American politics isn’t broken. It’s working just fine for the 1%.

Summary: Political commentary often reveals more from its blindness than its insights. For example, a widely-cited analysis at Salon by journalist Andrew O’Hehir tells us some entertaining harsh truths — but avoids deeper, useful insights that would disturb his Outer Party readers (i.e., politically passive managers and professionals).

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
Photo by Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx on 13 April 2016.

Two despised frontrunners, two dying parties & a deeply broken system
By Andrew O’Hehir (journalist) at Salon.

“How did we get here? Trump & Clinton may be the most hated frontrunners in history, dueling symbols of a duopoly in decay.”

He opens with some myth-making, the Left’s efforts to fit events into their standard narrative. It conceals the important dynamics of campaign 2016, things too disturbing for the Left to see.

So here’s what’s happening: Our political system is profoundly broken, and although many of us have understood that for years, this has been the year that fact became unavoidable. Both political parties are struggling through transparently rigged primary campaigns that have made that ludicrous process look more outdated than ever. Nobody cares about the Democratic vote in Wyoming and it’s not going to matter, but when Bernie Sanders dominates the caucuses in that empty, dusty and Republican-dominated state and wins seven of its 18 delegates, doesn’t that sum up the whole damn thing?

O’Hehir is making a purely emotional appeal in defiance of the facts. He gives no evidence that the GOP race is rigged; Trump’s votes have closely mirrored his poll results. As for the Democrats, several political scientists have shown that the results are not “rigged”. NY Times political blogger Nate Cohen has a model showing that “9 percentage points better in primaries than in caucuses“. More seriously, Alan I. Abramowitz (Prof of political science at Emory) has a model of the 2016 Democratic primaries

“This model uses three predictors from the Democratic primary exit polls — percentage of African-American voters, percentage of self-identified Democrats, and region — and it explains 90% of the variance in 19 primaries to date for which exit poll data are available, excluding Sanders’ home state of Vermont…”

Scatterplot of Clinton vote share in Democratic primaries by her Clinton vote share

Democratic Primary Model

Next O’Hehir gives a somewhat more accurate summary.

“Both parties are also struggling to control long-simmering internal conflicts that have come boiling to the surface this year, and in both cases the leadership caste is wondering whether it’s time to burn down the village in order to save it. In the larger analysis, both parties are struggling to ignore the mounting evidence of their own irrelevance. One of them is struggling with that in a more public and more spectacular fashion at the moment, but the contagion is general.”

I agree. The gap between the GOP’s elites and its core has clearly grown unsustainable, as seen in their views about so many key issues — foreign wars, shifting the tax burden from the rich to the middle class, and cutting Social Security & Medicare. Ditto for the Democrats, with their elites’ fondness for Wall Street and foreign wars.

But, as usual, the real question is why? What created this situation? O’Hehir gives a long analysis consisting mostly of “just-so stories“. Eventually he gets to the core of the problem (red emphasis added). Got to live the conclusion: politics doesn’t follow his narrative, so it “doesn’t make sense.”

“Contention is the essence of politics. But what we’re facing this year, in a likely fall campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, is something different and quite likely without precedent that symbolizes the terminal decay of politics. It’s not contention; it’s more like universal distaste. …

“The nationwide Clinton-Trump hate-fest can be viewed as the continuation or culmination of a long-term downward trend that is easy to summarize: Americans don’t much like either political party or the people they nominate. There are peaks and valleys within that downward arc, to be sure, and significant deviations from the mean: Sometimes people dislike one party considerably more than the other (right now the Republicans are in the doghouse) and occasionally an individual candidate breaks through the antipathy…

The proportion of American adults who identify as either Republicans or Democrats is at or near all-time lows. …American politics don’t make sense, and are driven by subterranean fears and desires more than logic or reason. …{This is} the year when our political system enters a period of unmistakable and perhaps terminal decline.

Fox with prey
Fox with prey. From Wikimedia Commons.

More accurate and useful conclusions

“الكلاب تنبح والقافلة تسير.” {The dogs bark but the caravan moves on.)
— Ancient Arab proverb.

In the grand tradition of modern America O’Hehir looks everywhere but in the mirror to see our problem. Our national motto is “not my fault.” His 2,300 word long whine describes us as consumers complaining that the candidates on the menu don’t meet our standards. As special snowflakes who deserve so much more than we receive.

O’Hehir says “the system is broken”, a passive tense evasion of our passivity and apathy. If we don’t work the political machinery bequeathed us by the Founders, then others will do so — for their own benefit. It’s the Great Circle of Life, just like in the Disney films — in which we have chosen to be prey.

But we can become citizens. America’s political machinery remains powerful, needing only the energy of its citizens as fuel.

For More information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, Campaign 2016, reforming America: steps to new politics, and especially these…

  1. Stand by for political realignment in America!
  2. A harsh clear look at the history of the Republican Party.
  3. How the Democrats became Liberals for the Rich.
  4. New York shows how Democrat-run cities & states contribute to the rise of Trump.
  5. Populism arises amidst American workers abandoned by both Left & Right.
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12 thoughts on “American politics isn’t broken. It’s working just fine for the 1%.

  1. FM: “America’s political machinery remains powerful, needing only the energy of its citizens as fuel.”

    Agreed but you need to remember that these stories are not just written for the outer party, they are also written for the elites and they spread the party line. As you correctly point out, the gap between the elites and party core has now become too big to paper over.

    If, as you suggest, the citizens become energized, the elites will lose control of their parties. The article you quote views this event as “when our political system enters a period of unmistakable and perhaps terminal decline.” In other words, the elites would rather break the political machinery than lose control of the political machinery.

    As with a lot of predictions, the author is not near as passive as he sounds, he is not just extending current trends; he is actively working to prevent something he views as worse than the destruction of America’s political machinery: the awakening of the American public and the arousal of those “subterranean fears and desires.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pluto,

      “Agreed but you need to remember that these stories are not just written for the outer party, they are also written for the elites and they spread the party line.”

      These stories are written for the mass market, to sell advertising. There are specialized publications that target the 1%, but Salon is not one of them.

      Like

    2. FM: “There are specialized publications that target the 1%..:

      This certainly strikes me as plausible (in a non-tinfoil hat kind of way), but would you mind elaborating and giving some examples? You often cite Stratfor on this website, and given my limited familiarity with the company they seem to fit the bill. What else would put into this category?

      Like

  2. So what did you make of the whole mania over trying to draft Gen. (Ret) James Mattis to run for president? I heard a lot of shit about it, but then again I run in veteran circles, so maybe it wasn’t more than a blip to the rest of the country (kind of like Bloomberg’s aborted attempt among liberals). Laughably, many “mainstream” Republicans who disdain Trump as having shallow and unconsidered policy stances were crying out for Mattis, a complete political unknown, with almost no information on where he stood on any issue besides “cool” military philosophy quote-mining.

    It struck me as more of this same sort of laughable whining as this article…another segment of the disaffected populace yearning for some strong-man savior to come rescue them, rather than act as citizens. Was kind of hoping you’d post a takedown of it, but now Mattis has firmly stated he won’t run.

    Like

  3. “Summary: Political commentary often reveals more from its blindness than its insights. For example, a widely-cited analysis at Salon by journalist Andrew O’Hehir tells us some entertaining harsh truths — but avoids deeper, useful insights that would disturb his Outer Party readers (i.e., politically passive managers and professionals).”

    That is it right there. Superficial, I guess, if you want to call the Salon article analysis. Don’t know him nor read Salon but perhaps the writers are poorly paid?

    Questions…where are the questions (allowing even for a few stabs at answers) his writing raises about the things he sees? Perhaps he knows people will jaunt not read far enough if he approaches the deeper things about why Ameicans just don’t like their Parties. Who knows? Or is he that self aware to,know he is just “a dog barking and the caravan moves long” anyway? Sad and a boring read from him.

    Thx, Breton

    Like

    1. Breton,

      “if you want to call the Salon article analysis.”

      It is analysis. But your observation goes to the deeper question of purpose. O’Hehir is writing to gain a mass audience (clicks, to sell ads). It’s salesmanship, done through flattery. We’re special snowflakes treated badly by the “system”. He skillfully dresses up this sophomoric nonsense so that it sounds meaningful. He deserves every dime they pay him.

      Like

  4. Don’t know if it possible but I don’t think politics will change until the money is takin out of it. To many in office are just puppets to the big banks, wall street & large corporations…. It was said long ago that presidents are not elected but chosen by the elites in high places….Sorry to be a pessimist but it seems that the majority are prone to the corruption that goes with high office.

    Like

    1. Gary,

      Money does not control our politics. If it did, Jeb Bush would be on track to become the GOP nominee — not Trump. That’s just a myth we tell ourselves to excuse our apathy and passivity — “all those lesser people in America who are affected by campaign spending.”

      Like

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