Category Archives: democracy

What Americans consider as political power is not enhanced by impeachment trial…

For most Americans, political power is wrapped up in the vote, their ability to select the the candidate of their choice to occupy a public office.  Political power is about engaging in various forums i.e. courts, voting booths, administrative hearings, etc., in order to get other political actors, i.e. voters, public officials, media, business firms, etc., to get you what you want.

In a republic, the electorate hopes to see gains in political power manifested in the officials they choose.  Donald Trump with the aid of approximately 62,984,828 popular votes and 304 votes in the Electoral College became the manifestation; certified by America’s electoral process as the chief executive who would exercise political power specifically on behalf of those whose political values he asserted to share during his campaign.

The approximately 65,853,514 American voters not sharing Mr. Trump’s political values via their elected agents in the U.S. House of Representatives have decided that to wrest political power from Mr. Trump that impeachment of the President is their best strategy for placing political power into the hands of the Left.  To paraphrase U.S. Representative Al Green, Democrat from Texas, failure to impeach Mr Trump today would result in his re-election.  This lack of faith in the Democrats’ ability to beat Mr Trump in the voting booth should be most telling about how the Democratic Party assesses its own power of persuasion over the American electorate, an incapacity that does not get too much attention.

What does impeachment get you?

If the Democrats are successful in removing Mr Trump from office, the immediate gains in their political power will be reflected how? Yes, among their base Congressional Democratic approval ratings may receive a bump because they would have delivered on their promise to remove Mr Trump, but in order to increase their power, they would need to take the Senate in the fall as well.  Will the Democrats be able to spread the taint of a disgraced U.S. president to his Republican colleagues in the Senate or will Republican voters be emboldened to do everything in their power to ensure that the Senate stays in Republican hands?

But even if the Democrats are able to win control of both Houses of Congress in the fall combined with a removal of Mr Trump, what does that say about the voter’s political power?  What does this say about the importance of the vote?  Is it okay that close to 300 individuals in the Congress would in effect invalidate and throw out the 63 million popular votes and 304 Electoral College votes?  Shouldn’t the electorate, with just over seven months to go to the 2020 general elections, be allowed to determine whether or not Mr Trump receives another four years in the White House?  What does impeachment say about how seriously Congress takes the exercise of democracy?

More importantly, what does the impeachment say about individual political power? One takeaway is that individual political power is severely diluted on the national level due not only to one vote being merely one vote among 130 million votes, but is increasingly made irrelevant by the actions of a handful of men and women in Washington.  Americans may be so caught up in the “we, we, we” of this impeachment trial that they run the risk of not being able to answer the “so what?” question when the trial is over.

Where the benefits of democracy don’t equal its costs …

It is no wonder that democracy is taking a hit in popularity around the world.  Democracy’s dwindling efficacy, if it ever had any, is being exposed in the world’s most noted “democracy”, the United States.  Where significant portions of the American populace is stressed over their inability to create an economy that works for them, that stress is compounded by an electoral system that they have no control over.  This is ironic in a society where “democracy” promises that one person’s vote is as important as another person’s vote.

I would argue that participation in the national vote is less important a tool of individual political power and more important in the validation of national government’s rule over the individual.  National government has to demonstrate that it has validity with the people and does this with a national tally.  National government has to consistently show why it has the power to tax 300 million people and what better way to get “permission” than to encourage the election franchise.  Ask people to describe what the returns are to their vote and they would be hard pressed to describe any tangible benefits that may equate with any tangible hits they take on their wallets when taxes are due.

As an avenue of political power, the vote has not succeeded in aligning the tangible costs of tax liability with any tangible benefits of government.  While one can speak of the benefits of a standing army, harbors, highways, and medicare, most cannot define what the actual cost to the taxpayer is.  The taxpayer does not even demand an itemized bill from government so that she can verify the returns from the tax dollar she pays for alleged benefits.

Nor does it behoove government to offer up an itemized bill.  The blow back and scrutiny from the public would be too much for legislators to address.

