Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

06 August 2018

Donation Crunch Time: the Geezers versus the Oligarchs


[Note to Readers: beginning today, I’m putting the links to the most recent posts together with the inverse chronological links to recent posts at the end of the current essay. Crunch time for the midterms demands emphasizing what’s most important, before what’s left of our democracy slips away.]
“Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party.” Old typing test for mechanical typewriters.
Although once meant as a typing test, this old saw has a lesson for us. It assumes preternatural meaning today, and we all know why.

In theory, “democracy” is a system in which informed citizens debate key issues and decide them by voting. But our system is not and never has been a direct democracy. The ones who debate and decide the issues are not we, the people, but the representatives whom we pick in infrequent elections.

Yet we don’t really pick our reps. In our divided electorate, the uncertain middle picks them. That means voters who don’t have strong views, don’t pay much attention, aren’t very well informed, and generally vote on whim or “social issues,” if at all, and often at the last minute.

In primary elections outside presidential cycles, like the ones just recently held, the turnout of eligible voters is often around 30%—less than one out of three. General elections, even at the presidential level, are lucky to attract two-thirds of eligible voters, leaving one of every three out.

So who or what really decides? In practice, it’s two battles between great armies of donors, consultants, and tricksters.

The first is the propaganda battle. One one side are the Republicans. They try to convince working folk that making the rich bosses richer will make everybody better off. If only we let them get richer by selling our factories and technology overseas, depriving working folk of decent health insurance, making workplaces unsafe again, accelerating global warming, and polluting the air we breathe, the water we drink and swim in and the ground we walk on—then and only then will we all get what we want and deserve.

On its face, that sounds pretty nonsensical, doesn’t it? But it’s amazing what you can get voters to believe if you bombard them with nonsense constantly, every day. You can do that with ubiquitous, dominant media like Fox and Sinclair (the radio monopolist), as long as you have entertaining blowhards like Rush and Sean to dish the nonsense up.

Democrats and progressives simply can’t compete in serving nonsense. They don’t have the media dominance. They don’t have the money. And they don’t have the entertaining blowhards. Anyway, their message—“the game is rigged” and “you and your families and ilk are getting systematically screwed”—is neither diverting nor particularly uplifting. But it’s nevertheless correct and apt.

So if the propaganda battle were the only one, you could lower your head over our Constitution and kiss our democracy goodbye. A recent academic study shows that, insofar as real economic issues are concerned, the US is already an oligarchy, ruled by and for the rich and big business. (Click here for the actual study and here for the BBC’s succinct summary.)

Fortunately for us the people, there’s a second battle that’s less unequal. It’s called the “ground game.”

Many voters are so disgusted with and alienated by the oligarchs’ continuing dominance and the GOP’s ridiculous message and that they are ready to give up their vote, sit at home on election day, and watch on TV while their democracy slips away. The trick here is to turn their disgust and outrage into action and get them to slide out of their easy chairs and vote. That trick involves everything from yet more propaganda, through face-to-face and door-to-door persuasion and nagging by texting and e-mailing, to helping folks register and vote by, for example, driving them to the polls or to early-voting stations.

Both the propaganda battle and the ground game take money. If people are going to devote their lives to propaganda and to getting out the vote, they have to be paid to live. And so we have huge armies of professionals and sometime volunteers who need salaries and other incentives. The combined tab for the 2016 presidential and congressional races was reportedly $6.5 billion.

Of course the oligarchs have an advantage in raising that kind of money. By definition, they are rich. But the rest of us have the numbers: there are many more of us. If ten thousand people donate a thousand each, you’ve got $10 million. If you can produce a million donors of a thousand each, you’ve got a billion dollars.

Besides the oligarchs (the fabled 1%), the only demographic cohort that today has both the numbers and that kind of money is the retired Boomers—the Geezers, including me. So the battle to preserve some semblance of our democracy boils down to the Geezers versus the oligarchs.

We Geezers simply have to do our part. Otherwise, it’s curtains for the most just, fair and equitable society in human history. We will enter an era not unlike the decline and fall of ancient Rome. Preserving some of what Jefferson, Adams, Lincoln, FDR and Obama gave us may be the best legacy we Geezers can give our heirs.

So unless we want people like Charles Koch, Sheldon Adelson, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump to fix our nation’s future, we Geezers have to dig deep. The question is how to do so with maximum effect and without wasting our hard-earned money.

There is no magic formula. You can’t forfeit the propaganda game without risking losing the whole thing right there. Anyway, the Russians have showed—by helping put Trump in the White House—that a little money spent intelligently on propaganda can go a long way.

So we Geezers have to support both battles—the propaganda campaign and the “ground game”—or we and our democracy might lose. We have to think and act strategically.

There is no alternative. Through Fox, Sinclair, Rush, Sean and all the rest, the oligarchs have convinced the Trumpets that they are “making American great again.” What the Trumpets are really doing is systematically screwing themselves—the working people and the poor—while making the oligarchs yet richer and more powerful.

How do we know? The best and simplest way to create millions of good jobs for skilled workers here at home is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. Although Trump has promised many times to do so, that promise somehow never got off the ground. Instead, Trump and the GOP have borrowed $1.5 trillion to give the oligarchs big tax cuts. Now they are planning to use executive action to give them $100 billion more, which will benefit the rich almost exclusively.

Watch what they do, not what they say or promise! Meanwhile, they gin up racism, xenophobia, homophobia and misogyny to divide and conquer us. They make weak minds think they are making America great again, while all they are really doing is inciting us to fight among ourselves while the oligarchs steal our patrimony and use it to further enrich themselves.

The midterm elections this November and the 2020 presidential election may be our last chances to set things right.

So it’s crunch time for us Geezers. We can spend some of our huge collective cash hoard—“spend the kids’ inheritance now”—to fight the oligarchs. In so doing, we can give our kids the best inheritance of all: a democracy that still works. Or we can let the oligarchs continue to rule by distraction, deception and deceit. There is no other alternative.

In my next post, I will reveal my own strategy for contributing and ask for comments and analysis. But right now, it’s not so much the details of strategy that matter. The only thing that matters is us Geezers’ individual and collective will to use our big cash hoard to fight the oligarchs and take our democracy back. That will require not just a blue wave, but a blue tidal wave, in November.

Endnote: To see quickly how ridiculous Fox’ propaganda really is, take a couple of minutes to watch this brief collection of Fox moron-pundits blasting Obama but praising Trump for doing exactly the same thing: trying use diplomacy, without preconditions, to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. “Fair and balanced”? Only the blind and deaf might think so.

[For the threat to our way of life posed by dark cryptocurrency transfers and untraceable and undetectable assault weapons, click here. For reasons why an economic or political crash is coming or imminent, click here. For a brief note on a rare “conservative” who can think, click here. For things corporate CEOs can do to help keep the United States from suffering a decline and fall like ancient Rome’s, click here. For a comparison of quality in pols and reasons to recall our recent past, click here. For reasons why Trump’s trade war is headed toward a disastrous defeat, click here. For a brief note on how corporate rule is encroaching on American cities, click here. For our desperate need for voters to focus on good character, click here. For an analysis of facts and Kim’s myth about North Korea, click here. For a second post on training new voters, click here. A list of links to popular recent posts follows:]

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