In Praise of Left-Wing Candidates

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Roland Dodds

Roland Dodds is an educator, researcher and father who writes about politics, culture and education. He spent his formative years in radical left wing politics, but now prefers the company of contrarians of all political stripes (assuming they aren't teetotalers). He is a regular inactive at Harry's Place and Ordinary Times.

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  1. Avatar Kim
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    says:

    If you vote for Clinton, you’re going to get the blame when she starts another unnecessary war.Report

  2. Avatar Damon
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    “I have friends who are veterans, church leaders and small business owners who saw in the Sanders campaign a chance to move the discussion within the Democratic Party towards addressing the staggering economic inequality and injustice perpetuated against working people.” And most of those people are going to rollover from their “never HRC” and vote for her. And folks laughed when Trump said the system is rigged. These guys expressed their anger, their candidate lost (either through back room machinations or honest electioneering, or both), the pressure valve has severed it’s purpose, and the Democratic party can go back to doing what it’s always done-enrich the elites. Yah, yall got played–by design. Sniff, ain’t “murica’ great?Report

    • Avatar notme in reply to Damon
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      says:

      The Dems learned their lesson about listening to the people and then instituted the super delegates.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon
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      Damon,
      Not all’s us got played. Some of us are funding wikileaks, letting the rest of yall see what goes on when sausage gets made. Others of us are busy playing Clinton just like they played Walker.

      This peacenik isn’t voting for Hillary “The Mad Bomber” Clinton.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Damon
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      says:

      Or, there is the possibility that we forged an alliance with people who were philosophically closest to us, whose polices we preferred to the alternative.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Chip Daniels
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        says:

        That sounds more like a rationale for selling out. You want to explain how someone goes from “They chanted, “Hell, no, we won’t vote for Hillary!” and “a Sanders crowd impersonated a Donald Trump rally, chanting “Lock her up!” and carrying “Hillary for Prison” signs.” to voting for HRC? But maybe they figured that Satan was better than Cthulhu?Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Damon
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          That specific person probably isn’t voting for Clinton. But the vast majority of Sanders supporters weren’t that person.Report

          • Avatar Damon in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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            says:

            I’m not talking about the vast majority. Did you read the quote I cited?

            ” I knew half a dozen tradesmen who threw their support behind his populist, social-democratic ticket. I have friends who are veterans, church leaders and small business owners who saw in the Sanders campaign a chance to move the discussion within the Democratic Party towards addressing the staggering economic inequality and injustice perpetuated against working people.” IF these people are voting for HRC, they got played. They aren’t voting for Stein. They ain’t voting for Trump. Who else they gonna vote for?Report

      • Avatar Will H. in reply to Chip Daniels
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        we forged an alliance with people who were philosophically closest to us, whose polices we preferred to the alternative.

        Actually, this is what I see happening.
        Hillary = DNC Dem = Corporatist
        Trump = Populist = Sam’s Club*

        There is a shift going on.
        Further, it appears to be spearheaded by economic policy, generally.

        What is interesting about this is that the traditional party of “Labor” is now the corporatist party. This would suggest what those in the trades have known for years**: That, as far as unions go, the leadership is way out of step with the rank-and-file. The fissure is widening, to where the corporatist fringe has gained prominence. Labor is now “Big Labor,” itself institutionalized and corporatist.
        Meanwhile, the Republican leadership is undergoing a similar crisis, in that their longstanding economic Gospel of Free Trade is largely unpalatable to the foot soldiers with the vote (as opposed to the cronies with the cash).

        I don’t believe this is enough, in itself, to bring about a re-alignment of parties.

        Interesting days ahead.

        * Nomenclature assimilated from Reihan Salam’s “The Party of Sam’s Club.”
        ** At least as far back as 1928, when the Progrssive Mine Workers (PMWA) separated from the United Mine Workers (UMWA). Pretty much the same tale, all over again. When using union dues to pay mine owners under the table to keep sites non-operable to force the PMWA to knuckle under did not work, John L. Lewis was able to finagle a seat on FDR’s new Labor Board, and used his influence to have his rivals wrongfully convicted. Same old same old.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Will H.
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          says:

          It is a bit less interesting when we note that the only “working class” support for Trump is among the white working class.

