Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Reductionist Politics

I had a discussion with a couple of Sandernistas online the other day.  Maybe you've had this experience.  Maybe you are one.  Here's what I came away with after two separate discussions: Sanders supporters reduce all politics to a single issue: money in politics.

Now, I agree that money in politics is bad.  It warps and shapes policies in ways that can hurt people.  The current landscape is as bad as we've seen since the Gilded Age.  But money in politics is not the root of all evil.  It is not the cause of all our problems.

Here is some excellent (if poorly explained) analysis of why Americans often vote for conservative candidates.  Sanders people will tell you that working class whites have abandoned the Democratic party, because the Democrats under Clinton (and Obama) have been corrupted by money and are now indistinguishable from Republicans.  This is the essential Nader argument in 2000.  Anyone who has lived through the Bush and Obama years with their eyes and ears open needs to appreciate how absurd the idea that Republicans and Democrats being indistinguishable is.

Because liberals stretching back to FDR have embraced free trade, this only goes to show money-in-politics.  Because they reformed banks rather than break them up, this only goes to show money-in-politics.  Because they have allowed fracking that has driven energy prices to historic lows, this only goes to show money-in-politics.  It's a closed system that requires no explanation and no evidence.  It is a self-evident article of faith.  It is at the root of this spurious idea of "revolution."

America isn't secretly a left wing country, just waiting for Sanders to come along and unleash this left wing coalition of poor whites and minorities.  It's full of the people Sean McElwee describes in the article above: poor whites who have focused their resentment on minorities, especially blacks.  Trump may vary some from the GOP orthodoxy, but that's not WHY he's popular.  He's popular in SPITE of his heterodoxy.  He's popular, because he's tapped into that racist energy that exists among working class whites.  As I've said before, I see my fair share of Confederate battle flags in Connecticut.

By reducing everything to money-in-politics, Sanders and his supporters are true to their neo-Marxist roots.  And there is a great deal of validity in diagnosing this problem.  However, nothing, and I mean nothing, is because of one reason and one reason only.  Especially not complicated matters of public policy.

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