The Future of the Democratic Party

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Dr. Medulla
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Dr. Medulla » 10 Jan 2017, 3:58pm

Yesterday, I read Thomas Frank's semi-recent Listen, Liberal, about the rot of the Democratic Party. It's not really what I'm reading about these days, but it has some overlap. Since the 70s, but especially since the Clinton 90s, Frank argues, the Democrats have turned against the FDR coalition rooted in the working class for one dominated by what get's called the professional class (or technocrats, if you prefer; experts in any number of fields). Professionals are smart and successful, proof that meritocracy is the ideal that society should follow. However, in practice, it encourages a hard-heartedness, for merit as principle states that you get what you deserve. Winners deserve to be winners, losers deserve to be losers. If you're not successful, it's your own fault for not getting a better education or re-training or letting go of cultural inhibitions like racism or what have you. It immediately brought to mind what John Ralston Saul wrote in The Doubter's Companion a couple decades ago:
COMPETITION An event in which there are more losers than winners. Otherwise it’s not a competition. A society based on competition is therefore primarily a society of losers.

Competition is, of course, a very good thing. We cannot live in a complex society without it. On the other hand, if the principal relationship between citizens is based on competition, what has society and, for that matter, civilization been reduced to? The purpose of competition is to establish which is the best. The best may be defined as any number of things: the fastest, the cheapest, the largest quantity. It may even be the highest quality. Unfortunately the more competition is unleashed, the more it tends to eliminate quality as something too complex to be competitive.

The point of competition, if it is left to set its own standards, is that only the winners benefit. This is as true in economics as it is in sport. And a society which treats competition as a religious value will gradually reduce most of the population to the role of spectators. Democracy is impossible in such a situation; so is middle-class stability. That is why the return to increasingly unregulated competition over the last two decades has led to growing instability and an increasing gap between an ever-richer élite and an ever-larger poorer population.

We appear unable to decide what sort of competition we are referring to when we treat it as a religious truth. After all, competition must be a relative term. Everyone means something different when they talk of it.

Competition in a middle-class society must include the costs of a middle-class infrastructure. In a Third World society these secondary costs are almost non-existent. Thus if a middle-class people compete without the benefit of a formal handicap against slaves (to take the most extreme example), the slaves will be more competitive.

Hundreds of other factors create hundreds of other levels of competition. That’s why in serious competition, such as hockey or football, there are strict regulations controlling time, movement, numbers, dress, language. Unregulated competition is a naïve metaphor for anarchy.
The gist of Frank's argument, then, is that the failure of Democrats on the economic front is not the result of globalization or intransigent Republicans but of ideology. In their eyes, they've done nothing wrong and people failing to prosper have themselves to blame. That's just the way of the modern world and there's absolutely nothing anyone can do about it, the liberal says. Frank doesn't use the term, but Democrats are basically libertarians, emphasizing a faith in a market-driven process and proclaiming the result must, by definition, be a social good. They are, in fact, better libertarians than Republicans, who still see value in social bigotry (e.g., homophobia, Islamophobia) that artificially disadvantages one group at the expense of another. We can appreciate that Democrats have largely been on the correct side of issues like homosexual and reproductive rights, but it's about removing any barriers/excuses from being judged on meritocratic grounds.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Wolter » 10 Jan 2017, 4:17pm

I read another review if that a while back and it looked very promising.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Flex » 10 Jan 2017, 4:27pm

Dr. Medulla wrote:
10 Jan 2017, 3:58pm
We can appreciate that Democrats have largely been on the correct side of issues like homosexual and reproductive rights, but it's about removing any barriers/excuses from being judged on meritocratic grounds.
This definitely resonates. It reminds me of left criticsm of democratic social reform: to take the most recent example I'm familiar with, gay rights. While no one on the right side of history would argue against existing progress as its been made, radical lgbt activists are rightly quick to point out that democratic party embrace of gay rights has meant its reduction to the issue of gay marriage, and rejection of more radical egalitarian currents of the movement. Part of this was simply a tactical choice to "mainstream" the movement and make it as inoffensive as possible to middle white america, but it's also worth noting that this has been a moved steered, largely, by the technocratic rich who wrote paeans about how great it was to uncouple the gay rights movements from, say, the cause of redistributing health care to marginalized and poor gay people, or the cause of homelessness amongst the lgbtq population.

