Friday, March 11, 2022

Don't Be Fooled By Political Parties



Political parties excel at grabbing our attention and herding us by:
  • telling us they are the good politicians who care about us,
  • represent our interests, 
  • will go to distant places called legislatures or congresses,
  • fight for us against the bad politicians,
  • and secure Victory for Us Against Them!
The above metaphor is not meant for our cynical enjoyment; instead, it is a mental picture to keep in mind as we the voters attempt something really difficult:
We must understand and respect the usefulness of political strategies and behavior in order to participate in governing ourselves and others. We the people should manage the politicians at least as much as they manage us.
The Getting Power To My Votes Blog has its own definition of politics and here it is:
Politics, really, is what people must think and do in order to get along with each other and avoid serious injuries. Politics handles the ugly stuff we do to each other. In politics rules and laws are made. It takes skill, self-control, common sense. Politics is useful between two people or many. It’s useful between countries. Politics is an essential part of life together.

As important as politics is, a majority of Americans don’t understand what the fuss is all about and don’t want to be bothered with it. But politicians get our loyal votes by using their engaging personalities and leadership skills. They're usually good at:
  • Making an emotional connection to voters,
  • Figuring out what voters want to hear,
  • Using their verbal skills to arouse the passion of the audience and,
  • Selling a solution to the audience with promises to get it done.
In American politics today, many politicians are creating headlines by acting like goofballs and nincompoops. They entertain or disgust us to “get traction” in media. The politician doesn't just want to spin his wheels--he wants his impassioned pleas and drama to emotionally arouse us to vote for him. That's wonderful--if indeed he can help us get what we want.
From Politics Is For Power we learn from a political scientist that political hobbyism is not the road to political power (Hersh, 2020). 
From The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It we heard a political economist warn us to “forget politics as you’ve come to see it, as electoral contests between Democrats and Republicans. Think power. The underlying contest is between a small minority who have gained power over the system and the vast majority who have little or none” (Reich, page 7).
Both authors are telling us to concentrate, not on the Party System talking points and drama, but on:
  • Making meaningful, helpful relationships with potential voters in our local communities. 
  • Participating in all local elections and other political activities. (There are many local elections and activities through which we can multiply our social connections and voting power.)
  • Learning who has the power and where they got it, especially where they got the money. 
  • Learning about how the Congressional lawmakers make laws to prevent abuses of power during one administration and then weaken or entirely remove those protections later on. An important law might be passed one year and gutted two years later.
  • Learn about how the Supreme Court has made decisions which have increased the likelihood of the abusive of power and money. For example, Citizens United SCOTUS case.
  • It is just not realistic to trust politicians to persist in going in the direction they promised. We need to follow their individual votes and send them thanks or complaints.
Hersh and Reich direct our attention away from the political drama news. They know the machinery of government (the structure) and they know how politicians use or abuse that structure and who pays them to do so.
About the labels “Democrat” and “Republican”:

Since America’s beginning in the late 1700s, we’ve always had two major political parties. They have been called the Republican and Democratic parties since the 1850s. What those two parties stood for and tried to accomplish varied a lot over time; sometimes the two parties were quite similar and sometimes more different. According to Wikipedia this was true until 1965 and the Voting Rights Act.
After 1965, “the Democratic Party has been the center-left and liberal party, and the Republican Party has been the center-right and conservative party.”
About the complexity of groups that interferes with understanding them:
The life of an average adult in a family is often hard to understand. Even harder to understand are groups of people like political parties. The thinking, feelings, and behaviors of large groups of individuals over a few years are extremely difficult to understand
That we might be familiar with political parties does not mean we really understand them. 
I’ll use football to illustrate. Unless one is a football coach, the actions and results of the men on a football team are hard to grasp and usefully summarize. Even the best coaches’ summaries of the game we saw on TV are so general as to be almost meaningless. Sixty minutes of football over a few hours is extremely complex.

