H2O Man's Journal
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I got word this morning that my son has a fight in Albany on Saturday, to be followed by the Golden Gloves in Buffalo next weekend.
Rumble, Young Man, Rumble!
Posted by H2O Man | Thu Jan 19, 2017, 02:36 PM (4 replies)
“Sure there are dishonest men in local government. But there are dishonest men in national politics, too.”
-- Richard M. Nixon
I was talking with a friend this week about Trump’s upcoming presidency. She is a registered voter, though not affiliated with either the republican or Democratic Party. Still, she had assumed that there was zero chance that Trump could possibly win the 2016 election.
She was convinced that the public would overwhelmingly appreciate that Hillary Clinton would be a better president than Trump. I pointed out that Trump sets the bar so low that even Richard Nixon would be a far superior choice. How then, she asked, was Trump able to win the election -- despite the popular vote -- and what might we expect from his presidency?
First, as outrageous as it was, Trump’s campaign was far from original. In fact, too much attention was paid to his often purposeful bullshit. More should have been focused on why he was performing that way. Many of us are old enough to remember how Ronald Reagan was packaged -- based upon using his previous television image to distract from his true nature -- and recognized that Trump was running the modern equivalent, exploiting the internet. This included the intentional appeal to the “alt-right,” a collection of sub-groups that generally are not considered “likely voters.” Thus, the unanticipated wins in several key states.
The campaign also copied the “law and order” message that Nixon ran on. Like Tricky Dick, he excuses his own behaviors -- both of their campaigns were “influenced” by other nations, among other things -- by combining denials with a “that’s how it’s done” approach. President Nixon sought an advantage by promoting the idea that he was unstable and angry when it came to international issues; Trump has not waited to be sworn in to engage in similar behaviors.
President Nixon sought an advantage over the Soviet Union, by playing a China card. Trump is seeking to gain advantages over China, by cozying up to Russia’s leader. There are, of course, many significant differences. The world is a very different place today. Also, Nixon was actually well informed on global relationships, and had decades of experience in this arena. Thus, he was viewed as capable, though unstable, while Trump is viewed as not capable and unstable.
In domestic terms, Nixon represented “phase one” of the republican party’s attempts to dismantle FDR and LBJ’s social programs. Reagan, of course, was “phase two.” George W. Bush and Dick Cheney instituted the foundation for a high-tech feudalism. Already, in my region, funding for non-profit agencies is evaporating, in anticipation of Trump.
Since winning the election, Trump has displayed little if any loyalty to his campaign promises. The selections for his administration indicate that they will pursue an aggressive, reckless foreign policy, and an anti-environment form of social Darwinism domestically. Bad as these are, what is definitely worse is that Trump is largely being allowed to dictate what field the contest will be played upon.
It’s not limited to the power of the office of the president, although as we have seen in recent times that while there are limits to what “good” a president can do, the ability to do “bad” is limitless. Nor is it because 90+ percent of elected representatives in DC are puppets of the 1% and multi-national corporations. Or that the media is a pathetic excuse for the free press defined by Amendment 1.
The biggest stumbling blocks that threaten to prevent effective resistance to the Trump administration is found within the grass roots. The first is the belief that some “leader” is going to save us. If only Adlai Stevenson would expose Trump. Maybe the Beatles will reunite. Or a flaming apple pie will appear from the heavens. Where is Gandhi when we need him?
The harsh, cold truth is that it is up to us. You, me, and everyone else that did not vote for Trump. That’s the starting point. And it brings us to that second stumbling block, which by no coincidence is also found firmly planted between people’s ears -- the foolish, self-indulgent divisions that fester when some insist that they will refuse to work with those who have different opinions, or hold different values. One example should do (although the same concept can be applied to many others): the silly, irrational stance that “Bernie Sanders is not a democrat.” As if the reality of the 2016 Democrat Party primary can be ignored, and that very ignorance will result in a stronger party.
Factionalism, self-righteousness, and aggressive ignorance create the arena in which Donald Trump “wins.” He depends upon people like you and I to react mindlessly; instead, we must respond intelligently. That does not mean that we have to think alike, or hold identical values. Far from it. Instead, it requires that we put forth our best efforts -- and that isn’t limited to posting on the internet -- with full confidence that the movement will bring forth its own leadership.
Posted by H2O Man | Fri Dec 30, 2016, 12:23 PM (95 replies)
“Anger, he smiles,
Towering in shiny purple metallic armour
Queen Jealousy, envy waits behind him
Her fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground.”
-- Jimi Hendrix, Bold as Love
Chronic anger is a disease. One of the symptoms is that it leads to divisions, as in when groups of angry individuals splinter into smaller and smaller sub-groups that are hostile to one another. This is what we are witnessing in American society today, just as it is spreading around the globe.
It’s happening in large regions of this country, and within states, communities, and neighborhoods. Indeed, it is happening within families. Chronic anger elected Donald Trump as the next president. One would have to be in full denial to believe that the nation is not experiencing a serious illness.
There are divisions between the progressive and liberal communities, which were brought to a head by the 2016 presidential election. If one were to read closely enough, one could even find evidence of this on the Democratic Underground.
Now, I’m not talking about the spontaneous emotion of anger. Closely related to fear, in the context of the brain and body, anger has played a role in human evolution. Rather, I am talking about chronic anger, which is destructive to both the individual’s brain and body, and to groups of people.
Chronic anger makes individuals and groups self-righteous. It brings about selfishness, and other forms of self-deception. And this is self-defeating. I can think of no better example than a statistic I heard reported, that some 14% of registered Democrats voted for Donald Trump. Safe to say that these were angry, rather than happy, people.
In this sense, anger and fear share many common characteristics. None are more important than their good and bad potentials: for if handled properly, they can produce the fuel required to achieve victory, or each can result in burn-out -- with anger causing a form of burn-out that the individual fails to recognize. Chronic anger exhausts one’s ability to think rationally and objectively.
In a healthy, well-functioning society, the chronically angry people are understood to have problems. In an unhealthy, dysfunctional society, those angriest of people are mistaken for leaders. Again, there is no better example than Donald Trump’s election. Yet, while this is easily understood by all, far fewer people seem capable of applying this same dynamic to smaller groups.
This allows for the angriest voices in communities to be mistaken for “speaking for the group.” There are two distinct dangers associated with this, the first being that it becomes remarkably easy for the group’s opposition to exploit. Almost without exception, for example, it was provocateurs (“:inciting agents”) who promoted hostilities in the Civil Rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s-’70s. They exploited the groups’ angers and fears to divide them.
This is not to imply that all the problems within the liberal and progressive communities -- or within the Democratic Party -- are the result of outside agitators. For example, we should take note of the fact that the republicans have won three of the last five presidential elections. Consider the number of republican governors that will be running states in 2017. And the large number of elections for the House and Senate that have been lost in recent years.
In that context, is it rational to think that more victories will be achieved by further dividing the groups and individuals that might form the party’s base of support in the future? Or might it be better to consider the possibility that the party’s leadership has some responsibility for the failure to win elections? Those appear to be our two options: either to engage in a puritanical orgy of finger-pointing and blaming others, or else taking responsibility for our own actions an inactions. It would seem worthwhile to consider which of those two options that the party’s leadership has taken since election day.
Posted by H2O Man | Fri Dec 23, 2016, 11:42 AM (21 replies)
“In those days, I identified with the ideas of Malcolm X, his philosophy of ‘by any means necessary,’ rather than what I misinterpreted as the passivity of Dr. Martin Luther King.”
-- Rubin “Hurricane” Carter; Eye of the Hurricane; Lawrence Hill Books; 2011; page 62
One of the most interesting periods of the 1960s is often overlooked: for a brief period in 1964 to early ‘65, Malcolm and Martin began taking steps towards presenting a united front to obtain human rights for the twenty million black Americans. In large part, this was a result of Malcolm’s attempt to bring Uncle Sam’s abuses in front of the United Nations. In his trips abroad during this time, foreign leaders recommended to Malcolm that he seek to create a united front with Dr. King.
Although it is generally ignored in most biographies of the two men, there were a series of communications between the two, through a third party -- an attorney from Chicago. Also, as is better known, Malcolm traveled to Selma while King was in jail. Members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee had invited him to address their group on February 4. That day, Malcolm would also speak with Andrew Young, James Bevel, and Coretta Scott King.
Dr. King had called Rubin before the Selma campaign, and asked him to join the effort. At that time, Rubin did not subscribe to King’s non-violent methods. Indeed, a Saturday Evening Post reporter had quoted one of Rubin’s friends, out of context, regarding the black community’s right to fight back against police violence. Thus, Rubin told Martin that it would be “suicidal” for him to participate in Selma.
