Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Yang: Focus on the problems that got Trump elected

CNN host: 

Pete Buttigieg criticized Joe Biden for Hunter being on the Ukraine board. What do you have to say about it?

Andrew Yang: 

     "I think Democrats ought to be focused on the problems that got Donald Trump elected in the first place, the fact that we are going through the most profound economic transformation of our time. We need to provide a new positive vision for America."

Good answer.

1. The CNN host wanted a newsworthy squabble. The Hunter Biden problem is real, even if Joe Biden and Democrats try to dismiss it, because it undermines the Democratic Trump-is-corrupt-and-in-the-swamp argument. Burisma hiring Hunter Biden was archetypal swamp behavior. Pete Buttigieg commented on it.

Yang did not bite. He focused back on solving actual problems important to Americans.

2. No enemies. Yang is unique among the candidates for president in his focus on impersonal, third party forces, not identity or morality or ideological enemies. He says the problem with America's economy isn't the ruling class predation described by Sanders nor the corruption described by Warren. It is the impersonal forces shaping the modern economy. Technological change and the global economy created the squeeze on the young and poor and working Americans who are angry, and for good reason. Income doesn't trickle down, the young are buried in debt, houses cost too much in areas where the jobs are. The problems that created left and right populist revolts are real.

He doesn't criticize corporations for being immoral. They do what is in their nature and incentive to do: avoid taxes while they push to be bigger and more profitable, and do so by buying influence with legislators. More important, Yang does not sound like he is fighting with anyone. He is not at war with whites, or Christians, or even Trump. He has a populist solution, without creating populist enemies.The problems are real, and people's anger is justified, but it isn't solved by fighting the culture war. The problem is progress and technology and it snuck up on us. We can fix it with something that people would actually like.

As Yang presents it, a Universal Basic Income is not a new idea, nor a left wing idea, and it is not theft or a giveaway. Nixon had considered it. Conservative economists has suggested it: spread the wealth. It can be done by monetizing the value that each American creates by offering up his extraordinarily valuable data to technology companies who use it and sell it and currently pay little in taxes. Yang would tax those corporations, and re-distribute the money to the people who created the value. That is how we pay for the UBI.

Yang's UBI runs into the American--and especially Republican--value of self reliance and the resentment that "other people"-- blacks or immigrants or lazy people or other unworthy--might freeload on the hard work of people like themselves, who actually deserve the government benefits they get. Yang's presents it not as a benefit for the poor but as a unifying alternative to class consciousness. Everyone gets it, for being an American, and poor people will spend it. Everyone will benefit

Could Yang actually win the nomination?

Probably not.

He is a fresh face and the Democrats want one. He looked good, smart, and practical. He presents as a modern manager: suit but no tie, a uniform of technology and millennials at work, not old fashioned Wall Street. Democrats have liked technocratic managers in the past. Dukakis ran as one. Bloomberg is doing it now, too. 

Yang can appear to be solving the problems that Sanders and Warren address, without defining it as a divisive war against enemies. 

But Yang's biography hinders him. He has not been a successful executive of something important, like a state. Credible allies in academia and business, plus Republicans saying the idea is a good one, could change all that, but it has not happened yet..

Yang demonstrates one way for a Democrat to break through a partisan divide between Trump's white Christian ethno-nationalist populism and Democratic identity politics resistance to Trump: solve the problems that have created the populist revolt. 

His message is optimistic. The American problem is fixable, a message of hope and change.

That message has a track record of success.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Bernie or Bust

     "The Democratic establishment and their corporate allies in the media are desperate to discredit Bernie Sanders because they know that universal policies like Medicare for All are a direct threat to their profits and control of our government."

      Our Revolution, 
 PAC supporting Bernie Sanders

Democrats are the enemy.  

Trump has infuriated Democrats, but he has not united them.

Trump polarized the electorate into the Trump base and the larger anti-Trump base, but this does not mean the Democratic coalition will come together to "vote blue, no matter who."

The Bernie Sanders phenomenon is more than Sanders himself. He inspired a movement. It includes left-oriented voters, people who voted for Obama but wish he had been more angry and impatient. They wish he had prosecuted bankers and condemned drug companies more. Obama had the intractable enemy of Republicans, but not of big business. He wasn't quite enough for those Obama supporters, but I expect most of them to vote blue in 2020

But some Democrats stayed unhappy or became unhappy.

