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Trenz Pruca’s Observations: Rumination on the Long Generation.

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If when I was five years old and shook the hand and listened to the stories of someone who was the age that I am now, he would have been born during the Civil War. If he in turn, when he was five, shook the hand of another old man and listened to his stories, he might have learned that that man when he was young had shaken the hand of someone who knew Shakespeare at the height of his theatrical career. Two handshakes by old men represent a chain of history from Donald Trump to William Shakespeare.

Hmm——This may evidence that, as a species, we may have been devolving faster than we realize.

Recently, my partner told me that when she was young her Grandmother told her that when she was young and growing up near Balmoral Castle in Scotland, she used to see Queen Victoria and Prince Albert traveling in their carriage to the local church to attend Sunday services.

This is a long generation.

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH: Roger Smith’s portrait of Jerry Brown, California’s recent governor.

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Roger Smith’s portrait of Jerry Brown, California’s recent governor.

Roget would like to bring it to Jerry’s attention. If anyone has any idea how he can do this, please let me know.

Roger also is the artist who produced the painting behind the bar in Oakland’s Jack London Square’s “ Fat Lady Restaurant.” The Restaurant’s brochure explains the genesis of the name and the painting:

“Why the Fat Lady? People always ask, “How did the Fat Lady get its name?” Well, there are two stories. Fact and legend. Fact has it that when Louis Shaterian owned the original Overland House, a superior court judge told him about a nude painting his son had painted of a pleasingly plump lady.
This aroused Lou’s curiosity. He was taken to view the painting and upon seeing it, he decided it was definitely unique but he wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. The judge suggested it should hang in the new restaurant Lou and his wife, Patricia, were about to open and thus became the namesake of the Fat Lady Bar and Restaurant. Now maybe this story is too mundane so we’ve created a legend. Factual history has it that the Fat Lady building (built in 1884) was once a house of ill repute and who could have been its madame? Our very own Fat Lady, of course! Rumors also say that Jack London slept here. Considering he lived within walking distance, maybe . . . just maybe he did know the infamous Fat Lady. We’ll let you decide.”

Roger also painted the portrait of the Yeti that hangs in The Yeti restaurant in Davis.

Roger is an accomplished artist, set designer, and opera singer. Now, because he suffers from macular degeneration, he can no longer paint. Recently I visited him at his home in Lakeport.  He showed me a number of paintings that he had previously done. They ranged in style from photorealism to modern impressionism. Of the latter, he favored Cezanne-like muted hues with a strong dash of red or another vibrant color.

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His set design pieces were quite dramatic and fascinating. Here is one that he painted for the opera Aida performed in Sacramento.

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Can Convicting Trump help Republicans to hold on to the Presidency and the Senate and Save the Republican Party?

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There may be several ways to argue that if the Republicans in the Senate were to join with the Democrats to remove Trump from office, it may benefit the Republican party. It may also assist them in holding on to the Presidency and the Senate Majority.

For example, if after hearing from witnesses and reviewing whatever documents are produced, 20 or so Republicans join with the Democrats and vote to remove him from office, what happens next?

Pence becomes President and perhaps installs a somewhat more competent and arguably less controversial administration. He and his administration urge us, the nation, to come together again and reject the partisan political warfare that has so divided us. They then can go on to continue the pro-business, anti-immigrant and other policies of the current administration but with a more humane face. They could, for example, in order to show their good intentions, dial back on some of the more inhuman policies imposed on those seeking asylum on our Southern Border, and/or reverse the rhetoric regarding climate change, probably without taking effective action.

The at-risk Republican Senators can be buffered somewhat by voting against removal or by some other strategy. There would be plenty of time to repair the damage between the trial and the election.

