The Winds of Change Are, Unfortunately, Blowing Over a Garbage Dump

Matt Taibbi:

The first symptom of a degraded aristocracy is a lack of capable candidates for the throne. After years of indulgence, ruling families become frail, inbred and isolated, with no one but mystics, impotents and children to put forward as kings. Think of Nikolai Romanov reading fortunes as his troops starved at the front. Weak princes lead to popular uprisings. Which brings us to this year’s Republican field.

There wasn’t one capable or inspiring person in the infamous “Clown Car” lineup. All 16 of the non-Trump entrants were dunces, religious zealots, wimps or tyrants, all equally out of touch with voters. Scott Walker was a lipless sadist who in centuries past would have worn a leather jerkin and thrown dogs off the castle walls for recreation. Marco Rubio was the young rake with debts. Jeb Bush was the last offering in a fast-diminishing hereditary line. Ted Cruz was the Zodiac Killer. And so on.

There’s a lot of talk about whether the Republicans can survive. Clearly, it’s not on its deathbed yet. But reading more of Taibbi, I do wonder what it will survive as. Here he’s describing the Paul Ryan-led rally in Wisconsin from which Trump was dis-invited:

The party schism burst open in the middle of a speech by Wisconsin’s speaker of the State Assembly, Robin Vos. Vos is the Billy Mays of state budget hawks. He’s a mean-spirited little ball of energy who leaped onto the stage reminding the crowd that he wanted to eliminate the office of the treasurer to SAVE YOU MONEY!

Vos went on to brag about having wiped out tenure for University of Wisconsin professors, before dismounting with yet another superawkward Trumpless call for Republicans to turn out to vote.

“I have no doubt that with all of you standing behind us,” he shouted, “and with the fantastic record of achievement that we have, we’re going to go on to an even bigger and better victory than before!”

There was scattered applause, then someone from the crowd called out:

“You uninvited Donald Trump!”

Boos and catcalls, both for and against Vos and the Republicans. Most in the crowd were Trump supporters, but others were angry with Trump for perhaps saddling them with four years of Hillary Clinton. These camps now battled it out across the field. A competing chant of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” started on the opposite end of the stands, only to be met by chants from the pro-Trumpers.

“We want Trump! We want Trump!” “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

Ryan, the last speaker, tried to cut the tension with a leaden joke about the “elephant in the room.” But he still refused to speak Trump’s name, or do more than refer the crowd to a written statement. He just smiled like it was all OK, and talked about what a beautiful day it was.

The threat of a Trump insurgency to the GOP might be mitigated if the GOP had even one strong, respected figurehead for the party to rally around. Alas, all they’ve got is Paul Ryan and John McCain.

My guess is that the Trump faithful might very well split off and form their own party, which in the U.S. is usually the first step toward political irrelevance. But if the worst of the whackjobs follow Trump into eventual oblivion, taking the red-meat-only base with them, it could allow the remaining Republican mainstream to move back toward the center again. Which would be a good thing, in the long run. Maybe they’ll even taken an interest in the governing thing.

But then you’ve got the Democratic Party, which also is being run by out-of-touch aristocrats. The Wikileaks emails show us that even Clinton’s campaign staff worried their candidate had no compelling reason to run.

The correspondence reveals a campaign that has struggled all year to improve a flawed candidate. As far back as March, aides were keenly aware that she was resistant to the media, perhaps out of touch with regular Americans and unable to convey a clear message to voters.

A month before Clinton launched her campaign, her aides worked to corral her well-known love for granular policy details into a message that would both capture her agenda and present a forward-looking, aspirational vision for her presidency.

Nearly a year later, a similar struggle cropped up as they attempted to revise her core campaign message.

“Do we have any sense from her what she believes or wants her core message to be?” asked Clinton adviser Joel Benenson. . . .

. . . .Seven months later and on the cusp of Election Day, the concerns laid out in these emails and others largely remain. Clinton has proven to be a lackluster candidate who has struggled to win over the liberals who gravitated to Sanders during the primary, and who remains ahead in large part due to Trump’s historic weaknesses.

