The one exception to Republican profligacy is the Great Recession of 20017-2011. That recession, of course, started under George W. Bush’s fiscal policies. Further, the first bank bailout bill was pushed through by the still-in-office Bush administration. Frontline’s documentary on the near collapse of our financial system in September 18, 2008 described this remarkable scene:
Hank Paulson, the rock rib conservative Republican free marketeer walked into an emergency meeting of the joint leadership of the US House and Senate, on a Thursday, asking for $700 billion of bailout authority, as the markets collapses and credit markets seized up. Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernacke told the lawmakers, “If we don’t do this tomorrow, we won’t have an economy on Monday”
This resulted in, of course, the eight year-long Obama administration easing the economy out of its nose dive and into a slow and long recovery.
And yet, somehow the Republican Party is viewed as the party of fiscal rectitude, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
A century ago, corrupt money swamped Montana’s legislature, but Montanans rose up to prohibit corporate campaign contributions. Today, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision — which allows unlimited, anonymous money to pour into elections nationwide — Montana is once again fighting to preserve open and honest elections. Following an investigative reporter through a political thriller, DARK MONEY exposes one of the greatest threats to American democracy.
“Our democracy is not supposed to be a tug of war between a couple of billionaires on the left and a couple of billionaires on the right,”
“Our democracy is not supposed to be a tug of war between a couple of billionaires on the left and a couple of billionaires on the right.”
Yes, unfortunately, it is.
As the charts below show, the billionaire class writes big checks to candidates and partisan campaign committees. Why? Because they want access to the politicians, once in office, to influence both the legislative agendas and the actual text of laws.
While we have a roughly and anachronistically speaking a “one man, one vote” democracy for elections, that doesn’t mean the output of our republican system of government is representative of the will of the people, because most people don’t have equal access to the candidates and office holders.
Hofstadter identified the political impotence induced paranoia that manifests itself in a segment of Trump voters today.
“In American experience, ethnic and religious conflicts, with their threat of the submergence of whole systems of values, have plainly been the major focus for militant and suspicious minds of this sort, but elsewhere class conflicts have also mobilized such energies. The paranoid tendency is aroused by a confrontation of opposed interests which are (or are felt to be) totally irreconcilable, and thus by nature not susceptible to the normal political processes of bargain and compromise. The situation becomes worse when the representatives of a particular political interest—perhaps because of the very unrealistic and unrealizable nature of their demands—cannot make themselves felt in the political process. Feeling that they have no access to political bargaining or the making of decisions, they find their original conception of the world of power as omnipotent, sinister, and malicious fully confirmed. They see only the consequences of power—and this through distorting lenses—and have little chance to observe its actual machinery.”
There is growing data suggesting the political parties are stratifying along suburban-urban, white-ethnic, working class-more affluent, and low density population-high density population spectra.
At the Congressional district level, this barbell effect is quite clear. After the 2014 Congressional elections, the Congress bulged on two ends of the spectra.
Diversity & Education Levels and Party
Figure 1 shows the high correlation between education levels, level of minorities, and party alignment.
Population Density and Party
Figure 2 compares two time periods’ correlations of population density and party affiliation. In 1952, population density did not correlate with party preference. By 2012, population density (i.e., urban vs. suburban or exurban) strongly correlated with party preference.
Racial and Ethnic Diversity
The greatest racial and ethnic diversity exists on the coasts (see Figure 3) and, for the most part, in urban or high population density areas.
But the rate of change is greatest in heretofore non-diverse areas of the country – upstate New York, and the upper Great Plains (see Figure 4).
Identity, as academics define it, falls into two broad categories: “achieved” identity derived from personal effort, and “ascribed” identity based on innate characteristics.
Everyone has both, but people tend to be most attached to their “best” identity — the one that offers the most social status or privileges. Successful professionals, for example, often define their identities primarily through their careers.
For generations, working-class whites were doubly blessed: They enjoyed privileged status based on race, as well as the fruits of broad economic growth.
White people’s officially privileged status waned over the latter half of the 20th century with the demise of discriminatory practices in, say, university admissions. But rising wages, an expanding social safety net and new educational opportunities helped offset that. Most white adults were wealthier and more successful than their parents, and confident that their children would do better still.
That feeling of success may have provided a sort of identity in itself.
But as Western manufacturing and industry have declined, taking many working-class towns with them, parents and grandparents have found that the opportunities they once had are unavailable to the next generation.
That creates an identity vacuum to be filled.
“For someone who is lower income or lower class,” Professor Kaufmann explained, “you’re going to get more self-esteem out of a communal identity such as ethnicity or the nation than you would out of any sort of achieved identity.”
Focusing on lost identities rather than lost livelihoods helps answer one of the most puzzling questions about the link between economic stress and the rise of nationalist politics: why it is flowing from the middle and working classes, and not the very poor.
While globalization and free trade have widened economic inequality and deeply wounded many working-class communities, data suggests that this year’s political turmoil is not merely a backlash to that real pain.