One of the so-called moderate and well-known Republicans like Romney could then become the nominee. I suspect, as a result, Democratic enthusiasm for activism generated by Trump’s behavior would abate with a resulting fall-off in Democratic voters at the polls. Meanwhile, the 10% or so of Republicans who have left the party may flock back to support the more respectable business-oriented moderate. The older Trumpites can be relied upon to continue to vote and vote Republican because they always do so. They are also easily frightened by  Socialism and open border Democratic candidates. The Trumpite radical activists, always a small percentage of the voting population, becomes the wild card. They would be somewhat like the more radical Democrats have been in several past Presidential elections.

I suspect there are other ways this can happen, but we should not assume there are not clever political operatives on the Republican already gaming options like this.

We should remember the 30 or so Senators not up for reelection in 2020 and at least 10 of those who are up for reelection have little fear of the blowback from Trump voters. Also, some of the 30 we know have Presidential aspirations. Removal of Trump may and probably is viewed by many of them as a positive.

Just ask yourself, if Trump is removed and a more “respectable” candidate replaces him, would you still vote for the Democratic candidate for President if the one we nominate is someone you abhor?   Would you vote for a third-party candidate or stay home from the polls? Will the independent voters who may be troubled by Trump’s behavior stay home or vote for the moderate candidate?

Like most politicians, Republicans seek by whatever means possible to preserve their power and position.  Neither courage nor martyrdom should be expected of our elected officials even though we may honor those few who do. Political calculations are rarely what they appear to be on the surface.

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY: The Mold and I, a View from Space.

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The photograph above shows the San Francisco Bay Area taken from space. It demonstrates not only the beauty of this corner of the earth but a marvel of technology. When, however, I look at the photograph it only makes me sad.  I cannot help but notice the extensive grey-white areas surrounding the bay and snaking off into other areas of the photograph. They remind me of mold in a scientist’s petri dish devouring the agar until it is all consumed and everything dies.  Those grey areas in the photograph show the highly urbanized lands within the Bay Area where we humans have for the most part replaced much of the flora and fauna of the area with a built environment.  We have exhausted the resources in the area that could otherwise nourish us for ages.

Rather than cannibalize themselves like the mold in the Petri dish does after consuming all the agar, we humans developed a technological prowess allowing to seek out additional resources and energy so that we may convert them into substances of use (chemically and mechanically) ultimately producing waste and energy (usually in the form of heat.) Good for us. But, alas, with our good fortune comes hubris.

We, the organisms in the dead zone, now having not learned (or ignored) the fact that we lived in a mostly in a closed system and must use our technological prowess to better integrate ourselves into the cycle chemical and energy exchanges instead exhausted those resources and energy closest to us and now send out filaments (roads, railroads, electric transmission lines, etc.) to remote areas in order to transport resources and energy back into the dead zone so that the remaining organisms living there (we humans)  can continue to flourish for a while. Meanwhile, the resources and energy at the source are eventually used up.

Waste in the form of unusable garbage and waste energy builds-up everywhere in the grey urban areas as well as the less urbanized resource and energy producing places. Like with the mold in the petri dish, this can go on for a while until all the resources are exhausted. Before this occurs, however, the organisms ( us) slaughter one another in competition for the ever more scarce resources (or in the case of the mold devour one another). In our case (humanity) this may be a good thing if it reduces demand enough the resources have an opportunity to renew themselves but in a closed system like the petri dish or ultimately the earth, as long as we continue to produce more consumers, devour more resources and generate more waste we are bound to die.

A stable population, renewability, and technological advances that promote a reduction in per capita use of resources and energy is “good” technological advancement. Whether humanity, as it has evolved, is the organism that can recognize develop and implement the “good” technological advancement remains to be seen. If not, then, like the mold setting about to devour the last bit of agar in the Petri dish, it is time to be getting ready to begin chanting kaddish.

Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week: Colavito vs the Nephilim hunters.

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Another snag from Jason Colavito (http://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog) in his unending battle with the lunatic fringe. Today he pursues Nephilim hunters and SkyWatch.tv.

