Updated: Dec 15, 2020
…question is: Who and What is “The Party”
One thing is abundantly clear: “The Party” is not the Conservatives, and, while some Republicans enable, and a few identify with, “The Party” it is clearly not the Republicans. In fact, and as a result, many Republicans and Conservatives did not vote for The Party in 2020. The fact is represented in a substantive rejection of The Party candidate, but yet many filled out the down ballot for Republicans. So, just who and what is The Party? What is going on, especially given The Party is also displaying and acting on Anti-Democracy sentiments, signaling a move on the way to an Autocracy?
Metaeconomics helps in framing the question, and putting the essential need to answer it in perspective. The essential need to answer it arises in the potential negative effects relating to the efficiency of the economy, so it is fundamentally an economic efficiency (as well as peace --- less chaos --- and happiness) question. As Metaeconomics makes clear, the shared other-interest --- in said case, the shared interest within “The Party” --- has a huge influence on what can be achieved with respect to economic efficiency, peace, and happiness. Recall the essential need to be on a path 0Z, with good balance in ego&empathy, self&other, individual&community, private&public (both goods and property), and, writ large, good balance in joint market&government (see Lynne, 2020, as well as other Blog entries herein).
To help make more specific sense of The Party, consider the following characterizations of the political spectrum as outlined in Lynne (2020, p. 173) by regarding the alternative political other-interest frames at play in the US, using the three-axes model suggested by Kling (2019, p. 22):
Libertarian (Both Left and Right Isle): Coercion…Liberty
Conservative (Right Isle): Barbarism…Civilization
Progressive (Left Isle): Oppressed…Oppressor
And, then, there is the new axes leading up to the 2016 election, and continuing into the 2020 election, with Kling (2019) not providing a name for it. In Lynne (2020) it is labeled as:
4. Resentment : Cosmopolitan…Nationalist
It seems The Party exists in large part because of the Resentment against what is perceived as the Cosmopolitan Elite, which has also contributed to some developing a Nationalist frame of mind, as I say it in Lynne (2020, p. 173):
… (said elite) person … is open minded to an array of cultures, races, sexual preferences, seeing the essential role of science, just simply more willing to being open to and engaging with every Traveler anywhere on the Spaceship.
The Nationalist: Well, not so much, as the talk has turned to closing the boundaries, hunkering down, bringing all manufacturing back within US borders, even building walls at the borders.
So, The Party exists in part because of the Resentment expressed against the Cosmopolitan Elite, especially if both university educated and higher income/wealthy, but not so much just wealthy. It leads to a Kling (2019) suggestion of another emerging political party as represented in the Cosmopolitan…Nationalist continuum, with a Populist flavor. Maybe.
I do not see it as simple as all that, albeit the axes model helps see how The Party differs from (and overlaps in some cases with) the three major US Parties that have been in play for decades. We have historically had three parties, as represented in the Libertarian (both Democrats and Republicans, although the more visible Libertarians especially on economic questions tend to be in the Republican realm); the Progressive (mainly Democrats, but some Conservatives see themselves as Progressive); and the Conservative (mainly Republicans, and, some have become anything but Progressive, becoming very anti-science, part of the rejection of the elite, with science historically being a big part of being Progressive). It seems the fourth party has grown out of a deep resentment, among other things.
Sandel (2020) points to the pattern of resentment in The Tyranny of Merit. More highly educated people are favored, not only with the opportunity for dignified work, but higher pay. University education is respected, and Trade Schools, or even some trades in high school programs, or, just high school (and the dropouts are even less respected) not so much. Sandel (2020) points to the need to bring Contributive Justice to the fore, even more than Distributive Justice, as every person in every job contributes.
This is to say, an essential worker like someone loading and hauling garbage; janitors and other personnel cleaning everything from hotel rooms to factory floors; workers on meat packing lines; people on automobile assembly lines; elementary school and high school teachers; day care workers; clergy and social workers; staff and nurses in hospitals; and, the list is long, all deserve to be recognized for their contribution to the economy and society. The real contribution of said kinds of jobs and occupations are also generally not recognized in pay and compensation packages sufficient to ensuring people can actually make a decent living.