“Right now I am petrified that Hillary is almost totally dependent on Republicans nominating Trump,” Brent Budowsky, a political columnist and former political adviser, wrote in a March 2016 email to Podesta and Roy Spence, an ad maker for the campaign. “She has huge endemic political weaknesses that she would be wise to rectify.”

The electorate is roiling with a desire for change, and the Democratic nominee had no clue.

In our alarm and loathing of Donald Trump, we must not lose sight of how Hillary Clinton came to be the Democratic nominee.

The answer: we live in a moribund democracy, not a thriving one.  A conjunction of corporate political power and immense wealth is forcibly installing a president.  We haven’t confronted this before, either.  We will cast our ritual ballots in November, but not in a free election: the Democratic nominee was imposed upon us by the corporate and the wealthy.

That’s a strong charge, but as I’ve written in the past, that’s pretty much what happened. The Democratic Party itself made sure there was  no real contest. The Clinton nomination was a done deal long before the primaries even began. But why was it so important to her to run, given that she has no real central message or agenda other than “I am competent”? That’s the part that remains baffling to me. Personal ambition is the only answer I can think of, and that’s not a good answer. It wouldn’t be a good answer for a male candidate, either.

Anyway, in short, the Democratic Party itself doesn’t trust its voters to choose the “right” nominee. The GOP has the opposite problem; it lost all control of the nomination process. Neither development is healthy.

IMO the Dems are roughly in the same place the GOP came to be in the 1990s and 2000, when the party was able to dictate who the nominee would be, and got away with knocking down the competition without too much grumbling. The Powers That Be in the GOP obviously had settled on George W. Bush as the standard bearer shortly after Bob Dole’s defeat in 1996, and they spent the next four years skillfully puffing Dubya up. And during the primaries, you could practically see the RNC’s thumb on the scale to be sure Dubya was the one left standing. (And how did Bob Dole get to be the nominee? I can’t believe that was a popular choice.) Well, now it’s the DNC forcing the pre-ordained candidate on the rest of us.

Eventually, people do notice when they’re being used. I heard a talking head on MSNBC this morning say that about 40 percent of Americans don’t think the presidential election process is legitimate, and this sentiment is spread across the political spectrum. Distrusting the legitimacy of elections has been a problem for a while, though. Republicans tried their best to delegitimize Bill Clinton’s presidency, for example, in part by blaming Ross Perot. They tried to delegitimize Barack Obama by claiming he only won because he was black — he was the cute novelty candidate, apparently.

Of course, in 2000 when George W. Bush was selected rather than elected, Democrats went along for the sake of tradition, or to keep Democracy alive, or something. That was a mistake.

Once you’ve seen the man behind the curtain, the old myths and buzzwords lose their force. As much as I look forward to seeing the Great Orange Sleazebag have his ass handed to him on election night, I’m not kidding myself that Hillary Clinton will be the president we need right now. She might surprise me, but I don’t think she’s got it in her to surprise me. The best we can hope for is that she’ll not completely renege on trying to pass the Democratic platform.

Going back to the Republicans — I believe the party will survive, but the Trump insurgency will force it to change. The mob of Faux Nooz viewers and Rushbo dittoheads they have counted on to believe their bullshit and vote R will likely desert them for a long time, or at least a couple of election cycles. This might well force them to have to broaden their base, which means they will have to offer something besides hate. They might even have to start making sense. Radical, I know, but stranger things have happened.

But if Republicans change, Democrats will have to change also. They might have to stop being The Party That Isn’t as Awful as That Other Party and actually stand for something. Imagine.

