ANNALS OF POLITICS IN AMERICA : THE NEXT PHASE

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^ the new unionism : SEIU members raising up

 

The first significant signs of a new alignment of American politics are already apparent.

Even as the Tea Party and its corporate enablers roar through many “red” states, and even as marriage equality takes hold as the law of all states, new civil rights battles are coming to the fore as well as new economic urgencies.

Free-for-all banking is crashing to the ground as huge financial institutions rely, almost always unsuccessfully, on low level staffs with huge turnover that precludes learning the intricacies of customer service in the age of investment by hedge fund pools and pass-throiugh securities. The future of banking is “go small” : no big bank of today comes close to matching the efficiency and customer service smartness of medium-sized and community banks.

The needs of high-tech and cutting-edge employers for entry-level hires fluent in the basics of programming, math, and reading are pressuring public education to sacrifice common ground for small-unit specialization. This is the motive force behind charter schools, and also the inspiration for opposing common core curriculum standards. Supporters of small, experimental eduction don;t want common standards or a one size fits all school. they want individualized schooling.

 

that entirely individualized schooling cuts children off from the other great educative principle — citizenship in a common community, Horace Mann’s ideal — is less important to these folks, entirely fixated on securing their children a good career.

I oppose their single mindedness, as do many other Americans in the new politics. It’s a battle that will divide old alliances and is already creating new ones. Witness the coalition that opposes “common core” : right wing Republicans and teachers’ unions.

Income inequality in America has reached a level where it threatens the sustainability of the entire economy. Many states are already taking steps tp remedy this imbalance. Some are raising the minimum wage radically; proposals to raise the minimum wage even higher are taking hold in the most progressive cities. Unions, too — until recently dubbed “obsolete” by some “conservatives” — are finding themselves newly popular and powerful. in the service work world, unions are winning huge wage increases — with more to come — and new unions are being organized for the most basic of worker demands : a living wage and basic benefits.

At the same time, many public sector unions are losing popular support, as more such unions are seen to protect wage packages that bust city budgets, packages for six-figure earnings that look to fall on the tycoon side of income inequality.

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^ SEIU leaders : economic power AND women power

Nor does it help public sector unions that they often stand in the way of system reforms. Big changes are coming in how public education is delivered. Many teachers unions are fighting all these changes rather than getting aboard them; and the larger public — much the same public that supports service worker unions — is noticing and not liking.

American living arrangements are shifting radically. Millerites want to work, live, shop, and play in the downtowns of big cities, and in many cases to do so without cars. Almost all the well-paid young techies live this way; few if any have any interest at all in living in suburbs enduring hour to two-hour commutes to work. Meanwhile the less well paid have no choice bit to move away from Downtown — the farther away, the cheaper the housing — and to endure commutes, while shopping in malls along Interstate highways and socializing via online social media. Meanwhile, within the big cities, neighborhoods are reshaping as mini Downtowns, complete with boutiques, nightclubs, leafy restaurants, and young activists, many of them members of education/commerce co-operatives.

In all of these new living arrangements, personal diversity is the norm. Gay, lesbian, transgender people participate as regularly as anyone else; for millennials, personal lifestyle is no more an issue than one’s hair color or choice of beverage.

These changes read like “blue state America,” but they are also occurring in “red’ states. The difference — if it is one — is religion. In most of “blue” America, religion embraces, or tolerates, people’s choices rather than condemn them; the churches of big cities mostly look outward to the whole world as much as, or more than, they look inward into the individual soul. This orientation has big consequences, and a large future. The same, more or less, is true of churches in “blue’ state suburbs. But even if the churches of “red” stares orient opposite, the economies , education, and living arrangements of “red” states are changing in much the same direction as they are in “blue’ states. nd this too has consequences.

