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The 2012 Yearbook of Democratic Party Brainwaves,
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This review is from: The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics (Hardcover)
If anything is clear at this time it is that the American people have been shell-shocked by the Great Recession. Among all other aspects of life we are confused about which political party to trust with the financial future of our country.
In 2008 we elected a Democrat President who followed through on his campaign promise to expand the government's role in providing healthcare. The very instant his agenda was enacted into law we voted the Democrats out of Congress, replacing them with "Tea Party" Republicans who vowed to reverse the Democrat agenda by repealing healthcare reform, lowering taxes, and reducing the reach of government! So now we have a government of two warring factions, anchored to diametrically opposing ideologies, without any sort of middle ground to build a compromise around.
Of course it's not entirely fair to blame the gridlock on our elected officials when "we the people" who elected them are so fickle in switching back and forth between diametrically opposing ideologies. Our representatives are certain to have a difficult time trying to figure out how to represent an electorate that can't make up its mind as to how it wants to be represented! This book is an attempt by political columnist Thomas Edsall to explain why the electorate is so confused and to try to guess which way it might lean when the 2012 votes are counted.
Let me say up front that if you're a Conservative / Republican the book will annoy you. Edsall tries to be fair-minded in analyzing our viewpoints; however, he does come across as a Democrat who subconsciously stereotypes Republicans as being somewhere in between Ebenezer Scrooge and Simon Legree. The author annoyed me by characterizing Republicans as a "White Party" that presumably hates minorities and wants to deport all the Hispanics back to where they came from. The question comes to mind, "Why is it that New Mexico and Puerto Rico, the two most Hispanic political entities in the Union, have just elected REPUBLICAN governors?" *
In fact most of the book can be fairly characterized as Democrat Talking Points. Many issues, from the Iraq War to income inequality, are discussed from the perspective you'd expect from a Democrat campaign manual. Even so, it never hurts Conservatives and Republicans to give these points careful consideration, because those on our side don't always own a monopoly on truth either.
On the other hand if you're a Democrat who's interested in politics I am sure you'll love the book because it is literally the 2012 Yearbook of Democratic Party brainwaves.
The central focus is what is going to happen next November. Will the electorate lean more to the Democrats as we did in 2006 and 2008 or lurch sharply to the right as we did in 2010? This election is very difficult to forecast because the author rightly points out that the voters in each demographic segment are not responding the way they are "supposed" to. For example, voters over the age of 60, who would appear to have the most to lose if Social Security and Medicare are curtailed, are among the most enthusiastic Tea Party supporters. I think that is because people in this age group reached political maturity during the Reagan years and are firmly committed to Conservative principles.
I also know many moderate Democrats who are "supposed" to vote for Obama, and who did vote for him in 2008, but now say there's no way they'd vote for him in 2012. Some think he was too conventional and did not give them the "change" they expected. Others think he's a radical socialist. On the other hand, there are people like me, a middle-aged Republican-leaning White guy, who respect Obama because of the job he's done of governing competently and responsibly during a very difficult time. With all this unpredictability the election of 2012 is definitely up for grabs.
The most interesting aspect of this book is that it reminds me almost word-for-word of the types of political books that were written in 1968. Here's how Edsall describes the current election:
Republican leaders see the window closing on the opportunity to dismantle the liberal state. The prospect looms that the GOP will be forced to accommodate changing demographics as proponents of big government gain traction and as an ever-growing cohort of Americans becomes dependent on social welfare initiatives. These stresses create an incentive within the conservative movement to pull hard right and to pursue increasingly high-risk strategies. The 2012 election is positioned to be the most ideologically consequential contest since 1932, setting the stage for a new complex of differences and tensions--no longer confined to this continent. As rising expectations meet diminishing resources on a global scale, political conflict resolution mechanisms with which we are familiar are likely to be swept away.
