I Scream for the American Dream

                                  I have no illusions that independent voters will abandon the two party hegemony this fall. Every attempt at creating a viable third party alternative has fallen flat on its collective face. Yet, the above cartoon is still an accurate portrayal of the American electorate. To be sure, there are some voters who feel that the left and right are not radical enough, but I continue to believe that the majority of the disenfranchised are just starved for pragmatic solutions to the overwhelming problems we’ll face in the coming years.

Former Senator Alan Simpson summed it up rather succinctly when asked why the President and Congress have ignored the recommendations he and Erskine Bowles submitted in their comprehensive report; neither party will accept compromise. It’s not in their DNA anymore. Republicans cower in the shadow of Grover Norquist while Democrats continue to make promises of giveaways they can never hope to keep.

No, the only thing that will turn the tide against the two party system will be failure on a scale so massive that they will be lucky if voters don’t put a bounty on their scalps. The way things are going in this crazy dysfunctional world, that day may arrive sooner than later.

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42 Responses to I Scream for the American Dream

  1. Tony Waters says:

    I’m still going to go ahead and vote for independent candidates of various stripes, on the general principle that anyone who has received lots of money from someone else probably does not have my interests (or the public’s interests) foremost in mind. Instead of complaining about campaign contributions, just stop voting for the candidates who receive them!

    It may be true that some of the third party candidates are narcissistic nut jobs–but how does that make them any different than the guys with the big bucks and t.v. ads?

    • Ryan Mount says:

      [Popular] Third Party candidates, of which we’ve only had a few, become foils for the two mainstream parties. Ross Perot comes to mind, although Ross had his issues, it’s hard to argue that there wasn’t an organized conspiracy against him by mostly Bush I supporters and operatives.

      In June of 1992, Perot had almost 40% of the vote. I remember seeing the SF Chronicle headline when I was waiting tables in college. My jaw dropped. I remember thinking he was a little nuts and unhinged, but I also remember thinking that’s what our country probably needed.

  2. gregoryzaller says:

    The cartoon is accurate in the size of independent voters by importance but not by showing the quantity of them.

    I think we need to drop the concept that independent voters are “purple”. It doesn’t wash, and it’s not a good color. I reject the notion that common sense is a mix of the extremes. It isn’t a good metaphor. Independent voters must not allow themselves to be put in a box like that.

    • Ryan Mount says:

      I think the suggestion here is that the American Independent voter is more moderate. I think that’s a false categorization. About all we can say about the independent vote, is that it doesn’t trust the major two parties. That seems to describe my parents, most of my acquaintances, and me.

      If we had to box them in, my general suspicion is that the independent vote is a center-right-ish (more fiscally conservative/moderate morally) one with some stragglers (<5%) on the far Left end of the scale.

    • Todd juvinall says:

      Yellow may be appropriate.

      • TD Pittsford says:

        Maybe you’d like to explain your insipid comment in a little more detail Todd. The last time I looked we all have the right to support whom we please and that most of us are indeed tired of the same tired old two-party ping-pong game that has done little or nothing for a majority of Americans and has in fact become detrimental to our continued existence. You can call those who still have the ability to think for ourselves any color you want, but the fact will still remain that we are fed up with the status quo.

        • Steve Frisch says:

          Indeed, a characteristically insipid and disrespectful remark.

        • Todd juvinall says:

          So, being an independent gets you exactly what? You claim to be in the middle but in reality every election you vote for a R or a D depending on your mood? I call that being used by the two party’s as fodder wouldn’t you say? If you had any abilities to organize a “middle” party, then why haven’t you? So, by inaction and constant whining about the people who do, I can say yellow us the perfect color.

          • RL Crabb says:

            Rah-rah-rah, Todd. With a cheerleader like you, it’s easy to see why Republicans are in danger of dropping to third place in registration in the Golden State, or is it yellow?

        • Todd juvinall says:

          I am a cheerleader for freedom so I guess I am in agreement. The R’s are and have been in the minority all my life in the legislature. It is all about demographics and unfortunately for California, the hegemonic hold by the left continues. We are the West Coast version of Massachusetts but if you like that, have at it. Indies vote however the winds blow at election time, no character in beliefs, no guts to stand behind a philosophy. Too bad for California, to bad for the estimated 20% of California cities going BK like Stockton. What a hoot!