Conclusion: Impeachment is a campaign tool on steroids …

What should be asked by the voter is how does impeachment increase my political power. What message does impeachment send about the benefits I receive from government?  Does impeachment increase my ability to influence government? As I have shared before, I see impeachment as a distraction.  Impeachment is a campaign tool on steroids, clearly used as a marketing tool by one political faction to gain public support for a political power grab.  Democrats hope their attempts to remove the President will taint Senate Republicans with the end result being control of both Houses of Congress.

I just don’t see such a power grab, where electoral power is circumvented by an impeachment process, resulting in more political power for the individual.  If anything, it shows how weakened American democracy has become.

Toward a republic: The reining in of democracy …

The dilemma of the masses …

I don’t see any benefit from “people politics.”  I think the notion of democracy, where each person gets a say in choosing who leads a society, has fooled people into believing that it takes the masses to get anything done.  I agree that one person can’t move the mountains necessary for creating a society, but it doesn’t take a large mass of people either.  Masses are considered by a small number of leading individuals as either a battering ram that knocks down perceived doors to power or as the sponge that absorbs the costs of building a society with the gains going to the leader of the pack.

The masses always end up with scraps that depreciate in value.  They are so busy working to pay the taxes that fund that venture capital firm called government that they make no time to participate in the management of society.

Frankly, I like it that way.  The tyranny of the masses of people who operate on their passions and misinformation frightens me.  Just listen to C-SPAN’s Washington Journal any morning and you will cringe at the misinformation that emanates from some of the callers’ mouths.  While I do not believe that citizens should be deprived of basic needs, I don’t think that the masses of citizens should be involved in policy making.  I would be dishonest by saying that the franchise of voting should be open to all.

On the contrary, it needs to be denied to most.  The best way for the individual to enjoy maximum protection is for all avenues that trespass on her liberty to be closed or severely blocked.

One example of the severity of mass ignorance is the removal trial of President Donald J. Trump occurring in Washington.  The Democrats, uncertain of a victory over Mr Trump by any of its current candidates for their party’s nomination, have created a narrative designed to enrage and engage the electorate, the narrative being that Mr Trump abused his power by withholding military funds from the nation of Ukraine and that Mr Trump’s refusal to proffer White House staff for testimony before the House during its investigation of such abuse amounted to the “crime” of obstructing Congress.

The Democrats target rich environment of voters includes those who, rather than educating themselves on how the law defines presidential power or how the law defines abuse of that power, base their preference for impeachment on their genuine dislike for the President’s personality.  The Democrats rather have an uninformed angry mob going into the voting booth this November versus an informed one.

Hence the dilemma of the masses. On the one hand, an uninformed tool easily riled by a party leadership. On the other hand, a mob that has no problem tainting a man’s legacy with charges found nowhere in the Constitution or federal statutes.

Time to rein in democracy ….

American democracy, at least on the national level, needs to be reined in.  The Democrats would not be able to create consternation in the electorate for the purpose of generating momentum to the ballot booth if the electorate were not so easily reached.  One approach would be to get rid of the popular vote and go to an enhanced republican system.  While the voter continues to vote for their state representatives and state chief executives, state legislatures would be responsible for selecting from their own bodies the representatives to Congress.  Congress would then be responsible for selecting the president and vice-president from its chambers.

The biggest benefit from an improved republic would be that in one fell swoop, voters could punish state representatives that selected the congressmen that voted for an ineffective or criminal president.  Washington would stay on edge.  To ensure that the needs of citizens are addressed first, Washington might stay focused on domestic issues versus adventurous campaigns abroad.  The Executive and the Congress may find themselves in greater coordination on policy knowing that ineffective policy behavior by one branch of government severely impacts the other.  Less conflict and more cooperation and communication would reduce the chances of the reckless impeachment behavior we are seeing now in Washington.

Conclusion ….

Democracy isn’t working.  Democracy, by offering a passionate, uninformed mass to weigh in on the selection of leadership, creates gamesmanship that stokes fear rather than reason.  It needs to be reined in.

Andrew Yang’s candidacy has a realistic view of America’s digital future

The eye-catcher ….