If you changed the words "The 2012 election" to read "the 1968 election" you'd have the same situation. Voters then as now were in an uproar and had trouble deciding who to vote for. They liked the expansion of Social Welfare that the Democrats had created, but disliked having to pay for it with rising taxes in a difficult economy. Young people were restless for change but angry that it didn't come fast enough. In the background was the divisive Vietnam War and a faltering economy. There was constant tension with the Soviet Union and China. There were riots in the streets and on college campuses. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were murdered. Society seemed to be coming apart at the seams. People were asking, "When is the revolution coming?" More than a few thought that the USA was on the short path to a Communist or Fascist dictatorship.
And yet a funny thing happened in spite of all that turmoil. Our democracy gave most of the people most of what they wanted. Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, and Conservatives could all claim victories of sorts in the election that year and those that followed. The government remained divided between the parties, but it did settle down to business. The Republican Party did not disappear as the Democrats so confidently predicted, but neither did the Republicans succeed in dismantling the Democrats' Welfare State. They did trim it back a little and rationalize it, but its substance remains. Over time the economic forces of labor and capital, and of supply and demand, were restored to balance and the economy began growing again. The country and the world moved forward.
This time around we also face problems that seem insurmountable. How are we ever going to pay for escalating Social Security, Medicare, and public employee pension fund commitments at a time when a slow economy is diminishing tax revenues? How are we going to obtain any degree of compromise between those tax-cutting Republicans and those tax-and-spend Democrats? It will be a painfully brutal process, but I suspect the country will settle down and get back to business as we did after 1968. I'm hoping that, like 1968, things will turn out to be a bit brighter than Edsall fears.
If you're a Democrat buy this book and enjoy it. Save it as a reference and see how many of the author's predictions are fulfilled in 2012. If you're a Republican you may enjoy it as a keyhole into what the other side is thinking. If you're an Independent you may enjoy reading it and having a good laugh at the stubborn dogma of both parties!
* The question comes to mind, "Why is it that New Mexico and Puerto Rico, the two most Hispanic political entities in the Union, have just elected REPUBLICAN governors?"
Here is where I think Edsall is missing a most important point. Being married into a Hispanic family I know dozens of recent Latino immigrants from all walks of life --- everybody from manual laborers to engineers and millionaire entrepreneurs. My sense is that the majority of Hispanics aspire to the American success story. Once they get their first rung up on the ladder of success they identify with Republicans as the party that self-sufficient successful people vote for. I also know upwardly mobile African-Americans who see it that way.
Democrats emphasize social equality and opportunity for upward mobility for everyone, especially for the poor, the minorities, and the recent immigrants. Republicans need to respect Democrats for emphasizing opportunity for the groups that need it the most. On the other hand, Democrats need to understand that once people achieve success, they are more likely to vote Republican because the Republican Party talks a universal language of success that transcends race. The Republicans are not the party of White Racists trying to keep the lid on people of color as Edsall and other Democrats believe. That's why the Republican Party isn't likely to disappear under a wave of minority and immigrant demographics.
Republicans need to understand that they have friends in the Hispanic and African American communities and to become active in letting these people know what the party stands for. Democrats need to get beyond their talking points that seem to appeal ONLY to the poor and minorities, such as emphasizing poverty and lingering discrimination, to the exclusion of the positives such as the opportunity for all people to succeed.
If both parties will recognize that their common agenda is to maximize the opportunity for all Americans to achieve success, then perhaps they will find common ground to compromise on.
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Showing 1-10 of 21 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 16, 2012 11:28:20 AM PST
N. Grant says:
I'm not a Republican but I did read your review and if in fact Edsell is painting your entire party as white and nativist, I agree he's off the mark. However, your use of the word "Democrat" as an adjective belies your disdain for Democratic (that's the adjective) political philosophy, and that undercuts the reliability of your analysis.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 2:07:18 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 16, 2012 2:34:26 PM PST
Here's one of Edsall's quotes that is typical of his characterization of the Republicans as "the White Party." :
PART I. THE WHITE PARTY
On November 2, 2010, the Republican Party defied the warnings of demographers and political consultants that if it failed to make gains among minority voters, it would be swept away in a Hispanic tidal wave. Instead, the GOP affirmed its identity as the "white" party.
