Summary: Many Americans have lost confidence in the candidates we are offered, and in elections. No trend puts the Republic in greater peril. They have good reasons for this. Here is why. But we can fix this. It takes only our wit and will.
Vote for me. Don’t see the ship!
Perhaps the top reason people have difficulty successfully predicting political trends is that they look at the pageantry of people. Which is, after all, how the news media presents the election: a group of lone rangers running an obstacle course while yelling sound bites, with the media providing commentary (not analysis) about who is ahead, about their form when running, and the current betting. None of this tells us what any of the candidates will do when elected.
So we elect people who ignore their campaign promises. Such as Trump, the bold outsider who has followed standard GOP policies: tax cuts for the rich, giant fiscal deficits during expansions (when we should be paying down the debt), deregulating corporations, waving through mergers, boosting defense spending (i.e., more money for giant military contractors), crushing unions, and (to the extent he can) cutting spending on the social services.
Sometimes we get candidates who do the opposite of what they promised. FDR ran as a conservative in 1932, attacking Hoover for his big fiscal deficits. He ran as a peace candidate in 1940 (while he was ramping up for the war). These policies were wise, but his lies short-circuited national debate about them – and encouraged our elites to treat us like unruly children. LBJ continued this tradition, running in 1964 as the love and peace candidate while his team was preparing to ramp up the war in Vietnam. Nixon ran in 1968 as the candidate who knew how to end the war, then continued it (geographically expanding it) for four more years.
There are more effective ways to see the candidates. First, turn to Robert Heinlein’s 1956 science fiction novel Double Star (written for young adults), in which he explains that …
“A political personality is not one man; it’s a team. It’s a team bound together by common purposes and common beliefs.”
Looking at the bios of the people on the candidates’ teams tells us more about the candidates than their white papers and speeches. As the ancient adage says, people are policy.
Second, look at the institutions that most strongly support the candidate. Most serious candidates – i.e., not the billionaires running vanity campaigns and unknowns preparing for future book deals and speaking tours – emerge from an alliance of institutions. Their goals are the candidate’s goals. For example, Wall Street did not spend all that money on Hillary Clinton without expectations of future benefits.
Journalists seldom do the research to provide either of these perspectives. Reporting the ephemera is easier and probably gets more clicks. We get the news we want. Journalism is a business in a free-market economy. When we want better news, we will get it.
A more important perspective
As I wrote in Vote for your ideal figurehead in 2020!, the Democratic Party’s leading candidates are both elderly white men running in a party focused on overturning patriarchy and white power. There is no contradiction. When preparing to stage a revolution (non-violent), even a slow-motion one, it is essential to have a reassuring frontman. Someone who looks like grandpa, comfortingly paternal, non-threatening, saying pleasant words. Like Biden and Sanders. (A fast-talking frontman is also effective when planning to run the nation in ways its people no longer trust, as the GOP did in 2016.)
Best of all for the Left, neither of these men will last long. Sanders would be 79 at his inauguration. Biden would be 78. Nobody that old will be a strong presence in the White House. Competent leftist staff will run the government. And they will prepare the path for a hard-core leftist woman (perhaps even a woman of color). The pundits will proclaim that she will broaden the appeal of the white-bread-male candidate and add “energy.” She won’t lose votes for th ticket because few voters care about the VP. That is, until the president dies in office or retires due to ill health – likely outcomes for either Sanders or Biden. So we get the Left’s dream candidate without the tiresome bother of convincing the voters to elect her.
And if they survive their term, their VP will run as an incumbant. Win – win!
Our elites see us much like street hustlers see the tourists eagerly waving cash at their three-card monte games. As marks fooled by simple games.
But we can do better. We could work early, before the primaries, supporting strong and experienced candidates able to lead America without pandering to the fringes. Instead of complaining about the menu, we can go into the kitchen and prepare the food we want and need.
The political machinery bequethed us by the Founders remains decisive, needing only our energy to make it work.
Posts about Bernie
- Vote for your ideal figurehead in 2020!
- Triumph of the Left over the liberals who nurtured them.
- The hidden key to Sanders’ amazing success in 2020.
- Bernie the Maoist (sadly, few Americans see it).
For more information
Ideas! For some shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon. Also, see a story about a unit of young women who flew biplanes in WWII and lived in a barn: “Ballad of the Unknown Pilot.”
If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about ways to reform America, about the Left-wing, and especially these…
- Important: The middle in American politics has died. Now extremists rule.
- The Left goes full open borders, changing America forever.
- Visions of America if the Left wins.
- The key insight: the Left hates America and will destroy it.
- The Left can win in 2020 and dominate US politics.
- Glimpses of the political revolution just starting.
- Is the Left marching to victory – or doom?
- In 2020 America might resume the revolution.
- The age of revolution has begun in America.
Books about Bernie’s Revolution …
… but these describe only the mild first steps in Sanders’ program. Don’t scare the proles!
Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In by Bernie Sanders (2016).
Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution by Bernie Sanders (2017).
How Bernie Won: Inside the Revolution That’s Taking Back Our Country –
and Where We Go from Here by Jeff Weaver (2018).
9 thoughts on “We need leaders. We elect figureheads. Here’s why.”
Sanders has a lot in common with Corbyn in the UK. The policy mix is pretty much the same.
One difference between the Democrats and Corbyn’s Labour Party is that the left wing of the UK Labour Party had a publicly known history, and the party itself had conducted very public wars between its social democratic centre and the UK far-left. This happened in the Kinnock era, and it was very visible on a regional level.
You had groups such as Socialist Worker and the many splinter groups of that sort, and Militant Tendency. Their aim was to infiltrate the local party organizations, and in some places they did succeed, notably Liverpool.
This failed in the end, because Kinnock, unlike the Democratic establishment in the US, was able to identify and purge them, which made Blair’s ascent possible. Blair might be considered analogous to Bill Clinton in policy terms.
This didn’t end it however. The second phase of this was the left agitation for modification of the constitution of the party. Without getting into the tedious (but all important) detail, it succeeded, and the result was a takeover of the party by an influx of radical local members, and its domination by Momentum, which is just Militant by another name. This allowed the election of Corbyn as party leader, who almost scraped into government in 2016.
However, by the last election, in December 2019, Corbyn’s policies and past affiliations had become pretty generally known, the pervasive anti-semitism of the new party had been exposed, and this time the radicals failed the real test as large numbers of Labour voters turned on the party and voted in Johnson with a landslide. A factor in this is that the UK had experienced two flirtations with socialism, one right after WWII with wholesale nationalizations, and the second in the disastrous Wilson-Callaghan governments of the sixties and seventies.
There were probably three key factors. The first was living memory of what the Corbyn agenda had led to in the recent past when put into practice. The second was the sort of rough common sense you heard during interviews with voters who had left Labour, often after a lifelong and family history of voting for it. They just were not having either Corbyn or his associates. The third was that the far left who had taken over the party had a clearly identifiable organization, Momentum along with the usual left splinter groups such as Socialist Worker.. It was not so much a movement as a party within a party. This made it much easier for the electorate to see what the issues were.
But basically what turned it was the hard headed commonsense of the British electorate. Maybe not informed in detail, but in touch enough to understand what the choice was, and ready to change the political affiliations of a lifetime and say no to what they thought unacceptable.
To the utter astonishment and dismay of the woke urban liberal media, the Guardian and the BBC.
So to support Larry’s point, if your electorate is aroused and involved, the Sanders or Corbyns have no chance. If it isn’t, be afraid. Anything can happen.
Henrik: “To the utter astonishment and dismay of the woke urban liberal media, the Guardian and the BBC.”
Dismay probably. Astonishment? You’re going to have to prove that to me. I watched the most recent British elections with some interest to see how other nations deal with the same problems the US is encountering. I had the huge disadvantage (and advantage) of not having the “inside story,” the gut level feel you get from being part of the voting public for a long time.
What I saw wasn’t terribly different from what Henrik stated but let me put it a different way. Corbyn had the disadvantage of pushing a well-known and disliked agenda, was not very charismatic, and frankly, stupid in his election strategy. He lost, but it was hardly a surprise. His loyal party members predictably went down in flames with him.
Johnson was pushing a “populist” strategy learned from watching the US (especially the Reagan years) and it is going to backfire on the average British voter but make the British elites much wealthier. Which will be viewed as a win by the Conservatives (who have also been watching the US).
In the recent election, Johnson was more charismatic and less stupid in his election strategy. Since then he’s been working to outperform Trump in dumb behavior. Example: showing his conservative values by getting his girlfriend (who is more than 20 years younger than him) pregnant. Margaret Thatcher would NOT have approved.
Henrik: “So to support Larry’s point, if your electorate is aroused and involved, the Sanders or Corbyns have no chance. If it isn’t, be afraid. Anything can happen.”
I agree with Larry’s article but disagree with Henrik. Being the outsider in British politics, I’m not sure what Corbyn would have done if he’d won but Henrik is probably right.
Sanders, on the other hand, is working in a different system and will probably accomplish very little if elected because, as Larry noted, he’s an elderly figurehead. Much like Trump, he’ll do what his staff tells him to do. This theory is reinforced by the likelihood that the Democratic party will fail to win majorities in both houses of Congress. If so, Sanders stands zero chance of passing his signature legislation.
In order to have a better performance from the political parties, we would need a massive increase in political party membership AND would need to change the leadership of the parties (who are currently beholden to far too few people who are already far too powerful).
That takes time, Henrik. In the US, it will predictably take at least 4 years, probably more like 8-10 years.
You will know when it has succeeded when candidates similar to Sanders, Biden, Trump, Hilary Clinton, Corbyn, and Boris Johnson are are sidelined in the US primaries, and are NOT the final candidates for any of the major political parties.