As Sandel (2020) claims, which is also a theme in Wise (2015), it has resulted in loss of dignity of work, and, it has made it virtually impossible for many lower income people to even have a decent standard of living, and an adequate retirement, say nothing of ever moving ahead in the system: The American Dream is a myth (a theme in Putnam and Garrett, 2020, too), except among the elite. Sandel (2020) calls for building a sense of Common Good back into the economy, once seeing the Common Man (and, we are all of said flavor), along with the Private Good, in the frame of Contributive Justice. And, the Common Good means recognizing the need for dignity and a decent living for everyone, whether you aspire to, or can, move “up” or not. What does “up” mean, exactly? In Metaeconomic terms, it is about seeing and honoring the essential need for balance in the joint Private&Common Good, that every production process from farm to factory produces both Goods, jointly, and both are essential. And, it is also essential to provide a helping hand for those who do want to move forward, or “up” the system, while still respecting (and paying: Like raise the minimum wage) those who have no inclination or need to do so.
So, something far more than just the price P of the market is needed to make it work; there is also the need to recognize the value V (dignity of work being a big part of it) of production and work, and recognize people for it. So, raise wages and salaries with higher price P while also seeing the essential need to value V of every job and occupation, and every person, working in the market, as well as in the community and government. Just like Reagan got it wrong in the sense that government (which represents the community ) can do no good, so, by association anyone working in the community or government was also not doing good.
Friedman (1970) also got it very much wrong: It is about far more than the price P of the stocks, serving the shareholder and CEO paid in stock options, in a kind of implicit claim that the market can only do good (which was also a Reagan claim). It is also about a wide-array of other shared interests that the CEO and management shares with employees; input suppliers; customers; communities; and, overall, the Spaceship systems (like husband the natural system; stop the damage and destruction of the natural system for profit) within which the producing economy is embedded. And, even then, sometimes the market will still do bad: Not everyone in a market, nor everything done in the market, is inherently good. Good people do good things --- there is an essential ethic, widely shared --- in both market&government, especially once we see the reality that each depends absolutely on the other, so each needs to be nourished.
Wise (2015) takes it even a step further, arguing that the Culture of Meritocracy (similar in content to the notion of the Tyranny of Merit) has taken an extreme turn leading to a Culture of Cruelty for the lower income people in jobs that are considered somehow less important and otherwise below that which the elite are engaged in doing. Also, the Culture of Cruelty has led to and fed myths about how lower income, less successful as judged by the elite, people are vile, stupid, undisciplined, and, yes corrupt, as in the myth of the welfare queen promulgated especially by Republicans (a myth started by Reagan in the early-1980s; there was never any evidence of massive fraud in the welfare system, just like there is no evidence of massive fraud in the 2020 election: Myths) and others on the Right.
Intriguingly, the corrupt welfare recipient has been most promulgated by the Scroogists, as Scroogism has grown in the US. It especially has gained in momentum since Reagan put forward the proposition in the early-1980s, as alluded to earlier, that the market can do not bad and the government can do no good. And, just how pure and ethical, and meritorious, are the Scroogists? Just asking. And, Scroogists always have the tendency to point at the Socialists --- who in the US are more about providing a helping hand to make the American Dream a real possibility than about turning the production system into a public property --- when it is probably more justifiable for the Socialists of the American Style to point at the Scroogists, who wreak more havoc than any American Socialist ever has? Again, just asking. The MetaEcon like to ask empirical questions
So, when a strongman styled politician who promised to go after the elite came along in the time leading up to the 2016 election, and continued the stirring about the elites doing bad, up to and through the 2020 election, many people were attracted to it, giving rise to this anti-elite segment of The Party.
Ironically, the Culture of Cruelty actually intensified with this shift, but it was directed away from part of the working class who became a core part of The Party, mainly white working men. The Cruelty was redirected at immigrants and racial groups; gender groups who were not heterosexual; disabled people; women; and any others that could be blamed for the problem. The elites who had moved manufacturing jobs to lower cost production in other countries (who actually are probably the main cause of the loss of good paying jobs for the working class), also became targets of The Party. Scientists were also thrown into the elite category for good measure: Anti-science rhetoric has flourished within The Party.
