robertogreco + trumpism   3

Reconstruction’s Failure Has Lessons for Today - The Atlantic
"Civility Is Overrated

The gravest danger to American democracy isn’t an excess of vitriol—it’s the false promise of civility.

Joe Biden has fond memories of negotiating with James Eastland, the senator from Mississippi who once declared, “I am of the opinion that we should have segregation in all the States of the United States by law. What the people of this country must realize is that the white race is a superior race, and the Negro race is an inferior race.”


Recalling in June his debates with segregationists like Eastland, Biden lamented, “At least there was some civility,” compared with today. “We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition; the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

Biden later apologized for his wistfulness. But yearning for an ostensibly more genteel era of American politics wasn’t a gaffe. Such nostalgia is central to Biden’s appeal as an antidote to the vitriol that has marked the presidency of Donald Trump.

Nor is Biden alone in selling the idea that rancor threatens the American republic. This September, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who owes his seat to Senate Republicans depriving a Democratic president of his authority to fill a vacancy on the high court, published a book that argued, “In a very real way, self-governance turns on our treating each other as equals—as persons, with the courtesy and respect each person deserves—even when we vigorously disagree.”

Trump himself, a man whose rallies regularly descend into ritual denunciations of his enemies, declared in October 2018, as Americans were preparing to vote in the midterm elections, that “everyone will benefit if we can end the politics of personal destruction.” The president helpfully explained exactly what he meant: “Constant unfair coverage, deep hostility, and negative attacks … only serve to drive people apart and to undermine healthy debate.” Civility, in other words, is treating Trump how Trump wants to be treated, while he treats you however he pleases. It was a more honest description of how the concept of civility is applied today than either Biden or Gorsuch offered.

There are two definitions of civility. The first is not being an asshole. The second is “I can do what I want and you can shut up.” The latter definition currently dominates American political discourse.

The country is indeed divided today, and there is nothing wrong with wishing that Americans could all get along. But while nonviolence is essential to democracy, civility is optional, and today’s preoccupation with politesse both exaggerates the country’s divisions and papers over the fundamental issues that are causing the divisions in the first place. The idea that we’re currently experiencing something like the nadir of American civility ignores the turmoil that has traditionally characterized the nation’s politics, and the comparatively low level of political violence today despite the animosity of the moment.

Americans should not fear tension. They should fear its absence.
Paeans to a more civil past also ignore the price of that civility. It’s not an unfortunate coincidence that the men Joe Biden worked with so amicably were segregationists. The civility he longs for was the result of excluding historically marginalized groups from the polity, which allowed men like James Eastland to wield tremendous power in Congress without regard for the rights or dignity of their disenfranchised constituents.

The true cause of American political discord is the lingering resistance of those who have traditionally held power to sharing it with those who until recently have only experienced its serrated edge. And the resistance does linger. Just this fall, a current Democratic senator from Delaware, Chris Coons, told a panel at the University of Notre Dame Law School that he hoped “a more diverse Senate that includes women’s voices, and voices of people of color, and voices of people who were not professionals but, you know, who grew up working-class” would not produce “irreconcilable discord.”

In his “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. famously lamented the “white moderate” who “prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” He also acknowledged the importance of tension to achieving justice. “I have earnestly opposed violent tension,” King wrote, “but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.” Americans should not fear that form of tension. They should fear its absence."
2019  adamsewer  civility  violence  tension  politics  debate  governance  government  power  inequality  race  racism  democrats  gop  republicans  joebiden  donaldtrump  jameseastland  martinlutherkingjr  neilgorsuch  chriscoons  michaelwallace  richardhofstadter  tuckercarlson  foxnews  us  reconstruction  segregation  civilwar  partisanship  williamhowardtaft  abrahamlincoln  webdubois  davidleveringlewis  fdr  franklindroosevelt  nancyweissmalkiel  emmetttill  selma  jamesjacksonkilpatrick  votingrightsact  disenfranchisement  williamfbuckley  polarization  discord  antoinebanks  trumpism  culture  economics  ideology  acrimony  lillianamason  disagreement  manishasinha  jimcrow  johnburgess  rutherfordbhayes  gildedage  fugitiveslaveact 
november 2019 by robertogreco
'Global Trumpism': Bailouts, Brexit and battling climate change | CBC Radio
[Also here:
https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/global-trumpism-how-rogue-code-writers-became-the-authors-of-our-politics-1.5321199
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-23-ideas/clip/15741291-global-trumpism-bailouts-brexit-and-battling-climate-change ]

“How did the middle class end up in perpetual debt? Why is there ‘no money’ for infrastructure or social programs, but there is for waging war? And what does all this have to do with Donald Trump, or Brexit, or climate change?

If you’re mystified about any of the above, then author and Brown University professor Mark Blyth can clarify things for you. He says it’s helpful to use a computer metaphor to describe the economy.

In his lecture at McMaster University as part of their Socrates Project, Blyth compared capitalist economies to laptops: different makes, but similar in appearance. He argues these computers run just fine for a while — say, about 30 years . But all the while, there are bugs in the software that eventually causes the system to crash. Then you rebuild the hardware, fix the software, and reboot.

System breakdown
That’s what happened in the 1970s and 1980s, when labour costs and inflation became a problem. The ‘system rebuild’ included less powerful unions, more global trade, and central bankers who were put in charge of setting interest rates.

But this new system generated bugs of its own, among them, a runaway culture of lending, and a lack of wage growth among the middle classes, who did a lot more borrowing than they could afford.

Mark Blyth says this borrowing wasn’t just driven by rampant consumerism.

“How do you get by when … everybody tells you there’s no inflation, yet the cost of everything that matters is actually going up? Education, health care, all that sort of stuff,” Blyth said in his lecture.

“And the only way you can fill in the gap is to borrow more money.”

Cue the 2008 financial crisis
However this time, Blyth says there was no rebuild. Instead, the United States Federal Reserve led a bailout of the big banks, domestically and internationally. The rich got much richer, the middle class got perpetual low interest rates to keep carrying their debts, and the poor had their social programs cut in the name of austerity.

Blyth contends this dynamic is what lit the fuse of global populism: the rise of leaders who appeal to public outrage, alienation, and lack of trust toward career politicians and traditional political parties.

“Your debts are too high…you can’t pay them off, but you can roll them over. They’re not going to be eaten away by inflation, and the people who brought you here have zero credibility,” said Blyth.

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGuaoARJYU0 ]

Blyth compares populist leaders to ‘rogue code-writers’, hacking into the software of a system that was never properly rebuilt after the crisis of 2008. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if it strengthens democracies.

“[Populism] is now part of the furniture … It’s already changed, so just get used to it. And let’s remember historically that 100 years ago, the people who were the populists then, the people that everyone was afraid of, became the established parties in many cases,” Blyth told IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed.

“So every now and again you have to have a little revolution, and that’s what’s happening now.”

Populism is springing up on the right and the left, said Blyth. The difficult choices that need to be made about climate change could come from a left-wing populist movement, not unlike the so-called ‘Green New Deal’ proposed by younger American Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Looking at how things may unfold in the not-too-distant future, Blyth speculates “right populism wins round one.”

“But ultimately, left populism wins round two, because left populism is the only one that takes climate change seriously,” he concludes.”
2019  markblyth  economics  inequality  brexit  donaldtrump  trumpism  fragility  greatrecession  2007  2008  policy  democracy  personaldebt  debt  taxes  wealth  income  climatechange  bailouts  finance  recessions  recession  oligarchy  popularism  berniesanders  banking  global  financialcrisis  inflation  productivity  consumerism  stockmarket  ipos  wages  middleclass  capitalism  us  uk  canada  caymanislands  delaware  arizona  isleofman  austerity  nahlahayed  latecapitalism  federalreserve  priorities  centralbanks  monetarypolicy  politics  alangreenspan  economists  loans  creditcards  spending 
october 2019 by robertogreco

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