• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    riverdaughter on To impeach or not to impeach,…
    centaur on To impeach or not to impeach,…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on To impeach or not to impeach,…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on To impeach or not to impeach,…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on To impeach or not to impeach,…
    William on To impeach or not to impeach,…
    lililam on To impeach or not to impeach,…
    lililam on To impeach or not to impeach,…
    William on To impeach or not to impeach,…
    Catscatscats on To impeach or not to impeach,…
    Sweet Sue on To impeach or not to impeach,…
    Propertius on To impeach or not to impeach,…
    Propertius on To impeach or not to impeach,…
    Propertius on To impeach or not to impeach,…
    Propertius on Here’s the approved GOP talkin…
  • Categories


  • Tags

    abortion Add new tag Afghanistan Al Franken Anglachel Atrios bankers Barack Obama Bernie Sanders big pharma Bill Clinton cocktails Conflucians Say Dailykos Democratic Party Democrats Digby DNC Donald Trump Donna Brazile Economy Elizabeth Warren feminism Florida Fox News General Glenn Beck Glenn Greenwald Goldman Sachs health care Health Care Reform Hillary Clinton Howard Dean John Edwards John McCain Jon Corzine Karl Rove Matt Taibbi Media medicare Michelle Obama Michigan misogyny Mitt Romney Morning Edition Morning News Links Nancy Pelosi New Jersey news NO WE WON'T Obama Obamacare OccupyWallStreet occupy wall street Open thread Paul Krugman Politics Presidential Election 2008 PUMA racism Republicans research Sarah Palin sexism Single Payer snark Social Security Supreme Court Terry Gross Texas Tim Geithner unemployment Wall Street WikiLeaks women
  • Archives

  • History

    April 2019
    S M T W T F S
    « Mar    
     123456
    78910111213
    14151617181920
    21222324252627
    282930  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

  • Top Posts

  • Advertisements

Romancing the PUMAs

Lambert posted about the Democrat’s growing election dilemma yesterday with some speculation from an EJ Dionne article. PUMAs are back, baby!  Oh Yeah!

Or should I say, the stupid racist menopausal uneducated working class sino-peruvian lesbians are back.  It’s very weird how the Democrats manage to mine the data and come up with this constituency over and over again.  It’s a distortion that kinda-sorta proves the point of the Mad Men post I wrote yesterday.  Computers can be extraordinarily useful but they also tend to be levelers.  There are descriptors that the guys (and they are almost always guys) did not collect before they ran their analysis.  Now, they may have enough information to get enough PUMAs to the polls in November but THIS former PUMA, and I suspect many others, will be a much tougher sell.  But first, let’s try to clarify what we mean by Clinton voter and PUMA.

From my own perspective, the acronym PUMA, Party Unity My Ass, was only useful through the 2008 election season.  I was a New Deal Liberal style Democrat who voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996.  Unlike a lot of younger Democrats, I have a completely different and more realistic understanding of what the Clintons were up to back then.  I’m a late baby boomer who didn’t benefit from the earlier baby boomers’ advantages.  I was a working mother back in 1992 and I strongly identified with Hillary Clinton.  I saw “ending welfare as we know it” as a very good thing because the idea was only part of a strategy to introduce more of a European style welfare state with a national health policy, educational training, child care and housing.  It was all part of a package deal.  Then I saw both the Democratic party and the Republican party pick that package to bits.  The Democrats helped deep six the healthcare initiatives and Newt Gingrich’s Contract On America destroyed welfare.  That’s what happened guys.  You might have been studying and partying.  The rest of us were living in a grown up world.  As for NAFTA, I’m sorry, I think it’s a good idea to remove trade barriers between your two closest neighbors.  I had problems with some of the details but in general, these were Republican insertions, not Clinton’s.

We can talk about Glass-Steagel and Robert Rubin if you like.  In retrospect, deregulation of the banks and derivatives, etc, was a pretty bad thing but it was also an unstoppable phenomenon.  Clinton was NOT the driving force behind these initiatives.  From what I can recall, Phil Gramm was the nasty on the TV all the time ramming this crap down our throats.  Go look it up.  To this day, I avoid Texas just so I don’t have to run into that drawl.

Ok, so that’s my background.  You can read my credo in the tabs to find out what I value, and from the site statistics, someone(s) has become very interested in those values of late.

Now, when I say PUMA was only a 2008 thing, that means that to ME, after the election was over, it lost its meaning as a resistance movement.  The Democratic party lost me.  I officially rescinded my membership in the party in 2008 and only re-registered as a Democrat in PA last year when I applied for a new driver’s license here in PA after my move.  In PA, the primaries are closed so voters are forced to choose a party when they register to vote, unlike NJ where the semi-closed primary means you can choose a party on primary election day.  I think anyone who reads my credo will see that I am a liberal New Deal style Democrat but my party affiliation, in spite of my registration, is very tenuous.  In other words, if a third party came around that represented my views, I’d jump in an instant.  Also note that I’m not a fan of the Greens and don’t particularly care for the crunchy type’s irrational condemnation of GMO crops, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, nuclear energy and corporations.  I find some of the left to be as black and white in their thinking as the right and, frankly, I am losing patience debating the “religious” beliefs of both sides.  I’m also not a selfish short sighted Libertarian.  That’s where the rebels without a cause hang out. And you will never catch me voting for Republican ever again.  My one vote for McCain in 2008 was purely a protest vote against the Democratic party because of its unethical treatment of its own party voters in 2008.  It was not an expression of support for the Republican party or its cavalier, cruel, heartless, greedy, narcissistically malignant, lying, deceptive, destructive platform of “ideas”.

It was very upsetting to pull that lever and I will never forgive the Democratic party for pushing me to make that decision for a couple of important reasons.  First, I was deprived of an identity and second, I was deprived of voting for the first African-American for president.  But in my very important opinion, voting for the first ANYTHING was not a sufficient excuse to overlook or condone the party for rigging the primary and compromising what the party stood for. Some Democrats were able to overcome their moral resistance to what the party was asking them to do.  I could not.  That’s what made me a PUMA and also explains why PUMA lost its utility after the election.  I felt that that what was required to fix what was broken was something bigger, more organized and longer lasting than a slogan.  And then real life intervened and I couldn’t devote any time to it.

But PUMA did survive in another form on other blogs.  I can’t endorse these other PUMA blogs.  I have a sense that they were compromised by Tea Party and Republican operatives.  There was an irrational embrace of birtherism and a weird support for Sarah Palin.  This blog struggled with some of those holdouts for awhile until their presence got to be unbearable.  These are the people that I think EJ Dionne is referring to in his post.  What I think they have in common is their extreme anger at what happened to them in 2008.  They were completely ignored by the Democrats who circular filed their votes and topped it off with a smug, “we’re smarter and know what’s best for you, you ignorant working class ‘gits” attitude.

Oh really?  Those PUMAs who are still fuming on the Tea Party friendly blogs may not have Ivy League degrees or know someone who works in a “creative class” field but when it comes right down to it, the election of Barack Obama has done more to solidify the strangle hold of the oligarchs on the American public than any previous president we have ever had.  We have actually devolved as a progressive nation.  I will go so far as to say that Obama’s presidency has sped up that devolution.  You could argue that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have been different but my intuition (which hasn’t failed me yet in this whole mess) tells me that you would be wrong.  In any case, when it comes right down to it, the “creative class” that got fooled into voting for Obama in 2008 and 2012 is no different from the working class voters it dismissed so senselessly. To the oligarchs, you might as well be living on a rice paddy in Bangladesh.  Your ultimate fate is no different than the bitter gun toting church goers in rural Pennsylvania.  You can be economically ruined and made politically impotent just as easily.  That truth is just now dawning on you as you read The Divide and Piketty’s Capital and the latest study that says you don’t have enough money to make a dent in the lobbying shield wall of the 1%.

As for me, I don’t know if I would support Clinton in 2016.  My sense is that so much has happened to fundamentally change the nature of our country in the past 20 years that there would have to be a personality much bigger and more visionary than Clinton’s to drag us back onto the right track.  Could she do it?  Maybe.  But maybe she also recognizes the political landscape that she would be entering.  I saw her evolve during the primary season.  She was forged by fire and was gaining momentum when the party cut her off.  That was a mistake the party made out of fear but it made it prematurely.  By September of 2008, Elmer Fudd could have gotten elected as the first cartoon Democratic president, the situation was that dire.  In a sense, the election of Barack Obama was not a triumph of identity politics as much as it was one of panic and desperation.  But I have no doubt that under Hillary Clinton, there would have been more rehab and less codependence.

Slightly off topic, I find it interesting that so many people on both the right and the left are ramping up their anti-Hillary rhetoric.  Those Democrats who are still on the fence about her should take a moment to think about what’s going on there. Both parties are pawns of the oligarchs right now.  And someone in the Democratic party has pushing hard on the idea that if we just let Obama have his 2 terms, we could have Hillary in 2016.  That push acknowledges two things: 1.)People want someone to do something already and they’ve decided that the most likely person is Hillary and 2.) if you treat voters like children and make them delay their gratification, you can make them focus on some future uncertain reward while taking their minds off what they can do to help their own desperate situations in the present.  Whatever the left is currently spewing about how bad the Clintons are bears a striking similarity to the right’s mindless invectives against them to me.  And that suggests that there are some very powerful people who do not want Hillary to be the next president.  If she were already in the pockets of these very powerful people, you would expect less vilification, wouldn’t you?  Think about it.

In the meantime, I will leave you with this link to Phillip Zimbardo’s steps for overcoming situational influence.  The Democratic activist base should have read this before they flattered themselves that they were not at all like Kansas and couldn’t be fooled into doing anything against their own best interests.  I only recently discovered these steps but I think I’ve been wise to them since YearlyKos 2007 in Chicago when something just didn’t seem right.

As to the Democrats winning the election in 2014 and 2016, I’m almost getting to the point where it doesn’t feel like it will make a difference which party wins in November.  Having the Democrats in charge only slows down the slide to the right.  It doesn’t stop it.  And as destructive as the slide might be, I see very little evidence that the Democrats are motivated to prevent if from happening.  In fact, the dangerous collapse of the Republicans into crazyville only makes it easier for the oligarchs to get just about anything they want from the Democrats with very little effort.  Like I said before, I would gladly jump to a third party that is more responsive to my values.  At this point, appealing to me as a former PUMA is probably a waste of time because I see what I am to the party- a faceless data point projected onto a latent structure.

When the party starts treating me like an enfranchised citizen again, then we’ll talk.

 

Advertisements

Non-fiction day: The Divide and The Lucifer Effect

I’m not quite finished with Matt Taibbi’s new book, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, but I thought I’d review it now because, a.) I’m pretty sure of my impressions of the book and b.) it should be read in conjunction with another book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Phillip Zimbardo.  I dunno, maybe I should read the Taibbi book to the end to see if he makes the connection but I’m beginning to get outrage fatigue, which is why it’s probably a good idea to read the more clinical prose in Zimbardo’s book to gain perspective.

So. Much. Morality.

The premise of Taibbi’s book is that the justice system is divided into two parts in this country.  If you are a member of the bonus class or oligarchy, your possession of the One Ring makes it nearly impossible for the justice system to prosecute you.  You’re invisible to the powers of accountability for one reason or another.  On the other hand, if you are a member of the working class, that is, anyone not living off their investments, the justice system can make your life a living hell.  Just breathing wrong can get you into trouble and that trouble is excessively punitive, relentless, expensive, arbitrary and seemingly endless.  It doesn’t take much to fall down the rabbit hole but it takes even less if your are a member of a minority population.

Sidenote: We have experienced this in our own family when a cousin’s persistent drug problem lead to direct interaction with the justice system.  He needed rehab- quickly.  What he got instead resembled Les Miz.  In the end, the legal system and it’s self-replicating fees, coupled with unmerciful punishment of every imaginable variation, put him in a hole he could not climb out of, made him homeless, broke and despondent.  He committed suicide.  So, you know, we definitely know what Matt is talking about. You don’t have to be black or hispanic. All that is required is that you have no money and live in a country where the public has been trained to be completely unsympathetic to what is happening to you.

Taibbi alternates the book with stories from each side of the divide.  We swing from bankers on Wall Street who got away with murder to “stop and frisk” detentions of young black men who are just standing outside their apartments at the wrong time.  Where the justice system seems willing to take a “boys will be boys” attitude towards the bankers, it comes down on the loiterers with a vengeance, depriving them of their dignity in the courtroom and subjecting them to endless hours of waiting around, mounting fees and coercion to plea to crimes they didn’t commit that ultimately deprive them of their right to public housing and student loans.

Taibbi doesn’t write with the same snap and clarity as Michael Lewis or Neil Barofsky  when describing the machinations of the Wall Street criminals.  His prose tends to meander, feels insidery (is that a word?) and it was difficult to follow who did what to whom.  This only pertains to the case studies in the upper justice system but I think his editor should have pulled him aside and asked him to tighten these sections up. He could never have gotten those case studies published in the kind of peer reviewed journals the science community is subjected to. Both Lewis and Barofsky have demonstrated that complexity doesn’t have to be confusing, even in an audio book.  But if you’re going to plow through Taibbi’s book, you’re probably better off getting the ebook version so you can make notes, leave book marks and create a flowchart.

On the other hand, Taibbi’s case studies of what happens on the bottom half of the justice system are easy to understand and  heartbreaking, probably because the infractions are so minor but the reaction is so severe.  It’s like the American justice system is chock full of turbo charged law and order types who carry out punishment with ruthless and brutal inefficiency.  And there was something about depersonalizing experiences of the victims and the anonymity of flawed computer systems of the justice system that reminded me of the Stanford Prison Experiment that Phillip Zimbardo carried out in the 70’s.

In case you aren’t familiar with the experiment, Zimbardo, a psychology professor at Stanford, wanted to replicate the experience of prison in order to figure out how the accused reacted to incarceration and depersonalization.  So, he recruited a couple dozen students to take the roles of prisoners and guards.  He randomly assigned the students to one of the groups and had the prisoners arrested and processed by real police.  In the makeshift prison, the prisoners were stripped of their clothes and given numbers instead of names.  The guards hid behind mirrored sunglasses and were given very few instructions. The warden was hands off.  Well, it didn’t take long before the guards started exercising authority and the prisoners started to crack.  We’re talking days.  It turns out that when one group of people is given all of the power and another group of people is subjected to that power, depersonalization and lack of oversight, it can lead even the blandest guy on campus to become indistinguishable from one of the guards at Abu Ghraib. The guards imposed capricious, humiliating and sadistic punishment while the prisoners became more and more despondent and stressed.  Zimbardo went on to testify as an expert witness in the Abu Graib trials.  He concludes that even the most decent, moral people are capable of evil behavior when the situation is right.  Group dynamics, conditioning to authority and dehumanization contribute to the kind of evil we saw at Abu Ghraib and, it seems, the excessively punitive experiences of the victims in the lower half of the American justice system.

The more I read Taibbi’s book, the more I was reminded of Zimbardo’s book.  So, I recommend you read Zimbardo’s book first and follow it up with Taibbi’s.  In fact, that’s the only reason I would recommend Taibbi’s book.  Without a proper context, it lacks the force it needs to land a powerful blow.  And that’s why I’m going to finish it even though the stories of “getting away with evil” followed by “getting away with nothing” are somewhat monotonous.  Taibbi might make the connection in the final chapters and have that eureka moment that will make it all worth while.  But I’m almost done with the book and see no evidence of it yet.  I’m afraid that the lefty community will miss the larger point that could propel it out of its fecklessness.  Instead, it might fall back on the “Bill Clinton is to blame for all of this!” crap they’ve been mindlessly vomiting for the past decade (as if Newt Gingrich and his Contract On America never existed {{rolling eyes}}).  What a horribly wasted, missed opportunity to see the world as it truly is.

3 Sponges for The Divide

4 Sponges for The Lucifer Effect (it can bog down with too many details in the first part)

PS. The left should study part 2 of Zimbardo’s book to understand how to resist situational influences.  It’s going to come up again in 2016.  Let’s not get fooled again, m’kay?

Oh, and here’s a concept that we should all learn about: malignant narcissism.  Don’t throw it around indiscriminately though.  It’s the kind of thing that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh types will seize on and dilute.  (it’s what they do)  But the next time an oligarch whines about how the rest of us are mean to them and envy their wealth, think about malignant narcissism.  They’re on the spectrum.