One consequence is that the “angry, old, straight white man” who has embodied right wing populism is fading from the scene, like the hippies of 40 years ago. In his place we find nerdy think tankers, big-stomach gun toters, and — ba-da-bing ! — women and people of color. Because, yes, even the South is becoming less nativist, less male dominant, less white.
The Hispanic population of practically every deep Southern state is growing fast. Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, even Alabama will be 20 percent Hispanic soon — or higher than that. Texas will be majority Hispanic by 2030 at the latest. The populations of these states will be younger, too. And more female, because women are the glue that holds immigrant families together.

Thus we arrive at the biggest change of all : America is rapidly moving toward having a majority of its people being of color. This matters in every way, but right now it most matters because the rights of people of color, and of women, have not been achieved as thoroughly as lifestyle civil rights. After all, gay, lesbian, and transgender people are just as likely to be Caucasian as not. Identity civil rights are this mot a matter of skin color or immigrant status.

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the voice & face of change in the Democratic party : Senator Elizabeth Warren

The rights of people of color, and the rights of immigrants, continue to be an issue. But these will be solved by the change in our population. As for the rights of women, these too may well be secured, finally, as women become more powerful politically by way of their primacy in the newly powerful service worker unions. By far the majority of service workers are women; and as service worker women acquire higher pay and greater political power thereby, so will they — as women and as union leaders — secure the personal, body rights that men take for granted.

It was noted that Hobby Lobby, while denying to its women employees health insurance coverage from some contraception, made no such detail for men’s Viagra. In the new era of financially and union empowered women, that kind of discrimination will become unlawful no matter what the excuse.

Our two political parties are only now beginning to adjust to the new America. The Democratic party has adjusted more quickly ; the new unionism unifies Democratic politics in some places, even as the huge change in education is dividing it. The GOP has changed less ; yet even in the GOP, new voices are working out new responses to the change in education, income inequality, and population shifts. The difference is that change in the Democratic party arises from activists and large interest groups, whereas so far in the GOP it is coming mostly from think tanks. Curious, the asymmetry. We live in a democracy, where voters rule. the Democratic party operates on this principle; the GOP doesn’t — yet. My guess is that the GOP will have to change its ways as radically as the nation is changing — will have to start acting like a party of voters, not of researchers; and to trust the voters, not disdain them — or its recipe will fade from the new America.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

9th CONGRESS DISTRICT : A CAMPAIGN THAT IS NO CAMPAIGN AT ALL

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^ the least no-campaign of the four and thus the odd man out ? John Chapman, endorsed by Mitt Romney and Gabriel Gomez

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Four Republicans seek the party’s nomination to lose in November to current Congressman Bill Keating.

That is the fundamental dynamic in this campaign which isn’t really a campaign at all.

Because the four are running a race they will not win, the entire effort is to see which kind of Republican will win the nomination and thus give tone to the Republican party as it peoples the communities within the 9th District.

Minority parties often turn in upon themselves in this fashion. It becomes more important –MUCH more important — within them to see who will command the party than who might actually win an election. in Massachusetts, that’s how the entire GOP operates except for the very separate Governor GOP. The Governor GOP exists to win elections. It’s a normal political party and voices normal political policies that can very well win a majority vote. The same is definitely not true of the other MA GOP. It knows it cannot win and advocates policies that assure that it won’t win, policies advanced for the express purpose of keeping everybody else out. That is why the other MA GOP liberally offends all kinds of voters. The more voters it offends, the less competition for leadership of the party.

It is difficult to run a campaign for Congress within a framework of offending as many voters as possible. Most people who become candidates assume that winning is the objective. It takes them a while to realize that the opposite is what they’ve stepped into. It must be quite a revelation for them to realize that such efforts are won by the candidate who can successfully offend the most voters.

I call a campaign of this type “no campaign at all.” Just as accurate would be to call it an ‘anti-campaign,” a rejection of the very notion of campaigning as we understand the word “campaign” in a democracy. This sort of campaign is Leninist : his method was to direct the Bolshevik party to such extremes as to eliminate all but the hardest of hard core followers.