As you say, the goal is to create level playing field where all barriers to pure competition are removed. The barring of gays into traditional social institutions is an artificial distortion that may cast a dark shadow on the otherwise necessary result of a poor and thus unworthy transgender person dying homeless of treatable illness. But with the barrier removed, we can simply lament the dead's poor "life choices" and wonder aloud why they didn't pick more sensible electives during school or work harder to attain a technical degree or whatever.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Dr. Medulla » 10 Jan 2017, 4:42pm

It all brings to mind Marx and Engels' initial critique of liberal capitalism as a grotesque irony: people were freed from feudalism and now autonomous agents of their own lives, but existing in a market-defined society they lived mostly miserable, short, and unstable lives. The ex-serfs were free to sell their labour, but the wealthy were freed of any social obligation, to treat labour in the most ruthlessly quantified terms (i.e., the wage, the work day, productivity, etc).
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Rat Patrol » 25 Jan 2017, 9:45pm

So...I see readings of the 25th Amendment is this week's smug liberal social mediasphere circle-jerk material.


Sorry, guys...if Princess Di having her brains splattered all over the motorway didn't compel People magazine to dethrone her as the rightful reigning Queen of Oceana now 20 years on, I don't think this dog is going to hunt itself. :shifty:
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Flex » 25 Jan 2017, 11:11pm

Actually, it's extremely good that Senate Democrats are confirming Trump's horrible cabinet picks.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Silent Majority » 26 Jan 2017, 1:25am

Flex wrote:
25 Jan 2017, 11:11pm
Actually, it's extremely good that Senate Democrats are confirming Trump's horrible cabinet picks.
They're taking the high road on this.
'But also: hey dude, you can just go looking for more glasses. They're all free now. '

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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Dr. Medulla » 26 Jan 2017, 7:36am

Silent Majority wrote:
26 Jan 2017, 1:25am
They're taking the high road on this.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Dr. Medulla » 26 Jan 2017, 8:49am

Walrus birth doesn't make good breakfast conversation!

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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Flex » 26 Jan 2017, 10:18am

When I think "who can teach Democrats to speak to the common man" I think Diane Feinstein, David Brock and Neera Tanden. Good lord.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Rat Patrol » 26 Jan 2017, 10:28am

Flex wrote:
26 Jan 2017, 10:18am
When I think "who can teach Democrats to speak to the common man" I think Diane Feinstein, David Brock and Neera Tanden. Good lord.
No, no...we can't assimilate the good parts of Bernie like plain-English consistently resonant messaging to a diverse audience. Primaries are forever, you filthy bro.
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Dr. Medulla » 26 Jan 2017, 10:43am

"So, I was watching The Big Bang Theory and laughing at the nerds when I thought, 'A NASCAR automobile race sounds good for the weekend.'"
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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Silent Majority » 26 Jan 2017, 11:01am

Dr. Medulla wrote:
26 Jan 2017, 10:43am
"So, I was watching The Big Bang Theory and laughing at the nerds when I thought, 'A NASCAR automobile race sounds good for the weekend.'"
"I was listening to Beyonce in my Ford Focus on my way over, and I thought, she gets it better than the Republicans, am I right?! Hey, any chance of a Budweiser?"
'But also: hey dude, you can just go looking for more glasses. They're all free now. '

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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Wolter » 26 Jan 2017, 11:15am

Silent Majority wrote:
26 Jan 2017, 11:01am
Dr. Medulla wrote:
26 Jan 2017, 10:43am
"So, I was watching The Big Bang Theory and laughing at the nerds when I thought, 'A NASCAR automobile race sounds good for the weekend.'"
"I was listening to Beyonce in my Ford Focus on my way over, and I thought, she gets it better than the Republicans, am I right?! Hey, any chance of a Budweiser?"
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"There's something more honest, he believed, about traditional methods of mass starvation, labour camps, and machine gunning millions to death. Stalin was a vinyl guy who sneered at Truman converting everything to compact disc." - Thomas Jefferson

"But the gorilla thinks otherwise!"

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Re: The Future of the Democratic Party

Post by Rat Patrol » 26 Jan 2017, 8:40pm

Kennedy spawn inbreeding FTW, Pt. III: https://www.boston.com/news/crime/2017/ ... -relatives
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