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To Better Serve Humans (but Not Like in a Cannibal Way) updated

There is a segment of Twitter where if I was to say what I'm about to say here I would be accused of being a Russian bot (I wish I was joking but I've said things that were factually correct and been accused of being a Ukrainian millennial):  The Democratic Party bears some responsibility for Fragile Ego entering the White House. Boom! Neo-commie Russki Spy baby. I blame the incremental nature of centrism.

My position on incrementalism as previously stated:
This is the thing with neoliberalism or market-based liberalism and the politics of incrementalism.  It starts by arguing from the position of what is politically possible rather than making any argument for what is morally necessary beyond the need to act. It is philosophically an automatic concession to conservative politics, and has been for 30 years. It's the politics of 'wait your turn.'
I've been trying to get into the minds of people who pursue centrism as a goal. I can't. Who are these people who want ideas that are a little left and a little right, a mix of Democratic and Republican ideals; who want something that's a little bit country and a little bit rock n roll in 2017 because that's an electoral winner? This is not rhetorical, I've been blocked by people on Twitter with whom I've never interacted over this question. What makes their thinking so unfathomable for me is that I can't imagine anyone with even a vague grasp of current events and history believing that Republicans at this point believe in anything other than tax cuts and military over-spending. So that's the starting point on the right. The starting point on the left, as pointed out by our former president, is essentially 80s moderate Republican. There are people who plot positions between a philosophy animated by tax cuts regardless of problem on the right and bilateralism for it's own sake on the left and argue that those positions will strengthen democracy. I had to walk away for a few moments. Thinking about this creates a dissonance feedback loop that leaves me unable to use words and it seemed better than just writing this whole setup again because, REALLY?

In working with children with difficult behaviors one thing you learn is the need to build strong relationships with kids who have a strong flight instinct. It's helpful to be able to attract them back, since chasing generally escalates the situation. The Republican party, after steady movement right, long ago went off the cliff. The Dems didn't push them but instead of holding their ground bringing them back, they followed them right up to the edge. If elected Democrats are basically 80's Republicans where is the space for rational Republicans to return to? The end of HRC's campaign should sound the death knell for centrism and neoliberalism, for incrementalism as a goal. If it had one, the motto for centrism would be, "don't make the perfect the enemy of the good." It sounds so reasonable and I have grown to absolutely hate it. It is a phrase that can really only be spoken from a place of comfort.  Centrism is just good enough, it is the politics of abject cynicism disguised as pragmatism.  It is a woefully limited political perspective chained to what is "possible" ignoring the history of collectively making the seemingly impossible now. Thinking back to when HRC said that single payer wouldn't happen it felt discordant. Even if you felt the same way did you believe that it wouldn't happen because it was truly impossible or because it would be difficult, because we lacked the political will? Neoliberalism is asking for my vote while admitting you lack either the skill or determination to fight for hard things. If you disagree please tell me the morally acceptable centrist position for addressing the unaccountable state killing of unarmed members of the black community or the acceptable number of people going bankrupt or dying every year due to medical costs.

It's time to complete the motto, make it apply to the left as a whole from the center to the progressive wing: Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good; and don't let what's needed be held hostage by what's "possible". In the aftermath of the election the meaning of "possible" should be clear:
What was once derided as the promise of free ponies are growing as consensus positions for the party. This would be a good moment to realize how stifled our political imagination has been for decades. What was "radical" a year ago has become mainstream. This is the time to build visions that push past conventional wisdom, that aspire to moral ideals, not as a political litmus test, but because we need at least one political party focused on confronting actual problems faced by its human constituents 

Instead of beginning with what is politically possible we need to begin with what our constituents need, the ideal solutions and how to work towards those solutions; the incremental steps for reaching those goals. Starting by looking at actual people we'd quickly realize our unaddressed needs are so pervasive and deep that the "radical" solutions from last year are inadequate.

In addition to the focus on increasing the minimum wage, single payer healthcare and debt-free college here are 3 other areas on which the Democrats should focus:

1) Voting Rights

The Democrats need to become the party of voting rights again. Voter suppression was obvious in 2000 and has become more widespread every year since with states ejecting voters from the rolls and instituting new laws for voter IDs. With the end of the VRA, considering that this is the second time in five elections their popular vote getter has lost and that the voter suppression affects their voters, Democrats appear to be incredibly ambivalent. They should invest time and resources into fighting Crosscheck and increasing access to voter IDs until they are able to begin overturning the voter ID laws (which means they should start actively fighting these voter ID laws). They should also emphasize the restoration of voting rights for the formerly incarcerated arguing that once you have "paid your debt to society" you should have the opportunity to regain all your rights. There are arguments to be made about the nature of redemption and forgiveness that need to be a part of our general sense of justice. If the Democrats are not making these arguments, infusing these values into the discourse then no one is.

2) Anti-trust Enforcement and Consumer Protection

Do you find yourself thinking about the nature of capitalism-- the way that it's not about competing for customers but conspiring to trap them with no choice? It's arguable that the late stage capitalism that we are experiencing is something other than true-capitalism, which is exploitative just enough to leave opportunities for future exploitation. This feels like a march towards death. It is also arguable that this march towards death is all capitalism has ever been. I remember when AT&T was broken up into the Bells. I was a child but I can't imagine AT&T then holding a candle to any of the mega-conglomerates controlling too many aspects of our lives now. It's time for the Democrats to decide to be the party of the people again, of unions and families. You can't serve two 'masters'. They can't be responsive to their constituents and their mega-donors. They can only pretend or lie. There are arguments for breaking up these conglomerates, that I don't find compelling, about saving capitalism from itself. This concentration of industry kills innovation. Why improve in the absence of competition when you can simply charge more. My favorite arguments are about placing more control in the hands of the people. It seems strange to me that people are more concerned about control by a government that they choose than by a corporation whose sole purpose is to profit at their expense. (Although it is worth noting the degree to which this might be a false dichotomy.) It would seem this is another place where neoliberalism has failed us. Rather than make a robust argument for what citizens should demand from their government they are ambivalent, apologetic, or make the Republican argument. It's not hard to make the case for what will happen when every sector is controlled by the same few conglomerates. How many more dystopian films and tv shows based on that premise do we need before we own that it's an over-used trope simply because that's a more believable future than the social collaboration of Star Trek? Democrats were once much better at garnering the support of people who feel that how things are is not how they must be.

3) Universal Basic Income

For this one images first because point made. Neoliberalism looks to strike a position between the descending 90% and rising 10%. A winning strategy constantly involves visuals like these and a laser-like focus on the 90%. While I've not read What Happened I have read several readers' live tweeting of their experience and read shared passages and pages. One of the biggest surprises for me was that Hillary talks about universal basic income, which is far more "radical" than single payer. It's also the opposite of a neoliberal policy and has a built in pro-capitalism argument for our consumption based economy. Where the fuck was that on the campaign trail? Are you telling me that that idea with a vague acknowledgement (not even mea culpas) of the damage wrought by NAFTA would not have been enough to overcome the vote difference throughout the Rust Belt? Even if an audience is not receptive to a specific proposal they will recognize if you're centering the proposal on their needs.

The argument against UBI will be the same as the argument against single payer, we can't afford it. Rather than respond directly I'd like to share an image from a time that brings a sense of nostalgia for me, a few weeks ago:

That's from before most dems decided to vote for making our military the size of the next 12 or 13 countries combined. I contend that at this point any Democrat incapable of making an argument for voting against the last military spending increase may be a very bad politician. We should be able to make the argument right now for being only as big as the next five militaries with compelling narratives of where we'd invest the savings.


Forgot one thing. Recognizing that there are no original ideas I may have to start adding at the end of my entries articles that make a similar point in a different way. This one highlights in part how Bernie connected incremental action to the larger pursuit of single payer.


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