Leninism is the operative principle of the anti-campaigns that mark most of today’s GOP.

But the Leninists still do not have the ground all to themselves; within the MA GOP there are — to extend the analogy to Russia 1917 — Mensheviks too, and constitutional socialists like Alexsandr Kerensky, even some moderate democrats like Paul Miliukov. And these forces have money behind them, and voters, and they have no intention of being Lenin’d out of the GOP. Thus there is political significance to the GOP primary in the 9th Congress District despite its no-campaign thrust.

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^ playing no-campaign in a District in which exist many issues that a no-campaign refuses to address

The leading candidates all talk the usual national GOP talking points : that the ACA is bad, that we need “job creation,’ that unemployment benefits and other social safety net programs are bad. Nothing could be more meaningless, or boring, not to mention stupid, than these mantras. Because they are utterly meaningless, the actual meaning in the 9th District Primary lies elsewhere, in the no-campaign groove. You must get this fact so as not to dismiss John Chapman, especially, as just another robo. Or to think Daniel Shores naive, or Vincent Cogliano passe’.

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^ young, even normal, ambition : Daniel Shores

Shores is the kind of young, ambitious lawyer who in MA usually runs as a Democrat — in a state where “Demoocrat” means “i want to win’ just as much, or more, than it means anything about policy. Were Shores to win the primary, it would inject some measure of normal political ambition into a party in which ambition usually takes a darker turn.

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Cogliano is a local politician’s local, and as all normal politics is local, his victory would add to the MA GOP some measure of attention to precinct, ward, and community politics, at which most of the MA GOP fails all tests.

Then there’s John Chapman. He has the endorsement of Mitt Romney and Gabriel Gomez, who lives not far outside the District. Gomez today is by far Massachusetts’s most -progressive GOP voice, more so than even Richard Tisei. His endorsement of Chapman, in the state’s most Portuguese District, will carry weight and should. (Gomez is not Portuguese, but as an Hispanic he knows the next-door Portuguese community better than most Anglos.) Chapman seems actually to be seeking voters who want to win the election. To do that, he will have to set aside his robo mantra and campaign on real issues that matter to Portuguese voters : fishing rights, Federal dollars for Section 8 housing and for port building, education reform, student debt reform, ¬†transportation funding, immigrants’ rights : stuff that no-campaign Republicans loathe and spurn. Unfortunately for Chapman, the more he addresses such issues, the more anathema he becomes to Leninist GOP cadres.

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^ Like Lenin with his mentor Georgi Plekhanov : Mark Alliegro with the no-campaign theorist (and former Congressman) Allen West

These cadres belong to the fourth candidate, Mark Alliegro, whose pronunciamentos epitomize the world of no-campaign, of GOP Leninism. Alliegro condemns the ACA, shoots his gun rights mouth off about ‘social engineering,” talks the “freedom’ mantra of those to whom “freedom’ means eliminating all social safety net — indeed, all federal government programs you can think of except (maybe) Defense. For no-campaign Leninism, Alliegro’s rant matches Mark Fisher’s failed governor effort and maybe even surpasses it ; because where Fisher assaulted the Governor GOP in its stronghold — liked the failed Bolshevik attempt of 1917 — Allegro is challenging only the 9th District outpost, a fortress not defended by the Governor GOP. He may not conquer the outpost; but do not bet against it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MAGOV14 : WHY CHARLIE BAKER AS GOVERNOR CAN DO WHAT MAYBE NONE OF THE DEMOCRATS CAN DO

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One of the big reasons why I find a Charlie Baker governorship a positive prospect is that he, as a Republican, can get a lot of things done that probably none of the five Democrats can do. Example : the minimum wage rise bill, which the House voted Yea on just this week.

that bill was going nowhere, because Speaker DeLeo insisted on an unemployment insurance give-back that Speaker DeLeo insisted on but which few of the Democratic party’s core groups wanted to give. then, about two months ago, Baker announced that he supported the DeLeo bill and, what was more, would expand the earned income tax credit.

