Nancy MacLean, author of an intellectual biography of James McGill Buchanan, explains how this little-known libertarian’s work is influencing modern-day politics.
Amidst all the finger-pointing and self-immolation on the left, we need to acknowledge that the main cause of Hillary’s loss was the formidable propaganda machine of the Republican Party.
And the ignorance, gullibility and hatefulness of so many Americans.
After all, the most shocking thing about the 2016 election is that Donald Trump could win despite his many obvious negatives.
No matter who won the Democratic nomination, a large proportion of Republican voters would have voted for the Republican nominee.
A similar thing can be said for the election of 2004, when George W. Bush won re-election, despite the disaster of the war in Iraq and the scandals and corruptions surrounding his administration. Even in 2008, 45.7% of voters voted for John McCain.
Of course, Hillary was a perfect target for GOP hatred. Her hawkishness, friendliness to Wall Street, flip-flops, carelessness, and dirty tricks towards Sanders made her vulnerable and suppressed Democratic turnout. But millions of voters believed that Hillary was far worse than she is. The hatefulness towards her was unhealthy.
For this, Trump can thank Fox News, AM talk radio, Breitbart News, and other conservative media outlets, which were able to rouse up their base to a frenzy of hatred of Hillary, of government, and of liberals. In contrast, Trump was able to escape accountability for his outrageous statements and scandals: Trump University, Trump Foundation, bankruptcies, shady business dealings, not paying contractors, failure to release tax returns, likely tax evasion, lies during the debates, racist comments, sexual escapades, conspiracy mongering about Obama’s citizenship, denial of established scientific consensus, etc.
On not paying contractors see Donald Trump’s Business Plan Left a Trail of Unpaid Bills, Hundreds Allege Donald Trump doesn’t pay his bills, and Dozens of lawsuits accuse Trump of not paying his bills, reports claim.
Aside from claiming that global climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, Trump has said that vaccines cause autism, that environmentally-friendly light bulbs cause cancer, and that fracking “poses zero health risks” while wind farms are “bad for people’s health”. He called Obama the founder of ISIS. The list of outrages goes on and on.
Hillary was swift-boated about her private email server, about the Clinton Foundation, and about Pizzagate. The hatred towards her and bias against her were pathological.
Using a private server was careless, but it was trivial compared to George W. Bush and Trump’s wrongdoings and scandals. “Clinton’s email habits look positively transparent when compared with the subpoena-dodging, email-hiding, private-server-using George W. Bush administration. Between 2003 and 2009, the Bush White House “lost” 22 million emails.” (The George W. Bush White House ‘Lost’ 22 Million Emails)
On numerous matters of fact and policy, conservatives live in an alternate reality. The partisan divide in American politics is as wide as ever.
A CNN/ORC poll taken in 2015 found that 43 percent of Republicans believed that Obama is a Muslim.
According to the Pew Research Center, “Just over a quarter of the public – 28% – says climate scientists have a solid understanding of the causes of climate change. And even fewer, 19%, of adults say the same about climate scientists’ understanding of the best ways to address climate change.” “Consistent with past Pew Research Center surveys, most liberal Democrats espouse human-caused climate change, while most conservative Republicans reject it.” “Thirty percent of Fox News viewers say that Obama is ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ not a citizen, and another nine percent say that they do not know. In comparison, only 13 percent of CNN viewers, and seven percent of MSNBC viewers say the same.”
A 2016 survey taken by Yale and George Mason University found that only 47% of Republicans believe in climate change.
“A survey by YouGov found that by December 1, 43 percent of Republicans accepted the [Trump] claim that millions of people had voted illegally in 2016.” (source)
A 2015 PublicMind poll by Farleigh Dickinson University found:
Overall, 42 percent of Americans believe that U.S. forces found active weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq. Republicans are more likely to hold this belief than Democrats: fifty-one percent of Republicans think it’s “probably” or “definitely” true that an active program was found after the 2003 invasion, with 14 percent saying that it was definitely true.
According to CBS News, “Nearly half of Americans incorrectly think President Obama started the the bank bailout program, otherwise known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a new poll shows. Just 34 percent of Americans surveyed by the Pew Research Center correctly said that TARP was enacted by the Bush administration.”
Democrats’ policy positions play a much smaller role in the outcomes than we’d like to think. What matters most is perception and spin, not substance.
How to explain the toxic hatred of Hillary and liberals? Partly, it’s misogyny. But I agree with the conclusion of Amanda Marcotte, who says, in Conservatism turned toxic: Donald Trump’s fanbase has no actual ideology, just a nihilistic hatred of liberals, “Trump’s victory was the result of decades of right-wing hate rhetoric, curdling into a totally negative worldview.”
I say all this as a fervent Bernie Sanders supporter who was highly critical of Hillary’s hawkishness and friendliness to Wall Street. I was critical of her but I don’t hate her the way even many progressives do. I thought she was intelligent and graceful. I am more horrified by the success of the GOP propaganda machine at polluting peoples’ minds with conspiracy theories, falsehoods, and hatred.
I’m not asking for a pass for Hillary and the DNC. I acknowledge their corruptions and their mistakes. In particular, the Democrats shouldn’t have selected Hillary, given her hawkishness, her ties to Wall Street, the extreme hatred of her by so many people, and the nation’s populist mood. I’m asking for proportional accountability. Hillary, the Democratic Party, the country, and the world will pay a price far out of proportion to her culpability and to the accountability Trump and Republicans received for their many wrongdoings and statements.
Too often, Obama and Hillary were hawks and neoliberal sellouts. So, it’s hard to feel sympathy for them — except that Trump and the Republicans are far worse. My point is: the GOP had great success at exaggerating Hillary’s crookedness while hiding their own. Trump was the Teflon Don, if ever there was one. In fact, not only was Hillary the lesser-of-two-evils, but she was good on on some issues and moderate on many others.
Republicans fight nasty. They’re masters of dirty tricks and character assassination.
They go low, we go high, they win.
When Trump and the Republicans are tough, they are perceived as strong and bold. When Hillary was tough, she was portrayed as a harridan and a witch.
Democrats, on the other hand, are wimps, compared to the Republicans. In 2008, after eight years of misrule under Bush and the Republicans, Americans were eager for peace and for populist policies. As a candidate, Obama promised change. But once he was in office, Obama turned into a moderate. He tried to be post-partisan. He compromised early and often. He surrounded himself with Wall Street cornies. He wanted to look forward, so he hid the war crimes of the Bush Administration and the fraud of Wall Street banks from the American people. As Obama said of himself, “My policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies … back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican.” Obama’s unwillingness to fight, and to stand up to Wall Street and the defense establishment depressed turnout, angered many voters, and allowed Trump to pursue his populist playbook.
You may argue, with some validity, that Obama needed to compromise to get anything done. But politicians score few points by compromising. Obama should have fought hard for single-payer health care, or at least a public option. Instead, he allowed Max Baucus and other conservative Democrats to whittle down the Affordable Care Act in a fruitless attempt to win GOP backing. In the end, no Republican voted for it, and we were left with a health care plan designed by the Heritage Foundation and tested by Mitt Romney.
Obama is a great orator and a smart man. He allowed the GOP to steamroll the Democratic Party, who now have lost control of the House, the Senate, the White House, and a majority of state legislatures and governorships.
On the other hand. all those progressives who refused to vote for the lesser of two evils can enjoy the satisfaction of standing up for their principles as we face slashes to the EPA, public education, Medicare, Social Security, worker rights, women’s rights, gay rights, consumer rights, and financial regulations. Plus decades of conservative rule in the Supreme Court. And more tax cuts for rich people. And increased defense spending. And possible wars with China and Iran. And fewer people with medical insurance. I understand where the purists were coming from and rather agree that Clinton and Obama got what they deserved. Still, lesser-of-two-evils is lesser-of-two-evils, and on many issues Hillary was moderate. On women’s rights she was progressive.
But the blame for the election loss spreads far and wide. This article has argued that mostly the blame rests with the GOP propaganda machine, which has polluted peoples’ minds. Here is a fuller list of who and what to blame.
The 1956 Republican national platform was a progressive document.
“We are proud of and shall continue our far-reaching and sound advances in matters of basic human needs—expansion of social security—broadened coverage in unemployment insurance —improved housing—and better health protection for all our people. We are determined that our government remain warmly responsive to the urgent social and economic problems of our people. ”
“We shall continue to seek extension and perfection of a sound social security system. ”
“We recommend to Congress the submission of a constitutional amendment providing equal rights for men and women.”
“In that concept, this Republican Administration sponsored the Refugee Relief Act to provide asylum for thousands of refugees, expellees and displaced persons, and undertook in the face of Democrat opposition to correct the inequities in existing law and to bring our immigration policies in line with the dynamic needs of the country and principles of equity and justice. ”
“The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower Administration.”
Last night I was listening to AM talk radio, and a Republican candidate was promoting the following conservative narrative: “Yes, there is terrible wealth inequality, and it’s due to government waste, corruption and regulations. We need to slash taxes and get rid of regulations so that the middle class can have jobs and thrive. Government is a taker. We need more freedom.” The candidate also talked about the preciousness of life.
Likewise, at a political event in Nevada recently, Marc Rubio told the audience that the notion that “big government is good for the people who are trying to make it” is a “lie.” He said, “When the government dominates the economy, the people that can afford to influence the government — they win. And everybody else is stuck.” (source: November 30, 2015 edition of the New Yorker)
There is some truth to Rubio’s statements, and the conservative narrative is plausible enough to dupe lots of people.
Yet it’s a big scam.
The scam goes like this. Conservatives corrupt and starve government so it performs poorly. They make sure it serves the 1%. They wage almost constant war. They allow corporations to ship profits and jobs overseas. They oppose regulations that might rein in Wall Street, even as they decry Wall Street greed and the bailouts. They under-fund the IRS and regulatory agencies. They promote regressive taxation which unfairly burdens the middle class. Then they argue that taxes are too high and government is wasteful and corrupt. They use the failures of government to justify cutting taxes and maintaining tax loopholes for the rich. When progressives try to fix the system, they accuse progressives of wanting to raise peoples’ taxes.
The scam works — it’s rather brilliant — and our task is to expose it and promote an alternative vision in which government serves everyone, not just the 1%.
The solution to the corruption of government isn’t to throw in the towel and give up on government. The solution is to fix the system so it’s not rigged.
But we have a tiny voice, and the corporate-backed Republicans have most of the money and an effective noise machine. There aren’t enough progressive rich people willing to fund an alternative, lefty media empire. And most Democratic politicians choose to ignore the problems of fair taxation and government corruption. They allow Republicans to frame the issues.
At a recent King County Dems Legislative Action Committee meeting I asked state House majority leader Pat Sullivan what he’d do to educate the voters so that they stop voting for Tim Eyman’s anti-tax initiatives and for Republican candidates. I want Sullivan and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership — including Governor Inslee and ex-Governors Gregoire, Locke, and Lowery — to boldly take the lead in educating the public about taxes and government.
But Sullivan said that it’s not his job to educate the public. The voters won’t listen to him.
I think the politicians run away from the issue because they think (know?) that they’ll get slaughtered at the polls if they talk about taxes.
Moreover, there are enough corporate, triangulating politicians within the Democratic Party to muddy the waters and make it unclear which party can be trusted. Bill Clinton dismantled Glass-Steagall, supported NAFTA and said “The era of big government is over.” President Obama surrounded himself with Wall Street cronies and promoted a health care plan designed by the Heritage Foundation to enrich insurance companies. Governor Inslee gave an $8.7 billion tax break to Boeing. Democrat Ross Hunter took the lead in arranging tax breaks for Microsoft.
Meanwhile, Republicans control the U.S. House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court, and they’ve taken over a large majority of state legislatures. In Washington State Republicans control the state Senate and are two seats away from controlling the state House.
Who will step up and promote the pro-government, fair taxation message people need to hear? How can we strengthen the hand of progressives in the Democratic Party?
Clearly, Bernie Sanders has been effective at getting parts of this message out to the public. Perhaps the movement he inspires will succeed at starting to fix the corruption. My only fear is that his calling himself a socialist might limit his effectiveness. The ironic thing is: he’s probably not even a socialist! He’s a social democrat. See Bernie Sanders is a social democrat, not a socialist. Dwight Eisenhower was more of a socialist than Bernie Sanders.
[Note: this article’s former title was: “The conservative scam: a plausible narrative that enriches the 1%”.]
But they protected the unfairly low taxes that the rich people enjoy in Washington State.