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March 27, 2017

    The following is my response to a blog today written by Shelia Kennedy, professor at IUPUI in Indianapolis, as slightly edited for blogging on my own. Professor Kennedy’s blog asks how we are to mend both parties’ shortcomings in view of their internal fractures and how history can illuminate our choices with (among other things) a look at the Whigs and Know Nothings Parties of the nineteenth century. My followers know that I have been predicting the demise of the Republican Party for years which I have chosen to call “the descent into Whigdom.” I have no phrase to describe a Democratic descent into political oblivion since I believe that with a few tweaks such party will survive and even thrive as will be seen in the following slightly edited response to Professor Kennedy’s blog.

    Shelia – I too cling to the notion that history is linear and important to note while not being enslaved by it and have blogged frequently that the Republican Party is descending into what I have coined “Whigdom,” the Whig Party from whose ashes the Republican Party arose in 1854 and elected a former Whig (Lincoln) to the presidency only six years later. Your view from the author you quote with approval in your post is that both present day parties could be headed to political oblivion a la the Whigs unless they change their ways to attract a larger constituency or even to save the remnants of what they now have is noted as well, but I think the Republicans will get to the precipice of oblivion first even if Trump had not been elected. I think his election merely hastened the pace of their descent back to Whigdom and is a demonstration of how internally torn that party really is and why they cannot effectively govern.

    Of course there have always been factions within the two major political parties at odds with what their respective parties were doing (see FDR and his concessions to Southern Democrats for their support of his New Deal policies), though frequently such factions were quieted and stayed “loyal to the party” with a bridge or a dam or some other economic concession back to the state or congressional district of such loyal if recalcitrant politicians who could then brag to their constituents that they (the politicians) had “brought home the bacon.” However, I think this time the political scene is different and more so in the Republican than the Democratic Party. Why?

    The hard right Republicans (Freedom Caucus, Tea Party and other libertarian elements of the Mercers and Kochs) cannot be pacified by a dam or a bridge. They are unbeatable in gerrymandered districts and are thus enabled to fearlessly play out their 19th century Gilded Age libertarian nihilist politics with scant regard to “loyalty to the party.” It appears that the Republican Party’s rush to gerrymander districts after the last census has come back to bite them, i.e., they have immunized hard right wing Republican members of the House from competition in such districts who don’t have to obey the dictates of their Speaker (see Ryan, who himself may be badly injured if not gone after the Trump-Ryancare healthcare fiasco of last week). I think such a situation in addition to changing progressive demographic realities in the polity hastens the day of that party’s return to Whigdom, a descent already in place before last fall’s election.

    So what of the Democratic Party, of which I have been a lifelong member? We did not arise out of Whigdom and will not therefore return to it, so what do we need to do to attract a massive constituency such as that we enjoyed under FDR? Answer: Same thing he did (as adjusted for intervening realities). Our first task is to reengage the so-called “working class,” not only the “white” working class, but rather the working class. Period – no adjectives. Here is where history serves us a perfect template for action. We start by advocating a much higher minimum wage than we currently have at the federal level and work hard at state levels to repeal right to work laws and other such ALEC and CLUB FOR GROWTH anti-labor initiatives the Republicans have foisted off on working Americans as they keep a lid on wages in order to reduce costs to their campaign contribut0rs – the rich and corporate class. Working Americans will note and respond to such efforts in time as they see that only the Democratic Party has a place for all in its Big Tent.

    I have written dozens of blogs over the past months and years complaining of wage inequality and how it inhibits aggregate demand in the market and how that keeps us in a perpetual state of near recession marked by tepid economic growth. We have had more than 40 years of stagnant median wages adjusted for inflation while the Dow has gone stratospheric, a runup based largely on Wall Street’s continuing theft of  increased worker productivity which has gone unshared with such workers and unlike our post-WW II era in which the increased income to the economy occasioned by enhanced worker productivity rose in tandem with the Dow.

    We are suffering the consequences with both tepid demand and economic growth in our underperforming economy. We have seen the code’s treatment of capital gains, “carried interest,” stock options and the like get favorable treatment for the zillionaires but minimal to no tax relief for working people. We are not rewarding work over investment, and that should be reversed. As a for instance, recently there was a slight uptick in the median wage which was subjected to propaganda treatment by the business press, which treated a miniscule increase of a 0.4 for the month of January as proof that working Americans were being treated fairly and were not the subject of wage inequality. A pundit rightly pointed out that such an increase was offset by rising inflation and interest rates and that when such “wage gains” were adjusted for taxes and price increases American workers’ incomes actually slipped 0.2 for such month, the largest decline in more than three years. So let’s look beyond the headlines and see how the lord (the rich and corporate class) giveth and the lord taketh away. Working Americans continue to suffer wage inequality however disguised in the business pages of the Wall Street Journal to the contrary.

    Finally, I think that the Democratic Party, like all parties, is eventually headed for oblivion, but that the Republican Party (given their greed, lust for power, heartless treatment of the sick and poor and leaderless inability to effectively govern) is much nearer to such destination than our party. The good news is that with a tweak here and there in adding old constituents to an evolving demographic of progressive millennials and minorities means we can win and win big for the foreseeable future – so let’s get on with it.      GERALD      E

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