How to end a party

know-nothing_flag-300x172This has been a tough few weeks for Republicans. Donald Trump is emerging as a far more complex threat to the party’s viability than most people had initially recognized, your humble blogger included. There remains almost no possibility that the man can secure the nomination and he probably lacks the attention span to launch or sustain an independent bid. This offers no comfort as viability is not what makes him dangerous.

Our two-party system has been more or less stable since the Civil War. For all the difficulties the GOP has faced in the past decade and a half, few have imagined that the party might be forced into an open realignment or outright dissolution. The increasing influence of bizarre, erratic fringe-characters like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Ted Cruz and now Donald Trump is a symptom of wider problems in our political system that are weakening both parties.

Trump’s naked racist appeal threatens to topple a domino that could force the GOP into an open split and a full rebranding. Though rare, there is a precedent for this phenomenon in the Republican Party’s own history. That precedent is based on a sort of political physics built into the foundations of our system. A political party in our system can survive many calamities, but once it loses the ability to compete for the White House the pressure toward dissolution is impossible to check.

Throughout our history Republicans and their forerunners have occupied the second slot in the two-party system we inadvertently inherited from the British. Under the influence of Jefferson, Democrats coalesced around the interests of farmers, labor, and Southern planters against the emergence of capitalism. Led originally by Hamilton, the Federalists, Whigs, and then Republicans primarily channeled the interests of tradesman, merchants, industrialists, and professionals. Their priorities were the promotion of trade, commerce and national expansion. By virtue of these alignments, Democrats have consistently enjoyed an advantage of numbers while Republicans enjoyed better funding, a more coherent ideological platform, and far superior organization.

Our last major party realignment emerged from the collapse of the Whigs in the 1850’s. For decades Whigs struggled to hold their capitalist coalition together. Their greatest challenge was a North-South division over the appropriate response to slavery, but other fractures complicated this controversy.

As the nation grew, Northern Whigs were increasingly pressured by a virulently anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant fringe. Nativists spread increasingly outlandish conspiracy theories about the character and intention of new arrivals. They pushed for a crackdown on immigration, stirring up riots in Northern cities and organizing campaigns of systematic discrimination.

In 1852 the Whigs declined to re-nominate their sitting President, Millard Fillmore. He had assumed the Presidency on the death of Zachary Taylor in 1850. Fillmore helped complete the Compromise of 1850 which opened up new territories to slavery and forced Northerners to cooperate in the apprehension of runaway slaves.

Tensions in the 1852 convention helped forge a galaxy of smaller new alliances that ripened into rival political parties. Whigs would not nominate another candidate for President. Out of the wreckage would emerge the Constitutional Party, the American Party, the Know-Nothing Movement, the Native American Party, and the Republican Party.

For all the underlying complexity, the calculus behind party sustainability is very simple. In the United States, when a political party loses the ability to compete for the White House it splinters and collapses. Forget about state legislatures or Congress. Access to the White House is the oxygen that keeps an American political party breathing.

That doesn’t mean they have to win consistently. It means they have to be capable of credible competition.Failing to compete for the White House opens up such a wide, inviting political opening that a party split becomes almost impossible to halt.

Between Reconstruction and the Great Depression there were only three Democratic Presidents, but the party was competitive in almost every election. Conversely, Republicans were shut out of control of Congress for sixty years in the 20th Century, but the party remained vital and influential through the entire period. After Roosevelt’s death, Republicans held the White House roughly as often as the Democrats for the rest of the century.

There hasn’t been a period since the 1850’s in which one of the two major parties has weakened to the point that it could not field a credible contender for the Presidency. Modern Republicans are flirting with this distinction. It is already clear that the GOP is effectively locked out of a credible shot at the 2016 Election and probably also the 2020 race by virtue of basic demographics. Republicans have built a political platform so skewed toward the interests of a dying, rural, Southern white base that it cannot be adapted to compete nationally.

The flight of the Dixiecrats into the Republican Party in the last third of the 20th century was a brief political shot in the arm that, over the long term, has crippled the party’s national appeal. As with the Whigs in the 1850’s, it has proven impossible for Republicans to reconcile the racially-tinged, anti-commercial conservatism of the South with the capitalist vision that has animated the party from its origins.

Like the Whigs before us, Republicans are being split by a regional dynamic. A sudden influx of Southerners animated by appeals to cultural supremacy is changing alignment of the party nationally. Dixiecrats have tipped the party’s internal balance, robbing the party’s once-dominant commercial wing of its ability to contain the influence of nativists and other paranoids elsewhere in the county. This is where Trump threatens to blow up the entire enterprise.

Donald Trump threatens to openly and successfully unite the nativist fringe in the country at large with the priorities of racial conservatives in the South. It will probably not be enough for him to gain the nomination. The mostly likely outcome for Trump himself is still some manner of spectacular flame-out after a campaign that only lasts a few months, but the longer his candidacy lasts the stronger his legacy will be.

As long as he remains in the race, Trump forces Republicans to sort themselves very openly along racist lines, abandoning a game we’ve played since Nixon. In recent decades the party has come to depend more and more on the support of a racist fringe while remaining officially aloof from their politics. With each passing year the veneer has thinned as the racist appeals have become steadily less a game and more a matter of policy. Trump could end the charade.

No credible contender in this Republican field has demonstrated the character or courage to refuse to play this game and condemn those who do. Candidates are left to fight back by complaining of Trump’s “tone.” Sen. Ted Cruz has gone so far as to support Trump’s rhetoric. No Republican candidate is likely to stand up and deride Trump’s clumsy racism. None of them possess the language or insight required to fight back effectively.

Trump’s campaign is unleashing forces that will make it impossible for the GOP to nominate a nationally competitive candidate for the foreseeable future. His campaign threatens to weld together interests that will force any Republican Presidential nominee to embrace a white supremacist message that cannot sell in a national election.

If we allow ourselves to be robbed of national relevance, the political physics becomes relentless. There remains a hope that some figure could emerge in the next few years with the ability to transcend white nationalist fears. Perhaps someone in the mold of Marco Rubio, but with a more realistic understanding of modern America and a stronger moral spine. There is also the possibility that the Democrats will come to the GOP’s aid by imploding on their own. Sen. Sanders’ campaign suggests that Democrats are beginning to suffer from the same institutional breakdown that has weakened Republicans.

Donald Trump does not need to win a single primary to cripple the Republican Party. Until someone in the GOP finds the courage to fight back against racist politics, the damage will spread. History makes clear that this brand of politics can force a party to rebuild itself from the ground up. Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.

On a counter-note, some claim that the road goes on forever and The Party never ends:

(notice by the way that the crowd knows every single line of the song)

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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Posted in blue wall, Election 2016, Republican Party
196 comments on “How to end a party
  1. […] summer I explained how the Trump’s campaign paralleled the collapse of the party’s most recent ancestor, the Whig’s. That combination of racism and regionalism is a political death spiral. Political […]

  2. 1mime says:

    Lifer, I’m impressed that you are watching MSNBC! (-: It must be flattering to have “your” blue wall theory on national news….(even if it is MSNBC)…..

    O’Donnell does a good job of explaining the concept but, as you stated, Bernie Sanders might be a big problem. On Center for Politics today, Sabato compares Buchanan, Perot, Trump….
    as election spoilers. I guess he was focused only on the GOP because he didn’t mention Ralph Nader and the 2000 Gore/Bush race.

  3. 1mime says:

    This piece via Larry Sabato (Center for Politics, UVA) on Trump is an interesting read. It compares Trump with Buchanan and Perot in their “spoiler” roles.

    http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/articles/is-donald-trump-the-new-ross-perot-or-the-next-pat-buchanan/

  4. BigWilly says:

    At last, something a few of us may agree on.

    https://www.yahoo.com/politics/president-obama-prison-rape-is-no-joke-124157225836.html

    The current system is not functioning optimally, and it begs reform. While the GOP field struggles to find a way the Pres., for a few more months, can continue to be the best Republican we have.

  5. Turtles Run says:

    An ABC News/Washington Post poll released today finds Trump’s favorability increasing however among Hispanics his negative view jumped 21points to 81%. Strong conservatives and Republicans are the only groups that have a favorable view of the Donald.

    The Hispanic negative views are confusing. The Donald said he was going to win the Hispanic vote. Maybe the polls need to be unskewed.

    http://www.langerresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/1144a50CandidateFavorables.pdf

  6. flypusher says:

    Beware of what you wish for?

    http://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/revenge-of-citizens-united-120115.html?hp=t3_r

    My cup brimmith over with schadenfreude.

    • 1mime says:

      SCOTUS indicated that Congress could “fix” C.U. legislatively. It will be interesting to see if the GOP can wrangle the votes and the will to do so. Of course, the basic argument that unlimited funds are a right of speech and don’t unfairly influence elections seems to be suffering from the reality of modern campaigning. With 15 (or is it 16?) GOP candidates, those slices of pie are reeeel small for some and reeel large for others….guess that was the point, right? It’s not really a matter of “free speech”; it’s “expensive speech”.

      • moslerfan says:

        1mime, by making money spent on campaigns a Constitutional free speech issue, the Supreme Court in Citizens United has precluded a legislative fix. (The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and overrides any legislative action.)

        Chris argues that money is less important in politics than many might believe, and he has some good arguments on his side. And his solution, full disclosure, should be fully implemented. But as I’ve argued before, CU was not only decided on technically incorrect grounds, it is morally offensive. At this point, a Constitutional Amendment seems the only remedy. That’s not likely, but letting CU stand without pushback is tantamount to legalizing bribery, and is unacceptable.

      • 1mime says:

        I think I got the ACA decision (4 words) and C.U. mixed up. I agree that it is an abomination and the only hope for getting it changed – a constitutional amendment will be challenging. I’d like to let the American people weigh in on it, however. I’ve forgotten the process required to place a C.Amendment before the people….assume “X” number of states must agree to doing so……Will have to research that. Sorry for the mis-statement. Thanks for the correction.

    • Titanium Dragon says:

      The thing is, all this really reveals is that Citizens United isn’t really a big deal in the first place.

      What people were AFRAID OF was people buying elections.

      What is actually happening is the opposite – people are setting money on fire to lose them.

      Frankly, anyone who is donating to these folks right now is crazy; doesn’t anyone remember the ROI on the Romney campaign? 1 BILLION dollars and 0 presidents.

      The thing is, I think most people just tune out campaign ads unless they’re for their person these days.

      Or maybe even then.

  7. Doug says:

    OT: Interesting idea that the author calls “The Siddhartha heuristic” about how to interpret that new study that is all over the news. It’s primarily about medical and climate studies, but probably has a wider application. http://judithcurry.com/2015/07/13/the-siddhartha-heuristic/

    • Creigh says:

      Doug, re the “Siddhartha heuristic,” just be careful you know the difference between skepticism and cynicism.

  8. Rob Ambrose says:

    Really interesting article about the Walker family.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/scott-walkers-wife-toughened-by-life-adds-steel-to-the-gop-candidates-spine/2015/07/05/61337f5d-2513-4698-8f27-647e28b3c8cc_story.html

    This is why I still think the GOP will survive, once they shed the toxic rhetoric of the far right. Walkers teenage son, away at college, are young republicans working for their fathers political campaign. And they (like his wife) are very passionate about recognizing same sex marriage.

    This is the reality I’m seeing in real life (as opposed to the internet). On the Internet, gay marriage is a hugely partisan issue. In real life, with people under, say, 35 it is far less divisive. It is interesting to contrast the internet with my experiences in real life, where almost everyone my age has no issues with same sex marriage. It’s just not a thing.

    Abortion, “small government”, unions, foreign policy, welfare….THESE topics all seem to be partisan among millenials that I know along the usual battle lines. And that’s ok, because each of these are complex issues that a reasonable person could argue either side.

