The Lessons of 1968

During the 2012 Election, I found many parallels to the 1948 election: a liberal (or perceived liberal) incumbent President running against what Republicans thought would be a strong contender. The liberal (in this case Harry Truman) wanted to prioritize things like healthcare for Americans, which was something Democratic candidates would gain ground on inch by inch, with the passing Medicare, Medicaid and, most recently the Affordable Care Act. In the 1948 election, there was much hand-wringing over whether or not the liberal incumbent could keep his office over a candidate that seemed tailor-made for the Presidency: good looking, a clear gaze, and a very "presidential" look. All through the campaign, the media said the incumbent President was on defense, and probably wouldn't win, going so far as to print newspapers saying Truman had lost to Thomas Dewey of New York.
Truman didn't lose, and the rest is History.

In 2012, we had a similar story of the media painting the President as having a fight on his hands, but when the votes were counted, President Obama easily beat Mitt Romney. Instead of the famous newspaper photo, we got Karl Rove's famous on-air meltdown at Fox News. Both claiming what had actually happened couldn't be true.

Now, as 2016 approaches, the question looms: what historical quirks will show their heads this time? Will it resemble Franklin Roosevelt's confident win in 1936? 1992's fractured electorate bringing Bill Clinton into the White House? Or could we see a repeat of the Obama-style groundswell in 2008?

I think, as much as the opinion of old Doremus is concerned, that we should look to the election of 1968. A turbulent time both foreign and domestic, with riots at home and wars abroad. A time of great upheaval as a massive generation comes of age in the nation. The old specters of race and hatred bubbling to the surface once again, leading to insurgent candidates on the Republican side that threaten to jeopardize the party itself.

And, most importantly: a Democratic primary split between the young and rebellious and the old and staid, leading to a compromise candidate with years of experience within the government structure but lukewarm support among the base. It breaks my heart to say it, but Minnesota's own Hubert H. Humphrey, a good man, wound up being the sacrificial lamb to a Republican party that embraced fear and racism, and the failure of a Democratic party suffering indigestion as a new generation looked for their voices to be heard. If we are not careful, we could see a similar fractured base leading to ruin again in 2016.

America knows it does not want another Presidency like Richard Nixon's that started in 1968, but this time around we have the ability to vote in even worse candidates who will do nothing good for the vast majority of Americans. The Democratic Party needs to act quickly and with genuine interest to balance out the young with the experienced, the new with the old and the idealistic with the traditional if it wants to secure a motivated electorate come next November.

As a cautionary tale, I present the following PBS documentary "Nixon's the One." If you have the time, please watch it and understand the lessons of 1968 so that we do not repeat them in 2016. America can scarce afford another Nixon... or worse.

At Your Service,

Doremus Jessup. 

Broadcasting in Stereo...types

Few things in life are simple: Math, at its core, it simple. As is language, or survival. But humanity has evolved beyond the basics, now reaching to the stars themselves while simultaneously looking ever deeper into our own bodies and what makes up the very stuff of our world. It is easy to claim that the shift in American culture over the past fifty years is something simple: anti-intellectualism, the stoking of the fires of hate and ignorance, and in some respects that is true. But, as I said earlier, few things are so exquisitely simple as that.
Take, for example, small town America. To some, it is a bastion of traditional values and the very picture we have in our mind when we think of This American Life or that blanket term "Americana." For others, it is a sprawling land of flyover states populated by too few people and too many cows, and in their mind it is not always clear which would be the better voting population. If we flip it around, we can take the Rural viewpoint to the Urban jungle. To those in the sticks, it is a hive of scum and villainy, smog and ill repute, but for those who call these cities home it can be a land of hardscrabble, hardworking people who take the hardships of life on the chin and persevere all the same. Rural America boasts that city folk couldn't handle a day on the farm, and Urban America maintains the trope of the naive farm girl devoured by a big city she will never fully understand. Yet the truth of this matter is neither of these: not idyllic or idle, not Ward Cleaver or Walter White, but somewhere inbetween.

You might realize that I am speaking in sweeping generalizations. Stereotypes, even. Tropes and idioms well known for most of our country's history. And why is it that someone in Canton, Minnesota thinks they know what life is like in Compton, California? It's media: television, radio, print, and the new kid on the block, digital media. Mass media is all of its forms has to, by definition of its name, appeal to a large audience, and when that is the case nuance and subtlety will always lose out to broad parody and stereotyping. There's the old chestnut "will it play in Peoria" meaning that a show about people living in New York will not survive if it cannot present something accessible to a nationwide, or worldwide, audience. Even digital media, often lauded for its small-batch, individualized approach to entertainment, has pan-continental smashes like "Gangnam Style" focused on one idea: he's doing a silly dance.