          • RL Crabb says:

            Sorry to see you hold so many of your fellow citizens in such contempt for not blindly following the party line, Todd. There are a good many people who have abandoned the escalating extremism of the GOP and Dems. When they cast their ballots, it’s always a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils in that particular election, a balancing act to try and thwart one or the other from becoming too powerful. California is a center/left state that has no centrist Republicans to provide that balance, so look what we’re left with.

          • Steve Frisch says:

            Man I could not agree with Bob more. I am a registered “decline to state” because I have a strong consistent political philosophy, with a definable moral center, and clear set of historical and philosophical precedents. IF a Republican satisfies that political philosophy I will vote for them. It just does not happen very often in California any more. Republicans have become irrelevant in California because they have drifted to the extreme right of the political philosophy of the people. As long as they hang out there they are toast.

          • Todd Juvinall says:

            RL, so when the “center” bands together as a force and stops flip flopping back and forth I will agree with you.

          • Steve Frisch says:

            Todd, I think you miss the point. The center is not a “party”. It does not band together as a monolithic force, with centralized control from the DNC or the right wing power machine. It votes its conscience…without centralized control..and lets the chips fall where they may.

    • Steve Frisch says:

      Great point Gregory. Being moderate or independent (which is not necessary the same) is not a blend of extremes.

      • RL Crabb says:

        In my case, “moderate” means center-right, or at least that’s as close as I can come to a description. It’s not that complicated. Don’t spend more than what you can pay for. Equality of rights and opportunity for every human being. Respect for the environment, but the freedom to live where and how you want to live. Rules and regs are a necessary evil, but personal responsibility should be given as much leeway as possible. War as a last resort. Government as close to the governed as the constitution allows. Free beer.

        • Steve Frisch says:

          For me moderate means center/left. Don’t spend more than you can pay for, but remember to prioritize long term ROI. Equal rights for all while helping to reverse the effect of a legacy of equal rights only for a few. Respect for the environment while recognizing it is a public resource. Rules and Regs are a necessary evil that must be adaptively managed to meet objectives, while empowering personal responsibility. The goal of every regulation should be to be obsolete. War is a last resort. Government as close to the people as possible. A living Constitution.

        • Tony Waters says:

          Both RL and Steve have a pretty good start on a good definition of “the center,” in my view.

          Certainly it beats the over-simplification of the individual vs. communitarian rights dichotomy assumed by some.

        • Greg Goodknight says:

          RL, I think your position is center-libertarian. More Ron Paul than Rick Santorum. Though the beer wouldn’t literally be free, you would be free to make and sell it more easily than now. In the Libertarian Party the woopie faction loosely referred to as the “Let’s Party” wing.

          “Center-left” is Democrat Party territory, but it is fashionable for the left to want to be “moderate”. It’s a shame the socialist/social democrat labels popular in Europe fell into such disrepute here, it would make such classifications much easier.

          • Steve Frisch says:

            Just can’t resist putting people into party labels boxes can we? I was moderate long before moderate was the modern definition of being a Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy. In a society that truly prizes the individual, we should recognize that parties orbit our sun, not the other way around. I align with parties when they suit my interest or objectives.

  3. Michael Anderson says:

    I agree w/ Greg Z. We need a new metaphor.

    We have an 18th century political system that is too difficult to reform, and now the 3 branches of gov’t that were supposed to act as a check and balance to each other do neither as they each find more extreme ways to exercise their individual power.

    Meanwhile, more progressive forms of gov’t in the world (ironically based upon the US Constitution, but modified to solve 20th and 21st century problems) are passing us by. For example, we started the 21st century with the fastest Interent speeds on the planet. Twelve years later we are in 19th place. This is because our antiquated regulatory mechanisms can’t prevent predatory companies like AT&T and Comcast from stifling innovation with their pocket monopolies.

    You’re right, Bob. This will only get fixed after a massive failure of some kind. And we might lose our country as a result. It would be better if we could enact the political reforms necessary to fix our problems, but that’s not possible when the two extraconstitutional political parties have both embraced a philosophy that the village must be destroyed in order to save it.

    The tragic blowback of the None Dare Call It Treason mentality.

    • Greg Goodknight says:

      Perhaps Michael Anderson agrees with the H.Ross Perot model of suspending the Constitution so the President (H.Ross wanted that job) could open up the hood of the country and fix it so we could get going again.

      The number of voters on the conservative-populist side who thought that was a great idea was frightening, but what I see on the left is the same sort of reckless abandon. I like that the Constitution is hard to change, and that it’s hard to get really major changes past all three branches of the Federal government.

      Sometimes a raft that seems adrift really is a better place to be than the Titanic crossing the Atlantic in high speed luxury.

      We shouldn’t worry about our “mineshaft gap”. Internet speeds are the least of our problems.

      • Ryan Mount says:

        > Perhaps Michael Anderson agrees with the H.Ross Perot model of suspending the Constitution so the President (H.Ross wanted that job) could open up the hood of the country and fix it so we could get going again.

        That was a rumor spread by Dan Quayle (of all people) which was targeted at that [rightfully so] suspicious segment of the electorate. But Ross was kinda of a quack even without Quayle’s assistance.


        • Greg Goodknight says:

          No, Ryan, HRP literally said that. Give him the power to open up the hood (his metaphor) and fix the engine of the country. Suspend the constitution, just for a little bit. And his supporters loved it.

          That was even scarier than Nixon. Authoritarian populists are a scary thing, that bottle needs to keep its cork.

          • Ryan Mount says:

            I am not an apologist for Perot, first off. And certainly Perot’s handlers were very frustrated with his behavior. Many of his advisers resigned because of it.

            I’m a reasonably certain that Perot never said “[s]uspend the constitution, just for a little bit” although his rhetoric certainly reflected a frustration with our system. He did, in 1989 on a Today Show appearance call for suspending some civil rights for battling the drug trade…kinda like Bush II and Obama have already done with the war on Terror. I would not support Perot for this.

            Anyhow, regarding this topic, we only have what his press secretary said which was quoted in the article.

            “Mr. Perot never suggested any contempt for the Constitution, only for the quality of leadership in Washington. That characterization is typical of the kind of distortion that has dominated the political dialogue in Presidential elections over the last decade or so.”

            What I will grant you however, is that this indeed reeks of populism, a kind of middle class one at that. And populism can lend itself to more fascist group think.

            When you look at the final Perot voting demographic, we observe some startling numbers relative to this very topic:

            19% of the popular vote, even after quitting. Perot voters were likely to be young, middle class, moderate, and white. Of these 19% of the voters described themselves as:

            – 20% of his votes coming from self-described liberals
            – 27% from self-described conservatives
            – 53% coming from self-described moderates


          • Greg Goodknight says:

            No Ryan, I had it right:

            “Nor would Perot let the Constitution interfere with his policies on street crime and on drugs. He told the National Press Club how much he admired authoritarian-run, crime-free Singapore (“a jewel of a city; when you’re there, you’re looking at tomorrow”).

            The Constitution protects citizens against warrantless searches and confiscation of firearms; it requires “equal protection of the laws,” regardless of race. During a crime wave in Dallas in 1986, Perot set up round-table meetings between police officers and people in the news media. In those meetings, according to Todd Mason, former Dallas bureau chief for Business Week, in his 1990 biography of the businessman: “Perot espoused cordoning off minority neighborhoods and searching door-to-door for weapons and narcotics.”

            On NBC’s “Today Show” on Oct. 25, 1989, Perot called for suspending constitutional rights and declaring martial law to combat the drug trade: “You can declare civil war and the drug dealer is the enemy. There ain’t no bail … [drug dealers] go to POW camp. You can start dealing with the problem in straight military terms.”

            Last but not least, under Perot there would be a crackdown:

            * On people who dare to invest abroad. (“[Capitalists’] job is to create and protect jobs in America – not Mexico,” Perot says. Such investment may bother Perot because it would fall outside the control of Perot’s hands-on management of the US economy.)

            * On people who dare to defend themselves and their families with firearms. (Perot told the National Press Club that he favors gun controls “much tighter” than the Brady Bill.)

            * On young people who dare to evade compulsory national service, building roads or emptying bedpans for the federal government. (Perot said in a 1983 interview in the Saturday Evening Post that the US government should make it a “requirement” that “every 18-year-old” young man or woman should do one to two years of such work.)

            * On company presidents who dare to earn more than Perot finds acceptable. (Perot says he favors confiscating CEO salaries that he considers excessive.)

            * On people who dare to pay less in taxes than the IRS thinks they should. (Perot told the National Press Club he wants the IRS to acquire a “decent computer system” that would ensure that it would take in $100 billion more in taxes.)


            Perot was a danger to the Constitution and to the Republic, and he got LOTS of votes.

          • Ryan Mount says:

            I’m suspicious of that Hoover Institute article in the CS Monitor which runs more like an opinion [hit] piece than an actual piece of journalism. I’m not seeing any direct quotes here (on page 2), for example. His discussion regarding the 1st (campaign reform) and 4th (unlawful detainment) Amendments from page 1 are quite disturbing, but not unlike some we hear today.

            Whether we are to believe it or not, it played right into team Perot’s paranoia which seemed to be orchestrated by the Republicans. And for a good reason, he was sucking away their middle and middle-right votes. Clinton was off fondling aids and chortling all the way to the Presidency.

            But then again there were elements of Perot’s suggestions (as per this Mr. Evers article) that I liked. The others? Not so much.

            – Cracking down on investors abroad (the writer left out an important tidbit about tax shelters and evasion. Benefiting from the fruits of this Country, but not having to pay for the pruning.)

            – Regarding gun reform: “Defending their families” is empty and inflammatory BS rhetoric from Mr. Evers. It’s totally fear-based. No mention of the scope of such reforms, just fear. An contextually we were just starting to emerge from a very violent period in our inner Cities.

            – Regarding using technology: Perot told the National Press Club he wants the IRS to acquire a “decent computer system.” I agree with this. We also need such systems now for Welfare and Medicare fraud processing. Sick WATSON on them.

            – Not really a bad idea, but it won’t fly: “requirement” that “every 18-year-old” young man or woman should do one to two years of such work.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Ryan, I *heard* Perot saying such things, and I *remember* Perot supporters supporting it, not thinking it would be bad at all to ignore the constitution just for a short time to fix things.

            Stop the car, get out, open the hood, fix it, then get going again.

            This is a danger of populism on the left or right, and the OWS types are just as capable of it.

      • Michael Anderson says:

        Did I say suspend the Constitution? No, I didn’t. Stop trying to put words in my mouth.

        • Greg Goodknight says:

          I eagerly await hearing of your Michael Anderson’s improvements to the Constitution so that we can have it “modified to solve 20th and 21st century problems”.

          The only thing on my short list, besides a rollback of Obamacare, is a reigning in of the Interstate Commerce clause, but that shouldn’t take a change in the constitution, just a fair ruling from the Supremes that clears out the stare decisis underbrush that has given no limits to Congressional power.

          • Todd juvinall says:

            I believe our Constitution is timeless and lists the important things protecting the individual from tyranny. How do you improve or replace the First through tenth Amendments? The problem is not the Document, it is the interpretation of humans of its words and original intentions. If we had strong passionate people in the Executive Branch who are implementing the laws (while protecting freedoms), perhaps it would get better. We need to overhaul civil service and implement a balanced budget they can’t game. The Commerce Clause is and has been, utilized as never intended. There are many ways to fix things but one only needs to read the California Constitution and its myriad of laws and amendments to get a better view of Anderson’s ideas. It is the opposite of the US Constitution as it puts every little thing in it and look how that worked out.

  4. Greg Goodknight says:

    How soon they forget…

    The one dimensional left-right model was expanded into a two dimensional model years ago by the late David Nolan:

    It may never catch on because the folks who want power on the “left” and on the “right” seem to like the model that doesn’t include a place to stand for those who want the political classes to have less power overall.

    Real Progressives will be the ones who succeed in making the beast smaller, and on a related note, it looks like Stockton is on the path to bankruptcy tonight at midnight. Spending that can’t go on forever eventually doesn’t.

    • Ryan Mount says:

      I think the Nolan chart is notable. I can’t find the site, but I have a screenshot of it that I’ve uploaded to imageshack that demonstrates Nolan Chart like structures:


      • Greg Goodknight says:

        Ryan, the placements of individuals in those charts of yours are borderline insane, especially for Milton Friedman, but anything besides a one dimensional model at least allows for a real discussion. It is about political and economic freedoms.

        • Ryan Mount says:

          Where would you put Friedman?

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Friedman was perhaps the most outspoken libertarian in public life of his time, and was for increased personal and economic freedom in every instance I can think of. He also made it clear that he was a small-l libertarian who registered as a Republican only because he saw the Republicans of his time as being more receptive to increasing economic freedoms.

            I remember Friedman as part of a discussion on a McNeil-Lehrer Newshour during the 1992 Presidential campaign and McNeil asked MF about the economic platforms of the candidates. McNeil was absolutely shocked when Friedman stated the only candidate who made any economic sense whatsoever was Andre Marrou, the Libertarian Party candidate. Unfortunately, Friedman made a big gaffe by answering the next question honestly, did Marrou have any change of winning…

  5. RR covered the Nolan Chart a few years back, e.g. here
    and you can go here to see where you reside
    It was a lot of fun, everyone wound up putting themselves on the map.

    But I still would like to return to the point of Bob’s cartoon. Can anyone put together two lists, one each with the tenets of the ‘far left’ and the ‘far right’. IMHO, doing the far left is easy, but not so with the far right because uncritical thinkers tend to put collectivist items on it which no conservative-libertarian has ever signed up for. But it’s still worth a try to see if we know what we’re always talking about.

  6. What all workers everywhere are facing is the race to a global minimum wage. While this may have worked just wonderful for those at the top in the USA, it is causing great discomfort to those who jobs have been exported, but who are expected to go on living and paying for stuff at the old USA prices, stuff including health care, gasoline, etc, some of which have had the nerve to go up, even though this era of global economic wonderfulism is upon us.

    How much of the old lower and middle classes can the USA top dogs afford to lock up, when they are out to steal a loaf of bread, or act out in anger? There is probably a tipping point at which the whole house of top dog cards comes crashing down. Do we really want to just let it happen, or would it be better to find another way out of this mess?

    • Ryan Mount says:

      I think this is an oversimplification of the issue. Although more commodity jobs have left our shores for cheaper labor markets, we have a dearth of unfulfilled domestic technology jobs, for example, that are going unfilled because there are not enough qualified applicants.

      We can argue later about how to fix that empty job issue.

      > There is probably a tipping point at which the whole house of top dog cards comes crashing down.

      You and Mr. Rebane are in agreement on this, but from different perspectives. I suppose your armies will be armed differently. One with protest signs, the other with guns in this Arab spring comes to America scenario. I do not see it this way. More than likely, IMO, we’ll see a steady and whimpering decline in our standard of living with more economic stagnation. If you want to know what America will look like in 5-10 years, look to Japan and Britain.

  7. gregoryzaller says:

    “Sometimes a raft that seems adrift really is a better place to be than the Titanic crossing the Atlantic in high speed luxury”. GG

    I like that. I hope it is true in this case.

    • Greg Goodknight says:

      GZ, it’s not an original metaphor; if I had to guess I’d say it was either Milton Friedman or PJ O’Rourke who used it more artfully than I.

      Here’s an example of the backside of government driven expansion, published a few days ago:

      “China’s policy of promoting green industries through massive subsidies led to a big capacity [of LED manufacturing] build-out by thousands of companies. Using the government’s support of providing cheap land, capital and even equipment, these companies built capacity without worrying about demand. Now as reality sinks in, all but the biggest state companies are finding survival impossible. It is a story that has already played out first in the wind turbine industry where hundreds of players entered where there was a space for a only a few. The result has been devastating with hundreds bankrupt and massive job losses. Even the largest ones like Sinovel, have defaulted on payments to suppliers and are seeing shrinking margins.”

      • gregoryzaller says:

        These new technologies are clearly in their infancy and challenge the imagination. The most likely outcome will be that LED and wind power technologies will follow the same path as the automobile replacing the horse. Today they are the raft while tungsten lighting and fossil fuel energy are the luxury liner, but just you wait.

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