Wednesday, October 17, 2018
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Andy Schmookler

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A Path to Democratic Victory this Fall

Do the 2014 elections look promising for the Democrats? Not so far as I can tell.

Do the Democrats have a bold plan to inspire the American people to turn the House back over to them? Not so far as I've heard.

Is there a solution available? I think there is.

We've got a Supreme Court that just doubled down on its disgraceful 2010 decision in Citizens United, continuing in the new case (McCutcheon vs. FEC) to pretend to believe that opening the floodgates still wider for big money to flow into our elections does not corrupt our political system.

And we've got poll data  that indicates that the overwhelming majority of the American people - across the political spectrum - believe there's too much money in our politics, and that the rich are getting too large a voice at the expense of average Americans. The people, it seems, understand that our "democracy" is being put up for auction. And they don't like it.

There's an opportunity there. It's an opportunity that not only could benefit the Democrats, but also would be right and noble to seize. It could help rescue this nation from its present descent into oligarchy, in betrayal of the democracy our founders had in mind.

Virgina GOP Refusal to Expand Medicaid: Continuing Assault on the System Our Founders Gave...

This piece appeared this morning as an op/ed in the Roanoke Times.

Imagine that the American people elect as president someone promising to institute an important reform to address an obviously major problem - a problem that every year costs the nation a trillion dollars and tens of thousands of lives.

Imagine further that, once elected, the president tries to fulfill his promise with a moderate solution based on ideas from the other party - more moderate than the policies of all the other major democracies on the same matter.

How do you think our nation's Founders would feel about an opposition party that responds to all this by going all-out to block enactment of these reforms, making the reform worse, trying to overturn the reform even before it's tried and hindering its proper implementation?

I think our Founders would be outraged. They'd say that once the people make a fundamental choice, the question then is, "What is the best way to implement what the people have chosen?"

Our Founders gave us a system combining two important virtues: giving the people ultimate power to make fundamental decisions about what kind of society we'll be and providing for thoughtful deliberation on the best way to realize the people's goals. That's representative democracy.

The health care reform that President Barack Obama promised in the election of 2008 bears on what kind of society we'll be. In electing Obama president, the American people decided we'd stop being a society in which 45,000 of our citizens die every year because they lack the reliable access to health care provided to the citizens in every other advanced democracy.

“We Billionaires Don’t Own America, and We Shouldn’t Be Able to Buy Its Government”

AN OPEN LETTER TO WARREN BUFFETT

Several years ago, you did the nation a good service by declaring, "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning." Good for you for helping Americans see through the propaganda that seeks to disable us from protecting our democratic heritage.

I am sure you'll agree, however, that since then things have unfortunately grown worse in terms of the ability of the rich to substitute "one dollar, one vote" for "one person, one vote." Since then, for example, we've had the atrocious Citizens United decision, opening the floodgates wide for plutocracy to subvert our democracy.

And nowhere is this subversion more grotesquely on display than with the Koch Brothers' use of their riches to move our government in ways of their choosing. Using organizations like ALEC and Americans for Prosperity, the Koch Brothers are working systematically to take this country in directions contrary to our basic democratic values and (for example in the case of climate change) contrary to the long-term interests of the American people.

In view of this serious threat to rob the American people of their birthright, as members of a democratic society and inhabitants of a healthy planet, I would like to call upon you to make the following public announcement:

Please Listen to Me

[This piece is the first of a series with which, along with the series of talks described below, I am launching my new campaign to change the national conversation.]

Please listen to me if you want to turn back the force that's taken over the Republican Party.

Please listen to me if you've been frustrated by the failure of the Democrats to call out the Republican Party for what it has become:

A force that's insatiable in its lust for power and wealth.

Even though we have the greatest income inequality that we've had in living memory, this force works continually to widen that gap still further.  All their budgetary proposals take from average Americans to give more to those who already have the most. As they protect those who have tripled their share of our national income, they cut food stamps to the most vulnerable Americans at a time when jobs are scarce and even the middle class is struggling.

In the realm of political power, this force has given us a Supreme Court that's handed down that disgraceful decision in Citizens United, making it still easier for the nation's widening inequalities of wealth to be translated into inequalities of political power.  With our government put up for auction, "All men are created equal" gets swamped by the Almighty Dollar. The Republicans have been working to turn our government from one "by the people" one by those giant so-called "persons" that make up the corporate world.

A force that makes a fight over everything.

I Speak in DC on 3/24: “Lighting a Fire in Liberal America /Strategy for...

I've written here earlier about my new "campaign":
This campaign is not for elective office, but it is at least as ambitious.

It's a campaign to have an impact on our national public discourse. More specifically, it is a campaign to bring to the center of our national conversation what I believe to be the central political reality of our times: the rise on the political right of an unprecedentedly destructive and dishonest force, and the weakness of Liberal America in calling out this force for what it is.

America desperately needs an "Emperor's New Clothes" moment, and I believe this new campaign has a chance of helping to bring it about.

As part of the launching of this campaign, I will be giving a talk at7:30 PM on Monday, March 24 at the Washington Ethical Society, Main Hall, 7750 16th St. NW (just below Kalmia).

Here's a description of what this talk undertakes to do:

A destructive and dishonest force has arisen on the political right, unlike anything ever seen at the center of American politics. The response from liberal America has been woefully inadequate.

This combination of right-wing destructiveness and liberal weakness has caused tremendous damage to our democratic foundations. It's a dynamic that must be changed.

That's the message of Andrew Bard Schmookler, a prize-winning  author whose books include The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution.

As the recent Democratic nominee for Virginia's 6th district, Andy demonstrated an ability to use a powerful message to light a fire in Liberal America (as can be plainly seen in this dramatic six-minute video).

Andy will present -- and discuss -- his understanding of the nature and roots of our national crisis. And he will propose a strategy to change our political dynamic and strike a meaningful blow in a battle that must be won -- for the future of America and, indeed, the planet.

If you are within reach of Washington, I hope you will consider attending. And if you have like-minded friends who might be interested, I hope you will spread the word.

I wouldn't be undertaking this effort if I did not believe that it might afford us the best available means to help turn our current dangerous political dynamic around.

Koch Brothers Capitalism

This phrase came to me a few days ago. I thought it had some rhetorical potential, and I offer it here for anyone's use.

"Koch Brothers Capitalism," by labeling a kind of capitalism, implies that there are other kinds of capitalism. And that means that capitalism doesn't have to be the way people like the Koch Brothers are making it.

The Koch Brothers name quickly conjures up the monstrous nature of what too much of American capitalism has become in our time:

1)It is insatiable for wealth, as these billionaires show themselves to be with their relentless quest to prevent this nation from responding to the challenge of climate change, sacrificing our children's future for more profits for themselves and the rest of the world's richest industries.

2) It works relentlessly to demolish our democracy, turning it instead into a plutocracy, working to translate the widening gap in wealth between the super-rich and the rest into a corresponding gap in political power.

3) Koch Brothers Capitalism has no concern for the greater good, its relentless drive for wealth and power being an expression of unbridled selfishness.

4) It's political conduct debases our national discourse, subverting rational deliberation with its reliance on manipulating the public with lies and disinformation.

This kind of capitalism deserves a name that reeks upon the very mention of it. And the Koch Brothers provide that stench.

Down with Koch Brothers Capitalism, I say. And let's have the kind of capitalism that is willing to be structured so that it contributes to a healthy society rather than destroys it.

Challenges My New Campaign Must Meet, and How You Can Help

The goal of my campaign is to get our national conversation to focus on how destructive a force has taken over the Republican Party, and thereby to drain power away from that force.

Here's the main thing this campaign has going for it: I've got a message, like nothing that's out there now, that might well be able to achieve that. It is thought through, it is developed along many dimensions, it can be expressed simply or elaborately, and it can create a picture of the dangerous reality of our political crisis that America needs to see.

(I do not say that to boast; it is simply the reality that, because I see it, drives me relentlessly to bring that message out into the center of the political battlefield of our times.)

And it has the potential to light a fire first in liberal America, which is where this campaign must first get off the ground. I will be attempting at the outset to light that fire, to inspire the like-minded to join the campaign.  There are several means I'll be employing in this fire-lighting effort (including talks around the country, and media appearances as well), but one of the most important will be through a series of articles.

It is about that series I want to talk here, and about how I am inviting people to help me with that series.

I will be trying out - on my website, www.NoneSoBlind.org  -- various ways of beginning this series. And I will be inviting people to give their thoughts about how these articles should best be composed and disseminated and, quite important, in what sequence the various pieces should be played.

Here are some of the challenges this campaign faces:  

It’s a Mistake to Think of our Fellow Americans on the Right as “Stupid”...

I've often heard it said that the people in the Republican base, who believe the patent falsehoods purveyed by their leaders, are "stupid." But I don't think that's how they're to be understood. I've known too many people who buy the almost transparent lies nonetheless show real intelligence in other areas of their lives.

Here's what I think we're looking at that may look like "stupidity."

A person's consciousness --- the form their awareness takes --- is not all of a piece, not identical in every situation. We tend to operate differently in different contexts, to have different capacities that get engaged in different aspects of our lives. We might think of people as having different "modules" of consciousness that kick in depending on what "programs" they've learned to apply in each realm of their lives.

With the people on the right, in our times, what I believe is that they've been taught over time to bring a far-from-best self into the specifically political realm.  Part of the teaching has been from the deep, long-established culture, which inculcates in those who grow up in it certain ways of dealing with issues of power and authority and rage and pain. But, most recently and most visibly, they've been systematically taught -- for a full generation now by skilled and completely unprincipled propagandists, like Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, and Karl Rove -- how to be members in good standing in the right-wing political culture.

These propagandists have worked to get people to look at politics through a particular, warped lens. Feeding their fears and hatreds, and turning off their intelligence in the political realm.  Over the years, a module has been constructed in their minds for how to think and feel when the cross into the political world-- a module that gradually transferred a bunch of sane Republicans into a bunch of people who support the very opposite of what they think they're supporting.

Mistaking the evil for the good is surely a manifestation of profound brokenness. And the error is built upon brokenness.

Jesus or Ayn Rand: You Can’t Follow Both

If Jesus' view of the good is basically valid, then Ayn Rand's view pretty much has to be the viewpoint of evil, because it is pretty much the opposite.

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And incidentally, the ethics of Jesus' Golden Rule seem to be not just a Christian insight, but a rather universally recognized as moral truth.
 

My Talk at JMU: Canceled for Tonight, to be Rescheduled

I just got a call from the JMU folks who have been setting up my talk scheduled for tonight. (This is the talk announced here earlier.) They've prevailed upon me to let them cancel and reschedule. So, though I am a "the show must go on" kind of a guy, I have deferred to them on this.

I'll announce when there's a new time and place. It's expected we'll have the event in the next several weeks.

In the meanwhile, I'm sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you or anyone you may have informed of this talk.

ANDY

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