Steve Quayle Claims Fallen Angels Will Return Soon to Kill Us All
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This week, Nephilim hunter and Christian bigot Steve Quayle visited the Evangelical extremist broadcaster SkyWatch.tv to discuss UFOs, cataclysms, and giants, as well as the True Legends conference he held in America’s conservative entertainment capital, Branson, Mo., a few weeks ago. The True Legends conference builds on Quayle’s True Legends brand of Christian Ancient Aliens knockoff products, which like much of the Christian entertainment market involves copying something secular, adding sanctimony and hypocrisy, and reducing the quality by 40-50%. Things got off to a great start when Quayle told viewers that he believes that we live in a holographic universe dominated by demons who have created a “hell-o-graphic” world, and that UFO disclosure is imminent because Satan is using demon-driven flying saucers to undermine belief in Nephilim giants.

When one considers that here in the United States enough Americans believed conspiracy theories not much less insane that this to elect a president, a president who shares many of those beliefs, we should not be surprised if the plight of the Nephilim becomes a political meme of the insane right.

The picture at the top of this post comes from a youtube video, now removed, entitled, American Soldiers in Afganistan Capture a Nephilim. We in the United States are not simply a divided nation but a substantial number of Americans, including our President, are flat out nuts.

DAILY FACTOID: A Brief Rumination On Recent US Population Growth

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A few years ago, I received a brief note from my daughter about recent US population growth:

Some stats I thought you’d be interested in:
U.S. population numbers

1900 76.09
1952 157.55
2000 282.16
2016 322.69

In the past 16 years, the number of people added to the US population would come in at 35 in the ranking of countries by population.

Also – by trumps rhetoric making the US great again (if we assume approx. 1950s) would place us at half the population we have now (which comes to removing enough people to rank as #9 on the list of countries by population — more than the entire population of Russia; which is also more than the sum of Germany and UK populations)

It is the same old story, “Demographics is destiny.” Too few people and everyone else pisses on you — too many and you begin pissing on yourselves.

A BRIEF COMMENTARY ON RECENT WORLD EVENTS.

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Is an old theory still alive or are we seeing the beginning of its end?

 

 

For the past two hundred years or so the countries of the power block we refer to as “The West” (primarily Western Europe and North America) and the two large empires of the East (Russia and China) have clashed over influence and control of the smaller countries along the borders of the two empires. It was sometimes referred to as “The Great Game.” At first, the conflict was mostly commercial (trade and the plundering of resources). After the Second World War, ideology was added to the mix (the extension of Democracy or the prevention of the expansion of the totalitarian form of Communism). During this period the West managed, for the most part, to resist the incursions of the East and deny it the military presence and control of the resources of the area (oil and trade) that they coveted for so long.

Until World War I, most of the conflict occurred in and around Eastern Europe, the nibbling away at the Ottoman Empire by the western powers and the Russian Empire and south and southeast Asia. As a result of the War, Russia lost most of its Eastern European buffer and watched the West effectively carve up the Ottoman Empire south of the Black Sea with client states.

In the aftermath of the war, a number of mostly right-wing political scientists, following the lead of Karl Haushofer opined on the geopolitical importance of this swath of land, an opinion Adolf Hitler took very seriously.

After World War II and the Communist takeover, this swath of land became even more significant. The Russian Empire (then The Soviet Union) recovered their eastern-European buffer and with the ascendant United States Leadership of the Western powers turned their attention to the southern buffer.

In the US government, a dispute arose as to how to best oppose Russia/China’s ideological, economic and military designs on this southern buffer. Marshall preferred forming an alliance a wall if you will, of economically independent democratic states by extending the Marshall Plan type programs into that area. The Dulles brothers preferred strong military alliances throughout the region. A mishmash of both approaches has been followed for the past 70 years providing a certain level of stability among the great powers if less so for the nations within the area.

In about 1990, with the fall of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe was recovered by the West. With nibblings here and there ( Crimea, Iraq, Syria, Afganistan, the South China Sea), this more or less remained the status until 2016. I guess this area can be considered the geopolitical version of The Ring of Fire.