Two weeks ago Baker won the GOP nomination for Governor. Next thing I knew, DeLeo’s minimum wage bill, with its give back, was on the House agenda and was voted Yea 123 to 24. All but one democrat voted Yea.

Can there be any doubt that the House took up the deleo bill when it did, and voted it yea, because the Democrats did not want to cede the Minimum wage rise issue to Baker ? And so the bill now goes to conference, with the DeLeo bill certain to be the final law, because DeLeo has that power and because Baker is waiting.

As for the Democrats, not one, in anhy Forum, would commit to supporting the DeLeo bill — and as DeLeo said, if the legislation didn’t contain his give back, it “wasn’t going very far.’ (his words) Steve Grossman even said that he would veto a bill that included the DeLeo give-back.

Were Baker not in the fight, and taking the minimum wage issue up, can there be any doubt that we would see years of battle between this Democrat and that one ? After all, that’; how it has been for eight years of Governor Patrick’s administration — sometimes effective, often not effective at all, occasionally a disaster.

All that baker has to do is raise one of the state’s many major issues — education reform, driver’s licenses for immigrabts, crinminal justiuce reform, transportatioon funding, reconfiguring the DCF, redoing state government’s technology — in a progressive way, but in line with what Speaker DeLeo will support, and it gets done. Why ? Simple : the Democratic party cannot allow the Massachusetts Republican party to steal its key issues and, with them, key constituencies.

As long as the State’s major challnges remain a striggle within the Democratic party, with a small GOP entirely on the sidelines, little gets done. Enter Baker as Governor, however, working with the Speaker, and suddenly almost all gets done, very quickly.

This is how Massachusetts has been best governed since 1990 at least. It remains true today. The one Democratic governor candidate whom I haven’t yet discarded, Juliette Kayyem — shrewd and brilliant charisma champion that she is — needs to tell me how she can get done stuff that Baker WILL get done.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

below : the one Democratic governor hopeful left standing : Juliette Kayyem

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POLITICS AFTER OBAMA : THE COMING 2014 ELECTION

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^ in the post-Obama era, insurgents find common ground : Elizabeth Warren and John McCain

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The 2014 mid-term elections are under way, and both parties are preparing a battle which won’t resemble that of 2012 much at all.

We’re moving into the post-Obama period. Agendas are advancing that the President either does not want or has little to do with. Even in foreign policy he doesn’t have his way undisputed : witness the Senate bill, presented by 13 members from each party, to toughen Iran sanctions if the recent Interim Agreement doesn’t lead to a permanent one. The bill’s point is hard to disagree with, but it’s hard to see how diplomacy is assisted by legislation that feels like interference.

I agree with the Wall Street Journal that the hiring of John Podesta as a Presidential adviser announces that Democrats will campaign 2014 as a “class warfare” election. But it’s difficult to see how that translates into support for Obama’s remaining initiatives : immigration reform, gun control legislation, tax reform. The “class warfare” cry seems geared to invigorating the Democratic party for 2016. Same is true of nominating Senator Max Baucus of Montana to be Ambassador to China. Baucus was up for re-election next year; he had already announced his retirement. Montana was carried by Romney in 2012, by 14 points. Electing a Democrat to succeed Baucus was going to be difficult. Now, however, a Democrat — probbaly Lieutenant governor John Walsh, as the Wall street journal says — will assume Baucus’s seat, by appointment, and run in 2014 as the incumbent. It’s a smart move and a party move. Retaining the senate is a must for their 2016 basis.

Obama has wiggle room to pursue party-building stuff because the Republican Party is having to change as well, in the direction of compromise, so that it can be seen as a realistic governing party and not as obstruction. Republican strategy now accords vital budget and funding agreements, even as Obama concentrates on party-building in opposition.

