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Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Wills Point, TX
Home country: USA
Member since: Sat Oct 16, 2004, 02:36 PM
Number of posts: 32,014

About Me

I am a native Georgian who's currently hiding out in Texas. I am a liberal, and I am extremely proud of the imperfect (but evolving) republic that we call the United States of America.

Journal Archives

"What shall we do now?" (re. the UCSB shootings)

Michael Moore responded to the UCSB shootings in a Facebook post (quoted here) with his usual argument about the need for better gun control. Accidentally, perhaps, he hit upon what I see as the underlying issue that demands our attention when he said this:

Nearly all of our mass shootings are by angry or disturbed white males. None of them are committed by the majority gender, women. Hmmm, why is that?

Moore asks the right question, but then drops it like a hot potato, preferring, instead, to focus on the guns. I see this whole mess as a gender issue--as a backlash against the enormous gains in power that women have made over the past century. I see our obsession with guns as a lame and futile attempt to re-assert some kind of "masculine" power. I see the success of right-wing parties in Europe as a product of the same backlash. In fact, I see the political success of the modern Republican Party as a result of the same, underlying issue. How else can we explain why so many people vote against their best interests?

Strangely enough, this topic is hardly ever addressed on DU (as I noted here). Perhaps it is too frightening for us to rationally grasp and consider. Many years ago, I taught an upper-level, college rhetoric course in which we focused on Pink Floyd's 1982 film, The Wall, for a few weeks. It was a transformative experience for me. The following short clip from that movie is illustrative. If you haven't seen the movie, I'd recommend you do so if you have any interest in gender studies. Just take a look at this short segment from the movie (and try to pay attention to the lyrics):

As hideous and shocking as that imagery may be, I think it explains a great deal about the world as we know it today. What to do about this is another question altogether, but I strongly feel that we should talk and think about the dramatic changes in our gender roles and sexual dynamics over the course of the past century.


The Indian Election of 2014 (informed ramblings)

The greatest democratic election in the history of humanity concluded on Monday, May 12, after 551 million Indians cast their ballots for their own representatives in the Lok Sabha, the lower and more powerful House of the Indian Parliament. Turnout reached 66% (pretty good for India, and considerably better than what we manage in Presidential elections in the United States). Regarding the election, President Obama said:

"I congratulate the people of India on concluding their national elections. India has set an example for the world in holding the largest democratic election in history, a vibrant demonstration of our shared values of diversity and freedom," Obama said.

"The United States and India have developed a strong friendship and comprehensive partnership over the last two decades, which has made our citizens safer and more prosperous and which has enhanced our ability to work together to solve global challenges," he said.

"We look forward to the formation of a new government once election results are announced and to working closely with India's next administration to make the coming years equally transformative."


India, being the largest republic on Earth in terms of population and a country with which we have strong economic ties, matters. If you want to know more about what just happened in India, keep reading. President Obama rightly noted that a new government will come to power in India as a result of this election, and that has significant implications for both the United States and for the world.

The Parties and the Players

The first thing you need to know is that India has been governed, with only a couple of interruptions, by the same political party and its coalition since India's 1947 independence. That coalition (called the United Progressive Alliance or UPA) is a center-left coalition that is dominated by the Indian National Congress--INC, for short, but this political party is usually called (quite simply) "Congress." Opposing Congress and its UPA coalition is a center-right coalition called the National Democratic Alliance (NDA for short). The dominant and controlling party in the NDA is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP for short--in English the name means "Indian People's Party".

Leading Congress and the UPA is its candidate for Prime Minister, Rahul Gandhi, who is both young and attractive but also shy and reluctant. Rahul Gandhi effectively inherited his current position (Member of Parliament for Amethi) from the powerful Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has dominated Indian politics since independence. Rahul's mother, Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, has been President of the INC since 1998. Rahul's father, Rajiv Gandhi, served as Prime Minister from 1984-1989. Rahul's grandmother, Indira Gandhi served as Prime Minister from 1966 to 1977 and from 1980 until 1984. Rahul's great-grandfather, Jawaharal Nehru was India's first Prime Minister and held the post from 1947 until he died in office in 1964. Nehru was a close associate of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (the Gandhi we all know), but also note that there is no blood relation between Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and the Nerhu-Gandhi dynasty. Nerhu's daughter, Indira, married Feroze Gandhi, a Zoroastrian Parsi from Bombay (Mumbai), who was not at all related to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who was a Hundu and was born in Porbandar, in Gujarat (state), India. As you might imagine, many Indians object to the Nerhu family's adoption (and co-opting) of the Gandhi name in service to their own political agenda. Gujaratis are particularly sensitive to this as they see Mohandas Gandhi as their native son. Many of them reject the Nerhu-Gandhi political dynasty for having "stolen" their hero's name.

[font size=1]Speaking of names, we, in the West, often refer to Mohandas Kamarchand Gandhi as "Mahatma Gandhi." "Mahatma" means "great soul," but Gandhi, himself, believed in the essential equality of all souls. He rejected the honorific title "Mahatma." He claimed that it "pained" him to be so honored. Hindu Gujaratis continue to refer to Gandhi as "Mahatma" (because they are rightly proud of him), but I refrain from using that title because it is, essentially, in opposition to everything that Mohandas Gandhi wanted to achieve in his lifetime.[/font]

Opposing Rahul Gandhi and his coalition (the UPA) is the BJP/NDA's candidate for Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Modi has been elected Chief Minister of Gujarat four times and has held that office since 2001. My Indian friends are primarily Gujarati (and if you know any Indians with the last name "Patel," it is likely that they are from Gujarat). These friends tell me that Modi is a great leader who will "clean up" Indian politics (and they are right to note that Indian politics are notoriously corrupt). Modi reformed the Gujarati economy, focused on public works, and (as these friends argue) "transformed" the state. Modi has benefited from vast media exposure, and is projected to be the next Prime Minister of India. (More on that later.) Modi leads the center-right NDA coalition, and he is a media star compared to the apparently-sedated Rahul Gandhi.

Regarding India (and how these ramblings are informed)

Most Americans can't really fathom India. While the United States is highly multi-cultural and multi-religious, no nation-state on Earth compares to India in terms of religious, cultural, class, and racial diversity. None. As I mentioned above, I have Indian friends from Gujarat. Gujarat is the 10th most-populous state in India (and it has a population of 60 million, roughly the size of Italy). India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, has a population the size of Brazil (nearly 200 million people). If 800 million Indians died tomorrow, India would still have more citizens than the United States. It's really beyond the comprehension of most Americans.

Narendra Modi, having run a state with as many people as Italy has for the past 13 years, is no political novice. He knows what he is doing, and he has proven to be a capable leader. That said, he is the leader of the center-right coalition, and said coalition carries with it baggage that is quite familiar to us in the United States. All of the pro-Hindu religious parties in India back Modi's NDA (just as our Christian fundamentalists back the GOP). Modi uses Hinduism (and the fact that most of India is Hindu) to advance his agenda.

Nationalism vs. Communalism

Mohandas Gandhi was an Indian nationalist. He sought a united and independent India (in all its multi-cultural and multi-religious glory), but he opposed what he called "communalism" (that political tendency to favor religious/caste/state/regional interests over and above the health of India as a whole). Narendra Modi has been accused of being a "Hindu nationalist," but it chaps my hide to see Western media describe Modi in this way. Modi (if you want to disparage him) is a Hindu communalist, not a nationalist. Frankly, nobody can run India as a communalist, so these kinds of attacks on Modi are silly, imo, but there is no doubt that a number of Hindu communalist parties are allied with Modi's BJP.

There are roughly 150 million Muslims in India (nearly half the population of the United States). The Congress Party has consistently maintained a secular and tolerant attitude toward religion in India since the party's inception (following Gandhi's teachings). Note that Gandhi opposed the partition of India. He wanted a united, multi-religious India, and he did not think it wise to create separate states (Pakistan and Bangladesh) for Muslims. Nevertheless, the British decided to partition India because the Muslims (who ruled India under the Mughal Dynasty for hundreds of years prior to the British Raj), feared that they would be persecuted by the majority Hindu population if said population ever gained political power in India. Note that many religions originated in India, including Hinduism, Buddism, Sikhism, and Jainism, and that adherents of many other religions are present in India, including Christians, Zoroastrians, and Muslims. India is outrageously diverse in terms of religion, and I am of the opinion that no leader of the country could rule effectively as a "communalist," but that certain politicians (Modi is just one example) play upon communal instincts in the populace to advance their own political power.

Whereas the Congress Party defines itself by its multiculturalism and tolerance for all Indian religions, the BJP and its allies are perceived as being pro-Hindu and much less tolerant (and, given the company they keep, this is not a baseless accusation). That said, Modi (in his campaign) avoided discussing religion and caste and, instead, focused on economic development and the corruption within the Congress Party. Congress, for its part, occasionally played upon fears of religious genocide (some going so far as to evoke the name of Hitler) to stoke the fears of the religious minorities in India in order to secure their loyalty at the ballot box. This is the background from which we can understand the 2014 Indian electon.

2014 Exit Polls

In 2009, the Indian government banned the release of exit-polling data until the entire election was completed. We, in the United States, are accustomed to having a single "election day," but this isn't practical in India given the number of people who have to vote. Instead, the election is staggered over several weeks so that the state can marshal its resources and focus on one area of the country at a time. The election concluded on May 12. Results will be released tomorrow, May 16, 2014.

Exits polls (as is typical for India) have been all over the place. Exit polls are notoriously bad in India. In the 2004 elections, the exit polls showed a BJP landslide that did not materialize, and the same happened in 2009. This is not because the elections in India are corrupt or unfair, but for a couple of different reasons. For one thing, many Dalits are afraid to upset their landholders (Dalits, i.e. untouchables, are the poorest of the poor in India, and they are beholden to the wealthy people who own the land they farm). Dalits are often afraid to be honest when asked about their electoral choices, and, in addition, most Indians are fully aware that the Indian media is owned and controlled by wealthy interests in India. They want to appear on television as badly as your average American, and they think their chances are better if they tell the media what they think the media wants to hear (i.e. the right-wing media bias is as present in India as it is in the United States). Our exit polling in the U.S. tends to be more accurate because Americans are less afraid to say what they think (this is a blessing of our 1st Amendment which we protect vehemently--see Citizens United). The Indians don't have the same kind of reverence for speech. Thus, for these reasons, their exit polling has always been unreliable.

Current exit polling shows a victory for Modi and the NDA. How big a victory is the only question. It takes 272 seats to control the Lok Sabha. Current exit polls show the BJP (alone, minus its allied parties) getting anywhere between 220 and 290 seats. Even if the BJP (alone) doesn't get 272, it's clear that the center-right coalition (The NDA) will cross the 272 threshold. Barring unforeseen circumstances, a new Indian government led by Narendra Modi will soon take power in India.

My Conclusions

As I mentioned above, I have a number of Gujarati friends, and they are quite excited about a Modi victory. Modi is from Gujarat, after all, and state loyalty means more in India than it does in the United States. In part, this is because most states have their own native languages--Gujarati (Gandhi's native language) is different from Hindustani, Bengali, Urdu, Marathi, and all the Dravidian languages of Southern India). Frankly, as enthusiastic about Modi as my friends are, I don't share their enthusiasm, but I placate them. It's their country, after all, and I feel I have little right to object to their politics.

Modi's project is essentially neo-liberal, and the more I study the issue, the more I dislike the BJP and the center-right coalition. In many ways, Narendra Modi is the Ronald Reagan of India. That said, Congress has been in power for too long, and a brief respite may be in order. That is my hope ... for a brief NDA coalition government, followed by the return of a stronger, less-corrupt, left-center, Congress-led coalition in 5 years. Rahul Gandhi is a very weak candidate, ultimately. Besides which the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has ruled for too long. Dynasties are not healthy for a republic.

I seriously doubt, however, that the BJP will get over 240 seats. The NDA, on the other hand, will cross 272. That much seems certain, but recent history shows that exit polls showing a BJP/NDA landslide are usually in error. I will be stunned if the BJP gets the 290 seats predicted by the exit polls of the most pro-Modi members of the Indian media.

Results will be announced tomorrow, May 16, 2014. Stay tuned.


Who will choose our 2016 nominee?

This is not a poll. It's supposed to be educational, and it's a response to a naive but well-intentioned DU thread that appeared recently and sank like a stone. That thread questioned whether or not Elizabeth Warren's populism resonated sufficiently within the Democratic Party to allow Warren to win the nomination were she to seek it.

There are many of us who still believe (or cynically advance the proposition) that our nominees are selected based upon their stands on "issues" that affect the electorate. The idea is that Democrats will vote for the primary candidate that most closely reflects and advances his or her own political ideology, and that the person who is closest to "mainstream" thought within the Democratic Party should win. This notion is now absurd (and it may have always been absurd).

Most people who are paying attention realize that money drives politics in the United States, and this rule applies to the Democratic Party's nominating process as well. The best indicator of a candidate's chances to win a primary election is that candidate's ability to fundraise. Policy and ideology (while not entirely irrelevant) are but minor concerns in the grand scheme of our national politics. As such, when we consider who our likely nominees will be for the 2016 Presidential election, our first concern should be the fundraising capacity of the candidates in question.

Here's the list of the top three fundraisers in the Democratic Party, in order:

1) Barack Obama
2) Hillary Clinton
3) Elizabeth Warren

Noam Scheiber, in a seminal essay, explains that there are two, separate, and competing money-generating machines working in the Democratic Party. One is controlled by President Barack Obama, and it is dominant. Obama inherited this machine from John Kerry who, by endorsing Obama and throwing his machine behind him, allowed Obama to secure the 2008 nomination. Obama, for his part, improved Kerry's machine and created the greatest and most powerful donation-generating mechanism in the history of American politics, but it remains true that the Clinton machine (inherited by Hillary from her husband) remains potent and can not be dismissed. Elizabeth Warren, for her part, is building her own, separate fundraising machine, and she has been remarkably successful in doing so, but her fundraising capacity lags behind that of our President and Hillary Clinton significantly.

Given this dynamic (considering the reality of fundraising capabilities in the Democratic Party today) it seems clear to me that Barack Obama will choose our next Presidential nominee. Someone will inherit his fundraising machine, and that person is likely to win the nomination. To whom he will give his machine is the only relevant question.

I hope, of course, that he decides to throw his weight behind Elizabeth Warren. Those who take Warren at her word that she's not running for President are rather naive, I suspect. At the very least, Warren is keeping her options open (as she should--being the savvy politician that she is), but the release of her latest book, A Fighting Chance, is the best indicator I have yet seen that she intends to pursue the nomination. A book like that (laying out a general political philosophy and advancing specific policy proposals to address the nation's ills) is a prerequisite for a Presidential run these days. As an aside, liberals who want to support Warren and who would like to see her run should buy the book. She needs the money, and she needs to be able to point to significant sales of the book in order to convince the "money people" who run the Democratic Party to back her.

That said, the main "money person" in the Democratic Party, at the moment, is President Barack Obama. His machine is our strongest, and the person to whom he gives this machine is likely to win the nomination. I hope he chooses wisely, but I don't believe for a second that our nominating process has anything to do with "issues" or "ideas." If only that were true. Instead, money runs the process. The best indicator of our likely nominee in 2016 is that candidate's ability to marshall and unite the big donors (with some help from millions of small donors) who drive American politics today. Ultimately, it's up to President Obama. Whomever Barack Obama chooses to inherit his colossal (and unprecedented) machine is likely to win.


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