With the ascendency of the Trump administration, this relatively stable balance of power has changed.

In order to understand these changes, it is important to begin by exploring the motivations of Vladimir Putin in order to comprehend much of the actions and policies of the Kremlin in the past few years.

First, as is true with most revolutions, the inevitable reaction following a successful revolt often results in the reinstitution of the structures of the old regime usually with new titles (but the same slogans). In Russia, the new oligarchs, like the soviet commissars before them, have decorated their dachas and palaces like the Tsars from whom they had been taken. The old prisons have been reopened and refilled once again with the enemies of the state. The so-called secret services have been restored and given new names. As common in history little had changed but the names on the doors.

The Tsar’s rentier aristocracy was replaced by the industrial Commissars. The Commissars have now been replaced by a financial/commercial oligarchy. True, the Commissars were governmental employees at the time they acquired their wealth and power and the oligarchs are not, but like the landed aristocrats they still owe their wealth to the Tsar in the Kremlin and they cross him at their peril.

Second, Putin is not only the head of the Russian government but the chief and undoubtedly the wealthiest oligarch of them all.

Third, Putin is a Russian, a child of the Rodina, and as such the humiliation of Soviet Russia by the American commercial and military empire is a stain that any patriot would work tirelessly to remove.

Fourth, he was previously a low-level bureaucrat in the Soviet secret service (KGB) trained in espionage. As such, one would assume he is more comfortable with the strategies of subversion than those of military conquest.

Finally, he is extremely popular in Russia (and in many other areas of the world). Ninety-six percent of Russians approved of his military initiatives in Ukraine; ninety-five percent believed that America was goading Kyiv to persecute ethnic Russians in that country. Ninety-two percent believed the same situation existed in Russian enclaves in the Caucasus, Moldova, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia.

In brief, we have an exceedingly popular, short (he is a tiny but exceptionally athletic man), greedy, subversive nationalist with a special antipathy for the United States. (It could also be said that in the United States we now are also are governed by a subversive nationalist with a special antipathy for the United States who is moderately popular, tall, obese and unathletic.)

Initially, Brexit and the 2016 US presidential election victory of a totally unfit, ignorant and impulsive leader of the free world were, whether or not Putin had a hand in either, necessary pre-conditions for Russia to attempt to achieve their historical ambitions of creating an economic, political and physical buffer to the Rodina.

His first move to recapture the eastern European buffer had been the invasion of the Crimea. Although he was successful militarily, the response from the then unified West, made it clear that further military adventurism came with an economic and political cost to Russia too great to be ignored.

With the erosion of western unity following the two elections and the recreation of a modern version of the Boyar aristocracy in Russia, he appears to have become emboldened enough to take additional steps to restore the ancient geopolitical aspirations of Russia.

Following the publication of the above (see Part One A Brief Commentary on Recent World Events (https://josephpetrillo.wordpress.com/2019/12/14/this-and-that-from-re-thai-r-ment-by-3th-8-pepe-0008-october-2019/), a friend who at one time was a professor of history in the US Military Academy at West Point wrote to me the following:

Re our friend Vladimir:

Begin with the fact that Russia has an economy the size of Italy’s. Now he is a very clever spymaster. But he is a disaster as a leader of Russia. Compare him to the great leaders of Russia: Peter the Great and Cathrine the Great and his deficiencies are glaring. He has not created a state that can build and support new economies and crafts adapted to its 21st-century environment, as both of those leaders did. Instead, he has created a one-dimensional economy based on carbon: oil and gas. That will lead to a dead end. His military is really a 21st-century joke. It’s got shiny new planes, but very few squadrons. It’s got a navy than can barely steam out of port, and frequently has “accidents” such as an explosion that sinks a submarine. And his foreign policy is reduced to sneaky political attacks that are quickly exposed and become sick jokes such as Trump. Poor Russia!