          Ethnic minority workers who go to Sam’s Club overwhelmingly prefer Hillary.

          I don’t know why this has to be pointed out repeatedly. Trump’s support is not from the bottom of the society, but from the comfortable middle, who are aged and white.Report

          • Avatar Will H. in reply to Chip Daniels
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            Trump’s support is… from the comfortable middle, who are aged and white.

            This appears self-falsifying on its face.
            Culling out the white from the aged, and then the comfortable middle from the remainder, doesn’t seem to support a major party candidacy.
            Unless an overwhelming majority of Republicans simply did not vote in the primaries. Other than that, I don’t see it.
            It seems more like a convenient narrative, one which covers the truth more than revealing it.
            There is something more.Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Will H.
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              says:

              I agree there is a seismic shift in American politics, but I disagree that the populist uprising narrative covers it.

              First, there is a tremendous quantity of “white, aged comfortable middle” voters in America.
              This is, after all, the Boomer generation mixed with the WWII generation we are talking about. We have reached a tipping point where Millennials – just now- match the quantity of Boomers; except they vote in lower numbers, so old white people still hold the whip hand of the electorate.

              There has been quite a bit of study of Trump voters, an example here;

              I think the media- liberal and conservative- tend to fall into a lazy narrative of class, where we borrow older, pre-New Deal images of the American classes- For example “Populism” = “Working Class”= “Lower Income”.

              “Blue collar” and “comfortable middle” are not exclusive, but overlapping because a lot of blue collar trades are fairly well paying (Thanks labor unions!).
              What we call “blue collar” covers everything from highly skilled and well paid trades like electricians and machinists to farm workers and janitors.

              The trades that were unionized vault their members into the “comfortable middle” (hey, did I say thanks, labor unions!!) while those that are being outsourced and globalized divert their members into poverty level wages.

              Trump gets a lot of the first kind of blue collar voter, while Hillary gets the second.

              What is shifting is that the educated voters are gravitating to the Democrats, while white gainfully employed blue collars ( the “one truck contractors”) are gravitating to the Republicans.
              And whats shifting is the split between the Wall Street and Main Street wings of the parties.
              On the Republican side, its driven mostly by racial anxiety, exemplified by immigration.
              On the Democratic side, its driven more by the economic anxiety of the younger generation.

              So something is going on. I just think the older narratives don’t cover it.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                Thank you for the link to the article.
                I’m afraid I did not find it particularly enlightening.
                I still question the viability of a widespread appeal where such a small group are the only ones on-board.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Damon
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      Who said those folks were in a “never HRC” camp, except you?Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to dragonfrog
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        “When I went downtown to pick up my press credentials the day before the convention, furious Sanders supporters swarmed the sidewalks, blocked streets, snarled traffic—and guaranteed overtime pay for local police officers. They chanted, “Hell, no, we won’t vote for Hillary!” ”

        I was talking about these people. They sure don’t sound like rabid HRC supporters.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Damon
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          says:

          Well sure, and they still aren’t. But since those people represented only the most passionate 1% minority of Sanders voters that’s not really particularly significant. A considerable number of the milder quieter Sanders supporters, the other 99% of his voting base, may have preferred Sanders but can pretty easily accept voting for Clinton over Trump.Report

          • Avatar Damon in reply to North
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            Guess we’ll find out next week just how many.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Damon
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              I mean sure, or you could just look at the plethora of polls that cover that issue.

              Not sure why you’d want to wait for yet another poll, especially one with crappy crosstabs. I mean the election results ARE a poll. Except we’re stuck with exit polls, which are awful, to try to determine things like “How did subgroup X do” — and the smaller subgroup, like “Sanders primary voters” would be especially difficult to get.

