Friday, January 15, 2016

The Election Scene NM 2016

How does the national election affect New Mexico?  Part I

Before answering this question, New Mexicans first need to understand what is going on at the national scene.  And since the presidential election dynamics so far have been grossly misunderstood by the media, especially television, it is important to look carefully.

The amazing success of Sanders and Trump, in defying all the smugly confident predictions of their early demise as candidates, suggests that something new is going on.  What is new is this:  Sanders and Trump, each in very different ways, offer new, previously censored options, for millions of voters turned off by American politics but until now with nowhere to turn.  There is a complicated double twist here.  As voters come to understand these candidates, support for them increases.  But there is an astonishing secondary effect as well.  As support for them grows, establishment voices (tv news producers, governors and senators, the Republican and Democratic Party apparatus, etc.) panic, scratching their heads, barely concealing their disbelief and alarm.  And as voters see establishment figures cringe at Trump and Sanders, this simply reinforces and expands the support for each! 
The dirty little secret to all of this is that Sanders and Trump have exposed the deep hatred and contempt in the public with the establishment.  Television is now owned in America by a nasty self-interested, small oligopoly of mega-rich interests.  Talking heads and TV news purveyors, although they don't see themselves this way as they smugly cash their million dollar checks, are now correctly viewed as part of the cozy Establishment.  Worse, voters have come to see "news" productions on TV as part of the national malaise of deception that keeps government dysfunctional.  Increasingly we view them as they should be viewed:  as propaganda machines for a narrowing ruling class which increasingly is the upper class, selling monopoly priced erectile dysfunction pills and other pharmaceuticals and insurance policies while entertaining us with gossip about personalities instead of doing its job as a watchdog for the public interest.  This hatred is not partisan, as it disgusts Democrats and Republicans and Independents alike.  Sanders and Trump have taken on "politically incorrect" topics--income distribution and migration policy--that media has not permitted onto the public agenda.  Some of their support comes from voters who care deeply about these issues, but just as much comes from voters who see political correctness itself, and its enforcers in the media, as the enemy of the public good.  All of this has taken on a life of its own, and television talking heads have been extremely slow to understand that part of what's in play this year is a public expression of our hatred of them and what they represent.  In an odd twist, "political correctness" itself has come to be a surrogate for much of what is wrong with politics.

Sanders offers voters a dramatically new way of looking at our dysfunctional political system.  "This is not dysfunctional at all," Sanders seems to scream at us.  It is dysfunctional only to the poorest 99%!  To the billionaire class this is working great!  Both political parties have collaborated for nearly forty years, with the help of a corrupt campaign finance system, a pointy-headed Supreme Court, technological change that is indeed disruptive, and a tacit bipartisan agreement (no new taxes, but keep the wars going) to blame systemic failure on technological change and on the other party.  The consequences of this bipartisan collaboration on our social structure is that for a third of a century the bottom 95% have been nearly frozen at the same level of income (adjusting for inflation) while the economy has grown dramatically, and this growth has gone almost entirely to the richest 5%.

Thomas Piketty and Emmanual Saez, the top scholars on this issue found that from 1993-2013:  Total national income grow 15.1%.  Top 1% incomes grew 62.4%.  Bottom 99% grew only 7.3%.  That grossly favoring the very rich was a bipartisan effort is given by another statistic:  During the Clinton years the top 1% nearly doubled their incomes.  The bottom 99% grew only 20.3%, an astonishing shift in wealth toward the rich under a Democrat.  FDR shudders in his grave!  Teddy Roosevelt shakes his skeleton fist at two Republican Bushes for permitting this under their watch.  Part of the bipartisan (establishment) collaboration has been to put a taboo on discussing any of this.  Talking heads who brought it up were accused of "class warfare," and not invited back.  The official explanation was that globalization was making all of this inevitable.  Nonsense!  Thunders Sanders:  not only is this a completely legitimate topic of discussion, but it also speaks to the corruption of our political system, and our growing conviction that congressional candidates no longer listen to constituents, only to the special interests that shower them with cash, and it makes it a lot clearer why Congress has failed to get government to govern:  they have been too busy writing clauses in bills to give bigger breaks to the rich!  When was the last time you heard a presidential candidate, or any major figure, for that matter, talk about this recently?  This is new stuff.

Trump offers a very different novelty, namely a liberation from political correctness;  an attack that unmasks the ritualistic deceptions of the Republican Party in re-running the Southern Strategy since the time of Nixon.  For years Republican candidates have attracted White voters in the South, who used to vote Democrat, by appealing to their unhappiness with Washington policies on race.  But "political correctness" required this appeal to be conducted deceptively, through surrogate code words, such as "law and order," states rights, "family values," and the like.  Essentially, the Republican Party could win national elections by encouraging the development of an anti-Washington culture sustained by code words instead of straight talk.  The media enforced the use of code words through political correctness.  Trump appears to have discovered that White males are tired of the game.  What is new in his campaign is his unapologetic insistence on freeing himself (and by implication his supporters as well) from the chains of political correctness. 

And it turns out, no matter how much you may not like the concept of a real wall at the border with Mexico, no matter how much you would like policy makers to bow down rhetorically to the politically correct attitude toward Muslims (most are good, a few are bad), no matter how much you might cringe at Trump's politically incorrect mockery of other candidates ("Carly is a failure," Jeb Bush is a "low energy" guy), deep down inside it feels refreshingly good to hear an honest opinion, expressed in the same language we use in talking to our best friends.  And, there is unambiguous pleasure in seeing the establishment's clerks and puppets on television discombobulated by the opinions of nameless voters answering questions on a poll.  "Donald Trump," he seems to say, "doesn't listen to the polls and pundits and lackey political consultants before he talks, he moves the polls in his direction when he talks, as every great leader always has."  When was the last time a politician had the guts to be himself, especially one who has self-consciously made his own narcissism part of his schtick?  This, too, is new stuff.
Next:  How does this affect the voter in New Mexico this election year?

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