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Author Topic: Shifting party coalitions  (Read 169 times)
theymos
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January 13, 2020, 03:04:29 PM
Merited by dbshck (4), Cnut237 (2), EFS (1), wwzsocki (1)
 #1

After the major election upsets since ~2015, the recent landslide Conservative victory in the UK has made me think that the coalitions making up the two political parties in the US and UK (and maybe elsewhere) are in the process of major shifts. In a first-past-the-post system like in the UK or US, there are always going to be two political parties. The parties don't really believe in anything at their core, and they change over time, even if you might be able to briefly describe some sort of overall philosophy right now. In reality, each party is just trying to form minimal coalitions between different philosophical/interest groups such that they can win a majority in the election.

Traditionally, the US coalitions have been:
  • Republicans
    • Devout Christians: Often this group believes in imposing their religious views on others, though not all do. They're all very concerned with stopping the government from interfering whatsoever with their religious practices. This group pushes the Republicans toward pro-life, pro-homeschooling, etc.
    • Neocons: This group believes basically in taking over the world. They're responsible for the Iraq War, etc.
    • Business, especially smaller businesses: They support low taxes, favorable (but not necessarily low) regulations, expansion of the military industrial complex, etc.
    • Most libertarians: They support low tax, low regulations, gun rights, etc.
  • Democrats
    • Rainbow coalition: This includes every minority group: racial, religious, sexual orientation, etc. The idea is to offer little giveaways to every minority separately, protect all of them from discrimination, etc.
    • Unions
    • Moderate central planners: I'm thinking here of the type of people who say, "This is a big problem in our country. Clearly, the government should do something to fix it." They're responsible for a lot of what exists now, such as the various welfare systems. Traditionally there was some overlap here with the Republicans, though the Democrats have increasingly dominated this group.
    • Redistributionists: This group more-or-less believes in equality of outcome. They tend to believe that billionares fundamentally shouldn't exist, for example.
(I'm most familiar with US politics, but it seems that the UK parties are fairly similar in composition nowadays.)

In the last decade, however, there have been major shifts in this traditional coalition structure:
  • Most notably, the political power of unions and labor in general have been substantially weakened. Union membership is at an all-time low, for example. Due to this, the Democrats have largely lost the white working class: this demographic doesn't really fit into the Democratic coalition anymore, and their interests are in some ways at odds with other groups within the Democratic coalition. This I think is the main reason for the victories of Trump and Johnson.
  • Whereas rich people previously tended to support low taxes and nationalism, "the 1%" is increasingly adopting a mindset which is basically globalism/neoliberalism (which includes anti-nationalism) combined with a profound lack of faith in capitalism. They tend to favor social engineering and central planning, such as the "green new deal", banning all sorts of things, expanding mandatory education, etc. They believe that they should guide society toward some great future, and the sacrifices of a few are worth the utilitarian gains which they perceive in the long run. See Mike Bloomberg's platform for a perfect example of this group's platform. This group includes billionaires and the large companies which they control, but also a large number of upper-/upper-middle-class people. It may be becoming an increasingly impactful demographic, as might be visible in the suburban (ie. richer) areas which flipped to the Democrats in 2018, but also just because companies like Facebook have so much influence.
  • Religiosity is at an all-time low
  • After the Iraq war, the neocons have been largely discredited. Even if they currently still have quite a bit of influence, I think that they're shrinking.

Also, some points of possible instability:
  • I think that the rainbow coalition is fundamentally an unstable concept, since it's totally lacking in philosophy. Will large numbers of people continue to vote based near-totally on their membership in some sort of identity? I feel like the concept of "identity" may be in the process of jumping the shark, what with how widespread and almost cliché it is now. Could be wrong, though.
  • Psychological research has shown that most people don't care about inequality unless it's right in their face. Most people simply can't be made to get too worked up about some billionaire somewhere buying their 10th yacht while they're working a dead-end 9-to-5, no matter how unfair it seems. People focus on their day-to-day lives and their peers, not people far away. So I think that the radical redistributionist angle is a dead end politically, even if some welfare programs may be popular.

It seems to me that both parties are currently misunderstanding the shifting coalitions. Democrats are either stuck in the past with labor-oriented policies, or are radical redistributionists, neither of which have a future IMO. Republicans meanwhile are fear-mongering against "socialism", which isn't the policy which actually won the Democrats the House in 2018, and it isn't an effective message in any case. Neither side realizes that the biggest shift is rich people moving Democrat and non-rich people with no "identity" moving Republican.

Trump won by snatching up the white working class, but it's not clear to me that he actually won them over long-term. Deregulation and tax cuts are pretty abstract things, and are probably not politically meaningful. Trump is surrounded by traditional Republicans, and he has governed more-or-less like a traditional Republican. Moreover, I think that the whole idea of a "working class" is a dying concept: labor/unions will get weaker and weaker as a political force until neither side even wants it.

The parties won't continue down failing paths indefinitely, so it's interesting to think about how the coalitions will stabilize in the future. Maybe the Democratic party will shift to cater much more toward the 1% central planners. So they'll support a lot of government, but it'll all be structured in such a way that billionaires and S&P 500 companies still do quite well. Progressives will largely not be happy. In other words, Mike Bloomberg might be a look at the Democratic party's future. While it's really an awful outcome IMO, I think that this may politically be a viable coalition.

If the above Democratic shift happened and ended up being successful, the Republican party in response might support some more economically-left policies, and might become more nationalistic and protectionist. Trump has adopted some rhetoric in this direction, though policy changes have been minor. Maybe the Republicans would adjust their message and policies to try to pick off specific parts of the Democrats' rainbow coalition. Since the Democrats would become more authoritarian, maybe the Republican party would become more libertarian in some ways.

What do you think?

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January 13, 2020, 10:52:05 PM
Merited by suchmoon (7), Cnut237 (1)
 #2

It seems to me that both parties are currently misunderstanding the shifting coalitions.

As a non American who is very intrigued with US politics it seems to me that neither party cares about anyone in their coalitions.  They both only care how to appease their corp/big donors (who buy their office for them) while playing the propaganda game to core values for the voters.  

In the US citizens are scared of their Gov't in most of the rest of the developed world the Gov't is scared of the people.  US politicians are scared of pissing off big donors while the rest of the developed world politicians are scared of their voters voting them out!

Most other countries deal with these semi aligned coalitions by allowing more than 2 parties and while multi party systems have their flaws (and its often a 2 party race anyways) it allows for more specific platforms and variety.
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January 14, 2020, 06:40:50 AM
 #3

  • Most notably, the political power of unions and labor in general have been substantially weakened. Union membership is at an all-time low, for example. Due to this, the Democrats have largely lost the white working class: this demographic doesn't really fit into the Democratic coalition anymore, and their interests are in some ways at odds with other groups within the Democratic coalition. This I think is the main reason for the victories of Trump and Johnson.

I don't actually know the intricacies of American politics but this I somehow know coz of memes. That people are actually offended by "It's OK to be white" just shows how much this group has been demonized. It seems some people just voted for Trump just because they felt the Democrats only cater to minorities. [/list]
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January 29, 2020, 01:08:58 PM
Last edit: January 29, 2020, 04:11:53 PM by wwzsocki
Merited by Cnut237 (1)
 #4

... parties don't really believe in anything at their core, and they change over time, even if you might be able to briefly describe some sort of overall philosophy right now. In reality, each party is just trying to form minimal coalitions between different philosophical/interest groups such that they can win a majority in the election...

It fits also well with multi-party European systems.

Conclusion of various (very abstract) coalitions only to obtain the majority or the minimum necessary. Ideological changes before (and after) the election, everything for the needs of the party, to have a chance and to fit well in the current electoral profile.

In my opinion, you are absolutely right, I am not familiar with the policy of the United States but what you wrote also suits me like a glove to European countries.

Let's take:
...shifts in ... traditional coalition structure:
- Most notably, the political power of unions and labor in general have been substantially weakened. Union membership is at an all-time low...
- Whereas rich people previously tended to support low taxes and nationalism, "the 1%" is increasingly adopting a mindset which is basically globalism/neoliberalism (which includes anti-
   nationalism) combined with a profound lack of faith in capitalism....
- companies like Facebook have so much influence.
- Religiosity is at an all-time low...

Same in Europe, everything matches exactly: labor weakened, union members at an all-time low, reach people changing mindsets, Facebook involved in elections (Turkey, UK and EU countries), religiosity at an all-time low.

In my opinion, soon, the effects of "rainbow coalitions" will be seen in the UK, where on the wave of Brexit, they won the election, not to mention the involvement of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, which should be much more worrying than anything else because suddenly social media platform is enough to manipulate undecided voters to change the outcome of elections.

Let's look at what will happen in UK after Brexit and what next elections will bring there?

PS
Great read!!!

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January 30, 2020, 12:52:08 PM
Last edit: January 31, 2020, 11:38:33 AM by Cnut237
Merited by Flying Hellfish (5)
 #5

Psychological research has shown that most people don't care about inequality unless it's right in their face. Most people simply can't be made to get too worked up about some billionaire somewhere buying their 10th yacht while they're working a dead-end 9-to-5, no matter how unfair it seems. People focus on their day-to-day lives and their peers, not people far away. So I think that the radical redistributionist angle is a dead end politically, even if some welfare programs may be popular.
It’s true that once people have a certain basic standard of living, they don’t care about inequality, but I would argue that this is, at least to an extent, because they have been deliberately conditioned not to care about it.
There are a huge number of people who have been ‘left behind’ by the rising inequality of the past few decades (the disenfranchised white working class being one subset), people who haven’t shared the benefits of a richer society but instead have become its victims, with higher house prices and higher cost of living, lower wages and insecure employment terms, poorer pension provision, etc. I would argue that these people do feel that they are victims and do want to strike back against their oppressors, if only at the ballot box.

This is where it becomes apparent that the phrase ‘capitalist democracy’ is an oxymoron. Capitalist societies, as we all know, are plutocratic by nature, and ‘democracy’ is a thin veneer. The rich control the traditional media, and are throwing huge sums of money into ensuring that they have effective control of social media, too. Their strategy is and always has been to deflect any blame from themselves, and instead make the common people fight amongst themselves. In the UK, they have been very effective in convincing people that the reason they have bad jobs and no money is not because society is set up so that the rich cream off all the wealth, but rather because foreigners are ‘coming over here and taking your jobs’. Most notably they have used the EU as a scapegoat, hence Brexit. I’m not as familiar with US politics, but I’m well aware of Trump’s wall to keep out those pesky Mexicans.
I do think that people care about being the victims in an unfair society, it’s just that they are misled as to the cause of that unfairness.

Having said all that, I’m not sure what the answer is, and how we ensure that when people vote, they are actually voting according to their own views that they themselves have developed, rather than as a superficial knee-jerk reaction to whatever the tabloid headlines or curated social media outrages impel them towards. How do we get people to think for themselves? And if we succeed, will we be faced by a new problem – the poor may vote for what they believe is a fairer society, but are they doing so out of self-interest in improving their own personal lot, or because they genuinely care about fairness and equality of opportunity? Difficult questions with no obvious answers.


involvement of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, which should be much more worrying than anything else because suddenly social media platform is enough to manipulate undecided voters to change the outcome of elections.
True, and whilst the rich have always manipulated us through newpapers, TV etc, these are fairly blunt mass-targeted instruments. Social media can be far more insidious. Facebook puts a huge amount of effort into behavioural profiling, mapping individual minds with ever increasing detail. Facebook knows not just how we react to certain prompts, but also why we do so, and this can and is ushering in an age where our viewpoints are being manipulated and developed on an individual level, and with a degree of subtlety that makes it difficult to determine the extent to which ‘our’ opinions are actually our own. It is quite terrifying, and it acts to thin whatever veneer of democracy remains.

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