              So the results would, clearly, have an incredibly large MoE on the question “How many Sanders supporters voted for Clinton” because while we could tell exactly how many votes were cast for Clinton, we couldn’t tell how many Sanders supporters voted, or who they voted for, in any scientifically accurate way.

              Like you could tease out 18-29 voters, but what % were Sanders supporters? Dunno.

              So, you know, just looking to the actual polls that cover that question, that also asked questions like “Who did you support in the primary”, would be more accurate.Report

  3. Avatar Kolohe
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    says:

    Nobody saw the rupture of the Republican Party coming.

    Well, nobody but Our Todd Kelly.

    Also, since you brought it up, do left populists really care anything about the snowballing influence of China in Asia? Left populists, it seems to me, are universally anti-neo-imperialist.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    I think there is a big difference between Sanders and Stein for a variety of reasons:

    1. While Sanders spent most of his life as a political independent, he does caucus with the Democrats and have experience in getting elected to political office.

    2. Sanders took a realist approach to running for President and switched his party affiliation to the Democratic Party.

    3. Sanders original goal was simply to force the Democrats more to the left. He mentioned that he was surprised as anyone else that he did as well as he did. He held out for a while but is also a realist and is now working hard to get HRC elected and tell the more hardcore Bernie or Busters that there is no such thing as “heightening the contradictions.” He is smart and knows that “heightening the contradiction” means “a lot of people will suffer and suffer badly.”

    4. Stein seems like the perect fop of a left-wing candidate who believes politics is about proving how moral and good you are instead of getting things done. She is willing to indulge in the silliest aspects of lefty thought by being lenient to the anti-vaxxers despite her position as a doctor. A doctor denying the power and importance of vaccination is a bridge too far.

    Most Bernie voters are going to pull the lever for HRC but there is a small minority of people who seem to be more interested in proving their moral purity or being a chaos agent than using their politics to help people because it means compromising with someone slightly to their right like a mainstream center-left Democrat. Politics is about compromise and the art of the possible. It is not about holding out until utopia arrives. There are also chaos agents like HA Goodman who started as a Rand Paul fanboy then became an ardent Bernie or Buster at Salon and is now the in-house leftist who hates Democrats at the right-wing Daily Caller. As far as I can tell, HA Goodman’s politics are all about being “anti-establishment” and not getting anything practical or useful done.

    So yeah, I have no use for people who think politics is about their damned moral purity and goodness.

    Here is a quote from radical Tony Kushner in 2003:

    “I have said this before, and I’ll say it again: Anyone that the Democrats run against Bush, even the appalling Joe Lieberman, should be a candidate around whom every progressive person in the United States who cares about the country’s future and the future of the world rallies. Money should be thrown at that candidate. And if Ralph Nader runs — if the Green Party makes the terrible mistake of running a presidential candidate — don’t give him your vote. Listen, here’s the thing about politics: It’s not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this.”Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      Tony was writing for a different world.
      HERE IN THIS WORLD, all Trump voters are racist troglodytes who feel women should be in the kitchen.
      AND ANY WOMAN who DARES NOT VOTE FOR HILLARY, is going to be ROASTING IN A SPECIAL PLACE IN HELL.

      Chaos? The one good thing you can say about chaos is it means change. Ossification is the enemy of civilization, as it will rot from within given half the chance. Rome didn’t fall in a day, it is true, but fall it did nonetheless.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Kim
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        says:

        The one thing you can say about Chaos is that it means suffering for a huge number of people. If that is your thing, you are even worse than I thought.

        What Tony says is more true now than it was in 2003.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul Degraw
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          says:

          Well now! Fuck you and the horse you rode in on too.

          Chaos means The African American Civil Rights Movement — which got a lot of Jewish Financiers on top for a good while (we’ll go ahead and ignore the altruists, as they’re not fiscally important). Sources Cited Upon Request.

          Did that mean suffering for a huge number of people? Some suffering, perhaps. Certainly some folks got beat, and others got shot, and maybe a few even got spat on.

          You do realize that the Powers that Be wouldn’t feel any qualms about reducing the current World population by 75%?Report

  5. Avatar InMD
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    says:

    As someone who will be voting 3rd party secure in the knowledge that I live in a state where it doesn’t matter I appreciate this post very much. I can also fully understand why someone in a swing state has a much tougher choice and might swallow their pride and vote Hilary.

    What I don’t get at all is the Kushner sentiment expressed by @saul-degraw above. Watching all the loyal Democrats vehemently praising HRC, a candidate who is maybe a fingernail to the left of George W. Bush, a war monger, and openly in the service of big finance, has exposed the emptiness of the party and most of its partisans in profound ways. It’s why Bernie did so well. I’m glad at least Roland is ready to grapple with that. If only more were.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to InMD
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      Loyal members of the Democratic Party support Hilary Clinton because she is a loyal member of the Democratic Party.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq
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        You say that after knowing about the deals she’s made with the neocons, or before?Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to LeeEsq
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        @leeesq is there ever a point where policy matters more than party? Not saying there’s no overlap but is it fair for people to have varying thresholds?Report

        • Avatar North in reply to InMD
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          Sure; consider the ACA.
          The naked short term interest of the Democratic Party after 2008 was to focus on the economy, do some kind of fig leaf health care change and try and nail things down in the 2010 election for redistricting. The Dems chose to go for the policy change instead. They especially chose to do so after Kennedy died. The policy trumped the party’s interest in that instance.Report

          • Avatar InMD in reply to North
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            @north I don’t really see the relevance of the ACA. That’s not an achievement of Hilary Clinton and she is the candidate I’m talking about. I’ve got my disappointments and plenty of disagreements with Obama but I don’t regret voting for him or think his failure to achieve everything he talked about in 2008 is anything other than the normal course of politics. I’m making a judgment about a uniquely bad candidate based on that candidate’s own record and coming to what in my opinion are reasonable conclusions as to what that says about the party thats chosen to support her.

            I don’t think that’s a radical proposition, especially when we all openly discuss what the Trump candidacy says about the rump of the Republican party that nominated him.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to InMD
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              Sorry, maybe my point was too oblique. HRC is a member of the Democratic Party in (very) good standing. Her party has, in recent memory, put policy over politics in a big way and HRC was part of that party and, frankly, has worked very hard to advance it. That ain’t nothing. That’s without touching the rather harsh assertion that HRC is a fingernail to the left of George W. Fishing Bush. Maybe if you confined it to Foreign policy it’d be more plausible (though even there I suspect she’s more in Bills mold of Bosnian style interventions than Bush’s knee slappingly idiotic ground war in Asia peccadillos).Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to North
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                I dunno, she voted for the dumb land war in Asia and was important in giving cover to the other Democrats who did. That vote is a big part of why I don’t think she has the judgment for the job. Control of military force in an era when Congress has gone to sleep at the wheel is to me the most dangerous part of the presidency (along with overseeing our various rogue intelligence and law enforcement agencies).

                I try to take into consideration not only the stances of the candidate but also the powers of the office sought. I can stomach my disagreements more easily when the office is weaker in that area.

                Regarding her proximity to W. politically I’m searching my mind really hard for big policy differences and the only ones I can come up with are privatizing social security and reproductive rights/abortion (not really things the presidency can make substantial changes to alone). Thats not nothing but for me it’s not enough, just as being a Democrat in good standing isn’t enough. I don’t expect perfection just a little bit more.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to InMD
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                Well she also differs on safety nets in general (she sure as hell ain’t no ‘compassionate conservative’ and she’s never pushed a deficit funded tax cut.

                It is true that she, along with most everyone else, bowed to the jingoist fever that was sweeping the landscape and voted to authorize the Iraq War. A profile in political courage HRC has never been but I don’t know if that speaks much to her judgment in the matter.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to InMD
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      @inmd

      I would argue that sometimes the further left simultaneously does and does not understand that liberalism is distinct from socialism/communism. I still believe in the profit motive and capitalism but capitalism that is well-regulated and not prone to going off the rails.

      I take the LGM stance that Democrats, even conservative ones, are still likely to be vastly better and do Democratic things over any standard Republican. HRC is more hawkish than I would like but I am not an isolationist. I also think calling her a tool of wall street and finance has more heat than light. The President is responsible for appointing thousands of positions in the Federal Government from Cabinet Secretaries and Federal Judges to NLRB board members, etc.

      HRC is not going to appoint right-wingers. She will appoint people that advance and advocate for policies that benefit employees, workers, and minorities. Trump or any other Republican will not.

      And while I am not a hardcore libertarian, economics is not just something you can work around either for a desired endgoal. It matters. I don’t think economics are the laws of physics but there such a thing as supply and demand and other rules.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to InMD
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      Some of my more liberal friends seem to think we live in a world where there is not such a thing as limited resources in terms of time and money and they don’t quite get the concept of opportunity costs. Sometimes you really do need to choose between doing X and doing Y.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to Saul Degraw
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        @saul-degraw that’s easy to say I think when you’re largely ok with the x being prioritized over the y. I’m not a radical and don’t support any sort of revolutionary agenda.

        However, what if she uses all of those Democrats she puts in the executive branch to ensure that the boat isn’t rocked at all for big finance (while inequality continues apace), starts another stupid war, and pushes along the majority of negative things liberals (including myself) dislike about the status quo way our government does business? Is there ever a point where it is reasonable for a liberal to conclude that the Democeats have no credibility on the big issues? Or are we just supposed to get scared of the next Republican and pretend there’s nothing wrong here?Report

  6. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    The Green Party and their candidates should in no way be seen as serious political party. Its a religious cult and a social organization where people who demonstrate how progressive they are by endlessly proving George Orwell’s dictate that “some things are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.” If the Green Party was serious than they would forget running for the Presidency or even federal office and focus on building a party from the ground up by going for local and state office. They do not do this.Report

  7. Avatar North
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    says:

    For sure, it’s easy to be exasperated by the further left, but they speak for some important priorities and criticisms and they certainly bear being listened to. You never know when some sparks of genuinely good policy ideas may flare to life in the ashes of the left. Also centrist liberalism is especially prone to subversion, corporatism and similar such normal breeds of graft and you need a principled idealist opposition to help keep it honest; the right sure as hell isn’t capable of providing that service right now.Report

    • Avatar gregiank in reply to North
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      The Dem’s very much need pressure on their left side to keep them from drifting farther towards the center especially in regards to foreign policy and finance. Sadly the Green’s are choosing to be scolds and puritans then trying to pull things in their choose direction.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to gregiank
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        The pressure from the Right is worse, I think. They’ve got more money to throw at things, if you’re recall.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Kim
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          Huh, that triggered a funny thought. The Dems have always had to sort of do the balancing act: the votes are to their left but the money is to their right. Until recently due to their curious policy fan dance the GOP has had both the money and their votes to their right. Now suddenly the money and the voting base are pulling in opposite directions and the GOP has no fishing clue what to do about it.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North
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            Oooh. Good insight.

            Has this happened in human history before?
            What happened then?

            (These are legit questions. If I had to guess, I’d say that it results in stuff like (really bad thing), (really bad thing), and (REEEEEEAAAAAAAAALLY bad thing). But I don’t know.)Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird
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              @jaybird

              Maybe when Teddy Roosevelt went independent with the Bull Moose Party or with other progressive Republicans like Hiram Johnson and Bob LaFollette?

              Maybe with the Radical Reconstructionists like Thaddeus Stevens?Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird
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              I honestly have no idea. I would love for someone with a better grasp of the political history of the USA to weigh in. Then again even that tells us very little because, let’s be honest, neither party has much beyond a general similarity with the parties of the same named that existed much past 50-75 years ago.

              I assume, though, that one of a few things could happen:
              -The change doesn’t stick, the kabuki returns and there’s a return to the status quos.
              -The change sticks, the GOP spends a generation civil warring over it until a new generation of Politians develop who can trim between the two new poles.
              -The money/elites switch sides and align with the populist base.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to North
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                From the 1780s to the 1820s, the money was split between Southern Planters and Northeast merchant banker traders, which manifested itself in the political split between the Hamiliton/Adams faction and the Jeffersonian faction. The Northeastern faction wound up to be really really bad at politics, leading to the Southern planter faction basically taking over the whole thing. Then there was another schism, but again, the Northeastern merchant banker traders were terrible at politics, and the Southern planters were able to win again, this time by more expressly throwing in their lot with the ‘common man’, and specifically buying the common man off by accelerating the policy of taking land from the Native Americans and redistributing it to white people.

                Then there was another cycle of the Whigs being terrible at politics, but Polk basically gave the Northern (by then, both Eastern and ‘Western’) interests everything they wanted anyway with sound currency and peace with England.

                Then of course, the Civil War happened, which made southern (white) people a single voting bloc for a hundred years, no matter what their ideological or class differences were. Plus, industrialization kicked into high gear, making a class of wealthy/elite previously unseen in US (and making rich people in the South comparative paupers). Though still, even though the gilded age was a thing, there was still a bit of ‘greatest generation’ type stuff from (many) being veterans of a huge war that kept some of the excesses in check. And there were still western lands to satiate the general population.

                But then the frontier closed, and the middle class in an industrial economy started to establish itself, and thus we got the Progressive era, with its populist and elite fusionism. (i.e. government works, but it needs to work for the people, but it needs good people in government to work for the people). But that also got of Prohibition and the first World War, two trendlines that continue to this day, in terms of the malleability of popular opinion, and its potential splits from elite opinion.

                FDR was a tidal wave that scoured the political landscape, and when he left, the soil was planted with the seeds of suburbanization, which remains the driving force in national politics. It’s the fact that the ideology of the suburbs has been in flux all this century that creates the intraparty tension in both parties.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Kolohe
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                says:

                Wow, really great thoughts Kolohe, thank you.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to gregiank
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        I generally agree. -Especially- with regards to foreign policy and especially-especially with this Dem candidate and foreign policy.
        I may be alone in this but I think one of the reasons that the Dems don’t have a really restive and competent left wing opposition is because the Dems have taken care of their base a lot more than the GOP has taken care of theirs. We can snarl about the ACA, the Dems stance on social policy and safety nets etc… but the distance between what the Dems say they want to do and what they’ve done when in power is a lot smaller than the distance between what the GOP says they want to do and what they’ve done while in power. That makes a big difference.Report

        • Avatar gregiank in reply to North
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          The D’s do give enough of their base enough of what they want. Not happy, but enough. That is the function of a party. For all the people screaming about the ACA not being enough, there were far more who saw that it was the best that could have been achieved and has done much good. But Hills really needs some push back on foreign policy issues even if she is really really unlikely to start a nuclear war as some of her less than coherent critics will suggest.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to North
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          says:

          I’ve said it before – the difference between the GOP ‘wings’ and the Democratic ‘wings’ are this – the Democratic wings agree on the goals, they just disagree on the methods. For example, both Hillary and Bernie wanted easier access to college for low and middle income students or reforming the tax code to lower inequality. They just disagree on how to do it.

          OTOH, the GOP is split between basically, people who only care about low taxes and a small welfare state, but are actually OK with immigration (both low and high skill) and largely don’t care about social issues and people who basically believe in welfare for the “right people”, but want to severely limit immigration and want re-institute Christian supremacy in the public.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to North
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      says:

      But damned if we want to listen to them in presidential general election debates!Report

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