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kennetha

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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 3,666

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Some Truths About American Politics

Almost NOTHING happens in American politics. (at the national level)

Almost NO entrenched programs get cut.

Almost NO new programs get added.

Except in those rare occasions when LOTS of competing interests are contingently and temporarily aligned.

Or the OPPOSITION is routed -- which is very hard to do given our representational and electoral system.
The default state of a American politics is inaction or reaction, because by design, America's political system mostly rewards rather than punishes stasis and reaction.

Ours is one of the few democratic ... well pseudo-democratic -- systems in the world in which it is false that failure is an orphan and victory has a thousand fathers. In our system, stasis and defeat can have a thousand very happy fathers.
Consequently, mostly our political problems FESTER and GROW, rather than get solved. Far too often, they are not even addressed until a widely unbearable tipping point is reached.

There are exceptions, but they help prove the rule. Reagan, for all his determination to undo the welfare state, could not pull it off. In the attempt to starve it, though, he did manage to give us mounting deficits as far as they eye could see, which severely constrained what could be done. It took Bill Clinton and unified government to begin to undo the damage that Reagan had done but only many years later. Clinton desperately wanted to restore confidence in the possibility of government activism and thought that starting with healthcare and promising to reform rather than eliminate the welfare state would be easy and would help achieve the return of activist government .. we know how that went .. botched healthcare and a more sane tax policy cost him and the Democrats the Congress, led eventually to his impeachment .... and led to actually the dismantling of much of the welfare state at the hands of him and the Republicans in Congress.

15 years later, after more stasis and retreat and a completely misbegotten war, Obama, who was no firebrand lefty, basically tried to move forward by coopting a Republican idea for healthcare and giving it a slightly more progressive tilt ... partly by giving into the need for an individual mandate, which, by the way, Hilary had championed in the primaries and he had dissed over and over again in the exact terms in which the Republicans would diss it once he was in office. And then the blue dogs DEMOCRATS, of all people, eviscerated even that by leaving out the public option ... and then they got defeated ANYWAY ... and were replaced by Refusenik Republicans for their troubles.

You should marvel at how hard a lift the ACA was. A Huge major lift and for not even a half measure. And it was the first bit of new semi-progressive legislation in like 50 years of trying ... that's how slowly and incrementally and haltingly the American system normally moves.
And remember, how hard it is to translate the will of the majority even into power, let alone policy and action. The American president can theoretically be elected with as little as 23% of the popular vote. And half the Senate is actually elected by 16% of the population. By 2030, 70% of the senate will be elected by 18% of the population, thanks to ongoing population shifts.

Given all that, politics in this county is not even close to wish-fulfillment. At its best, It's a really hard slog through a thicket of opponents that cannot be wished or charmed or argued or bludgeoned away.

Thatís why I keep saying that Sanders people are just blind dreamers. They think that can take a country in which the middle class MOSTLY has insurance through work with which they are satisfied.. the cost of which is hidden from them ...in which the insurance industry is not just a major political player, but a major employer and a major generator of wealth and just wish it away in the click of Bernie's magic finger, instead of building incrementally on the ACA which, for all its imperfections, is a start, and a very hard won start, decades and decades in the making. Much easier to introduce a public option, even state by state, into the ACA, to bring back the individual mandate which the Republicans gutted, to complete medicaid expansion, and to lower the age of medicare buy in... which in combination would get the US close to universal coverage and involves only comparative small to medium political fights rather than a one huge armageddon of a political fight.

But thatís not the broader point. The broader point is that in the US, given our insanely broken politics, our bitterly divided parties, our mesmerizing, mind-numbing rather than informative public discourse ó and thatís just the beginningó huge political fights are won mostly at times of complete and utter collapse ... like a great depression, a looming world war, a looming civil war, riots in the streets in every major city....

And even then, the hard won victories are too often Pyrrhic or temporary. The defeated "enemy" powers are not finally and totally defeated, they are not driven from the body politic. Take the victory of the North in the Civil War as exhibit 1 for this claim. Sure, the war ended slavery and preserved the Union. That was good. But the defeated South got the last word in that struggle. And dominated the "long peace" on its terms (Jim Crow, Share Cropping, the de facto end of black suffrage) for nearly a 100 years. (America's own version of the slave empire strikes back).

Anyway, thatís why I believe in my heart of hearts that we need a New American Republic, a new constitution, and a new politic and why I am toying with the idea of writing a book about these things. Not that my writing a book will change things. But perhaps it will be therapeutic to have worked through it. And perhaps it will lighten my ever darker political mood.
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