As I have noted in several columns, Democrats at ground level having been moving for many months now to advance an agenda largely (but not entirely) Left-populist : union workers’ rights, higher minimum wages, banking reform, teacher union control of public education, alleviation of pay inequities, greater public spending on infrastructure and aid to families in need. It was easy to see that the infusion of these priorities into Mayor elections in Boston and New York was not happening only for local reasons. Clearly the leaders of this agenda had in mind the 2016 Democratic nomination for President.

At times the intensity of this movement has threatened to split the Democratic party, and i have decried that. we don’t need the Demotratic party to become “Left-tea’d,” as I have put it. But I wonder now if my warnings have been superseded by events. The 2014 campaign is upon us, the Democratic Party as a whole seems committed to the Left-ing agenda, and this is probably a wise decision for the party to make at mid-term time.

What must not happen is for this agenda to appear the Elizabeth Warren for President campaign. THAT would personalize the issues, and generate all manner of opposition to from Democrats threatened. Speaking of Warren, how come I do not see as much love for Senator Bernie Sanders as for her ? Sanders has been an eloquent voice for a Left-populist agenda — much of it very needed — long before Senator Warren appeared on the scene. My suspicion is that Warren Love arises from the 52 million dollars she raised for her 2012 campaign. It is ironic that the Left-populist movement wants big big money even while decrying its influence.

Readers can now ask me : what, if any, of the Left-populist agenda do I support ? Answer : I support quite a bit of it.

1. We do need a higher minimum wage. Substantially higher. Why should taxpayers have to sbsidize low-wage employers who pay their workers so little that they need public assistance to make ends meet ?

2. Employers should not be allowed to use job seekers’ credit scores as a hiring factor except if the job being sought is a financial one such as a comptroller or bank employee.

3. Financial institutions that specialize in customer deposits should not be allowed to use those deposits to engage in arbitrage trading. Or else such trading should be subject to the Federal Reserve’s margin requirements just as these are already imposed on customer accounts at stock-broker firms.

4. Union workers’ pension and benefit rights, as contracted for, should never be subject to legislative negation.

5. Infrastructure is as communal as anything in our society. Maintaining and improving our infrastructure is a vital economic duty. If tax dollars are needed, they should be granted.

But :

1.Education reform. This was the big divisive issue in the Boston Mayor election. I do not agree that teachers’ unions should control public school reform or that corporations have no defensible interest in school performance. I support school competition, because it is from competition that we find out what works well or not so well. I accord teachers unions a central voice in school reform because it is they who must do the teaching and who must work competigtively. But decsions on how to proceed with education reform must be collegial. Corporations have a vital interest in public education because the jobs they must fill depend on school graduates being prepared sufficiently to do them.

2.Unions in general : as I wrote almost every day during the Boston Mayor campiagn, union workers deserve strong representatipon in the halls of power, but they shouldn’t own the halls of power. Union workers number only about 10 %, nationally, of all employees, and no next-generation jobs in the innovating economy easily translate to unionization because almost all such jobs are individually dfifferent, employed by small units constantly reshaping, and involve pay that isn’t just a paycheck but includes benefits, stock, bonuses, and collaboratives. How to accommodate the innovation economy will be a major challenge for Democratic policy leaders facing 2016. Many in the innovation economy might just find a newly reasonable Republican Party more sympatico than a Democratic party committed to Left Populism. Take the fake-“Christian” stuff, the contempt for needy people, and the anti-immigration bigotry¬†out of the Republican agenda, and the possibility is very real for the innovation community to prefer Republican entrepreneur-ist reform to Democratic Left-Populism.

After all, if Elizabeth Warren and John McCain, insurgents both, can co-sponsor banking reform legislation — and they have — then economic innovators are as free to find a useful home on the McCain range as on the Warren one.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

ANNALS OF 2016 : CHRIS CHRISTIE RISING

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^ working with Democrats when that’s what gets the job done : Chris Christie with New Jersey’s new senator, Cory Booker

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Right now, watching Governor Chris Christie rise to the top in New Jersey, winning re-election with 60 % of the vote, I have to pinch myself to remember that he is a Republican. By which I mean, a Republican of now. 30, 50, 60 years ago there were many Republicans with an agenda like Christie’s. His entire stance is that of an insurgent; an optimist; “getting the job done for people.” Yes, his rhetoric sometimes sounds like recent GOP talk, and he’s a bit of a social conservative — but so are many ethnic city Democrats — yet on the ground he is a man who works with whoever he needs to work with to get progress done.

