November 6, 2017

The sociology of GOP vs. Dem agendas: Control by material vs. informational economic factions

I think I've found a new big theme to start mining, the sociology of the GOP vs. Democrat parties from a materialist rather than idealist framework, from an institutional and coalitional rather than personalized framework, and from the perspective that most of the institutional struggles take place at the elite rather than the popular level.

It all began with this initial post about the Democrats being the Wall Street party and the Republicans being the Pentagon party, with discussion of other factions in each party's coalition, and with some abstraction about what unites the Democrat elites vs. what unites the Republican elites on an economic level.

The current post is a pause in the empirical case studies done so far, in order to clear things up and unify them at an analytical level, before continuing on with more case studies on why the two parties behave the way they do. All posts on this theme will be tagged "Dems vs. GOP," including those already posted. Click on that tag in the "Category Index" on the right-hand column, or on any post with that tag, to see them all.

Briefly, Democrat factions hail from economic sectors where output is not limited much by the costs of materials and labor, as "copies" can be made cheaply or freely, or where a service can be provided to larger and larger scales of customers while using the same number of employees to provide the service. They scale up easily. Let's call these "informational" sectors.

Republican factions hail from economic sectors where output is limited by the costs of materials and labor, where "copies" can only be produced by putting in more materials and paying for more labor. Reaching larger and larger customer bases requires hiring a lot more people to produce all that new output. They do not scale up easily. Let's call these "material" sectors.

The Democrat party has united the elites of the informational sectors, and the GOP the elites of the material sectors, each seeking to use the government as a means of bettering the material status of their own sectors. Because there is only a finite amount of government goodies up for grabs, and a finite number of national positions open for political puppets (1 President, 100 Senators, 438 Representatives), this makes the conflict zero-sum, so that the informational sectors seek to undercut the status of the material sectors, and vice versa -- not out of hatred of what the rival sectors do, or what they believe, but simply to keep the rival sectors from hoovering up more goodies via the state.

These patterns have only emerged over the past several decades, when most of the focus on the alignments of the two major parties has been on their ideologies and values -- Democrats coalescing around a unified set of liberal values vs. Republicans coalescing around a unified set of conservative values. That is a study of the culture wars, which I regard as an epiphenomenon on top of the underlying clash of coalitions at the level of material wealth and power.

While there may be nothing new about the materialist vs. idealist debate, the institutional vs. Great Man debate, or the oligarchic vs. popular input debate, it is new to apply them in the context of the contemporary Democrat vs. Republican parties -- their background and their agendas.

How often do you hear anyone discuss the Democrats as the Wall Street party and the Republicans as the Pentagon party? Usually it is all about liberals and liberalism vs. conservatives and conservatism, whether the discussion takes places in the media, academic social science, or random people arguing over the internet.

Framing the partisan conflict this way is materialist, identifying the material basis of the power or influence that the faction wields over the government (banking, military might). It is institutional, identifying the entirety of Wall Street and the Pentagon instead of disparate banks or military branches, let alone isolated individuals.

It is oligarchic, viewing the struggle as the elites of one faction vs. the elites of another, with little and infrequent input from the populace -- even when they're shouting their lungs out, as with the Trump voters who still have gotten little in return for voting for the Pentagon party (indeed the military has since gotten the American government even deeper in bed with the #1 source of radical Islam and Islamic terrorism, Saudi Arabia).

And it is coalitional, looking at the parties as a coalition of such elite economic factions -- the Democrats represent not only the elites of the banking industry, but also of the media / entertainment industry, and of the hi-tech industry. The Republicans represent not only the elites of the military-industrial complex, but also of the agriculture industry, and of the energy industry.

So that's where the view fits into the wider intellectual traditions in social science. What is new is the application to the current partisan conflict in the United States, and presumably the rest of the Western world -- although I'll only be discussing the country I'm familiar with.

But doesn't it sound darkly familiar that British Prime Minister Theresa May is covering up for her party's support of the radical Islamic regime of Saudi Arabia, as well as her party's role in sending radical Muslims from Britain over to Libya (via Syria) to topple Qaddafi -- only to see them return back to the UK where they go on to blow up Britons at politically neutral spaces like an Ariana Grande concert?

It sure appears as though the Conservative party is as controlled by the military elites over there as the Republican party is here, that both are deeply in bed with the Saudis for the same reason -- military expansion in the Middle East, with Saudis as allies -- and that both must cover up for their jihadist allies when they inevitably run amok, or cause Muslims in the US or UK to run amok.

From now on, I don't want to hear anything about liberals or conservatives, or liberalism or conservatism, as political forces (as emotional, moral, and psychological frameworks, it's fine). Liberals didn't bail out the big banks under Obama's tenure -- it was the Wall Street party bailing itself out. Conservatives didn't invade and occupy Iraq under George W. Bush -- it was the Pentagon party looking to expand its military footprint on the global chess board. And neither had any liberal or conservative ideological basis -- that was just the slapdash, post-hoc rationalizing of the pundit puppet class on behalf of the elites of their respective parties.

And the American people are sick of hearing about liberals vs. conservatives. Trump was lambasted by party elites for not being a true conservative, and he won over the Republican primary voters by responding to the charges with, "Who cares? Our country is a big fat mess, and we don't have time to argue about who's a conservative or not."

On the other side of the anti-elitist movement, Bernie was dragged by party elites for not being sufficiently multicultural, intersectional, and anti-gun. Despite the DNC rigging the primary against him, the party is starting to shift microscopically more in his direction (single-payer healthcare) than back toward the same old Clintonian crap. And he did that not by trying to prove that he really was more liberal than Clinton, but by arguing that class, elitism, and inequality were more pressing issues than who wants to abort the most babies.

Going forward, we should keep this basic framework in mind to analyze current events, to organize people around shared goals, and to identify the obstacles to those goals -- especially when it comes to which sectors of the elite are most opposed to the change.

This will also keep our expectations realistic for electoral politics. At the national level, we are not voting for an individual's agenda, but for the agenda of the coalition of economic elites that control the party of that individual. People thought they were voting for Hope and Change, and they ended up voting for the big banks. People thought they were voting for Drain the Swamp, and they ended up voting for the military-industrial complex.

That is not to downplay electoral politics, but only to temper our expectations, and make us look to organizing ourselves outside of the electoral system in order to put popular pressure on the warring elite factions. Generally the struggle is entirely among the elite factions themselves, but every once in awhile there is a populist uprising, forcing the elites to respond to the people below for a change. Our goal is to ramp up the pressure to such a level that they actually take us seriously.

When enough churches begin to organize against our military brass due to their being so deeply in bed with the jihadist nations, then the Pentagon will have no choice but to dial back their imperial ambitions in the Middle East. When enough labor unions organize against the big banks due to their getting bailed out while the workers go under water, then Wall Street will have no choice but to dial back their manipulation of finance laws.

When the churches and the unions turn up the heat from below at the same time, we will usher in a new Progressive Era that will purify all of the corruption and degradation wrought upon the general public by the degenerate laissez-faire elites of our latter-day Gilded Age.


  1. I like what you bring here...

    On organizing outside the electoral system (churches, labor unions) vs within, what do you make of the most dovish voters (whether Left or Right) throwing their lot in with Ron Paul, and later Trump, members of the "Pentagon Party", over unrepentant neoliberal uber hawks like Hillary (not of the Pentagon Party)? It was Gen. Eisenhower (R) who warned of the Military Industrial Complex...

    You have said in the past, and very recently, that reform comes from the streets, from the everyday folks trying to reform "their" side...

  2. "You have said in the past, and very recently, that reform comes from the streets, from the everyday folks trying to reform "their" side..."

    America's main problem is that it is a nation of subdivisions and strip malls. The Pentagon, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and other elite locations have so much power precisely because they have so much talent packed into such a small area. Flyover prolemeristan and its lifestyle of 3 hours of driving a day in low density sprawl simply doesn't lend itself to elites whose time is very valuable.

    The swamp as we know it was built in the 1950's based on personal automobile primacy for the peasants, and key urban cities based on walking for the elites. Reality didn't truly sink in until the late 1960's, but that was well past the point of no return.

    All politics is local. Atomized individualist conservatives simply don't have any local populations suitable to be administrative managers. Between governing and owning cars, they choose the cars and pretend to get angry with the distant bureaucracy which controls their entire lives. But they're not angry enough to pack their bags and move to DC or build a city of their own. They have no ground game. They are still naive believers in nationalism and representative democracy.

  3. Oil and gas and coal are from low-density flyover country, as are agrarian farms and large livestock ranches, as are the military bases that make up the military minus the Pentagon itself.

    Military, energy, and agriculture are all big players in elite politics, and all have major positions in the Swamp, within the GOP.

    Transferring your personal hatred of growing up in a car-jammed suburb to the national political landscape -- might not produce the most penetrating insights.

  4. The doves went for Ron Paul and Trump because they believed that the military-industrial complex could only be neutered from within.

    In other words, reform the GOP, rather than rely on the Dems to shut down the major faction of the other party, where it would just look like naked partisan conflict.

    Only trouble is that we don't live in a period where warring elite factions at least consider the people, as they did back in the 1950s. Eisenhower ran on getting *out* of the Korean War (waged by a Democrat, Truman), won the election, did in fact pull out of Korea, and then slashed the defense budget by 50% because there was no more war rationale.

    That was during the Great Compression, when intra-elite fighting was falling and at a minimum. Now we're in a new Gilded Age, where the elites are warring openly with each other, and not responsive to the people at all.

    So the Republican voters can tell the Pentagon all they want, "GTFO of Afghanistan," but the Pentagon will never leave until forced. That elite faction, along with the others, is only looking out for its own material interests.

    The people have to threaten the material interests of a faction in order to force its hand on some particular issue. Or the stability / trust in that faction that makes it possible to keep pursuing its interests.

    Once the public lost faith in the military during Vietnam, they had no choice but to leave. And that was demonstrated all throughout society -- not just college protesters, but respected professionals in middle and old age, who said "Our streets are in turmoil, and we must pull out of Vietnam if that's what it takes to end the destabilization at home."

    1. So what do we do now? I'm scared. Our ruling class both shrinks with the remainder seeing its narcissistic entitlement and sadism grow... I see a reckoning coming and I'm nervous. Julian talks more and more about Saudi Arabia and Israel and I see a clash coming that, as much as we fight to avoid it, seems destined to happened.
      I was reacquainting myself tonight with Uzbekistan boiling alive many of its dissidents while we looked the other way because of oil (thanks Craig Murray); Democracy Now! was looking at it very recently, and it makes me so sad and weary...

      I'm afraid.

  5. Right on cue, from The Hill. The politics of the "war between old and new industries" in America:

    Stereotypical re-heated Tom Friedman hack BS from 20 years ago. Boo steel, yay Apple. Boo protectionism, yay globalization. Stockholders over workers. Etc etc etc.

    Of course most of the old industries -- the physical ones -- are not clamoring for protection, with a few exceptions like steel. They have sent their production to be done by human workers -- not machines -- in foreign countries where the human labor is cheap.

    It was the party of the "old" industries that passed all of the free trade deals -- majorities of Dems in Congress voted against every one of them, majorities of Republicans voted in favor of every one of them, regardless of which party's President signed it into law.

    That's because the GOP industries, being so physically constrained, have a higher return to cheap materials and cheap labor. Naturally they will push off-shoring the most.

    Informational companies like Twitter, Goldman Sachs, and NBC Universal, derive minimal return from cheap labor or materials because physical stuff is not the rate-limiting step on their profit growth or market share expansion.

    If they can get the government(s) to hammer out a deal to let them colonize another customer base, they don't need to hire lots more workers or put in lots more materials to service this new fiefdom of theirs. It's an informational service, not a physical product, that they're providing.

    That's why the Democrats have been more opposed to free trade deals -- it is primarily the old physical industries that benefit from them, as the whole point is cheap materials and cheap labor in foreign countries.

    And since the elite faction struggle is zero-sum, it doesn't matter that the new informational industries have a minor or neutral benefit from free trade deals. If the rival elite factions gain a lot, it's relatively less status, wealth, and power going to themselves.

    Plus the labor unions being a junior partner in the Dem coalition -- but it's mostly reflecting the material interests of the Dem elite factions to oppose free trade deals. They benefit little, while GOP elite factions benefit big-league -- a net loss for the Dem factions in the great big power struggle.

  6. OT and very briefly...
    Corey Feldman said on November 2, Rob Reiner was a good man to him. Back in July, Feldman said Rob was a good man and jumping to conclusions was dangerous, "you might hurt some1". All were post-June when I was trying to eliminate Reiner with any kind of statement from Feldman and couldn't find any. I found only one about Rob that was friendly pre-June and that was an ice bucket challenge in 2014.

    Meanwhile, Roseanne Barr has been thinking about Feldman and his allegations since at least 2012 and was communicating with him in regards to it in 2014 and since. She's not happy with his movie idea and is trying to get him to network with others. She just RT'd today a week-plus-old criticism of Feldman's idea.

    On October 29, and then again on the 3rd?, Roseanne Barr asked him to DM her so she could give him information and then deleted the latter one; he responded on the 3rd he'd just sent her one...

    I also looked up anything Barr said to or about Reiner that isn't deleted, three total. The two directly to him are short, hostile political tweets and then the only one about him is that one infamous tweet saying "check out Rob Reiner" in response to the Al Franken video.

    1. Being just a girl on the internet with no resources, a primary source eliminating somebody means that's the end of the line for me. No way to ascertain why: truth or fear. Reiner could be innocent of the worst and was just a world-class prick verbally abusing those kids and that's why Feldman never spoke of him like he did "the good guys". Or he fears him. But, in any event, end of the line on that one for me.

  7. This is very interesting and insightful. Maps of presidential votes, county-by-county, shows that people living on the coasts generally vote Democrat, whereas people living in the interior generally vote Republican.

    One explanation could be that socially liberal ideology is an adaptation to trading or mercantile industries, whereas socially conservative ideology is an adaptation to producing industries. Do you make stuff, or trade stuff?

    In producing industries, male solidarity is very important, which could explain those societies' more conservative beliefs.

  8. Globalist liberals want to create a far-flung merchant empire, similar to Ancient Athens.

    Globalist conservatives, on the other hand, want to create a classic military aristocracy similar to Ancient Sparta, including a serf caste. The Spartans didn't allow immigrants into Sparta itself, but their production work was done by conquered serfs(the Messenians).


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