Monday, May 05, 2008

An American left: mission impossible?

The racial divide that has opened up within the Democratic Party is almost certainly less problematic than the hurdles Mr. Obama could face attracting support outside the party in November should he win the nomination. It is, after all, the Republican Party that captured the allegiance of the whites most uneasy about the civil rights movement and its legacy. “It will be a challenge to win a general election with an African-American candidate,” said Larry Bartels, a professor of politics at Princeton. “The challenge has less to with internal tensions within the Democratic Party than with the resentments and racial misgivings of the general electorate.” The New York Times
David Seaton's News Links
You could say that the civil rights movement broke the left in the United States, but at the same time you would have to ask what good a left would be that was predicated on racial inequality.

If the previous sentence could be expressed as a neat mathematical formula, computers could solve the conundrum that has stumped the American left since the 1960s.

This endless conversation has left the poor of America with substandard public education and without decent health care, while what passes for "progressive" politics busies itself with ethnic and sexual identity questions instead of class divisions.

In this the United States not only fails itself, it fails the world. America is the only developed country without any serious social democratic movement and this gives endless comfort to right wing parties everywhere. Many European social democrats try to pretend that the Democrats are their American opposite numbers only to find them in reality corresponding to something similar to Christian Democrats.

And all of this because of America's race divisions. Here is a sample from Pennsylvania:
In the former mining and textile regions of northeastern Pennsylvania, places like Scranton and Wilkes- Barre, (Obama's pollsters) expected to lose by about 10 points. Instead they were defeated by better than 2-to-1. Likewise, in the industrial towns of western Pennsylvania, like Johnstown, home of U.S. Representative John Murtha, a powerful Clinton supporter, Obama lost not by the eight-point margin his team had anticipated, but by 46 points. Bloomberg
With the pundits sounding shrill alarms:
We are not as powerful as we used to be because over the past three decades, the Asian values of our parents’ generation — work hard, study, save, invest, live within your means — have given way to subprime values: “You can have the American dream — a house — with no money down and no payments for two years.” That’s why Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous defense of why he did not originally send more troops to Iraq is the mantra of our times: “You go to war with the army you have.” Hey, you march into the future with the country you have — not the one that you need, not the one you want, not the best you could have. Thomas Friedman - NYT
Americans are glum at the moment. No, I mean really glum. In April, a new poll revealed that 81 percent of the American people believe that the country is on the "wrong track." In the 25 years that pollsters have asked this question, last month's response was by far the most negative. Other polls, asking similar questions, found levels of gloom that were even more alarming, often at 30- and 40-year highs. Fareed Zacharia - Newsweek
What we are talking about is decadence... It's been obvious for years, but it seems to finally be catching up with mainstream types like cheery chipmunk, Tom Friedman and the more realist, Fareed Zacharia.

If you wanted to understand what is happening in America, it would easier if you looked at it through the lens of a miniature, opera buffa version: Berlusconi's Italy.

Without getting into an exhaustive analysis, let us say that
Silvio Berlusconi is a cartoon version of the US power structure. Silvio Berlusconi incarnates in his sole person the entire American establishment: business, press, television, even sports. The decadence of Italy is like a toy version of what is happening in the United States.

Now, after sixty years, Italy is moving back toward Fascism. (No kidding, the new mayor of Rome is a genuine, arm in air, viva il Duce, former street fascist). Is this where we are headed?

I'll be returning to the Italian example in future posts, if Italy is not currently on your radar screen, please get up to speed. When you do, I think you will agree that the comparisons are most helpful in illuminating of the problems America faces, but on a smaller, more accessible scale. The USA even in decline (especially in decline?) is too mind boggling to readily get your hands around. DS


Anonymous said...

Someone once said 'the British are Romans in the process of becoming Italians'... tu, USA?

RC said...

With all due respect, I find the US trajectory to be more Banana Republic than anything else. We are just lacking the Military running the Executive, but that may come soon given the Patriot Act.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Check out Berlusconi.