Edsall, Thomas Byrne (2012-01-10). The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics (Kindle Locations 717-719). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
So, yes, he's pretty definite in painting the Republicans as "white and nativist." I think he sees this as a matter-of-fact issue of who he thinks the Republicans are.
I also think I made it pretty clear in my review that I usually vote Conservative Republican, though I am genuinely undecided this time around. I don't know that either party has a firm grasp on the economic policies that will be needed to revive the economy. I had never heard of Dr. Edsall before I read the book and reviewed it and I did not look up his background until after I wrote the review. Thus, it would be impossible for me to malign him on the basis of anything other than what he actually wrote in the book.
I think I also made clear that much of his analysis is spot-on. The Republicans do see Democrats as irresponsible spendthrifts, while Democrats see Republicans as heartless scrooges. As I said, I am hoping that after the election is over the two parties will soften their views, as they did after 1968, and perhaps will be able to compile a decent record of acting in the people's best interest.
btw. I did not mean to use the term "Democrat Party" (instead of "Democratic Party") in any perjorative sense, although I suppose there have been some Republicans who have used that phrase in a demeaning way. I will change the title of the review so as to give no offense.
Posted on Jan 27, 2012 4:07:44 AM PST
GUNTHER W SCHMITT says:
Appreciate the effort and thoughtful comments, which are helpful in anticipating this book.
Posted on Jan 27, 2012 6:10:21 AM PST
Richard Chapman says:
"Democrats need to get beyond their talking points that seem to appeal ONLY to the poor and minorities, such as emphasizing the negative aspects of poverty and discrimination"
What are the positive aspects of poverty and discrimination? I suspect what you wrote wasn't what you meant to say but I suggest you try being poor for a while. When you are poor "opportunity for all" is pretty much a myth. In fact, of developed countries, the United States actually has the least social and economic mobility.
I have a problem with your last sentence as well. What is your definition of "success"? The Amish are successful; Donald Trump is successful.
Posted on Jan 27, 2012 7:03:08 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 27, 2012 7:18:39 AM PST
Nice write up.
As a 6th generation US Hispanic, small business owner, MS in computer science & MBA from Johns Hopkins, six [100% Hispanic] grandchildren, home owner, and a large network of successful minority & non-minority friends, my experience among my professional minority friends (and some data shows this) is the Republican Party is way out of touch with many "basic" issues this country faces. I must admit both parties are no where near perfect and are driven by corporate interest - not yours, not mine. I can't afford a Super Pac.
I do agree with you, 100%, that we the voters are "bipolar," which is the root of my frustration with the nation's issues. For example, "Cut government BUT NOT MY PROGRAM..." Wisconsin is a great example of this. They voted for a guy that basically stated "I WILL CUT." And he did. And the voters, who voted for him, did not like it. US senator John DeMint was asked if it was okay if he advocates both cutting taxes and cutting services while his state, South Carolina, received 33% more of federal funds that the state pays to the feds. He did not directly answer the questions - as usual, it's okay to CUT but not "mine." I can continue these example. My frustration with the Republicans is their "double-talk, hating" language. My mother taught me Spanish, yet Republican Newt stated it was "ghetto." Did any leading Republican criticize him for this remark? Was this remark a sign that Republicans are "warm" to Hispanics? For me, it was an asset for international commerce. During the Y2K, I went to Latin America representing a US company. My clients did not think my Spanish was ghetto.
My point, and my interest in this book, is that 90% of my minority Ph.D., J.D, M.D., and most Puerto Ricans on the island would disagree with your observation of the Republicans being "more" diverse. Puerto Rico's Republican governor is a different "breed" from the mainland. New Mexico is a valid point - 1 out of 50 states = 2% of all the states yet Hispanic make up 15% of the US. That's a variance of about 87%.
