Anti-Democratic America

Bernie SandersMorning Consult put out a very interesting bit of polling data, and found, Bernie Sanders Is the Most Popular Senator in America. They did polling of the people in all the states to come up with this. It’s a massive poll. Martin Longman noted that there are some real problems in the numbers for Republicans, “The most troubling result for the Republicans is that several of their Senators who are up for reelection next year are near the bottom in the approval ratings.” These include Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Rob Portman of Ohio. And rightly so!

You might consider Ohio a swing state, but I think it is now fundamentally blue. And Wisconsin and Illinois are clearly blue states. Why do they have Republican Senators anyway? The same goes for Colorado, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. It goes the other way too, of course. The following red states have one Democratic Senator: Indiana, Missouri (fluke), Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia. But even if you throw out Ohio, that’s five red states that have a Democratic Senator and five blue states that have a Republican Senator. Seems about right. But the misrepresented red states account for only 16 million people whereas the misrepresented blue states account for 38 million. That’s 134% more!

So the blue states represent more than 56% of the nation. Yet they get only 46% of the representation in the Senate.

The same thing is going on when you look at the “pure” states. This is where a blue state like California has two Democratic Senators or a red state like Texas has two Republican Senators. But looking at all those states, the numbers are still disturbing. There are 20 pure red states and only 15 pure blue states. What’s more, 103 million people are in these 20 red states whereas 116 million people are in these 15 blue states. If you look at all the data together, you see that blue states represent 154 million people and the red states represent 120 million.

So the blue states represent more than 56% of the nation. Yet they get only 46% of the representation in the Senate. Now in the old days, that wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. If a blue state sent a Republican Senator to Washington, she would be a moderate. But that’s just not true anymore. Ron Johnson is representing Wisconsin! At the same time, the Democrats representing red states are moderate — because the Democrats are still a regular political party and not a revolutionary power.

A lot of this is just the whining of a partisan whose party is losing. But there are also two important issues. The first is that we live in an oligarchy. The power elite have gotten great not just at manipulating voters, but making voting difficult — both directly (eg, not funding local polling places, voter ID laws) and indirectly (making poor people have to work too much). When was the last time you heard a Republican say (as Ronald Reagan did) that they wanted as many people to vote as possible? The truth is that the Republican Party has become very comfortable with the notion that their best chance of winning an election is to have as few voters as possible.

The other issue is that we have a terrible system of representation. It was perhaps the best that we could hope for two and a quart centuries ago. But it isn’t the best we could have now. And that’s not even to mention gerrymandering and the ridiculous Senate compromise where a conservative in Wyoming has roughly 66 times as many votes as a liberal does here in California. None of this is moral. But none of it will change, because it is great for the power elite. They know that if the Republicans are in control, they will money thrown at the rich. And if the Democrats are in control, they will throw slightly less money at the rich. (They will still end up doing better under the Democrats, because the economy will do better, because Democrats are not incompetent like Republicans are.)

This isn’t just a question of voting. It is a question of organizing. It is a question of all of us talking to other people and allowing them to see that we’ve lost our democracy and that we are going to have to fight to take it back. It’s not just going to be a difficult fight — it’s going to be a really long fight.

White People Are Afraid of the Wrong Things

AfraidThe Washington Post reported, White Americans Long for the 1950s, When They Didn’t Face So Much Discrimination. It’s a cheeky headline, but it is absolutely accurate based upon a recent poll done by the Public Religion Research Institute. Erik Loomis has the right reaction, Oh White People. It turns out that 43% of American whites think that discrimination against them is as bad as it is against minority groups. And 53% think things have gotten worse since the 1950s.

In one way, I think this is all meaningless. In any given poll, there are always 30% of Americans who believe the most amazing things. But the poll also asked if discrimination against whites had gotten as bad as it is for minority groups. That’s a leading question. Why not just ask, “Is discrimination against whites as bad as it is against African Americans.” I’ll bet that number would fall down to the established 30% crazy figure. As for the things being worse than they were in the 1950s, well, that’s meaningless. What 1950s are we talking about? In Loomis’ article, he uses a picture of the Cleaver family from Leave It to Beaver. It started in late 1957 and ran through 1963. I understand that this is what people think “the 50s” were, but they are wrong. The 1950s was really Joseph McCarthy, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and Emmett Till.

I understand that this is what people think “the 50s” were, but they are wrong. The 1950s was really Joseph McCarthy, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and Emmett Till.

But Loomis nails what is really going on. It’s the economic insecurity of the white middle class. You know, we talk a lot about the fact that wages have been flat for working people for the last 40 years. But you know, that isn’t that big a deal to people. I think what matters most to them is the insecurity. The big thing conservatives love to talk about is how people should be rewarded for taking risks. But American workers have the worst of both worlds: they have seen the risk of unemployment skyrocket and have been given nothing to compensate for it.

It isn’t at all surprising in this environment that the white working class would feel that it is being discriminated against. It is! Just not in the way that black and Latino and LGBT people are. There is a class war that is going on in this nation. It got really bad about 40 years ago. But we have a media infrastructure that is totally in the can for the power elite. We live in a nation where the only think that is considered real class warfare is talking about class warfare. Unions can be destroyed. Tort “reform” can take away individual rights. Bankruptcy protection can be limited for individuals even as it is expanded for corporations. And none of this is class warfare. That’s just natural or something that Jesus said in Matthew 5. But talk about income inequality and listen to the pundits scream in unison, “Class warfare!”

I was thinking today about one of the Democratic debates where Bernie Sanders said that he wasn’t talking about raising taxes back up to 91% where they were under Eisenhower. And I’m almost certain that the woman who was questioning him said, “I would hope not.” Can you imagine the firestorm of media coverage that would have erupted if the opposite had been said to a Republican. If Ted Cruz said, “I’m not talking about reducing taxes to 15%,” and a reported said, “I would hope not”?

We live in a nation controlled by the power elite. And the poor and working class feel that there is nothing they can do. So they lash out. They kid themselves into thinking that they have it as bad as blacks do. I’ve actually heard people claim that they are worse off knowing English in California than they would be if they only knew Spanish. These are irrational beliefs. But they are very, very understandable.

Morning Music: Mary Chapin Carpenter

Mary Chapin CarpenterOkay, let’s end this week with some nice Thanksgiving-ish songs. I was going to just do the Mary Chapin Carpenter song “Thanksgiving Song.” It really isn’t bad. I wish there were more songs like it. You know what the real problem is: Elvis never released a Thanksgiving album. And because of that, I definitely won’t be doing this next year.

Starting tomorrow, I think I’m going to do a week of Elvis Costello. Certainly a week of California punk would better get rid of the sticky sweetness of this last week. But Costello is really easy for me — especially if I stick to the first 15 albums or so, which should be pretty easy given I only need six songs and a concert.

Anyway, here is a short set that Mary Chapin Carpenter did for All Things Considered for their 2012 Thanksgiving broadcast. We had one major thing to be thankful for that day: Mitt Romney wasn’t going to be president.

Anniversary Post: Kano Bombing

Kano bombingOn this day last year, the Kano bombing took place. It was another atrocity committed by Boko Haram. Roughly 120 people were killed and over 250 wounded. It was carried out at a mosque while Friday prayers were going on. Three bombs were set off — one on the road near by and two in the courtyard of the mosque. As the worshippers fled, they were gunned down. Allegedly, angry survivors caught and killed four of the gunmen.

That’s roughly as big an attack as the recent Paris attacks. But again: wrong kind of victims in the wrong place. Maybe we should make a bigger deal out of Paris. After all, what happened in Paris is the exception. Usually, it is overwhelmingly Muslims who are killed in these attacks. Yet here in America, we so casually blame “the Muslims.” You know, during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, people weren’t running around saying we couldn’t allow Catholics to immigrate to the United States.

In Hamlet, the title character has the perfect opportunity to kill Claudius. But Claudius is praying, and Hamlet does not want to send him straight to heaven. What does it say of Boko Haram that they kill people while worshiping? I think it says that religion really has nothing to do with their actions. If they believed in their god, they wouldn’t attack people while praying. They are just homicidal thugs who lust for power. I’m not saying they can’t find justification in their holy books. I’m just saying that it doesn’t matter. They could find justification on a postage stamp.