Two weeks after he gave Coretta a message for her husband, Malcolm was killed. Within a few years, Martin Luther King was murdered. And Rubin was serving a triple-life sentence for a vicious crime that he had not committed. In the early 1970s, Rubin and I became friends; over the next four decades, among many other things, we would discuss the meanings of Malcolm and Martin.
It’s easy, today, to pay tribute to Dr. King on Martin Luther King Day. And many of us old folks take time to remember his death every April 4th. It is not uncommon to wish that King were alive today, to serve as a leader in the on-going struggle for human rights. (I even find myself wishing Malcolm were here to debate Bill O’Reilly-types.)
Yesterday, I had a phone call from the editor of a regional newspaper. She reads my blog, and called to ask if she could use my most recent essay in the upcoming edition? Of course. We had a pleasant conversation, in which she said that we need a Gandhi/ King-like figure today. I suggested that what is really required is that we bring forth that potential within ourselves.
She noted that doing so was very difficult, especially in such an acrimonious time. I agreed, for all worth-while things are as difficult as they are important. More, not doing so will result in a far worse scenario. She said that it is hard for her to not feel anger towards many people, and to fear them. I agree 100%. I’m human. People bug me, too. And it is a very angry time in America. Yet, if we feed into that anger, the direction our nation is going in will be -- at very least -- just as difficult as if we attempt to put the teachings and examples of Gandhi and King to work in our daily lives.
On that last blog essay, I noted that Thoreau wrote that people to “see” what they expect, and want, to see. In our society, people see reasons to fear the future, especially since Trump won the general election. And, being angry, they see others to blame. No single group has a monopoly on blaming others, of course, yet we find its corrosive effect within those groups that are most opposed to Trump’s electoral victory.,
If one reads various internet sites (including, but not limited to the Democratic Underground), they find individuals and groups blaming numerous others: the Sanders campaign; the Clinton campaign; the DNC; James Comey; cable news; the Russians; millennials; Doris Day; and on and on. There is no shortage of self-righteous outrage and hatred Indeed, only two things are missing -- an awareness of what role each of us played as individuals, and of what positive changes we might make to counter the unwholesome impact of the Trump presidency.
Yet only honest self-examination can result in each of us reaching a point where we can actually create positive change. It’s easy, for example, to remember every insult aimed at ourselves during the primary and general election campaigns. It’s a bit more difficult to take responsibility for the abrasive digs we got in on others who though and acted differently than we did. However, we can’t change others -- we can only change ourselves.
Our behaviors do influence others. If we attack others -- verbally in person, or in writing on the internet -- because they think and act differently than we do, as a result of holding different values based upon different life-experiences, it is unlikely to sway them in a positive way. Few people enjoy being insulted or demeaned for their beliefs …..and those that do are not pictures of mental health.
Likewise, those who cling to self-righteousness, and declare that they will never work with former allies who think differently are not displaying politically healthy or emotionally mature attitudes. It’s really as simple as that. That attitude, and the resulting behaviors, are the direct opposite of the example that Dr. King set for us.
To paraphrase King, at this point in time, although it may not be comfortable or easy, each of us may make a choice of how we will respond to current events. That we are at a crisis point in our nation’s history -- and in world history -- is all too obvious. It is up to each of us to respond by bringing forth our best potentials.
Posted by H2O Man | Wed Dec 21, 2016, 10:40 AM (22 replies)
Yesterday, the person who shot my cousin and his son in a “road rage” incident was sentenced. The two longest sentence -- which run consecutively -- are 25-to-life for murdering the younger man, and 15 to life for the attempted murder of the father .The judge noted that this person poses a danger to society, where ever he is. Thus, the ex- New York City cop/ part-time corrections officer at the county jail, will never get out of jail.
I was pleased that the DA was able to submit information on one of the other similar “incidents” where, a couple months before shooting my family members, this thug had dogged a person driving on Route 17 (between NYC and Binghamton), and rushed towards the other vehicle with a gun.
More, in sentencing, the judge noted that the thug not only had shown zero remorse for killing a 26-year old, but was flippant while lying on the witness stand.
Today would be Derek Dylan’s 28th birthday.
Thank you to everyone here who has been supportive during this.
Posted by H2O Man | Tue Jun 28, 2016, 09:13 AM (66 replies)
Posted by H2O Man | Fri Jun 3, 2016, 11:27 PM (30 replies)
“For centuries kings, priests, feudal lords, industrial bosses, and parents have insisted that obedience is a virtue and that disobedience is a vice. In order to introduce another point of view, let us set against this position the following statement: human history began with an act of disobedience, and it is not unlikely that it will be terminated by an act of obedience. …
“The prophets, in their messianic concept, confirmed the idea that man had been right in disobeying; that he had not been corrupted by his ‘sin,’ but freed from the fetters of pre-human harmony. For the prophets, history is the place where man becomes human; during its unfolding he develops his powers of reason and of love until he creates a new harmony between himself, his fellow man, and nature.”
-- Erich Fromm; On Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying “No” to Power; 1963.
The dissension within the Democratic Party in 2016 has created a divide of historic proportions. As the national convention approaches, both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns believe that they have proven that their candidate has earned the right to be the party’s nominee for this fall’s election. The hostility between the two campaigns has apparently created a level of emotion that prevents any possibility of finding common ground before the convention in late July.
Thus, it begs the question: will it be possible for the Democratic Party to hold together for the November election?
The historic example that some are eager to compare 2016 to is the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. This has been especially true since the events in Nevada. Several of the establishment Democrats engaged in Chicken Little, knee-jerk response, lying about chairs being thrown, and claiming they feared for their safety. The corporate media, being firmly in the Clinton camp, has been all to eager to breathlessly report that the Sanders campaign is attempting to bring down the sky.
There are unconfirmed reports that suggest that other forces -- not from either campaign -- may be attempting to increase the sense of paranoia, by making threatening phone calls to an establishment party official. If true, I’m confident that the police will soon identify and hold that person responsible. Clearly, such behavior -- if it happened -- is unacceptable.
It is true that there are ingredients that could combine for a convention as ugly and brutal as Chicago. It would be a shame if that happens. While events from Chicago are an important chapter in our history, it is not because what happened in that city, or the results, were positive. Quite the opposite: it was a display of the authoritarian violence unleashed upon people who were simply exercising their constitutional rights.
Perhaps a better model for Philadelphia to follow would be the 1964 convention in Atlantic City. An important group of Democrats had created the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, to challenge the gross violations of party rules by the establishment in their state. Now, there were very real tensions leading up to this. Earlier in the year, while the MFDP had been making its plans, James Forman, of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, had said, “If we can’t sit at the table, let’s knock the fucking legs off.” (See the PBS series, “Eyes on the Prize.”) And the MFDP was in close contact with Minister Malcolm X that summer.
This made the Democratic Party’s establishment mighty nervous. The establishment attempted to discourage the MFDP from coming to Atlantic City, despite the fact that they had every right to. In fact, were the party’s rules followed, they would have been seated and recognized as the legitimate representatives of their state. They had won, fair and square, while the state establishment had cheated to try to deny them their voice.
The MFDP said “No” to power. They were coming to the Democratic National Convention. They refused to accept the establishment’s outright lies, or their promises for a rosy, ill-defined future voice in the party. Instead, they demanded power. This scared both President Lyndon Johnson and VP Hubert Humphrey -- two politicians that Hillary Clinton compared herself to in the 2008 primaries.
When the establishment’s lies did not get the intended results, they resorted to the “old reliable” tactics of fear and guilt. The MFDP could be responsible for electing that mad man Barry Goldwater, if they showed up in Atlantic City. But the MFDP was beyond fear: they didn’t feel that stick. They came to Atlantic City by the bus loads. They exercised militant non-violence. They gained power. And they made progress.
Now, think about all the states that Bernie Sanders has won this year. Think about how many people have been dedicated activists in the Sanders revolution. Yet the establishment is paranoid that we plan on attending the convention in Philadelphia! They have attempted to make the same false promises -- also known as lies -- to us as their counterparts made to the MFDP. Since that hasn’t worked, they resorted to fear and guilt, talking about Donald Trump. That doesn’t cut it: if Hillary can’t beat Trump, then we are definitely correct that the establishment is wrong to select her as the nominee.
We are coming to Philadelphia. You have no reason to fear us. Let’s all conduct ourselves in a civilized manner.
Posted by H2O Man | Wed May 18, 2016, 07:27 PM (36 replies)
“I’m not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner.”
-- Minister Malcolm X
The chances of a reconciliation within the Democratic Party were greatly reduced by events in Nevada last week. The growing sense of entitlement on the part of the party’s establishment resulted in flagrant misconduct by officials Once again, the Clinton campaign displayed its Animal Farm belief that while all animals are equal, some are more equal than others.
