Tag: Public Policy (Page 1 of 3)

Why Party Polarization Is (Probably) Here to Stay

Guillaume LeBlanc from New American Perspective analyzes the highly polarized political climate in the United States.

Among the more striking developments in American politics recently is the increased polarization of the two parties. Republicans have moved to the right, Democrats have moved to the left, and this shift is easy to see. Even the 2008 version of Obama, who opposed gay marriage, talked about immigration restriction, and even said that he could understand nativist sentiment, could not win his party’s nomination today, even though he was hailed at the time as the triumph of its progressive wing. For all the talk of how similar the two parties are, it is actually getting clearer and clearer that there are major differences between the two parties. They may both be terrible, yes – but they are different kinds of terrible.

It wasn’t always like this. For decades, both major political parties in the US were defined by their lack of polarization, which allowed for both parties to have liberal, moderate, and conservative wings. It may be true that since at least Franklin Roosevelt, if not William Jennings Bryant or William McKinley, that the Democratic Party tended to be the more left wing of the two parties, at least on a national level, but this was only slightly true. Ideological diversity was seen in both parties, and it forced both parties to make compromises within themselves, with each faction needing some say in order to keep the peace. And when parties are already making compromises within themselves before they meet the other party, making compromises with the other party becomes much more natural. During this era, party line voting was rare, with liberal Democrats joining liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats joining conservative Republicans on many bills, which is why, though his party only held the majority in the Senate briefly and never held it in the House, Ronald Reagan was able to get so much of his agenda passed-:there was a large number of conservative Democrats willing to work with him.

Read More

Capsule Introduction to Capitalism and Socialism

by Victor Wallis

A short introduction to key terms in political theory by the author of Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism

A capitalist society is one in which the major decisions about what is produced (and how, and how much, and for whom) are made by the capital-owning class and/or its representatives. Capital differs from earlier forms of wealth in that it is liquid, i.e., it can be bought and sold on the market. Capitalist wealth includes machinery (what Marx called “means of production,” or capital in the narrow sense), but it also includes land and financial instruments (money, stocks & bonds, etc.).

Most of this wealth is concentrated in large corporations or financial institutions, whose goal is to maximize their own profits. To do this, they must sell as much as possible and pay out as little as possible. Sales are maximized by responding not simply to needs but rather to market-demand (i.e., needs or wants backed by purchasing power). Market-demand is in turn shaped partly by public policy (e.g., if there’s no mass transit, more people will have to buy cars) and partly by a whole culture of advertising and public relations. At the same time, costs are minimized by paying workers as little as possible (including moving production to low-wage areas) and by skimping on such matters as waste-disposal and workplace safety & health.

Read More

“Make America Great Again”: Regina Jose Galindo’s Performance Art Illustrates the Struggles of Immigration

Art of Politics, Politics of Art, A Series By: Jeanette Joy Harris
In this series, Jeanette Joy Harris looks at how artists around the world are using public and participatory art forms to describe, analyze, and influence contemporary politics.

In May of 2018, Guatemalan national Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez was shot at the US-Mexico border by patrols. The previous month, former Guatemalan military dictator and human rights criminal, Efrain Rios Montt died at the age of 91. Considering these two events together illustrates the struggle that Central Americans face as they deliberate between staying in countries with high levels of violence or risking immigration into the United States. Guatemalan artist Regina Jose Galindo has spent much of her career bringing international visibility to the very issues that these people deal with at home. Her performances are often brutal physical actions that reimagine environments that portray the social, political, and economic instability of many countries in Central America.

Galindo has had a special focus on Montt, exemplified by her performance “Quien Puede Borrar Las Huellas,” (“Who Can Trace These Tears”). The artist was outspoken when the former military leader ran for president of Guatemala in 2003. Early on election day morning, she went to a medical lab and purchased human blood. She poured it into a white basin and then, clothed in black, started a 45-minute walk that began outside the Constitutional Court in Guatemala City. It ended at the front steps of the National Palace. With each step she dipped her feet in the basin, leaving a trail of bloody prints behind her. As she faced security guards at the end of her pilgrimage, she left two final footprints and the basin as the final documentation of the work.

Read More

Featured Author: Victor Wallis

Victor Wallis is a professor of Liberal Arts at the Berklee College of Music. Wallis was for twenty years the managing editor of Socialism and Democracy and has been writing on ecological issues since the early 1990s. His writings have appeared in journals such as Monthly Review and New Political Science, and have been translated into thirteen languages.

His new book Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism is available now from Political Animal Press.

