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19 August 2009

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bstr

Yesterday my wife and i were driving in Edmonds Wa., a generally liberal small town. We still have an Obama bumper sticker. a fellow driver passed me on the right. He yelled out "Obama" is a screwball." He was driving an old pickup he had modified with wood, glass, and rust, so he is likely to recognize screwballs as he sees them.

jedermann

This is a very legitimate subject for thought and discussion because it is really about the behavior of stakeholders in a democratic system and what the limits are within which all or most must operate for the system to remain viable.

As Richard Sale has pointed out, American politics has always been a very rough trade. So, this question arises in several comments: is the appearance of gun-toting protesters, corporate-organized Tea Baggers, Birthers and name calling from another planet any different than the general run of American history and does it offer any existential threat to our democracy?

I would say that the threat level is higher than usual and certainly higher than at any time since the assassination-plagued ‘60’s. The appearance of guns at political events, the ho-hum reaction to it in the media and the romanticized heroism of the gunmen in some circles reminds me too much of what has happened in the anti-choice movement with the murderous fringe disavowed and yet winked at because, after all, God’s justice has been done. I think that Richard has pegged the non-cynical true believers who see their mission as “a kind of rescue effort aimed at restoring the rightful state of things in the land.” We are in the-ends-justify-the-means territory here. We have one major party handing the microphone to spokespersons who define the basic political positions of the other party as deviant and “socialistic” and who give encouragement to their own most extreme elements to use any means necessary to quash the threat. Barry Goldwater famously said, “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice” and this sentiment gives both inspiration and license to more than a few on the Right. The easy acceptance there of ignoring civil liberties to meet the perceived threat of Takfiri Jihadists has already exposed the malignant contradiction in that creed. There is no reason to believe that it will be anything less than a goad when it comes to the imagined threat right here at home, the elected president of the United States, Barak Obama.

Mark Stuart

Cieran:
Point taken. But i still don't see how all this discussion and analysis helps me as a citizen make up my mind on the current administration's course of action and policies?

To me, this administration is going nowhere. And that's much more important than trying to figure out if or why some would chose to call it socialist or else.

I think graywolf summed up this post better than i could have:
"The "gross coarse" behavior of the Obama haters is despicable.
The "gross coarse" behavior of the Bush haters was good and....patriotic dissent."

David Habakkuk:

Now i checked that study and a few points might have eluded you for some reason:

-the study sample is absolutely not representative of Europe. I don't see how Finland Sweden, Denmark Norway Germany Britain could be representative of a Union made of 27 countries!
(France alone would most dramatically change the results on its own, let alone if you add the southern and eastern european countries)

-furthermore, and i quote the authors themselves (page 2 of the study):

"International comparisons indicate that intergenerational mobility in Britain is of the same order of magnitude as in the US, but that these countries are substantially less mobile than Canada and the Nordic countries. Germany also looks to be more mobile than the UK and US, but a small sample size prevents us drawing a firm conclusion.

David Habakkuk

Mark Stuart,

You stated, as established fact, that there was 'fluidity and mobility' between classes in the U.S., as distinct from 'socialist Europe': which appeared to imply that you believed that more 'socialist' systems had less social mobility. I cited a study which specifically focused on the Nordic countries -- widely regarded as among the most 'socialist' of Europe -- which strongly suggested that levels of intergenerational mobility in these were significantly higher than the U.S.

Certainly the authors stress that the evidence about Germany is inadequate to be categorical, but again it appears to go against, rather than supporting, the categorical claim you made.

As to your contention that 'France alone would most dramatically change the results on its own', you provide not one iota of evidence in support of your claim.

In fact, a recent study by academics from that country and the U.S. concludes that:

"An examination of the differences in mobility between the United States and France since the middle of the nineteenth century, based on data for both countries that permit a comparison between the socioeconomic status of fathers and that of sons throughout a period of thirty years, demonstrates that the United States was a considerably more mobile economy in the past, though such differences are far from apparent today."

(See http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/jinh.2009.39.4.523.)

Serving Patriot

@ Harper,
I think the most precise parallel between the FDR period and what we are living through now is the recognition that we are facing a Depression that shakes people's confidence in the future. FDR answered that fear with a heavy dose of government intervention, but it worked to the benefit of most Americans. I hope Obama comes around to that same orientation, but I fear a worse outcome.

I would argue that after nearly four years of Federal inaction in the face of deepening depression, FDR already had the freedom to act boldly in his first days. Also recall that bank failures accelerated in the 6 months leading to FDRs March 1932 inauguration and that unemployment was ALREADY 25%. If anything, I think Obama's term will look more like Hoover's run and that the next President will have the vast public mandate to re-make the government's compact with the People (for good or ill).

Unless - and until - the Federal Gov't "comes around" to the view of working on the behalf of the citizen (vice the elites), the fires will continue out among the left- and right-leaning disenchanted. Inside the safe cocoon of the recession-proof "Green Zone on the Potomac" there is little appetite to address our current problems in a fundamental way.

And so it goes...

SP

Cieran

Mark Stuart:

Regarding your comment to me:

Point taken. But i still don't see how all this discussion and analysis helps me as a citizen make up my mind on the current administration's course of action and policies?

Is that a trick question? Is it even a question? Your statement (beyond the "point taken" part) has no relationship to my comment, so I'm not sure why you're directing it at me.

I merely noted a fatal flaw in your line of thinking, one that caused you to stop reading Mr. Sale's work. But your frustration with the current US administration is a whole different thing altogether, and is well above my pay grade.

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