Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Reading - Reactions, Anyone?

Here are a few items worth reading today, both bearing on how reactionary right-wing politics are playing out.

First, Steven Perlstein on the recent attempt by the United Auto Workers to unionize a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, and the fierce push-back by Republicans and fellow 19th Century thinkers:
The success of this [business friendly] model stoked a rising standard of living across much of the Southeast that has become more cosmopolitan and better educated. Yet despite this business-friendly environment, incomes in the region still lag those of the North and West, while unemployment rates in many states are higher than the national average. And those once-grateful and -docile workers are beginning to notice — even in right-to-work states such as Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, where union membership grew by 19 percent or more last year — the fastest rates in the country.  
The political and economic melodrama playing out in Chattanooga has revealed that a bit of the old plantation mentality lives on among Southern business and political elites. In the faster-growing and more prosperous regional economies of the North and West, companies are trying to boost performance by increasing employee engagement and empowerment, not suppressing it. Their business strategies are based not on assuring a steady supply of cheap labor but on increasing the number of highly paid and highly skilled workers. Rather than trying to nullify federal labor law and crush what remains of the much-diminished union movement, these companies, like VW, are looking at new models of workplace cooperation and collaboration.  (our emphasis)
Perlstein's piece gives a pretty good overview of the hypocrisy (shocking!) of these right-wingers, but somehow fails to mention why unions (and the UAW in particular) drive the crackpots into a frothing frenzy: labor unions are a pillar of the Democratic Party. So, they'll do whatever they can to forestall, weaken or rollback union incursions into their "plantation."  It's a good read, regardless.

Next up is a piece by Fareed Zakaria, which only could have been written by someone who has just awakened from a 5-year long coma:
I have been described as a centrist. And I freely admit to believing that neither side of the political spectrum has a monopoly on wisdom or virtue. But sometimes, reality points firmly in one direction. Watching the machinations in Washington over the past two weeks, it is now impossible to talk about how both political parties are to blame for the country’s gridlock.
Zakaria notes the cynical/ fearful maneuvering on the immigration reform bill and fingers the party guilty of gridlock (fasten your seat belts!):
And yet it couldn’t get past the central problem in Washington today: the extreme and obstructionist faction within the Republican Party. 
Welcome at long last to reality, Fareed!

Speaking of reality, here's an excellent article by Kim Messick about the struggle in the Republican Party between the "modernists" and the "libertarian fabulists:"
Its virulent alienation from modern life is the foundational fact about the American Right. (It can be argued, of course, that this kind of animus is at the heart of right-wing movements generally.) Once we see this, we can understand both its paranoia and its sense of victimization — as well as its stridency and shrillness. We can also understand its tortured relationship with the “reality-based community” — with the idea that beliefs should be checked against facts, not facts against beliefs. The Right reverses the epistemic order of modern thought: it deduces reality from theory, not theory from reality. Its ontology is as faith-based as its social policy, and has to be. [snip]
Under the influence of the Tea Party and its allies in the media, the Republican Party no longer seeks to govern with caution and realism. It seeks to bring back a lost world. This has created a politics in which policy disputes are simply proxy fights in a much deeper, more fundamental campaign: a war of worldviews. Is it any wonder that the present Congress is on track to be the least productive in the history of the nation? To collaborate constructively, parties must regard each other as legitimate actors within a political system whose structural principles they generally endorse (or at least accept). This condition is not satisfied when one party, under the influence of a revolutionary faction, recoils from basic features of that system. In such cases it will consider those who operate (and cooperate) within the system to be dupes (at best) or traitors (at worst). Constructive collaboration becomes impossible, and politics unravels into paranoia, paralysis and suspicion. Sound familiar?  
Why, yes.  Yes it does.

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