On June 9th 2017 Zach Carter posted an article in the Huffington where the author talks about the distinction between aristocratic conservatism and authoritarianism. My Friend Harvey Kaye turned me on to the article with a tweet. But on reading it I had a lot of second thoughts. The central Thrust is on Point. However, he labels Democrats as "Good Aristocrats" and miscasts what we did (and tried to do) in the 2016 election. Still he describes what we are up against fairly decently. If incomplete. We are fighting Gaslighting and Flying Monkeys on both Left, Right and from Russia. And many folks don't realize they are gaslighting or being gaslighted.
Zach Starts out triumphantly:
" Corbyn’s victory is about much more than the internal dynamics of The Left. It is a critical event for anti-authoritarian politics more generally, one with implications that span the globe, and that carry a particular resonance in the United States in the age of Donald Trump." [Huffington Post]
That sounds good. But so far, Corbyn hasn't yet formed a Government. So the power of the establishment still prevails in Britian. And May hasn't transitioned into the kind of authoritarian Government the NKIP folks tried to force. So I'm not sure that the lesson being taught is the one that Zach things is being conveyed. Moreover Corbyn is as Brexit as May despite the fact that most English are having second thoughts about the matter. Worse authoritarianism can infest either left or right wing movements. So there is a Yuge Stretch in his editorial.
Conservatives are about hierarchy & conserving power. Aristocratic conservative elites try to conserve and extend their power & place in hierarchy by political and economic means that involve working with other people. In a stable system ordinary people are fine with the status quo. Hence the term 'conservative.' Zach Carter notes:
"our political thinkers are accustomed to grappling with aristocratic conservatism, not authoritarianism. Aristocratic conservatism ― the type espoused by House Speaker Paul Ryan and establishment Republicans of the past 50 years ― seeks to protect the financial interests and social status of the wealthy." [Huffington Post]
Zach is right about the existence of aristocratic conservatism. There is a hierarchy of people whose wealth is based on ownership more than their working ability.Such people include many people who also have to work. And economic conservative beliefs are entertained by many Americans who either identify them with social conservatism or who see themselves as temporarily challenged aristocrats. Thanks to their wealth and power aristocratic conservatives have built up entire institutions designed to protect their power and privilege. That privilege pays for chairs in Economics Schools, Institutions and armies of lawyers and pundits instructed to shill for wealth and protect their power and privilege. It also pays for Television Ads, TV Stations and communications oligarchy.
"Banking elites want low capital gains taxes, but they are in many ways more protective of their position on top of the American social hierarchy." [Huffington Post]
But Zach next takes a swipe at former President Obama and notes:
"Even as he scuttled prosecutions for financial fraud and protected bonuses for bailed-out bankers, former President Barack Obama prompted hysterical denunciations from Wall Street by casually dismissing “fat cat bankers” in a single TV interview early in his first term." [Huffington Post]
Zach libels Obama by accusing him of personally "scuttling prosecutions" and "protecting bonuses."
Constrained Government Versus Disaster Reform
But the general point is valid. The Obama Administration did not dare go after the real power and privilege of the crooks who brought down the economy even as he took office. They only seemed to have the power to chip away at the edges of that power and pass Dodd-Frank, which put minimal regulations on their behavior. Zach and the critical aristocratic elites accuse him of being "Aristocratic liberals" when the problem is that the President doesn't have the legitimate power (oh he can try to do these things extra-legally the way Trump is doing) to prosecute those people. There is no evidence that Obama scuttled investigations. The Obama Administration lost some of the power it needed to prosecute Wall Street when the Tea Party won elections in 2009 after Kennedy died in August.
Obama could have sought to acquire that power by using his Bully Pulpit more. But he faced the handicap of a racist and entrenched aristocracy numbering in the millions. The Tea Party was an Authoritarian Movement, a Mob Movement. They weren't interested in our ideas.
Policies dictated by circumstances
Maybe, It would have been nice if Hillary had been elected in 2008. She probably would have pursued many of the same economic policies. Been a little less timid on Wall Street. She had already outlined policies for prosecuting them and preventing outrages like them finding legal means to get paid promised bonuses despite breaking law. But that is water under the bridge. I imagine Obama would have challenged her in 2012 if she'd done so, because his rhetoric on Wall Street would have been harsher if he wasn't POTUS. Wall Street Holds a Gun to our heads. Fighting them is more difficult than arrogant outsiders presume. From Jefferson to Jackson and from Chase to Greenspan, they have had a habit of destroying or embarrassing critics and enemies. We need our money men to behave themselves. Policies are dictated by Circumstances. Obama or Hillary would have behaved similarly.
Pulling the Rug out from Under Unity
I think Hillary was more prepared for the onslaught of Wall Street. But Obama was voted for when the message was still "let's all get along." By the end of 2009, that idea was no longer in the cards and we were already transitioning towards authoritarianism.
But Zachs main point is still important.
Wall Street had messed up royally. They had essentially been stealing chairs while the music was playing with our war-Keynesianism and housing boom. And when the music stop, too much indebtedness robbed naive debtors of both liquidity and actual wealth. We had a foreclosure crisis as well as a financial crisis. The banks compounded their cruelty in 2008 by taking back homes for loans that went underwater due to abusive terms or unemployed owners.
"The Democratic Party can sometimes defeat aristocratic conservatives by publicly shaming them as extremists. Aristocratic conservatives are sensitive to elite social pressure and respond to attacks on their dignity. This was a key plank of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 general election strategy, and in some ways, it worked: Clinton really did win over a big chunk of millionaires who had previously voted Republican."
FDR did the same thing. It worked for him too. It worked, somewhat for Obama too.
EMAD Opponents, Psi-war and Propaganda
It failed for Hillary because she was facing severely corrupt opposition. When you are facing Authoritarianism you are facing EMAD: Exploitive, Manipulative, Amoral and Dishonest politicians. Similar traits are necessary for some people to succeed as swindlers on Wall Street, shaming such people doesn't work. See my post "Trump and the Flying Narcissist Pyramid" for more on what EMAD is.
And it takes an Authoritarian Follower Mob
EMAD people are never a majority. Authoritarian Followers are necessary for them to get anywhere and they tend to have a completely different and more conservative psychological profile. But where Zach is right is that economic crisis turns previously uninterested folks into members of movements to do something about their plight. They turn to fearless leaders, demagogues, and folks who offer them belief and surety; authoritarianism. That transition occurred during the Obama administration. It just took time to find the right EMAD leader. Wall Street and Real Estate were the perfect places to find the right EMAD Trumpenfuhrer. Trump campaigned as the man who understood what his class of scoundrels had done and could do something about it. So did Bernie. That it was a con didn't occur to any of them.
Adjusting to Ruthless Politics
And Boomer Politicians who were used to old style "shameable" politicians and halfway sane followers, were caught unprepared for the cynicism and dishonesty of a fascist movement where:
"shame is a terrible strategy for defeating authoritarian candidates after a financial crisis. Banking meltdowns don’t unleash a wave of aristocratic sympathy. They cause widespread, unfair suffering and create tremendous uncertainty. People lose their jobs and homes through no fault of their own. Even working families who survived the 2008 crash relatively unscathed did not do so without having to confront new psychological strains. Millions of people who kept their jobs had to come to the aid of family members who did not. The prospect of economic ruin was always right around the corner." [Huffington Post]
"Fear is the Mindkiller" [Frank Herbert] and fear and obvious injustice makes folks who weren't paying attention before crazy with the need for a "great leader" who has the power and compassion to get them out of trouble! Zach bashes Hillary for appealing to everyone. But she also tried to reach the economically impacted. Indeed she got more votes from them than Trump did. The other side of EMAD is that EMAD politicians have no trouble with buying Russian Help to shut down Democratic messaging. Paying for controlled opposition to put up left Wing, equally EMAD (but with Left Wing ideas) demagogues. And to smash any opposition.
She was up against ruthless politicians who would shout "fixed elections" when there was no evidence they were fixed or when they were fixed in their favor. Who would blame their opponents for what is out of control of them. And who would shamelessly enlist the help of anyone who could destroy their opponent. EMAD politicians want to win at any cost. "The End Justifies the Means."
The Unholy Alliance
"Authoritarians exploit this uncertainty by promising stability, order and safety. This is not a mathematical equation guaranteeing higher incomes. It is a social rebellion against the governing aristocracy that has just failed and ― even in the most just and perfect bank rescue ― enjoyed the political prioritization of its own interests over the needs of the broader citizenry." [Huffington Post]
This sounds good, but Zach needs to go back and read "Animal Farm" at http://www.george-orwell.org/Animal_Farm/. The reality is that EMAD politicians exploit fear and uncertainty to get themselves power. And in a complex society the governing aristocracy creates movements to exploit that fear and anger. Hitler said "I need not nationalize industry. I need only nationalize the industrialists." Elites are only too ready to create, join and exploit such movements. And the emerging narcissists will usually eat established leaders as an opening salvo in establishing a kakistocracy that replaces rule of law with naked tyranny. Previously "conservative aristocrats" take off their disguises and morph into Darwinian Fascists. And Demagogues of all kind emerge.And the Unholy Alliance begins when external shocks or elite recklessness lead to economic and social privation. People look for a fearless leader, scapegoats & leaders who will save them. That is when previously "conservative' demagogues morph into fascism. Leaders arise who promise change. And elites jump on board with ideas that will redirect that energy; to war, ethic conflict and fascism.
To combat the Unholy Alliance
When there is economic suffering & fascism in the air, the rules of the game change. A politician who can't offer relief from suffering in a clear fashion will be thrown over for authoritarian politicians promising zion.
The article criticizes Hillary for not being enough of a demagogue. But it also forgets the other side of fascism. Hillary did (or tried to do) everything that Zach bashes her for not doing. Her main problem was that message was deliberately shut down. It was shut down by flying monkeys for various demagogues with crank theories, utopian promises and empty solutions. People who voted for Trump, sometimes started by voting for Bernie. They didn't listen to Hillary. Those who did, voted for her.
Clamoring for a "Great Leader"
The other thing that happens with the unholy alliance is that the previously trustworthy elites who think they control information covertly or inadvertently support fascist demagogues and attack establishment leaders who they ought to be on the side of. The attack on 12 versus 15$ minimum wage was not an innocent attack. I don't know if Corbyn or Bernie are fascist demagogues. But they sure sound like demagogues.
Drowning out the Message
"In the wake of a financial crisis, the public does not interpret centrist politics as an appeal to moderation or reasoned debate. It sees centrism as an attempt to rehabilitate the legitimacy of the aristocracy which has just pushed the country into disaster. “Countrymen, I have been approved by the finest minds of the old order as an eminently reasonable leader!” is a poor slogan when measured against “I will crush your enemies and restore your glory!” [Huffington Post]
Zach talks about "the people" as if they were a monolith. And he distorts what happened. And he seems to want a Trump like leader who will "crush your enemies." So he doesn't sound that different from Trump. And we have been trying to message as he describes. We are saying:
"A much better pitch? “I am on your team and will protect you.” This works very well with promises to expand and improve social welfare programs. “I will break the cheating aristocrats who did this to you” can also be effective. In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt put the Democratic Party in power for only the third time since the Civil War by campaigning on a combination of both messages." [Huffington Post]
We did exactly that. We were attacked from Left and Right! We are already the anti Authoritarian Party. That is why both left and right Demagogues are attacking us.
At least that is my opinion.
- For more on Flying Monkeys see: http://flyingmonkeysdenied.com/
- Review of Altemeyer
- EMAD Trump
- Understanding Social Dominance
- Flying Monkey Pyramid
- Rules for Survival
Read the article;