July 20, 2019 by epoetus
In the political topsy turvey world we live in, a world where Fox News carries as much credibility for many people as Reuters does when it comes to communicating the facts, how do we assess the truth, the facts, and how do we determine that we were successful in the end? Here are some ideas to consider in this regard that may help us all figure out what we need to focus on.
When we succeed politically, do we expect some gratifying outcome?
• Mea culpas and full admissions of guilt?
• A consensus moment and the pop culture “Kum Ba Yah”?
• A sense of completion to be derived from having achieved “What is right?”
Does the struggle ever end so that you can move on and focus on something else?
Or is political struggle like war – a war without bloodshed – with the outcomes of destruction, recovery and rebuilding that it entails?
If we look at “The Will Of The People,” otherwise known as “Hearts and Minds” as a dynamic, constantly changing state, we may find some insights. In addition, if we are able to measure the outcomes and changes that are needed, we may also find some solace in confirming a political success.
The Fog of War
Having not been involved in fighting a war probably handicaps this analogy a bit, but the phrase “all is fair in love and war” did not materialize out of thin air. If we apply the war analogy to our current political climate, it may help us interpret much of what we’re experiencing as “The Fog of War.”
Do you want your war with or without bloodshed, Madam?
It makes sense to view our democratic political process as the most civilized form of engaging in war. But who is the war with and what are we fighting for? This is what needs clarity.
“Without a strong egalitarian-internationalist platform, it is difficult to unite low-education, low-income voters from all origins within the same coalition and to deliver a reduction in inequality. Extreme historical circumstances can and did help to deliver such an encompassing platform; but there is no reason to believe that this is a necessary or sufficient condition.” – Thomas Piketty
“To translate from academese: An “egalitarian-internationalist platform” means the kind of political platform that articulates a shared, global struggle among all of the poor and working-class people around the world — in other words, a class-conscience platform that recognizes that rich people are not on the same side as the rest of us, and have different interests and are eager to exploit us. And egalitarian means the opposite of nationalistic or xenophobic — united in a common class struggle, you might say, towards a mutual goal of universal civil rights.” – Salon
These passages answer the questions raised above: Fundamentally our political struggle is all about reducing the impacts of rising wealth and income inequality on our democracy, so that we can ensure that our government institutions operate in the service of “the people.” That is the brass ring we must seek and become laser focused on. The role of government is to do the most good for the most people and the environment for the longest time.
To solidify the definition of the problem statement, we only need to look at the Opioid crisis that has unleashed untold damage across this nation and around the world. This is a story that continues to unfold in dribs and drabs, most recently with the Washington Post database showing who sold, what opioids and where over a seven year period by every county in the nation. The mechanisms employed by the Sackler family and many other pharmaceutical companies to produce this crisis, are part of a classic and repeatable strategy known as the “Tobacco Industry Playbook.” It details how people like the Sacklers can deliberately employ a multi-faceted campaign designed to misinform and leverage their financial resources to legitimize addiction and drug dealing. This has played out on many other topics as well: Round-Up and GMO labelling, and now even the legitimization of gerrymandering.
Is the Fog of War injecting itself into the Democratic debates?
Since 2016 we have debated the merits of Centrist versus Progressive candidates. It has been driven like a wedge into the party, to the pleasure of many in the Republican party, but overall the party itself claims to have moved down the progressive path. Now we hear about “have we gone too far left?” in the news – more click-bait provocation for self-doubt. From this perspective it is worth considering Piketty’s words, assess why the Democrats may have lost the election in 2016, and look hard at what a truly inclusive message that appeals to all American’s looks like. The Democratic party needs to demonstrate to the people that it has defined the problem statement, and the problem statement is about rising wealth and income inequality. It also needs to prove to the people that it knows how to solve the problem, which is really the root cause of many problems that encompasses even the existential crisis of climate change. The solutions will not be simple, but the Democratic party needs to prove that it has the will and competence to fix the problems we’re experiencing and to prevent them from occurring again. The Democratic party needs to tell the people that it knows how to bring democracy back, and how to make sure that it remains healthy and vibrant into the future.
“The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don’t speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism’s ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a “bifurcated” voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.” – Salon
“Now, why hasn’t the Democratic Party heeded Piketty’s warning? I think you already know why. To quote Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” The donor base of the Democratic Party consists of a lot of pretty rich people who prefer the Democratic Party to be left on social issues but right on economic issues. “ – Salon
Salon on Thomas Piketty paper from 2018
Thomas Piketty’s paper that is referenced in Salon
Analogy: The recent Opioid crisis