-

Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog

May 10, 2015
Crisis: Elections, Leftists, NSA & Jaffer, Tory Horrors, Alan Grayson, Bernie Sanders
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton















Prev- crisis -Next

Sections
Introduction
1. Election result is ‘nail in the coffin’ of first-past-the-post  
     voting system

2.
Labour would do better if it learned to like the English
3.
Five More Years of Tory Government: What Fresh Hell Is
    This?

4. Another Progressive Champion in the Senate? Alan
     Grayson Enters the Ring

5. Gaius Publius: Sanders Raises $3 Million in Four Days; Will
     He Split the Party?



Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, May 10, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links
: Item 1 is a good analysis of British politics (it is not proportional); item 2 is about a fairly
exaggerated bit that does give rise to a good if general question, that I don't have
a confident answer to; item 3
is a very good article on the outcomes of the British elections by Roisin Davies on Truthdig; item 4 is about Alan Grayson, whom I mostly like; and item 5  is about Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign, and is also quite sensible.

1. Election result is ‘nail in the coffin’ of first-past-the-post voting system

The first item today is an article by Tobi Helms on The Guardian:

This seems to me to be the soundest analysis of the British elections that I have so far read, and mostly because it is based on a simple fair idea - proportional representation - which does not exist in Great Britain, and contrasts that idea with statistics that summarize how it really went. The subtitle is this:

Electoral Reform Society condemns least proportional result in history as a ‘blight on our democracy’

And it starts as follows:

Britain’s’s first-past-the-post voting system has been declared broken and unfit for an era of multiparty politics as analysis of general election figures showed that it had delivered the least proportional result in the country’s history.

Data compiled by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) for the Observer showed Ukip had received 3.86m votes for the one MP it had elected to the Commons. This compared with an average of 26,000 votes for every SNP MP, 34,000 for every Conservative, 40,000 for every Labour MP and 299,000 for every Liberal Democrat.

Britain’s’s first-past-the-post voting system has been declared broken and unfit for an era of multiparty politics as analysis of general election figures showed that it had delivered the least proportional result in the country’s history.

Data compiled by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) for the Observer showed Ukip had received 3.86m votes for the one MP it had elected to the Commons. This compared with an average of 26,000 votes for every SNP MP, 34,000 for every Conservative, 40,000 for every Labour MP and 299,000 for every Liberal Democrat.

There you are. Anybody who interprets the outcomes of the British elections - these and foregoing ones - as "how the English people voted" - is widely off base.

Here is some more:

Its analysis showed that, of almost 31 million people who voted, 19 million (63% of the total) did so for losing candidates. Out of 650 winning candidates, 322 (49%) won less than 50% of the vote.
(...)
Ghose added: “The Conservatives have won a majority in parliament on not much more than a third of the vote. So while the prospect of a hung parliament has receded, the problems with our voting system have remained in the foreground.
(...)

“Another blight on our democracy is the existence of safe seats. More than half of us live in constituencies where the result was a foregone conclusion. A fairer, more proportional system would eradicate safe seats once and for all.

“The SNP seem dominant in Scotland, winning 56 of 59 seats. You’d be forgiven for thinking that nearly everyone voted for the SNP in Scotland. In reality, only half did.

So here is the real analysis of "the British vote" in the last elections:

Nearly two thirds (2/3) voted for losing candidates; the Conservatives won with slightly above a third (1/3) of the votes; and the SNP that won ninetyfive procent (95/100) of the seats in Scotland did that with half (1/2) of the votes.

I put it in bold, with colors, because this does not get often considered: These are the basic facts about British "democracy" as is. It simply is not a proportional democracy.

Incidentally: Would it have been any better with a proportional vote? First, "better" depends on one's tastes, and the results I just quoted about "British democracy" do not. And second, I don't really care, for a proportional vote
would also be much manipulated by big money, and by most of the papers,
and anyway is far from ideal for anyone who wants a somewhat rational
politics.

The result I do want to insist on is that the British elections are not and indeed have not been proportional in any sense.

One who does not consider these facts is next:

2. Labour would do better if it learned to like the English

The next item is an article by Nick Cohen on The Guardian:

For me, this article sounded mostly irrealistic. But Nick Cohen may have a point, that he phrases as follows, towards the end of the article:

(..) Labour’s leadership of former special advisers does not look like the people it wants to represent and does not look as if it likes the look of them either. In this, it is typical of the wider educated left in England, which almost alone in the world, makes a virtue of denigrating its own people.

The universities, left press, and the arts characterise the English middle-class as Mail-reading misers, who are sexist, racist and homophobic to boot. Meanwhile, they characterise the white working class as lardy Sun-reading slobs, who are, since you asked, also sexist, racist and homophobic. The national history is reduced to one long imperial crime, and the notion that the English are not such a bad bunch with many strong radical traditions worth preserving is rejected as risibly complacent. So tainted and untrustworthy are they that they must be told what they can say and how they should behave.

What truth there is in the caricature is lost amid the accompanying hypocrisy.
(...)
If the left is going to come back, its first task is to show that, deplorable and stupid though we undoubtedly are, in so many different and disgraceful ways, it doesn’t actually think the English are its enemies.
I think this is exaggerated, but it contains a point that I formulate as follows, in the form of a - rather general - question: To what extent is "the British left" really leftist?

That is a reasonable question, and I do not know the answer. My reasons are as follows, and may be somewhat interesting.

First, the question I posed cannot be answered in a factually reasonable way (1) without defining what is "really leftist" and (2) without a decent statistical investigation, and each of these two demands will be rather difficult to meet.

Second, why I consider this a rather important question: I am from a really leftist
family. Both of my parents were marxists, which they got to be through the crisis of the thirties and WW II, and I have known "the Dutch left" - communists, socialists, social democrats, pascifists - very to fairly well, and indeed most of those I associated with in the sixties, seventies and eighties were, albeit it in  vague and for different persons often rather different senses, "recognizably leftist".

Third, this schema fell rapidly apart in the nineties, mostly through three things:

Postmodernism had taken over from marxism and leftism, especially in the universities (where I mostly figured); the communist party ceased to be, as did
the Soviet Union, while the social democrats got reformed through Clinton, Blair,
the Dutchman Kok, and  "Third Way" propaganda; and the whole leftist propa- ganda radically changed, in part also through the rise of the internet and the
fall of the free press, and in part through the rise of postmodernism and the
fall of the Soviet Union, of communism, and of classic social democratic thinking.

I have been sketching this as briefly as I could, and my conclusion is that indeed "the left" has rather radically changed, roughly between 1990 and 2010, and indeed it also does not seem the same either, neither in its stances, in its language nor in its presuppositions. (It does get identified mostly through its values.)

Then again, "the left" always was a congregation with very many different sides, sects, and mansions, and it is probably quite true that I am far more interested in theories and facts than most who are interested in politics (who tend to be far more driven by values - which I agree are the foundation, though these are pretty blind without adequate knowledge).

3. Five More Years of Tory Government: What Fresh Hell Is This?

 The next item is an article by Roisin Davies on Truthdig:

This is another really good analyis of the last British elections  (from my point of view). It starts as follows:

It’s been an astonishing election, one that stumped the betting markets, gave victory to the Tories and left almost everyone else reeling and wondering, in the words of Dorothy Parker, “What fresh hell is this?”

Amid the highest voter turnout since 1997, Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party trounced the opposition to return with a majority 331 seats (out of 650). Ed Miliband (Labour) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats) have now resigned as leaders of their parties. Unencumbered by the centrist Lib Dem coalition, the Tories will have free rein to advance their brutal politics of inequality.

Cameron, an almost Monty Python-esque upper-class caricature, will lead Britain further down the murky path of austerity, privatization, increased surveillance and jingoism. The Tory electoral victory has, for now, annihilated multiparty politics and emboldened British nationalism to a dangerous degree.

Yes, indeed. As I pointed out in item 1, it is also a fact that the Conservatives won over half (1/2) of the seats with a third (1/3) of the votes, but OK: Great Britain isn't and never was a proportional democracy.

I agree with Roisin Davies' characterization of Cameron (also a millionaire). And here is some more:
If this sounds extreme, let’s turn first to the Tories’ program of 30 billion pounds ($46 billion) in cuts. This program, what some have called a “secret plan,” contains 12 billion pounds ($18.5 billion) in cuts aimed at some of Britain’s most vulnerable. It includes increased taxes on benefits for the disabled and massive reductions in benefits to caregivers and struggling parents.

One result is likely to be a greater need for food banks. Under the Tories, the number of food banks has already increased from 56 to 445, and, according to a University of Oxford study, the Conservatives’ cuts will force 2.1 million Britons to use food banks by 2017-18, double the current figure.
There is considerably more under the last dotted link, and this is a really good analysis by someone originally from Northern Ireland. Strongly recommended!

4. Another Progressive Champion in the Senate? Alan Grayson Enters the Ring  

The next item is an article by Zaid Jihani on Alternet:

This starts as follows:

In September 2009, after a summer of boisterous healthcare town halls where Democrats fended off thousands of angry Tea Party activists, a Democratic congressman from central Florida stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and flipped the debate on its head with a short speech:

It’s my duty and pride tonight to be able to announce exactly what the Republicans plan to do for healthcare in America… It’s a very simple plan. Here it is. The Republican healthcare plan for America: "don’t get sick.” If you have insurance don’t get sick, if you don’t have insurance, don’t get sick; if you’re sick, don’t get sick. Just don’t get sick.…If you do get sick, America, the Republican healthcare plan is this: “die quickly.”

The congressman was Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL). The healthcare speech, which set off national debates about the human cost of the U.S. healthcare system denying care to tens of millions of people, made Grayson a household name among American progressives.

Indeed I recall that. I do not know whether I first saw it in September of 2009 (when I still wrote in Dutch) but I did see it not very long afterward.

Here is some more on Alan Grayson (<- Wikipedia):

As a congressman, he has not only been an advocate for universal healthcare, but supports a whole spectrum of issues important to the left. He has worked together with his colleagues to form a congressional pledge against any cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits. He hosted Congress' first and only hearing on drone strikes, inviting victims of strikes from Pakistan to tell their stories. As President Obama gears up for a fight with his own party over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Grayson is leading the opposition. A video he put out late last month called “Trade Treachery” has over 24,000 views and serves as a nine-minute explanation of what's wrong with America's trade policy.

Despite being one of the most progressive voices on Capitol Hill, Grayson is no gadfly. He gets things done. While the House of Representatives has been controlled by right-wing Republicans since 2012, Grayson has passed more amendments than any other member of Congress. He specializes in building tactical alliances, bringing together conservative anti-government Republicans with Democrats who care about civil liberties or the environment.

There is considerably more in the article, that also includes a discussion of Grayson's supporting Netanyahu, but it seems quite fair.

Whether Grayson will win a membership of the Senate is not decided yet.

5. Gaius Publius: Sanders Raises $3 Million in Four Days; Will He Split the Party?

The last item today is an article by Gaius Publius, with an introductuon by Yves Smith on Nakedcapitalism: In fact, this is about Sen. Bernie Sanders' (<- Wikipedia) candidacy, and it starts with the following introduction by Yves Smith (who owns Nakedcapitalism):
Yves here. While I’m loath to take the site too much in the direction of politics (as opposed to finance, economics, and political economy), Bernie Sanders’ choice of Stephanie Kelton as economist to the Senate Finance Committee, his firm opposition to toxic trade deals, and his long-standing support of social safety nets and pro-middle class policies means his campaign is focused substantially on issues of economic justice.
Yes, indeed - and I am glad Yves Smith says so. There is more in the introduction that I'll skip, but I like the ending:

However, the definition of what a successful Sanders campaign looks like is also too narrow. The US didn’t magically become neoliberal overnight. The shift in values took place as a result of a well funded, orchestrated effort by then-extreme right wing businessmen to move the country in a more conservative direction. The efforts weren’t limited to founding and supporting think tanks like AEI, Cato, Hudson and the Heritage Foundation; it included aggressively promoting a “law and economics” movement to subvert the teaching of law and produce more conservative judges.

Thus, even if Sanders loses, he can still produce important gains for the real (as opposed to Vichy) left by demonstrating that “progressive” ideas enjoy broad-based support, and by demonstrating that pet neoliberal positions, like “we have to cut Social Security” and “we can’t raise wages much” are bogus and serve the rich, not the interests of the country as a whole. If Sanders moves the Overton Window to the left, that alone is a significant achievement.

Yes, quite so. The article by Gaius Publius that follows also is interesting, and also rather optimistic, but I will leave that to your interests.
---------------------------------------------------------------------
       home - index - summaries - mail