What’s the Matter With America?

In the vein of Thomas Frank’s book, “What’s the Matter  With Kansas” that illustrates how people tend to vote against their own self-interest, we find that often the worst people to serve in elected office are placed there by voters who are more captured by a manufactured ideal than with common sense ideas.

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Each election seems to sustain an inoperable government constantly engaged in gridlock.  Could some voters be fostering a kakistocracy?

I discovered a new word today

kakistocracygovernment by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power.

I know.  This description could fit anyone’s subjective view of the government they didn’t vote for.  Unfounded criticism by intolerant people however does not make it a kakistocracy.

The worst persons in government are those who have been aided in getting elected by wealthy special interests who set their goals to legislate conditions that enhance those wealthy special interests, often to the detriment and in opposition to the general will of the people.

They conceal their true colors through cromulent patriotism and identifying with christian values.  Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to justify sending young men and women to their death in unnecessary wars and shipping jobs to cheaper foreign labor markets.

They justify the genocide of Palestinians under their misguided view that the God of the Bible condones such atrocities to fulfill an apocryphal prophecy a single person expounded on some 2000 years ago.  The worst among us continue to utilize this alarming logorrhea to perpetuate the annihilation belief of humankind that has a history of failed prophecy over the last 1700 years.

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Now think about this and where we are at on the federal and state levels.  We have people elected that have little to no political savvy.  They often have campaigns heavily funded by corporate special interests.  They are unwilling to compromise to address the needs of a broad spectrum of the electorate and many often reference the Bible to guide their actions as elected officials government, not the Constitution, established law or even real science.

In the meantime, infrastructure in this country deteriorates, our privacy rights are violated for the thinnest of reasons and the rich among us get the greatest attention as the middle class diminishes.  The witch hunt in Texas led by the religious right to dismantle Planned Parenthood in that state has reached a level that’s been assessed as “unprecedented”.  But first let’s shut down the U.S. government because of some bogus belief that tax payer funds go to support abortions.  They don’t.

gop shutdown

It’s not that these people are stupid.  They’re not.  But their supporters are fixated on an ideal that is more archaic in contemporary society where multiculturalism is the norm and communication technology disseminates a variety of views.

They in fact were elected because they made exaggerated claims about emotional issues that appealed to a poorly informed public. Claims in part that reflect an earlier social structure in America that highlights only the positive aspects of “free markets” while ignoring many of the failures that developed as wealth started to concentrate in the hands of a few and opportunity to experience the so-called American Dream began to vanish.Screen shot 2015-10-23 at 2.30.38 PM

Who are these “worst persons” leading our country?  My vote would go to those who represent the worst extremes of libertarianism and religious fundamentalism.  Jeet Heer over at the New Republic points out that the typical libertarians are white males.  Many “[p]roclaiming … a philosophy of individualism, with no overt celebrations of either patriarchy or racism, [but who still end] up being monochromatic and male.”  They make up about 11% of the electorate but their representative influence within the GOP has hamstrung the Party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Eisenhower, preventing government to address many of the critical issues we face as a nation.

They tend to yearn for a more simpler, gentler time when they were dominant and not confronted with “uppity blacks” or sassy women, though many work to conceal this disparaging image.  “To a significant degree, libertarianism is a philosophy that exalts a world where white men enjoyed enormous freedom, but other groups were even more marginalized than they are now.”, Heer informs us.

Libertarianism has become an anodyne for many white conservative men who find themselves in a century far different from the one when the roots of libertarianism were being formed.

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones condenses Heers work down to the fantasy aspect of this 21st century revision of an earlier ideology

“Hardcore libertarianism is a fantasy. It’s a fantasy where the strongest and most self-reliant folks end up at the top of the heap, and a fair number of men share the fantasy that they are these folks. They believe they’ve been held back by rules and regulations designed to help the weak, and in a libertarian culture their talents would be obvious and they’d naturally rise to positions of power and influence.”

I often find that these men lean toward authoritarian models which wants to dictate the rules of life but see no conflict with this view and the very individualism they praise – true Orwellian double-think.  Individualism that was mostly defined in the early 20th century ironically by women such as Isabel Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane and Ayn Rand.

It is Rand who is most familiar to us thanks in large part to people like Paul Ryan, the Republican who just recently decided to run for the Party’s House Speaker seat in Congress.  This popularity of Rand over the other two women may have something to do with her fictional male heroes in her most popular books, The Fountain Head and Atlas Shrugged.

Rand’s role-model epitomizes a strong, virulent male that takes control of his life in the face of adversity.  Yet this notion is seldom exhibited in real life for most of them.  Too many talk the talk but are unable to walk the walk.  As Kevin Drum points out, in reality “nearly all of them would be squashed like ants—mostly by the same people who are squashing them now.”   Rather than concede how their own physical and mental limits inhibit them, they lash out at the rules and regulations imposed on them by society.

Screen shot 2015-10-24 at 1.03.44 AM  This imagery tends to roll over to the angry white man rage we see with some today.  Out of their frustration a few may take what they consider a bold initiative to right their wrongs but in a sick fashion that has them going out in a blaze of glory killing many of their perceived adversaries before taking their own life through gun violence.  Not all 2nd amendment advocates are hostile fanatics but it’s probably safe to assume that all hostile fanatics are gun nuts.

To some who read this many may see the intent of my post to be an attack on individualism.  That would be a mistake.  I believe in individuality as much as anyone.   But one that understands we no longer have the same opportunities we did in the 19th century to make our mark in society – a notion that lived in the dreams of some but was kept in check through natural selection.  It is also an individualism that understands we are part of a social construct where all individual wants have to be put on hold for a time or even compromised to accommodate those who are part of the world we all share.

At the most basic level is the family.  A mother and father give up many of their individual wants and desires to ensure their children’s development is soundly achieved.  We deprive ourselves of a new fishing rod, fashion upgrade or a sports car to provide for the basic needs required to raise healthy children.  And though we are not connected by blood to friends and neighbors within our community we are obligated to limit excessive behavior that poses a threat to their safety.  This is what laws that limit automobile speeds on residential streets are for and prohibition of venues that generate high traffic and noise levels close to where we raise our families.

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But individual behavior that puts their interests above the needs of others is not good individualism in all cases and that distinction seems to often get lost on the typical white male libertarian.  Especially those who swear by free-market capitalism.  Like libertarianism, free market capitalism is a flawed concept.  It relies on honest and ethical people to restrain themselves from excesses or to realize that what they gain for themselves could deprive others of their livelihood.  The latter reflects the law of the jungle, not one of a civilized society.

With national elections still a year away we have time to assess if we will continue down a path that lends us to a kakistocracy rather than a form of government that elects broad-minded people who are willing to move us forward through compromise and choices based on fact-based evidence.  A process that truly offers hope and opportunity for ALL individuals, not just the ones who sit at the top of the income pyramid and control the legislative process that empowers a plutocracy.

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18 responses to “What’s the Matter With America?

  1. Great post Larry….BTW thanx for the new word…I love it……on foreign pol;icy I agree a little with the Libs but on this free market crap…I do not see it working…..

  2. I love this line: “Rather than concede how their own physical and mental limits inhibit them, they lash out at the rules and regulations imposed on them by society.”

    Reminds me of the song:

    And there’s always a place for the angry young man
    With his fist in the air and his head in the sand
    He’s never been able to learn from mistakes
    He can’t understand why his heart always breaks
    His honor is pure, and his courage as well
    he’s fair and he’s true, and he’s boring as hell
    And he’ll go to his grave as an angry old man.

  3. “The worst persons in government are those who have been aided in getting elected by wealthy special interests who set their goals to legislate conditions that enhance those wealthy special interests, often to the detriment and in opposition to the general will of the people.”

    It would be wise to look into some local officials as well. Some people have met directly (and alone) with oil and gas.

    • We both know that’s true Jodi. I think at the city level however voters can’t be bamboozled as easy as they can by those who run for state and national office. It follows the notion that out of sight, out of mind. But locally its hard for them to hide.

      • Amen to that, Larry. I’m sure as more of their oil-soaked deals come out into the open, they’ll try to spin it as diplomacy or working with the industry in order to balance the needs of the people or somesuch.

        Anyhow, very well written as are all of your other blog posts. I enjoy reading here.

  4. You didn’t learn just one new word, I had to scramble to find out what “cromulent” meant and “logorrhea” although I kind of figured that one out from all of the Greek and Latin roots my middle school English teachers crammed into our heads.

    As always, Larry, you are spot on. But what is not often highlighted is where the “angry” part of “angry white male” has come from. We have manufactured this. “We” meaning the vast conservative conspiracy. Starting with Reagan’s removal of the cork in the bottle (by removing the “fairness doctrine” from our media controls) the conservative, really radical, right wing in this country has spewed lies and hate drumming up white male resentment. It is a well known form of control that is accessible to all: emotional control, as attempts at intellectual control had run up against inconvenient things like facts and reality. This is the real problem: phony made up “wars on Christianity,” “wars on Christmas,” “wars on conservatives” (at the IRS!), “wars on the church.” Liberals and progressives have been tainted as not “true Americans.” Collectivists are socialists are communists who want to “take away our guns.” Emotion and fear, emotion and fear, creates an electorate that …? Riding the Tiger may be exhilarating, may even create “wins” for some politicians, but eventually the tiger wonders what this thing is on its back.

    • Yes, anger does seem to be the typical response of a white conservative who vocalizes their resentment about an issue that they only marginally understand at best. Rage and castigation is all that’s left them when confronted with the facts, especially by a liberal.

  5. kakistocracy – government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power.

    I think that’s the Chicago (?) pronunciation of the word…

    Cockistocracy – government by the biggest dicks; a form of government in which the worst dicks are in power.

    Great shortlist, Woodgate, but “What’s The Matter With America?” can’t possibly be explained in just one story. The condensed version alone is an Encyclopedia Britannica sized volume. I could probably list over 100 things that are so wrong with America, they’re likely fatal. If given enough time, I could probably come up with at least 350 million other serious flaws with America. And I could probably think of another 100 American-driven trends that might extinguish what we call human “civilization”.

    The much easier question to answer is…”What’s Right With America?” No, wait. That’s actually a LOT harder to answer.

  6. Libertarians – Yup, they’re a pretty pale bunch. Nearly all are white and very few are women.

    Canuckistan just had our longest election ever, 78 days. (Yes, America 78 days, not 78 months. That’s less time than between now & America’s very 1st vote in its Primary marathon) Here are pictures of all the Libertarian Party candidates that ran. Notice a trend? https://www.libertarian.ca/candidates/

    About half a dozen women & 2 Asians. The rest were all white males, most of whom were younger than average. These Libertarian guys run ALL the time for my City Council. They’re always young, white, males who are often half-baked right there on the debate stage. To be fair, I’m usually watching the debate half-baked myself. But being baked is seriously the ONLY way their economic policies make even a little sense.

    What’s really sad is that:

    1) I actually like some of their policies, even a couple of the economic ones aren’t half bad.
    2) Their hearts seem to be in the right place, even while their heads are up their own asses. I think most are the good natured kind who tragically had a sip from The Fountainhead and became drunk enough from it to think Libertarian policies would actually improve society. Most aren’t the darker, more ominous, “Sink or swim” & “Every man for himself!” strain of Libertarians that dominate in America.

    “(Libertarianism) relies on honest and ethical people to restrain themselves from excesses or to realize that what they gain for themselves could deprive others of their livelihood. – Woodgate

    Their biggest problem is that they get high on their own ideas. They think their severely minimalist ideology can solve every single problem in the world. They have absolutely NO idea what human beings are really like. They think everyone is as bright, capable, well resourced and as ruled by “enlightened self-interest” as everyone else in their college’s Libertarian League.

    The reality is that most people today are broke-ass, poorly educated, badly informed, retards who can’t even spell “enlightened”, let alone have a “self-interest” that lasts beyond 15 minutes. The bulk of the population are the stupid sheep who run straight towards the wolves and get eaten first…wolves who have been unleashed by libertarian economic policies.

    ” In the meantime, infrastructure in this country deteriorates, our privacy rights are violated for the thinnest of reasons and the rich among us get the greatest attention as the middle class diminishes.” -Woodgate

    Monarchy abolishing, “democracy inventing”, America absolutely worships these born-rich “geniuses”. Especially the technology billionaires like Zuckerberg, Gates and Jobs. Why? Because they’ve given the drooling masses digital heroin to numb the pain of their miserable, empty, “lives” that have virtually no prospect of improving. They’re now mere serfs in a New Feudalism where, thanks to technology & the Global Economy…they’re no longer needed for anything by their Feudal Lords who live in cities built upon the clouds.

    When Steve Jobs died, the fawning corporate media fucktards actually had the nerve to compare this one-hit-wonder to Thomas Edison. That’s like comparing a 7 course meal in a Michelin 3 Star restaurant to dumpster-diving behind a McDonald’s. Edison created, or developed, hundreds of unrelated inventions, production methods and entire industries that didn’t really exist before. Jobs just took 2 products that already existed (personal computers, cell phones) and made them more popular & more addictive. That’s almost as deserving of “hero-worship” as the French government’s performance in WW2.

    These tech-billionaires have also actively assisted in the creation of a Big Brother state where everything you do, say, read, write, watch & think is being recorded, stored forever, categorized & monetized by governments, businesses and 7 billion Little Brothers whose only pleasure left in life is to fuck with yours.

    Alas, the good ship America has hit the iceberg and it’s going down fast. And in true Libertarian fashion, it’s every man, woman & child for themselves!

      • Yeah, I was absolutely disgusted at the comparisons to Edison. And when I feel like projectile vomiting, McDonald’s usually comes to mind.

        All this Jobs ass-clown did was take 2 things other people had already invented and had been selling successfully, stuck in a few bells & whistles and hyped the shit out of them in endless ads propaganda & stage shows. These product launches were part Nuremberg rally and part death cult. Here’s basically what I saw every time I saw Steve Jobs.

        Dude non-apologetically moved what could have been secure, decent paying, manufacturing jobs to Chinese factories that are the closest thing to legal slavery there is. Yet we cheer the motherfucker and think he’s a “great man” because he made butt-loads of money walking across stages dressed in black and giving geeky virgins raging boners. He sure as hell was no Johnny Cash.

        Anyway, I stand by my McDonald’s dumpster diving comparison. If this guy is considered the pinnacle of what America has to offer, then ALL hope is lost. Pull the plug and let the coma patient go quietly.

      • That Scientology comparison to Nazi Germany WAS indeed creepy. Never was a Tom Cruise fan however especially when he dumped, or got dumped by, Nicole Kidman

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