13 thoughts on “The Winds of Change Are, Unfortunately, Blowing Over a Garbage Dump

  1. I don’t know why, but I believe Hillary can, and will, be an agent for change.

    I’ll write more tomorrow, since I’m exhausted today.
    Yeah, already…

  2. I read on the book of faces that if the Senate gets flipped, Sanders will take over the Budget Committee. If we can get more progressive people into the House, and a firm majority in the Senate, things could actually happen – government actually working. There are a lot of problems which need to be addressed, and if Clinton and the Democrats can show they’re able to get things done in the next two years, they could increase their hold at the Federal level, and start a down ballot change at state offices (some states will stay solid Red, but some could turn Purple fairly quickly). Organizing and showing that they’re capable of the job would go a long way to repudiate the last few years of Republican obstruction, and show that the government is for all the people, and not just the donor class.

  3. But if Republicans change, Democrats will have to change also. They might have to stop being The Party That Isn’t as Awful as That Other Party and actually stand for something.

    The Millennials that came to political work in the Sanders campaign have the potential to affect this change. The danger is the necessity of Sanders to campaign on Hillary’s behalf may turn them to cynicism and they’ll burn out before they accomplish this.

  4. As someone who lives in Costa Rica – uncomfortably close to Hillary’s handiwork in Honduras, the woman’s foreign policy scares me even worse than Trump. The latter might have the courage to stand up to the neocons and their desire to impose USAnian hegemony on the rest of the world, but Hillary is going to execute the neocon Prime Directive with absolutely unexcelled zeal. And seeing what she did in Honduras – and how unapologetic she is about it – scares me to death.

    I can only hope that I’m wrong, but what we saw as Secretary of State leaves me with little hope. Especially when she says that Plan Colombia is the prototype of what she wants to do in the rest of the hemisphere. Never mind that Plan Colombia left that country with the largest internally-displaced population on the planet – even bigger than Syria.

    It’s going to be a long, long four years, boys and girls.

    • “The latter might have the courage to stand up to the neocons and their desire to impose USAnian hegemony on the rest of the world.” Frankly, I doubt Trump has any idea what that even means. I doubt if he cares whether Costa Rica even exists unless he has a hotel on it somewhere. Clinton’s hawkishness worries me, too, but it’s delusional to ascribe any beneficial intentions to Trump.

  5. Sanders is going to be budget comittee chair in the Senate, something Paul Ryan is clearly not happy about, given he used that yesterday to try and motivate Republicans. He’ll be the most progressive chair we’ve had in that position in a long long time. This is how real change can come about in our system, controlling committees, getting your amendments into budget bills, and having a president who’ll sign those bills.

    I also want to add, some of the emails released actually paint Hillary in a better light than I expected. The speeches to the banks are not nearly as ugly as I thpught, and most are pretty boring. And she’s clearly very knowledgeable with strong priorities, even if aides were frustrated by the inability to tone down her wonkishness to a clear message. In some ways, the stuff I’ve read has given me more confidence about commonalities that she actually shares with Sanders. So far I haven’t seen any evidence in them that she’d be unwilling to work with Sanders, and she hasn’t backed away from the platform at all.

  6. Were it not for the distraction of the craziness and insanity around the Trump campaign, it might be more readily apparent that a democratic candidate who many are calling the “most qualified person to ever run for office” was up until 2 weeks ago struggling to put away an openly racist, sexist, proudly ignorant rich dilettante with a penchant for shooting himself in the foot, who had never really accomplished much of anything outside of the pretensions of being a “businessman” riding the momentum of billions in inherited wealth. Had the republicans nominated a run of the mill “conservative” extremist candidate with just a modicum of common sense, an ability to sanely leverage the discontent in the electorate, an understanding of how government works, with even passable political skills, and no closeted skeletons, Clinton would be in trouble and the race might not even be close.

    Trump was a blessing and a curse for the dems. Thanks to him, dems didn’t have to worry much about a message, just sit back and let Trump self immolate, as he has. That’s also been the curse, as Clinton hasn’t had to really focus on an overarching message built on *why* she is best for the country right now, other than she is qualified.

