Random Notes

Listened to a podcast from WNYC’s “On the Media” about party politics, and there was a segment about the “electoral-industrial complex” that was compelling. Part of the problem, from the point of view of professional political campaign managers, with volunteers that go out and and get people to vote is that the volunteers have minds of their own. They just want to hire people to do a job, and not deal with the messiness of people caring about a campaign, or an issue. So, instead, they focus on television advertising, which turns out to be not very useful in getting people to vote. If you want people to vote, what works is having real people get out and talk to them in person, and commit to voting one way or another. This is, as far as I know, the basis of the legendary Chicago machine. It was all an organization built out of people who would get out the vote on election day. There was also the part about graft and corruption – at the end of the day, people were loyal to the machine because it looked after them, made sure they had jobs, could open businesses, and so on. But nowadays, you have big political donors, who give big piles of money to big election campaigns, and they produce television ads, and lots of money gets thrown around, but in the end it’s all pretty distant from the real world.

It makes me think that real politics is disappearing – submerged beneath the shiny veneer of capitalist political spectacle. You still have office politics and such – but there’s always a perverse angle to politics in the workplace. At the end of the day, somebody has money, and they get to make decisions, and everyone else scrambles around trying to make sure that person is looking after them, but nobody ever really knows, and the time is nothing but a haze of boredom and anxiety. It reminds me of that Kurt Vonnegut short story where it’s the future, and the secret to immortality has been discovered, and it turns out to be really cheap to produce, so everyone lives as long as they want. The whole story is told inside of one extremely crowded apartment, with 5 or 6 generations living there, and just one bed, occupied by the patriarch. And they all spend their time sucking up to him and trying to get him to leave them the bed and the apartment and so on. And he, the crafty old bastard, plays them off, one against the other, until one day he fakes his own death, and waits for them to kill each other in the ensuing struggle over who gets to inherit the apartment, which they do promptly, and then he comes out, cleans the place, and enjoys a little peace and quiet.

I saw another story of how Paul Ryan might end up running for President, and I feel quite sure that he could totally win – but first the primary season needs to play out. I’ve heard that Cleveland police have armed themselves with all manner of military hardware in preparation, and it conjured up a frightening scenario in my mind. It seems possible to me that you could have the pro-Trump people and the anti-Trump people all converge in Cleveland, and have a really crazy, violent scene break out. And then the police could rationalize a brutal crackdown. In the aftermath, the establishment could reassert it’s control over the party, nominate Ryan, who would then be able to carry out a strict conservative platform, and he would win on the ideas of fiscal responsibility and protecting the country from the violence of politics (the Trump rallies, the clashes between right and left, rage and angry rhetoric, would become symbolic of the need for law and order). The Democratic party, meanwhile, would be split between establishment Hillary supporters and the new school Bernie supporters. The trouble is that older white men don’t want to vote for Hillary – so a huge portion of them could go to Ryan. In this way, he could likely win Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Hillary is running as the successor of Obama, but part of the problem there is that she’s the successor of actual Obama, who is not nearly as popular as potential Obama from 2008. Remember Sarah Palin chiding “How’s that hopey changey thing workin’ out for ya?” Hillary is cautious, and knows how to play to the powers that be (like the military industrial complex, which is for-sure a real thing with serious power and influence in US politics), and the left doesn’t want a cautious neo-liberal. But everyone to the right of the Sanders campaign is more or less fine with cautious neoliberalism, which brings us to Ryan.

He’s the capitalism friendly working class white guy. He’s friendly. He’s polite. He believes in the free market. He’s not a racist or a bigot – he believes in equal opportunity for everyone. He’s an acolyte of Ayn Rand, too. Actual democracy will disappear altogether, replaced by the tyranny of the market. In some ways this will be terrifying and awful. But for a great many folks it will preserve the world they want to live in. I think it’s important to understand that the reason you can get leaders like that is that they do what people want them to do. Many older white people (which is to say, the people who have most of the money, power and influence in US) just want to go on living the way they have for the past thirty years, and disregard everything that’s happened in the last thirty years: the internet, globalization, the Iraq War, Obama, etc, etc…They want their taxes low, and prices stable, and they don’t want to fight about it.

I’m not really sure where to go or what to do. How does one find community in world like this?


Published by samuelbarbour

Besides writing a blog, I also teach, farm, cook, and play music. I live in the Illinois River Valley with my partner, Molly Breslin, who sometimes posts stuff at breslinfarms.com

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