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Robert Reich on the Latest from Massachusetts

January 21, 2010

From Reich’s blog:

What really worries me is a basic fact, borne out by history. Deep and continuing economic stresses bring out demagogues, xenophobes, racists, and opportunists who channel people’s fears and anxieties into resentments against other people. If this awful economy goes on much longer, the extreme right could meet the extreme left in a place called “I’m mad as hell and am not gonna take it any more,” and form a third party that attracts everyone who feels disempowered and dumped on — and who want to blame someone else for what’s happened to them. Then, watch out.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Beelzebub permalink
    January 21, 2010 12:17 pm

    Since when is the left the side that is filled with racists? There certainly is a “someone else” that can be blamed for all this, but it’s the right that confuses people about who that is.

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    January 21, 2010 12:20 pm

    I don’t think Reich would disagree—I think he’s just worried about extreme retrenchment.

  3. Classical Liberal permalink
    January 21, 2010 1:59 pm

    I’m amused that out of that block quote, you got “The left has racists in it.” Reich’s point is much larger than that: Fear and anxiety are easily taken advantage of. And it’s a good point, too. Unfortunately, anyone with experience in politics will take advantage of this crisis (see Rahm Emmanuel’s famous and spot-on quote) to further entrench themselves in power, and it’s that idea – that politics is about keeping power at all costs, rather than about good governance – that got us into the position we’re currently in. A third party won’t get big enough to seize power in the US. The two we already have are too good at appeasing the extreme elements of their bases.

  4. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    January 21, 2010 2:01 pm

    What makes you think he’s talking primarily about the left?

  5. Beelzebub permalink
    January 21, 2010 7:36 pm

    How extreme is extreme?

  6. January 22, 2010 11:55 am

    @ Classic Liberal: “A third party won’t get big enough to seize power in the US. The two we already have are too good at appeasing the extreme elements of their bases.”

    I don’t know. I question the extent to which Democrats are good at appeasing the extreme elements of their base. For instance, I don’t think the health care bill has appeased many “extremists” who would want something more like a single-payer system (I also question if someone who wants a single-payer system is an “extremist” based on how health care exists in most wealthy, Western nations).

  7. Classical Liberal permalink
    January 22, 2010 2:05 pm

    It’s true that a single-payer system isn’t extreme from a more global perspective. But I would venture that most voters don’t have that perspective in mind during campaigns and up to the point when they pull the lever/mark the box/get confused by the butterfly ballot.
    It’s also true that the Democrats don’t pander as well as the Republicans. But because self-identified conservatives outnumbers self-identified liberals by about 40%-20% in the US, Democrats must focus more on the 40% of American self-identified moderates to win, shifting attention away from extreme elements of their liberal base (which are statistically much smaller than extreme elements of the conservative base). The Republicans must earn only 10-15% of the moderate vote to win, so long as they please the conservatives.
    Additionally, the pandering happens most before primaries, in which moderates don’t generally vote. So primaries have the effect of washing out the ‘extreme’ candidates because a) mainstream candidates make themselves look more ‘extreme’ to win with the base, and b) mainstream candidates generally have more money to spend than ‘extreme’ candidates, and money wins races.
    Either way, there aren’t enough votes where the hard left and hard right meet. Which is good. That’s a scary place.

    Well, an extremist won’t generally self-identify as such. But I picture the extreme right holed up in bunkers in Idaho with 5 years of canned food and 10 years of ammo waiting for China/the FBI to invade, and the extreme left holed up in a dark room writing manifestos about the evils of profit and the takeover of the world by oppressive anti-human megacorporations with no long-term perspective and only short-term profit as a goal (which, thanks to the USSC’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, doesn’t look quite as extreme as it did a few days ago).
    Those people are unappeasable, but there are others who are slightly less extreme but still far enough outside of any mainstream American political ideologies that they must be pandered to.

  8. Classical Liberal permalink
    January 22, 2010 2:05 pm

    Wow, didn’t mean to write an essay.

  9. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    January 23, 2010 10:20 am


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