The Rules of Politics Have Changed

The only thing keeping Hillary alive right now is the large faction of Democrats who prefer Bernie’s platform but think Hillary is more electable.

The belief in Hillary’s electability is based in a set of theories about the American electorate that held true from roughly 1968-2006, but have since lost their explanatory power.

The conventional political wisdom says that Americans will always believe themselves to be capitalists waging a Cold War with communism. It says that Reagan ushered in a permanent conservative political era, and that leftist candidates are forever doomed to lose McGovern style. It says that to win the presidency, politicians must appeal to the “center” and get the financial backing of the corrupt, corporate establishment.

This is no longer true. The times have changed.

In the past 15 years, we’ve had the failed Iraq war, the crash of 2008, and the blossoming of the internet; climate change has become an undeniable fact and gay rights and marijuana legalization have become mainstream. These factors, and many more, have contributed to a total re-shaping of the American political landscape.

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The American ideological distribution has polarized. Centrists are rapidly evaporating. And this is in spite of the fact that there are now almost as many independents as Republicans and Democrats combined.

In the past 8 years, we’ve seen 5 massive political movements: Obama in ’08, the Tea Party in ’09, Occupy Wall Street in ’11, Black Lives Matter in ’15, and now Bernie’s movement in ’16. We haven’t seen political movements like this since the 60’s.

What this all points to is a widespread and deep dissatisfaction with centrist, establishment politics. The success of Sanders, Trump and Cruz is evidence of this fact. They offer the two competing explanations for why establishment politics and economics have failed.

The explanation on the right is that Bush, Bush Sr., Reagan and Nixon all weren’t conservative enough. They believe it is all these immigrants, gays, PC-liberals, Muslims, blacks and Mexicans that are destroying America. They believe we need to make America great again by returning to the “good ‘ol days” (aka white-man America). Needless to say, the right is wrong.

The explanation on the left is that the past 40 years have proven the failure of neo-liberal economics and hawkish foreign policies. The belief is that we need to return to European/Roosevelt style economics and diplomacy based foreign policy. Needless to say, the left is right.

Millenials are the first generation to accept this fact. We are Bernie’s internet army. We are the reason Bernie has continued winning, even as the entire mainstream media has only ignored and mocked him.

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Creative commons courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Millenials are really good at collectively spreading Bernie’s message and destroying counter-narratives. Consider that in just 9 months we have succeeded in making democratic socialism a permanent fixture of American politics. We got the DNC to reverse their decision overnight on locking Bernie’s campaign out of the voter databases. And it took us about a week to squash the narrative that Hillary is the choice feminist candidate.

We are currently in the process of dismantling the narrative of Hillary’s African-American firewall. The signs are there: Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Cornell West, Erica Garner, and Shaun King have all recently spoken out in favor of Bernie.

Politics is now real time. As media narratives arise, the internet responds to them – and very effectively. The establishment may control TV and newspapers, but millenials control the internet – and that’s why we are winning. We control the comment sections. We have thousands of prominent pro-Bernie social media pages that are generating millions and millions of views every single day.

Howard Dean was heralded in 2004 for revolutionizing politics by using the internet. Obama was similarly hailed as a digital innovator in 2008. Bernie has now broken Obama’s fundraising records. He raised $3M in the 24 hours after Iowa and then $6.4M in the 24 hours after NH. He received more votes in the NH primary than any politician in history.

So let’s be clear, it never was Dean, Obama or Bernie that broke those records and revolutionized politics; it is the internet-left that has repeatedly started these movements. We are the ones changing the rules of politics.

Conventional political wisdom said that Obama, a black man with Hussein as a middle name, couldn’t become president. It said Trump couldn’t win Republican primaries while insulting veterans, making sexist comments about Fox News anchors, and saying racist things about blacks and Mexicans. It said that a Jewish democratic-socialist could never be more than an obscure fringe candidate.

Conventional political wisdom is dead.

In the new political world, Hillary is no longer the safe bet; she is the liability that embodies the failed political past.

It’s one thing to fight against Bernie’s revolution because you don’t believe in the cause. It’s another thing to believe in the cause, but to fight it because you believe in an outdated set of theories about the American electorate.

The rules of politics have changed.

It is time to stop asking “how can Bernie succeed?” and start asking: “how can I help Bernie succeed?”

How Trump Just Might Make America Great Again

With Donald Trump, we finally have a Republican politician tells it like it is, say what he thinks, and mean what he says. He is the perfect representative for the Republican Party. He fits all the target demographics (rich, white, straight, male and Christian), falls right in the middle of the Republican spectrum, and doesn’t shy away from expressing the bigotry that underpins his political beliefs.

I know it is too much to hope for, but if Trump wins the nomination, I think history will end up remembering him as having been pivotal in making America great again… by making crystal clear just how bigoted the Republican Party is.

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Feature Photo Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s Flickr Page- Creative Commons License

Republicans have been getting away with murder pretending they aren’t bigots for 50 years now, when in truth they’ve been THE political force fighting against civil rights and propagating racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia.

In case we’re unclear, the default Republican platform on these issues is:

Bigotry is baked into the Republican platform. If you vote Republican, you are supporting this bigotry. There is no such thing as just voting for an individual; you are always also voting for a party. Yes, this is a partisan way to frame American politics, but blame the founding fathers for picking a winner-takes-all election system and guaranteeing we’d always exist in a two-party political system.

Even those that identify as ‘moderate, socially liberal, Republicans’ are perpetuating racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia by allying themselves with right-wing bigots. Even if Republican policies were better for job growth (which is debatable, if not outright false), there is no world in which more jobs will make up for the harm done by denying people basic civil rights.

While Democrats have their problems with social justice (and this extends even to the left-most liberal Bernie fans), the parties are on two different logarithmic planes when it comes to social issues. Given that most Americans, even smart ones, still haven’t figured this out about American politics, it seems we need Trump to make it painfully obvious to everyone what the Republican Party truly stands for: classism, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia.

Trump really is just saying out loud what most Republicans are thinking and saying in private; they just know better than to say it in public. And before we start leaping to the defense of Republicans, let’s consider that Republicans have yet to truly denounce Trump as a bigot, even though he’s been their presidential frontrunner for over five months now.

It’s time for “moderate” Republicans to pick a side: are you with the right-wing bigots or are you going to denounce them and join the rest of us in the 21st Century?

Trump, especially in an election against conservative Hilary Clinton, should manage to make the presidential election a referendum on bigotry. If succeeds in making the bigotry of the Republican Party undeniable for moderates, he could well end up being remembered as a pivotal figure that helped make America great again.

Why Our Democracy is Broken and How to Fix it

With the gun debate making its routine rounds, it’s time to ask how it is possible for 70 percent and 85 percent of Americans respectively to be in favor of having a gun database and doing background checks, and yet, no laws get passed.

Most blame American culture, the NRA, the military-industrial complex, Citizen’s United, gerrymandering, or the media, and though these are related, the real fundamental reason no legislation is getting passed is because we have a winner takes all election system. It is our election system that enables minority groups to overpower the majority. In fact, most of our problems (or our inability to solve them) can be traced back to our winner takes all election system.

As any game theorist will tell you, a winner takes all election system will always produce a two-party political system. The reason is that it takes 50 percent to win an election, so two coalitions of interest groups will form and jockey over that last 1 percent. If you look at U.S. history, we’ve really only had two relevant parties at any one time for nearly 250 years. Only in periods where the two major coalitions are unstable does a third party even enter the picture. Two-party systems tend towards partisanship as the constituent coalitions stabilize, and partisanship is nothing new in the U.S. Partisanship is a big reason why no Republicans will work with Democrats to pass basic gun legislation.

But our election system is doing much more to distort our democracy than just pushing us towards partisanship. Winner takes all election systems actually disenfranchise minority voters and inefficiently represent the voters in the winning coalition. This is because the losing coalition gets no representative. And while the winning coalition gets a representative, that representative focuses on the majority coalition within their party that elected them in the primary. The primaries are just a second round of winner takes all elections that further amplifying these anti-democratic distortions. This is how half of the Republican Party (25 percent of the population) can control the entire party’s activities on gun control, and thus manage to overpower 75 percent of the population.

Now imagine that our election system has been similarly distorting all other political issues on a state and federal level for nearly 250 years. No wonder we have so many unsolved problems.

So before we can talk about fixing any other issues, we need to move to a proportional party representation election system. There are many different kinds of proportional party representation (PPR) systems, but the basic principle is that voters vote for parties, and that parties win seats proportional to the number of votes they get. This means that if a party gets 10 percent of the vote, rather than getting 0 percent of the seats in Congress, it gets 10 percent. Imagine that! Revolutionary!

Imagine what Congress would look like if voters could realistically vote for not just Republicans and Democrats, but also the Tea Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Constitution Party, or the Socialist Party. They would have no choice but to work together to pass legislation, and different combinations of parties would work together to pass legislation on different issues. In the case of basic gun control, Republicans, freed from the Tea Party, could work with Democrats to pass minor reforms.

This isn’t just the stuff of dreams. This is reality in most democracies around the world. Proportional party representation can be a reality in the U.S. too. We just need to convince 2/3rd of the country to change the constitution.