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2018 Summer Online – Politics 333: Democracy and…

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Welcome to 333: Democracy and Democratization:
Week 4 – July 16:
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in American Democracy

The Bad and the Ugly seem to be everywhere these days. There is plenty to criticize about the President, whether you are usually sympathetic to conservative, libertarian, or progressive views – and there is no difficulty finding those discussions.  We’re going to do some other things that might illustrate parts of what’s going on today.

First, something that may or may not be serious. Could it really be that a real-estate/reality-tv host candidate may have run for President because someone teased him? Maybe…

There are many possibilities to approach the difficulties in American politics and American democracy today. Some are borne by Trump, for sure. But other approaches are important too: the role of political geography; the seeming dissipation of threats from foreign states; the rise of globalization and technology, including social media; the viciousness against President Clinton and his detestable behavior, and the hangover now of Mrs Clinton having shamed and defamed his many accusers; the vulnerability of 9/11; the failure to find massive WMD programs in Iraq and inability to develop some other positive outcome there; the re-emergence of racism against Obama’s rise; the devastating impacts of the financial crises of 2008; and more.

Two of the enduring themes in American politics and American democracy are (1) the Alexander Hamilton notion of a strong central state, the importance of business and urban centers, a technocracy of elites and (2) a Thomas Jefferson notion of amateur politicians, rural life, and state/local rule rather than national-level dominance.

25.II.2 Cabinet Battle #1 Lyrics – Hamilton Musical from Trần Quang Trung on Vimeo.

Each of these is a bit of a caricature, but until recently each was a reasonable approximation of modern American political parties.

But in the last few years, the Democratic and Republican parties have become further away from each other, and have developed their own internal divisions.  Democrats’ divisions were characterized by Bernie Sanders – not even a registered Democrat – running a progressive campaign against the establishment favorite Hillary Clinton.  The rifts continued into a fierce battle over DNC leadership, the recent primary win of a young “democratic socialist” in New York City, and Sen. Diane Feinstein losing California Dem’s endorsement for re-election.  Republicans were fiercely set against each other as “Trump / MAGA” and #NeverTrump camps. Every few weeks, the President seems to do something (most recently border family separations and apparent subservience to Putin) that peels away his few remaining prominent supporters.

One approach to all this is to look at American democracy today and the division between “global cultural coastal elites” and “those left behind in Middle America.” There is some overlap of race and age, but the real division is over hope and prospects.

Maybe you went to college and lived near or moved to a big city, you got a job in finance or law or computer engineering or another “thinking” job.  Or maybe you didn’t go to college and stayed in your declining small town far from New York or L.A. or Boston or Silicon Valley.  The last 40 years have been enormously good to many people in the first category, and enormously difficult for many people in the second category.  Trade and technology have made it difficult for people and regions that relied on manufacturing and agriculture, while “innovators” at Goldman Sachs, Google, and the like achieved incomparable success.

Thomas Frank is a coastal elite – originally from Kansas, but with a B.A. from U.Va. and M.A. and Ph.D. from U.Chicago (“coastal elite” in approach and impact, if not in geography).  A committed progressive and Democrat living in a very-blue D.C.-suburb of very-blue Maryland, he asked What’s the Matter with Kansas – why do they vote “wrong” (Republican). More recently, he complied a scathing indictment of his own party, Listen,  Liberal. He criticizes his Democratic Party for abandoning the working class of America in favor of its fetish for young coastal techies.  He condemns it for adding a moral layer to success and meritocracy: whether you are a success or not, you deserve your fate.  This Democratic Party, he argues, has forced much of Middle America into Donald Trump’s siren song.

An introduction:

In this clip, Frank offers a short critique of the Clintons and pro-Wall Street, pro-tech deliberate, decades-long choice of the Democratic Party to shift from a party of the working class to a party of the winners class.

