Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Problem of the Gerrymander and Strategic Make Believe

The Original Gerrymander

A couple of years ago, I made note of the fact that Democrats really dropped the ball in the 2010 election at the state and local level, to the extent that Rs won dozens of state houses where they would have a free hand to run wild and to redistrict House seats -- ie: gerrymandering them to protect Republican incumbents and create new, safe districts for Republicans -- thanks to the 2010 Census. And so it has been.

The current Republican lock on the ridiculous clown show that is the House of Representatives is the direct result of Dem Party failure (catastrophic, in my view) to work the states and localities in 2010, an election in which they seemed to put up little more than a sham fight when it came down to it.

To my mind, this catastrophic failure was a deliberate -- strategic? -- decision by the Party Pooh-Bahs to "let the states go" and let the clown show transpire. The protests against Scott Walker's overreach in Wisconsin were just the beginning of what has been a long and exhausting struggle, not so much against Rs as against Ds -- and a D Party apparat -- that enables them.

The dysfunctional Congress is merely a symptom of a much larger problem, that of the Uni-Party with two collaborative branches that put on a Show for the entertainment (and profit) of the Big Media and for the bamboozlement of the Public. Let's not fool ourselves. That's how it works. Whatever is done in public is a Show. What's going on behind the scenes is the real work of the governing classes, work that always inures to their benefit at the expense of everyone else. They -- the rulers -- believe it's supposed to be that way, as if determined by God His Ownself, which is why they can be and for many years now have been totally oblivious to the needs and interests of the People and how cruel and even sadistic they can be in their ignorance and contempt.

Their Operating System and Theory is to Govern Contrary to whatever the People's Will or Interest demands.

The Ds are no Salvation Party, but their failure of due diligence in 2010 by letting so many state houses go was instructive to me regarding the Party intent for the next few cycles. At the upper levels, the Ds had fully adopted and accepted Neo-liberal "economics" and they saw that the only way to get it implemented without throwing everything into complete chaos was to pretend opposition and to manage dissent.

I'd suspect this comes from the lessons of success of the IMF and other outfits imposing Neo-liberal "economics" on many Third World nations,  where protest had to be managed (sometimes quite violently) and indeed governments themselves had to be overthrown (again, sometimes violently) -- which looked bad -- in order to impose the Doctrine of Exploitation which is at the root of Neo-liberalism. The brutality of the early pillaging was ugly to say the least; wasn't there a way to do this without all the tumult and bloodshed?

Yes, of course. Strategic make-believe, ie: The Show. As Reagan and Thatcher had demonstrated, the People Who Matter will go along with the program of plunder and exploitation so long as they think they're going to get a cut of the spoils. The Masses don't matter.  They will do nothing that the Ruling Classes need pay attention to -- as long as their dissent is properly managed. Managing the dissent of the Masses became something of an intriguing game for the Rulers -- which we saw demonstrated with remarkable clarity during the protests against the Iraq War in 2002 and 2003.

People were encouraged to "protest" all they wanted, so long, of course, as they stayed within strictly limited bounds, which they did. This left the Rulers free to ignore the protest -- which they did. The People would actually do nothing except what they were told to do. As long as that was within bounds, the more the merrier.

Wah-lah! Perfectly managed dissent.

Though there have been a number of efforts to break free of the management of dissent (such as Cindy Sheehan's camp out along the road to Bush's Bogus Ranch in Texas -- an early example of the principle of Occupy, btw -- and the Occupy encampments in the Public Squares of the Globe)  they are either co-opted or dispersed in relatively short order. Real opposition fades away -- or seems to.

It's much like what happens in Congress, where dissent is heavily managed and a kind of bogus struggle and its accompanying paralysis is institutionalized. The gerrymander ensures that no matter what the People want or even vote for the charade will continue indefinitely.

Thus, from a strategic point of view, it was necessary for Ds to lose a majority of state houses in 2010 in order to enable the Rs to gerrymander safe House districts for themselves in near perpetuity. It's similar to the odd behaviour of Team Obama in saving the asses of Republicans time and again and always caving to their demands in the end. This is how to enable the victory of Neo-liberal policies without triggering the kind of massive uprising that generally accompanies naked power grabs. Both parties agree that Neo-liberal policies are necessary, but they are unpopular. Thus a minority party -- the Rs -- is delegated to propose and push them ("moving the country ever rightward") while the majority Ds pretend to oppose them -- but always cave in the end. The Rs would be wiped out electorally if there were free and fair elections based on rational districting in this country, thus there would be less of a push rightward and less gain for Neo-liberalism -- and it would take longer, too.

The current policies are devastating to the People, but that's the whole point. I've seen very little understanding of what the Senate bill that the House passed last night really does. This is perhaps the best outline I've seen so far:

"Quibbles" by Kid Oakland

1. The United States is in the midst of a jobs crisis, not an unemployment benefits crisis

2. This tax deal contains an instant, regressive anti-stimulus in the form of a 2% increase in payroll tax for all income up to $113,700.

3. The change from $250K to $450K is being misreported and misunderstood

4. Accepting this tax deal, and its premise that the Bush Tax Cuts should largely be made permanent, means accepting two Americas, those who have, and those who, increasingly, have very much less.

Taxes on the working poor and the middle classes are going up by at least 2%; taxes on the rich, not so much. In fact, it's been calculated that the bite out of higher incomes will be less than 1%. Sweet. There will be no jobs programs or substantial increases in employment for the foreseeable future or ever for that matter. The Neo-liberal economic program of Bushevik tax cuts for the rich will become institutionalized.  The devastation of the Masses will continue unabated.

That's where we are.

If we stay on the current path, it will only get worse.


  1. Reading the commentary on Daily Kos on the payroll tax increase was eye opening. I get the impression that a lot of the posters there don't understand the phrase paycheck to paycheck. Paycheck to paycheck people have no or negative savings. Often these are people who made a lot of decisions based on how much they thought they were going to have in their paycheck. Now they are going to have less, but they won't be able to renegotiate the commitments they've already made. Which means even if they aren't driven into ruin, a bunch of little horror stories will appear, like not getting needed medical treatment or leaving the brakes on their cars to squeak for a few more months.

    If the "tax holiday" had never been put into place, then their decisions would have been different (signing a cheaper lease, buying a cheaper car, etc). Randomly putting this tax holiday into place, and then randomly removing it, ends up just being cruel. Suddenly they wish they had taken the apartment with the "parking lot view," or gone with the cheaper model car, but they still have to pay their monthly commitments, regardless. Or the repo-men come and take their car, and the sheriff evicts them from their apartment.

  2. I agree, it is cruel, deliberately so.

    I've seen very little notice that there even is an increase in worker payroll taxes that will affect so many people, and will be devastating to some.

    There was something on the teevee a little bit ago suggesting that because take-home pay will be reduced for most workers this year (didn't say why), workers should get part-time jobs or offer their services up for bid or open a little online shop on Etsy to make up the difference.