September 30, 2010
The New York Times recently ran a story about Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to support the campaigns of centrist Republicans out of concern that the election of “Tea Party” – backed candidates was pushing the Republican Party to the extreme right. The article by Michael Barbaro began this way:
In an election year when anger and mistrust have upended races across the country, toppling moderates and elevating white-hot partisans, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is trying to pull politics back to the middle, injecting himself into marquee contests and helping candidates fend off the Tea Party.
Although it’s nice to see Mayor Bloomberg take a stand in support of centrism, I believe he is going about it the wrong way. There are almost as many different motives driving people to the Tea Party movement as there are attendees at any given Tea Party event. Although the movement is usually described as a far-right-wing fringe phenomenon, reporters who have attended the rallies and talked to the people found a more diverse group. Consider the observations made by True Slant’s David Masciotra, who attended a Tea Party rally in Valparaiso, Indiana back on April 14:
The populist anger of the Northwest Indiana tea partiers could be moved to a left-wing protest rally without much discernible difference.
As much as the NWI Patriots seemed to hate Obama and health care reform, they also hate large corporations and the favorable treatment they are given by Washington.
* * *
They have largely legitimate concerns and grievances about the quality of their lives and future of their children’s lives that are not being addressed in Washington by either party. Their wages have stagnated, while the cost of raising a family has crushingly increased.
My pet theory is that the rise of the Tea Party movement is just the first signal indicating the demise of the so-called “two-party system”. I expect this to happen as voters begin to face up to the fact that the differences between Democratic and Republican policies are subtle when compared to the parties’ united front with lobbyists and corporations in trampling the interests of individual citizens. On July 26, I wrote a piece entitled, “The War On YOU”, discussing the battle waged by “our one-party system, controlled by the Republi-cratic Corporatist Party”. On August 30, I made note of a recent essay at the Zero Hedge website, written by Michael Krieger of KAM LP. One of Krieger’s points, which resonated with me, was the idea that whether you have a Democratic administration or a Republican administration, both parties are beholden to the financial elites, so there’s not much room for any “change you can believe in”:
. . . the election of Obama has proven to everyone watching with an unbiased eye that no matter who the President is they continue to prop up an elite at the top that has been running things into the ground for years. The appointment of Larry Summers and Tiny Turbo-Tax Timmy Geithner provided the most obvious sign that something was seriously not kosher. Then there was the reappointment of Ben Bernanke. While the Republicans like to simplify him as merely a socialist he represents something far worse.
Barry Ritholtz, publisher of The Big Picture website, recently wrote a piece focused on how the old Left vs. Right paradigm has become obsolete. He explained that the current power struggle taking place in Washington (and everywhere else) is the battle of corporations against individuals:
We now live in an era defined by increasing Corporate influence and authority over the individual. These two “interest groups” – I can barely suppress snorting derisively over that phrase – have been on a headlong collision course for decades, which came to a head with the financial collapse and bailouts. Where there are massive concentrations of wealth and influence, there will be abuse of power. The Individual has been supplanted in the political process nearly entirely by corporate money, legislative influence, campaign contributions, even free speech rights.
* * *
For those of you who are stuck in the old Left/Right debate, you are missing the bigger picture. Consider this about the Bailouts: It was a right-winger who bailed out all of the big banks, Fannie Mae, and AIG in the first place; then his left winger successor continued to pour more money into the fire pit.
What difference did the Left/Right dynamic make? Almost none whatsoever.
* * *
There is some pushback already taking place against the concentration of corporate power: Mainstream corporate media has been increasingly replaced with user created content – YouTube and Blogs are increasingly important to news consumers (especially younger users). Independent voters are an increasingly larger share of the US electorate. And I suspect that much of the pushback against the Elizabeth Warren’s concept of a Financial Consumer Protection Agency plays directly into this Corporate vs. Individual fight.
But the battle lines between the two groups have barely been drawn. I expect this fight will define American politics over the next decade.
Keynes vs Hayek? Friedman vs Krugman? Those are the wrong intellectual debates. It’s you vs. Tony Hayward, BP CEO, You vs. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO. And you are losing . . .
Barry Ritholtz concluded with the statement:
If you see the world in terms of Left & Right, you really aren’t seeing the world at all . . .
I couldn’t agree more. Beyond that, I believe that politicians who continue to champion the old Left vs. Right war will find themselves in the dust as those leaders representing the interests of human citizens rather than corporate interests win the support and enthusiasm of the electorate. Similarly, those news and commentary outlets failing to adapt to this changing milieu will no longer have a significant following. It will be interesting to see who adjusts.