A few selections in this approach follow. Please read:

Thomas Frank, critical of President Obama abandoning the working class in his 2014 State of the Union

Cornell West, critical of Obama’s appealing to Wall Street and Republicans instead of the people who need him

Thomas Frank warning that America’s political parties have failed the working class, and thus permitted Donald Trump to be considered worth a shot by people for whom The System has absolutely not worked

James Traub, the son of New York elites, demanding that elites stop the ignorant masses – his words

National Review contributors – leading #NeverTrump conservatives and Republicans who supported Hillary over Trump

Thomas Frank again, the day after the 2016 presidential election, in a grubby I told you so

And finally, how the top 9.9 percent try desperately to stay in that top decile, “hoarding the American dream.”  The top 0.1 percent are fine.  The bottom 90 percent of us have an enormous uphill climb.  But the 9.9 percent themselves are anxious too – here’s how they deal with it.

These selections are all of a similar kind – that culture and economics divide and divided America – that Donald Trump is a symptom and accelerator of this divide, not a source of it.  There are other approaches we could have taken and other concepts we could have emphasized – immigration, Big Pharma, criminal justice reform, etc.  Maybe you will choose one of these or something else for your end-of-semester paper.  But for this week, we’ll use Frank’s approach.

If you like, a much longer (and completely optional) longer video.


* by Thursday night – a news link – esp. a story or source we might not have seen – with your own comment – post on fb
* by Friday night – your “essay” post (probably 300-400 words) at the bottom of this page, based on the essay prompts (“questions”) below
* by Saturday night – post to our facebook group about what you are thinking for your end-of-semester 2000-word essay – you and I can talk about this individually, too
* by Sunday night – comment (approx 20-40 words) on at least one classmate’s news post on fb, and  comment (approx 100 words each) on at least two classmates’ essay posts at the bottom of this page

In up to 400 words, at the bottom of this page, bring together two or three or more of these writings and videos. Some of the best essays are likely to be about things you found particularly surprising, but you are not limited to this theme.

Great, let’s go!

18 Replies to “CUA-333-DEM-july16”

  1. Since 2011, when Donald Trump began the birther movement and started talking about possibly running for President, the national news media has gone one step further to exploit his words and actions. From 2011 to 2016 the Democratic Party of America did not take Mr. Trump seriously; they laughed at him and took all of his gaffes as gaffes, nothing more, nothing less. Unfortunately for them, in 2016 the great ‘silent majority’ came out of hiding and elected Donald Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul and television star, to the most powerful position in the world. Even President Barack Obama did not take any of Mr. Trump’s statements seriously. They dismissed Fox News and other Conservative media outlets. The moral of this story is that you should never dismiss anyone with money and influence.
    And as the Democratic party grows further left from the center, they will do anything to distort or destroy Donald Trump. They do not like him or anyone associated with him. Their platform starts with “I hope America fails and Trump dies in hell!.” That statement was on a sign at the women’s march in January of 2017 when Trump was inaugurated. I saw a young woman, probably not even in college yet, holding that sign in her hands while on the DC Metro. It took my breath away. The fact that their party is motivated by the death of our President and the failure of our country says a lot about the modern Democratic party.
    The Republican Party is not any better, yes, I know that. People like Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Kellyanne Conway are radical people. They do not have the country’s interest in their filter, only their party’s. The people closest to the President should be level-headed, brilliant, and easy going. But all we know about these three Breitbart readers is that they enjoy destroying the Clinton’s and boosting their repor with Donald Trump.
    Two-party system needs a shake-up, let me tell ya.

    1. A great article I have recently read on the Democratic Party is by Chad Pergram, the senior Capitol Hill producer for Fox News.
      In the article, he discusses how what unites the Democrats right now is their opposition to to President Trump. But, that opposition is exactly what is tearing them apart. There are the ‘Maxine Waters’ and the ‘Chuck Schumer’ dems. The party is being torn apart because of the different reactions to Trump. Just look at Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, who would hug the President if it meant more votes vs. Rep. Maxine Waters rallying against the president. The people who are suddenly out of the spotlight are the never Trump conservatives. These political pundits were under the spotlight leading up to the 2016 election. It was about the division of the Republican party- which is still VERY much there. Now, that the media seems to be focusing more on the Democrats is because of the midterm elections coming up. They have nothing to lose, but everything to gain. The question is not necessarily if the party will persist, but how they will persist. What faction of the democratic party will continue. Te Obama coalition is gone, the same people who voted for President Obama did not all vote for Secretary Clinton. The democratic party is anti-trump so we know what they stand against so the question now is what do they stand for.

      The article by James Traub touches on this question. Will the Democratic party aim to regain the voice of the angry farmers and steel workers, or will they abandon that and go after the intellectuals in universities and media moguls on the coasts? In this upcoming election who will the ‘ignorant masses’ as Traub calls them vote for? A wacky, maybe unstable President who makes their voice feel heard or the party against him? Right now, they are marketing it as if a vote for any Republican is a vote for Trump. A vote for anyone who is DC establishment is a vote for Trump. This may be the year of more Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s defeating people like Chair of the Democratic Caucus Crowley. At the same time, the Joe Manchin’s of Congress could be defeated for not being enough to the right. Both parties are having issues and right now the only thing that is certain is that the people who did not show up to the polls in 2016 are certainly showing up now.

    2. I couldn’t agree more. Everybody is caught up over a person being a republican or a democrat. And once you are labeled as one, every person from the other side despises you, even though you may agree on many issues. We need to raise awareness that there are other parties in this country. Also living in a democratic society, we have the ability to start a political party.

    3. You spoke some enormous facts! I, too, feel that many became too comfortable. The egos centered around many of the Democratic party were too enormous. No one thought about the flip side of things. They just sat back and ‘thought’ that nothing would ever happen. They mocked and laughed. They celebrated way too early. They counted their cows, way before it even moo’d. Many sat on their high horses and took many of the voters for granted. Not even paying attention to how the times had swayed — many sat back and let it happen. That is right, they let it happen. What happened to the statement that nothing is fair in politics? Were they not keeping the inner speakings of that? I feel a bit disappointed in all that has happened. I feel that many got caught up in the notion of badmouthing — that they had forgotten about the voters at hand. Politics is changing. That is something that I feel that the Democrats had forgotten about. Many wish to feel the politics that they are voting upon. Many wanted to relate. Unfortunately, I feel like the Democratic party cannot relate anymore. We need fresh blood. Great post!!

    4. it does seem the Democratic party and media are heavily invested in trying to slander President Trump. Since Trump’s election, people have to be a bit more cautious about proclaiming their political views. We have seen celebrities ridiculed for having a pro-right stance on a current topic. The news can paint these people as evil Trump supporters, but I believe many Americans are sick of this. It does not matter what side of politics you are on, people should be allowed to voice their own opinions without fear of ridicule. Until that stops there will be a continuing political divide in this country.

  2. Griffin and Liz –

    I think you both do a good job of outlining two of the divisions in the US today — the angry left vs the angry right (leaving out most of America?), and each party’s own “insiders vs outsiders” tensions.

    Will be good to see how the rest of you approach these and the related questions…


  3. This current political climate is rife with issues that separate American people everyday. The song from Hamilton, Cabinet Battle #1, is a good example of the way our current government continues to run. The democrats and the republicans fight about anything they can. We have had multiple government shutdowns because the two sides can’t agree on a budget. Each side will do whatever they can to discredit the other, while making themselves seem like the only choice. The problem with that is, the other side doesn’t always have a plan. The most recent example would be Obama care and Trump care. The republican party has never liked Obama care and has wanted to get rid of it since Obama announced his plan. When Trump was elected, they had their chance. The problem with that was they didn’t have a plan in place to replace Obama care. When Hamilton says “but they don’t even have a plan, they just hate mine”, it shows that things like this have been happening since the start of our government, and that maybe it is time for a change.
    On the other side though, there is division within each party. Democrats and Republicans are turning on their fellow party members. This is because of the large polarizing issues within each party. Thomas Frank talks about the shift of the democratic party from the working class to the winners class. They have shifted from the people who work blue collar jobs that need the help of the government, to the people that have college educations and high paying jobs. Frank criticizes the Clinton administration and how Clinton distanced himself from the traditional democrats in office, like Jesse Jackson. This was also seen during the 2016 presidential election with Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton. The people that supported Bernie were more of the far left, while Hilary had the more the rest of the Democratic party. The Republican party is not in any better shape, with the divide caused by President Trump and his polarizing actions. The truth is that something needs to change in the political parties and fast.

    1. Harry —

      I like your comparison of Ham-Jeff to “GOP has no plans that could replace the ACA” –

      And the divisions within each party – these really are something…. you say something needs to change: what is that something?

    2. I like the observation that there is now a further divide within the parties. I was watching today how more moderate Democrats are concerned with socialist democrats like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Cortex. We see the same thing happening on the right. I think majority of the people are politically slanted a little left or right. They are almost being forced now to have to decide between two extremes.

  4. Thomas Frank’s video points out the division in America and the what seems to be the forgotten blue collar class. I found it interesting Frank brought up the NAFTA agreement. He stated over two-hundred eighty professors signed off on it saying it would be an economic success. Yet, there was major backlash from blue collar farmers, who would be affected by this agreement. After watching this video, it makes me question who the government, during the time the agreement was signed, was looking out for? I believe people do not always remember there is much more to America, than the coasts. The media and politics always tend to focus on New York, Washington and DMV area. Because of that, we saw the result of discounting middle America in the election.
    Since media and news outlets cover these coastal cities, we can get a false sense of what Americans are really feeling. Coincidentally, these cities are also majority liberal. I think that is part of the reason why liberals have a bigger voice in media. There are still plenty of conservatives in America, but they have a more difficult time getting their views out. it’d be interesting to see a liberal, coastal, major city that’s always covered in the news, swing conservative. Would there be more of a variety of perspective in the news?
    America has caught onto this and that is why there is such a divide in the country today. People do not believe they can trust the news necessarily to give them both sides of the story. I believe it is good that people are questioning where they get their news from and how accurately it portrays both sides. Although, it can be dangerous if nothing is done to combat it and people are left to just doubt everything the news reports.

    1. The majority of Americas biggest biggest cities are on the coast, meaning a larger chunk of the population living in certain areas. This leaves out the markets in states that are middle America where people still live and work. Their voices need to be covered more in media. There is a false sense of America looking in from the outside, due to the major media markets being not representing middle America.

    2. Demographically, the news media covers what they want to cover. You are correct. I live in America’s biggest media market, in terms of cost of a 30-second advertisement. There is so much more bias in the news on television and in the papers on the coasts, where the cities are, than in the central United States. On one side you have New York, Boston, Hartford, Philly, Newark, Washington, Charlotte, Arlington, Baltimore, Charleston, and Tampa/Orlando. And on the other side is Portland, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, LA, and Phoenix. But in many parts of the country, the media is straightforward and non bias due to a lack of interest in their market. I would say Chicago and Dallas are the only two areas where the media tries to infiltrate that are inside our coastlines.

    3. Tyler, I definitely agree with this. The professors from academia who signed off on the agreement definitely have different life experiences and opinions than the farmers who denounced the agreement. The assigned book This Town, by Mark Leibovich is very relevant to the media only being focused on the two coasts. I think a lot of that has to do with the changing media culture. Alhough there are more online media outlets like Politico, it does not mean the things getting covered are any different from what was being covered before. If anything, the media with more competition was focusing more on a smaller base. On page 202 the Press Secretary for Congressman Issa says, ”There are times when I pitch a story and they do it word for word. That’s just embarrassing. They’re adjusting to a time that demands less quality and more quantity. And it works to my advantage most of the time because I think most reporters have liked me packaging for them. Most people will opt for what’s easier, so they can move onto the next thing. Reporters are measured by how often their stuff get’s on Drudge.” The problems could be that the press are not covering communities properly and in turn they are not getting the right information and being misrepresented and then misunderstood by the press.

  5. I had the pleasure of watching both of the videos by Thomas Frank. The titles of those videos were, ‘Why Democrats Lose and It’s Clinton who Wrecked the Democratic Party’. Both were very informative postings. After the election of President Donald Trump, there was much conversation on the weight that Democrats have been playing in politics. Many felt that the Democrats had dropped the ball on the most important election to date. Many felt that there was much betrayal, confusion and less innovative thinking. Thomas did a very great job on pointing out some of the key components of the various arguments. In ‘Why Democrats Lose’, he states that Democrats have become somewhat of the new creative class; one that is to stand at the end of history. He stated that many went to more affluent schools and that their credentials made who they are. It was also noted that one will protect another from the exact circle. That they are all of the winning team. However, it was also noted that many had become complacent to the things surrounding them. That, they are the ones who rejects any movements of change. I could not agree with him more. Democrats have been on a slower pace than what this country truly need. Many of the Democratic party are much engulfed in their popularity, that many will miss the direct mark to change, awaiting in their face. Democrats have now normalized the stagnant essence of proper change. Rather that purely fighting for the very things needed, they have now become the very leaders trapped into only fighting particular people. I have become upset by what the Democratic party has become. There is a true need for drastic change. Too often, we continue to see the same faces and names. Although we could never take away the footwork that many of these important leaders have put in — I cannot deny that there is time for a change. Times are changing. We are coming upon a newer generation who are not about the popularity or credentials of others. We are coming up on a generation who is not resume driven, rather — the issues at hand. Just as with the video regarding the Clintons, many have begun to notice the ills of the past and having that create the great weight on the votes of the future. Just as the video stated, the Clinton administration truly created a new wave of the Democratic party. That administration came and did something that many were afraid to do. However, many of the more traditional things were slowly becoming a thing of the past. Many noticed when President Clinton distanced himself from the more Democratic leaders. No one could ever forget how he and Jesse Jackson took an adverse turn towards another. This, in my opinion was bad. This was more of a creation of the great divide. In my opinion, that was something that is never needed. When many start to bring up the Democratic party, unfortunately — you start to think of the great divide. A divide in good faith and a divide in a stronger fight to push the agendas full speed ahead. Yes, the Democratic party is in need of a much needed change. The question becomes, at what cost?

    1. You’re comment ” democrats are too focused on their popularity,” is one of the many things that is wrong, as well as the need for change in leadership and representation in the Democratic party. As times change, so too must the party. We cannot remain stuck in the past. Our current party isn’t representative of the direction we are heading in. We need new, younger blood, that understand our generation, the generation that will be taking over everything. And as you said, we obviously must not forget the contributions that our leaders have made, but it’s time to step down and give others a chance to lead.

  6. So sorry this is late! I’ve been traveling (driving down the east coast) all weekend and have been trying to get all of my work done!!

    I’m a Democrat, and I tell it like it is. I don’t side with Democrats just for party unity. If they’re wrong, then I’ll let them know they are. The Democrats were wrong in the 2016 election, plain and simple. Thomas Frank sums it up pretty perfectly in his first video when he says “a betrayal to the working class by democrats.” She didn’t even visit the rust belt until the end of the campaign when she and her campaign realized they needed to. They were too focused on gaining the young vote, and having these crazy campaign rallies that were practically concerts. In Miami, she had a “rally” where Marc Anthony, JLO, and Pitbull performed. Of course thousands of people were going to show up for this. It was a free concert. The media portrayed it as all her “followers” when in reality it was a bunch of people coming to see a free concert. Doesn’t mean they were voting for her. I believe Clinton was too focused on the glitz and the glam of gaining the young vote that she completely forgot about the working class and in fact I think it was all of this glitz and glam celebrity elite status that rubbed the working class the wrong way. Middle class America doesn’t relate to that. Middle class America doesn’t care about the biggest campaign rally with the hottest superstars performing. They wanna hear what you’re going to do for them. How are you going to make their lives better. I say this because I worked on the Clinton campaign. I interviewed hundreds upon hundreds of people throughout Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. People were turned off by Clinton. She wasn’t relating enough to them. But no one payed attention. We would submit our results to the team and after it was reviewed nothing would change. They wouldn’t even discuss it in our team meetings. This leads into Frank’s article on how the parties failed middle class America and allowed Trump to win the election. While everyone was focusing elsewhere, Trump went to the rust belt. He heard people and talked to them. Yeah the stuff coming out his mouth was craziness and absurd, but nonetheless people were pleased that he was listening to them, and coming to see them. On top of this, he made a good point, that these parties, that the government wasn’t working for them. Year after year we elect the same people to represent us, but far too often we get the crap end of the stick. And he’s right – I just wish it wasn’t him to pick up the baton and lead us.

    I also found it interesting to hear what Frank said in his first video and that was that “democrats are fighting for their identity.” It’s interesting to think about really. He points out that the parties are abandoning middle class America, but are they really? Let’s talk about the democrats specifically. He says that the democrats are focusing too much on silicon valley, progressive, etc. and not enough on the middle class families, not enough on the coal industry, you know, the backbone of America. But times are changing. Why must the democratic party continue to identify itself with the identity of the past. As our way of life changes, shouldn’t the identity of the party? Shouldn’t the democratic party focus on the future, on the new technology that is taking over the work force. Can’t we still represent middle class America but also focus on giving them the tools to be successful in this new age?

    1. Hot dang — hot dang! This was nothing but the truth. She totally missed her marks. She became arrogant and tried to scramble at the last minute. She was waving her resume, that she forgot to relate to many Americans. She forgot that her husband was not running for the President of the United States — she was. I was very disappointed in how she scrambled to get the youth vote. She had to realize that she was not the same as former President Barack Obama. She was the same who called minorities, Super Predators. Then — she wanted to please the crowd by saying that she had hot sauce in her bag? I was truly offended. Anything for a vote, huh? You bringing up those concerts were another example of the scramble for votes. Many just wanted a free concert and checked their social media accounts once she had spoken. She disregarded the middle class in a way. She forgot that they are also very much heavy voters. Great post!

  7. For my response I will focus on Thomas Frank’s video and Cornel West’s article. It really interested me that Mr. Frank believes the Clinton’s wrecked the Democrat party. I agree with his comment as it was known during President Clinton’s administration he peeled back restrictions on the financial industry. When Mrs. Clinton was campaigning for the 2016 election she was often criticized for earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per event she spoke at that was sponsored by a major financial institution. Many were angry for two reasons. The first was how extraordinarily high the payments were just to speak for an hour. The second part was that her loyalty to Wall Street was straying away from the Democratic Party’s platform of helping the working class. Many working class Democrats did not feel like they had her entire support. They feared that if Mrs. Clinton were elected she would appease only the 1% and not the other 99%. When it came election time Mrs. Clinton lost all of middle America as blue collar Americans strongly supported President Trump. He promised to fight for them by bringing jobs back to our country and a lower tax bracket. At the end of the day Mrs. Clinton focused on taxing the wealthy and keeping Obamacare in effect. Mr. West believes that there is no progressive candidates within the Democratic Party. He is extremely concerned with all of the money candidates take in from corporations making large donations. This is seen in his eyes as political extortion and legal corruption. Candidates are focusing too much on the interests of their wealthy corporate donors and not the average American who votes for them.

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