Thursday, October 26, 2017

Chamber Of Commerce Democrats? Shunned Or Embraced?

I reached blog #100 on this site recently and was sort of coasting, basking in the achievement of this silly goal.  But I read a blog on a very much appreciated progressive web site trashing a Democratic State Representative I know because he's a sort of Chamber of Commerce Democrat.  It moved me to ponder a conundrum for many Democrats.

I know this guy.  He's reasonable, very liberal on most stuff and makes his living as a businessman.  His spouse is also a small business owner, also a liberal, very influential feminist and opinion leader.
I myself made my living before retirement as a young corporate employee, learning my field of endeavor from the big guys before transitioning to mostly self employment/entrepreneurship for the remainder of my career.  So I admittedly kind of identify with this very accomplished guy.  But some fellow progressives challenge his commitment to our values.  I wonder if they are being myopic?

Many, but not all of my fellow Democrats and activists came from academia, labor organizing, non-profit organization management as well as legal and medical professions.  But a large share of my political colleagues were local small business owners; consultants, retailers from all kinds of industries as well as large corporation mid-level and a few top executives.  They were Democrats because of their values of humanism, tolerance, compassion and appreciation for collective action to better lives of fellow Americans.  They did not sacrifice their individuality is engaging in collective action in the commons. But they were capitalists like me.

The blog I read chastised this State Representative for, in their view, putting the interests of the  Chamber of Commerce ahead of individual voters and citizens.  But is it not in the interest of individual voters  to provide a healthy economy, employment opportunities and some level of financial security as a result?   Does this not sometimes require such a local officeholder to weigh and balance the value or damage of legislative policy to  each sector.....the individual citizens vis a vis the commercial enterprise around them?  There are few organized societies today in the world that don't have the challenge of balancing these priorities....the needs of individuals vs. the needs of commercial organizations, even with authoritarian collectivist economies.

America is facing a  huge long term challenge.  The globalization of commerce and the transformation of industry from primarily utilizing human labor to the primary use of mechanized tools and artificial intelligence in place of most human and animal labor.   This world changing, this likely unstoppable trend has got to be put front and center on the American agenda right up there with climate change.  In fact, solutions to climate change might be found in the major transformation from human and animal labor to mechanized labor and artificial intelligence.

But the short term issues of government serving the interests of individual citizens vs. the interests of the commercial sector is a really important precursor step towards addressing the longer term potential American and global economic crisis.  Some Democrats frame this problem in search of a solution as a conflict that must favor the individual citizen.  But does it?  Are we not facing a codependency issue here?  Don't individuals in even a quasi-capitalistic economy need commerce to provide them income to take care of their basic needs for housing, nutrition, socialization, mobility and the like?  And doesn't the commercial sector need some of these individuals for labor as well as all of them equipped with the ability to purchase their goods and services?  Marketers call this the exchange process.  It is the very heart of economics. 

And governments, in order to provide services to satisfy at least the basic needs of individuals and commercial entities, need to generate some revenue from this exchange process.  Things like roads and transportation services, fire, policing and judicial services, water, in some cases electricity and power generation, education, health services at the very minimum.

Unless we make the unlikely decision as a society to nationalize all commercial services, we are going to have to figure out how to address the short term dependency needs of both our individual citizens and the commercial sector both serving their needs and depending on their affluence to sustain their commerce.  This obviously requires a balance of priorities.  Sometimes the citizen's priorities must prevail  and sometimes the commercial sector's priorities prevail.  This is a balance that is continuously in flux. 

At least right now, government bodies are the most reasonable arbitrators of that balance; municipalities and states, with those elected to serve the common interest are the front lines engaged in the skirmishes to resolve the conflicts of priorities.  How well the economic interests of all involved are served starts here, on main street.  This is the laboratory where successful solutions are discovered and transitioned upward to our very dysfunctional national government, who must very soon engage in the work of solving the problems created by our commercial sector.  Again, major economic disruption due to changing technology but also, life threatening climate disruption potentially mitigated through changing technology.

So, Democrats, we must embrace the commercial sector to ensure we are allies in problem solving.  This starts with appreciating the balance required by good local politicians in serving both the interests of individual citizens and the Chambers of Commerce on Main Street.  The Chamber of Commerce cannot be the enemy unless our society is about self-destruction.  This is an ally Democrats absolutely need to solve the economic and environmental problems threatening our very national and  material existence.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't regulate them, fairly tax them protect workers and their rights and bust up their massive monopolies.  This is part of the solution to our massive economic challenges. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Is White Resentment Fixable?

How do we reach these 60 million + Americans who have given us this Trumpian chaos?  Is this what they intended?  Democrats could not reach them with logic, rationality and facts.  This was true of both Democratic diagnostics and solutions.  Are they in fact reachable?  Teachable? Persuadable?

Some clearly want to punish those of us who gave them and America our first black president.  They will continue to want to punish because their hate trumps everything else.  They hated that Obama, no drama Obama,  who calmly and rationally gave them some stability out of economic and foreign war chaos.  They hate that he succeeded on many metrics, though metrics mean nothing to them.  This breed of Trumpian is beyond reach. They want reversal of Obama's calming, stabilizing and tolerant policies purely out of spite and resentment for the success of others. 

I don't think so but as an optimist I am open to the possibility of some event or series of events that would move some of them to embrace an alternative to chaos.  As authoritarians is is unreasonable to assume that they find this chaos acceptable to their lives, which mainly is all they care about.  Authoritarians like control, as long as it is in their hands.  Surely, even on an emotional level they see the current situation as not in their hands.  They like predictability and don't like surprises.  Every day under Trump is a shocking surprise.

They bought the wall, immigration of only people like them, trade deals where their jobs stay here, control where they feel on top of the social order hierarchy or at least not losing out to those who don't look like them.  All sold to them on a purely emotional level with the practice of marketing/advertising my fellow Democrats never have comprehended.

So it seems reasonable that alternatives can be sold to them on an emotional level if Democrats can bring themselves to engaging people emotionally as well as rationally and intellectually. We'll never make urbanites or cosmopolitans out of them.  That is a lifestyle we embrace and is as foreign to those rural and exurbans as, say, Indonesia.  Or Africa.  We are going to have to meet them on their turf there in the red hinterlands.  They are not going to leave.  Those that are not indigenous rurals are there because they or their parents escaped to the pasturelands, woods and mountains in the stampede for the exists from school and housing integration in the adjacent cities.

They embraced their local main streets and mom and pop stores until saving a few pennies at Walmart became an option previously unavailable to them.  They quickly abandoned their neighbors' businesses because they are largely not about community (except a few indigenous locals who maintain that incredibly generous tradition).  They are about the American Dream, getting rich themselves and caring less about those who didn't/couldn't compete.  Sadly, few of them got rich; maybe the local car dealer and tractor dealer, but the rest just scraped by with that factory job.

But, then, with the votes and help of their Republican congressmen, those factories  passed out the pink slips and headed to the hinterlands.  They went overseas or merged with other corporations for greater efficiency, meaning, scaling back labor.  This included moving from union to right to work states so they could pay lower wages and benefits.  Or, no benefits.  So, like many of the exurbans who headed out of the nearby city, the factories headed out of town.  Pretty much the same mentality.

Now we have boarded up small town red America.  And they want to be saved.  Can't blame them.  They didn't go beyond or many didn't finish high school, so other than the trade they learned at the factory, they are without needed skills.  So, many resorted to opioids and some fraudulent disability support.  It is ironic they or their parents accused urban/minority persons of milking the welfare system but they now find themselves replicating that option.

Joe Biden is telling us that that manufacturing plant can be reopened out there in the hinterlands.  You've got to be kidding me.  So, by some magic Motorola, if they even exist anymore, will return from Bangladesh and reopen in say Canton, Ohio and save the Trumpian Cantonites?  Not on your life. The Cantonites are going to have to take charge of their economics and through some sort of community cooperative organization create a industry or two that fulfills some unmet need elsewhere in Ohio.  And many of these people would have to sell a house that is nearly paid off for a pittance and relocate and maybe rent to retrain or work in a new plant 300 miles away?  Really? And this is going to require a lot of help from the state and likely the federal governments to help them find the unmet needs for new products and services and provide financing.  All of which defies these Resentful's strong distaste for government "interference," because this is going to take some policies, rules and regulations.  Yes, and taxes, probably on others, mainly the non-Resentfuls and 1 % ers .   Or, pay them some kind of life sustaining stipend funded by others, mostly in Blue states, an idea that Joe Biden hates because people need the dignity of work for self respect.  As if they had any in the first place.

And all of this is going to have to be sold to them on a purely emotional basis appealing to their self interest, god forbid it is offered to anyone different from them.

So, good luck with that.  But optimists can always hope.