Boris’ mistake isn’t Carrie. No-one cares about their age difference or his past, and people wish them well. Carrie is generally regarded as thoroughly nice. They are to marry soon, by the way.
Boris’ real mistakes are (i) HS2 (ii) the Green agenda. These are potentially catastrophic, both financially and electorally, if he does not find a way out of them.
No, this is not what happened at all. And Boris is not a populist in the sense that Trump and perhaps Reagan were. Two things happened. One was Brexit and the other Corbyn. There’s no parallel to Brexit in the US, but there is a parallel to the US in Corbyn/Sanders.
In the Corbyn/Sanders issue, the two are very similar in policy and agenda. They are the Old Left. The Western Old Left agenda has always been nationalization domestically, and internationally its been endorsement of any terrorists or dictatorships that called themselves left wing.
The key difference between the UK and the US is that the Old Left has been very similar, but the UK electorate is different, wary, hard nosed, skeptical, and has some red lines. Anti-Semitism is one, wild and crazy giveaway promises are another, and the whole ‘woke’ agenda is a third. You cannot sell this stuff in Newcastle, as the Corbynistas found out in December. The US electorate is much less inquiring and much more passive.
On Brexit, they voted for independence. Boris was elected because he promised to get it done. They are willing to pay a financial cost for independence. Now you may think this mistaken. The NY Times certainly does, Obama thought so too. But the same electorate that was not having any of Corbyn and Momentum, and earlier would not have any of Moseley and the various right splinter groups was also not having any of Remain in drag, which is what May turned out to be offering.
The lesson of Brexit and Boris is not to do with party membership. Its to do with the electorate. What you need, and I have no idea how you get it but the British seem to have, is an in-touch, realistic, hard-nosed electorate who know what they want and don’t want, and have a nose for political leaders. They could smell Corbyn, Milne and Murray (and Len McCluskey) a mile away as the years went by, and what they smelled was fish, and they weren’t having it.
Read this. He’s totally wrong about Brexit and the EU, and wrong in his enthusiasm for Blairite Labour. But he’s right about Corbyn and the electorate.
Hendrik: “On Brexit, they voted for independence. Boris was elected because he promised to get it done. They are willing to pay a financial cost for independence. Now you may think this mistaken.”
I agree with you on all counts except for the “Now you may think this is mistaken.” The problem I foresee is that the EU has no reason to let Britain off the hook and has several good reasons (Italy and Spain thinking about following the British lead for starters) to be extra hard on Britain. I’ve not seen a good analysis (although I’ve seen a very large number of bad analyses) on this topic so I’m working without sufficient information to make a good prediction.
Hendrik: “In the Corbyn/Sanders issue, the two are very similar in policy and agenda. They are the Old Left.”
Speaking in terms of British politics, you are correct. I haven’t looked deep enough into Corbyn’s policies to know how they compare with Sanders but I will take your word for it.
Now comparing Sanders to standard US leftist thinking is almost impossible because he’s so far to the left of the US leftists. Most US leftists think more about allowing gays into the military and ensuring that everybody feels included. Those “issues” don’t even show up on Sanders radar screen.
Speaking from personal experience, Sanders is dead accurate on the problem of US medical costs. I suspect his solutions are not good enough but I can fully understand his desire to rein them in. The old Military-Industrial Complex of the 1950’s has nothing on the Medical Industrial Complex.
When I had a major medical problem, I was let go from the company I was working for based on performance issues. They were caused by the medical problem but there is no valid recourse in the US. A visit to the doctor’s office with no tests that last 30 minutes costs between $400-600 without insurance.
The same visit with insurance costs around $125.
People with pre-existing conditions who do not have corporate-sponsored health insurance can expect to pay up to $2200 per month for medical insurance.
I got lucky (and smart) and worked with my state’s Obamacare group and was able to reduce the cost to only $550 per month but the insurance only worked in my local metro region. Fortunately, my old employer decided they’d been unnecessarily mean to me and paid a stipend that covered my living expenses. They did NOT need to do that, it was their decision to be moral. Most US employers would have been solely concerned about my effect on their bottom line.
Despite having health insurance, I ran up $18,500 in health costs in one year that were not covered by insurance (which covered about 85% of the total).
The medical problem went away by itself, by the way. I would have gotten the same effect if I had not gone to any doctors at all but I doubtless funded some dandy medical research papers where I was known as “Patient A.”
Summary of the above: The US health industry is well-designed to generate profits. Helping people be physically healthy is a side-effect. If you do not believe me, read all the studies about the health of the average American. They are truly annoying considering how much we spend on healthcare.
Something needs to be done before healthcare costs (and inadequate care) collapse the economy.
Larry, I have always regarded “Double Star” as Heinlein’s best work, especially for communicating political realities to teens. To quote my older son when he finished reading it at the age of 16, “Whoa!”
I agree! It’s my favorite of his books.
It was not written for young adults though.
Good point! It was his transitional novel. He submitted it to the publisher – Scribner’s – who published his young adult novels. They rejected it, and that pushed Heinlein into a new path.