Tuesday, April 19, 2016

MICHAEL LIND, YOU'RE FORGETTING ONE THING: RICH PEOPLE

I keep thinking about the op-ed Michael Lind published a couple of days ago, in which he offered a hot take on the future of the two parties:
No matter who wins the New York primaries on Tuesday or which candidates end up as the presidential nominees of the two major parties, one thing is already clear: Trumpism represents the future of the Republicans and Clintonism the future of the Democrats.

Those who see the nationalist populism of Mr. Trump as an aberration in a party that will soon return to free-market, limited government orthodoxy are mistaken. So are those who believe that the appeal of Senator Bernie Sanders to the young represents a repudiation of the center-left synthesis shared by Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. In one form or another, Trumpism and Clintonism will define conservatism and progressivism in America.
Sanders isn't the future of the Democratic Party, Lind says; he thinks the young people who now like Sanders will mature into adulthood, get better jobs, and become less enamored of seriously redistributive economics, just the way their 1960s counterparts became more moderate as they aged. (I'm not sure how that's going to happen when big companies believe they never have to create good jobs again in America, expecting us to suck it up and accept that as the new normal.) Lind also thinks that Hillary Clinton actually has already moved significantly to the left of her husband, to a spot where she's in sync with the Democrats of the future:
[The] realignment within the Democratic Party requires Hillary Clinton to distance herself from many of the policies of her husband’s administration and to adopt policies favored by her party’s core constituencies. On issues from criminal justice to immigration enforcement, that is precisely what she has done. Even if she had not been challenged by Mr. Sanders, she probably would have done this anyway, because with the departure of the Reagan Democrats, the Democratic coalition has shifted to the left.
In fact, Lind thinks Clinton has driven Sanders to the left on some issues:
At the beginning of his campaign, Mr. Sanders the democratic socialist focused in the manner of a single issue candidate almost exclusively on themes of class, inequality and political corruption. But because he is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, he has had to put greater emphasis on other issues, including racial disparity in policing and sentencing and the environment and immigration.

Having told Ezra Klein of Vox last July that open borders is “a Koch brothers proposal” that “would make everybody in America poorer,” Mr. Sanders recently criticized Mrs. Clinton for opposing drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants in 2007.
Well, that's ... an interesting way of looking at it. I think Sandersism probably isn't the future of the Democratic Party because the party never sustains its progressive movements, though I think some of what Sanders is talking about will filter down, especially if progressives have some success in fighting for change from outside electoral politics.

But the really dubious part of Lind's theory involves the Republicans. Lind -- and he's not alone in this -- believes that the Republican Party simply can't remain as corporatist as it's been:
Long before Mr. Trump threw his hat into the ring in 2015, the economic libertarians who are overrepresented in the donor class and Republican think tanks and magazines were losing to the populists. Opposition to illegal immigration went from being a fringe issue associated with Patrick Buchanan in the 1990s to a central test of whether one was a “true conservative” or a Republican in Name Only. In 2007 and again in 2013, the opposition of populist Republicans thwarted so-called comprehensive immigration reform in Congress.

Similarly, opposition from their own voters forced the Republicans who controlled both houses of Congress to squelch George W. Bush’s proposed partial privatization of Social Security. The Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, enacted in 2003, had the support of aging white Republican voters even as it appalled and infuriated free-marketers and deficit hawks on the right.

Whatever becomes of his bid for the presidency, Mr. Trump exposed the gap between what orthodox conservative Republicans offer and what today’s dominant Republican voters actually want -- middle-class entitlements plus crackdowns on illegal immigrants, Muslims, foreign trade rivals and free-riding allies. Other candidates less flawed than Mr. Trump and more acceptable to the Republican establishment, like Ted Cruz, are likely to bring Republican policy positions and Republican voter preferences more closely into alignment, by moving somewhat to the left on middle-class entitlements and somewhat to the right on immigration and trade.
Here's the problem with this: Where are the obscenely rich going to go? Lind writes about "[t]he Clintonian synthesis of pro-business, finance-friendly economics with social and racial liberalism" -- but that's not going to be good enough for the Koch brothers and their friends. They're not going content themselves with lite corporatism. They want it all and they want it now. They want government budgets slashed. They want the tax burden shifted to the poor. They want government regulations eviscerated. They want America to evolve into the kind of Third World country to which they export manufacturing. Clintonism is pro-business, but it's not that pro-business.

So the filthy rich aren't going to give up the Republican Party without a fight. And, really, they won't have to. In the same way that every left-wing candidate-based "revolution" peters out when the campaign is over, Trumpism will lose focus as soon as he loses. The GOP will largely go back to being the Koch brothers' party -- in fact, it still is the Koch brothers' party all over the country, in races where there's no Trump to upset the status quo, which is the overwhelming majority of downballot contests. (Go here, for instance, to read about the massive amounts of money the Koch network is deploying in order to keep Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson in office.)

The sans-culottes might fight the rich to a standoff on immigration, but they're not going to beat the rich on shifting the tax burden, and they're not even going to try to fight them on deregulation. (To blue-collar right-wingers, less government sounds good!) So there will always be a party of the obscenely rich, and for the foreseeable future it's going to be the GOP.

3 comments:

Feud Turgidson said...

In 2008. HRC ran more SPECIFICALLY that Obama, and on policies that were left of Bill Clinton, so by default, she ran left of Obama. But during the debates, her sticking with policies caused him a policy gap, which he filled by getting closer to and even occupying some of the same policy ground she was on. By the end of the Dem debates and seriously contested primaries, his MOVE to the left made it SEEM like he was left of her. But he never was.

The financial meltdown saw Obama lead the Dem party to the lef- ... nope: to pretty much support what Paulsen was urging on Bush, with some more precision, or at least words that looked more precise. After he was sworn in, he rejected advise from his Economic Councillor to go hard for a $1.5 Trillion STIM package not watered down by a bunch of tax breaks that favored Corporate America, and somewhat broader advice from the most vocal leaders from the lefty macro-econ community to try to use the financial crisis to assert great or even some more meaningful authority over the Wall Street banksters. In the end the only aspect of the STIM that was arguably (I concede probably) left of HRC was on the $90B for green energy initiative (along with the ACA, pretty much all he had to show for his first term). But the ACA plan was the Heritage Plan from the mid-1990s, the one used to respond to Hillarycare, so it's really difficult to see that as other than 'right' of HRC on healthcare reform, and the green initiative was as much a frack everywhere policy, so it's also tough to see him having governed to the left of what HRC would have done.

But from 2012 on, he started gopverning (where he could) left of her where and certainly TALKED left of her on several fronts, so ... maybe that softens his overall governance to 'AS' left as her (which even just hers was never particularly left, except for health care reform - just left compared to what the GOP Congress has kept demanding, IOW not actually something difficult to stay left of).

What she's been talking on the stump is left of how Obama actually governned and about equal to how Obama talked up how he wanted to govern, or if right then only slightly so. Thus, it's not difficult to see how she could 'adopt' Obama's domestic agenda, since it was mostly hers and in some respects right over hers (foreign policy being a whole other thang).

But Sanders has definitely moved her left of where she'd have been with no Sanders pushing her left.

bowtiejack said...

"Where are the obscenely rich going to go? "
Indeed.
I think they are not ready to give up their dream of a society with an ever harsher Pareto distribution, one replicating the greatness of the medieval world, the Egyptian dynasties, and the hydraulic empires.

freemansfarm77 said...

I think it is possible that the super rich think they are better off with Clinton than Trump. And that the GOP might never get put back together. A fractured GOP, unable to sustain itself in power, is not a good investment. A moderate Democratic regime, on the other hand, is not a real threat to them. Sure, they would prefer some sort of Galt's Gulch to "corporate lite," but a GOP so heavily influenced by the Trumpenproletariat would have a hard time gaining power, and, even if in power, would be unreliable. The Democrats have almost ALWAYS had a "business wing." FDR had one, and so did LBJ. Not just the Clintons, but Obama, Bradley, Gore, Kerry, etc, almost all recent nationally prominent Dems, have had business support. And rich people support.