Clause 61: The Pushback Blog

Because ideas have consequences

Posts Tagged ‘progressivism

For What Office Is Hillary Clinton Running?

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I watched the acceptance speeches of both candidates at their respective conventions. Hillary Clinton’s speech was not as scary as the speech given by The Ego That Ate Cleveland. Still, there were several disturbing themes in her speech that ought to give us pause.

Clinton’s speech laid out a deeply considered program for a priest-king. I though we were electing a President, a chief executive whose function is to execute the will of Congress. There is a substantial separation between the two.

Michael Wolff, writing in The Hollywood Reporter, summarized the speech this way:

Her speech, proper homework for anyone actually paying attention, proposed that the nation elect her because she was a good person, one without a clear point of view other than an eagerness to help: a do-gooder good at do-gooding.

Wolff is right about the homework, so let’s dig in. All quotes are from Clinton’s speech, as rendered by this link from the Los Angeles Times.

Lauren Manning, who stood here with such grace and power, was gravely injured on 9/11. It was the thought of her, and Debbie St. John, and John Dolan and Joe Sweeney, and all the victims and survivors, that kept me working as hard as I could in the Senate on behalf of 9/11 families, and our first responders who got sick from their time at Ground Zero.

In this campaign, I’ve met so many people who motivate me to keep fighting for change. And, with your help, I will carry all of your voices and stories with me to the White House.

I have been back and forth through Article II of the Constitution, and I just can’t find the part that says that the actions of the President should be informed by the thought of various citizens she personally knows who have encountered hardships. What about the people whose hardships are not known to the President? Shall we have National Appeal Day, during which we all present our pleas for executive relief?

At my first full-time software development job, the VP of Development liked people with whom she had a bond and looked out for them. Just coming in, doing your job quietly and going home was the road to ruin. She used such people like tools. The key was to be a person with real needs to her. She could make that work in a shop of about ten people; it is completely unworkable in a nation of 300+ million. Yet I thought of this model of executive behavior often while listening to Clinton speak.

My primary mission as President will be to create more opportunity and more good jobs with rising wages right here in the United States… From my first day in office to my last! Especially in places that for too long have been left out and left behind.

In my first 100 days, we will work with both parties to pass the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II.  Jobs in manufacturing, clean energy, technology and innovation, small business, and infrastructure.

Since government is not a wealth-producing entity, what devices would be available to Clinton to create jobs? What are they going to be manufacturing and innovating?

Nevertheless, her ability to spend the money is going to be sharply circumscribed. She still wants affordable health care for everybody. And, to top it off:

If you believe we should expand Social Security and protect a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions… join us.

We’re not just going to protect Social Security; we’re going to expand it. Call and raise! So after all those entitlement sweets are handed out, there won’t be any room for stimulus spending.

Bernie Sanders and I will work together to make college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all! We will also liberate millions of people who already have student debt.

So the people who are never going to go to college and whose kids are never going to go to college are going to pay more for other people’s kids to go to college? Yeah, that will be a hit with the Trumpkins.

Why do we have an education system that fails to prepare kids to be effective economic participants by the time they graduate high school? Can’t much of the undergraduate program, particularly core course materials, be moved up and taught in high school?

Come to think of it, why do we have citizens graduating high school and knowing so little about the Constitution that they don’t understand the roles of the President and Congress? I don’t believe this is what Jefferson had in mind. I am damn sure it is not what John Adams had in mind.

Why do we have kids graduating high school thinking that we can vote ourselves rich?

It’s just not right that Donald Trump can ignore his debts, but students and families can’t refinance theirs.

She has a point there.

And here’s something we don’t say often enough: College is crucial, but a four-year degree should not be the only path to a good job. We’re going to help more people learn a skill or practice a trade and make a good living doing it.

That sounds like a great idea. If she is elected President, what means does she have available to accomplish that?

In the mid-90s, the Chicago Tribune ran a series of articles about families where one of the kids wanted to learn a trade instead of going to college. There was a lot of back-and-forth discussion about the relative merits of going to college vs. learning a trade. However, to me the most important finding of the series was this: Not one family who was interviewed would allow their last names to be used in the article. So whatever came out of people’s mouths about the advantages of going into a skilled trade, it was a sufficient source of shame to the families that they didn’t want their names attached to it.

How would Hillary Clinton cause millions of Americans to reverse their attitudes? What levers would she have available to her to raise the perceived social standing of people in trades up to the level of, say, entry-level white-collar workers? Would she declare them statutorily exempt by executive order, and therefore free from having to punch a clock? If she did, what would happen to overtime for those who are presently qualifying for it?

There are an awful lot of teachers hanging around the Democratic Party. Could Clinton convince them to treat the parents in trades with the same respect as the white-collar, university educated parents? Would she even try?

I will be a President for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. For the struggling, the striving and the successful. For those who vote for me and those who don’t. For all Americans.

If she really means this — if these are not just high-sounding empty words — here is the place to start: Understand that what you and your friends think of as justice is what many of us find to be injustice.

When I was in school, I had a classmate, Greg, who was really good at math. The only thing he was good at was math — and physics, which is basically applied math. Our Algebra 2 teacher would not give Greg the 99 he earned because, as she explained it, he didn’t work for it. He didn’t have to, and he still earned it. To the teacher, she was acting out of justice, but to us, it was injustice.

The repackaging of Hillary has been going on for some time. Apparently, we are witnessing the release of Hillary Clinton 5.0. All the Clinton loyalists want to assure us that she is sincere, earnest, well-intentioned, caring, and people-centered. Let’s believe them, because there is no risk in doing so. Believing this about her tells us nothing useful as citizens. Earnest, caring, well-intentioned people also go wrong. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Just like in high school: what happens when the well-intentioned teacher who wants to change the world bumps up against people who just don’t see the world the way she does and don’t see the change she wants to implement as a good thing?

[Clinton’s mother] made sure I learned the words of our Methodist faith: “Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.”

Sounds great: God-fearing, moral and well-intentioned. But when you peel back the surface, you find problems. A woman cannot serve two masters: God and the State. We know the State can use its police power to compel people to do what their leaders believe they should want; this has been a driver for progressives since Herbert Croly. There are a lot of themes here that are troublesome when you peel back the smiling surface layer. The slogan “Stronger together,” for example, is disturbingly reminiscent of “Strength through unity,” a core principle of fascism.

Earnest, caring and well-intentioned are great qualifications for a priest-king. A President is not supposed to need them. A President exists to execute the will of Congress and uphold the Constitution.

And in the end, it comes down to what Donald Trump doesn’t get: that America is great – because America is good.

Does Clinton really believe that America is good? It is impossible to square that with her actions and her statements. At all evidence, America needs Hillary or America won’t do right. Without her earnest, well-intentioned hand on the tiller, the country is just going to sink into a swamp of exploitation, ignorance and injustice.

It is that moral purpose that helps her reconcile cutting any corner, because the end justifies the means. We don’t trust Hillary Clinton because she doesn’t trust us. She thinks she knows better than we what we should want for our country and has to get through this excruciating campaigning process somehow so that she can wield executive power and force her vision down our throats.





Written by srojak

August 7, 2016 at 11:10 am

Wayne Bidwell Wheeler

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348px-Wayne_Bidwell_Wheeler,_half-length_portraitThis man, who looks like he might have been a bank clerk for George Bailey, actually has his fingerprints on three amendments to the Constitution. He coined the phrase “pressure group” and directed the efforts of the first effective such creature. He personally supervised Congress for over ten years. Now he is almost completely forgotten; that is not right.

Wheeler was born in 1869, on a farm in northeast Ohio. While he was still a boy, a drunk hired hand on the farm stabbed Wheeler in the leg with a hayfork. This event influenced Wheeler to be militantly opposed to alcohol.

He worked his way through Oberlin College, where he was recruited by Howard Russell Hyde, founder of the Anti-Saloon League (ASL). At the time, the leading anti-alcohol organization was the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). The WCTU campaigned for prohibition, but also for women’s right to vote, government ownership of utilities and factories, prison reform and vegetarianism. By contrast, the ASL would be laser focused on one goal: national prohibition of the production and distribution of alcohol. Anyone who supported this cause was a friend; anyone who opposed it was an enemy.

Billy Sunday, meet pioneering social worker Jane Addams: you’re working together now. The evangelical clergy of the age were motivated to support Prohibition because of their faith; reformers like Addams signed on because of the devastating effect that drunkenness had on the urban poor. Ku Klux Klan, shake hands with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW): you’re on the same team. The Klan’s anti-liquor sentiment was rooted in its hatred of the immigrant masses in liquor-soaked cities; the IWW believed that liquor was a capitalist weapon used to keep the working classes in a stupor.
— Daniel Okrent, “Wayne B. Wheeler: The Man Who Turned Off the Taps,” Smithsonian Magazine, May 2010 (

While still studying law, Wheeler was already working full time for the ASL, speaking and recruiting in Ohio. Before long, Wheeler and the ASL had tossed out 70 state legislators who were not sufficiently dry. Having control of the Ohio legislature, Wheeler could put through a local-option law that would allow individual towns and counties to vote themselves dry.

In 1905, Governor Myron T. Herrick had pushed for changes to the local-option bill that, in the view of the ASL, compromised it. The ASL demanded revenge and Wheeler set out to obtain it. Herrick was backed by Mark Hanna, the Republican boss who also created William McKinley. Herrick was popular and politically successful. Nevertheless, Wheeler set his sights on Herrick, organizing more than 300 rallies against Herrick that year. Wheeler succeeded in unelecting Herrick, providing another object lesson for politicians of the power of the ASL.

Never again will any political party ignore the protests of the church and the moral forces of the state.
— Wayne Wheeler

Wheeler had figured out that his ability to mobilize a large bloc of voters gave him disproportionate political power. His key insight was that he didn’t need a majority of people; he needed a majority of people who showed up to vote. In a straight-up referendum on prohibition of alcohol sales, the ASL could only command a minority. However, the ASL could decisively influence an election by isolating their single issue and mobilizing voters, exerting influence beyond their numbers and tipping the scales for the dry candidate and against the wet.

Having asserted control of Ohio, the ASL was ready to go national. However, national prohibition would be impossible as long as Washington was hooked on alcohol. The federal government depended on excise taxes on alcohol for revenue; these taxes had provided as much as 40% of annual revenues since the Civil War. Without a substitute, Prohibition was unthinkable.

The ASL thus teamed up with progressives to pass the Sixteenth Amendment, creating the income tax. Overnight, the government’s dependence on alcohol was removed. Now Wheeler could work on what the ASL called “The Next and Final Step”: national prohibition.

I do it the way the bosses do it, with minorities. We’ll vote against all the men in office who won’t support our bills. We’ll vote for candidates who will promise to. We are teaching these crooks that breaking their promises to us is surer of punishment than going back on their bosses, and some day they will learn that all over the United States—and we’ll have national Prohibition.
— Wayne Wheeler, speaking to Lincoln Steffens

In 1914, resolutions for Prohibition and women’s suffrage amendments finally emerged from congressional committees. The ASL saw women’s votes as essential to overcoming obstacles to Prohibition, although ultimately the Prohibition amendment would jump ahead of the amendment granting women the right to vote.

By 1916, the ASL was ready for the final push. They had spent over $50 million in 2010 dollars. The payoff was a favorable Congress, four more states voting themselves dry and the defeat of every wet measure in every state. Wheeler had set up a printing plant in Westerville, Ohio, that produced more than forty tons of flyers, pamphlets and other printed matter a month in support of Prohibition. Understanding his alliance with progressives, Wheeler had made sure the plant was a union shop.

There was also urgency for the final push. In 1920, there would be a census, followed by redistricting. Cities would gain representation in Congress, at the expense of rural areas. Cities were wet; the countryside was dry. Wheeler liked to quote William Cowper: “God made the country, and man made the town.” So when Senator Boise Penrose of Pennsylvania, an ardent wet, demanded a seven-year limit on ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment, Wheeler and the ASL had no objection. They knew they didn’t really even have that long. In the event, ratification by 36 states took thirteen months.

For the next six years, Wheeler sat in the Senate gallery, watching over Congress, the President and the new Prohibition Bureau whose staffing he controlled. He supported tainting drinkable alcohol with poison, saying, “The person who drinks this … is a deliberate suicide.” Wheeler retired in 1926 and died a year later.

Nothing is more certain than that when the next history of this age is examined by dispassionate men, Wheeler will be considered one of its most extraordinary figures.
The Baltimore Sun

He is little remembered today, but those who study the events of one hundred years ago must conclude he was an extraordinary figure. If there were a lobbyist’s hall of fame, a statue of Wheeler would belong in the front entryway. He showed future single-interest political pressure groups how do get it done.

Written by srojak

May 3, 2016 at 5:28 am