  7. Well stated, maha, and it’s a point that can’t be emphasized enough. Why progressives project positives onto Trump, given what we know of his history, is almost beyond coherent. The man brags about doing whatever is good for himself, irrespective of the merits of any arguments he’s making. He’s anti-trade deals yet has bought and produced a ton of stuff overseas when he had domestic options. He’s imported foreign workers, underpaid them, and had them over stay their visas when it benefitted him. He doesn’t pay taxes, but whines about airports in this country. He’s actually the embodiment of so many things progressives are against.

  8. I do think personal ambition is mostly what is driving HRC. However, I also think that is true of anyone who runs for president. After all, it is a pretty exclusive club. Whether she can be effective or whether she thinks she can is something I don’t know. I do feel confident she feels herself to be qualified for the job. And at this point in my life, I have no idea what it takes to be qualified. I have been disappointed in every president in my lifetime. But then I wonder why anyone would want the position except for personal ambition and prestige. Also, I don’t think one has to be president to make a difference.

  9. I think HRC is largely/partially motivated by her [version of] feminism – she REALLY wants to break that glass ceiling. I want to see that too (broken glass), just as I was VERY happy that Obama broke a similar barrier.

    But that’s not sufficient reason to put someone in the Big Chair. She projects a generally “liberal” mindset on many issues (gun-control, women’s issues), but she’s been willing to blow with the wind on too many others (welfare?). I can forgive much of her defensiveness – she really has been relentlessly attacked, personally & politically, for decades, by the Right-Wing Noise Machine. And I understand that the compromise she (they, incl Bill) made with Wall Street seemed necessary in the 1990’s when it looked like the GOP had ALL the money.

    But like Scott Bidstrup (above), her Foreign Policy history scares the hell out of me. Her best excuse(s) would be some combination of Triangulation & Campaign Donations (as in previous paragraph), but it displays neither good judgment nor good big-picture perspective. We are left HOPING – without any evidence – that she will turn away from the Neocon path to war, perhaps even nuclear war.

    I would advise her to declare (very soon) that she will NOT run for re-election 4 years hence. If she governs with an eye toward 2020, we’re in trouble. If she can free herself from the pressure to satisfy the dangerous groups (Wall St, AIPAC) that have supported & influenced her, she could be a pretty good president (effective, if not inspiring?).

    If not, I fear that we’ll get a long-term liberal majority on the Supreme Court just in time for the end of the world.

  10. To my mind Trumps is so grossly unfit to be president that any flaws, shortcomings, or failings in Hillary Clinton simply vanish when held in comparison to Trump. The one quality that is overly redeeming for Hillary is the fact that she has a good brain and the ability to seek the counsel of others. Trump on the other hand possesses a reptilian brain that is thoroughly clouded with narcissism and ego that it poses a genuine threat to our democracy.
    The time to choose is past because we don’t have the luxury of discussing policy preferences or who would better serve our country. It’s gotten to the point of either or. And now we’re down to triage time to preserve the dignity and respectability of the office of the President of the United States.
    Trump is a fucking mess. Believe me!

  11. elkern,
    I think if/when Hillary is POTUS, she’ll calm down on the neo-CLOWN tendencies.
    She’s had to look tougher than others, because of circumstances (mostly, because she’s a woman).

    If I were her, I’d make Joe Biden my SoS – or, keep Kerry if he wants to.
    And when the next SCOTUS opening comes up, I’d make B.H. Obama the nominee!

  12. gulag –
    I agree that HRC has had to act extra tough to prove she can play with the Big Boys. But she also had to raise a BILLION DOLLARS to run for President, and that kind of dough comes with strings (nay, ropes? chains?) attached.

    To run for re-election, she’d need another Billion or two. Those big donors expect results, and if she doesn’t deliver, that money will go elsewhere.

    Hmmm, declaring (soon/now) that she won’t run in 2020 would be very reassuring to people like me, but her optimal strategy might be to wait until after the mid-term elections to say it. I wouldn’t want to see all that money help the Republicans get big majorities in the Congress in 2018. We’d wind up with only 5 judges on the Supreme Court by 2020!

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