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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 3,666

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Bernie Sanders: Too Good For the Real World!

Are you tired of pragmatic, realistic politicians?

Tired of politicians who get up everyday and fight tirelessly for real change in the real world?

Tired of politicians who are willing to take what they can get when they can get it, even while never losing sight of the ultimate goal?

Tired of fighting for hard won incremental change?

Are you the type who wants it all, and wants it now, real world constraints be damned?

Then vote for Bernie!

He's too good for the real world!

Free Trade and Clinton vs. Sanders

I'm a big supporter of Clinton's and think she will be an infinitely better president than anything the Republicans have to offer and orders of magnitude better than Sanders would be. The one area where she has somewhat disappointed me is on the topic of Free Trade. I think that in her heart of hearts she is a free-trader. How could someone who served as Secretary of State not be? How could she not know that for the world as a whole Free Trade is a good thing not a bad thing. It is an essential ingredient in the attempt to alleviate global poverty and essential ingredient in addressing global migration problem. People have to be able to work productively in their nations of origins, to trade productive work for higher living standards that keeps them rooted in their communities.

I am sure she believes such things. But because free trade doesn't sell in certain democratic constituencies or perhaps even with the public at large, she is playing it very, very cagey.

But I wish she would at least not let go unchallenged Sanders simplistic narrative that free trade only benefits the billionaire and millionaire class and is mainly responsible for the decline of manufacturing in places like Michigan and Ohio. it is just not true.

First up in the decline of Detroit was the rise of Toyota and other Japanese automakers in the 70's and 80's -- long before NAFTA. They were producing more fuel efficient cars than Detroit -- during a time when an oil crises was making Americans hungry for such cars. Those Japanese car makers kept gaining market share, despite the fact that those auto were subject to voluntary import restrictions. And Japanese trucks were then and are still subject to a 25% import duty, but the way. This was all way before NAFTA.

Moreover, when the factories did start moving out of Detroit -- again long before NAFTA -- they started out moving to the South, not to foreign shores. In the South not only were unions were weaker, but States were throwing tax incentives around like candy. Lots of Northerners moved South in those days chasing the fleeing manufacturing economy.

Eventually the move South were followed by moves out of the country. But Sanders gets things wrong about the current incentives to build factories in Mexico.. Mexican auto factories actually pay pretty well -- not by old UAW standards -- but not close to 25 cents an hour as he says. More like $8 to $10 dollars an hour.

In addition, Mexico is a heavily export depended economy. It has free trade agreements with many more countries than the US does. o if I am a manufacturer and I want to trade with the world, building my factory in Mexico makes it much easier to do that. Making the US less trade friendly would therefore only make matters worse.

Sanders also doesn't address the effects of automation on manufacturing jobs. A long time ago, when i was a young man, I actually worked as a spot welder in an auto assembly plant. It was back breaking work, but it paid very well. But that kind of job no longer exists in any auto assembly job in the world. Spot welding is done by spot welding robots on completely automated spot welding bays. Lots of manufacturing jobs have disappeared because of technology and they are NEVER coming back.

The point is that the decline of manufacturing in the US has many cause. Free trade may have played some role, but it is an infinitely more complex subject than Sanders in particular makes it out to be. And on the upside free trade has played a significant role in reducing world poverty and contributing to the gradual but steady rise of a global middle class. And that is a good thing for everybody.

Yes free trade contributes, as one factor among others, to economic dislocations here in the US. And those dislocations need to be addressed by serious progressive policies.

What I don't get is why Clinton -- who usually happily acknowledges and openly embraces such complexities in other spheres -- has been so silent on this subject. I have no doubt that she has a much more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of all this than Sanders -- for whom nuance is a dirty word, it seems.

I guess our politics is not made for dealing in nuance and complexities. It's made for simplifying grand narratives, painted mostly in black and white and maybe a few shades of gray here and there. That's what mobilizes people, I guess. Depressing thought though.

The Point about TARP, the Auto Bailout and Sanders

I actually find it really amazing that people insist that Sanders voted for "the" auto bailout. The auto bailout that actually happened, happened because part of the TARP funds were earmarked for the Auto industry. Sanders definitely voted against that Auto bailout -- the one that actually happened. So did a few other Dems.

But in a cover their rear, symbolic vote -- of the sort that Senators often make -- there was a stand alone auto bailout that didn't become law. He voted for that.

But in no sense was that "the" auto bailout -- you know the one that actually bailed out the automobile industry. It was merely "an" auto bailout that might have happened but didn't.

What this shows is not so much that Sanders was against the automobile industry. And that wasn't Clinton's point. What it does show is that he was so opposed to the TARP legislation -- which stopped us from going into a depression -- that even the prospect of saving the auto industry at the same time wasn't enough to win his vote for it.

You can debate what that shows about his priorities. The point I take away from it is that he is an ideological purist who doesn't let the messy real world get in his way. If staving off a depression and saving the automobile industry means you have to get your hands dirty and save the evil banks whose misjudgments and malfeasance caused potential depression, count Sanders out. He'd rather have the collapse of the entire economy, including the auto industry, than sully his clean hands.

That's the point Clinton was making. And I entirely agree with her that I don't want to put that kind of guy in office.

When it's Grievance Politics vs Success Politics, won't "success" always win?

Sanders preaches a politic of grievance. We, the 99%, have a grievance against the 1%. And we are going to seize the reins of power and take back from them what they have taken from us. And we are going to make them like it.

Clinton preaches a sort of center-left politics of success. We are going to tear down all the barriers that stand in your way (that's the left part) so that you can live up to your dreams, make the most of your talents -- i.e succeed. (that's the center part).

Now you can do either grievance based politics or success based politics from either the left or the right. Grievances are not confined to one side or the other. And everybody loves to succeed. Success, as such, has no real enemies -- though success won unfairly, at the expense of others is another matter.

Trump, for example, preaches both a politics of grievance and a politics of success. He's going to make the country great again, by kicking out and kicking the asses of our enemies, domestic and foreign. They have ripped our country off, beaten it down. blah, blah, blah. Though Trump illustrates that a politics of grievance and a politics of success are not mutually exclusive, his own particular grievances are based on hatred and prejudice and ignorance, and his formula for success is a sham.

Hillary too illustrates that you can combine grievance with success -- and in a much more appealing package than Trump does. Talking about "breaking down all the barriers," as Clinton now likes to do, gives you a place to hang a list of grievances, while also articulating a formula for success. Some of the barriers have been unfairly placed in our way by other people and on the behalf of some at the expense of others. She can talk of "ending systemic racism, mass incarceration, etc..." -- unfair barriers all -- not merely out of a sense of grievance - but as instrumental to greater human flourishing and success. Breaking down the barriers enables those unfairly held back by them to flourish and succeed. And we are not just going to bring greater fairness, "We are going to build ladders of opportunity."

I don't really want to overstate the differences between a politics of grievance and a politics of success too much. A politics of grievance and a politics of success might actually opt for the same or at least overlapping concrete policy prescriptions. But they would probably frame them differently.

Grievance based politics frames the policies that it seeks to justify in terms of demands for fairness and equality, more or less as ends in themselves. But again, that's not because grievance based politics is intrinsically anti-success. Grievance based politics just tends not to take success as it's immediate goal. Grievance based politics wants first to restore or institute anew fairness and then ensure that it is maintained. But a grievance based politics can embrace success too, as long as the success of some isn't achieved at the unfair expense of others.

Similarly, success based politics isn't necessarily opposed to fairness.

Of course, you CAN have a success-based politics that dismisses fairness as an important goal. That's what success based politics tends to do when its played from the right, rather than from the left. Right wing, success based politicians tend to dismiss calls for fairness as something only losers care about. My point is just that that's not a feature of success based politics as such.

When I say that Sanders practices a politics of grievance and Clinton a politics of success, I don't mean to say that Sanders is unconcerned with success and Clinton unconcerned with fairness.

Staying on the progressive side, and not concerning myself with the right wing versions, I do think, that a politics of grievance will lose out to a politics of success almost every time. A politics of success can co-opt and reframe in a more uplifting, less divisive way the legitimate points made by the politics of grievance. A politics of success has the potential to appeal simultaneously to the struggling, the striving, and the successful, as Clinton likes to call them, without dividing them from each other.

We will remove the (unfair) barriers that stand in the way of the struggling so that they too can strive and achieve success. We don't hate the successful, we don't begrudge or envy their success. We demand only that they pursue success within a system that is fair and gives opportunity to all. Indeed, we celebrate and enlist the successful, at least to the extent that they play by the rules, and join us in building ladders of opportunities for the struggling, so that they too can strive and succeed. This is something that we all can do together. This is not a zero sum game. It is a win-win-win game.

The politics of grievance has a much harder time wrapping us all up together in a common mission. In the hands of the inept or outright demagogues it can devolve into something extremely divisive -- calls to narrow, identity based, classed based, grievances, pure us vs them stuff.

Don't get me wrong. It needn't do that. If a politician is broad-minded enough and skilled enough at threading the needle, without sounding wishy-washy or devoid of conviction, he or she might be able to weave back and forth between a narrative of success and a narrative of grievance.

Bill Clinton was sort of a master at that sort of thing. He talked about a new covenant, rewarding those who "work hard and play by the rules," but were getting screwed. He wasn't excessively focused on fairness as such, as an end in itself, but more on calling all to a common national mission -- that's what the new covenant and the third way, was all about, at least in theory. What it became in practice, well, that's another matter.

Hillary is trying to learn to do more of that. That's what the combination of "breaking down barriers" and her talk of the "struggling, striving, and successful" are aimed at enabling her to do -- address grievances, without denigrating success. Indeed, it enables her to celebrate fairly won success.

Bernie needs to find a way to get more success based talk into his narrative. The dominant themes are fairness and grievance. He does have his optimistic tropes. But not enough of them. The grievances stand out above all.

To my mind fronting grievances, at least in national elections, is mostly a formula for failure. Not saying a politics of grievance never wins. It wins often on a smaller scale. But when you're talking to all the people and trying to build broad-based coalitions, grievance only goes so far.
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