How much more difficult to comprehend is what happened in the lead up to an election that caused the results! Fans of football and politics passionately argue about what happened or what should have happened. But the football coach, after the recent win or loss will…go back to basics. The coach watches game films the then methodically plans changes in strategy to execute properly in the future. In contrast, the political hobbyist is not really engaged in doing something different in the future; he is looking at history soon after it occurred and having good or bad feelings about it.
So we have two labels, Democrat and Republican, to distinguish two competitive teams, each of which involve fifty states, tens of millions of citizen-players, functioning under hundreds of laws, on and on and on. It is no wonder people are confused by politics, even if they watch news programs. 
For a useful article on percent of ignorance in voters, see this from the CATO Institute:
Both Paul Krugman (2020) and Alan Blinder (2018) inform us that the Republican party frequently proposes tax cuts as a solution to various economic problems; they also address whether tax cuts have good results. Older citizens might recall hearing Republican candidates within the past several years reminding us that the Reagan tax cuts were very successful. Both Krugman and Blinder are widely regarded economists.
Krugman (2020) asserts the following:
The economic analysis after the Reagan tax cuts was that the Federal Reserve lowering interest rates, not the Reagan tax cuts were the cause of a surge in business activity. 
“In short, few economic doctrines have been as thoroughly tested, and thoroughly refuted, as the claim that low taxes on the rich accomplish great things for everyone. Yet the doctrine persists. In fact, it has tightened its grip on the Republican Party, to the point where almost nobody in the party dares to express skepticism” (Krugman (2020, page 216).
During the Clinton administration, conservatives (Republicans) warned that Clinton’s raising taxes to promote health and social welfare programs would be a disaster. But there was a “huge economic expansion” under the Clinton administration Krugman (2020, page 215).
Blinder (2018) 
The Reagan administration was inspired with the idea of what is called “supply-side economics,” which is the theory that the economy will do better when taxes are cut. There were big tax cuts and unrealistic beliefs that somehow the tax cuts would result in the federal deficit shrinking. But the so-called “supply-side boost” did not occur and the federal deficit got worse. 
There have been times when Congress has passed carefully constructed legislation, as in the Tax Reform Act of 1986. It lowered taxes, eliminated loopholes. 
But Trump and Republicans rushed his tax reform through Congress “with results that were less than stellar.” (Blinder, 2018, page 46)
Blinder remarks that, “Large tax-rate cuts for top earners are the mainstay of Republican economic policy to this day” (Blinder, 2018, page 130).

We have found startling information strongly indicating average Americans have been unknowingly duped into supporting tax cuts for the rich. This information should motivate average citizens to vote, not from their emotional devotion to a party, but vote for specific politicians who can help average citizens survive. 
Amazingly, the facts about the tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the average citizen—this hasn’t been a secret. My primary information sources have mostly been books found in the local library. I do know that it is unrealistic to expect the typical adult citizen to read books. I honestly don't know, yet, in what direction the.solution lies. 
I have become aware, from what I’ve been reading, that my impression I had of Paul Ryan, former Speaker of the House was very incomplete. Based on what I saw and heard of him in the nightly news, I thought he was a straight-up, trustworthy fellow. And also Reagan seemed a genuinely good guy. But they did hurtful things to American citizens—out of ignorance and/or heartlessness. 
Reagan and Ryan certainly come across on TV as good, pleasant, seemingly worth our trust kind of people. “Seemingly,” however, is just not enough proof of trustworthiness. 
We need politicians to do the extremely difficult work of politics. We need voters to demand and get straight talk from the politicians. Voters have not been getting the essential information they need to make good voting choices. Government so-called tax cuts haven't reduced income inequality, they have made it worse. 
The Trump Tax Cut and Jobs Act is a bizarre, lengthy, document which, as described by Krugman, is likely unreadable even by the politicians who voted for it. They were probably told how to vote by some Party consultant.
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        For references, see the relevant page on the website.
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