    SS marriage, however, is widely accepted among the youth of both parties. This is also good, because unlike the issues above, there IS no “reasonable argument” for the other side, other then “it goes against MY religion,therefore YOU shouldn’t do it”. Which is of course not reasonable at all.

    The reason why this gives me hope is it shows the next generation of republicans don’t feel automatically beholden to the values of their predecessors. They don’t swallow it blindly, they weigh each issue on its merits (from a conservative perspective, of course) and are ok with discarding ideas that have no place in modern society. This suggests a pragmatism and willingness to evolve that I think will help the GOP survive, amd even thrive, once the dinosaurs of the party go extinct.

    As the current base naturally shrinks (due to the old age of the average staunch conservative) they will become less and less influential allowing the youngsters with the better ideas and policies to rise to the top.

    • Doug says:

      Good post. Even a lot of the old staunch conservatives have changed their mind about same sex marriage. I’ve had this conversation with several older die hard Republicans. Once you get them to admit that two gay guys getting married does not affect them personally in any way, they usually come around.

  9. WX Wall says:

    Interesting note that parties die when they’re no longer able to contend for the White House. 2 questions, if you don’t mind:

    1) How does that happen? Is it that the “best and brightest” politicians abandon the party if they see that there’s a “glass ceiling” and they’ll only over become a Senator or Governor so they jump ship? Is it that the big-time donors, who shell out money to both parties in order to maintain their influence regardless of the election results, stop donating since there’s no need to hedge their bets any longer? Or is it some other force?

    2) Why does this happen in the U.S.? In many multi-party countries (e.g. India), there are plenty of regional parties that have a stranglehold on a single state, but will never compete nationally with the de facto two parties (Congress and BJP). Despite that, in exchange for alliances, they do manage to maintain influence at the central level (e.g. cabinet positions, influence on the budgeting process, etc.), even if no one from their party will ever become the next Prime Minister.

    At the end of the day, what’s to prevent the Republican party from becoming a strong regional party that dominates the Old South, with the Democratic party splitting into a liberal and moderate wing at the national level? In this scenario, the Republican party could even be the most powerful party due to its role as a kingmaker. After all, group theory tells us that if there are 3 parties A,B,C with 49% / 49% / 2% of the votes, party C is the most powerful party. Frequently, they can even name the President.

    Indeed, this dynamic plays out right now, if you look beyond party labels. The North (which now includes the West) has always dominated the South in population, geography, and wealth. But the North always splits its votes, usually between the agragrian populist vs. the industrial capitalist. As you point out, these have always been the 2 national parties. The South always votes culturally, and depending on whether they ally with the Democrats or the Republicans, always plays kingmaker, becoming so powerful as to dominate and eventually suffocate whichever party they choose to join.

    For example, every Democratic President since Kennedy (Johnson, Carter, Clinton), has come from the South, until Obama. Every Democratic nominee who lost since then (Humphrey, Mondale, Dukakis, Kerry) was from the North except for Gore. This points to the possibility that the Republicans, even if they shrink to a regional Southern party, could still hold enormous sway in national politics.

    The truth is the South always plays kingmaker, and its influence in national politics never wanes despite its relative weaknesses in objective measures. (According to group theory, it may be because of its weakness :-). Regardless of whether they are nominally Democrats or Republicans, they’re never really a part of the national party nor do they care too much about the important national debates of the time, choosing to pursue cultural issues while enjoying as much power in DC as their swing position allows.

    So while it may be true that certain party labels die when they’re no longer viable paths to the White House, the underlying truth is that regional political blocs are alive and well in the U.S.A…

    • 1mime says:

      Very introspective, WX Wall. I have a question for you. Do you think Obama could have won the Presidency if he had run from southern state? Not Texas or Mississippi southern, but say an Arkansas, Maryland or Tennessee?

      Of course, those of us who abhor southern regionalism with its white supremacy and the religious right extremists, hope that your theory is wrong. What we really hope that this segment of the population will be replaced by a more enlightened, liberal and conservative millennial contingent and old age will allow new leadership. The numbers are certainly sufficient to launch a political wave within or without one of the two existing parties.

    • Titanium Dragon says:

      The problem is that the South is actually losing its control over American politics. This has happened before – in the 1860s.

      The difference is, the South won’t rise again. Obama’s election is, I think, kind of an indication that the South has lost – 2012 was Romney vs Obama, two Northerners.

      You’re only kingmaker if there’s an actual dispute. The problem is that the South can consolidate everyone into an anti-South party and then lose every time, on the basis of “not them”.

      Right now, the Democrats can win an election with the DC suburbs of Virginia, which isn’t really a part of the South (though, let’s face it, Virginia was always on the border of the South anyway). You can win the presidency and control the House and Senate without the South. Indeed, there’s a good chance in 2016, the Democrats are going to do exactly that.

      This may actually be why the loonies in the South are going so loony – they’re losing power.

  10. rightonrush says:

    Sad…..
    Suffolk University/USA TODAY Poll Shows Trump on Top with GOP Voters Nationwide

    Republican businessman Donald Trump is on a roll with likely GOP presidential primary voters, according to a Suffolk University/USA TODAY national poll.

    Among voters who identify either as Republicans or independents and who plan to vote in their states’ Republican primaries or caucuses, 17 percent named Trump as their first choice for the GOP nomination in the 2016 presidential race.Suffolk University/USA TODAY Poll Shows Trump on Top with GOP Voters Nationwide

    • bubbabobcat says:

      Sad RoR, but keep in mind they are polling “likely” Republican primary voters only. So ergo, you have a healthy dose of the Confederate flag waving, gay hating, ethnic minority hating, gun waving Tea Party trolls who take delight in thumbing their noses at whatever establishment whipping boy of the moment they delusionally perceive is determined to tramp on and whittle away their rights, liberty, and “culture” [of unwarranted privielege and unfair advantages], whether it is Obama, establishment Republicans (every other Presidential contender regardless of how far they are on the wingnutty scale, Mexicans (with truthfully no distinction between THEIR right wing get out of jail free, politically correct catch phrase buzz word “illegal” and legal Hispanic minorities in general, gays, “Christian hating/discriminating/abusing” liberals, yadda, yadda, yadda.

      Trump’s hateful, racist rantings are a (thankfully) ephemeral perfect storm for the emasculated faux victimization wingnuts to coalesce around to make them feel fleetingly better and superior to someone, anyone they can latch onto, knowing deep down they are inevitably headed for the lowest rung of respect in American society far sooner than later.

  11. Rob Ambrose says:

    Kinda disappointed in Bush. I think he’s probably a pretty sane and smart guy, but he’s beholden to the base.

    Not saying this deal has to be unequivocally embraced. But it’s clearly better then thw status quo, and outside of the Republican party, seems to have broad global support. Where’s the Republican with the balls to say “well, it’s not the most ideal deal, but it’s better then what we had. Let’s see how it goes and remain extremely vigilant” rather then Walker, for example, with “I’d repeal it my first day, and then implement crippling sanctions” (on a related note, if a GOP candidate wins in 2016, surely their first day in office will be among the busiest in history. Repealing a multi nation diplomatic deal AND a massive social program with 6 years embedded in society on the same day? The FIRST day, no less? Impressive).

    Bush had this to say:

    “We need to have a deeper debate about this and the recognition that past is prologue. History is full of examples of, when you enable people – regimes – that don’t embrace democratic values, without any concessions, you get a bad result. It’s called appeasement.”

    Had a bit of a chuckle about the “enabling people that don’t embrace democratic values”.

    Someone must have forgotten to tell him that Iran is quite democratic. Unlike, say, the Saudis that America (led by his father and brother ) have been very cozy allies with foe years.

    • 1mime says:

      Bush: “past is prologue”

      Kind of a strange admission for a Bush, don’t you think? I mean if we apply this voluntary statement literally, watch out folks, “W” is baaack!

  12. texan5142 says:

    “Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Ted Cruz and now Donald Trump is a symptom of wider problems in our political system that are weakening both parties.”

    I think this is the only reply needed when speaking about these “candidates”,

  13. Rob Ambrose says:

    So, from watching the coverage this morning, it would appear the takeaway is this:

    Actual event – global powers cooperate to ensure that Iran cannot become nuclear without our knowing (and thus, we can act to prevent it should they break th terms). Sanctions had proven ineffective as evidenced by the massive progress Iran has made in their nuclear program DESPITE them. And it’s moot anyways, because American sanctions are useless without the P5+1 also keeping sanctions, and that is not an option.

    Republican interpretation – Obama gave Iran nukes.

  14. rightonrush says:

    Just another one of the many reasons the GOP is failing big time.

    Oklahoma Republican Party
    20 hrs ·

    The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing this year the greatest amount of free Meals and Food Stamps ever, to 46 million people.

    Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us “Please Do Not Feed the Animals.” Their stated reason for the policy is because “The animals will grow
    dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.”

    Thus ends today’s lesson in irony ‪#‎OKGOP‬

    http://www.OKGOP.com

    • 1mime says:

      The ultimate irony! And, one can only have a choice to “feed the animals” in national parks IF THEY ARE OPEN. The budget for our national parks has been decimated, leading to skeletal staffing and woefully inadequate maintenance. Many operate very limited schedules. Oh, well, let vacationers go elsewhere. Who needs to see the nation’s great natural parks? There’s always Las Vegas, or, Palm Springs, or Washington, D.C. for those who want excitement! National Parks are so “old school”. Who needs ’em?

    • Doug says:

      ROR, is it your belief that humans do not respond to incentives?

      • Rob Ambrose says:

        There are many more incentives then just money. It varies from person to person, but this idea that there are millions of people happy to be on welfare and collect checks is pure republican fantasy.

        Money is definitely an incentive. So is pride, job satisfaction, taking care of family, expertise in a specific area, appreciation etc etc.

        The OK gop has been taken down and they’ve apologized as government agencies fired back with some stats showing the majority of people using it are disabled people (including disabled vets) and the working poor, who are working full time and STILL don’t have the money to buy food for their children.

        They wpuld if they got paid more, but your people have precluded that by vehemently opposing raising the minimum wage.

        So you fight a min wage increase. Then when that inevitably leads to millions of working poor on welfare and food stamps, we then demonize them and complain about THAT? And yiu wonder why more and more Americans are disgusted by an increasingly cruel and inhuman right wing?

        You can vote the best interests of the corportocracy or you can vote the best interests of America/yourself.

        But you cannot do bith because on many issues they are diametrically opposed.

      • 1mime says:

        Clap, clap.

      • flypusher says:

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/14/when-work-isnt-enough-to-keep-you-off-welfare-and-food-stamps/

        If you didn’t exist Doug, I suppose we’d have to invent you. Any suggestions on how to motivate those people better?

      • rightonrush says:

        Doug, it is my belief that children should never go hungry. Food should never be held up as an incentive, anyone that does so IMO has no humanity in them.

      • flypusher says:

        And even when you have plenty of incentive to work, THIS issue can kick in:

        http://www.npr.org/2015/04/13/399414298/new-york-investigates-retailers-for-unpredictable-work-schedules

      • Doug says:

        “Doug, it is my belief that children should never go hungry.”

        Because of course millions of kids in this country are one food stamp away from starvation. Riiiight.

        There is WIC, SNAP, TANF, SBP, NSLP, SFSP, SMP, CSFP, FDPIR, TEFAP….did I forget any? Have you heard about the ballooning (pun intended) childhood obesity problem, and how poor kids are twice as likely to be obese? Or how OIG spends half its resources investigating SNAP fraud?

        “Children should never go hungry” is a mindless, feel-good response to the fact that SNAP more than doubled between 2007 and 2012, and continues to rise. There aren’t that many hungry children.

      • 1mime says:

        Since you provided no link to support your statement that SNAP numbers continue to rise, I’ll post mine proving SNAP enrollment is declining. Also note that SNAP enrollment soared in 2007 when the Great Recession occurred. We won’t talk about whose watch that was under, but it’s taken a lot of work to bring unemployment numbers back down – not to mention the deficit. We won’t talk about whose watch that was under, either.

        “SNAP participation was 45,438,832 persons in April 2015, a decrease of 202,930 persons compared with March 2015, and a decrease of 808,516 persons compared with April 2014.
        Despite some improvements in economic conditions, food hardship and need for food assistance remain relatively high. In April 2015, about one in seven people in the U.S. received SNAP and about one in nine were unemployed or underemployed, according to USDA data and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics U-6 measure.”

        http://frac.org/reports-and-resources/snapfood-stamp-monthly-participation-data/

        Your comment that “there aren’t that many children who are hungry”….How many hungry children are too many for you? How many hungry elderly people are too many for you?
        I completely agree that benefits like this are abused, should not be, and that anyone who can work, should work. It is entirely appropriate that programs like SNAP (and others) continuously be evaluated to ensure that recipients aren’t taking advantage. I can’t think of a better program, however, than one that helps feed people.

        http://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2012-march/what%E2%80%99s-behind-the-rise-in-snap-participation.aspx#.VaZeyPlViko

      • Crogged says:

        Wonder how many Americans are living well, on what they earn, and are just one or two paychecks from having to liquidate savings in the event a job is lost. I know of one. Living on food stamps and ‘handouts’ isn’t much of a life, despite Republican commentary to the reverse, but for some lucky duckies I suppose it represents an even higher plane of existence.

    • Crogged says:

      I don’t need any incentive to eat, seems to come naturally

  15. BigWilly says:

    Gov. Scott Walker (R), WI science denier, apostate, and potential target of 100% liberal talismanic garbage words.

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/07/14/3679723/is-scott-walker-bad-at-science/

    I read this article. Is this a serious statement?

    “Almost every Republican candidate denies that climate change exists and is caused by humans, a premise that 97 percent of climate researchers accept.”

    3% of climate change researches are still in denial? What’s with this? There should be no funded disagreement of climate change. Get that number up to 1 and we’ll talk.

    This one’s my favorite. I think the Maoists are right on it this time.

    “Some stand by the idea that creationism should be taught in schools, and others refuse to talk about evolution at all. Nearly 100 percent of scientists accept the science of evolution.”

    Nearly 100% would be 97%, so there’s no real difference in agreement to the two articles of faith of the scientific creedists.

    “Take the 20-week abortion ban that Walker is about to sign. It is a bill based on the unscientific idea that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks.”

    Wow. Add in some forced equality and you have, bingo, not socialism but dialectically materialistic atheism.

    Don’t forget to add the racism!

    You end up with the perfect brew of cognitive dissonance. I’m not drinking the punch.

    • Crogged says:

      If voters gave a sh*t about science neither party would fare thee well. We have this:

      http://money.cnn.com/2015/07/14/news/economy/2-gas-iran-nuclear-deal/index.html

      the unemployment rate and current office holder approval ratings in October of 2016, which will determine who will be the next President. It’s always about ‘happiness’, the ephemeral. Everything said and everybody who said it before then, doesn’t matter one whit.

    • flypusher says:

      “Some stand by the idea that creationism should be taught in schools, and others refuse to talk about evolution at all. Nearly 100 percent of scientists accept the science of evolution.”

      You want to teach creationism/ ID in Biology class? All you need is to make a testable prediction, test it, and show the evidence that supports the idea. IOW the sort of test that evolution has been subject to many, many times.

      Otherwise, the only mention it merits is the 5-10 minutes it should take to explain why a philosophical argument is not the same as a scientific theory or even a hypothesis.

      • BigWilly says:

        You mean I’d have to perform a magic trick?

        This Russian scientist has some very interesting info on the genetic accuracy of the OT. Very interesting and potentially corroboration some of the OT timeline.

        When you can turn lead into gold I’ll be more inclined to believe that you can turn yeast into a man.

        Link to Russian scientist website, da?

        http://aklyosov.home.comcast.net/~aklyosov/

      • Crogged says:

        At least that’s a higher bar than men flying.

      • flypusher says:

        “You mean I’d have to perform a magic trick?”

        Right, it’s all just magic tricks. The computer you’re using and the Internet just miraculously poofed into existence, no scientific research required.

        “When you can turn lead into gold I’ll be more inclined to believe that you can turn yeast into a man.”

        Lead into gold is old news. All you have to do is eject a few protons:

        http://chemistry.about.com/cs/generalchemistry/a/aa050601a.htm

        Of course the process is far more expensive than the gold is worth. And if you truly think that evolution says that yeast can/will turn into humans, then you do not have a clue about what the theory really says. I say that as a statement of blunt fact, not insult, although you’ll probably take it as such.

      • BigWilly says:

        I was referencing Arthur C. Clark’s famous “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” which I think may explain a lot of the miraculous things occurring in the Bible.

        As to whether I have a clue; I think I do. I wouldn’t be interested in using A.C. Clark, or J.P. Mallory, as clues if I didn’t have them.

        I followed the honors curriculum for most of my time in high school. I even got a 100 on an honors chemistry test (the only one in the class during the year).

        So what.

      • flypusher says:

        “As to whether I have a clue; I think I do. I wouldn’t be interested in using A.C. Clark, or J.P. Mallory, as clues if I didn’t have them.”

        Concerning evolution, you don’t, not if you were serious with that yeast into humans remark. Evolution says that sort of thing CANNOT happen.

        Science is what makes it possible to distinguish advanced tech from magic/ miracles. And to do bigger and better advanced tech things, as long as you stick with what is actually science.

      • Crogged says:

        I suppose you’re humble, but not mystified when the salt disappears in the water.

      • BigWilly says:

        I was really, really, intrigued by the periodic table, along with the possible opportunities to blow up the lab.

    • 1mime says:

      BW, I’m pro-choice and I don’t think 20 weeks is an unreasonable limit for abortions, UNLESS: the mother’s life is in danger, the fetus is dead or grossly incapable of life,
      the pregnancy wasn’t a result of rape or incest;

      AND: the decision is made by the woman (and partner if they’re not AWOL) and her doctor.

      Of course practical people might suggest that if women were afforded reasonable access to affordable birth control, the issue of abortion would be a much smaller problem. But, then, that would mean women would be given the power to make choices about their own bodies and it would mean conservatives would lose one of their main ways of reving up their base.

      IF, one’s own personal belief is pro-life under any and all circumstances, I have absolutely NO problem with that. What I do have a problem with is these same people imposing their personal beliefs on other women who choose differently. It’s really all about control.

      • BigWilly says:

        I think most Republicans would agree with you on the 20 week limit, with certain exceptions. The hard core types will settle for nothing less than an absolute ban. I suppose they would argue that if they set the limit at 20 weeks, with certain exceptions, their opposite numbers would seek to push the limit.

        It kind of self reciprocates like that.

        As far as women having the power to make choices with their own bodies I think that’s a very, very, difficult issue to handle, unless we can change the terms a bit. Do you know how this plays out in the microcosm? She was a dame with a troubled past, and when she came into my life I knew it wouldn’t last.

      • 1mime says:

        Yeah, right, BW, and just “who” is going to change the terms for women? And I can’t imagine why there is any difficulty with women making their own choices about their own bodies.

        Not this woman; not the clear majority of women. But, it’s not “us” who are telling “them” what they can and can’t do with their own bodies. These people feel they have a religious imperative to run other womens’ lives. Well, earth to Pluto – they don’t.

      • Crogged says:

        Twenty weeks, five months-done and I leave it to the moralists to salve their souls as they do for every death row inmate and it’s just collateral damage in the march to enacting the Kingdom of Justice.

    • Rob Ambrose says:

      http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/imageo/2014/02/17/1-in-4-americans-believe-sun-revolves-around-the-earth/#.VaVKs3PMbqA

      25% of Americans still think the Sun revolves around the Earth.

      There’s always going to be some doubters. If 97% of th people who study this agree is not enough to convince you, nothing will.

      And yet you’ll believe whole hog without any evidence whatsoever that we were all made by a sky daddy who really, truly cares who we have sex with and always seems to need money. And that we used to live in paradise until a talking snake duped a dumb woman into eating the fruit that sealed our fate.

      No word yet on why God is such a huge dick that he put such a tree in the garden that would prove irresistible to the very curious nature that he himself created in us. And that he plays lots of games by demanding unquestioned fealty from us without so much as an appearance once in a while.

      And should any of us USE the critical thinking that he himself gave us to come to its logical conclusion, we will be sent to the worst, most horrific place you can imagine. Not for an hour or a day (which would in itself be cruel and unusual punishment) but for eternity. But dont worry, he does this because he loves us so much.

      Yeah, that story is MUCH more believable.

      • flypusher says:

        “No word yet on why God is such a huge dick that he put such a tree in the garden that would prove irresistible to the very curious nature that he himself created in us.”

        I interpret that bit of Genesis as a very astute observation on human nature. We aren’t adapted for paradise. Give paradise to us and we’ll find a way to muck it up; that’s just our natures. We evolved in a Stone Age hand to mouth environment. We’ve been very successful in overcoming the problems we faced, maybe even too successful. We have the land of plenty right here for many people, and there are some negative unintended consequences. That’s why I think the very long term survival of the human race will require figuring out how to get to other planets; because of the limits of this one, and because it’s in our basic nature to explore, solve problems, want challenges.

        In the same vein, I think H. G. wells totally nailed that point in “The Time Machine”.

      • BigWilly says:

        It’s unknown how Adam would’ve chosen had Eve not seduced him with the “Apple.” You do realize that most regimes convert the women and children first, so it’s only logical that Satan (the “serpent”) would go after Eve.

        I can almost imagine what he said. Can’t you? As for Dyaus Pitar (Sky Father), from which we drive Zeus, and Jupiter, and Padre, and so on; You do know that J Robert Oppenheimer was quoting the Bhagavad Gita when he uttered “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

        Also according to Oppenheimer “The history of science is rich in the example of the fruitfulness of bringing two sets of techniques, two sets of ideas, developed in separate contexts for the pursuit of new truth, into touch with one another.” So the whole notion of separateness in the mind of man is an error. That’s why one of the leading scientists of his age took the Gita very seriously, seriously enough to memorize passages and quote them verbatim.

    • Titanium Dragon says:

      TBH I think that creationism should be taught in biology class as a disproved hypothesis. Explaining why people once believed in it, and then why they realized it was wrong, is actually a good way to explain evolutionary theory.

      Creationism is falsifiable. It just was falsified a long time ago.

  16. Rob Ambrose says:

    Fantastic policy achievement by Obama and Kerry.

    If this leads to a lasting peace (and related peace dividend) and Obamacare goes on to become part of the social fabric of society (both of which I personally give a higher then 50% chance) Obama will likely go down as one of the most important president’s in recent times. His legacy will be pretty impeachable.

    Anyone watching the press conference think Kerry is looking, dare I say, presidential?

    This is the kind of feather in the cap that a candidate can hang his hat on in a race.

    • Doug says:

      CNN says, “The U.S. estimates that the new measures take Iran from being able to assemble its first bomb within 2-3 months, to at least one year from now.” Woo Hoo!

      If you believe that sanctions are wrong, and that lifting them may help smooth relations, great. I happen to agree with that. But don’t believe Obama’s bullshit that “we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region.”

      • 1mime says:

        This President has done his best to further peaceful solutions to world problems. Perfection? No. But why not give this accord a chance to succeed or fail without all the BS. The truth is, nothing Pres. Obama will ever do will meet with the approval of conservatives. Yet, he has persevered. How, I do not know.

        As for oil prices, Lifer, there’s a reason why many divisions in the energy industry aren’t rated. It is a volatile market. I’m sure those who want to find fault with the President’s actions will pin any major change in oil on this decision. There may be changes, there have been changes for many decades in this industry. Until America makes a full-fledged commitment to alternative energy, we will never attain true energy independence. THAT’S what the naysayers need to be thinking about instead of always being ready to pounce on Obama. It’s tiresome and petty.

      • Turtles Run says:

        Doug – If Iran wants a Nuke then they will get one despite any sanctions or pressure put on them. This deal just makes the process harder for them and that is what the President is claiming. All President’s make inflated comments regarding their actions this is nothing new. The important thing is a good deal was made and that should be congratulated.

      • 1mime says:

        It’s not always “only about America”. There were six major nations involved in the 20 month negotiation with Iran. SIX!!! The U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany. My god, Russia! China! When is the last time these countries got on board a peace process with European and American powers?

        I hope EJ weighs in with some feedback from Britain and that you will share what you learn. Bottom line: Only time will tell, but isn’t it better to try peaceful solutions first?

        Newsweek reports: ” The work is not yet done, though, Obama said. The details of the framework’s implementation have yet to be finalized, and negotiators will continue talks in that vein through June. But “if we can get this done,” Obama said, “we will be able to resolve one of the greatest threats to our security and to do so peacefully.” If the framework leads to a final and comprehensive deal, he said, it will be “good for the U.S., for our allies and for our world.”

        And this dramatic development: “In a move that surprised many, Iran’s state television broadcast Obama’s speech live Thursday afternoon.” Americans should welcome this openness as a positive step for democracy.

        Give this a chance. And, congrats to Secretary of State Kerry for a long slog. He and his team of negotiators put tremendous effort into making this deal possible and deserves our appreciation and credit.

      • 1mime says:

        It’s interesting to watch the factions line up regarding the Iran deal. As expected, the GOP is apoplectic with disdain and fear-mongering; BiBi is doing his usual pillory of anything Obama; and Saudi Arabia – who has long sparred with Iran, is the most positive of all three. It is significant to note how the President handled communication with Saudi Arabia.

        http://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/saudi-arabia-iran-nuclear-deal-116694.html?ml=ri

      • Rob Ambrose says:

        In a world of cruise missles and live satellite feeds, combined with the inherent immobility and cumbersome of nuclear facilities, a year is plenty of time.

        Hell, a week is plenty of time.

        And if the Iranians clearly violate the agreement and are obviously trying to build a weapon, there will be worldwide support of such a move. Whereas if we try to go it alone, it will be both ineffective, and will hurt America’s standing in the world.

        Also it’s never really been established WHY Iran would collectively turn suicidal by attacking a nuclear Israel, ither then “we’re the good guys, they’re the evil guys, and evil guys always do evil things”. In other words, good ol fashioned small minded tribalism.

        In the real world, there is much more nuance.

        Iran has the potential to be an imoortant ally in the middle east. They were a few decades ago, they can be again.

        And Iranian society is surprisingly stable and progressive (unfortunately the hardliners have an oversed ibfluence). This is not a nation full of ISIS types.

        These people want stability and jobs,not war and jihad.

      • EJ says:

        We in the UK have nukes. America has nukes. France has nukes. Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel, China all have nukes. North Korea says they have nukes. South Africa says they don’t have nukes any more. Since 1953, London has only continued to exist due to the continued forbearance and goodwill of the Kremlin. Our lives are entirely in their hands.

        But that’s okay, because if London falls then so does Moscow. We hold one another’s major population centres hostage, and have done since before my father was born. I very much doubt that any person on this board can remember a time when this was not the case.

        New York continues to exist, day after day, because the North Koreans and Pakistanis are nice people who like living in a world in which New York exists; or failing that a world in which Pyongyang and Islamabad exist, and see New York’s continued existence as an acceptable price.

        Between nuclear powers, everything is consensual. Everything is cautious and negotiated. Nobody gets to dictate terms to anybody else, because the other side has the alternative of saying no and losing major population centres instead of giving in. An armed society is a polite society.

        Any nation which is sovereign – that is, which will continue to exist in more or less its present form and which has a mature and well-defined idea of who its people are – is not going to trade away its major population centres except in utmost need, because nothing is worth that cost.

        Iran is very definitely sovereign. It’s an extremely old and stable culture. Persians are a well-defined ethnic group who have a sense of nationhood far richer than many other. The Iranian government may have formed after the 1979 Revolution but they never claimed to rule anything more or less than the same people and same borders that the Shah before that did. They may be interested in influencing events outside their borders (what nation isn’t?) but they’re hardly going to want Jerusalem or Baghdad or Karachi enough that they’ll trade Tehran for it. As such, they strike me as people who can be trusted with nukes.

        Denying Iran nukes simply means that any agreement with them can be nonconsensual. This seems an odd thing for us to demand: in the long run any deal which one or the other side would veto if they could is not going to hold anyway.

        In my opinion, the people who cannot be trusted with nukes are those who have nothing they hold dear. Groups like the Islamic State (Daesh) have no link to a stable population and no fixed borders. They could lose Fallujah or Alexandretta tomorrow and still be intact elsewhere. As such, they may be willing to trade away their population centres to achieve their demands. They should not be trusted with nuclear weapons.

      • 1mime says:

        (ISIL, et al) “They should not be trusted with weapons.”

        Yeah, I doubt they’d have a “sit down” chat with the big six to discuss either their weapons or their future plans.

        They are the real danger as life means little to them.

  17. goplifer says:

    By the way, as the debate over the deal with Iran plays out over the next few weeks, keep an eye on the most material outcome from the deal – oil prices.

    • Rob Ambrose says:

      They dropped when word came out by 2% or so. Can’t see how it could do anything other then add downward pressure.

      Definitely be interesting to see what it does thw next few months.

    • 1mime says:

      Lifer, I’ve scrolled past this comment of yours several times about the impact on oil prices resulting from a nuclear deal with Iran. It’s bothered me for several reasons. First, America’s oil prices are already low in response to the glut of oil (and gas) on the market. This is principally due to fracturing and is uniquely of our own making – for better or for worse. To this already weak pricing market, enter the Iran deal. We can assume that with the lifting of sanctions, Iran will be able to market its huge oil reserves in the global market, thereby further eroding stability in the floor of the price of oil. I’m sure the Cartel is watching this closely as well as other oil producing nations (Russia?)

      What is this if not the penultimate market-based economy at work? Capitalism at its finest hour? Would one prefer to risk a world in nuclear turmoil with total disruption of supply and demand? My point is this: the energy industry is one of the most cyclical, volatile out there. I make that statement with over 40 years of experience in the field. (I’m hardly an expert but we have lived through lots of upheaval in this arena.) It will always be this way UNTIL the world (including the USA) balances fossil fuel use with alternative, sustainable energy. It does not have to be “either-or”, but if energy independence is important, and it is, this is the path forward. And, not just for the major powers but even more so for smaller countries who lack the infrastructure and reserves and buying power to compete in the fossil fuel market.

      Certainly oil prices will be impacted by the Iranian deal (assuming it does go forward – that’s another discussion), but oil prices have always been impacted by world events. This would hardly be the first time and can assure you, it will not be the last. Yes, bringing Iran on stage with other major oil exporters will make a difference. It’s called a “global economy”. The U.S. needs to be reminded occasionally that there are other players out there. We would do well to get our own house in order and make the commitment to pairing alternative energy with fossil fuels. Then, it won’t really matter what an Iran or Saudi Arabia do with their oil.

  18. Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

    For anyone who wants to geek out a bit, Google “New Horizons Pluto” and let the tide of exploratory giddiness wash over you.

    A tiny space probe racing across the solar system to get up close and personal with a not-quite-a-planet far away neighbor.

    A waste of federal money? Maybe
    A jobs program for engineers with short haircuts? Probably
    Just pretty darn cool to go learn about something because we can? Certainly

    • 1mime says:

      Homer, I heard a really interesting discussion on NPR telling how the engineers lost contact with the space probe and didn’t know if the whole project had been lost. They hung tight and in a few days were thrilled to make radio contact. Imagine all the planning that goes into something like this and how fragile the chances for success are. In this day and age where things move with lightning speed, it’s gratifying to see such incredibly complex projects that involve so much patience and precision, still being pursued.

    • fiftyohm says:

      HT – A thousand years form now, if we’re still around, the history books will record the exploits of New Horizons. And will scarcely remember the rest we said today.

      • 1mime says:

        Nine years! This is so amazing. In this fast-paced world of ours, it’s hard to get one’s arms around a project that has taken 9 years from launch to its first close pass-by! How thrilling for those who fought for this project for years before it finally gained approval in 2003! In looking at one of the stills of the “control room” scene, there are a lot of grey-haired men with silly grins on their faces. What patience – what vision. NASA shows us long-range planning is still important. This is a proud day for science.

        Congrats to all who are a part of this momentous project.

    • Rob Ambrose says:

      Homer, there are many technologies essential to modern life that had no viable commercial use when first discovered.

      Seeking out knowledge just for knowledge sake is one of the defining features that make humanity great, that drive to always find out more.

      I hope that never changes.

      • 1mime says:

        It has been said that those who seek out knowledge for knowledge’s sake are very intelligent beings. It’s called an “inquisitive mind”, and great thinkers and scientists have all possessed it.

    • flypusher says:

      Later tonight we’ll get pictures from Pluto’s closeup!!!!!

      Not all short haircuts-remember Mohawk guy? He was kinda hot.

    • 1mime says:

      Homer, here’s a recent (7:55 PM, 7/14/15) CNN recount of the Pluto fly-by. BTW, the mission’s operations director is a woman! Way to go NASA!!

      http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/14/us/nasa-new-horizons-pluto-flyby/index.html

    • johngalt says:

      A waste of money? The whole project is budgeted at $700 million. This is over the 25 year life of the program, or $28 million/year. That is 9 cents per American per year. How can we afford NOT to explore like this.

      Kudos to the NASA and Hopkins engineers and scientists who designed this and for their decision to dump the data into the public domain immediately. Can’t wait to see those close-ups.

      • flypusher says:

        First close ups are in!!

        Damn, that’s $2.25 very well spent!! Wish I could get that much return on the rest of my tax $!!

    • Bobo Amerigo says:

      Tonight’s Nova on the Pluto mission was terrific. Stories about so many aspects of space exploration it makes one giddy.

      Undiscovered moons, new planets, hazardous debris, slowest-telemetry-imaginable — the New Horizons team aged on camera.

      I admire their devotion.

      • 1mime says:

        It is inspiring and the team has earned every grey hair on their heads! (Sort of like our Presidents – all of them…..the ones that earned a second term really greyed up! Not an easy job going to Pluto or right here on earth.

  19. Shiro17 says:

    Another interesting aspect to this whole debate (which I’ve known you’ve written about before):

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/the-mainstream-response-to-donald-trump-affirms-latino-political-power/2015/07/12/678e4405-676a-4440-b23d-2cc18fa29485_story.html?tid=sm_fb

    Basically, the widespread condemnation of Trump’s remarks appear to be accelerating the “Latino Moment” when they finally and decisively join the political scene.

  20. I would humbly submit that both parties are currently intellectually incoherent, and ripe for dissolution. If the blue wall is as stout as Chris thinks it is, the GOP will likely go first. However, the Democrats may not be far behind. Interesting times (in the sense of the apocryphal Chinese curse).

    BTW, anybody who enjoys R.E.K. can’t be all bad. (“A Bigger Piece of Sky” is quite possibly my fav LP of all time. 🙂 )

  21. flypusher says:

    Here is something i found while reading Robert Potts’ Politco link that I found interesting and disturbing:

    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/07/northwest-front-americas-worst-racists-119803.html#.VaK59ShOS-8

    I knew that places like Idaho/Montana were very, very white, but I didn’t know that Oregon was founded with a “whites only” mentality. So I’ve learned something.

    I can see the temptation to have Covington and his ilk set up their own little private nazi Idaho. There is a right of free association, and they would be away from the rest of us who are fine with giving a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious sort of society a go. But I doubt that so much hate can keep to itself in the long run; kind of like trying to negotiate with cancer cells to not metastasize. Probably the only thing that can be done is to keep a close watch on those people.

  22. briandrush says:

    Something just occurred to me. Your observation about the importance of being presidentially viable for a major party is one I hadn’t considered and you may be onto something. But —

    Parties have died twice in the past. Both times happened before the Civil War, while we were still deciding whether or not to industrialize. The parties that died were proponents of industrial capitalism. That was the challenger party, while the agrarian party (Democrats) remained stable.

    Today, that’s not what will happen. The party that may die (although I’m not quite ready to write its epitaph just yet) may have started life as an industrial capitalist party, but now it’s the agrarian holdover party. This is progress, if you like.

    • Titanium Dragon says:

      In all fairness, the Democratic Party effectively died during the Civil War – it broke up into multiple parties in 1860, and then another party that had the same name reformed after the war.

  23. Robert Potts says:

    Here’s another analysis that suggests the outcome of this election is pretty much already decided. I’d be interested in your take on this.

    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/07/the-end-of-the-2016-election-is-closer-than-you-think-119947.html#.VaKHdPlVhBc

  24. flypusher says:

    A concurring opinion:

    http://theweek.com/articles/565446/gop-doesnt-have-donald-trump-problem-angry-conservative-base-problem

    I think the best possible outcome would be that the Tea Party breaks off from the GOP and becomes a 3rd party. And by best I certainly don’t mean painless or easy.

    • RobA says:

      That’s exactly what I think will happen.

      The GOP only panders to the far right wing ONLY bevause in their (wrong) political calculations, they think that it’s a net political gain. I.e. by pandering to the racist fringe, they calculate they will get more votes then they lose.

      The MINUTE they realize that the TP pandering is actually a net political LIABILITY, then there is literally no reason to continue.

      I thought they realized that after the 2012 election based on the GOP establishment’s comments afterwards. But they must have c9nv8nced themselves otherwise and doubled down.

      And I think America is significantly more liberal then it was even in 2012 (and I think we have the increasingly intense far right antics to thank for it). I think the GOP candidate (even the sane ones like Bush) are going to have to come so far right to win the primary that they will be crushed in the general.

      I think at that point, the GOP establishment will realize the White House is basically unwinnable unless they do a drastic policy u turn and dump the tea party.

      And we know the TP simply cannot abide by that. They’ll form their own parry, but without the traditional GOP voters to supplement their numbers, they will find their political power severely diminished.

      Can’t even guess what will happen then, but if a crystal ball told me there was a marked increase in domestic terrorism in the next few years, I wouldn’t at all be surprised.

      Its notnthat crazy. Tim McVeigh bombed the Murrah Building for reasons and justifications that sound very similar to TP rhetoric today.

    • 1mime says:

      And, Fly, if the TP breaks away as a 3rd party, I assyne you don’t mean “best” in any other stretch of the imagination. Those of with grey hair remember The John Birch Society. Scary people. No, the Republican Party is being torn apart from within and without, and, they did it to themselves. A new GOP electorate as proposed in The Week article, won’t happen until the Republican Party finds its center again. In the meantime, it is wishful thinking to count on the Democratic Party being so accommodating that they will self-destruct purely because the opposition is floundering. Isn’t there another possibility? Could the Democratic Party use this as an opportunity to become a stronger, more cohesive and well organized party?

    • briandrush says:

      The only reason for the TP to to do that is if they are denied control of the GOP. Which would require that establishment Republicans refuse to court the neo-Confederate vote.

      It’s too late for that to same them for next year’s election, most likely, but if they do it, the years 2016-2020 will feature a realignment, as a reinvigorated sane Republican Party together with a liberal surge within the Democratic Party leads conservative Democrats to bolt to the new/old GOP. That would give us a three-party election in 2020, with the Democrats (all or most progressive), the Republicans (all sane conservatives) and the new TP faction (all neo-Confederate loonies) competing. That would still favor the Democrats, but once sufficient reform is in place and we’re past the current Crisis era, the nation’s mood will predictably swing rightward, and the GOP would be favored.

      Over the course of the next 20 years or so, demographics will lead to the demise of the Tea Party, and we will be left with a progressive and a conservative party debating sanely and sensibly.

      (Yes, I’m an optimist by nature.) 🙂

      • 1mime says:

        Brian, I was with ya all the way until this: “we will be left with a progressive and a conservative party debating sanely and sensibly.” The ultimate oxymoron!

        But, one can dream!

  25. Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

    All the love Chris, but loosen up the clutches on your pearls.

    “No Republican candidate is likely to stand up and deride Trump’s clumsy racism. None of them possess the language or insight required to fight back effectively.”

    Trump will fall apart from two contrasting actions. He will get a ton of publicity, remind people that he is a non-serious buffoon, get ignored when the new flavor of the month arises, and then fade away.

    I cannot imagine a political consultant or campaign manager that would ever suggest a GOP candidate engage Trump on this, what with wrestling pigs in the mud and all.

    I do not think this is a grand plan by Trump, and Trump is no more aligned with Southern racists than is Jeb Bush. Trump throws a lot of pasta against the wall, and some of it stuck this time, but it will be short lived.

    This too shall pass.

    • goplifer says:

      Trump will fail to achieve his goals. I think that is more or less assured. The problem is that he’s stripping the civilized veneer off the entire process. In effect, he is assuring that the GOP nominates a candidate who not only can’t win the general election, but is so obnoxious at the national level that the party loses any sense of national credibility.

      That’s a nasty outcome which could create some earthquakes. The party was going to have to realign here in the near future, but there was at least some expectation that it could accomplish that painful feat beneath the existing brand. Trump threatens to make that brand so toxic that it has to be scrapped. That’s expensive and difficult.

      • 1mime says:

        Lifer, it is about time the Republican veneer of civility is peeled away. Those of us who pay attention have watched with frustration and dismay as GOP extremists get away with puerile rhetoric and absurd and damaging tactics (Cruz shut down, etc) that have hurt America and its people. These fanatics have become so emboldened that the party can no longer hide the ugliness they represent and it has damaged their ability to function effectively. If Donald Trump accomplishes nothing more than exposing the underside of the party he champions, he will have served a far greater purpose than his own egotistical purposes. That’s all the good he can ever hope to do, pitiful excuse of a human being that he is. Strange bedfellows, Trump + the GOP.

      • 1mime says:

        You might be interested in this “Hill” article about how GOP strategists are advising Bush to respond to Trump. I think they’re correct. The big money is on Bush just like it is on Clinton. Those are the two contenders we will see in the 2016 Presidential ring. They can afford to wait out the scuffling that is going on. It makes them look “more Presidential” by contrast.

        “The advantage that Bush gains from Trump is it makes clear that Bush ain’t Trump,” said Rich Galen, a GOP strategist. “I think Trump’s helping Bush because he’s establishing him as a legitimate contender.”

        http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/247588-gop-strategists-to-jeb-treat-trump-with-kid-gloves

      • RobA says:

        Well said Mime

      • flypusher says:

        “Trump will fail to achieve his goals. ”

        Does Trump honestly have any goals beyond the attention-whoring???

  26. Griffin says:

    Sanders has a touch of “crazy” (such as flirting with anti-GMO folks) but he is nowhere near Ted Cruz/Donald Trump levels of crazy. I think the difference is that Sanders platform has only a couple nutty positions whereas the Republicans platform is composed of nothing but. He actually has more in common with Ronald Reagan than anyone else, shifting his party a little further from the center, adding a little populism in it for better or worst, and the aforementioned positions that may appeal to a small group of crazies but with a majority of the platform (or at least the parts he’s focused on) trying to appeal to a majority of the American populace.

    Now, like Reagan, could his victory open the gate for total nutjobs to take over his party in a decade or so? Perhaps, but at the moment I’d still say he’s no further from the political center than the Reaganites were, just coming from the other direction.

    • goplifer says:

      ***Sanders has a touch of “crazy” (such as flirting with anti-GMO folks) but he is nowhere near Ted Cruz/Donald Trump levels of crazy.***

      You are absolutely right. The same statement could be made about Pat Buchanan in 1992.

      Democrats are a little behind, but they are going to catch up fast. The parallels to 1992 are striking. The Democrats have an opportunity to nominate the most qualified, prepared person ever to sit in the White House who meets nearly all of their most vital policy qualifications. Instead they are being distracted by an obscure Senator from Vermont who isn’t even a member of their party – someone utterly unqualified who is an ideological cipher on which they are painting their fantasies.

      You folks are opening up a box of surprises. Good luck putting the lid back on.

      I have seen this movie before. And yes, it is making me smile.

      Mark my words, your next set of Bernie Sanderses are going to be more numerous, louder, more disturbing, and far more thoroughly disengaged from reality than this one.

      Sanders is almost certain to lose the nomination, but he is paving the way for some whackjob to come along in 2020 and create some genuine havoc. And beyond 2020, somewhere out there in an obscure corner of Congress or a state legislature, there’s a truly charismatic left-wing weirdo watching this spectacle and getting ready for 2024.

      My hope is that by 2024 the GOP will have cycled through a fairly excruciating realignment. We’ll emerge with a relatively grounded, secular version of Marco Rubio running for the White House, Meanwhile Democrats will still be pretending that their Sanderses are a perfectly acceptable centrist choice. Predictable results will ensue.

      That’s my hope. My fear is that Republicans will more or less stop competing at the national level while Democrats careen off into their own ideological fantasy land, a few steps behind the GOP. Electoral politics will be eclipsed as a means of meeting public policy objectives. It will become a discredited realm of fringe characters disregarded, disrespected, and drained of public influence.

      The relatively sane portion of the public will increasingly depend on corporations and unelected public institutions like the Fed, the court system, and the military to keep civic life functioning and contain the influence of our increasingly dysfunctional electoral institutions. That’s my fear. I think it’s a credible possibility.

      • texan5142 says:

        Is that you Alex Jones? Chris with all due respect that screed is out there. I believe that Bernie is what people are looking for and his support from all the political spectrum is going to surprise and/or shock the status quo.

      • Turtles Run says:

        Come On Lifer. The positions pushed by Sanders poll very favorable with the stance of most Americans. Contrast this with the positions held by Trump or Cruz whose message is aimed for a very narow audience.

        One of the reasons Sanders sounds crazy is because it has been a long time since a real populist politician has been this vocal. The media is facinated by him because he is like a two headed calf at a state fair and because Clinton is at a near media blackout. Six months from now he will be a footnote in the campaign.

      • 1mime says:

        I don’t disagree that Democrats have their share of problems, Chris. But, the real “mess” is in the GOP camp. For a party that prides itself on its intellectual and economic superiority, they sure look inept. Not only will the GOP have a messy primary brawl on its hands, it is headed into yet another nightmare budget shutdown. The GOP is adding $38B in new funding for the Pentagon budget without finding cuts to pay for it (budget gimmickry), and are cutting and eliminating critical programs that Democrats cannot accept. More important, Americans will not accept these cuts once they know about them. The Republican budget cuts have been flying under the radar, but word will get out when the shutdown threats begin and the public is going to be furious. People simply will not put up with another unnecessary hit to their savings and investments and Republicans will own another meltdown.

        Republicans have been unable or unwilling to control the extremists within the GOP tent (TP), or the external conservatives who are focusing vast wealth and religious/ideological interests with total disregard for the GOP agenda. (See the Politico link offered by Robert Potts above.) That dual set of forces is more telling of the state of GOP disarray than the looming primary brouhaha.

        Let me say straight up: Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for President. Bernie Sanders will be an interesting and important opponent. He deserves the attention he has garnered. But never doubt that Democrats will back Hillary because gifting the Presidency to Republicans is not. an. option. Hillary is smart and competent and she will be the nominee.

      • Brent Uzzell says:

        Chris I too wish you would say more about this as I don’t understand what you are saying about the Democrats susceptibility to destabilization. I recently became fascinated by the run-away right and as I have studied it’s history it is pretty well documented how the current dysfunction is simply the result of orchestrated efforts to create and perpetuate a narrative that would allow for Rep hegemony. Rick Perlman, Sara Diamond, Janine Wedell, Catherine Stock, Kim Phillips-Fein and a whole host of others have traced how the anti-New Deal coalitions organized business to create institutions, how Murdoch/Thatcher partnered to create media dominance recruiting Reagan to unleash Ailes and fundamentally transform the FCC. Not to mention the whole electoral paradigm of the “Southern Strategy”. Republicans are reaping the loss of trust, distrust of authority and hatred of government that they intentionally created. (OK perhaps it would be better said “expanded” as I agree elements of these things are part and parcel of our political tradition but never before have they been so intentionally aligned and coordinated within a saturate media environment.) I don’t see anything similar happening on the left by a long shot. Can you expand on your themes please?

      • RobA says:

        Have to agree with 1mime.

        I love Sanders. I donated money to him. He’s authentic, his message hasn’t wavered in decades, and his ideas are exactly what America needs.

        That said, he had no chance of winning the nominee (but i think he’s going to scare the crap of Hill first). He doesn’t seem presidential to me. But he’s also good for Hillarys bid. Hell provide a real test, he will eliminate the feeling of “inevitableness” for her. And he’s going to show her just how popular his “crazy” ideas are and show her she needs to come left.

        And I actually think Hillary will be a good president, not just an ABR vote (Anybody But Republican). She’s a smart pragmatic centrist. That’s exactly what this country needs.

        Even though the right will be screaming about what a radical feminist she is, she’s quote moderate. As is Obama, and yet he’s a “Marxist muslim” if you listen to the right wing.

      • EJ says:

        This post felt like it was very difficult to write, Chris. Thank you for writing on what is such a deeply heartfelt topic.

        From a European perspective, Sanders is a candidate of the moderate left and Clinton is a candidate of the moderate right. The Democratic nomination, then, is an entire European election in microcosm. The Republicans, especially the religious and racist rump to which they have shrunk, have no direct analogy. The closest one can come to comparison is the ex-Communist parties of the eastern lands: sullen, nostalgic for a past that never was, interested less in negotiation than in culture war.

        On these shores, It’s been the received wisdom for several years now that as the Republicans self destruct, the Democrats will stop pretending that they like one another and will undergo schism to make up the next two parties. The only thing stopping them is the atavistic drive to party unity in the face of a lingering fear of a Republican resurgence. The slower the Republicans die, the longer this unity will last and the more time will pass before the real election occurs on the ballot rather than within the Democratic primary.

        Both Sanders and Clinton have shown the desire to pander to their own less-than-rational fringe supporters. Sadly this is a common practise because it wins more votes than it loses. Sanders’ faction will take the hard-left people under its wing; Clinton’s faction will take the republican refugees under their wing. Neither will be a threat as long as the moderates outnumber them.

        Chris, I would rather have seen this as a golden opportunity. There is a new party of the centre right waiting to be born. Clinton’s faction, shorn of their culture-war markers, could combine with the refugees from the GOP to form one wing of a new two-party system. If you got in on the ground floor of this you could affect genuine change and create a real legacy. If not, the new Democratic right will continue to function by machine politics and patronage, and you will continue to see the reasonable right locked out of power for the foreseeable future.

      • EJ says:

        Note to self:

        Run the numbers during the Democratic primary as if it’s an election. Plug those numbers into Nate Silver’s S-curve. Compare Sanders’ defeat to the Republican defeat, plot the votes on a map and see which of those two factions would have won had Clinton and all her supporters mysteriously disappeared.

        (In the event that Sanders or the Republican candidate do not get defeated, I have a new plan: Get drunk and despondent.)

      • Titanium Dragon says:

        The thing is, Bernie Sanders ISN’T a crazy person. The idea that he is the Democratic Pat Buchanan is wrong. He’s not even really all that much of an extremist. That’s why he has received such a high level of support.

        Our crazy people aren’t the Bernie Sanders of the world – they’re Black Lives Matters and the so-called Social Justice Warriors. The leftist authoritarians.

        They ARE concerning, much more so than Bernie.

        The difference is, I think, right now at least, a lot of the liberals hate these people – Black Lives Matters is, at least, not very popular amongst Bernie’s supporters. There’s substantial pushback against the SJWs as well. As long as the mainstream liberals keep them at bay, they’re fine.

        We’ve had far crazier candidates in recent history, like Dennis Kucinich (someone I actually voted for in 2004 – I voted Hillary in 2008, because by that point, I realized that Kucinich was nuts).

  27. neko says:

    ok seriously, it’s bizarre how fixated you are on painting bernie as the dem’s counterpart to the GOP’s crazy in order to fit your pet theory that both parties are on the path to falling apart. if you read about politics around the world, you cannot miss the fact that both of the major US parties are conservative in the political spectrum of the developed western world. bernie is not a radical. he’s not a crazy. he’s “european”
    it’s intellectually lazy and insulting to dismiss him and paint him with the same brush as the real crazies. if you’d like to do a serious, thoughtful critique of his stated positions, please, i’m sure many of us will find it interesting to read.

    • 1mime says:

      Neko, I think that’s a fair statement. Bernie Sanders is not afraid to bring up real issues that matter deeply to the majority of Americans. Further, he has taken the time and effort to propose well developed solutions. One may disagree with his solutions but it is impossible to disagree that the problems he is presenting are real. Sanders is no Pat Buchanan. He is a serious, passionate, fearless candidate for President of the United States. If anything, it may be these qualities that some find uncomfortable. I find them refreshing.

      • moslerfan says:

        Yes, Sanders’ big contribution is his willingness to confront big issues. He lists three on his website – income inequality, campaign finance, and climate change. The Republicans deny climate change, don’t want to talk about campaign finance, and blame economic problems on illegal immigrants. And Hillary, has she even announced her candidacy yet?

        Of those three, Sanders is least specific about solutions to income inequality. He Facebooks a lot about raising taxes on the rich, which is probably popular, but surely inadequate. The fundamental problem is that the economy has changed in ways that favor capital over labor. That’s a complicated problem to solve but one thing that should be done is to stop taxing labor at a higher rate than capital. Payroll taxes for SS and Medicare should immediately be eliminated.

        Sanders has an economist on his staff (Dr. Stephanie Kelton) who absolutely understands how taxes and money work, and how conventional wisdom on fiscal conservatism and austerity are harming the economy. Unfortunately, conventional wisdom is so deeply ingrained that it will probably be impossible for some time to be taken seriously unless one appropriately bows to fiscal conservatism. So, for now it’s tax the rich, I guess.

      • 1mime says:

        Mosler, you state that medicare and social security taxes should not be collected on wages.

        If you feel SS and Medicare are worth having, how would you pay for them?

      • flypusher says:

        “The fundamental problem is that the economy has changed in ways that favor capital over labor.”

        Amen!! I’d like to see the tax code changed so that the two are at least treated the same. For example, I don’t see a valid reason that unearned income such as an inheritance ought to be sacrosanct (according to some people in the “death tax” crowd) but earned income is taxed.

      • 1mime says:

        Fly: why should unearned inheritance be sacrosanct (from being taxed)?

        The thinking of those who have something to pass along is that they have already paid taxes on the money and that taxing the beneficiary is double taxation. We have already told our kids that we don’t plan to burden them in this regard – we’re going to make every effort to end our days with one dollar in our pockets (-:

      • RobA says:

        Fly – also, lower income tax across the board and offset this by taxing dividends at the same rate as income.

      • 1mime says:

        Rob, lowering income taxes across the board won’t work unless wages are increased for working people. Increase their pay which not only allows them to provide for themselves and their families, but also to contribute to society, and pay taxes instead of receiving EIT or welfare, etc.

        Trickle down ain’t working. Broaden the income base so more people can participate and the entire American economy benefits. Isolating profit to the top tier of income earners is not working for America. Neither is subsidizing those who are at the bottom tier – which, in case anyone is looking, is getting really, really large.

      • moslerfan says:

        1mime, here’s hoping this lands in the right place as a reply to your question about how to fund Social Security and Medicare: In a word, deficits – at least as long as unemployment is a more serious problem than inflation. If we get to a point where inflation is a greater problem than unemployment, then we raise taxes. But the taxes to be raised don’t have to be dedicated to any particular social program or assessed against any particular class of people. (Who and what to tax is a political problem, just as what to spend government dollars on is a political problem.)

        When SS was set up by FDR, it was structured to look like an insurance policy, with “premiums” deducted from payrolls. This was done for political reasons: FDR knew that if people felt they were contributing to their retirement security, they would fight tooth and nail against those who would try (and are still trying) to kill it.

        The reality is that taxes do not serve to fund Federal Government spending. Their purpose is rather to control aggregate demand in the economy. We need to reduce taxes (increase the deficit) when aggregate demand is not sufficient to support full employment, and raise taxes (reduce the deficit) when excessive aggregate demand starts to push prices higher.

        Let me clarify something I implied above. The Federal Government does not need to tax in order to spend. In fact, the opposite is true; since all US Dollars originate from the Government, it is logically necessary that the Government spend first, otherwise the private sector would have no dollars with which to pay taxes.

      • 1mime says:

        Mosler, just because it’s late (and we don’t have any fireflies here), here’s a cute story about an innovative way to reduce costs in SS and Medicare. (dedicated to all the old folk who post on this blog)

        “To help save the economy, the Government will announce next month that the Immigration Department will start deporting seniors (instead of illegals) in order to lower Social Security and Medicare costs.
        Older people are easier to catch and will not remember how to get back home. I was sad when I thought of you. Then it dawned on me, oh, shoot… I’ll see you on the bus.”

        Good night all!

    • fiftyohm says:

      “He’s european”.

      Agreed. And that seems to be really working out great over there, doesn’t it?

      • RobA says:

        Apples to oranges.

        Thw Greece issue has nothing to do with “socialism”. The euro zone is a bad idea and always was.

        Countries that are not willing to assimilate comoletely (which obviously no Euro countries will do) NEED to be able to control their own printing press and monetary/fiscal policy.

        The Euro experiment allowed Greece to borrow far more then they could afford (which created the problem) and then prevented them from printing drachmas or raising the interest rate to attract foreign capital, which would be the standard response to Greece problem.

        But because Germany wants interest rates LOWERED, and Germany gets eat Germany wants, it’s like trying ti cure your lung cancer by smoking even more.

        It’s far too simplistic to say “Bernie is a European style socialist, and Europe is in crisis, ergo, Sanders is bad”.

        The things that Bernie “European” about have nothing to do with the reasons why the Euro zone is in crisis. Bernie is NOT a Greek style socialist. He is more in line with Germany/UK/Sweden/Switzerland/Norway (even Canada). And individually, those countries tend to rank higher then America in every important social metric, from health coverage, to life expectancy, to access to education, to crime rates, to income equality, to poverty levels, to happiness.

      • 1mime says:

        Rob – SHHHHHH, America isn’t ready to accept that there are other industrialized countries that are doing better than we are in Any respect, much less “many” respects. About that ostrich with his head in the sand……………..

      • fiftyohm says:

        RobA – Much to agree on here. (You must be so pleased!)

        Yes, monetary union was a bad idea. It assumed cultural homogeneity across the continent that was, is, and shall remain impossible. Your observations regarding the need for sovereign currencies are apt.

        No, Greece has nothing to do or say about Sanders. See above.

        But the current mass in the EU is not, in the longer term, about Greece, or even the Euro. It’s about a penchant for centralized control. It’s about an overarching fondness for bureaucracy. It’s about a belief that regulation, in and of itself, is wonderful. And it’s about a welfare state that is expanding far faster than anything on the horizon can possibly sustain. I also think that European taxation is, at least an important part of sluggish (at best) growth in the sector.

        Bernie is indeed a european [sic] style socialist, and has said as much. And my comment was directed toward that, and the long-term consequences of that. And no, in the long term, that’s not going to work out well for the continent.

      • 1mime says:

        Fifty, you have expressed strong feelings against regulatory control, centralized government, the welfare state and taxation. I assume it’s a matter of “extent” as you stated in an earlier post. But, realistically, how would you re-organize America’s government and programs to “fit” your idea of a better (not perfect) society? What would you eliminate? Keep? How would you pay for it? Is there another country that you can point to that reflects more of your personal philosophy of governance?

      • fiftyohm says:

        Wow mime. That’s a pretty tall order for a single reply! Here are a few to start, but please find follow up with, “Can you be more specific?”. It’s Chris’ blog after all!

        Cut military spending by forcing trading partners to ante up more for the maintenance of global order. Simplify the tax code. Means test all entitlements.

      • 1mime says:

        OK, Fifty. You’re on. “Cut military spending by forcing trading partners to ante up more for the maintenance of global order. Simplify the tax code. Means test all entitlements.”

        I agree with cutting military spending not only by forcing trading partners to ante up more and beyond. (Retiree benefits are an area that needs to be made more cost-effective. Just like other federally funded benefits, military benefits have a huge deficit. Let’s means test all of them and require greater contribution on the beneficiary side of the ledger, present company included.) I know copious studies have been done to reduce waste and duplication(weapons, aircraft, bases, etc.) – put them in motion.

        Simplify the tax code. How can anyone disagree with this? The question is, how? Whose tax credit/loophole/deduction goes?

        Means test all entitlements. I’m in for that.

        I’m interested in your ideas about the social safety net (other than means testing which is a good idea).

        If you rather pass, I’ll understand. It’s complicated and it’s Sunday. I’m just interested in how you would achieve the changes you advocate.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Please don’t follow up with…

      • fiftyohm says:

        Mime – Your comment to RobA was just silly. Not only was the comparison truely ‘apples to oranges’, you can’t ‘measure happiness’, or compare ‘poverty rates’. And what is ‘access to education’?

        Sand in your ears, nose and mouth is said to be uncomfortable.

      • 1mime says:

        Is this what you are focused on? “…you can’t ‘measure happiness’, or compare ‘poverty rates’. And what is ‘access to education’?”

        I’ll agree that I wouldn’t know how to measure happiness unless watching American tv provided some clue to ya, but poverty rates and educational access can be measured. There are international guidelines for measuring poverty and there are measures specifically for the U.S. There are multiple ways to measure poverty. Each country has its own, the UN and the World Bank have their own, and America has two: the “official Census” measurement and the SPM, or Supplemental Poverty Measure which is a broader measure.

        The Economist article offers a good general overview but is not as current as I’d like: http://www.economist.com/node/17961878)
        and the official SPM Report can be found here: https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/demo/p60-251.pdf

        Enjoy your purview if you’re interested in learning more about measuring poverty. Sadly, it exists, fortunately, someone is trying to understand and report it.

        As for “access to education”, I would like to take that a step further than RobA did. The real issue is access to quality education. This is practically limited by income and location. It may also be limited by the state in which one lives. If one is poor (I know you hate it when I go there) – one lives where one can find affordable housing. The schools in these areas typically serve children who come from disadvantaged circumstances….lack of educated parents…lack of two parents….lack of parental participation in educational process….transportation limitations…per capita income factors…tax limitations…it’s complicated, but I can state with confidence that the single greatest predictor of a child’s educational success is his/her socio-economic circumstances.

        Got any other objections you want me to tackle (-:

      • RobA says:

        50 – Happiness absolutely is a measurable metric. It’s not even that hard. Th only crucial factor is that you must ask enough people.

        With a big enough sample size, you can absolutely come to a number that is an accurate portrayal of a societies happiness.

        We know from mathematics approx how much of a % of the population must be sampled to come up with a representative number. Then its just a matter of asking that many ppl how they would rate their overall happiness (no on that day, but overall, thw toality of their life). It’s just like how they don’t need to monitor the tv watching habits of every American to know what Americans are watching. A much smaller sample size is all that’s needed (usually less then 20,000).

        The study of Happiness is undertaken by the UN and is peer reviewed and follows all generally accepted best practices for data collection. Unsurprisingly, the list looks about what you’d expect. Democratic socialist countries all cluster around the top. America is down there with Mexico and Panama.

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Happiness_Report

        As for access to education, I think Americans don’t truly understand what that concept means. Scandinavian countries mostly have free university.

        My sister just got accepted to McGill University Medical School in Montreal. McGill is a world class uni, highly regarded for its medical program. Tuition is around $11,000/year. And if she were a student from Quebec it would be half that.

        When I graduated with a bachelor of science from Dalhousie University in Halifax in 2006, I had student loans of about $20,000.

        THAT’S accessible education. It doesn’t have to be the way it is in America. In fact, America is the grotesque exception to the education accesibility norm across developed nations.

      • neko says:

        fiftyohm, actually, i would argue that it does seem to work out pretty well over there. The US leads the world in energy use and pollution per capita. It leads the developed world in violent crimes and gun deaths. Health care spending is very high relative to outcome, the public education system performs poorly compared to many countries. Yes, the best universities and hospitals are here, but if you are not among the elite, that’s little consolation.
        I like to look at this with a little context. The US began with a virgin continent, vast land and resources to be exploited, with virtually no threat of invasion. We were also not ravaged by two world wars. Europe has less natural resources to exploit, much less land to cultivate and develope; it has the middle east, Russia, and refugees from Africa to contend with. What have we done with the advantages we were given? The point was never that we’re not successful, the point is surely we have not yet reached our potential. If so many of us are so sure that our way is the best, how can that believe jive with the measurable ways in which we aren’t?
        Greece is getting all the attention, but it’s a country of only ~10 million people. The hundreds of billions it owes are literally a drop in the bucket compared to what the US government owes, or what the rest of Europe owes, or Europe’s GDP. In a weird way, I think the fact that people are freaking out about Greece is actually proof of how nice things are working out: if they can afford to be THAT worried about a problem that small, their other problems can’t be that big.

      • fiftyohm says:

        R&M – “Happiness measurement” is bullshit. I don’t care how big the sample size is. It’s cultural. And it’s pretty much impossible to define. Provide your average Russian with free housing, free food, free healthcare, and free university. If you think that will make your average Russian “happy”, you don’t know any Russians.

        On education: The average Canadian K-12 school sucks. There isn’t public school in the entire country that can hold a candle to the one our daughter attended, (for ‘free’), in HISD. Grammar and usage, after accounting for regional dialects, among the general population is pretty lousy. I love this place and her people, but I’d educate my kid in Houston, or Austin in a heartbeat. As for “free university”; sure, McGill is good. It’s just fair compared to a couple of dozen schools in the US. And don’t even get me started on Canadian healthcare.

        There are tradeoffs in various systems. There are challenges associated with cultural diversity. There are some things we could do better. We could fund junior colleges and vocational schools much more heavily. That would have a huge benefit long term, and save money. (As opposed to paying tuition for programs in Art History or Women’s Studies at UT.). We could provide coaching for success in taking Happiness Tests. Just kidding about the last one…

      • 1mime says:

        Well, Fifty, I have to agree that watching fireflies sure beats sullen Russians! No comparison on the “happiness” meter (-:

        I completely agree with you on greater emphasis (aka “funding”) for Junior Colleges and Vocational Schools. I have long advocated for greater respect and funding for these programs. If they are properly researched and organized, they are tremendous resources for meeting community and business needs and provide valuable skills and the opportunity for students to make a good living doing something they enjoy.

        As for the HISD public school experience, I know your kids had a great experience but you must admit that location, location, location – matters. Still, I would agree that public education can and does do a fine job generally and often with many additional challenges. Our grandchildren are in the Montgomery County ISD and the public schools are excellent.

        BTW, my brother in law majored in Art History and obtained his masters in it. He used his degree to establish a very successful antiques business which evolved into an estate consulting business in his later years. He’d be laughing all the way to the bank if he knew his academic preparation was so irrelevant.

        But, laughter is good…as a measure of happiness (-: (-: Almost as good as fireflies.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Neko – More tomorrow. I’m bushed. Gonna watch the fireflies…

      • unarmedandunafraid says:

        Is it not strange that the general consensus is that our education system is failing, except for the schools our kids attend?

        When getting a small business up and running, I worked night shift and worked on the business during the day. To help pay the bills but also to get health insurance. I am sure I would have been happier with universal healthcare. Would have been healthier also.

      • EJ says:

        From where I’m standing, the Euro is working pretty well for the core European nations. That said, we should never have let Greece into it. That decision was taken for political reasons counter to all good economic judgement, and we’re now paying the price for that.

      • RobA says:

        50 – well, theres lots of really smart economists that would disagree with you.

        I would say certain things are fundamental to the human psyche and “happiness” is one of them. It’s really not that esoteric of a concept.

        For sure, what CONSTITUTES happiness will differ widely across cultures. But that’s to be expected.

        By measuring happiness, you are essentially asking a person how their society delivers vs. What their EXPECTATIONS of society should be.

        I think that the common “happiness” factors across all cultures are the most important and fundamental ones. It doesn’t matter where you live, if you don’t have enough ti eat, if your unable to find work, if your children are sick, if crime rates are very high, if government corruption is rampant, if you have no class mobility etc etc are all going to make one unhappy no matter where you are.

        Thw superficial things, like how many cars you own or belonging to that swanky clubhouse are much less important to a person’s happiness.

        We are not all different species. The biggest factors relating to happiness are also the most basic and fundamental needs of all humans. They transcend all cultures: food, clean water, family, adequate housing, health, security etc.

        Wit a big enough sample size, almost anything can be quantifiable. It’s just a matter of using best practices with the methodology.

        Just because you don’t understand the methodology behind the science is not a strike against it.

      • fiftyohm says:

        I gotta say RobA, you give me a Wiki link to a “World Happiness Report”, and I read this kind of stuff: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CB4QFjAAahUKEwi82vqBqtjGAhXRDpIKHZLkAs8&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.econ.duke.edu%2F~staff%2Fwrkshop_papers%2F2005-Fall%2FAngner.pdf&ei=kcyjVfzNPNGdyASSyYv4DA&usg=AFQjCNH_pyCLxEoKyqJOmNnVdyXQpEjDnQ&sig2=NX7GCrNZ-eUx7GzvpR3kqA

        Then you effectively tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about as you expound on your personal review of your weakest link. Takes some balls there, bud.

      • 1mime says:

        Fifty, it’s really not that complicated. I think we agree that happiness is desirable whether it is scientifically measurable or not. What is important is that happiness is attainable. For most people, happiness comes when one’s needs are realized. It doesn’t require wealth or fancy degrees, but it’s hard to be happy if you or your children are hungry, sick, or you can’t get a job, or can’t earn enough for your family despite working several jobs, or can’t get *to* a job, or can’t afford safe, decent housing. There is no doubt in my mind that you understand this so the rest is just semantics.

      • flypusher says:

        “But the current mass in the EU is not, in the longer term, about Greece, or even the Euro. It’s about a penchant for centralized control.”

        Given Europe’s very bloody history over the past few centuries, I see any attempts at unified economics/politics as a good thing. I don’t see any way to avoid some degree of central control in such a situation. Yes the heterogeneity makes it harder; we’re still trying to work out the details over 2 centuries later, with us starting with just 13 political entities that had more in common. Building a “United States of Europe” or even a “European Confederation” would create a stabilizing force, I think.

      • 1mime says:

        Isn’t control one of the basic, necessary tenets of all civilized societies? Control in and of itself isn’t *bad*, abuse of control is. We are no longer an agrarian society and centralization and structure are important in order to provide the services people require. Sadly, *government* in the United States has been maligned though those who are most critical seem unable or incapable of instituting a better alternative.

        In the case of the Euro, many Americans who have not traveled in Europe don’t realize how small the continuous countries are. Imagine, if one can, 50 different currencies in the U.S. Undoubtedly there can be improvements in the Euro system. Since it’s in the best interests of the participating countries to have the Euro survive, changes will be made and the system will be strengthened.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Mime – I didn’t say ‘happiness’ is a fantasy. I said that attempts by soft ‘scientists’ to quantify it over different populations are absurd. My comments regarding this were in response to this BS metric which others had used in an attempt to convince me, via cross-cultural comparisons no less, how the US system should be more like Europe. Utter nonsense.

      • 1mime says:

        Never inferred that you did, Fifty. We all want to be happy. Like you noted, you could give Russians lots of things and they wouldn’t be happy because, fundamentally, happiness is difficult in a dictatorship. I’ll bet when you’re in your kitchen, baking bread and sipping your “brew”, life doesn’t get much better. Simple, personal things. Cheers!

      • fiftyohm says:

        FP – Pan-European cultural diversity is the rub. Diverse national interests have indeed made the place a war zone for most of the last two centuries.. It is that, quite specifically, that will prove monetary union to be a fool’s errand. Centralized control by necessity means the surrender to certain important sovereign interests to the collective. Will Spain and Ireland hold their deficits to the same level as Germany by force of bureaucracy? Ya think?

      • fiftyohm says:

        And “Cheers” to you, mime! It’s an English IPA with Northern Brewer, Zythos, and Fuggles hops at about 6.7 ABV. And at cellar temperature. Yum!

      • 1mime says:

        Fifty – Is it true what they say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach (-:

      • fiftyohm says:

        BTW: The Russians ostensibly voted for the shit they now have.

      • 1mime says:

        Yeah, and the majority of people from Kansas returned Brownback as governor. Go figure! Still makes one feel badly for those who voted against him and lost, knowing the continuing pain they will experience under this man’s tenure.

      • fiftyohm says:

        So EJ – Last I knew you were in the UK. Are you telling me you wish you were part of the Euro? Just a question…

      • EJ says:

        Fifty:

        In the short term no, in the long term yes. The Euro is screwed right now but that will pass, as all things do.

        In the long term, tying the UK more firmly into the European economy would be to the benefit of the UK and to Europe as a whole, not least because it would alleviate the issues caused by the strong pound.

        Enjoy your IPA! You have good taste in beer.

      • fiftyohm says:

        EJ – In the 15 years or so since the introduction of the Euro, I’ve always maintained that it is the currency of the future, and always will be…

        And when you’re next in eastern Ontario, there’s a 20 oz. imperial pint glass with your name on it!

  28. Lifer: “I’m afraid we’re going to live through a decade or so of an ascendant old-school left that will stifle economic growth and dynamism for a while.”

    The main problem with that is that “economic growth and dynamism” has always been higher under “left wing” parties – both in the USA and Europe

    “right wing” parties tell everybody that they are “Business Friendly”

    BUT

    “Business friendly” is code for “Rich businessman friendly”, despite the two being almost entirely at odds. Business growth is higher under left-wing governments because they encourage reinvestment of profits in wages, R&D and modernisation, rather than allowing a small number of execs and owners to extract all the money as market rent.

    (In the same way that spending is actually often lower under left-wing governments, after an initial burst, because preventative maintenance is much cheaper than crisis management. The right wing does everything by crisis management, because their ideology insists on “saving money” by cutting long-term preventative programs.)

    • 1mime says:

      Thank you Duncan for pointing out that the Democrats track record on economic development and dynamism is better than conservatives. Republicans do a great marketing job projecting their party as the economic guru of first choice, but history records better economic performance mostly on the left side of the ledger.

      See, they’re so good at marketing themselves that they even have Lifer believing it!

  29. flypusher says:

    Some e-mails from Trump supporters, explaining why they like him:

    http://www.vox.com/2015/7/11/8929569/donald-trump-why

    I find this one particularly ironic:

    “…He absolutely comes across as overbearing, but knows how to run a company. And like it or not, America is one big company. With the current leadership from all branches, they are leading us to bankruptcy.”

    Bankruptcy- that’s one area where Trump can certainly claim a bunch of experience.

    Like JG, I find the comparisons to the collapse of the Whigs very disturbing. The history is starting to rhyme in more places than just the ends of the phrases!

  30. 1mime says:

    It appears that America’s parities – especially the GOP – have problems both within and without their ranks. The role of the un-elected who are influencing the Republican Party is huge. You have Grover Norquist seriously calling the shots on spending along with The Heritage Foundation which also keeps its whip handy for those who dare to think/act independently. Then there’s ALEC which surreptitiously drafts legislation that is quietly filtered throughout conservative legislatures and among Congressional Republicans. Their efforts are accompanied by the mega-billionaires, KOCH, Adelson, et al, who are forming counter-grassroots organizations in strategic locations throughout the country that are not always in sync with local GOP efforts. NONE OF THESE PEOPLE have been elected, yet their influence is huge. And, then there is the religious right that is overtly pushing to tear down the wall between church and state and impose their narrow views on all.

    Left out of the picture these days is the US Chamber of Commerce that is pleading for solutions to real problems- immigration, the EXIM Bank debacle, tax reform, infrastructure. Meanwhile, the GOP is busy diffusing extremists within their ranks as Lifer describes, which effectively hamstrings their agenda – which is looking less and less like the America that actually exists. At what point do the people of America say: ENOUGH!

    Republicans are doing such a great job of keeping their own pot roiling that the weaknesses within the Democratic Party are not as visible even as they exist. The GOP can’t seem to tame the dragons in their tent. Brian correctly states that the challenge today is between capitalism and socialism. Unfettered capitalism or unfettered socialism are not healthy for civilized societies but that choice or amalgamation may be what lies ahead. The ideas for a basic income, health care and an equal opportunity to achieve economic, cultural and social mobility are becoming more and more relevant in political discussions. The income divide is the accelerant that is going to drive the debate – whether the parties are ready or not. The other incendiary is fanaticism. When those two collide, and I think we’re close to that point, there will be both an opportunity for the changes Lifer alludes to and a rending apart of our nation.

  31. johngalt says:

    The comparison to the last time a party fell apart in the 1850s, with white Southerners feeling aggrieved and distrusting the government in Washington, is not auspicious.

  32. briandrush says:

    “Under the influence of Jefferson, Democrats coalesced around the interests of farmers, labor, and Southern planters against the emergence of capitalism. Led originally by Hamilton, the Federalists, Whigs, and then Republicans primarily channeled the interests of tradesman, merchants, industrialists, and professionals. Their priorities were the promotion of trade, commerce and national expansion.”

    True enough, but here’s the thing. That split was viable as reflecting political dialog in the real world only while we were struggling to emerge from a feudal/agrarian economy into an industrial/capitalist one. Once that was accomplished, which essentially means once the Civil War was over, or very shortly thereafter, the interests of Southern planters became those of a defeated elite, a holdover from the past, and a political albatross around the country’s neck. That’s especially true because it was so strongly associated with racism.

    Yet the Democrats continued to champion those interests, which is why there were only two Democratic presidents elected between Reconstruction and the Depression (the third, Andrew Johnson, was never elected president, but moved into the White House after Lincoln’s assassination — a Democrat elected on a Republican ticket).

    Once you settle one set of questions, a new set arises, but it’s hard to fully address those new questions as long as die-hard champions of the defeated past keep it in play as a zombified corpse. The new set of questions we should be addressing isn’t between agrarianism and capitalism but between capitalism and socialism. We DO have an advanced, industrialized economy with all the government participation that implies; Hamilton won, Jefferson lost. Now: shall that economy serve the interests of all the people, or only those of a wealthy, privileged commercial elite?

    That’s what we ought to be asking ourselves and arguing about, but it’s hard to do that as long as a faction keeps arguing for cutting the government back to pre-Civil War levels appropriate to an agrarian economy, even to the recent point of wanting to cut funding for maintenance of the interstate highways!

    The progressive/socialist and conservative/capitalist sides of what ought to be our national debate were, in the years before the Depression, both represented by Republicans, while the Democrats mostly continued to champion the Lost Cause. Today, they’re both represented by Democrats, while it’s the Republicans who champion a cause that’s even more lost than ever. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the Theodore Roosevelt of today’s Democrats, while Hillary Clinton is their Calvin Coolidge.

    But that really shouldn’t be happening within one major party. Each of those sides should be represented by one party. And the Republicans’ current dominant constituency should simply fade away.

    • goplifer says:

      I’d say you’re dead-on in most of your assessment. Southern conservatives remain a sort of political dead-weight shifting from one side of the spectrum to the other.

      Let’s be clear about this one detail though – There is no major institutional interest with national scope that continues to represent the old Hamiltonian capitalist strain of American thought. That’s why our political system feels so badly out of balance.

      The absence of that organized presence is one of the reasons that the Democratic Party feels itself pulled in an unnatural direction. There may be no one representing that bloc of interests, but those voters still exist and their allegiance is in play. Lots of figures in the Democratic Party, most notably the Clintons, have tried to stretch their appeal over in that direction just enough to pick up an edge.

      There is no T. Roosevelt on the landscape, though I would love to see one emerge. Unfortunately, the political weather will probably bloc any figure like that from rising up anytime soon. I’m afraid we’re going to live through a decade or so of an ascendant old-school left that will stifle economic growth and dynamism for a while. Not much alternative really.

      • 1mime says:

        Lifer: “I’m afraid we’re going to live through a decade or so of an ascendant old-school left that will stifle economic growth and dynamism for a while.”

        I understand that capitalism is more associated with the Republican Brand, but with this association come responsibilities – which are being sadly skewed as you indicated. I don’t agree that liberals are incapable of producing economic growth and dynamism or that capitalism is the province alone of conservatives. Democrats champion sustainability and alternative energy development which offer incredible new entrepreneurial opportunities – capitalism at its finest. The expansion of health care even with its attendant costs, still offers a breath-taking array of jobs while improving the quality and cost of health care for our people. The possibilities are breath-taking in this sector alone.

        These are just two areas where I believe liberals have been leading the way. Without question, liberals have championed social and cultural equality. How does one put a price tag on something this significant in a society? Imagine what could be accomplished if our two parties could ever combine their respective strengths for the good of our country.

      • 1mime says:

        Lifer, you might enjoy this Politico analysis of Hillary Clinton’s recent economic speech. The journalist (Michael Lind) suggests that there is a change happening in the Democratic Party, and it will be interesting.

        “The ultimate institutional response to the present crisis of the American workforce—perhaps a messy mixture of tax credits, wage subsidies, expanded public services like pre-K and price regulation of mostly-private health care—will not be elegant. It is likely to displease idealists on the left and free-market libertarians alike. But the New Deal synthesis was also rickety and improvised, combining universal social insurance (Social Security and Medicare) with in-kind benefits (food stamps) and employer-provided benefits (health care, pensions). The next American social contract doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be adequate.”

        “Just as Jimmy Carter was a transitional figure between New Deal liberalism and New Democrat neoliberalism, so Barack Obama may prove to have been a transitional figure between neoliberalism and a more self-confident progressivism. It remains to be seen whether one President Clinton will symbolize the zenith of late twentieth century neoliberalism, while another President Clinton will preside over the dawn of the new progressivism that succeeds it.”

        Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/07/hillary-economic-speech-shift-leftward-120056_Page2.html#ixzz3fukKgpm7

    • flypusher says:

      “Hamilton won, Jefferson lost. Now: shall that economy serve the interests of all the people, or only those of a wealthy, privileged commercial elite?

      That’s what we ought to be asking ourselves and arguing about, but it’s hard to do that as long as a faction keeps arguing for cutting the government back to pre-Civil War levels appropriate to an agrarian economy, even to the recent point of wanting to cut funding for maintenance of the interstate highways!”

      Well said. It seems nostalgia reaches downright toxic levels in some people. Those good old days really weren’t so good.

      • 1mime says:

        Fly, can’t recall if it is you or Tutta who thinks so highly of Ta-Nahesi Coates, but he is a guest on Charlie Rose (PBS/Bloomberg) either tonight or tomorrow depending upon your provider.

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