This afternoon during a town hall meeting in Bedford, New Hampshire, Andrew Yang, contender for the Democratic nomination for president, made the argument that his fellow candidates for president were not aware that the United States is in a fourth industrial revolution.  Just what is this fourth industrial revolution that Mr. Yang is referring to?

You’re in the Matrix, baby…

In his book, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, Klaus Schwab describes the environment spawning the revolution of technology and how it impacts work, government, and the economy:

“We have yet to grasp fully the speed and breadth of this new revolution.  Consider the unlimited possibilities of having billions of people connected by mobile devices, giving rise to unprecedented processing power, storage capabilities and knowledge access.  Or think about the staggering confluence of emerging technology breakthroughs, covering wide-ranging fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing, to name a few.  Many of these innovations are in their infancy, but they are already reaching an inflection point in their development as they build on and amplify each other in a fusion of technologies across the physical, digital, and biological worlds.

We are witnessing profound shifts across all industries, marked by the emergence of new business models, the disruption of incumbents and the reshaping of production, consumption, transportation and delivery systems.  On the societal front, a paradigm shift is underway in how we work and communicate, as well as how we express, inform, and entertain ourselves.  Equally, governments and institutions are being reshaped, as are systems of education, healthcare and transportation, among many others. New ways of using technology to change behavior and our systems of production and consumption also offer the potential for supporting the regeneration and preservation of natural environments, rather than creating hidden costs in the form of externalities.”

We have all heard the buzz terms “automation” and “AI” bandied about.  We take for granted that advanced communications bring us closer to our global neighbors, where we once occupied local space, i.e. being at home or driving thirty minutes to work, some of us now work on a daily basis with a colleague located in Mumbai, Bonn, or London.

Automation, as Mr. Yang reminded us today in Bedford, threatens to replace workers in fast food restaurants, grocery stores, and automobile plants.  But we professionals are threatened, too.  Just yesterday my employer emailed workers sharing the news of a partnership with a tech firm that uses technology that reduces the number of documents attorneys have to review.  The upside is that attorneys may have more time to apply critical thinking skills to activities that they do best: problem solve.  The down side is that we may need fewer attorneys to do certain types of work.

Change is never a factor that should be absent from our expectations

And what of agile response as part of governance?

Not only does government face policy challenges when addressing a changing labor market, government will face challenges from digital platforms capable of providing services government currently has a monopoly on.  Again, citing Mr. Schwab:

“In summary, in a world where essential public functions, social communication and personal information migrate to digital platforms, governments—in collaboration with business and civil society—need to create the rules, checks and balances to maintain justice, competitiveness, fairness, inclusive intellectual property, safety and reliability.

Two conceptual approaches exist.  In the first, everything that is not explicitly forbidden is allowed.  In the second, everything that is not explicitly allowed is forbidden.  Government must blend these approaches.”

One recent example of the challenges government could face from competing platforms is the proposal by Facebook to introduce a stablecoin. A stablecoin is a cryptocurrency that uses an asset or a reserve currency as a back up.  In other words, the asset or reserve currency can be used to as a measure of the stablecoin’s value.  Policy makers such as U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, have expressed reservations that Facebook and other digital platforms that issue a cryptocurrency could pose a threat to the U.S. government’s ability to regulate currency and promote its economy.

None of the current Democratic candidates nor the incumbent president have expressed how modern financial technology and the currencies that fintech can produce may impact the U.S. economy.  In a changing economy, could a lack of experience in this area contribute to poor policy making regarding governance in the digital 21st century?

Yang so far has the knowledge to govern in a digital 21st century America …

Changes in how Americans will work over the next twenty years and the currency that they will use for exchanging commercial value will require someone who does not make policy based on an analog view of the world.  Observers of technology and government usually lament how policy never keeps up with rapid changes in technology.  Can the United States go four more years with its government’s chief executive completely unaware of how the Fourth Industrial Revolution will impact livelihoods?

Towards a political strategy of increasing black sovereignty …

How white capital spreads like a virus …

I don’t think that one need go through a winding, mundane academic discourse for why blacks in the American jurisdiction need to pursue sovereignty.  Everyday, American social culture tells blacks living in the American jurisdiction that we do not belong here.  Socially, blacks have been lumped into a generic “people of color” box, on the false pretense that non-whites share the negative effects of systemic racism; that we are all in the same boat sitting in steerage while whites enjoy the privilege of capital accumulation, access to credit, better jobs, and higher income.  America’s political left argues that this unequal treatment calls for public and social policy that should somehow put whites and non-whites in equal positions economically and politically.

Members of the Left that take this position lack an appreciation for how much time and man has not changed.  Europeans came to North America, the Caribbean, and South America under a charter from monarchs that, in a nutshell, required exploitation of the land and people found in these places.  Monarchs wanted to expand their national power and enrich their coffers in order to finance the competition they experienced between each other.  They borrowed gold from wealthy members of their respective societies and encouraged their surplus labor with promises of religious freedom, greater incomes, and landownership of their own, to help conquer these new worlds.  By these initiatives, western culture would spread and flourish with non-Europeans being either absorbed as best they could or eliminated.

Non-Europeans were never meant to be included in the governance of these new lands or in the distribution of natural resources i.e. land, minerals, etc., that accompanied conquest.  Blacks were brought to the western hemisphere as chattel slaves, the tools that would plant and harvest the tobacco and cotton plantations of the American south and the sugar plantations of the Caribbean.

And like a virus, this occupation by capital of non-white spaces continues in the form of gentrification, where generous monetary policies by America’s central bank inflated assets already held mostly by American descendants of Europeans which provided the collateral that backed the loans that were used to buy homes under stress in black neighborhoods.  Americans of European descent no longer need to use armed force to wrest land from non-whites.  Central banks now aid Europeans with capital to spread their influence.

Reparations won’t happen …

For the past two or three years, a movement of American descendants of slaves (ADOS) has been advocating for government policy that delivers on past promises by the United States government to provide slaves with land as recompense for physical bondage.  ADOS believes that providing a direct capital infusion to descendants of black American slaves is the best approach to closing the wealth gap between whites and blacks while compensating blacks for the labor stolen from them and used to build the American economy.

Politically, ADOS doesn’t have a chance.  There is no definitive support in either chamber of Congress for any reparations initiative.  The only black American in the race for the Democratic nomination for president, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, has not made reparations a campaign narrative. Given his standing in the polls, he does not have the political capital to offer a policy proposal on the matter.  Without a champion in the executive or the Congress providing stewardship for policy or legislation, reparations will not happen.

The current system poses an existential threat to blacks …

After 500 years in the western hemisphere, if blacks are still fighting to close a capital gap that eliminates the buffer between blacks and devastating unemployment, homelessness, and bankruptcies, then it is time to shift paradigms and create a new political economy.  Civil rights violations stemming from race discrimination. Lack of jobs stemming from race discrimination. Poor education funding resulting from racial discrimination. These issues should be non-existent where blacks are not subject to policies and laws designed by whites for the benefit of whites.

It is time for blacks living in the American jurisdiction to pursue public policy and law that generates a parallel political economy where law, technology, and politics converge to provide blacks with a sovereignty that better ensures their survival.

Political power starts in households, not in group politics

The head fake …

We are in the silly season.  National election primaries are ramping up as the New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucus looms in February and a number of state legislatures prepare for state representatives to invade their respective state capitals.  It is the silly season because candidates will attempt to sell you ideas and plans that have not a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding.  All one has to do is listen to Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders’ promises of delivering free college education or free childcare for working families without once laying out the tactics for dealing with a Senate that will likely be in the hands of the Republican Party on 3 January 2021.

The danger of group non-efficacy ….

One overlooked incident of silliness is the voters’ placement of limits on their own political power. Many voters limit their power and influence to the singular act of voting.  The reasons are well documented.  Voters are working two jobs trying to keep food on the table.  After working two or more gigs to feed their kids, voters want to chill for a couple hours watching Netflix versus going to a city council meeting or watching a debate or congressional hearing on C-SPAN.

These types of voters, those who cannot make the time to glean information on policy making are dangerous and quite frankly shouldn’t be allowed near a voting booth as their uninformed voting decisions have a negative impact on the rest of society (although some candidates may like this type of voter as long as they have bought into the candidate’s narrative hook, line, and sinker.)  Creating a large collective of voters i.e. political colonization, is advantageous to a candidate especially where the candidate can sell that group on what the group’s self-interests should be.  The candidate enjoys efficiencies from aggregating this most important electoral resource because creating a collection of voters buoyed by a few singular issues helps to refine the number of promises or political packages the candidate has to offer.

The risk to individual households with interests that vary widely from the group is that their political needs will not be served.  Being herded into a large group, whether based on race, culture, income, etc., dilutes your position, limits your influence, drowns out your voice.  There is a decision to be made.  Either be the wolf maximizing your political gains or be the sheep herded to the slaughter spawned by dissatisfaction.

Each household must step out on its own….

An individual household cannot hold itself back out of some false sense of allegiance to a group.  There is no rule saying you must bear the cost of a group’s non-efficacy.  Once you have decided that only you can increase your influence; that showing up just to vote is not enough, then you must take the next step of investment.  I will not tell you that the investment is cheap, but the costs can be minimized.  Here are a few simple steps that you may have already heard of.

First, build your political network.  That network may be right in front of you.  We are all six or fewer handshakes away from meeting Kevin Bacon.  Someone in your network likely knows a policymaker or elected official.  In that case, seek out an introduction.

One other way to meet policy makers or elected officials is to identify the policy maker or elected official that is making a decision on a matter that you are most interested in.  Contrary to public belief, elected officials want to meet you.  You are their resource.  When you identify them, set up a meeting or determine what events they will be attending so that you can meet them.

Second, continuously engage your policy makers or elected officials on those top issues you are concerned about.  Engagement need not be expensive.  Written correspondence is great.  A short letter will suffice.  Letters are preferable to email.  While both types get entered into the record, letters get more thorough responses.  Also, if your budget allows, offer to meet the policy maker or elected official for coffee or lunch.  As long as you are not lobbying on behalf of a group or business, no disclosure reports need be filed.

You can near guarantee an audience if you are bringing some insights or knowledge to the table.  In your emails or letters, always demonstrate that you are abreast of the issue by sharing some tidbit that you have researched.  This bit of information will get you closer to a meet and greet.  Stay informed!

Lastly, donate time, money, or both.  If you want to impress a policy maker or elected official, show up to hearings and if the forum allows, make a statement for the record.  If you believe an elected official is meeting your representative needs, send them a donation.  People who donate get an audience, even if it is a response to a message via LinkedIn.

You can do it …

The above advice is from real world experience.  I have met policy makers and elected officials simply as a result of reaching out.  For we shy types, it is not easy at first, but keeping your “ask” real simple will settle your nerves and keep the engagement simple.  Once you are willing to increase your households influence over the political process, you will see the investment of time as worth it.

Need more consultation on reaching out to policymakers or elected officials? Feel free to reach out to me at altondrew@altondrew.com.

 

 

Blacks need to re-direct political capital to local election markets

I caught the last thirty minutes of tonight’s Democratic Party debate. I was able to hear some of their discussion on foreign policy which I did not find impressive.  Overall, these candidates tried to play both sides of the fence when it came to Afghanistan, claiming on the one hand that it is time for the United States to leave the central Asian burial ground of empires while on the other hand satisfying the sentiments of war hawks by considering the deployment of a reduced force, just in case the U.S. needed to re-insert itself.  That sure doesn’t sound like commitment to the idea of departing.

Another sign of a lack of commitment on the part of Democrats was the dearth of ethnic minorities on the debate stage.  Andrew Yang, an American of Asian descent, was the only ethnic minority participating in the debate.  That Mr. Yang is still in contention is a testament to his entrepreneurial savvy and his policy focus, specifically the idea of a $1,000 a month universal basic income payment to every eligible American.

Strong messaging on specific policy measures appears to be the sustaining formula for the debate survivors as they prepare for next February’s Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.  Yang, along with U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders are doing well because, in my opinion, they have developed a narrative that they can brand themselves with and sell to the public.

Someone failed to get the important point of narrative and branding across to U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, who was not known for any specific policy  agenda, definitely not a black agenda or narrative of any kind.  The same can be said for U.S. Senator Cory Booker who was absent from tonight’s debate stage.  If their hope was to ride the Obama Coalition, that bus is being driven by former Vice-President Joe Biden, and right now appears not to be letting anyone else steer the wheel.

The lack of blacks on the debate stage is not surprising. As the Boomers get older, the sway of the Democratic Party on blacks is decreasing.  It is not unusual to hear younger blacks and even a few older blacks question the efficacy of the Democratic Party when it comes to a black agenda.  And while the Democratic Party harps inclusion and diversity, the reality is that younger blacks are seeing less of an economic and social space for them in American society.  This view will only become more precarious as the demographics continue to change and blacks find themselves an increasingly smaller proportion of the population.

Returns on black political capital will remain flat if the focus remains on national elections. The numbers are just not there no matter what Democratic talking heads keep saying.  More importantly, the issues that concern blacks most; unfair treatment by the criminal justice system, unemployment, gentrification, are not federal issues.  While national leaders maybe able to advocate for block grants and other large sources of capital to be directed toward the States, it is state and local politics that will determine how those funds get distributed to and throughout communities.  Ensuring that West End Atlanta gets its share of federal government funds compared to the affluent north side of turn will turn just as much on local politics as it does federal jawboning.

Kamala Harris’withdrawal from the presidential race brings reality to the people of color narrative

Ethnicity versus ‘people of color’ …

Last week U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, ended her campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.  Ms. Harris cited insufficient funds necessary for securing victory in the primaries.  I thought Ms. Harris would at least make it to the New Hampshire primary in February, but with reportedly only $10 million on hand, Ms. Harris decided that being the nominee was not in the cards.

The Democrats have been pushing the “people of color” description of candidates this cycle and Ms. Harris was one of its poster faces.  The daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, Ms. Harris put on the cloak of American blackness, marketing her membership in the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and harping her alumni status as a graduate of the historically black Howard University.

For voters outside of black culture Ms. Harris may have appeared to have some advantage with black voters, giving her at least a shot at surpassing former Vice President Joe Biden and winning the South Carolina primary also scheduled for February 2020. But for a significant portion of black American voters, ethnicity still matters.

A lot of blacks don’t like being called ‘people of color’….

I detest the term, ‘people of color.’  It means nothing culturally to many blacks who see the term as just another way to dilute blackness or move blacks further down the political food chain.  The term “physicalizes” the issue of race and ethnicity making black just a color when in actuality American blackness runs far deeper.

To be black in America is to acknowledge and embrace a view of life that celebrates and practices a sense of resiliency in the face of centuries long discriminatory and oppressive acts; acts that reflected a western philosophy that said it was right to turn human beings into chattel and dispose and replace them like any part in a machine.  To be black in America is to be reminded that you navigate a political economy that still doesn’t see you as human.

Like Ms. Harris, I too am Caribbean, born and bred.  While we cannot claim the pain and triumph of being black American, we should instead be honest about our own story and own it.  Co-opting another culture’s story for your own gain is pretty treacherous and this act, I believe, underlay the backlash against Ms. Harris. Ms. Harris was afraid to be herself or at least project her real self.

She may have believed that with the success of another “people of color” favorite, Barack Obama, that she could ride the Obama Coalition to victory.  I am just speculating, but if this was indeed the case, that thought only demonstrated that she was very out of touch. In the almost three years that have passed since Mr Obama left office, his presidency is now viewed by a growing number of blacks as ineffective and valueless where he failed to implement policies with an eye on a black economic and political empowerment agenda.  Ms. Harris, given her questionable past as a prosecutor, was also being viewed that way.

The people of color path to governance is debris filled…

Ms. Harris’ withdrawal represents the beginning of the end of the people of color narrative.  I believe more blacks, particularly those with an eye on changes in global economics and politics and America’s slow but deliberate move toward isolationism, will determine that an ethnic, more independent route to winning more political power is the way to go.  Unlike Ms. Harris, who appears to have never found herself, black America can’t afford to lose itself.