Pro Bernie PAC
Sanders stimulated a different constituency of those discontented leftists, a Tea Party of his own. It has the same energy and anger of the populist right Tea Party, but it has different policies, different targets, and it engages different people. Sanders punches up, at economic and social elites

Although he graduated from the University of Chicago, his movement targets not only financial elites but the superstructure of meritocracy elites, fortunate people whose good luck or special skillset cause them to thrive in the current economic environment. These are the people who carry out the actual managerial and professional work of the economy. They do fine. 

They are understood by the Sanders movement to be the sellouts, the corporatists, the neo-liberals. The people who don't like Bernie and who don't understand his movement.  The enemy.

Facebook comment
The most hostile comments from Sanders supporters are against  Hillary Clinton (the perennial enemy) and now against Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg and the other candidates for their elitism, and for being corporate sellouts. 

Sanders' activists skew young and toward people who are feeling directly the pinch of policies that worked against their interests. They have real gripes. Free markets created wealth, but it concentrated it on owners, not workers. Efficiencies through de-regulated transportation and offshoring helped consumers, but not workers, especially young ones. The pressure to get higher education helped universities and employers, but it buried young people in debt. Asset inflation policies intended to re-capitalize banks made home prices unaffordable in the areas where the jobs are. Zoning rules protect people who already own homes, but make them unaffordable for people who don't yet own one. 

They have reason to be unhappy.

Facebook comment
But there is a class of people who thrived in that environment: smart, self-disciplined, lucky people who got into elite universities and thrived there, who got advanced degrees there, and who were fast tracked their whole lives. The Sanders movement says that those fortunates elitists don't understand the real world, or if they understand it, they don't care much about the injustice of it. They got theirs. They are OK with the status quo, and that makes them the enemy. They sap the strength of the discontented and destroy the energy for change. The hurt the movement more than do Republican opponents.

And those are exactly the kinds of people who became Democratic candidates, more of the artificial meritocracy class: Some are billionaires, Tom Steyer (Yale and Stanford) and Michael Bloomberg (Johns Hopkins). Some are attorneys Warren (teaches at Harvard),  Booker (Stanford, Oxford, Yale), Klobuchar (Yale, U of Chicago), Yang (Brown, Columbia.)  Buttigieg is just as bad, or worse, having worked at McKinsey (Harvard, Oxford).

Biden is a special case. He does not read at first or second glance as Ivy League elite but he was a senator from Delaware, the corporate headquarters state; he sold out to the elites.
Facebook comment

Will Democrats unite the way that Republican did under Trump?

Do not count on it.  

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Elizabeth Warren has a problem

She is talking about corruption in Washington.

It is about process, not solutions.

It adds to voter cynicism

Message for the Iowa stretch 

It is the dangerous platform of virtue

It is self defeating.

Elizabeth Warren honed her message for this last push in Iowa. Here is her ad. Take thirty seconds to watch it: Click Here

Of course corruption is a problem and it can be argued--as she and Tom Steyer both do--that it is the root of all problems with our government. Our leaders have been captured by special interests and they represent those powerful people, not us, so nothing good can happen until we fix that--which is to say, fix everything.

The problem with a process message is that it is indirect, and does not actually solve a problem facing voters. "End the war" addresses a problem. "Lower your taxes" addresses a problem. "Save Iowa hospitals" or "Stop the trade war ban on soybeans" address Iowa problems.  By election day Trump will be talking about having ended wars in the Middle East or having reopened Iowa soybean or corn markets--whether or not he has. He will have a simple message of tangible benefits. 

Isn't that oversimple? Yes. That is how Trump works.

Cynicism is real. The problem with her message of endemic corruption in Washington is that people do in fact believe her. As this blog described on December 1, Click a YouGov.com poll reported that most Americans have deep distrust of government, with 63% thinking "quite a few" government officials are crooked and only 24% thinking government does what is right most of the time or almost always. 

The problem is that she--and Sanders--are advocating big government solutions to problems: government to take over health care, higher education payments; drug patents and pricing; banks; child care. Warren's solutions involve trusting government with your money, your health, and your children. Yet she has just told us government is corrupt. 

A message of corruption worked for Trump, since he was a disrupter who would reduce the reach of corrupt, swampy government. But cynical nihilism undermines Warren, who wants us to turn our lives over to a corrupt system no one can fix, possibly not her, and certainly not immediately.

Virtue and hypocrisy. She criticizes fundraising events, implying corrupt promises are made there, and that Buttigieg is guilty of something that she is not. She and Sanders are, currently, both raising money entirely off the internet, but that is not the case for her prior Senate campaign and she transferred money from it to her presidential campaign. 

A platform of virtue is a dangerous thing, and I would have thought she would have learned from the Hillary Clinton campaign and from her own Pocahontas problem. Trump brags about being a rule breaker, but for a good cause. Torture people? Sure, to get information. Overrule Navy Seal brass? Sure, to protect a brave warrior who killed a Muslim. UnChristian behavior? Look at my judges.  Bad behavior is his brand.

But she is putting forward a brand of virtue. Look how clean I am! That brand means that any action she has taken, now or in the past, can show her to be a fraud. It does not even need to be bad, nor illegal, just "questionable," and everything is questionable. Maybe she got advantage from saying she was part Native American. Harvard says, no, but questions can be raised. She herself had fundraisers that rich people attended, so did she promise them something? She got paid $400,000 a year to teach at Harvard, which seems like a lot for a professor, and one can question why. 

Crooked Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Warren is committed to an anti-corruption theme. It sets her up for failure. Simpler and better would have been a message that she was going to fight the tax loopholes that let big corporations get away without paying taxes, and going to use the money to lower middle class taxes and make health care more affordable for working people who are screwed by the banks, insurance companies, and drug companies. Something like that.

It isn't too late.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Fighting for the little guy

Democrats need a bigger tent. They need to be the jobs party.

Fighting prejudice and protecting minorities is not enough. 

Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and then Franklin Roosevelt gave Democrats a tradition. They were the party of opportunity for the little guy oppressed by big money interests. Democrats won with that message and the coalition it created, the Solid South plus northern urban factory workers.

Democratic decision One. In 1964 Lyndon Johnson put into place a massive realignment of political geography and coalitions by signing the Civil Rights Act. He understood what he was doing, switching the white South into the hands of Republicans, the party that resisted and resented that change.

Democrats understood the enemy of equal opportunity to be prejudice and discrimination. First blacks, then women, and more recently Latinix, homosexuals, and immigrants. They were the party of inclusion, diversity, and anti-racism. 

The image of the archetypal Democratic voter changed from a white, urban, unionized factory worker, into something more diverse. Democratic thinking was that inclusion was additive, not competitive for their white worker baseA great many white Americans did not perceive it that way. They saw the new people as competition in jobs, they were culturally unfamiliar, and in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and increased immigration, ripe to be called a threat.

Facebook comment:
that's why we love you--
waited my whole life for a president like Trump
Republicans became a white person's party of social conservatives. Trump added an economic message to this, critical of free trade and offshoring of jobs. The one-two punch worked. Their current defense of Trump repeatedly invokes the notion of self defense against woke liberals and foreigners.

Democratic decision Two. In the aftermath of Watergate in 1974 Democrats had a landslide year. Democrats had seen government corruption in Watergate and a fruitless war in Vietnam, sold and waged dishonestly by the government. That Watergate wave was elected with the help of young anti-war activists, open to the idea that the government lacked credibility, people embittered by the nomination of Humphrey in 1968 and the loss by McGovern in 1972. (People like me.)

Democrats stopped being the anti-corporate party. Corporations were no worse than government and, besides, markets were supposed to create just outcomes. Carter de-regulated transportation, Reagan de-regulated military contractors, Clinton de-regulated the financial industry. Glass-Steagall was repealed and banks got too big to fail. 

If mergers, takeovers, and buyouts met the test of lower prices for consumers they could take place, even if they reduced competition. Let the markets do their work and let corporations do what corporations do. It turns out that what they did to get lower prices is focus solely on the stockholder and ignore the needs of communities and employees. Cut costs. The result was reduced competition, anti-union activity, and movement of factories off shore. 

The stock market went up. GOP went up. Stockholders were thrilled. Employees were not.

In that economic environment white native born employees saw inclusion of new people in shrinking environment of family wage manufacturing jobs. It did not feel additive. It felt like a threat. For a fuller story in the Atlantic: Click here.

From Sanders website
Amid criticism, Obama saved GM. He won the Upper Midwest. Now Democrats face Trump, who openly talks to economic concerns of those workers.

Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Tom Steyer, and Andrew Yang are speaking directly to the issue of the economic system: jobs and economic security for Upper Midwest workers.

Biden and Buttigieg are not, at least to my ear. I have heard them many times. They are speaking of fixing what is wrong with Trump, and restoring a better America, but the word jobs is not in the center of their message, nor are concrete proposals to address job concerns. I have listened for it. I consider this a problem for them.

Friday, December 27, 2019

"Working class" is not an identity

People vote their identities.


"Society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests and classes of citizens. . . the multiplicity of interests. . . the multiplicity of sects."

     James Madison, Federalist No. 51

Voters want a candidate who validates and supports people like themselves, defined by race, ethnicity, religion, sex, and education. 

They don't define themselves as "workers."

Bernie Sanders raised the consciousness of Democrats. He said they had failed to address the economic distress of working Americans. The rich and powerful had gotten richer and more powerful; it was unjust and it was destroying America. Sanders said we need to bring back the FDR coalition, with policies of structural change and wealth redistribution. 

Elizabeth Warren echos it. Andrew Yang, too. People see the direction of the economy and are getting angry. They voted for Trump because they wanted a populist who would defend them against economic elites, saying need government intervention. Bring back FDR.

This blog received a comment from a Sanders supporter yesterday, which summarizes this thinking. It reads in full in yesterday's comment section, but here is a segment: 

    "Heck, I don’t care if Pete [Buttigieg] sleeps with a man if I can afford health care, my kids can afford college and there is some prospect of a brighter future as opposed to my further slide down the food chain. . . . Instead, Dems need to return to their FDR roots, throw out the neoliberal bourgeois, and offer concrete material benefits to the working class."

Maybe not. The American Dream is not to be a better paid factory worker, although that would be a welcome improvement over being a poorly paid one.

A career advisor to union officials told me that the near-universal goal of union leaders is for their children to be able to get out of the factory and do easier, more interesting work. Americans don't identify as "working class." They identify as "middle class," just like nearly everyone, so there is either one class or no class, in any case, it isn't how people think of themselves.

But people do have identity, and that is what they vote: race, religion, education, gender, sexual orientation, sect. Maybe all this talk by Sanders about a "political revolution" and by Warren about "structural change" just serves to scare people. Trump will certainly use it that way.

Professors Lilliana Mason and Julie Wronski did research that informed a quiz published in the New York Times. Their research argues that social sorting creates the real difference between Democrats and Republicans: elements of identity, not finances. CLICK 

People don't think ideologically, they say. They think in terms of who they are.

CLICK: Take the quiz
The New York Times "Quiz" predicted if a person was a Democrat or Republican by asking not about income, nor whether one thought America was on the right or wrong track nor whether one felt economic distress. Polls ask those questions, but the answers were largely predictable if one understands the demographic questions. The quiz asks: 

Race--are you Black, Hispanic, or Asian?
Are you religious?
Are you straight or homosexual?
Did you attend college?
Are you Protestant or Catholic?
Are you male or female?
Did you get a college degree?

And so on as it refined it further. Take the quiz.

This research and quiz reaffirm what other research has reported, that the most predictable test for swing voters was their level of racial resentment, not income. People have sorted themself into cultural teams and Trump succeeded in creating a white team, and especially a white male team. 

People who are white Christian, straight, male, and from a southern state are almost certainly part of a team, the red team, and Trump leads it. White Christian men may not admire Trump, or approve of him, but they understand him to be on the side of white Christian men. 

That team perceives itself to have an enemy, and the most salient one is not their rich bosses. It is the perceived threat by secular, woke liberals who disrespect their team. Leftist moral prudes are more frightening to them than are their employers.

There is a lesson for Democrats there.

Republicans have their team leader. Democratic candidate are in audition mode currently, choosing theirs. The denoted language, especially for Sanders, Warren, and Yang, is about economic injustice, but Democrats may well be evaluating what they hear based on entirely different criteria, not on the details of their plans but on the perceived character and interests of the candidate. Who does Biden connect with? Warren? Buttigieg?

Which of those people will stand up for people like themselves?

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Can Democrats raise money from wealthy people?

How money is raised is body language. 

Democrats are at a crossroad.

Democrats are deciding whether they are the party of the poor, the working poor, and the struggling middle class, people angry with a rigged system and demanding a new, fairer deal. FDR's Party. Bernie's Party.

Or are they the party of educated people comfortable enough with their situation that they are open to outsiders and victims of discrimination, and willing to share their country and its benefits with them. Clinton's Party. Obama's Party. Biden's Party.

Buttigieg event in Portland, Oregon.
Bernie Sanders points one path, arguing that justice and morality require America do a much better job taking care of the poor and working people of our nation and that requires a major change in the allocation of wealth and power. The middle class is struggling, which made them open to the false and dangerous path of a "pathological liar" Donald Trump.

Sanders sees a political path toward justice by motivating the vast majority of the people--the 90%--with new, redistributionist policies that address their concerns. 

A new Democratic Party would reduce power not just of billionaires, but also prosperous managers and professionals and comfortable bourgeois who do the work of the billionaires. They got ahead and don't see big problems. They attend fancy fundraisers.

Sanders and Warren raise money from the internet, not from fundraisers.

Elizabeth Warren called Pete Buttigieg to account: "We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States. Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States."

Internet donations work for Warren and Sanders, but not well enough for the others, so Buttigieg and Biden are doing it the old way, with larger checks from wealthy people from fundraising events. Biden and Buttigieg have appeal, both personally and for their policies of incremental improvement. They are following a path set by Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama, who had made peace with the wealthy. 
The new clean money. Click a button.

Wealthy, educated people found Clinton's Third Way partnership talk to be acceptable if not ideal, and they considered the GOP's alliance with social conservatives uncomfortable, especially on Wall Street, in Hollywood, and in the universities. Both parties were globalist, foreigner and immigration friendly, and supported free trade. Democrats were  more tolerant, and nice people. They had all gone to school together.

Besides, the world they see is getting richer.

Not everyone. Not nearly. This failure of trickle down culminated in a populist revolt in 2016, led by Sanders and Trump. Sanders had the challenge of attempting to displace Hillary, who had paid her dues to the Party. Trump said the problem was rich professionals like Hillary, in cahoots with Wall Street, and dangerous, uncontrolled immigration.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are saying that Democrats by raising money from wealthy people, are ratifying an unjust status quo that let  prosperous people get rich when others struggle. They are signaling the direction of the Party by choosing to represent people succeeding in the system--the opposite of populism.

It is a dilemma. If pressure from Sanders, Warren, and the progressive activist base forces Biden and Buttigieg to stop raising money from the wealthy, then their campaigns collapse. But continuing to raise money from the wealthy sends the message they are missing the populist wave. 

If Biden and Buttigieg don't communicate they align with the frustrated working person on economics--left populism--they can be sure Trump will connect with them by appealing to their fears, ethnocentrism, and nationalism--right populism.

It worked in 2016.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

War on Christmas

"Happy Holidays." Those are fighting words.

The war is over the place of Christianity in America. 

Is it the default, regular, real American holiday tradition, or is it one of many in a diverse America?

Hallmark sentiment. Cultural nostalgia 

Fox says "Merry Christmas, heck yeah."

Democrats are the "Happy Holidays" Party. 

The modern Democratic Party is a coalition of led by cultural sophisticates. Ivy League types.

The coalition pulls together liberal educated professionals; urban dwellers; college towns; working people who find appealing the Democratic message on health care, education, and minimum wage; reproduction rights advocates; plus racial and religious minorities of various kinds. 

The leadership of this coalition is not anti-elite; they are elite themselves and have wealthy friends and donors. They are urbane and tolerant. They understand racism and prejudice to be immoral. The Obama-Clinton-Democratic Party coalition includes Christians, Jews, agnostics, atheists, Muslims. It is built around respect for diversity.  

They are OK with saying "Happy Holidays." Why not?

Bernie Sanders is attempting to construct a different coalition, one that unifies working people against the financial elites, but it does not attack those urbane elites for their acceptance of diversity, only for their economic hegemony. Left populism in America has traditionally included nativist, racist, and anti-semitic elements, but left populism today cannot be the party of Jeremy Corbyn of Britain with overt anti-Semitism, nor the party of southern populists like George Wallace. Democrats, however the Democratic primary shakes out, are committed, morally and politically, to be the diversity-tolerance party. 

The GOP and Trump are the current voice of nativism and pushback against that diversity. It brings them working class votes from people who value cultural issues over economic ones.  

Tucker Carlson on Fox expresses the grievance of "Happy Holidays." Diversity is not passive live-and-let-live. He says liberals despise Christians. He calls it an assault, motivated by hate. 

     "If you are wondering why so many Christians are willing to support this president, despite his personal life, this is why: because whatever his flaws he has made it clear he is not the enemy of Christians. In fact, under certain circumstances, he will protect Christians. For people whose values are under assault every day by powerful forces in America, and that’s not overstating it, and if you are one of them, you know that means everything.

     The left presumes the right to lecture the people it despises for the sin of not voting for them. This may shock some Democrats but most Christians don’t feel they have a duty to be destroyed by people who hate them."

The battle is over the identity of Americans. It is about primacy and who is on top. The first Commandment, from Exodus: "I am Yehweh, your God. Thou shall have no other gods before me. I am a jealous God." 

Happy Holidays implies there is no place for jealousy in modern diverse America.

 Cultural conservatives say that Christianity and the cultural traditions of Christmas, in all its Hallmark Card and movie sentimental associations, are the real America. It is at risk of being diluted or turned into just another holiday, and traditional Christmas is American cultural unity. 

Democrats consider cultural unity to consist of our acceptance of diversity. We are unified by tolerance and respect, not by singularity. Can't we all get along?

I don't consider this to be a war, but there is political advantage to Trump and Fox and the GOP to calling it such. Nothing unifies like having an enemy.

Change is happening. Young people are far more familiar with diversity than are their parents and grandparents. Young people are more likely to say they are agnostic or atheist. Young people are much more likely to disapprove of Trump. They don't vote in large numbers, but as they get older, they most likely will. 

Meanwhile, a Lifetime Network Christmas movie had an interracial couple. Change.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

An Evangelical Voice

Fresh water project, Gambia

     "I am telling you how it really is. Whatever it was you did for others, however miserable and unimportant they seemed, you were doing for me."

     Matthew 25

White Evangelical voters overwhelmingly support Donald Trump. But not all of them.

The editorial in Christianity Today revealed a crack in the Trump constituency. The editorial said that in supporting Trump Christians are making their faith about loyalty to a team, not about virtue and faith. We should choose to follow Christ, not Trump, it said.

An editorial in the conservative National Review said Trump was objectively guilty of improper actions that endanger our Republic. Remove him.

Removal won't happen. Trump's behavior is understood by partisans to be irrelevant. He doesn't represent virtue. He is a tool of God, fighting Christ's battles.

Not everyone agrees. John Coster had a conservative Christian upbringing, and he attended an Evangelical College in the 1970's. Coster had a big career in construction projects relating to technology. His work ranged from start-ups to Fortune 100 corporations, where he regularly led international teams. Amid his career, between projects, he would take time off to volunteer for Christian ministries in Africa and the former USSR.

Over the years he experienced what he describes as "profound encounters with God, but he was dissatisfied with the lack of rigorous intellectual interaction of faith with his work. He has been especially troubled the today's politicization of the sacred and transcendent.

A Guest Post, by John Coster

Human history is replete with religion being used as a cudgel to gain political and economic power. There are few exceptions. It seems to be our nature as humans to leverage every structure we create like religions, political parties, governments, corporations, and trade unions to build empires. Power is unsurprisingly seductive.

By some accounts, the origins of modern Evangelicalism began when Western Enlightenment was taking root; when rational thought replaced land, religion and clan as our lens for identity and meaning. Evangelicalism’s original purpose was seeking Truth (upper case intentional) and providing a unified and coherent theology across different Protestant denominations.

Early Evangelicals were also focused on propagating the Gospel of Jesus Christ which Christians throughout history have believed gives the ultimate hope for mankind’s problem. To those who find this offensive, consider that if you are convinced something is absolutely true and right, and being ignorant of it has catastrophic consequences for your fellow human, wouldn’t it seem morally wrong to not share it? But I digress.

As with many movements (NRA anyone?), the institution’s leadership and mission change dramatically over time. One difference with Evangelicals (National Association of Evangelicals notwithstanding) is that it lacks any official head or governing body. Essentially anyone who self-identifies can count as an Evangelical which means that popular pastors, teachers and influentials like Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Robert Jeffress and Ralph Reed end up being the dominant public faces and de facto spokesmen. It also makes polling difficult and highly suspect. These leaders tend to speak with unambiguous certainty and make the audacious claim that disagreement with them is tantamount to denying the Gospel of Jesus.

Happily, there is growing dissent and not everyone buys this - see https://nyti.ms/2A1Cv2P

The creation of the Moral Majority in the 1980s accelerated the re-branding and redefinition of the Evangelical label from spreading good news and saving souls through a transformed inner life, to creating a political powerhouse that tries to legislate morality. In doing so, they have diluted and undermined the spiritual foundation of the very belief system they sought to protect. But this is not new.

Throughout history we see religious leaders aligning themselves with powerful political structures that are antithetical to the very premise of their religion. According to historians, in first century CE Palestine, the Sadducees schmoozed with the occupying Romans and used their illusory role as Jewish religious leaders for their own self-serving purposes. The Lutheran Church in Germany during WWII, and the Rwandan Church in the mid-1990s, had such cozy relationships with political leaders that they are often seen as complicit in the atrocities perpetrated by each regime, only to be guilt-ridden for decades or more afterward. There are good arguments for keeping Church and State separate.

What is particularly troubling to me about the current Evangelical "leaders is not just that they acquiesce to the demands of such a morally lost leader; they actually promote him as good, and vilify his (and their) opponents. My personal hope is that true followers of Jesus will see the disconnect from his teachings and have the courage and humility to stop their allegiance to this destructive so-called Christian movement.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Amy Klobuchar Steps Up Her Game

On CNN Sunday

Amy Klobuchar has not given up. She may actually be running for President.

She spiced up her "look."  Showtime.

Amy Klobuchar's story starts with Pete Buttigieg. She needs to displace him. 

Buttigieg is leading in Iowa. Her election story is that she is a good, safe generic Democratic woman who can win back the Midwest for Democrats. She needs to win in Iowa to prove her case.

He was the prime target of criticism by Elizabeth Warren, who said he was raising dirty money in a wine cave. The charge works to re-position Mayor Pete from the clean fresh face into the too-young and ambitious guy who indebted to rich people in order to have been so successful. Brand assertion: new equals corruptible.

His riposte to Warren--you too, hypocrite--hurt her but didn't help him. Perhaps more important is that the liberal media jumped all over this meme, with story after story in the Huffington Post, CNN, MSNBC, NY Times, and Washington Post about wine caves, crystal, $900 bottles of wine, and big donors. This hurts Buttigieg.

The media hits continue. 

Some donor bundler wrote something about getting aboard early. Headline: "YIKES: DAMNING PETE FUNDRAISER EMAIL LEAKS."

In Iowa in August
The debate and a friendly media environment opened the door, and Klobuchar is making her move. She is defining herself as the experienced Midwesterner, the one who (unlike Buttigieg) actually won statewide, and that inexperience is dangerous. She defines Trump's failure as proof that inexperience is dangerous. 

She is also demonstrating that she is a healer, with gracious acknowledgement of legislative successes of Biden, Sanders, Warren, and off-stage Booker and Harris. This is not necessarily vice presidential talk, although that would be Plan B. Her presidential hope is to be positioned as a unifier in victory, the candidate on stage who felt so confident she could praise others in the competition. 

Graciousness and magnanimity are signs of strength. 

She changed her wardrobe. She had a second-banana look in Iowa in August. Now, she is dressing in solid, power colors. 

Here she is this week, in maroon and black. 

She changed her makeup. She is in full Fox News style war paint now, with more lipstick, more color. I don't pretend to understand women and makeup, but whatever is going on was done with intention. Her earlier look had been dowdy. There was an element of being the smart but plain girl at the back of the room, the girl who knew the answer but didn't raise her hand. 

Now she is stepping up.

In Iowa this week
On CNN: "I just think that the fact that someone has experience can be a really good thing right now when we have a president who went in there with no experience and has done nothing when it comes to helping regular people."

It is not full-power male-style words of confidence. Her starting with "I just think that. . . " denotes diffidence, as if she needs to insert that she doesn't want to offend anyone, by adding the "just." 

Trump does not say he "just thinks" anything. He knows what he thinks so he says it. He is entitled. If you don't like it, tough.

Possibly "just think" is second banana thinking. But possibly this is the way a woman needs to express strong leadership to avoid seeming shrill or bossy or bitchy--accusations made about Hillary in 2016 and Warren now. As Klobuchar noted, female candidates face special problems men do not. 

Possibly what we are witnessing is exactly what a skilled female leader needs to thread the needle of assertiveness. "Minnesota nice" is a thing. She is strong, but not shrill.

In August this blog noted that Warren was acting like a star and Klobuchar like a warm-up act.

No longer. It's showtime for Klobuchar.
New look.