The People vs. Democracy: A Review

Less than one-third of Americans born since 1980 believe it is “essential” to live in a democracy. In 2011, 44 percent of Americans aged 18-24 liked the idea of a strong leader who does not have to bother with Congress or elections, an increase of 10 percent since 1995.

Those statistics in The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It by Yascha Mounk may be the most disturbing facts in Mounk’s troubling book, which documents how liberal democracy is under attack throughout the world.

It’s tempting to trust the young to save us. Their opinions on many matters are moving this country in a compassionate direction. But any such confidence would be wrong. Opposition to liberal democracy is growing among the youth as well. Mounk’s book, published by Harvard University Press, argues convincingly that even in the United States liberal democracy is fragile.

Mounk offers the following definitions:

  • A democracy is a set of binding electoral institutions that effectively translates popular views into public policy.
  • Liberal institutions effectively protect the rule of law and guarantee individual rights such as freedom of speech, worship, press, and association to all citizens (including ethnic and religious minorities).
  • A liberal democracy is simply a political system that is both liberal and democratic….
  • Democracies can be illiberal…where most people favor subordinating independent institutions to the whims of the executive or curtailing the rights of minorities they dislike.
  • Conversely, liberal regimes can be undemocratic…[when] elections rarely serve to translate popular views into public policy.

Mounk argues:

Liberal democracies are full of checks and balances that are meant to stop any one party from amassing too much power and to reconcile the interests of different groups. But in the imagination of the populists, the will of the people does not need to be mediated, and any compromise with minorities is a form of corruption. In that sense, populists are deeply democratic: much more than traditional politicians, they believe that the demos should rule. But they are also deeply illiberal: unlike traditional politicians, they openly say that neither independent institutions nor individual rights should damplen the people’s voice….

Elites are taking hold of the political system and making it increasingly unresponsive: the powerful are less willing to cede to the views of the people. As a result, liberalism and democracy, the two core elements of our political system, are starting to come in conflict…. Liberal democracy, the unique mix of individual rights and popular rule that has long characterized most governments in North America and Western Europe, is coming apart at the seams. In its stead, we are seeing the rise of illiberal democracy, or democracy without rights, and undemocratic liberalism, or rights without democracy.

Mounk uses the term “populist” too loosely. There are many kinds of populists. But he makes an important point. When illiberal democracies impose a tyranny of the majority, populist tyranny can come from the “left” or the “right” — or from a political movement, like Trump’s, that draws on rhetoric from each tradition.

Mounk identifies three conditions that helped stabilize Western democracies. Rapidly rising incomes provided confidence in the future. Domination by one racial or ethnic group minimized conflict. And centralized mass media marginalized extremist views.

Now, however, economic insecurity, increased racial conflict, and social media that spreads extremism pose threats to liberal democracy.

To fight for liberal democracy Mounk proposes:

  • Reduce economic inequality, “live up to the promise of rapidly rising living standards,” and strengthen the nation state to “once again take control of its own fate.”
  • Establish clearly that “members of any creed or color are regarded as true equals [and] every individual enjoys rights on the basis of being a citizen, not on the basis of belonging to a particular group.”
  • Invest “vast educational and intellectual resources in spreading the good news about our political system” and help people evaluate social-media messages more carefully.

As I see it, Mounk’s emphasis on rapidly rising income is unfortunate. I’d rather see a focus on guaranteeing economic security with measures such as assuring everyone a living-wage job opportunity. And I question his rejecting rights based on belonging to a particular group. That language seems to reject affirmative action programs, which have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as recently as 2016.  

Overall, however, Mounk’s alarm erases my prior trust in America’s ability to resist authoritarianism. For some fifty years, the weakening of political parties and increased polarization have made compromise more difficult. At the same time, undemocratic liberalism has deepened as elite power has increased, ordinary people have less voice, and elected officials are less interested in their opinions. Those trends have led to great frustration and a willingness on the part of many to let Trump “shake things up.”

For the first time, the U.S. president openly attacks constitutional norms at home, favors authoritarian rulers abroad, and is dismantling the international order that prevented a violent world war for 70 years. Worse yet, he’s taken over the Republican Party, which refuses to challenge strongman stance. Widespread voter suppression efforts and the efforts to avoid the peaceful transfer of power in Wisconsin and Michigan illustrate that the Republican impulse toward illiberal democracy is not limited to Trump. He may merely have smoothed the path that others may take in the future with greater success.

If Democrats regain control of Congress and the White House, they may try to ram through new legislation unilaterally, as they did when they weakened the Senate filibuster, which opened the door for the Republicans to weaken it further. But if they do, that heavy-handed approach will be a mistake that would harden polarization. They should instead make it clear that they prefer to craft legislation that has some Republican support and are listening to contrary opinions.

For that reason, I was encouraged that Nancy Pelosi agreed to the Problem Solvers caucus proposal to allow votes on measures that have significant bipartisan support. She has indicated a willingness to stop blocking any bill that may not get majority Democratic support.

If and when Republicans refuse to negotiate in good faith, let that process be transparent, so the onus will be on them. Otherwise, the Democrats can make it clear that one of their priorities is to support “purple” measures that are backed by a majority of rank-and-file Republicans as well as most Independents and Democrats. That approach will cultivate more democracy, and give people more confidence that their representatives are listening to them.

The best way to counter illiberal democracy and the urge to crush “enemies” is to strengthen liberal democracy with a willingness to negotiate and compromise. Outside agitators can rightly turn up the heat with strong demands and popular pressure. But they can do so with enough humility to recognize that ultimately legislators must play a different role.

Fear and Love

Outsmarting Our Primitive Responses to Fear by Kate Murphy has been featured on The New York Times app since Oct. 26. 2017 for good reason. Its main point is:

If you can sense and appreciate your fear — be it of flying, illness or social rejection — as merely your amygdala’s request for more information rather than a signal of impending doom, then you are on your way to calming down and engaging more conscious, logic-dominated parts of your brain. At that point, you can assess the rationality of your fear and take steps to deal with it….

Dr. Dalrymple is a proponent of acceptance and commitment therapy for managing fear, which has recently been gaining clinical validation. It encourages people not only to accept that they are feeling fearful and examine the causes but also to think about their values and how committing to overcoming their fears would be consistent with who they want to be. The approach forces higher-order thinking, which theoretically disables or diminishes the amygdala response.

I added that emphasis to “think about their values and how committing to overcoming their fears would be consistent with who they want to be” because that element seems particularly important. Do you really want to be one who’s trapped by fear?

But the article concludes with what may be an even more important discovery:

Psychologists and neuroscientists are also finding that the amygdala is less apt to freak out if you are reminded that you are loved or could be loved…. Just as fear can be contagious, so can courage, caring and calm.

That point suggests to me that tapping deep instinctual compassion can help deal with fear. We need not only rely on “higher-order thinking.”

Why Movements Fail

On Facebook, Kaxu Haga, East Point Peace Academy Coordinator, posted:

Looking for resources on studying movements that FAILED. We always romanticize current and historical movements that had the best successes, but there’s so much to learn from the times that we didn’t. Books, websites, articles, anything?

He’s received a good number of valuable responses. You might want to review them on Facebook.

The one that most attracted my attention was this recommendation: The End of Protest: A New Playbook for Revolution by Micah White.

Here’s my response to his question:

Why Some Movements Succeed And Others Fail by Greg Satell sums it up very well, very briefly. His reference to the book, Join the Club, is well taken. Excellent, important book.


Rachel L. Einwohner makes a distinction between a failed movement, which fails to mobilize people, and a movement failure, which fails to achieve its goal. She argues that even a failed movement may not be fruitless because “failures of some types may lead to other kinds of successes.”


Violence Doesn’t Work (Most of the Time)” by Stephen Pinker

“Just think of the failed independence movements in Puerto Rico, Ulster, Quebec, Basque Country, Kurdistan, and Tamil Eelam. The success rate of terrorist movements is, at best, in the single digits.”


Algerian Chronicles by Albert Camus

A beautifully written collection of articles and essays about Algeria written by Camus over a 20 year period. Though the Left ostracized him in the 50s, these works have proven eerily prescient. I wonder if Mandela read it while in prison. Many passages could be lifted verbatim and applied to today’s reciprocal terrorism. Heart-breaking book.

Any spirited movement will likely include some violence, and we need not waste our time trying to convert the violence-prone. But we need not legitimize it, and we need to learn how to conduct nonviolent demonstrations that are not disrupted by violence.

I and Thou

Since 1923, Martin Buber’s poetic masterpiece, I and Thou, has had an enormous impact. As Nick J. Watson wrote:

Similar to a number of his predecessors, such as Blake, Dostoyevsky and Pascal, Buber foresaw the desacralisation of western society…. He believed that modern thinking, characterized by secularism, scientism and rampant individualism had become so entrenched in modern life that humanity was becoming more and more isolated from God and each other.

According to My Jewish Learning:  

In I and Thou, Buber describes two kinds of relationships, the “I-It”, and the “I-Thou”. The I-It relationship is one based on detachment from others and involves a utilitarian approach, in which one uses another as an object. In contrast, in an I-Thou relationship, each person fully and equally turns toward the other with openness and ethical engagement. This kind of relationship is characterized by dialogue and by “total presentness.” In an I-Thou relationship, each participant is concerned for the other person.

Pearls of Wisdom includes a brief selection of passages from I and Thou, including:

To man the world is twofold, in accordance with his twofold attitude….

Thou can only be spoken with the whole being….

I-It can never be spoken with the whole being….

I perceive something. I am sensible of something. I imagine something. I will something. I feel something. I think something….

This and the like together establish the realm of It.

But the realm of Thou has a different basis.

When Thou is spoken, the speaker has no thing for his object…. Thou has no bounds…. He has indeed nothing.….

Man travels over the surface of things and experiences them. He extracts knowledge about their constitution from them: he wins an experience from them. He experiences what belongs to the things….

These present him only with a world composed of It and He and She and It again…

If I face a human being as my Thou, and say the primary word I-Thou to him, he is not a thing among things, and does not consist of things.

This human being is not He or She, bounded from every other He and She, a specific point in space and time within the net of the world; nor is he a nature able to be experienced and described, a loose bundle of named qualities. But with no neighbor, and whole in himself, he is Thou and fills the heavens. This does not mean that nothing exists except himself. But all else lives in his light…

I become through my relation to the Thou…

But this is the exalted melancholy of our fate, that every Thou in our world must become an It…. As soon as the relation has been worked out or has been permeated with a means, the Thou becomes an object among objects… Genuine contemplation is over in a short time; now the life in nature, that first unlocked itself to me in the mystery of mutual action, can again be described, taken to pieces, and classified — the meeting-point of manifold systems of laws…. The human being who was … only able to be fulfilled, has now become again a He or a She, a sum of qualities, a given quantity with a certain shape…. But so long as I can do this he is no more my Thou…

…The It is the eternal chrysalis, the Thou the eternal butterfly….

…These are the two basic privileges of the world of It. They move man to look on the world of It as the world in which he has to live, and in which it is comfortable to live, as the world, indeed, which offers him all manner of incitements and excitements, activity and knowledge. In this chronicle of solid benefits the moments of the Thou appear as strange lyric and dramatic episodes, seductive and magical, but tearing us away to dangerous extremes, loosening the well-tried context, leaving more questions than satisfaction behind them, shattering security — in short, uncanny moments we can well dispense with. For since we are bound to leave them and go back into the “world,” why not remain in it? Why not call to order what is over against us, and send it packing into the realm of objects?…

It is not possible to live in the bare present. Life would be quite consumed if precautions were not taken to subdue the present speedily and thoroughly. But it is possible to live in the bare past, indeed only in it may a life be organised. We only need to fill each moment with experiencing and using, and it ceases to burn.

And in all the seriousness of truth, hear this: without It man cannot live. But he who lives with It alone is not a man.

Peter Coyote on the Election

Last November Peter Coyote posted on Daily Kos “Democrats Need To Clean Up their Own House.” That essay included points new to me and echoed others I’ve made in my own posts.

Of particular interest was his analysis of the impact of Federal Reserve policies on rural areas.

Coyote argued:

…In July of 1980, [Federal Reserve Chairman] Volker orchestrated a series of interest rate increases that took the federal funds target from around 10% to near 20%… [One result] was the extinction of 22 million family farmers who had faithfully followed the advice of the official institutions mandated to help them [who] had assured farmers that rising land values and additional income from increased crop yields would insulate them from debt so that it would be prudent to mortgage their land, buy expensive equipment and plant and harvest fencerow to fencerow— and they did.

[Latyr] Volker (under a Democratic President) raised interest rates by five points in a single day.  The farmers could no longer meet their new debt obligations and were scrubbed off their land as efficiently as if a glacier had scoured it down to bedrock.

After the first glacier, came others, perhaps not as large but equally destructive. For every five farms that disappeared under the auctioneer’s hammer, a local business closed.  Farming towns lost their hardware and feed stores, their FFA and scout leaders, coaches, school principals, and auto-parts stores. Deep depression and shame metastized in the farming belt growing into a deadly scourge wherein the leading cause of death on the family farm soon became suicide.

Powerful anti-government resentments began to blossom in that blighted soil…. Another crop of future Trump supporters was nurtured when Bill Clinton’s Welfare Reform legislation imposed an absolute lifetime limit of five years on government assistance to needy families…..  

The Democrats, rather than assessing the mote in their own eyes and doing a serious review of how this situation came to pass are content to criticize the easy target of Mr, Trump….Fears about Trump, while understandable, can become self-defeating and counterproductive….

Those qualities [in ourselves we prefer not to examine, our personal selfishness, greediness, anger, deluded ideas, and unethical behaviors, we project onto others, creating perfect enemies. They are perfect enemies because they are undefeatable—only phantoms existing in imagination. We are all human and not one of us is purely good or evil. Missing this point leaves us vulnerable to very destructive ignorance and relieves us of the responsibility for self-examination….

… Democrats appear to be insulated from useful truths by their bullet-proof faith in their own righteousness. If I am correct, it means that they will not take fearless inventories of the callous disregard they have inflicted on the very constituencies which denied them the office and Congressional majority they so dearly sought…. Sizeable numbers of their voters have seen through their message, directly into the Party’s true core values which have morphed since the 1940s into the pursuit, generation, facilitation and protection of wealth. …

To pursue the same habitual attempts to discredit or obliterate one’s enemies (foreign or domestic) …  is to court repeated failure…. Another path is available….

The simplest way to frame the common lessons about success that I garnered from both spiritual and secular realms is that I am my opponent. I am the one I think of as the other. I have to admit that I possess the same capacity for self-righteousness, hasty judgments, greed, ambition, envy, and delusion as those I consider my opponents. Likewise, they possess the same qualities of intelligence, ethics, probity, selflessness and empathy that I would prefer to reserve exclusively as my own. Our behaviors may differ extremely, but that is a result of worldview, beliefs, and past experience not some innate quality of goodness or evil….  All humans are like radios tuned to receive the entire spectrum of humanity.

…Not knowing our full capacity as humans makes us dangerous because our reflexive assumption of our own goodness allows us to ignore our shadows—the facets and qualities in humanity of which we prefer to remain ignorant…. If, in a dispute, I assume that all goodness, kindness, and wisdom, rest on my side of the tablet, my opponent will read those assumptions and judgments as clearly as if  I had tattooed them on my forehead.  They will judge me in the same way and defend their platitudes and the holes in their arguments as vigorously as I do mine. This is how our political system has devolved….

The most useful qualities we can contribute to public life are kindness, empathy, and the willingness to listen…. One party’s victory never insures victory for the nation unless we integrate the losers back into the population. This does not necessarily mean that either side is always correct or always wrong, but that in order to communicate we must first deeply understand what our opponents mean…..   

When we observe that self and other are simply different states of the same human entity— like water and steam–we discover that our opposing views may not be as irreconcilable as we had thought. No one in the world is pure, and there is no place to stand outside the messy everyday world to judge others reliably. Knowing that should afford us all some common ground, a place to talk and listen. We are all joined by pulse and breath. We rely on the same oxygen, sunlight, water, pollinating insects, and microbes in the soil— the identical web of life.  We all inhabit the same tiny blue pearl glowing in the vastness of space and, if we’re not careful, our shadow may ruin it for human habitation.  We have evolved technically to a level capable of destroying the planet and the world we have created.  Surely our evolution should include the ability to deepen our understanding of what it means to be human.


“My Bottom Line” Revisited

Facebook just told me that five years ago today I posted, “My Bottom Line.”  On the one hand, I am disappointed that I am still seeking the kind of holistic community described in that essay. On the other hand, I am encouraged by various recent efforts to nurture such growth, including invitations that I received today from two allies with whom I have engaged in rich dialog about these matters.

The first invitation was from Kazu Haga, founder of the East Bay Peace Academy. It reads:


Holistic Movement-Building
Tuesday, June 26 – Friday, June 29; 10am-5pm
Taught by Kazu Haga and Sonya Shah

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, while love without power is sentimental and anemic.” Dr. King, Gandhi, Chavez and others envisioned a movement that harnesses the power to change policies and institutions while cultivating the love it will take to transform relationships. What does it mean to build holistic movements for justice and healing? How do we build a movement grounded in love without giving up the power and the urgency of now? How do we dismantle systems of oppression without replicating those same patterns in our own relationships? How do we heal our wounds while transforming the systems that perpetuate them? How do we better cultivate the relationship between inner and outer transformation? What do holistic movements for justice and healing look like in terms of real practice and on the ground? This workshop will engage these questions, explore past and current movements, and envision paradigms and practices to build more holistic movements grounded in both justice and healing. This four-day inquiry will interweave theory, discussion, experiential exercises, and a collaborative approach.

Cost $425. For more info, click here.


The second invitation was from Joshua Gorman. It reads:


Join Thrive East Bay for our first monthly ‘Root Down’ event this coming Sunday as we deepen in community, engage in embodied practice, and nourish ourselves with delicious food and meaningful connections.

Thrive East Bay is a community of people committed to personal and social transformation. We stand together for a world of love, justice, and belonging. Our monthly ‘Root Down’ events build upon our larger monthly gatherings by providing an opportunity to connect more deeply with inspiring people; to engage in transformative practices that we can carry into our everyday lives; and to share in the power of community in service to a world that works for all.

When: this Sunday, May 7th from 4 – 6pm (please arrive on time!)
Community potluck and connecting from 6 – 7pm

Where: PLACE for Sustainable Living
1121 64th Street
Oakland, CA 94608
(This venue is wheelchair accessible.)

Co-Hosts: Aryeh Shell & Kele Nitoto

Cost: No one will be turned away for lack of funds. There is a suggested sliding scale contribution of $10 – $20 to help us cover our costs. You are invited to contribute what you feel called and are able to.

Potluck: Sharing food together is an essential part of community. Please bring a tasty dish and/or beverage to share with others for the community potluck.

Volunteers: We are seeking volunteers to help with the set-up and break-down of this event. If you are available to arrive early or stay late, let us know at

Invite a Friend: Please feel free to invite a friend who may value attending.

We look forward to ‘rooting down’ in community!

In partnership,
the Thrive East Bay Team


As I retire from cab driving, I look forward to having much more time to explore those issues. In particular, I’m interested in finding, helping to create, and publicizing user-friendly methods that activists could use to support one another to modify their counter-productive social conditioning and become more compassionate and effective. My hope is that such methods will be widely replicated, with little or no training required by the participants.


Although the headline of this piece in today’s New York Times, “Not Leadership Material? Good. The World Needs Followers, accepts the leader/follower dichotomy, the article itself both reinforces that traditional notions of “leadership” are pervasive, and points out some alternatives.

The following excerpts reflect the pervasiveness of traditional notions:

If college admissions offices show us whom and what we value, then we seem to think that the ideal society is composed of Type A’s. This is perhaps unsurprising, even if these examples come from highly competitive institutions. It’s part of the American DNA to celebrate those who rise above the crowd. And in recent decades, the meteoric path to leadership of youthful garage… So now we have high school students vying to be president of as many clubs as they can. It’s no longer enough to be a member of the student council; now you have to run the school….

…many students I’ve spoken with read “leadership skills” as a code for authority and dominance and define leaders as those who “can order other people around.” And according to one prominent Ivy League professor, those students aren’t wrong; leadership, as defined by the admissions process, too often “seems to be restricted to political or business power.”…

Adam Grant, who has written several books on what drives people to succeed, says that the most frequent question he gets from readers is how to contribute when they’re not in charge but have a suggestion and want to be heard. (emphases added)

The Future of the Women’s March

Having heard that the organizers of the Women’s March are meeting soon to plan future actions, I just reviewed their website and was greatly impressed with its substance and quality.

You may want to sign up on the Get Notified form at the bottom of the 10 Actions for the first 100 Days page. It states:


Make sure you don’t miss any of the future actions, sign up to get notified when new actions are published:

The About tab includes links to Mission & Vision, Unity Principles, National Committee, Honorary Co-Chairs, and other captivating information. Absolutely incredible.

Howard Thurman on Love and Hate

thurmanFrom Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman, who was a key mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Chapter Four: Hate

Christianity has been almost sentimental in its effort to deal with hatred in human life. It has sought to get rid of hatred by preachments, by moralizing, by platitudinous judgments. It has hesitated to analyze the basis of hatred and to evaluate it in terms of its possible significance in the lives of the lives of the people possessed by it….

In the first place, hatred often begins in a situation in which there is contact without fellowship…. Much of modern life is so impersonal that there is always opportunity for the seeds of hatred to grow unmolested….

In the second place, contacts without fellowship tend to express themselves in the kind of understanding that is strikingly unsympathetic…. I can sympathize only when I see myself in another’s place. Unsympathetic understandig is the characteristic attitude governing the relation between the weak and the strong….

In the third place, an unsympathetic understanding tends to express itself in the active functionin of ill ill….

In the fourth place, ill will, when dramatized in a human being, becomes hatred walking on earth.

Hatred, in the mind and spirit of the disinherited, is born of great bitterness — a bitterness that is made possible by sustained resentment which is bottled up until it distills an essence of vitality, giving to the individual in whom this is happening a radical and fundamental basis for self-realization….

Hatred becomes for you a source of validation for your personality…. Your hatred gives you a sense of significance…. Hatred may serve as a device for rebuilding, step by perilous step, the foundation for individual significance; so that from within the intensity of their necessity they declare their right to exist, despite the judgment of the environment…. Hatred…establishes a dimension of self-realization hammered out of the raw materials of injustice. A distinct derivative…is the tremendous source of dynamic energy provided…. A strange, new cunning possesses the mind, and every opportunity for taking advantage, for defeating the enemy, is revealed in clear perspective. One of the salient ways by which this expresses itself is the quality of endurance that appears….

When hatred serves as a dimension of self-realization, the illusion of righteousness is easy to create…. It is a form of the old lex talionis — eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth… Thus hatred becomes a device by which an individual seeks to protect himself against moral disintegration…. Hatred will immunize them from a loss of moral self-respect as they do to the enemy what is demanded of them…. Every [injustice] gives further justification for life-negation on the part of the weak toward the strong….

It is clear, then, that for the weak, hatred seems to serve a creative purpose…. As long as the weak see it as being inextricably involved in the complicated technique of survival, it cannot be easily dislodged….

Despite all the positive psychological attributes of hatred we have outlined, hatred destroys finally the core of the life of the hater…. Hatred bears deadly and bitter fruit….  Once hatred is released, it cannot be confined to the offenders alonge…. Hatred cannot be controlled once it is set in motion….

Above and beyond all else it must be borne in mind that hatred tends to dry up the springs of creative thought in the life of the hater, so that his resourcefulness becomes completely focused on the negative aspects of his environment….

Jesus rejected hatred because he saw that hatred meant death to the mind, death to the spirit, death to communion with the Father….

Chapter Five: Love

The religion of Jesus makes the love-ethic central…. A man must love his neighbor directly, clearly, permitting no barriers between…. To love those of the household he must conquer his own pride….

To love [the Roman, the ruler] was to be regarded as a traitor….

“The enemy” can very easily be divided into three groups. There is first, the personal enemy, one who is in some sense a part of one’s primary-group life…. To love such an enemy requires reconciliation, the will to re-establish a relationship. It involves confession of error and a seeking to be restored to one’s former place….

The second kind of enemy comprises those persons who, but their activities, make it difficult for the group to live without shame and humiliation…. To love the Roman meant first to lift him out of the general classification of enemy. The Roman had to emerge as a person…. If [the Jewish person] wanted to know the Roman for himself, he ran the risk of being accused by his fellows of consorting with the enemy….

Once the status of each is frozen or fixed, contracts are merely truces between enemies…. The religion of Jesus says to the disinherited: “Love your enemy. Take the initiative in seeking ways by which you can have the experience of a common sharing of mutual worth and value. It may be hazardous, but you must do it.”….

Once an attack is made on the enemy and the individual has emerged, the underprivileged man must himself be status free…. Love is possible only between two freed spirit…. There cannot be too great insistence on the point that we are here dealing with a discipline, a method, a technique, as over against some form of wishful thinking or simple desiring…..

Such a technique may be found in the attitude of respect for personality…. A whole group may be regarded as an exception, and thus one is relieved of any necessity to regard them as human beings…. On the same principle scapegoats are provided, upon who helpless heads we pour our failures and our fears….

By implication he says, “…I am stripped bare of all pretense and false pride. The man in me appeals to the man in you.” …Wherever a need is laid bare, those who stand in the presence of it can be confronted with the experience of universality that makes all class and race distinctions impertinent….

…”Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” That is how Jesus demonstrated reverence for personality….

Before love can operate, there is the necessity for forgiveness…. There is in every act of injury an element that is irresponsible and irrational. No evil deed — and no good deed, either — was named by him as an expression of the total mind of the doer…. No evil deed represents the full intent of the doer…. The evildoer does not go unpunished. Life is its own restraint….

There is a spirit at work in life and in the hearts of men that is committed to overcoming the world. It is universal, knowing no age, no race, no culture, and no condition of men. For the privileged and underprivileged alike, if the individual puts at the disposal of the Spirit the needful dedication and discipline, he can live effectively in the chaos of the present the high destiny of a son of God.

How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul

How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul by Matt Stoller in The Atlantic complements The Unconnected with a spot-on analysis that includes considerable information that was new to me. It’s also very long, so I post some excerpts below. I italicize points that I found particularly interesting.

The subtitle is: “In the 1970s, a new wave of post-Watergate liberals stopped fighting monopoly power. The result is an increasingly dangerous political system.”

…The result today is a paradox. At the same time that the nation has achieved perhaps the most tolerant culture in U.S. history, the destruction of the anti-monopoly and anti-bank tradition in the Democratic Party has also cleared the way for the greatest concentration of economic power in a century. This is not what the Watergate Babies intended when they dethroned Patman as chairman of the Banking Committee. But it helped lead them down that path. The story of Patman’s ousting is part of the larger story of how the Democratic Party helped to create today’s shockingly disillusioned and sullen public, a large chunk of whom is now marching for Donald Trump….

In fact, the central tenet of New Deal competition policy was not big or small government; it was distrust of concentrations of power and conflicts of interest in the economy. …

There are hints of this tradition today, on both sides of the aisle. Patman was the first congressman to propose auditing the Federal Reserve, which was an outgrowth of his investigation of Mellon. Auditing the Fed is now supported by conservatives like Ted Cruz and populists like Bernie Sanders. Senator Warren’s attempt to re-impose Glass-Steagall is a basic Brandeisian notion. New Dealers understood this not as regulation, but decentralization, a shrinking of the financial sector to prevent conflicts of interest. In the commercial sphere, Patman had a trust-busting agenda, not a big-government one….

Packaged together, these measures epitomized the idea that citizens must be able to govern themselves through their own community structures,…

The essence of populist politics is that political and economic freedom are deeply intertwined—that real democracy requires not just an opportunity to vote but an opportunity to compete in an open marketplace. This was the kind of politics that the Watergate Babies accidentally overthrew….

In 1968, there was a great debate about the future of the Democratic Party. Robert F. Kennedy sought to win the primary with a “black-blue” coalition of black “have-nots” and working-class whites. He sought continuity in the policies of protecting independent farmers, shopkeepers, and workers, all of which formed the heart of the New Deal—yet he also wanted to end the war in Vietnam and expand racial justice.

But Kennedy’s strategy to merge these ideas disappeared when he was assassinated. …

With the help of strategist Fred Dutton, Democrats forged a new coalition. By quietly cutting back the influence of unions, Dutton sought to eject the white working class from the Democratic Party, which he saw as “a major redoubt of traditional Americanism and of the antinegro, antiyouth vote.” The future, he argued, lay in a coalition of African Americans, feminists, and affluent, young, college-educated whites. In 1972, George McGovern would win the Democratic nomination with this very coalition, and many of the Watergate Babies entering office just three years later gleaned their first experiences in politics on his campaign….

This cynicism allowed the traditional Republican notion of overregulation to be introduced into a liberal-leaning group. …

On the Democratic Party’s left, a series of thinkers agreed with key elements of the arguments made by Jensen, Stigler, and Bork. The prominent left-wing economist John Kenneth Galbraith argued that big business—or “the planning system” as he called it—could in fact be a form of virtuous socialism. Their view of political economics was exactly the opposite of Patman’s and the other populists. Rather than distribute power, they actively sought to concentrate it. …His theory was called “countervailing power.” Big business was balanced by those subject to it: big government and big labor. …

In an influential book, The Zero-Sum Society, Thurow proposed that all government and business activities were simply zero-sum contests over resources and incomes, ignoring the arguments of New Dealers that concentration was a political problem and led to tyranny. In his analysis, anti-monopoly policy, especially in the face of corporate problems was anachronistic and harmful. Thurow essentially reframed Bork’s ideas for a Democratic audience….

Henceforth, the economic leadership of the two parties would increasingly argue not over whether concentrations of wealth were threats to democracy or to the economy, but over whether concentrations of wealth would be centrally directed through the public sector or managed through the private sector—a big-government redistributionist party versus a small-government libertarian party. … And in doing so, America’s fundamental political vision transformed: from protecting citizen sovereignty to maximizing consumer welfare….

In an early sign of where it would lead, President Jimmy Carter deregulated the trucking, banking, and airline industries, … Democrats then popularized supply-side economics in a Thurow-influenced and Democrat-authored 1980 Joint Economic Committee report, “Plugging in the Supply Side.”

In 1982, journalist Randall Rothenberg noted the emergence of this new statist viewpoint of economic power within the Democratic Party with an Esquire cover story, “The Neoliberal Club.”…

… the very idea of competition policy, of inserting democracy into the economy, made no sense to them. Previously, voters had expected politicians to do something about everything from the price of milk to mortgage rates. Now, neoliberals expressed public power through financial markets. …

They sought an “industrial policy”—a never-quite-defined planning mechanism—to direct resources in the economy through a cooperative three-way dialogue among labor, business, and government….

This mix of central planning and private monopoly may sound odd, but it is the intellectual underpinning of both the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act….

Faith in technocrats, the revolving door, and privatization all flowed from a belief in this basic structure to deliver social justice….

In their first five years, the 1975 class of Democrats categorically realigned American politics, ridding their party of its traditional commitments. They released monopoly power by relaxing antitrust laws, eliminating rules against financial concentration, and lifting price regulations….

The success of the Watergate Baby worldview over the old populists can be seen in what did not happen in response to this quiet yet extraordinarily radical revolution: There was no fight to block Reagan’s antitrust restructuring.

Clinton Democrats eventually came to reflect Dutton’s political formulation, more diverse and less reliant on the white working class. … Clinton stripped antitrust out of the Democratic platform; it was the first time a reference to monopoly power was not in the platform since 1880. Globalization, deregulation, and balanced budgets would animate Clinton’s political economy, with high-tech and finance leading the way….

At the end of his presidency, Clinton explained his success. … Bork and Thurow, in other words, were right.

In terms of concentrations of power in the private sector, however, it was more a completion of what Reagan did than a repudiation of it….

Corporate concentration also occurred in less-examined ways, like through the Supreme Court and defense procurement…. the administration restructured the defense industry, shrinking the number of prime defense contractors from 107 to five. The new defense-industrial base, now concentrated in the hands of a few executives, stopped subsidizing key industries. The electronics industry was soon offshored….

But who could argue? The concentration of media and telecommunications companies happened concurrent with an investment boom into the newest beacon of progress: the internet. …

Despite this prosperity, in 2000, the American people didn’t reward the Democrats with majorities in Congress or an Oval Office victory. In particular, the rural parts of the country in the South, which had been a traditional area of Democratic strength up until the 1970s, were strongly opposed to this new Democratic Party. And white working-class people, whom Dutton had dismissed, did not perceive the benefits of the “greatest economy ever.” …

And it turns out, according to a McKinsey study, that a disproportionately large amount of the productivity gains from the remarkable computerization of the economy were the result of just one company: Walmart…The gains of the 1990s, it turns out, were not structural, but illusory. …

By 2008, the ideas that took hold in the 1970s had been Democratic orthodoxy for two generations. “Left-wing” meant opposing war, supporting social tolerance, advocating environmentalism, and accepting corporatism and big finance while also seeking redistribution via taxes. The Obama administration has been ideologically consistent with the Watergate Babies’ rejection of populism…. Culturally, the United States is a far more tolerant and open society….

In the last seven years, another massive merger boom has occurred, with concentrations accruing in the hospital, airline, telecommunications, and technology industries. …

But what intellectuals like Thurow, Galbraith, Greenspan, Bork, and so forth didn’t foresee was political disillusionment on a vast scale…. Despite their best efforts, U.S. institutions seem as out-of-control and ungovernable as they did when the 1975 class came into office….

Trump’s emergence would not be a surprise to someone like Patman, or to most New Dealers….Americans feel a lack of control: They are at the mercy of distant forces, their livelihoods dependent on the arbitrary whims of power…. Having yielded to monopolies in business, the nation must now face the un-American threat to democracy Patman warned they would sow….

Americans, sullen and unmoored from community structures, are turning to rage, apathy, protest, and tribalism, like white supremacy….

Ending the threat of authoritarianism is not a left-wing or right-wing problem, and the solution does not reside in building a bigger or a smaller government. …

Fortunately, Americans are beginning to remember what was once lost. Senator Elizabeth Warren often sounds like she’s channeling Wright Patman. Senator Bernie Sanders stirred enormous enthusiasm in a younger generation more in touch with their populist souls. Republicans even debated putting antitrust back in their party platform. President Obama has begun talking about the problem of monopolies. Renata Hesse, the head of the government’s antitrust division, recently gave a blistering speech repudiating Bork’s corporatist ideas. And none other than Hillary Clinton, in an October 3, 2016, speech on renewing antitrust vigor, noted that Trump, while a unique figure, also represents the “broader trends” of big business picking on the little guy.

Restoring America’s anti-monopoly traditions does not mean rejecting what the Watergate Babies accomplished. It means merging their understanding of a multicultural democratic society with Brandeis’s vision of an “industrial democracy.” The United States must place democracy at the heart of its commercial sphere once again. That means competition policy, in force, all the time, at every level. The prevailing culture must be re-geared, so that the republic may be born anew.