Why does this work? Simple: if it is easy to digest, it is easy to consume. If it is easy to consume, it is easy to purchase. If it is easy to purchase, it is easy to produce, and if it is easy to produce, it is easy to profit.
Let's think about the media landscape of those Halcyon days of the 1950s. While you had the hallmarks of todays media: sitcoms, police dramas, newsmagazines, you also had what we now consider artifacts of the time like "Ozzie and Harriet" or "Leave it to Beaver" and experimental shows and formats that can't seem to survive in today's much-larger media landscape. Recent attempts to revive variety shows and teleplays have not fared well, while those same shows were extremely popular in years past.Why?
There was more room to experiment in past decades because there was just more room in the media landscape, period. Thanks to deregulation and a Congress bought and paid for, we now have six media companies owning the majority of what gets put out there, and that includes news, music, movies, television, and some parts of the internet. When the market gets concentrated to this amount, when billion-dollar mergers become commonplace every couple of years, it becomes strikingly clear that there is one and only one motivation for everything that is said, done, or put out into our media culture. Profit.
And how do you make profit? Not by putting out bold, interesting television, but by going to the same well of tried and true, low cost and high margin methods to get what you need, what your massive corporation needs, and what it needs is MONEY. And there is money in old, comfortable stereotypes, which the current crop of media thrives on to an almost embarrassing degree.
Think to yourself: would The Twilight Zone get made today? Would Network? Laugh-In? Would something bold and challenging come out of Viacom, or the NBC Universal Comcast behemoth? Instead, we've seen some of the most daring and groundbreaking media come out of Netflix which is internet based. The internet by and large has allowed we the people to wield a cudgel against the samey, insulting pap put out by the media giants, but they don't know how to show anything else because they literally cannot think of anything but what will make them money.
So, what does this have to do with City Mouse and Country Mouse?
We're being fed stereotypes. We're being told that this person is different and that this person is bad. The media companies are putting out easily digestible dreck and hoping to continue these fears and hatred because that means you will buy season 700 of Fat Guy and Hot Wife. This is having a toxic effect on how we see the world, not just as divides between cultural groups, but with our country as a whole. I was reading a National Geographic article about the history of the World's Fair, a former gold standard of world culture and the idealism of the Space Age. Why are we no longer making these World's Fairs the destinations they once were? It's not because people are inherently getting more stupid or vapid, it's because they are being instructed to be.

Don't think that everyone in the country is Honey Boo Boo: most farmers will be able to talk circles around you on a variety of scientific and mathematic processes. The tragedy of it is that, due to ugly media conglomerates, they sit atop a $250,000 combine harvester, harvesting corn that has been painstakingly monitored for proper levels of Potassium and other minerals in the soil, all the while thinking they must be dumb hicks. It's time to throw this false picture away, and realize what can be accomplished.
Conversely, there are people who can navigate New York City flawlessly, design an app or product that further increases the ease with which we live our daily lives, but will balk at keeping an herb garden, or changing their oil, or trying to traverse gravel roads. They can't do that; they're city people. The news told them so. It's time to throw this false picture away, and realize what can be accomplished.

We need to bring Americans back together in the spirit of optimism and wonder that first gave us the best standard of living in the world, and the first step to that is to break down the corporate walls. Shatter the corporate media that locks down our brains, destroy the corporate food that poisons us, and break the corporate stranglehold on our politics and policies of daily life. We must throw away our preconceptions and our stereotypes and work together like we did once before when we beat back the Nazis and made America the envy of the world. It's time to end the cruel corporate joke being played on us by those who are richest beyond our possible collected imaginations. First, we break their hold, and then we get our money back.
Then? The future is up to us, the people. As it should be.

Extant, adj: still in existence; surviving

Forget Generation X or Y, we as Americans are facing a Generation Extant: a generation left over to survive on the cast-offs of the new breed of Robber Barons in America's New Gilded Age. The deregulation and destruction of our American democracy through the continued policies of Reaganism has found us ruled by a wealthy Oligarchy instead of a representative republic. Those of us now struggling to get by in this system that glorifies greed and values profits above the very cost of human life have become the new underclass, whether we like it or not. Those who are making it work any way they can, all while knowing your parents, or your grandparents, or even your brothers and sisters had an easier crack at it, you are your own generation, extant from the mind-boggling wealth and power now enjoyed by a morally bankrupt few, a level we here at the bottom could not even begin to fathom if we tried. As of this writing, the 400 richest Americans are worth as much as the bottom 50% of the country. 158 families in this country of over 300 million people have already spent 176 million dollars toward the 2016 campaign. When you're down here with the rest of us, a number like $176 million seems cartoonish; even if you try to imagine it, you find you can't even find uses for all of it. This doesn't even scratch the surface of the wealth known by Reagan's American Oligarchs, and the rest of us are only serfs on the plantation.

To the rich that run the system, there are only two groups, two races, two classes and two generations: us and everyone else. There is no difference in race, or creed, or gender, or orientation: to the rich, we are all the same. By that token, if we were to come together, without race, without creed, but merely as those who want a more perfect union untouched by greed, we can and we should enact policies to tax the rich.

When I say we should tax the rich, I'm not talking about anyone you know, or anyone I know. In Fillmore County alone, the number of people in the top tax bracket can be counted on one hand. Fillmore County isn't even a drop in the bucket, wealthwise, and taxing those at the top would do nothing to hurt the situation for the thousands of people who call Fillmore County home. As I have argued before, raising taxes on the wealthiest at the state or federal level is not theft, but merely a return on investment: we invested in the rich by giving them billions in tax cuts, and they squandered or squatted on the money we trusted to them. Now, we want our money back: our schools need improvement, our roads need fixing, but aside from all of that, it's our money, and we want it back. There are a lot more of us than there are of the richest Americans, and all of us banding together, one way or another, can change the course against those who have run off with our money.

First, we can elect people who will pledge to bring the money back to the area any way they know how, and to elect people who will not fear being smeared and attacked by moneyed interests. If that doesn't work, if we continue to be made extant and things continue to deteriorate, then there will soon be no good choice left for those of us in the other half of the country. And it will be only too late for the oligarchs and the crooked bankers, who won't see it coming until the first brick comes through their window. I don't want to see that happen, but they have locked us out of Eden, and we have committed no sin. It is now time to return to a land of plenty and to cast out the worse angels of our nature from their stranglehold on our government.

At Your Service,

Doremus Jessup

Articles of Warp

Reaganism has brought ruin to America's middle class while making the richest richer than ever before. Productivity and corporate profits have soared while sacrificing the wages and happiness of average Americans on the altar to St. Ronald. One of the hallmarks of the American conservative religion is a fetish for ever-smaller government. The theory goes, despite decades of evidence to the contrary, that removing government oversight, regulation, and taxes will allow a system of perfect economic freedom where the desires of the people will be heard through their purchasing power, or lack thereof. The idea is that, if we just get government out of the picture, we can rejoice in a future of prosperity and that current tender morsel of conservative ecstasy, "liberty."

This idea is, of course, demonstrably false.

There are endless examples of money corrupting throughout all of history, from the gluttonous and unregulated days of Ancient Rome to the laissez faire collapse of the Gilded Age in 1929, but for the sake of brevity we will look at the more recent example of politics. The Citizen's United decision of the Supreme Court has opened the floodgates to unlimited campaign spending, and in only six short years we have seen our government become essentially paralyzed. The rich buy the government, and the rich like the way things are, because they are rich. If the government doesn't do anything, it can't find ways to make the system more equal. After all, the government is supposed to be of, by, and for the people. Unfortunately, when the government is of, by, and for the dollar, corruption reigns and those who cannot afford to have their interests looked after are left behind to rot.

This is the legacy of "small" government: without a watchdog to ensure a level playing field, the rich will spend fractions of their expansive wealth to expand it even more. Greed rules when government doesn't, and a government too small to keep greed in check is the government of Ronald Reagan and Calvin Coolidge, the latter of whom famously quipped "the business of America is business," only to see it all come crashing down. When the sole motivator for a society is getting more and more money, you cannot expect people to be noble.

America tried, long ago, during its difficult first few years, to live by the doctrines of small government. They had just fought a war against a tyrannical king, and to ensure they would not have a new American kingdom they established a government that was deliberately small, weak, and had a heavy reliance on States' Rights. Under what became known as the Articles of Confederation, America was a "firm league of friendship," each with their own laws, borders, and even currency. There was no President, no executive branch, and the federal government had to beg the states for funding because it could not tax.

Clearly, this matches the current conservative dream of a small government, States' Rights America. It was an unmitigated failure. It should be noted as well that the Confederate States of America followed a similar model during their insurrection.

Under the Articles, the government was unable to run the affairs of state, and the states themselves bickered amongst themselves over trade disputes that the federal government had no power to resolve. Though it tried to issue its own money, the federal government became the butt of a contemporary joke when folks would refer to something worthless as "not worth a Continental" dollar. Had Britain decided to strike back against the American rebels during this time, it could have easily drawn and quartered America in the crib because America did not have a standing army, relying mostly on state militias. The system was such a quantifiable mess that men like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton had to advocate for a stronger government in the Federalist Papers, eventually leading to the ratification of the US Constitution in 1787, a mere eleven years after the revolution began.

Men like Hamilton and Madison went on to greatness and helped establish the greatest country this world has ever seen. Anti-federal maniacs like Thomas Paine and Patrick Henry failed to read the writing on the wall, and faded into obscurity, essentially "one-hit wonders" of the American Revolution.

It's often said that America's current crop of maniacal conservatives want to take America back to the 1950s, but as the movement has become more and more poisoned by the will of moneyed interests, the case is becoming increasingly clear that the goal is to go back much, much further. The right-wing obsession is one that wants to bring us back to the days of the Articles of Confederation, when the country was weak and powerless to protect its citizens. Unfortunately, today's biggest threat is not a recolonization effort from England, but rather the corporatization of America at the hands of the richest of the rich, all for want of money.

At Your Service,

Doremus Jessup

History Says So

1929. A worldwide financial meltdown brought on by a massive lack of regulation of the financial industry featuring prominently many people who borrowed beyond their means and couldn't pay back. Compare this to the crisis that began in 2007, where massive lack of regulation of the financial industry featuring prominently many people who borrowed beyond their means and couldn't pay back. Thankfully, President Roosevelt was brought into office to introduce regulation over the rampant and corrupt financial sector, along with ballooning public spending in order to jumpstart the economy.
It's that simple: if the people have money, they spend it, and a business owner gets that money. If the people have more money, they put more money in. When Richard Nixon, a Republican President, was faced with an economic downturn, he admitted that Keynesian economics were necessary, and government had a duty to create jobs.  Dwight Eisenhower, the wholly successful Republican President had tax rates set at nightmarish levels for today's Republican legislatures. This led to one of the most productive and egalitarian society America has ever seen. In fact, it is the very society that comes to mind when one pictures "The American Dream." You must raise taxes on the wealthy to balance the economy and encourage opportunity in times of economic strife. It is a fact you cannot argue with; History Says So.

1954. The Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education paved the way for integration of African Americans into full and equal standing with the other members of American society. Immediately, those in the former Confederate South cried foul, claiming it was violating their very way of life. However, in the book of History, this is seen as a positive step toward a better future free of such arbitrary discrimination as the color of one's skin.
Today, there is a continuing debate over the issue of Same-Sex Marriage or Marriage Equality. Immediately, those in the former Confederate South cried foul, claiming it was violating their very way of life, but public opinion is already swaying toward a tolerant approach and popular support is behind allowing people to love who they want and marry accordingly. Those who oppose Marriage Equality today will be treated as those who supported segregation in the 1950s and 60s. History Says So.

1898: A battleship is destroyed in Havana Harbor. The Yellow Journalism of the day howled for War with Spain, resulting in several new Imperial colonies for America and a good deal of money for a chosen few, most notably by issuing tainted beef to the US Army.
1964: An incident in the Tonkin Gulf. The United States begins to commit more and more soldiers to the conflict in Vietnam, establishing several no-bid contracts for entrepreneurs for infrastructure in Vietnam.
2003: Following flawed logic and bad intelligence, the United States enters into a senseless war in the country of Iraq for seemingly no reason. The media howls for war. Several companies pocket millions in no-bid contracts. The American people must be better informed about the reasons and necessity for military action, or unscrupulous people will do all they can to profit from war, regardless of the possible deaths of American citizens abroad. History Says So.

And as far as Wall Street is concerned...
1873: Silver speculation causes financial panic.
1884: Gold reserve issues caused a financial panic.
1890: a banking crisis due to the risky investments of one man, Edward Baring.
1893: A panic caused by shaky railroad financing.
1901: Thousands of small investors were ruined when the rich and powerful men behind Standard Oil and the Norhern Pacific Railway had a spat.
1907: Unregulated side bets and  lack of depositor confidence contributed to a financial Panic.

And so on. The regulations put in place by FDR helped to usher in a Great American Prosperity, and it wasn't until they were repealed that the problems of the Gilded Age returned, from the Savings & Loan Crisis of the 1980s to the Financial Crisis of 2007. Without those regulations, the cycle begins again, and we are setting ourselves up for another Great Depression. We need to regulate the banks back to the way they were, or we will endure banking panics and crashes repeatedly, due to the reckless actions of morally bankrupt banks. History Says So.

Sometimes, you wonder if everyone else is too busy "looking forward" to see what might be coming up from behind to devour us. We need a few Historians in Congress to stand up once in a while and say something like "we tried this 70 years ago, and it didn't work then." or "do we really want to make the same mistakes as the crumbling empires of previous eras?" or maybe even simply "this plan will fail."
And when asked why, the reason can be simple: History Says So.

At Your Service,

Doremus Jessup.