.
Today stocks have become a tool for financial speculations. When a company offers its stock, the hope and the main goal is that the price of the stock will rapidly increase. In that case the owners could sell it and make a profit. But why would the price of a stock go up? The only reason for that to happen is when many people would like to buy it. But why would many people want to buy a stock? Because they hope is that the price of the stock will rise. But why would the price of a stock go up? Because many more people would like to buy it. But … Etc. Etc.
Do you see the pattern?
People buy a stock, because they expect more people to buy the stock, because they expect more people to buy the stock. This is exactly how a financial pyramid, or a Ponzi scheme, works. And that is how the Wall Street have become operating. To keep operating in this regime the Wall Street does not need Democracy. Democracy requires openness; but neither Wall Street businessmen, nor Washington politicians want people to know about their symbiotic relationship.

I don’t remember where did I learn this statement: “Every good idea when taken to its extreme become its own opposite”. But it works every time.
As I drew above, that happened with the idea of sharing wealth via stock options.
The same transformation had happened with patents.
And idea of a patent was to preserve the right of an inventor for collecting financial return from people using the invention. Slowly the patent law shifted to allow to patent virtually anything, even the simple and obvious ideas like scanning and emailing. As the result of this shift, the network of patent trolls (companies which do not invent anything but sue everyone) drags down small business by extorting from them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Please, watch this documentary
And share it!
Small business has been at the core of economic prosperity of the Country, and now it is under attack!
I hope, these examples has shown the light on the fact, that the biggest threat to the democracy comes from the big business.
In general, any big business is the opposite of a democracy. In a big business people do not use “one person – one vote” rule; they use “one dollar – one vote” rule instead. In a big business people with money do not install checks and balances; they install a “king” (a.k.a. CEO) whose job is to make everyone richer and for that must rule the company with an “iron fist” (https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/7/17/15973478/bosses-dictators-workplace-rights-free-markets-unions). History has been demonstrating again and again that big business and dictatorship can live together (don’t want to dig into history? Look at contemporary China!).
Sander’s book helps to unite people around a vision of the future, but does not tell us how to get from here to there (except a standard call – be active).
And he is not the only one who wants to form a sort of a movement different from the two major parties.
One such movement is represented by the backers of the independent voters, http://independentvoting.org/ – the saddest people in politics. For more than twenty years the Independent Voters have been waving a flag and calling on the voters: “Join us, we better than the Republicans or the Democrats!” And every time the voters said: “Nah, we are independents, but we better vote for a big party”.
In her recent opinion piece, the leader of the Independent Voters Jacqueline Salit writes about the drop in the number of enrolled Republicans and Democrats, and takes it as a good sign for the independents (http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/readers-opinion/guest-commentary/article178807951.html).
She seems willingly ignores the huge difference between being enrolled/unenrolled and casting a vote.
In 2016 elections the number of enrolled Republicans or Democrats was irrelevant. The Democrats presented their candidate, the Republicans presented their, and then independent voters made their selection.
I expect to observe the same behavior at least two or three more election cycles.
And everyone who says that this behavior is new is naïve, delusional, or a liar.
Let’s take, for example, the statistics of 2000 Bush – Gore debacle; https://transition.fec.gov/pubrec/fe2000/tcontents.htm:

Bush and Gore had gotten almost identical number of votes. But who made the difference in the final count?
Roper Center for Public Opinion Research (https://ropercenter.cornell.edu/polls/us-elections/how-groups-voted/how-groups-voted-2000/) give us the answer:
It is not unexpected that the majority of the Democrats voted for a democrat, and the majority of the Republicans voted for a republican. But, as we can see, it was independent voters who selected/elected the President. We also see that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans could not make any difference, but the independents could choose any of the two major candidates (if they would have decided not to vote for Nader).

The same pattern we saw in 2016, and the same pattern we will see in 2020, and 2024.
Counting on a third-party candidate is just not smart.
It is uplifting, dreamy, emotionally charging – but not smart.
Which means, we cannot count also on any third-party movement – like, Draft Bernie, Progressive Independents, Socialists (of all kind), and other (for the in-depth discussion of the role of the third political party, please follow to: http://the3dforce.blogspot.com/2017/04/3dparty.html).
Those movements are (a) young – that implies “not smart” (otherwise they would not be gearing up for a third-party president); and (b) narcissistic – that means, they do not want to join any other movement, but they want every other movement would join them (in complete accordance with the description given by Vladimir Lenin in 1920 in book “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder”; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%22Left-Wing%22_Communism:_An_Infantile_Disorder, just replace word “Communism” by word “Sandersnism”)
The immediate goal of each group is to “enroll” Bernie Sanders and use him as a flag. They dream that Bernie Sanders would run in 2020 as the member of their third party, and that would make their party “the first”!
Mark my words, if Senator Sanders will run in 2020 he will do it as an Independent.
The saddest feature of the current political reality is that none of the democratic, liberal, or progressive movements, groups, parties is talking to the people who elected Donald Trump. All those groups fight for the same people – people who have already shown that they tend to align with a progressive agenda, people who followed Bernie Sanders, people who voted for the third-party candidates. Simple saying, all those progressive groups fight for people who did not vote for Trump. People who voted for Trump have been forgotten once again.
Some political “genius” coined for Trump term “Forgotten Americans”. Those forgotten Americans did not go to Trump’s rallies; they just quietly came to the voting booths and made him the President. Those people have been forgotten by the elite, including the progressives (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-forgotten-american_us_5822f569e4b044f827a7950f), and still is being forgotten by the same elite, including the same progressives.
Progressive activists, authors, TV personalities, analysts, passionately tell to each other how awful Trump is, how bad the Republicans are, how dangerous is their agenda. But all that passion will not make any difference, because people who will again vote for Trump do not watch, listen or read a word coming out from the progressives, or even if they occasionally do, those words do not resonate with them.
Imagine a person who has not been eating for a long time anything but little of bread and water. Promising this person anchovies and chocolate is not just silly, it is mean.
Similarly, if someone had a respectable life, a good job and lost it, and then for years was barely making a living off unemployment benefits, telling to the one about the climate, or college education is just – not wise. The one will quietly listen to you making your passionate speech, will not say anything, give you a shrug, and will vote for Trump.
Everything Trump promised to his voters was bull$#it.
But that bull$#it worked for him because the Democrats had nothing specific, realistic, and convincing to make a counteroffer to people who desperately needed it.
And still don’t.
So.
Is the American Democracy doomed?
What must be done to save it?
Can anything be done?
In the venue of the traditional politics– nothing. The last Presidential campaign had shown that even money cannot guarantee the victory.