“Finally, we have the definitive work on ecosocialism with Red-Green Revolution. Victor Wallis brings his brilliant editorial skills to writing a highly readable, compelling, and essential book, a must read for everyone who cares about the fate of the earth in this era of capitalist implosion with socialism no longer a possible alternative, but rather a requirement for survival.”

Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

Red-Green Revolution is an impassioned and informed confrontation with the planetary emergency brought about by accelerated ecological devastation in the last half-century.

In clear and accessible language, Wallis argues that sound ecological policy requires a socialist framework, based on democratic participation and drawing on the historical lessons of earlier efforts.

Wallis presents a relentless critique of the capitalist system that has put the human species into a race against time to salvage and restore what it can of the environmental conditions necessary for a healthy existence. He then looks to how we might turn things around, reconsidering the institutions, technologies, and social relationships that will determine our shared future, and discussing how a better framework can evolve through the convergence of popular struggles, as these have emerged under conditions of crisis.

This is an important book, both for its incisive account of how we got into the mess in which we find ourselves, and for its bold vision of how we might still go forward.

Articles by Victor Wallis on Political Animal Magazine:

The US Left: A Short Introduction

On the Precipice

On the Precipice

by Victor Wallis

Like many others (unless they are in a state of simple denial), I sometimes feel paralyzed by the enormity of the environmental challenge.

How to break through this?

We must begin with the certainties.

First is the science. Not every aspect of it, of course, but the basic contours. The most in-depth, up-to-date, and accessible account is Ian Angus’s 2016 Monthly Review Press book, Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System (see my review at Climate and Capitalism). When you read this book, you will see how in some respects the point of no return has already been reached. But even if full collapse is only a matter of time, many life-and-death choices will still confront us along the way – over what we may hope will be more than a single lifetime.

The second certainty is that we are being systematically lied to by the most powerful interests in this society. It is now known that the big oil companies, by their own research in the 1970s, confirmed what would later become common knowledge about the climate-impact of greenhouse gases, but they then undertook a deliberate campaign of obfuscation which continues to this day (see updates at kochvsclean.com).

The third certainty is an outcome of the second: hundreds of millions of people who should – and could – be waging the battle of and for their lives, are instead propelled by a structured inertia, part “practical” and part ideological, to continue with their daily routines – of heating or cooling, driving, flying, over-indulging in one or another addiction, and acquiescing in wars of domination – as though nothing had changed.

And yet things have changed!

Read More

Against Term Limits

Guillaume LeBlanc from New American Perspective takes issue with President Trump’s suggestion of adding Congressional term limits.

In what was certainly a bid to win more good will with the populist right (and perhaps even the populist left), President Trump recently called for term limits on Congress. The reaction was much more subdued than I expected, although it did play out more or less as this sort of thing normally does: with the populists sharing articles about it, complete with complaints about “career politicians”, while only a few skeptics bothered to chime in to oppose it. And when it comes to the issue of term limits for Congress, put me firmly in the opposition camp.

Read More

Trump & the Politics of Conscience

By: Jared Marcel Pollen

In this month, twenty-four years ago, Vaclav Havel wrote a speech entitled “Politics & Conscience,” a speech he intended to deliver on the occasion of receiving an honorary degree from the University of Toulouse that spring in 1984, a speech he was unable to deliver due to the fact that the Communist government of Czechoslovakia had revoked his passport. The piece opens with Havel recalling the sight of a factory that scored his boyhood walks to school:

“It spewed dense brown smoke and scattered it across the sky. Each time I saw it, I had an intense sense of something profoundly wrong, of humans soiling the heavens. I have no idea whether there was something like a science of ecology in those days; if there was, I certainly knew nothing of it… Still that ‘soiling of the heavens’ offended me spontaneously.”

This indignation, registerable even to a child, is based on the intuitive knowledge that some things constitute an affront to our nature, and cannot be covered up or explained away with any political justifications – not economic growth, modernization, job creation, the “greater good,” etc. For there is a natural ethic upon which all politics is founded, and then there are the ideological moralities that attempt to map themselves onto it. You can demonstrate this using any number of examples. Take, for instance, an abattoir: it is a house of death, designed for the sole purpose of slaughtering living creatures. Whether you believe the abattoir should be owned privately, or by the state, whether its employees should be paid fifteen dollars an hour, or twenty-five, whether those employs deserve to be unionized or not; or whether the abattoir deserves to be powered by clean sustainable energy or by coal – none of it changes the essential moral ugliness of its existence.

Just shy of ten years after writing this speech, Havel would become the first democratically elected president of the newly formed Czech Republic, a country I have been a temporary resident of for the last ten months. At the moment, I am in my attic apartment, overlooking a rank of factories that lie north of the Vltava river, their blinking candy cane stacks a distant feature contained within the segment of my skylight. I spend an inordinate amount of time with my head out this window, observing this scene, but my thoughts are not on smoke plumes or killing floors. These days, my thoughts are on the first year of the Trump presidency, now in the books, and the three years that are still ahead. These thoughts, however, are driven by the same indignation imbued by a floor full of hanging carcasses. Which is to say that Trump, and the cultural phenomenon that brought him to power, represents not just a corrosion of democratic politics (as if that weren’t bad enough) but a corrosion of moral conscience. It also represents the ascension of virtually every bad human quality to the level of power. The disgust I feel towards the Trump presidency, therefore, is not political, it is human. He is not merely offensive to politics, he is offensive to nature.

Read More

Foreign Envoys’ Statement on Democracy in Kenya Lets an Undemocratic Government off the Hook

By: David O. Monda

The recent media statement titled “Kenya’s Democracy is at Crossroads” by a number of envoys from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and Canada, among others, attempted to equally castigate the Jubilee government and the opposition NASA coalition for the lack of a National Conversation on a range of political issues. The envoys spent significant diplomatic capital trying to maintain a neutral stance between condemning the brinkmanship of Jubilee and that of NASA. At the end of the statement, the status quo was maintained. Neither side is compelled to negotiate. As a result, Kenya’s democratic gains continue to erode. Having been constitutionally elected into office, the onus is on the Jubilee Administration to reach out and initiate dialogue to move the country forward. The envoys’ statement on democracy in Kenya let an undemocratic government off the hook. It is a sad day for democracy in Kenya.

The onus to initiate dialogue needs to come from the victorious party. In this case President Kenyatta and his coalition. It will not be possible to repress the discontent from the half of Kenya that rejected the Uhuru presidency on August 8th. A measure as simple as the president visiting opposition strongholds would be a good first step to bring the nation together. This is a measure lacking in the envoy’s statement.

Read More

The Malaise of Liberalism

Alex Knepper from New American Perspective looks for a defense of liberalism in the face of the revival of nationalism and socialism.

By: Alex Knepper

There are few things clearer in contemporary politics than the need for an alternative vision to homo economicus, in both its liberal and socialist manifestations — man with neither roots nor telos but content merely with animalized comfort — and the right’s proposed flight back into the inadequate and unbelievable claims of the ancestral. It is also clear that there is no faction in American politics which can obviously serve as a vehicle for this alternative.

Read More

“To Art Its Freedom”: Right-Wing Arts Policy in the New Austria

Art of Politics, Politics of Art, A Series By: Jeanette Joy Harris

In this series, Jeanette Joy Harris looks at how artists around the world are using public and participatory art forms to describe and analyze contemporary politics. With an eye to the intersection of politics and aesthetics, Harris looks to art as a type of political action and a means of understanding ourselves as political animals.


Art can be a challenge to power, or be power’s instrument. Sometimes it can even end up being both. This last is what happened recently in Austria, where a new, right-wing government has adopted the motto of an art movement that formed in Vienna in 1897, precisely in opposition to conservative leadership.

Here’s how things have taken shape. In December 2017, a coalition between the far-right Freedom Party and the more center-right People’s Party, took control of the Austrian parliament. Their win, representative of the increasingly conservative EU political landscape, was based on an anti-immigration platform. Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz has already promised Austrians stricter immigration policies and has recommended the creation of militarily-backed “safe spaces” where immigrants can stay before entering into the EU. This is a strong statement coming from the leader of the country that will hold the European Union Presidency from July to December of this year. [i]

Andrea Mammone, a historian of modern and contemporary Europe at Royal Holloway, University of London, talks about Austria’s new government as “nationalism in action,” providing examples of its ethnically-based politics in an article for Al Jazeera earlier this year.[ii] In 2017, the “Integration Law” was passed, which requires immigrants to read and speak German and forbids Muslim women from wearing a face veil.[iii] With this law as an example, culture seems to be a high priority for the new Austrian government, which has further claimed, in its public agenda, that common heritage “contributes significantly” to national identity. [iv]  But the power of nationalism, as a widely-held cultural value in Austria, cannot be evaluated strictly through policy and legislation. Consideration should also be given to the ways in which the government might use cultural institutions to more subtly define and refine what it means to be Austrian.

Read More

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén