This democracy thing is far more fragile than we realise.
I thought I’d repost this rather than write another blog on the same theme. Don’t forget to check out this article about public spending by the BBC’s Nick Robinson, as I think they dovetail nicely. By the way, make sure to watch the short film, it’s fascinating.
1. A sense of entitlement, spread across nearly every social class, that informs people that they somehow have a right to far more government expenditure being spent on them than they ever contribute in taxes, whilst at the same time believing that they are overtaxed and that others are either paying less or getting more from the state.
2. A professional political class that sees winning elections and remaining in office as a career in itself, that sees defined political values as a means to an end rather than an end goal, and that has developed its own sense of Washington Beltway/Westminster Village/Leinster House Doheny and Nesbitt set of priorities and scorecards that are getting further and further removed from the concerns of their respective publics.
3. An electorate, shaped by a post-1950s consumer culture, that expects its political leaders to deliver an unachievable level of political and indeed emotional gratification, constantly leading to disappointment in the political process. For example, this writer encountered people expressing disappointment in a new Irish government for not implementing election promises before they had actually taken office. In addition, that same electorate subscribes to a right to cheap credit but does not accept the balancing obligation of accepting a lower standard of living in order to meet those debts.
4. A media that, due to commercial realities, does not see informing the public or indeed educating them as being a high priority, but instead sees the destruction of political figures, parties and institutions as a legitimate goal in itself, as is the injecting of extreme emotion into any story where possible.
5. The corrupting effect of fundraising on the political system coupled with (see point four) a media that both decries corruption caused by fundraising but also the use of public funds to eliminate the need for private funding. Likewise, a public that demands high standards of political ethics but is unwilling to resource them, leading to candidates who are either funded by other individuals or else are privately wealthy, both cases to which the public also objects.
6. The pervasive influence of modern marketing techniques within politics, in particular the adjusting of parties to become entities espousing the least offensive lowest common denominator coupled with focusing on emotional but essentially distracting “hot button” issues. These are a direct challenge to the concept of politics being a menu of policy options that a well informed electorate can choose from. In Ireland, for example, there are supermarket chains offering more distinctive options than most of our main political parties.
Posted by Jason O on Oct 2, 2014 in Not quite serious.
, US Politics
The leadership of the US Republican Party has warned the Obama administration that it will not tolerate the recent potential outbreak of Ebola in Texas being used as an excuse to promote “socialist” medicine.
“We know how this works. The president and his communist cronies, after finishing their daily prayers to Allah, will tell federal medical officials to not only treat possible infected people for the Ebola virus, but any other illnesses they might have acquired previous to catching the virus,” J. McAdoo McAdoo III, the RNC spokesman, told reporters. “Suddenly, ordinary Americans who had been getting through life with untreated ailments get a little dose of Ebola and then socialism is the answer to everything. It’s very simple, you can go through life with an all-American open and weeping sore oozing puss, like our daddies did during the war, or you can find Big Government leaving you fit as a fiddle like some sort of Frenchman. Hell no!”
Texas governor Rick Perry has taken the lead on the matter. “I understand from medical advice that it is not really possible to treat Ebola and not cure other pre-existing illnesses. Now, before good God-fearing folk think I’ve turned into some sort of atheist homosexual or scientist, let me assure them that I have consulted scripture on this. That is why I have instructed the Texas Department of Health, having cured these people of Ebola, to inject them with a good old fashioned plague of the sort mentioned in the Bible. Then let them get that treated in any one of the many fine private sector medical practices available in this great state.”
President Obama responded to the GOP leadership by loudly banging his head repeatedly on his desk in the Oval Office.
Posted by Jason O on Jul 31, 2014 in US Politics
Last year, an unusual thing happened to me. Ireland held a referendum on abolishing its Senate, and I campaigned in favour of abolition. Most of my political friends were opposed to abolition. For the first time ever, I was actually in fundamental disagreement with most of my friends on a political issue. We argued during the campaign, spoke on different sides during debates, countered each other on-line.
They won, I lost. They still think they were right. I know they were wrong (!) but here’s the thing: they’re not bad people. We disagree on this, and other things, but we agree on others. The point is, I don’t think they are evil or immoral or less committed to democracy or less patriotic because they took a stand I disagreed with, nor do (I hope) they think that of me. It was the normal robust rough-and-tumble of a health free society arguing a point.
When I first heard about Barack Obama I was struck, as a read about him, that he wasn’t just another liberal black candidate. He wasn’t another Jesse Jackson, speaking eloquently for a community he came from but failing to connect with others. Obama reminded me of the young Tony Blair, who didn’t see all Tory voters as the enemy but people who had to be listened to and accommodated. It was Barack Obama the pragmatic centrist who just happened to also be black who really appealed to me.
In government, he tried to accommodate Republicans over healthcare reform, eventually bringing in a healthcare system not like the socialist single-payer system used in the UK, but one with huge private sector involvement designed by Republicans and implemented by a Republican governor. He appointed Jon Huntsman, a former Republican governor to the key position of US ambassador to China because Huntsman was eminently skilled for the job.
And in reply, what does he get? Does he get Republicans who disagree with him on A, but find they might be able to do something on B if they get C? Like normal people? No, he gets people who question whether he was actually born in the US, and who actually dedicate their political time to paralysing the legislative process for fear of him achieving anything. He gets people who attack Republican governors like Chris Christie or indeed Jon Huntsman, conservatives who disagreed with the president on other things, for working with him on anything. Who get called traitors for working with the President of the United States on an issue of mutual agreement.
These are not normal people. That is not how normal people behave in their lives. Imagine a family was run on those line?
Then there are the other issues. He doesn’t think there is a gay conspiracy to destroy traditional families. He thinks that maybe having guns too easily accessible might have something to do with people getting shot. He believes in dinosaurs. He believes he was born in Hawaii. He doesn’t believe that poor people are inherently lazy. He doesn’t believe any member of any single major religion is all automatically evil. Normal stuff, believed by many conservatives around the world, not just liberals.
I don’t agree with him on everything. I think he’s way too cosy with public sector unions, and don’t get me started on drones. But that’s normal too. As former New York Mayor Ed Koch used to say: “If you agree with me on 10 out of 12 issues, vote for me. If you agree on 12 out of 12, see a psychiatrist.”
In short, I support Barack Obama because he is the voice of rational debate and discussion. Not because I agree with him on everything, but because calm, reasoned debate is no longer the norm, but an actual wilful political choice. There are politicians now who are effectively opponents of rational debate, who dismiss whole swathes of their own countrymen and women as “un-American”. These people are nuts. I support the non-nut.
Posted by Jason O on Jul 19, 2014 in Not quite serious.
, US Politics
In a crushing blow to the administration, a new Fox News poll has revealed that a stunning 94% of people who didn’t vote for President Obama in 2008 and 2012 disapprove of his administration and its policies.
“It’s a shocker,” Fox News’ Sherrii McBlonde told viewers this morning: “There are literally millions of Americans who did not vote for the president’s policies and now are bitterly angry that he is carrying them out. I mean, what sort of democracy is that?”
Sources in the GOP have called for a constitutional amendment whereby presidents whose names rhyme with Arak Mohama should be stripped of executive power, as a safeguard.
“I haven’t met a single ordinary American who disagrees with that sensible moderate proposal. Not one, in all the surveys I’ve carried out in the Republican caucus room. Not one,” GOP spokesperson Chuck Chuckerson III said yesterday.
Posted by Jason O on Jul 15, 2014 in Not quite serious.
, US Politics
Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has announced that congressional Ðemocrats will be tabling a motion to impeach Texas governor Rick Perry on the off chance he’s elected president in 2016.
Speaking to reporters, Sen. Reid said: “We feel that the Republicans have made much more progress on their impeachment capabilities than we have. We tried to impeach Nixon for actual crimes, which is apparently very old fashioned now, whereas Republicans went after Clinton because he got more women than they did, and Obama because they didn’t like his name or that he believed in socialist concepts like gravity. So we’re thinking to be absolutely ready to go after the next GOP president. I mean, he’s from Texas. That’s a sort of crime, isn’t it?”
The Republican National Committee responded by announcing that it wanted to know why Malia Obama didn’t give regular press conferences, or appear before congressional committees. “What’s she hiding?” A spokesperson asked.
Posted by Jason O on Jun 30, 2014 in Not quite serious.
, US Politics
The Republican National Committee, preparing for the 2016 race for the White House, has demanded that nominees must now participate in a swimwear section during the debates.
“We reckon it could be part of the foreign affairs section, given that, you know, beaches feature strongly in US foreign policy. Normally when we send marines running up them,” E. Chuck Chuckson III, Vice President for Gridlock Affairs of the RNC said yesterday.
“Of course, if Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to participate in something as All American as a swimsuit section, then you have to ask, what else is she hiding? I hear Remington Ladyshave isn’t a big campaign donor. Of course, she could always wear a burqa. I’m sure she has a few of those at home.”
The RNC has also announced that another criteria has been added to the GOP primary process. “As well as making sure a candidate is conservative enough on immigration, gays, denying healthcare and generally taking a firm hand to the untermenschen, we’ll want to make sure that a pair of Speedos is, shall we say, well stocked?”
Former Republican nominee Sarah Palin endorsed the idea: “Gee, I wish I could have had that opportunity in 2008, to show my NRA credentials by getting the guns out!”
Posted by Jason O on Jun 24, 2014 in US Politics
See this guy to the right here? Many of today’s political anoraks won’t have a clue who he is. But for a period from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, every “Men who will one day be President” list (and it was all men) included the name Hubert Horatio Humphrey.
Starting as a barnstorming anti-segregationist Minnesota mayor in 1948 (when the Democratic Party still had KKK members) through the US Senate through Vice President under LBJ and a tantalisingly close election defeat to Nixon in 1968, Humphrey was the flag bearer of the party’s liberal wing and one of the biggest beasts in the party. Yet he never became president.
I can’t help wondering is Hillary Clinton falling into that mould, as the candidate that everybody knows who seems to have been around forever and is certain to be “the next President” and yet…
Is it possible that the window has already closed, and we just don’t know it, that she is still a woman with deep reservoirs of support yet doesn’t have that widespread appeal to put her over the top?
Whenever I look at Hillary and particularly her supporters, I can’t help thinking that they seem to be people who regard their liberalism as being of the “my butler has an excellent health insurance package” variety. Not bad people, just people living in a different world, who support Obamacare and go to LGBT fundraisers (and know what LGBT means) and then have their driver bring their car around. People who don’t know anybody who doesn’t know an openly gay person. People who regard upstate New York as the epitome of rural.
This is a candidate, don’t forget, who has been pretty much chauffeur-driven for a quarter of a century. When, would you say, was the last time Hillary Clinton was in a Walmart? Now, maybe that doesn’t matter. After all, FDR, the great liberal reformer, was an aristocrat. Ted Kennedy, who passed more legislation to protect working people than any other legislator, came from one of the wealthiest families in America. But people need a certain degree of authenticity. Does this person know what my life is like? That’s a question about HRC that is a hard one to answer.
Humphrey was loved by the big unions, and that was when the unions were the voice of the ordinary American worker, not just the public sector. Can HRC convince that she is the candidate of working people, and not just a collection of liberal elites?
Posted by Jason O on Jun 10, 2014 in Fiction
, US Politics
President Nixon: Tragically Slain in Dallas, 1963.
PRESIDENT NIXON DEAD. SHOT IN DALLAS. VICE PRESIDENT CABOT LODGE SWORN IN AS PRESIDENT.
The murder of Richard M. Nixon on the 22nd November 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald brought a meteoric political career to a cruelly abrupt end. The man who had risen from entering Congress in 1946 to defeating Senator John F. Kennedy in the razor thin election of 1960 was almost certain to be re-elected in 1964, given his adroit handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, tough line on Vietnam (remembering Truman’s “losing China”) and his hard-line on civil rights solidifying black votes into the Republican column. The death of the young, cheerful and endearingly awkward war hero president stunned America.
Vice President Henry Cabot Lodge easily defeated Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson, running on a thinly veiled racist (against his own better judgement, he admitted years later) states rights campaign the following year. As history now shows, the Republican landslide of 1964 was the last good thing to happen to the former Massachusetts senator. Read more…
Posted by Jason O on May 23, 2014 in Not quite serious.
, US Politics
President Chelsea Clinton
From our correspondent in Montreal, Canada.
President Chelsea Clinton of the United States of America and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada have expressed disappointment at President Rick Perry of the Constitutional States of America’s decision to quit talks between the CSA and the North American Union. The summit in Montreal had hoped to finally resolve the cross-border trade, taxation and customs disputes following the amicable breakup of the United States in 2017, with the North East, Great Lakes and West Coast states remaining in the USA as the remainder left to form the CSA.
Since the formation of the CSA, two very distinct cultures have developed, with the USA returning to the moderate religious and economic values of the 1950s coupled with social tolerance for religious and lifestyle differences, whilst the CSA has seen the rampant dismantling of former federal laws and agencies in its territories and the effective adoption of Judeo-Christianity as a de facto state religion in a loose confederation of mutually cooperating states with a weak central government.
Under the terms of the Paul Act of 2017, US citizens had been given 36 months to decide which state they wished to become a citizen of, which led to mass migration as minority groups moved to the USA, and social and religious conservatives moved to the CSA.
Although taxes were markedly higher in the USA to fund its universal healthcare programme and infrastructure programme, the CSA found itself in serious fiscal difficulties as CSA senior citizens demanded that social security and medicare entitlements be carried over from the USA, farmers and agribusiness demanded subsidies be continued, and states insisted on funds no longer flowing from Washington for local projects be replaced. The attempt by President Paul to create the CSA as a tax haven for the world’s rich ran into huge difficulties when the USA and European Union agreed a common tax treaty which taxed profits and earnings shipped out of their joint jurisdiction. That, coupled with his plan to build a vast manned wall between the CSA and the United Mexican States, resulting in a National Security Tax, led to his impeachment. Paul’s successor, former Texas governor Perry, had hoped to conclude a joint defence pact with the US to allow for savings in defence spending, but President Clinton had vetoed the deal “as long as gay and non-Christians cannot serve their country in the CSA defence forces.” The president had been reacting to comments from the US Joint Chiefs of Staff about US soldiers being uncomfortable about serving alongside “segregated” forces.
The Bishop of Houston has announced that he shall be endorsing former Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his choice for nominee of the American Party to succeed President Perry. The endorsement is seen as vital for Palin’s hopes in the primaries. In the Congress of the CSA, meeting in Tallahassee, a bill requiring non-Judeo-Christians to register with local law enforcement agencies has passed the Senate, and will now go to the House of Representatives. A bill barring non-Judeo-Christians from holding public office passed the Congress and is now before President Perry. A spokesperson has said that the bill will be given serious consideration. The board of Mercedes Benz has said that if either bill becomes law in the CSA, the company will have to reconsider its investments in Alabama.
In other news, the English Prime Minister, Mr Farage, admitted that the his party could not assemble a majority in the House of Commons to agree a common market with the CSA because of the CSA refusal to grant travel visas to English citizens of the Muslim faith. He looked forward, however, to negotiating only a modest fee increase with European Union President Salmond for English access to the European Economic Area.
Posted by Jason O on Dec 20, 2013 in Books
, US Politics
Another one for the political junkies, “Alpha Dogs” details the rise and fall of Sawyer-Miller, one of the first political consultancy firms, and a firm that played a major role in bringing down both Marcos and Pinochet. Full of little nuggets of political wisdom, including their polling which told Listerine that as their consumers were the sort of people who obey instructions on products, they could increase their sales of Listerine by 25%, by increasing the cap size by 25%. They also proved, in getting Boston Mayor Kevin White reelected in the 1970s, that voters will vote for a candidate they don’t actually like if they can be convinced that he is a) competant, and b) will use competancy to pursue the interests of people like them.
It also highlighted for me how different Irish politics is from most other western countries, in that whilst politics is dominated by professional politicians everywhere, it is remarkable how in Ireland political issues play such a minor role in elections, something Frank Luntz talked about when he was in Ireland. Irish politicians are far more sophisticated in knowing what makes their constituents tick than any pollster can tell them, yet that knowledge seems to paralyse them into policy inactivity. It isn’t that issues like taxes or spending or immigration don’t exist in Ireland, it’s that an entire political class has managed to pull off the most brilliant political three card trick ever, and convinced voters voting to elect members of a national parliament that those issues have nothing to do with them!
A very entertaining read, and the sort of book that political anoraks will need to read with a pen in one hand for marking passages. Or is that just me?