What’s Red, Blue, and Broke All Over? America

This piece originally appeared on The Daily Beast.

Beneath the sex scandals, moronic tweets, ridiculous characters, and massive incompetence that dominate Washington in this mean period of our history lie more fundamental geopolitical realities. Increasingly it is economics—how people make money—rather than culture that drives the country into perpetual conflict.

The tax bill brought that conflict to the surface, as Republicans made winners of Wall Street and the corporate elites, as well as most taxpayers and homeowners in lower-cost states, and losers of high-income blue-state taxpayers in high-tax states such as California, New York, and New Jersey.

A U.S. News and World Report headline denounced the bill as a declaration of “War Read more

The New Mandarins of the Deep State

This article first appeared at The Orange County Register.

The shocking defeat of GOP Senator hopeful Roy Moore may not spell the end of Trumpism, but you can see it from there. The president’s unconventional peasant rebellion has now reached its high-water market, with a countervailing tide threatening to inundate an increasingly vulnerable GOP.

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Eric Garcetti for president? Really?

This article first appeared on The Orange County Register.

Someone may be putting something in the Los Angeles water supply. In the past months, two unlikely L.A.-based presidential contenders — Mayor Eric Garcetti and Disney Chief Robert Iger — have been floated in the media, including in the New York Times. Read more

Radicalism is on the Rise in American Politics

This article first appeared at The Orange County Register.

The Republican Party’s road to the 2018 mid-terms looks increasingly like Pickett’s Charge, the Confederate assault on fixed Union positions that marked the high-water mark for the southern cause. After achieving its greatest domination of elective office in 80 years, the GOP seems likely to get slaughtered.

As at Gettysburg, bad generalship, an unpopular, clumsy Donald Trump, constitutes one cause for the imminent Republican decline. But the officer corps is also failing, as the congressional delegation seems determined to screw its middle class base in favor the remnant of those corporate plutocrats who finance their campaigns and the Goldman Sachs crowd to whom Trump has outsourced his economic policy. Steve Bannon’s support for demagogues like Roy Moore can only further weaken the party’s appeal, rapidly turning much of the business community, out of sheer embarrassment, into de facto Democrats.

Only one thing can save the Republicans from themselves: the Democrats. Although they have shown remarkable unity as part of the anti-Trump resistance, the Democrats themselves suffer deep-seated divisions. Most critically they are moving left at a time when more voters seek something more in the middle. Certainly this progressive tilt has done little to reverse their own declining popularity; public approval of the party has sunk to the lowest levels in a quarter century.

The rise of the radical base

“Who the gods wish to destroy, they first drive mad.” Today this old Greek adage seems particularly applicable to the Democrats. In the past the party produced leaders, and endorsed positions, that appealed across a broad swath of the population. With the Republicans forced to defend Trump, and ally with the marginalized far-right, a more centrist approach seems almost guaranteed to create success, as we saw recently in the Virginia elections.

But, sadly, the much heralded “resistance” to Trump has radicalized the party’s grassroots, giving enhanced power to militant groups like Black Lives Matter, as well as the most extreme green and gender fundamentalists. Clustered increasingly in large urban centers, Democrats are moving more quickly to progressive extremes than the GOP is shifting to the right; the percentage of Democratic voters tilting left since 1994 has grown from 30 percent to 73 percent. Moderates in the party, argues Wall Street investor Steven Ratner, face a “freight train coming at us from the left.”

The centrist approach used in Virginia should show the way, and succeeded largely by winning moderate voters from the affluent D.C. suburbs. But in California or New York rank and file, suburban Democrats have little voice against the organized and strident habitués of the core cities. The various cultural imperatives of the media, the universities, the progressive non-profit and well-funded community groups wash out all other voices.

Positions that threaten a Democratic resurgence

Three critical positions threaten a national Democratic resurgence. The first, and the most divisive, is immigration policy. Most Americans do not embrace the xenophobia of the Trump base, but they also do not favor such things as sanctuary cities, even here in California. They are not likely to celebrate immigrant law-breaking as does state Senate Leader Kevin de León, now challenging the more centrist Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bid for re-election.

Read the rest of the article at The Orange County Register.

Photo credit: LA Mountains via Flickr under CC 2.0 License (cropped and brightened by rlhoward)

Trump in China and the Limits of Authoritarianism

This article first appeared at The Orange County Register.

As President Trump visits China, the contrast between the president — at war with the national media, the corporate establishment, almost all of academia and even his own party — and the sure-handed Xi Jinping seems almost unbearable. Xi has consolidated power to an extent not seen since Mao’s time, while directing a global expansion of Chinese power, notably in central and south Asia as well as Africa.

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Joel Kotkin on End of Capitalism: McIntyre In The Morning KABC 790

By: KABC 790
On: McIntyre In The Morning

Joel Kotkin interviewed on KABC 790. Joel discusses the ‘end of capitalism’ and western civilization, especially millennial rejection of capitalism.

Click the Play button to listen.

Is There a Civilization War Going On?

This article first appeared at The Orange County Register.

“Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.” — Arnold J. Toynbee

From the heart of Europe to North America, nativism, sometimes tinged by white nationalist extremism, is on the rise. In recent elections, parties identified, sometimes correctly, as alt-right have made serious gains in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, pushing even centrist parties in their direction. The election of Donald Trump can also be part of this movement.

Why is this occurring? There are economic causes to be sure, but perhaps the best explanation is cultural, reflecting a sense, not totally incorrect, that western civilization is on the decline, a movement as much self-inflicted as put upon.

French intellectuals First to See the Trend

In 1973 a cranky French intellectual, Jean Raspail, published a speculative novel, “The Camp of the Saints,” which depicted a Europe overrun by refugees from the developing world. In 2015 another cranky Frenchman, Michael Houellenbecq, wrote a bestseller, “Submission,” which predicted much the same thing, ending with the installation of an Islamist government in France.

Both novels place the blame for the collapse of the Western liberal state not on the immigrants but on cultural, political and business leaders all too reluctant to stand up for their own civilization. This is reflected in such things as declining respect for free speech, the importance of citizenship, and even the weakening of the family, an institution now rejected as bad for the environment and even less enlightened than singlehood.

Critically, the assault on traditional liberalism has come mostly not from the reactionary bestiary, but elements of the often-cossetted left. It is not rightist fascism that threatens most but its pre-condition, the systematic undermining of liberal society from within…

Read the rest of the article at The Orange County Register.

Photo: JÄNNICK Jérémy [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The New State Role Models

This article first appeared at The Orange County Register.

With Congress on what appears to be a permanent hold, the search for a workable political model now shifts increasingly to states and localities. Today America’s divergent geographies resemble separate planets, with policy agendas from immigration and climate change that vary wildly from place to place.

The greatest divide lies between the deep blue states, notably California, and progressive America’s network of large urban centers and the generally less dense, more suburban-dominated red states. Their policy prescriptions may vary, but, if allowed to continue, the differing jurisdictions could end up serving as what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called “laboratories of democracy.”

So, the critical question remains what policies work best. The answers may not be as simple as ideologues on the left and right might claim, but instead suggest, as President Bill Clinton once did, that our stunning diversity cannot easily follow a single political script.

California and the blue state model

Democrats may be at a historic low in terms of control of states and local jurisdictions, but they boast almost total domination in many of the richest, most influential and powerful locales. New York, California, Connecticut, Illinois and New Jersey are all tilting left with policies driven by powerful public employees, greens, urban real estate speculators as well as ethnic and gender activists.

To be sure, kowtowing to these interests has landed these states among the worst fiscal situations in the nation. Yet some blue regions also have grown economically well above the national average since 2010, largely driven by asset inflation, particularly real estate and stocks, and technology. California’s robust growth, although now slowing, and its world-dominating tech sector has made it a creditable role model for similarly minded states.

But what has been good in the aggregate has not worked so well for most Californians. Despite all the constant complaining about inequality and racial injustice, California, notes progressive economist James Galbraith, has also become among the most economically unequal parts of the country, topped only by Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. Particularly damaged have been the prospects for the young and minorities, particularly in terms of achieving homeownership.

Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

Photo credit: Entheta [CC BY 2.5, GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

What Does the Future Hold for the Automobile?

This piece first appeared at The Orange County Register.

For a generation, the car has been reviled by city planners, greens and not too few commuters. In the past decade, some boldly predicted the onset of “peak car” and an auto-free future which would be dominated by new developments built around transit.

Yet “peak car,” like the linked concept of “peak oil” has failed to materialize. Once the economy began to recover from the Great Recession, vehicle miles traveled, sales of cars, and particularly trucks, began to rise again, reaching a sales peak the last two year. Instead, it has been transit ridership that has stagnated, and even fallen in some places like Southern California. Read more

The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism

The article first appeared at The Orange County Register.

When Donald Trump was elected president, much of American Jewish leadership reacted with something close to hysteria. To some, Trump’s presidency reflected the traditional face of the anti-Semitic right — xenophobic, nationalist and culturally conservative.

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