Now China is another matter. Very smart and clever, the Chinese quietly steal the best of 20th-century technology and have created a miracle economy. But try as they might, they cannot create anything original. Why: because their leadership tries to control thought, communication among elites of all stripes and sits on a powder keg of massive poverty. They are in a difficult spot. To truly expand their economy to support a population of 1.4 billion people, they must release their creative minds to develop the next great invention. They try but have been unable to do so. Take an example: Quantum Computing. The Chinese State has spent untold billions trying to develop this fastest of all known computing capabilities and to date has not been successful. Google, Google of all enterprises, has just announced the successful development of a quantum computer that will perform in minutes calculations that would take an IBM supercomputer days if not weeks to do. Google is the ultimate of 21st-century enterprise with free-flowing thought and communication through all of its elite 21st-century minds. Now China will simply try to steal the technology, rather than try to invent it. Trump and Warren and others have a point. Cut China off from access to US technology and very carefully monitor, if not prohibit, Chinese students, etc. from our Universities.

To be continued.

For the most part, I agree with my friend. My post was not a paean to The Vertically Challenged Autocrat in the Kremlin but intended to set up a discussion on the potential geopolitical implications of Trump’s actions in Syria. As for China, again I tend to agree with most of what my friend has written. The Chinese approach to encouraging immigration by its citizens especially by setting up both small and large business particularly in South and South-east Asia in an attempt to create large and wealthy China sympathetic population in the area and the US failure to effectively counter China’s initiatives much beyond sending some warships to sail around a few small contested islands in the south-pacific are simply more evidence of America’s retreat from its long-held obsession. It might require post-Trump US administrations to re-evaluate some of the nation’s long term economic and geopolitical goals. That could be a good thing.

I tend, however, not to be too fond of Ruskin and his theory that great men make history and its modern colliery that there is no grand theory of history and historians should concern themselves only with seeking out and recording events. I tend to believe geography and demographics are destiny and not the actions of individuals whether they be clever buggers or clowns. I am more comfortable with historians like Braudel, Toynbee, and Quigley who try to find a broader rationale for events than the successes and failures of individuals. They may be out of academic fashion, but at least they try to present generalizations that can be tested — not to mention that, upon analysis and my own experience, the great men (and women) of history were most often anything but.

“…were… the great men (as) history paints them… Or were they just yesterday’s mediocrities, bloated up with centuries of stolen credit into today’s towering heroes?”
Abercrombie, Joe. A Little Hatred: 1 (The Age of Madness) (p. 440). Orbit.

Putin’s first initiative following the Crimea incursion was to attack eastern Ukraine. The West’s response with both economic sanctions and massive military aid to Ukraine was enough to convince Putin that Russian economic and military strength was inadequate to successfully nibble at the border states (the Eastern Tier and the Southern Tier) to the Russian homeland. To what I am sure was his great relief and possible assistance, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.

Now, although I am convinced that Putin has some control over Trump and interfered in the 2016 Presidential election on his behalf, it is not necessary that that be true. It could be that Trump is either just a preternaturally brilliant strategist as his supporters believe or insufferably ignorant, incompetent and devoid of either morals or knowledge of the rudiments of history as his opponents allege.

In any event, following Brexit and the Trump election, Putin first appears to have managed to midwife the public bromance between two insecure megalomaniacs, Trump and Kim Jong-un. By providing Kim and his ego with equal billing and the American President and the opportunity to humiliate him, it solidifies to some extent Russia’s relationship with Korea placing an antagonist on China’s flank and threatening Japan America’s ally.

With the recent abandonment of America’s Kurdish allies in Syria in favor of Turkey and the replacement of American troops by Russian at previously American occupied bases, it seems to me that the two hundred year geopolitical stalemate had been shattered. The northern and eastern Asian empires in their south-Asian obsession had punctured through the 200-year imaginary but strategic barrier threatening the hydrocarbon life-line for Western Europe and leaving only India to oppose them in the area. Russia, despite the fact that it is relatively militarily and economically feeble now (or soon), will be able to dictate price and mix of hydrocarbon products available to the West.

Of course, when talking geopolitics nothing is as real, rewarding, or dire as they may appear. Britain may have gained an economic and military advantage over other nations from its control of the southern tier of the Asian continent in the nineteenth century but at what cost? It lasted less than a hundred years, produced untold misery in the southern tier and in Britain, created a few exceedingly wealthy families and ultimately reduced England to a second rate power. The United States blindly took over Britains role, ostensibly for ideological reasons, but primarily to preserve the West’s effective monopolistic power over the worlds hydrocarbon market which within 20 years or so it let slip from their absolute control to such an extent that a new ideological foe (Muslim Terrorism) needed to be invented and military adventurism re-started.

One good result may result from all this. If and when Trump’s expensive golf shoes are removed from the necks of the people of this country, the US and Europe, if they are not persuaded to abandon the hydrocarbon economy by the threat of climate change perhaps the potential loss of our stranglehold on the hydrocarbon market may persuade us and Europe to do so.

(See also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tv7mCXtPB68 and also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPk9HSLagVg)

Historical Background: How Presidential Campaigns Are Won.

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Given that we are well into the presidential primary season, I thought it would be helpful, if admittedly a little late to provide some historical background on the process.*

First a few points:

1. The Constitution did not create a democracy. It created a Republic with certain minority rights contained in the first 10 amendments. It did not give the right to vote to all citizens. That right has evolved throughout our history and is still evolving.

2. There is nothing about a democracy that ensures that it will govern better than many other forms of government. If voting by citizens is a measure of democracy we have had democracies that have governed badly and authoritarian states that have been governed well. No one would call China a democracy but when they had elections over 90% of the people vote.

3. In most democracies who is elected is not determined by who votes but who does not vote.

4. Suffrage, the simple right of a citizen to vote, has never been universal. It began under the Constitution limited to propertied males and is still evolving. But that right has never come with real power. Power, in the United States, includes wealth and ideology.

5. Nominations are more important than the elections. Far fewer people vote or take part in the nomination process than the members of the parties that vote in the general election. It is essentially undemocratic at its core.

Now let us look at the evolution of political parties and the nomination process in the United States.

1. Beginning in 1789 and for more than 40 years thereafter, candidates were named by the legislators. This method was called the legislative caucus. Up to the early 1840s, there was a steady extension of democracy by changes in State voting laws, culminating in the Rhode Island reforms of 1842, resulting from Dorr’s rebellion, extending the suffrage to the ordinary man. By 1843, voting democracy for male citizens was established more or less in all the States.

2. The era of the spoils system, and it lasted for a little over 40 years, from just before 1840 to just after 1880. The spoils system arose, from the fact that in a system of mass democracy, where most men at least have the right to vote, there must be some way of nominating candidates for office. The method chosen was the nominating convention. This raised the problem of how to finance sending the delegates to the convention.

The solution that developed around 1840 provided for the party machine of the winning party in an election to reward the party faithful by appointing them to governmental office. To the victor belong the spoils. These appointees then kickback money to the party kitty, say, a quarter or 10 percent of their salary every year; and these kick-backs provide the funds for the nomination convention and the process of political campaigning. In that new system, government officials themselves went as paid delegates to the nominating conventions, and the nominations and getting out the vote in elections were controlled by the party machines. All of these were local in cities or on a State basis. It was a feudalistic power structure.

One of the interesting features of the whole system was the role that politics played in people’s lives. In this period, from 1840 to 1880, politics and religion, frequently revivalist religion, were the chief entertainment outlets of the American people. They did not have organized sports or other kinds of entertainment except an occasional traveling company of actors, and, more often, revivalist preachers. So people identified with a political party.

Here’s how the system worked. Professionals, not amateurs, ran the elections. Issues were of little importance. Charisma was not important; in fact, it was a drawback. The parties put up the most colorless dark horse they could find—the less people knew about him the better—and then counted on enthusiasm for the party to get out the votes.

Elections in that period were pretty close, although after 1865, on the whole, the Republicans did better than the Democrats because the South had become a minority area and the Democrats a minority party. But, on the whole, few people were interested in issues or in candidates, and it was very difficult for a winning candidate to be reelected because once people got to know him they quickly discovered how dull a person he was. That’s why he got nominated in the first place. The nominee was by definition the candidate that the local State party machines had nothing against. The local machines had an effective veto, and by the time they finished vetoing everybody who had any importance or was known, the only one left might be a man like James A. Garfield, a completely dark horse. The only alternative was a Civil War general, who did, of course, exercise some attraction. The elections were extremely close, and up to 80 percent of the electorate voted. We have the exact figures for most of this period. The average was 78.5 percent. We have never gone that high since 1896.

This spoils system was, in a sense, a shakedown operation, particularly against business. And as business and finance became stronger, they became increasingly restive under this exploitation by party machines. Take the New York Customs House, which had 1,100 officials who were the very core of the New York election machine, which in turn was the core of the system for the whole country. Those 1,100 officials kicked back a good part of their salaries to the New York State party machine. So they, in turn, charged businessmen outrageous tariffs, as much as the traffic would bear. The laws were ignored. The customs officials would tie up a shipment of steel and keep it tied up until the tariff they demanded was paid.

Businessmen changed the system in 1880-1883. William C. Whitney (who later started the modern American Navy as Secretary of the Navy in the Cleveland administration), devised a scheme to cut the very roots out from under the party machines. He established the Civil Service in the Pendleton Act of 1883. This had the effect of cutting off most of the funds on which the party machines depended. So the parties now had to look to big business to finance them.

3. This led to the third historical stage, the era of big-business domination, from 1884 to 1932. It was radically different from the one preceding. Voting dropped off drastically. In the 1870s political activity had cut across all groups and classes — rich and poor, white and black, Catholic and Protestant. African-Americans were more active in politics in the 1870s and 1880s than they have been at any time in the 20th century until very recently. Politics was everybody’s game. But once big business got control, voting fell off and hovered around 52 percent, instead of the 78 percent it had been before. The professionals were pushed out and amateurs took over — people who came in for one campaign or two, generally financed by business — men like William McKinley, who was elected President in 1896.

Then, big business discovered it could control the Republican National Convention, because of all those delegates from the Solid South who did not represent voters and who therefore could easily be bought. From 1896 on, as a result, the Republicans dominated the national scene through amateur control of politics and increasingly restricting political activity among middle-class whites to the WASPs. It was in the 1890s that we got the Jim Crow laws and other restrictions which in one way or another ensured that certain minority groups really couldn’t expect to make it.

Eventually, big business undermined its own dominance by being too greedy — there’s no other word for it — in the 1920s. They alienated not only the workers and the farmers and the petit-bourgeois white-collar workers but also much of the middle classes, including most of the merchants and light industry. All that was left, still in control at the top, was high finance (sometimes called Wall Street) and heavy industry — steel, coal, the automobile industry, and so on. By running politics solely for their own benefit they alienated everybody else.

So in 1932, everybody else lined up behind a Democrat. In the once solid mid-West, which for decades had voted Republican year in and year out — except rarely for a third party as in 1892 and in 1924 — many people now decided that the Civil War had been over for a long time and it was time to vote Democratic.

4. Out of this situation came the New Deal, the fourth stage. The New Deal was a system of organized blocs. Formerly organized finance and organized heavy industry had run everything else. Now the New Deal set about organizing all the other interests, especially mass labor in the CIO, the Steel Workers’ Organizing Committee (SWOC), and the United Mine Workers, which had been the only really strong labor union before 1930. They organized mass labor; they organized the farmers, they organized others: Most of their money came from merchants. The largest contributor to Franklin Roosevelt’s campaign in 1932 was the Strauss family of R. H. Macy. Second largest was Vincent Astor, whose real-estate holdings in New York City had been injured by the depression. Third was Bernard Baruch, who was a professional contributor to the Democratic Party.

These were the groups that the New Deal organized. What they wanted to set up was a system of countervailing blocs: finance, heavy industry, light industry, professional groups, labor, farmers, and so forth. They figured that if any party or political group got control of the Government and acted too selfishly, the others would form a coalition and restore the balance.

5. Well, the New Deal ran its course, and since about 1950 or so we have had plutocratic control. Three things are necessary to win elections: money, enthusiasm, organization. The role of money has increased to the point where it’s more and more difficult to offset the lack of it with good organization and enthusiasm. Organization must be super-efficient and enthusiasm has to be sustained and widespread. The costs of elections, what with TV air time, air transportation, and all the rest of it, have climbed sky-high. The Democrats just don’t have it. Do they have organization and enthusiasm? It’s hard to tell. I’m afraid the enthusiasm has dwindled to some extent.

Add to this the Nixon inspired “Southern Strategy” that used anger by the more ideologically conservative  Democratic Dixicrats to the civil rights initiatives of the New Deal Democratic coalition, to pry loose the so-called Solid South from the coalition that governed the nation for the previous 50 or 60 years.

It also signaled the rise of professional political consultants and lobbyists. It used to be the elections and nomination process was run by party loyalists paid by the party they now are serviced by the lobbyists and reams of professional consultants with little ideological commitment to the party. That later role is now taken up by various media organizations, news media like Fox News and MSNBC or social media blogs and the like.

Anyway, we now have a plutocratic system, and many politicians see it simply as a matter of buying elections. Here’s why. As our economy is now structured, the big corporations — aerospace, oil, and so on — are able to pour out millions to support the candidates they favor. The restrictions on the books are easily evaded, and the politicians in power won’t do much about it because they want some, too. The Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions by the Supreme Court merely confirmed a process that already existed. What it did do is take away the power of government to alter the process.

6. We perhaps are witnessing a new phase in the evolution of parties and elections in the nation. The traditional structure of both parties and the nomination systems that supported them appear to be in a state of collapse or at least major change. It is as though we are returning to the mirror image of the process that existed at the end of the Nineteenth Century. Now instead of nominating an unknown party hack the parties through the nomination process seem to be moving toward selecting celebrity outsiders. The nomination process now exists for the benefit of ideologically based media operations. To them, it does not appear to matter who wins the nominations as long as it enhances their ratings.

As I pointed out above, the nomination process is more important than the election. We as a nation are faced with a political party of the right well organized and capable no matter who is their standard-bearer or whether he wins or loses. On the left, any ideology more radical than acceptable to the more centrist elected officials on the Federal, State, and local levels lacks an organization to develop candidates on all levels and get them elected.

In 2016, on at least on the Federal level, the ideological based media organizations backed by the Financial, Natural Resource and Super Large Retailer plutocracy, elected one of their own to the Presidency (They had been successful one the more local level primarily through ideologically based radio in electing hoards of super conservative and generally unknown politicians under the rubric of the Tea Party.) 2018 has seen a significant reaction to the reality TV excesses (but surprisingly not the corruption) if the recently elected federal administration.

Nevertheless, the underlying fundamentals remain the same. The plutocracy and ideologically biased media continue to fund and prop the Republicans. The south remains solidly conservative Republican although cracks in that have appeared primarily through the emergence of ideologically Democratic women and people of color at the polls. Retail fundraising and identity politics appear to have worked in 2018 and may work again in 2020, but until there is another fundamental change in how campaigns are financed, I do not expect a long term change in national politics.

Note, a substantial portion of the above comes from Carroll Quigley’s lecture The Mythology of American Democracy given to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces on August 17, 1972. Some parts are taken directly from that lecture but updated and edited. My apology to the good professor for not placing those portions in quotes.

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