An extraordinary problem just cannot be solved by ordinary means.
Constructing the solution of an extraordinary problem requires a deviation from well-established ideas.
For instance, the first step toward taking America back to normal is to accept the fact that the current state of the Country is not normal.
Then to accept the fact that Trump’s victory is not a random fluctuation.
And then to accept the fact that the next American President will not be coming from any third political party (including independents), but will be selected by the voters who are not enrolled in any of the two major political parties.
You want to do politics but do not accept the three premises above?
Fine; suite yourself, but don’t try to involve me in your actions, I have no time for a self-serving political play.
You agree with the three premises above?
Great!
Let’s try to find more like us, and start talking.
We have a lot to talk about.
And fast.
Because we need to be prepared to 2018 elections, to use them as a test run, to see how things are, who is who, what we can and cannot do.
Of course, we need our platform, but first we need to meet.
Of course, we need specific goals, but first we need to talk.
“A spectre is haunting America – the spectre of the Third Force.”

I have a library of publications and open to questions, suggestions, and critique.

P.S. I am not a Marxists, but at the time I had to read some of the literature as a requirement for getting my physics degree. I also think that people who want to make a revolution should be familiar with the work of people who actually succeeded in making revolutions, in the same way people who go into business read books written by former and current business leaders.
P.P.S. Clearly, English is not my native language, but I hope that does not make my writing unreadable.
P.P.P.S. Until 11/08/2016 I was not writing any political pieces, it all started after that day.
P.P.P.P.S. A reader may say: "Valentin, all your explanations are limited, they do not include many important aspects".  That is absolutely correct! But that is how a reason works.
To understand a complicated phenomenon we always start from the simplest model 
- as long as it grasps the essential features of the phenomenon.
Then we build on it, making it more and more accurate, by making it more and more complicated. To discuss all the aspects of the past, current, and future American politics one post would never be enough; that would require a book (but some other aspects of "what happened" and "what needs to be done" have been discussed in previous posts of this blog - see the links below). 
P.P.P.P.P.S. The comments I often get on Facebook tell me that the Democratic party is the one which has passed health care reform, advocates raising the minimum wage, defends Medicare and Medicaid, worker safety, etc. I assume, comments like that mean to defend the Democratic party from my criticism.
To avoid a lengthy discussion (which 9 times out of 10 does not help anyone), I usually try to forward attention to facts. One important fact is that the Democrats has lost the support of many people in the Country (i.e. they literally lost governorships, and legislations in many states); http://reason.com/blog/2016/11/14/the-2016-election-turned-more-state-legi.

Why did it happen?
A reason tells us that we can blame (a) the Republicans; (b) the Democrats, or (c) the people – there is nothing else!
Blaming people is counter constructive (plus, it does not explain why did they make the switch).
The Democrats always blame the Republicans for many bad things those did.
And that is exactly why I blame the Democrats for their losses.
The Democrats never look inward; they always look outward searching for excuses. And that is why many people turned away from them (among other reasons). People do not like someone who always accuses others in wrongdoing, but never accepts mistakes done by him. That’s just a human psychology. As I see it, the Republicans have better consultants in
human psychology than the Democrats do (President Trump is a living proof of this).

For a long time, many authors have been criticizing the two-party political system. However, only now we see conditions for the third – possibly strong – political force to arise. And the reason for that may happen is NOT the fact that many previously enrolled people go unenrolled. The reason is that inside both major parties we see a growing divide. That may lead to formation of a large number of people who would like to keep being enrolled, but do not want to stay neither with the Republicans nor with the Democrats.
Currently, progressives of all sort are busy with fashioning a big fiery GALA (http://the3dforce.blogspot.com/2017/11/3dforcedown.html).
At the same time Regressive Republicans developed a network of disinformation: http://the3dforce.blogspot.com/2017/11/disinformation.html.
Who is a real revolutionary here?
_____ (click here for a single pdf file with the most of the political post listed below)
a Short Letter to Jon Ossoff (the principles for moving the progressive agenda ahead)
And this link   http://www.gomars.xyz/op.html  leads to even more post on the matter: