Return from the Detour

Author: Gary Hart

Whether tomorrow or seven years from now, the passing of the current US Administration will leave behind a to-do list of some dimension.  Without seeming to be pushing anyone out the door, it is not too soon to be considering the priorities for damage limitation and damage control.  Even if no further damage is done, the list of those priorities already is daunting.

Though it is by no means certain, one must assume that the historic US political pendulum will deliver a reasonably centrist Democratic or center-right Republican Administration into power.  After this experiment in reversion to the age of Hoover (Herbert that is), emerging new realities demand a return to a mainstream at home and abroad.

Given Heraclitus’s admonition regarding constant change (you can’t step in the same stream twice), simply returning to 2016 will not be an option.  But there are some mainstream conditions that offer guidelines.

First, in the world.  Reality, in such short supply these days, will require the United States to resume partnership with European and Asian allies on issues of trade and security.  Despite Brexit, some form of the European Union will survive and will welcome a United States Government that once again seeks some neo-NATO security alliance, if for nothing else than to show a united front against any Russian adventurism in the Baltic States or along its Western border.

Likewise, that same reality will demand a regular order in trade with guidelines on tariffs, cross border transactions, and systems for dispute resolution.

And, yes, with wiser heads in charge, a process for addressing looming and long-term climate deterioration must be restored.  This alone will require respect for science, facts, and reality.  But the same is true of Arctic warming and its attendant regional revolution, as well as recurring threats of pandemics in Africa and elsewhere.

At home, the restoration will be daunting.  Continuing work must be done to rescue and reform the Affordable Care Act, if nothing else than to make it truly affordable.  The public school system, which Jefferson thought was a necessary precondition to democracy itself, must be restored to its rightful place in every community and saved from the privatizers.  We must reject the ugly and awkward exile from the global community on climate rescue.  A genuinely national infrastructure restoration project must begin.  Forget about a wall.  A thoughtful and humane immigration program and a genuinely fair tax system will be high on our national agenda.  Much else will need to be done.

But we will not seek simply to return to a world before the Trump detour.  New realities are intruding even as we stumble ad hoc through a confusing Trumpian jungle.  Tossing aside the nationalistic, isolationist, populist approach to a national greatness that was never lost will not be sufficient.  New regional alliances on trade, security, and immigration will be required.  New international agreements on climate, environment, energy, and nuclear arms control will be necessary.  All will require a respect for statesmanship presently missing.

Most of all, those who truly care about America and its continuing leadership role in the world must reject divisive forces here at home that seek to blame one group or another for the challenges we face.  Once again, Pogo was right: we have met the enemy, and it is us.

12 Responses to “Return from the Detour”

  1. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    There are a lot of assumptions embedded in the notion of a Trump detour and the capacity for moving away from it. And, that goes most especially in the case of the seven years scenario, God forbid!

    I’m wondering if we should be concerned/worried/horrified by the sign post called Steve Bannon and his ilk??

  2. Edward Goldstick Says:

    “One Nation After Trump” is the eponymous thesis of a trio of thoughtful and prescient fellows: Ornstein, Mann, and Dionne…

    … but the real question, in my opinion, is whether Trump is a source or a symptom of the ‘challenge’ we face as a nation with these three sets of questions in mind:

    a) I must begin by positing that there is nothing wrong with populism as long as the leading voices are intellectually honest. Can a relatively “honest” populist succeed as a Republican just as an outspoken individualist or elitist could succeed as a Democrat? (imho, Reagan was the former and many Democrats were the latter… including our host)

    b) Is the core of the ‘detour’ found in Trump or is it a ‘detour’ of the GOP as a whole? Does the traditional dialectic of “individualism” and “collectivism” – or “top-down” versus “bottom-up” politics, if you prefer – that have marked the basic ideological division in our politics for centuries still apply? (… or was it always just an illusion of coherence that hid arbitrary circumstances such as regionalism and more insidious influences such as racism?)

    c) Must we not first collectively acknowledge and enforce the definitive end of White Christian masculinity as the default persona for a citizen of the USA?

    All I can add is that there is a huge difference between the imminent dangers of bad policy and foreign misadventures (esp. if including military action) and the long-term risks of man-made climate change… but the changes being instituted in the judiciary and in legislation will be enduring barriers to any reversal from these ‘detours’. It sometimes seems like an infinite loop, so what can be done to break the stalemate?

  3. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Mr. Goldstick, I couldn’t agree with you more. (Pregnant Pause) However, (I’ll bet that you thought I was going to say “But…”) it took me several minutes to stop laughing when I read your Item C). “c) Must we not first collectively acknowledge and enforce the definitive end of White Christian masculinity as the default persona for a citizen of the USA?” I’d like to watch you pull that off in any of the former “Confederate States of America”. I can sell tickets for any of your appearances Down South. I don’t know that I can take the responsibilities of providing you appropriate security. If you haven’t realized by now, my tongue is firmly in my cheek. But (NOW here is the “BUT…”) you might otta consider what I just said. I’ve lived south of the Mason-Dixon Line and east of the Mississippi for the last 52 years. I’ve lived in rural situations, large metropolitan situations, and every thing in between; from relatively liberal enclaves to “Bible thumping”, conservative, racist, etc. worlds that are more weird than sci-fi can possibly come up with. Bottom line is, even with all of the positive response that you will get, you are going to find from 4 to 5 times that on the “other” side. Unfortunately, there is a portions of the latter group that will be pushed just beyond their last stand position. They have no option but to do what they have been “training” for, for the last 30 years. They have an awesome amount of “firearms” and ammunition, which will allow them to go on the offensive with a force that we are not ready for. Thus endth the reading and the hearing of the words of this curmugden.

  4. Edward Goldstick Says:

    Mr. Pillow,

    I have tried responding a few times but can’t say much other than that I accept that the reactionary resistance that you evoke is real (though perhaps not as numerous as you imply – I think more 20/80 rather than 80/20…) and is not confined to a particular region of our country (though the rural/urban distinction does seem accurate)…

    … however, I was really posing this three-dimensional conundrum in rhetorical terms as well as a concrete challenge. My “vision”, if I may, is of a society where we’re still largely divided ‘equally’ into two camps – whether “liberal-v-conservative” or “left-v-right” – but that the racial and gender and cultural composition of each “side” will be as randomized as the presence of green-eyed or left-handed people.

    More than anything else, I hope to live to see the day when facts-based debate will become an equal partner with other factors such as self-interest and the uncertainties of global forces in the political drama in which we live…

    … but with six decades behind me, though in good health (as far as I know), I cannot say that I am particularly optimistic.

  5. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Mr. Goldstick,

    I understand and accept most of what your reply to me imparts and agree that from a overall national perspective the “20/80” % ratio is probably closer to the mark. However, my “80/20” % ratio is most likely truer in much of the South and in many rural areas of this country. As an example look at what is transpiring in Alabama with their current special election for the Senate and the controversy surrounding the republican candidate.

    I would welcome your “fact-based debate”, if you are able to get those on the conservative/right to have such a debate. I have seen very little in the past few years that the overall conservative movement is interested in facts, such as global climate change, economic, gender, racial, ethnic, educational equality, gun control, LBGTQ equality and acceptance, universal healthcare, etc. Until such time as the conservative/right is willing to accept and talk about these facts, instead of their “beliefs”, we will remain at an impasse. “Truth” is what has suffered the most in the current division of our citizens and the fundamentalists and conservatives have done the most damage to it supported and enflamed by a fanatically right-wing media that is not interested in the truth, but in its own degenerate philosophy, devoid of common ethical and morals, wanting to destroy our government, our Constitution, and our Nation.

    Until the liberal/progressive/left has come together to present a unified front and taken the time to build a base, which will support its efforts as its opposition has been doing since the 1980 Presidential election, starting at the “grassroots” and working it way up, it will have very little permanent success in restoring any semblance of balance to our government, economy, and way of life. Changing the head on the donkey will not suffice. We need a whole new animal, even if it is not a new donkey.

  6. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Edward and Stephen,

    If we’re trying to discern between politicians and especially presidential candidates, don’t you think it’s time for an update to the left/right liberal/conservative way of looking at and thinking about things?

    I think a description of “up-wing” is in order.

    It’s a term used by one of my favourite political analysts, William Bradley, and was derived from an idea that Senator Hart showed him to characterize political figures using a past-future spectrum instead of the usual right-wing/left-wing classification.

    To paraphrase Bradley, this past-future spectrum naturally runs from the up end to the down end of the spectrum, with the futurist end characterized by new technology, creative utilizations of existing technology, and new structural forms to pursue enduring values and new visions.

    The up-wing leader places a special emphasis on big think/think big future-oriented and enlightened policies in an effort to position a society on the global cutting edge, even in the midst of great challenges and crises that would paralyse a more down-wing political leader.

    Additionally, to quote Bradley, “big thinking, big ideas need not be about big items per se. In fact, some of the biggest thinking is about small things, or more accurately, how to bring smaller things into play to solve problems that big things might make worse.”

    Isn’t this a far superior method of characterizing political leaders and their supporters than the out-dated and tired left/right or liberal/conservative labels? I say yes because it identifies the politicians and presidential candidates most capable of outlining a coherent vision for the future and of possessing the courage to carry it out.

  7. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Elizabeth,

    The use of the terms that your suggest to replace the current terms relative to the political stance of politicians and parties does little to create new ideas. It just gives the old positions new names, but the positions themselves remain the same whether we label them right/left, liberal/conservative, or up-wing/down-wing. The positions are as you suggest either forward looking or backward looking, but these apply to the left and right wings now. I don’t see that a name change will produce any change in the thinking of very many people.

  8. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    No, Stephen, you have missed the point, completely.

  9. Eric Jacobson Says:

    I humbly predict that the current focus on the issues of:

    • gender relations and sexual exploitation (the latest affluent clay-footed harem-accumulating white-male-elite to fall being Charlie Rose – with all the staggering implications of same for both big-foot journalism, the elite-male-dominated professions in general and most other workplaces, and for the emancipation of women); and

    • race relations, now ricocheting between the serious (eg. the pro athletes’ take-a-knee protests and the crisis it is responding to, which I discuss here https://www.facebook.com/ECJLA/posts/1476862465684698 ) and the shallow (eg. the president’s feud with the previously unknown Lavar Ball, the father of one of the 3 UCLA basketball players freed from China at the president’s request)

    will merge with:

    • the Democratic Party-and-intelligence community’s evident ongoing concerted interminable propaganda campaign directed against the American people that goes under the heading “Russia-gate” – about which basic bogus-ness unjustly-maligned Prof. Stephen F. Cohen (who along with his wife Katrina vanden Heuvel are national treasures) is essentially 100% correct (see http://www.chronicle.com/article/is-this-professor-putin-s/241777?cid=wcontentgrid_41_2 ) – and which miasmic episode was likely facilitated by President Obama’s elimination of the strictures against such infernal-domestically-targeted U.S. intelligence community created propaganda,

    to lull the political establishment into a false sense of self-confidence that it CAN in fact restore the status quo ante January 20, 2017 in the U.S. political cycles immediately to come.

    This is the epitome of wishful thinking and will become a missed opportunity for America’s non-conservatives if (as it appears to be doing) it settles into the new conventional wisdom. For we can win in 2018 and beyond only by ignoring the political fantasies of the socially-liberal donor-class (the members of which are generally aligned with the host’s nerve-soothing message in his recent main blog essays – which is better than them becoming dependent on Valium I guess) only by constructing and running on a realistic politically competitive platform featuring ENLIGHTENED versions of the themes candidate Trump ran on (albeit fraudulently), in sum: populism, protectionism and quasi-isolationism ALONGSIDE (decidedly non-Trumpian) traditional liberal Democratic planks of increased grassroots democracy and local control, civil and economic justice and equity, environmental stewardship and social decency.

    For a concise primer on the latter see: The Courage of Our Convictions: A Manifesto for Democrats (Times Books, Henry Holt), Sen. Hart’s 2006 book whose acknowledgment page states that it was written “in memory of Mike Mansfield, for his statesmanship, Philip Hart, for his integrity, George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy, for their courage, Gaylord Nelson, for his wisdom, Hubert Humphrey, for his humanity, Abe Ribicoff, for his diplomacy and Ed Muskie, Frank Church, Ted Kennedy and a number of others like them, who represent and represented conviction and courage in keeping the flame and promise of the Democratic Party alive.” As the Latin American leftists say: “Presente!”

    In March 2012 I sketched out the rudiments of a platform that I thought would be “just the ticket” for political success for non-conservatives in 2012 and beyond. I found “no takers” and had no practical means of advancing such an agenda as an obscure non-wealthy lawyer in Los Angeles. Nor would having had funds likely made any difference. (Hell, even billionaire Tom Steyer got no traction whatsoever with his recent multi-million dollar ad-buy promoting Trump’s impeachment; but note well: Although Steyer’s poorly conceived-and-done ad campaign failed to resonate Steyer DID prove that “money DOES equal speech” and that those denying it have forgotten all the lessons of Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 presidential campaign during which Steyer-types of that era financed Senator McCarthy’s pro-peace tv ads during the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary that marked the beginning of the end of both LBJ’s presidency and the Vietnam War.) But I digress.

    I republish an excerpt of my early 2012 writing it in hopes someone of influence and/or means (are you listening Bernie Sanders? Ronda Stryker?) may happen upon it and begin developing it into the platform of either the radically reformed Democratic Party or a big-tent progressive third party aimed at displacing the currently bought-and-bossed Democratic Party the way the Republicans supplanted the Whigs in the 1850s. I began with a primer on the nation’s founders which I omit here for the sake of “brevity” (lol I know), and proceeded to briefly discuss 3 big-ticket issue areas I regard as political keys to success:
    ——————-
    BEGINNING OF MY 2012 EXCERPT:
    Not only the founders but Norman Rockwell would spin in their graves if they knew what had become of the beloved country they started and the extent to which their founding blueprint and doctrines have been betrayed. Three examples:

    Representative Democracy. The founders’ blueprint called for representative government via a people’s Congressional House with minimum districts of 7,500 residents (compared with 850,000 today) per representative. In New England, more participatory town hall democracy was implemented where the collective will could be debated and determined democratically by the people themselves. Today no individual can sanely consider his member of Congress a faithful conduit of his opinions or that of his neighbors. If the ratios of representative-to-constituency had remained constant we would have a 8,000 person Congress today! And town hall democracy has never spread outside New England. [My proposed solutions are here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5ilXuTzT1mlb09oQXJYV25CN0E/view?usp=sharing and here: https://repository.uchastings.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1664&context=ca_ballot_inits .]

    Enlightened Isolationism. Our first president wisely enjoined us to “avoid foreign entanglements”. And for over a century (until the Spanish-American war) we largely did. Following World War 1, “a Democrat war” (as Bob Dole acerbically but accurately described it in the vice-presidential debate in 1976 ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6G9AePwl1AE ), Americans were properly disillusioned by President Wilson’s reckless plunge of our nation into fruitless foreign adventurism in Europe.

    World War 2, which was necessary to save humanity from the scourge of Axis world domination, and the ensuing (also arguably necessary) Cold War, are both long over. Yet we are “entangled” everywhere in a world we are trying in vain to police virtually single-handedly. The Cold War abruptly ended with the triumph of the West and the Russian Communists left the stage of world history without a shot being fired (after all that fear!). Yet shortly thereafter bewildered Americans watched as the peace-dividend was swallowed up in insane projects of aggressive, preemptive war and conservative military social engineering. Astoundingly, our wars are now fought mostly “out of sight out of mind” of the general public. And the costs in lives, limbs, souls and treasure are staggering.

    In the (baleful) process too many Americans have made exactly the devil’s bargain with their elected “leaders” that Benjamin Franklin famously warned against: trading away their rights and freedoms – both social and economic, and civil and political – for false promises of physical security (from terrorism and domestic crime).

    Enlightened Protectionism. The first law passed by our first Congress protected American manufacturing jobs by restricting imports. Today our business and political leaders have treacherously committed our country to free trade policies in pursuit of a “one-world economy” that enriches business investors and managers and oppresses all non-wealthy Americans by placing them into wage competition with billions of capable but poor workers in the developing world, particularly China and India, and out-sourcing as many manufacturing and service as possible to these countries respectively and others in the Third World. Continuing with this harebrained project will stagnate Americans’ standard of living for the next 500-1,000 years as the Third World living standards gradually rise to those approaching North America.
    END OF MY 2012 EXCERPT
    ——————-
    To close on a light- and then a heavy note:

    Last November the quietly-desperate electorate voted for the only “change” on offer – a political Music Man proclaiming Trouble in River City, and now we non-conservatives (who constitute the lopsided majority of Americans) are stuck with the “Twitterman” (pun on Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman” intended – see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCDAfa-NI-M ) and the snake oil and other items on the toxic bill of goods the president sold the voters, for at least one term. (Anyone with a sense of humor care to have a go at a Pusherman-lyrics’ parody modification apropos our mean trickster incumbent president?)

    Much more urgently, does anyone have a practical plan to politically overpower the socially-liberal/economically-conservative donor class overlords still in charge of the Democratic Party who are plainly bound-and-determined to re-impose the neoliberal status-quo-ante-Trump New World Order in 2020 and forever beyond?

  10. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    What a terrific debate generated here , by our favourite , or , mine, US political figure.

    Stephen and Edward gung ho each for a reasoned and didactic analysis yet in a tone very exciting, on a subject dear to my heart.

    A shameless plug, my first, on here, many have and I have not, to a crowdfunding initiative I started this week from the UK , for a project about and eventually when it happens , involving the US, Canada, so something for our terrific Elizabeth too.

    America, that’s the US more than Canada, is deeply divided, as we read here, particularly on racial lines.

    I have a work I am developing which goes to the heart of from where this division comes and why it continues, based as much on cultural misunderstandings and distortion.

    Would my valued colleagues here visit http://www.gofundme.com and put Tom’s Cabin – The Man Of Humanity, in the search bar and scroll down and read and or visit my facebook , Lorenzo Cherin, the link is there,

    The whole nature of the racial stereotype of Uncle Tom, is based , not on one very heroic character in a book by the greatest abolitionist in the States, the remarkable woman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, but on minstral shows and put downs from white racists , which appalled African Americans and led to the mess we see.

    My project seeks to redress this, it needs you folks here and beyond.

  11. Edward Goldstick Says:

    Ms. Miller et al.,

    If I may, I think a big problem here is that we’re talking apples and oranges when we compare the conservative-v-progressive mindsets with the collectivist-v-individualist perspectives. They are largely orthogonal to one another but are often more (or less) dominant in the two distinct parties that have characterized the American political landscape forever (in large part explained by the mathematics of our unusual political system that is dominated by first-past-the-pole elections and a rigid electoral calendar…). If the “up-wing” mentality is forward-looking and “enlightened”, how are we to properly integrate lessons learned for which some might pay a price whether imagined or real and whether their positions in life are enviable or not?

    Mr. Cherin,

    I did as you asked and was intrigued, but I must make a confession that you may find strange: I have no memory of having ever actually read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” even though I am familiar with the historical role of Harriet Beecher-Stowe’s work as the kindling of abolitionism. I will rectify that as soon as I can find some time to do so…

  12. Edward Goldstick Says:

    PS… and with apologies to our indigenous neighbors as well as recent immigrants with no more than an abstract attraction to the tradition: “Happy Thanksgiving” to all… and to our host.

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