Christie’s talk, stance, and method are those of Fiorello LaGuardia — a fellow Sicilian and northeastern Republican — who, coincidentally, looked a lot like Christie. Stubby, chubby, full-faced. The GOP hasn’t seen someone who looks and talks like Christie in maybe that many decades.

Like LaGuardia and his fellow Progressives, Christie doesn’t suffer fools. He calls out the House GOP and Ted Cruz nonsense in Washington — as it needs to be called out. At times he sounds as though he were running AGAINST the Republican party rather than with it. Of course the Tea folks are running against the Republican party as well; but they are running against it for trying to govern; Christie runs against the party for REFUSING to govern. A huge difference.

You might expect that a man so out of phase with what we have come to think of as the modern GOP would be a fringe character in its 2016 Presidential nomination, but you would be wrong. Christie currently leads the field in almost every poll, and he polls significantly better against potential Democratic nominees than any of his rivals. No, he is not the candidate of GOP think tanks, of planners of principle, of testers of litmus. He does not think the Democratic party treasonous, socialist, or contemptible. The right wing charlatans of entertainment demagoguery hate him — a hate which he sees, rightly, as an asset for him. He’s about as unlike a pastor of bigotry as it’s possible to be. He has no patience for those who would tell people how to live their lives. He doesn’t think poor people are lazy, homeless people useless, gay people damned. He doesn’t think that you need an ID to vote and if you don’t have one, you’re committing vote fraud. He doesn’t sling the word “patriot” around like a vomit grenade, doesn’t fart about 1776, doesn’t throw shoes at undocumented immigrants.

Yet he is a Republican. Of now. And not JUST a Republican; maybe, just maybe, he is THE Republican. His surge to the top of most polls tells me that the Republican electorate, if not yet its crowd-fund queen bees, has moved on from bitterness, contempt, ignorance; from vileness of all sorts; that the Republican electorate actually wants its leader to be ABOUT something; to want to “get the job done for people.”

There are signs aplenty that such is the case. Tea folk are losing primaries : in Alabama and in Louisiana, no less. Anti-Tea money is coming into the picture big-time. The GOP national committee is moving to make primaries the method of choosing an ominee, not caucuses. So far the change hasn’t nicked the House GOP much at all; but in the Senate the push back to normality has been huge, and lasting. Today the Senate’s Republiacn caucus can often be counted on to “get things done for the people.” (And let us give credit here to John McCain, who has had maybe his best and certainly most influential Senate year in his long career there.)

In New Jersey, Christie has formed alliances with whichever Democratic legislators and interests he needed to ally with in order to move his State’s agendas forward. He has done so even in preference, at times, to members of his own party Famously, this week he decided not to support Tom Kean, Jr., an influential Republican state senator and son of New Jersey’s revered former Governor Thomas Kean, Sr., as Senate President: because that was what the state senate’s Democratic leader, Steve Sweeney, insisted upon. Sweeney and Christie have frequently worked together on New Jersey legislation. the combination continues.

It would surprise me if this “get the job done for people” mantra did not pretty soon become the top theme for a party that has all but abased itself to the point of no return. In politics, the great thing about points of no return is that, return is then the ONLY option. Thus the move to Chris Christie, the man who embraced President Obama when it made a huge point and who still embraces him, with respect to the rocky rollout of Obamacare. Why ? Because he sees a President who is trying to “get the job done for the American people.”

Just as he, chris Christie, promises to do. Not a bad promise at all for ANY serious politician to make to the American people.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere