Jim, from where I stand your question misses the point. The fact is there has been a revolution going for the past generation, waged against the middle and working class by the wealthy. The counter movement isn’t coming out of nowhere, it is coming because Americans have been pushed so far down the past 30 years that it is their only option. The choices are to acquiesce and accept that 99% of us will live as third world citizens with an overclass, or we can fight back. As has been detailed almost ad nauseum in this blog and thousands of other places:
The last 30 years has seen an enormous shift of wealth upwards to the top one percent of Americans. The country and economy has continued to grow over the last 30 years, and 100% of that growth has gone to the top one percent. Real wages for middle class and working class people have actually gone backwards in real dollars, while costs of everything have continued to go up. In our parents generation it was possible, and was the norm, for a family of four to have a good, comfortable life on one income, where you could own a house, take a vacation, send your kids to college. Today all of that is nigh on impossible for most people even with two income families. There isn’t less overall wealth; it has just all been funneled upwards to the very rich. (And now they are so greedy they want to take the last piles of money that there are; social security and medicare, even though they played no part in our financial crisis and collapse.) And they are even pouring big money into local school board elections to further push their grab for power and money.
We have socialism for banks that are too big to fail, and have done nothing for the millions of families who have been foreclosed on because of the mortgage scandal, and our financial system was ruined by the crazy high-risk financial instruments and credit default swaps they created (curious that they created those high risk things and now their refrain is they can do nothing–like loan money–without absolute certainty of success). Yet we bailed them out because they were too big to fail; but we left them too big to fail and there were zero consequences to them for their actions, and they are back to million dollar bonuses. Meanwhile, the American people suffer.
To the extent I am a Newtonian as you say, it is only in how things must be presented to the media, because journalism is dead in America. Paul Krugman said something like, if a Republican said the sun orbited the earth, it would be reported that they said that and maybe that some Democrat disagreed. There would be no attempt made to report actual facts for fear of appearing partisan. There is little of the reality based community left, and truthiness has won. So when the Right says that we can’t raise taxes on job creators, you’ll never see the media point out that taxes have been at historic lows for a decade during which we lost jobs. Or ask if that was true why we aren’t now in a golden age of full employment. So the left must push back hard to even get the discussion in the media to be somewhere in the neighborhood of reality. As far as actual policy, I want it to be reality based, using the best facts and assessment available.
I realize that you believe there is some kind of middle way; that it is still possible to compromise or negotiate with the Republicans, even in the face of the fact that they have fillibustered a record number of times in this congress and have blocked virtually everything Obama has tried to do. It remains unclear why you believe it is possible to get them to go along with anything that would be good for the country. They have made it very clear they don’t care what is good for the country; they merely want to make Obama a one-term president. That is their sole and only goal. McConnell has even said so publicly and clearly. So please tell me why you think they will change. You know what they say about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result…
As for Clinton finding a middle way, well, compared with Republicans of the past, he was quite conservative. He makes Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford look like raving liberals in comparison. He signed into law WTO, GATT, and NAFTA, all of which paved the way towards our current crisis of our jobs going overseas and our remaining workers competing in a global marketplace with workers making a few dollars a day. (America does use the most resources, and that could not go on forever; however, as we have worked the change, the only thing that has happened is a push of wealth towards corporations and away from workers, both here and abroad. It didn’t have to be that way).
Clinton also signed the repeal of the Glass-Steagall act, allowing the banks to engage in the risky behavior that led to our financial collapse (it had been enacted after the Great Depression, and had worked well for 50 years).
The main reason conservatives hated Clinton was that he raised the top marginal tax rate from 36 to 39%, and for their greed that was unacceptable. From WWII through the first couple years of the Reagan presidency the top rate was between 70 and 91% (under Eisenhower), and during that time we had slow but steady growth, without bubbles that damaged the economy (the one big exception in the 70s was due more to oil prices and international politics than anything we did). There was plenty of business innovation, and the rich were plenty rich. But they wanted more, so that now it is considered radical to raise the top rates back to half of what they were for 40 years during which the economy ran well. If that is revolutionary, then yes, we need a revolution. If the “middle way” is more than half way to the far right extreme historically, I refuse to accept that it is really a middle way.
Clinton did balance the budget, and a lot of that was due to the tech bubble; he was in the right place at the right time. If he’d had another term, he would have been there when the bubble burst and he wouldn’t have looked so good. He was better than Bush in that he didn’t start wars of choice and he didn’t cut taxes further, but I don’t buy he found some great middle way of working with Republicans. And even at that, the Republican party has changed so much in the last 15 years it seems clear that they have just doubled down on obstructionism. Under Clinton they tried impeachment, but some legislation still got passed (much of it historically very conservative; see above). Obama has been if anything even more conciliatory and willing to compromise with the Republicans, and they haven’t budged an inch. Do you really think they would have if Clinton was president rather than Obama? They seem to have made it absolutely clear they are simply the party of no. They rejected Obama’s jobs bill, and have put forth nothing in response. They want the country to fail over the next year; they believe that is their best chance to regain power. And that is what has given birth to OWS.
They absolutely don’t need a third party candidate for them to get behind. They have to push Obama. In our system, independent or third party candidates don’t work (see, Perot, Ross; Anderson, John; Nader, Ralph). They merely hurt the party that is closest to them in ideology. I wish they could work, and in our current system, we are too ingrained with the two-party system, and the only way to bring about change is to change one of the parties. The tea party got the Republicans to move far to the right, and the nation as a whole now has unfavorable feelings about the tea party as their true agenda has come to light. We’ll see how OWS plays out. In some ways they are a mirror on the other side of the political spectrum, and there are real differences too. The revolution has been upon us for a generation; the class war has been waged and has been won by the plutocracy. They may have finally simply overplayed their hand and woken up the sleeping giant. Whatever happens is simply the counter-revolution to the plutocracy’s revolution of greed.