Perhaps more disturbing has been the reaction of those supporting Hillary who recognize that if she is the nominee, Clinton will need substantial support from the progressive community. Without it, she would be at risk of losing. Clearly, the Democratic Party’s establishment’s undemocratic behaviors could result in a Trump presidency. Clinton’s other supporters, by pretending that corruption is somehow okay -- just part of the game -- would likewise be responsible if Donald Trump is elected.
As we approach the July convention in Philadelphia, several things are certain. Neither Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders will have won enough delegates to win the nomination. Clinton does have a lead in both votes and delegates. However, the corrupt actions by the establishment in Nevada are not a one-time, isolated incident. Rather, they are part of a pattern.
Clinton’s supporters tend to either deny that her political machine engages in unethical behavior, or to simply view it how political contests are fought. The Clinton machine mocks the Sanders supporters for attempting to make their cheating an issue. Politics isn’t a pillow fight, of course, but as history shows, the manner a candidate campaigns always indicates the manner in which they will “serve,” if elected. Perhaps the most important example of this is found in Richard Nixon.
Clinton would face a tough fight with Trump. Bernie would thrash Donald. Yet the “super delegates” -- those animals who are more equal than all others -- are posed to support Clinton. Most had declared their support for Hillary before Bernie Sanders entered the primary contest. Even in states were Sanders won the primary -- including where he won literally every county in the state -- the “super delegates” still are supporting Clinton. Obviously, the establishment has an agenda that does not respect the will of the voters.
“There comes a time,” Martin Luther King, Jr., warned us, “when silence is betrayal.” That time has arrived for the Democratic Party. The open and aggressive betrayal of the rules of fairness in Nevada is unacceptable. As an active participant in the Sanders revolution, I do not expect the establishment to acknowledge their wrong-doing. For they have no respect for the will of the people. They have no conscience.
Thus, it is the responsibility of the “average” citizen who supports Hillary Clinton to speak up. This includes the need for them to address the issues of corruption with the Clinton machine, and to engage in a civil discourse with the Sanders’s supporters. The progressive community -- including members of the Democratic Party and the independents of the Democratic Left -- know that the Clinton machine is convinced that we have “no where else to go” if the general election pits Clinton versus Trump. For they demand a level of loyalty to the party that they do not share.
But the grass roots’ supporters of Hillary know better. Many of them have begun parroting the machine’s threat that if progressives don’t fall in line, they will be responsible for electing Trump. This includes the fiction that anything but a vote for Clinton equals a vote for Trump -- solid evidence that public education needs more focus on basic math. The truth is that the establishment is most responsible for opening the door to a possible Trump presidency.
The people at the grass roots level who support Hillary also have responsibility here. For they are classic enablers. And it is this, and this alone, that serves as the first stumbling block that prevents the supporters of the two Democratic candidates from engaging in any meaningful discourse today. If it continues to become more entrenched before the July convention, and the establishment picks Clinton for its nominee, there will be little chance of us finding common ground. But, if they act upon conscience, it keeps the door open for all of us to identify some common ground in Philadelphia …..including the possibility that from there, we could move together to higher ground.
Posted by H2O Man | Tue May 17, 2016, 11:28 AM (133 replies)
“It is beneath human dignity to lose one’s individuality and become a mere cog in the machine. In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place. It is slavery to be amenable to the majority no matter what its decisions are.”
-- Mohandas K. Gandhi
Last night, I hosted had an informal meeting of local leaders of grass roots political leaders from a three-county area of upstate New York. All of those attending were registered Democrats. Most are from communities in which Democrats are the minority among voters, with republicans being the majority, followed by independents.
While we met to discuss several upcoming elections, our primary focus was to try to find common ground, in preparation for a area Democratic Party meeting. At issue is, not surprisingly, people’s opinions about the presidential primary. We are in a region of the state where the majority of Democratic voters support Bernie Sanders. Virtually everyone at my house has been active in the Sanders revolution.
At a recent Democratic Party meeting, there was “lively” debate about our state’s primary, and its implications. Although the map of the state shows that Bernie won almost all of the upstate, Hillary won in terms of numbers. The majority of people in our region believes that there was some “hanky-panky” involved. (And this was before Nevada.) This is equally true among members of the Democratic Left -- many of whom have been attending Democratic Party meetings in our area. One fellow’s pronouncement -- “I like to participate when I get fucked” -- sums up the general feeling.
There are, of course, some Democrats who voted for Clinton. They do not deny that there are, at times, underhanded activities with elections. It’s as American as apple pie. They were convinced that both Trump and Cruz posed such a threat to this country, that people in our party need to speak in one voice in opposition to them. Indeed, they believe that Trump represents fascism, and Cruz theocracy, and that each one poses such a threat -- particularly in regard to the US Supreme Court -- that the Sanders revolution will need to unite with the Clinton campaign, for the common good.
There are also people, including one of my top advisers, who support Bernie, but think that by the time of the Democratic National Convention, we will need to support Hillary as the much lesser of two evils. From what I’ve seen -- from an admittedly small sample group -- those who feel this way tend to be over 50 years old.
Now, to me, anyone under the age of fifty is a “kid.” I’m not hip to all the names young folks use t identify themselves. But those who are approximately 34 to 49 seem less inclined to be willing to consider compromising at this time. And those 18 to 33 are even more intent on “Bernie or Bust.” However, age does not appear to be a factor in people’s desire to go to Philadelphia in July, for the convention; all of those planning to attend are part of the Sanders revolution, and want to engage in peaceful demonstrations, if Clinton gets the nod.
As often is the case, I agreed with everyone and no one, simultaneously. I fully support everyone’s right to decide for themselves what to do in July and November. As Gandhi often said, I believe in anarchy, so long as it is well-organized. I also disagree with those who tell others what to do.
We need to have trust in each other’s ability to weight the facts, and come to their own conclusions. There is plenty of time, between now and the convention, for each of us to evaluate who we will or will not vote for. And there’s enough time between July and November for people to re-evaluate, based upon current events. We need to have trust in that process.
Trust in the process does not equate with trusting the system. Our political system is corrupt. National politics is rotten to the core. But as a growing number of citizens recognize that the system has become a pile of compost, we can nurture new life that grows from that decay. We must have the patience of gardeners.
There is nothing “wrong” with Sanders’s supporters supporting Hillary Clinton if she is given the party’s nomination. A person can do that in good conscience. Likewise, there is nothing “wrong” with a person who decides that supporting Hillary would require them to butcher their conscience, and opting not to vote for her. Likewise, there is nothing “wrong” with not deciding either way at this time, and keeping all options open.
It is wrong to tell a person how they “must” cast their vote. It’s wrong to consider those who would vote for her as sell-outs. It’s wrong to tell someone that they must ignore their values and beliefs, and vote for a candidate they despise. Neither one of these options works, or brings about good in the long run.
I’ve said that, to say this: if you are concerned with the direction our nation is heading in, please come to Philadelphia. Come and voice your opinion. The first of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights speaks to citizens’ rights -- as groups or individual -- to speak their mind publicly.
We need to exercise that right. More, we need to understand that with rights, come responsibilities. No matter what your opinion of the two Democratic candidates may be, come to Philadelphia. It promises to be an important event in our nation’s history. And no one else can speak for you.
Posted by H2O Man | Sun May 15, 2016, 09:32 AM (47 replies)
There are three types of “authority” in political leadership. Each of the three has had a major influence on American political life over the centuries. More, all three are playing a role in both parties’ primaries, and will continue to do so until the November election.
The three are: traditional authority, or “the way things have always been done,” the primary mode in pre-industrial states; bureaucratic authority, which tends to be found where there are large populations; and charismatic authority, which occurs when an individual is widely recognized as having unusual talents and personal appeal.
The Founding Fathers were certainly influenced by tradition. Their thoughts on the system of law reflects the British model that they were familiar with. Their concepts of the federal system of government was influenced by both ancient Greece, and by the Indian societies of the northeast. Their beliefs on individual freedoms also were influenced by the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy.
“Bureaucracy” simply means identifying the most efficient way to deal with large numbers of people. Everyone who has had the pleasure of going to a local Department of Motor Vehicles finds that if they have a “usual” problem, it gets handled relatively fast; while if it is an unusual issue, they may be in for a long wait until it’s resolved.
Thus, the United States government originally sought a balanced approach to issues involving the large, rural farming population, and the more populated cities. This was one of the issues behind the Civil War -- and obviously related to the central dispute, slavery. The government would become increasingly bureaucratic during the industrial revolution.
Charismatic authority generally is associated with when a leader of a marginalized group of people challenges the machine. It usually has the shortest shelf-life: once the machine kills that charismatic leader, his or her movement is decapitated. In the turbulent decade of the 1960s, for example, men such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King provided powerful examples of charismatic authority.
Now, let’s take a brief look at each of the three “top” candidates for the presidency: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders. By using the sociological model of authority, each of the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses come into sharper focus. As readers may know, I support Bernie Sanders; however, I believe that the following is an objective view of all three.
Donald Trump fit’s a loose definition of “traditional,” in the sense that he is a male, and our culture remains rather patriarchal in terms of the federal government. Being an aggressive male also has helped to propel his candidacy -- this was evident when he “alpha-dogged” Jeb Bush. He also has experience with the bureaucracy of the business world, including on the international stage. But his biggest strength comes from being charismatic to a significant portion of the republican/ tea party people.
His weaknesses are evident. Although he has attempted to be included as VP as far back as 1988, by writing his infamous “willing to serve” note to Bush the Elder. He has no experience in politics. This actually appeals to a segment of angry tea partiers, but is a very real weakness going into the general election.
Hillary Clinton seeks to end the tradition of the presidency being a men’s club. Indeed, until 2008, it was exclusively white male, upper economic status. Yet, in several traditional societies that practiced some form of democracy, the role of women was not as limited as it has been in the US. In traditional Iroquois society, for example, there was a balance of power between male and female: while men served as chiefs, each extended family was represented by a Clan Mother -- usually an elderly woman, who had the authority to remove a chief from that status. More, the decision to go engage in warfare was made exclusively by women. In many senses, Hillary Clinton has served in a role with a higher degree of authority than any woman before her.
Hillary’s greatest strength is found in her understanding of bureaucracy. While people tend to associate “bureaucracy” with the negative, it is a reality in any system that deals with a large number of people. Before becoming VP in 1960, for example, Lyndon Johnson was the most effective political leader of the twentieth century in Washington. Clinton has experience in two of the three branches of the federal government -- far more than anyone except a few vice presidents who, having previously served in one or both houses of Congress, went on to run for president.
Her weakest point is found in “charisma.” Like the vast majority of politicians, she is not an inspirational public speaker. While she obviously has wide support within the Democratic Party -- and, at very least, the respect of a segment of republicans -- she appears uncomfortable in delivering speeches, or participating in debates. This is not to suggest that she lacks a mastery of the facts being discussed. Rather, like Al Gore, she lacks charisma.
Bernie Sanders has an interesting public appeal that is partially rooted in tradition. The fact that the overwhelming number of young adults actively support him has confused his opposition. In large part, it is because of his being the wise grandfather or great uncle that these young people both respect and adore. More, he serves as in the role of the elder who warns his people that they are being led astray. Of the three candidates, he is definitely the most honest -- without any reputation for corruption or unethical behavior -- he has the trust of the young adults …..and that is something that money can’t buy.
His experience within the bowels of bureaucracy is substantial. He has served successfully as a mayor. He went on to serve in both the House of Representatives, and in the Senate. In each of these positions, Sanders has shown outstanding judgment -- think of the vote that enabled Bush and Cheney to attack Iraq without provocation -- and a passion for social justice.
Sanders is also charismatic. While his speaking style is unique, and not of the style one usually considers “charismatic,” the power of his message has moved him from having little national support, to being recognized as the candidate most capable of defeating Donald Trump in November. It is important to note that his opposition had believed that Sanders’s being a democratic socialist would kneecap his campaign. Indeed, it would have, in 1950. But in 2016, it has become a huge plus, largely due to his charisma.
If we were to judge the probable outcome based upon the dynamics of authority within our current system, Hillary Clinton’s bureaucratic experience would make her the favorite to win in November. However, 2016 has been an unusual year, and both the republican and Democratic primaries have each been well beyond strange. The bureaucratic powers-that-be -- known as the establishment -- was prepared to serve up another Bush versus Clinton election contest. But the public rejected that plan.
It appears, at this time, most likely that it will be Clinton versus Trump. That could be a more difficult contest than people might have assumed. Only one thing is certain: this evening, while doing some grocery shopping, I ran into one of my best friends, David, who said, “This is by far the strangest year in politics in my lifetime.” To be sure, he is correct. I suspect that it will continue to grow even stranger between now and November.
Posted by H2O Man | Fri May 13, 2016, 07:19 PM (16 replies)