I also have a big advantage. I am a white Hispanic, no Spanish accent, and "blend" into white conservative conservations. The bigotry I hear is amazing - THIS IS NOT A STEREOTYPE and ONLY a handful. I do not hear the same anger, bitterness from my minority friends. Instead we say "Why are all the folks around Newt, Ron Paul, Santorum, Perry, and Romney so white?" It's not an accident.
You wrote "Republicans need to understand that they have friends in the Hispanic and African American communities and to become active in letting these people know what the party stands for." i question this because I've seen what they stand for:
1) Vote for Sarah Palin - low IQ versus "the black guy" with a Harvard JD, Harvard Law Review editor, self-made, volunteered to help poor children in the ghetto of Chicago instead of taking his JD to Wall Street and make millions.
2) Santorum - comparing blacks in Iowa with Foodstamp yet 80% Foodstamp recipients in Iowa are white.
3) Romney - from a religion that excluded blacks from the church until September 30, 1978. I have yet to see a single Romney adviser of color.
4) Ron Paul - Remember his newsletter?
5) About 98% of climatologist and other scientist believe there is climate warming, but Republicans theme is not to support this science.
6) Children and Republicans - I have six living grandchildren that need clean air and clean water and regulations that will be enforced. As a grandparent, we tend to give our lives for them. Republicans are against clean air and clean water regulations. If lifted, can increase health care cost.
7) "Government Too Big" - yet they want to control marriage, abortion, and support earmarks/pork-barrel.
8) Republicans/TEA Party have repeatedly stated "Their way or the highway." Can we spell C.O.M.P.R.O.M.I.S.E ?
I hope you see my point/concern. I work VERY hard to vote on FACTS. I watch ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS Newshour every night (via DVR), read a lot - diverse publications including the Economist. Two days ago I told my wife, while watching Newt, "He is promising to send 'us' to space [with billions of tax dollars] yet he refuses to explain how to pay for it." Is this "Foodstamp" for the space industry? Yesterday Romney had a sign behind him, while making a speech, that stated Obama isn't working. The irony is he made over $40M by not working (investments), paid 13.9% taxes on that amount while he uses our crumbling infrastructure to campaign and wants us to pay less taxes. Who will pay to fix our roads and airports if we cut taxes? Transportation is critical for our economy.
Finally where is the scientific evidence that raising taxes will decrease jobs? Instead, Reagan and Clinton raised taxes and jobs climbed. Bush Jr. lowered taxes...and you know the rest.
I hope you empathize where I, and the MAJORITY of minority professional friends, REALLY think of the Republicans.
Thank you for your write-up, and I hope this write-up gave you a different view as to where Republicans and minorities deviate, and yes, I know there are many Republican Hispanics that share TEA Party vision and "conservatism" [whatever that means]. But they are the "3 percenters" and one of them is my wife's aunt who "lives on the edge of the earth" - she wants CUTS in government but NOT to her Social Security, police, Medicare, etc.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2012 8:33:17 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 27, 2012 9:00:59 AM PST
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. There are something like thirty million Hispanics in the USA, maybe more. That's like a country within a country. With a population that large there is always the technique of taking a small part of it and extrapolating it to fit the whole. I am sure the Republicans will take the sample of a few Hispanic governors and Congressmen and try to extrapolate that into being larger than what it is. On the other hand, there are Democrats, like Edsall, who say, "No minorities will ever vote Republican, because Republicans are the White person's party."
Obviously the truth is going to be somewhere in between these extremes. The Republicans have actually done a bit better than just the two governors of Puerto Rico and New Mexico. They have also elected Governor Sandoval of Nevada. Governor Perry of Texas is also part Hispanic. President Bush had three Hispanics in his cabinet. And of course there's Senators Rubio and Martinez of Florida. So the Republicans are making an effort to recruit Hispanics into their party.
I also notice that in my family the older generation Hispanics tend to vote Democrat, while the younger ones tend to vote Republican. The younger folks see the Republicans as a party of upward mobility, while the older folks see the Democrats at the protector of Social Security, which you'd expect from people that age.
My family is a small statistical sample of Hispanics, yet I do see a stronger affinity for the Republican party within the younger generation than perhaps what you'd expect from a minority group. There is an often-expressed opinion I hear from young Hispanics that "Democrats are the party of welfare, ghettos, and gangs." I know that is going to sound horrifically biased, but I hear that said a lot. So there must be a lot of Hispanics who would not vote Democrat under any circumstances. I know for a fact that there is much anti-Obama sentiment among young Hispanics. I also know that the Democrats are not especially popular among Catholic voters because of the abortion issue. Most Hispanics are Catholics and a few are Evangelicals. Thus, it can't be true that the Democrats own this constituency as Edsall postulates.
For those reasons I think the Republicans have hope that they can make Hispanics part of their constituency, as they did for other groups like the Irish and Italians whose first generation voted almost 100% Democratic. However, the Republicans are going to have to work to earn their votes, just like everybody elses. From your position points I can well undestand why you don't favor any of the 2012 Republican candidates. Your position points seem to fit well with the mainstream moderate Democrat philosophy, so I suspect you'd favor that party no matter what your heritage. The Republicans will never earn your vote on an issue-by-issue basis, but there are many Hispanics who will see things differently.
btw. I also have an electronic subscription to THE ECONOMIST. It is very comprehensive and balanced in presenting U.S. and world information without political bias.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2012 9:07:36 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 27, 2012 9:23:00 AM PST
Thanks for pointing out the inconsistency in one of my sentences. I edited the review to make the meaning clear.
Let me respond to your sentence:
<<When you are poor "opportunity for all" is pretty much a myth. In fact, of developed countries, the United States actually has the least social and economic mobility.>>
This statement is a Democratic Party talking point, not a fact. Of the Hispanic in-laws in my family, most of them started out working as janitors and maids. They saved their money and moved into middle class suburbs. Their children went on to college and most are engineers and managers. Some of them are very wealthy entreprenuers. As a matter of fact many are married into White familes. Now you tell me, if that is NOT the very definition of upward social and economic mobility, as well as assimilation into homogenous America, then what IS the definition of it?
As to your point about America having "less upward mobility" than other countries, I have lived in and worked in Europe, Asia, and South America, and do not believe it to be true. For every American that immigrates to the UK or Canada or Europe or Asia there are 20 or 30 English, Canadians, Euros, and Asians who immigrate to the USA. Furthermore, the Americans who do become expats are mostly retirees. The people who immigrate into America are mostly young people who find better opportunities to work, prosper, and further their educations than they could in their birth countries.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2012 9:52:02 AM PST
I agree 99% with what you wrote. I am very PRO business WITH COMMUNITY GIVE BACK, and I also accepted that I would not have made it as far as I have, like Senator Rubio, without government help - my housing project, my universities receiving federal grants, the public transportation tax payer paid for, the "bridge to nowhere," etc.
I just don't care for so much "hatred, hypocritical language." (And they claim to have Christian values). That's all. Just do your job - protect the country for EVERYONE in it. This simply means stop saying "government is out of control" when "government" is the Republican party (they ONLY past 88 laws - the worst Congress since 1947) - Iraq not paid for while cutting taxes and creating the financial burden you and I inherited, while Mr. Bush enjoys his US government, tax payer pension plus security. I hope you see what I mean. Most people who hear me talk think I am a Republican - am very pro "TAKE CARE OF YOUR SELF!" I remind people, like Sarah Palin taking money for the "bridge to nowhere," we all need government so stop beating up on "it" and stick to the facts. I just don't "hear" that from the Republicans. Do you carefully listen to Senator Mconnell? There is NO FACTS when he speaks - all assumptions. THIS DOES NOT MEAN I WILL VOTE FOR ANY DEMOCRATS, and it only means I hate BIG liars who critique while they take from the government. Go ahead and cut social security and raise the retirement age - I AM 100% for that. But also Congress needs to raise theirs too from 62, decrease their pension of $52K/year after 20 years in Congress. Am I missing something?
I will not defend Edsall, but I can tell you from a very diverse, Hispanic outreach (mostly professionals), Hispanics are not jumping into the GOP bandwagon. In fact, I have over 100 professional Hispanics on email distribution, about 15% Republican - one worked for Thomas Clarence and SHE LOVE HIM. Once I read about a negative input about a Hispanic value (Like the Spanish comment from Newt), I blast it to all of them, place it on my Facebook, etc. JUST THE FACTS. I don't comment on the article and make sure is it 100% factual.
My father is a diehard Bush Jr. fan!!! OMG!! You could not say anything bad about him. My father is also a born-again Christian with a 4th grade education and a Fox News fan. What does that tell you? Correlate. My father could not care less about international economics, but he cares deeply about abortion, and "Christian values," after he had multiple affairs and multiple marriages. Do these actions sound familiar? The majority of South Carolina GOP voters did not vote for the guy married over 40 years to the same woman, made millions on his own with his own "hands," created a company, Bain, that invested, got an MBA and JD from Harvard, raised ALL of his children/sons, stayed faithful to his religion, wife, and his people, yet South Carolina Christian voters went with the most immoral person in US politics - you know the rest. Can you explain "these Republicans"? This REALLY my issue with the party and the people in it.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2012 10:52:03 AM PST
I've seen the same. I get angry when people tell me "I can't make it..." I say "ARE YOU KIDDING?! JOSE ARRIVED IN THIS COUNTRY 5 YEARS AGO, HE HAS TWO JOBS, CAN BARELY SPEAK ENGLISH, HAS A HOUSE, NO HEALTH CARE...DO YOU SEE HIM WHINING?!" I have a TEA Party Latino friend (born in the US) that lost his job, and he stated "Get rid of all immigrants..." I replied "Your fruits & vegetable will cost more." He said "I don't care." Look what happened in Alabama with the white Republican farmers either losing or about to lose their farms due to the the Alabama Republican immigration policy and NO AMERICANS willing to pick the produce. Once again, you get what you vote for.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2012 12:23:48 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 27, 2012 12:26:19 PM PST
I'm chuckling a bit at the way you described the Republican sound bites. They DO seem to believe that our fortunes will magically improve if we cut taxes, drill for oil, deport the illegals, and drop a bomb on whatever country is annoying us at the moment. I'm sure you were rolling your eyes and biting your teeth when Mitt Romney was talking about the illegals "self-deporting."
The Democrats also have their talking points. They think that we will have utopia if we raise taxes, spend more taxpayer money on "education and infrastructure," grant amnesty to illegals, and have an endless debate at the United Nations any time another country attacks us.
Both parties have their cheerleaders who pretend to believe that the country's problems will be solved overnight if their candidate is elected.
We both know that real-life problems are much more complicated than the sound bites and partisan cheerleading. Real-life problems are multifaceted, involve positive and negative trade-offs, and inflame people's emotions so as to exaggerate the problems and the consequences of the solutions proposed to remediate them.
In regard to illegal immigration, one of the saddest things I've ever seen was the line at a Latin American consulate. The line was filled with people renewing their birth-countries passports. They were going home after living in the United States illegally for many years. They were leaving voluntarily before being deported. Many had built their lives of business, friendships, and family here, and they were almost crying at having to give that up and go home and start over. Then again they were here illegally. My brother in law waited 12 years to enter legally. Is it fair to grant amnesty to illegals who stepped ahead of him in line? Would granting amnesty now encourage continued illegal entry? And yet we clearly diminished our country by forcing these good people to leave it. There are two sides to this very complicated issue.
At any rate, you yourself make the case for why we need legal immigration. You obviously bring to this country wisdom, good judgment, a strong work ethic, and a sense of humanity and fair play. You have thrived here in our free economy and improved life for yourself, your family, and others by building up the economy and paying taxes. I don't think our country will ever go wrong in keeping the gates of legal immigration open for people like you.