Monday, May 23, 2016

Bloomberg Writer Says Bernie Will Turn Us Into Venezuela

Bernie's "socialism," it should be noted, is not the same as Venezuela's.

If you're a fan of socialism and Bernie Sanders, you're not going to like what Noah Smith has to say about the crisis in Venezuela and how it can happen here:
"When center-left thinkers like Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong tried to restrain the excesses of economists who were over-hyping Bernie Sanders’ economic policy program, many leftists accused them of "hippie-punching,” and claimed that their sensible approach would play into the hands of plutocrats.
But these criticisms are misplaced, and Venezuela shows why. The center-left is the essential bulwark against the kind of aggressive policy mistakes that have doomed dozens of socialist revolutions to dysfunction and collapse. The historically successful approach to economic reform is to “cross the river by feeling the stones” -- a phrase coined by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who undid much of the economic damage done by his predecessors. Gradual reform, not revolution, is a proven winner when it comes to improving the lives of society’s least fortunate."
Methinks even with a Sanders electoral victory, the chances of a socialist revolution happening in the U.S. are about zero, so we should be safe from becoming Venezuela, for now at least.

But I guess, here we're getting a peek into what Trump's line of attack against Bernie could be. Someone trademark the "Bernie Chavez" nickname now.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Did My Novel Forsee An Election Threesome?

My junior year in college ('03) I started writing a novel. The story took part in the near future, when a high profile terrorist attack becomes a harbinger of political revolution and a second civil war. The attack occurs in an election year, and a right wing nationalist candidate rises in the Republican Party. Running against him is an ineffectual, uninspiring Democrat, and a surprisingly charismatic third Party Independent candidate whose support is growing by the day.

In the novel, the election season proceeds deep into the summer, and the Democratic candidate and third party candidate run neck and neck, while near 40% of the electorate remains solidly behind a Republican candidate whose incendiary speeches against Muslims are attracting his own fanatical followers. The Democrats try to get the Independent candidate to back down and unite--but it's no longer clear that scenario will bring out a majority. In late October, the Independent candidate appears to have a distinct lead over the Democrat. 

Another attack just a week before Election Day swings the electorate. Now the nationalist candidate is polling at 51% nationwide. The Democratic candidate and Independent candidate need to join forces but it may already be too late.

I don't want to tell you what happens next in the novel--you'll have to buy it circa 2017-- but needless to say, what happens next is a disaster.

It's strange how this election season has shaped up to (somewhat) match my vision. In my novel, the Republican candidate is a far more lucid and intelligent man than Trump is. In fact, what makes him most dangerous is how he deftly weaves a kind of logic into his speeches--in the grand tradition of eugenics--he's a slick but deeply principled salesman of hate. Imagine Trump wasn't some blubbering haircut in a suit but instead a convincing and calculating presence.

In my novel, the Independent candidate is young, in his early 40s, a first term governor for the state of New Jersey (hey, I got the Northeast part right). He's a centrist, an ex-Republican. He doesn't preach about the evils of Wall Street but he does preach a message of equality. In a stirring speech at the convention, he paints a portrait of human beings as responsible for advancing life throughout the universe, and making sure all souls have a valued role to play among the stars. "We live on a tiny rock hurtling through the vacuum of space, spinning 'round a burning ball of angry fire, while asteroids and meteors and cosmic rays, earthquakes, tornadoes and all manner of natural disasters conspire to kill us, and yet--the thing we fear most is each other?" His campaign motto--I swear, this was really it--is, "America Can Be America Again."

In my novel, the Democratic candidate is just a dull old white guy.

There are enough similarities between my (yet to be completed) manuscript and this election season for me to wonder. Maybe Bernie... gasp... doesn't drop out. The way the Independent candidate in my novel didn't drop out. Maybe this goes three ways down to the wire. Maybe at a certain point, between now and election day, it's Hillary who clearly has less poll support. What does she do?

Hillary supporters deride Bernie supporters as delusional, guns in their own mouths, sore losers who will split the party and help elect a egotistical madman. But what if, in late October, the numbers are reversed? As statistician Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight points out (in an article about Donald Trump's "unstoppable momentum") the fact is that many voters, "wait long enough to be reasonably sure they are picking a winner," and Hillary has not yet reached the point (a sort of golden ratio) where her election is inevitable. What if Bernie's appeal could be sharpened between now and November--not just as some TARP sour grapes and Occupy Wall Street word salad--but as a unifying human rights message with real power to change the world?

Well, then, wouldn't us "establishment" Democrats--the reasonable ones, as we've told ourselves--need to switch our support to Bernie? If he managed to somehow swing more than just his Bros and Bernettes, and most importantly, grabbed support from dissatisfied Republicans (a scenario that might only be possible for the centrist candidate in my novel)-- then wouldn't we have to bite the bullet too?

Somebody does, before it's too late.

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