So, the Metaeconomic problem --- easily understood using Metaecomics based dual interest theory --- of not enough good paying jobs (the self-interest) that also provided a sense of being part of the common good (the shared other-interest pertaining to dignity) has become clear. How to fix it, has not, with the strongman put into power playing on the concerns but without any substantive idea about how to do it except to blame China and free trade for it, as well as mentioned earlier, blaming immigrants and others for the loss of jobs: Really? As in immigrants were taking the high paying factory jobs away from American workers? Not, but, people believed, and The Party gained in strength.
Another aspect of The Party grew out of drivers related to personality types. As Stenner (2005) points out, the population has always had a certain proportion of critical parent styled people, the strongman (usually a man) as disciplinarian in charge. Ironically, said people are often the least disciplined in their own lives, as in lacking in self-discipline (as in hedonism and narcissism), but that is another story. Such people have what psychologists characterize as an authoritarian personality, the strongman in charge, do as I say, and, they are the bully. The bully requires complete submission, complete devotion, and, if the person somehow resists, perhaps changing their mind, the bully denigrates and otherwise disenfranchises, works to destroy the person who challenged and otherwise resisted the bully.
Intriguingly, a main feature of said personality type is the intolerance of diversity (Stenner, 2005), as in being intolerant of racial, gender, and moral differences. So, when diversity appears and grows on the scene --- perhaps a wide array of immigrants of different race and culture arrive at the border and/or people claiming that sexuality is not just heterosexual but rather is a continuum (which also challenges the authoritarian sense of what is moral) --- the authoritarian personality rises out of quarters one would not even imagine. That is, the mere appearance of diversity in any of the three dimensions --- racial, gender, moral --- stirs the authoritarian into action.
Dean and Altmeyer (2020), Applebaum (2020), and Stenner (2005) all point to the rise of authoritarianism on the Spaceship, in several of the heretofore diverse democracies (diversity is in some ways the main feature of a true democracy). Dean and Altmeyer (2020) make a quite convincing case that the Strongman who became the Head of The Party in the US in 2016, and is still that person, has clear authoritarian tendencies. It is claimed it goes back to a very strict --- critical father --- up bringing. That is not uncommon: Children raised by critical parents often grow-up to be critical parents, disciplinarians, and, yes, can be bullies, too. So, diversity drives authoritarians to rise-up: An authoritarian strongman, who other authoritarians identify with, steps forward with I Can Fix It, and, the authoritarian part of the The Party grows. Authoritarians can become quite loyal with and to other authoritarians, as their shared other-interest in authoritarian style rule is reinforced from within. Loyalty within said shared other-interest, narrowly confined to share with other authoritarians (and those being willing to be dominated, another kind of authoritarian personality) can become quite prominent, perhaps stirring even cult-like loyalty, like being willing to stand-by with an AR-15 slung over the shoulder.
Another aspect of The Party which is intertwined with the rest of it has been characterized as the Securitarian Personality by Hibbing (2020). The securitarian wants to keep a very narrowly defined focus on a shared other-interest with an insider-group, keeping others --- the outsider-group(s) --- away from it. While Hibbing (2020) argues against authoritarianism as being a main feature of The Party, it seems the securitarian is just another version of an authoritarian who cannot stand diversity.
The Hibbing (2020) argument against that view goes as follows: His empirical evidence is that considerable diversity --- racial, gender, even moral --- might be present within the insider-group, which perhaps formed over many years, perhaps decades. It is just when someone comes along that does not fit the current mix within the insider-group that issues arise. So, perhaps an insider group including American Indians; Mexican migrant workers; descendants of the former American slave population; and, a wide array of people with northern European ancestry, together have formed an insider-group. Then, along comes a group from Somalia: No way, they say. These are outsiders. So, The Party digs in: Enough, they say. So, The Party is not willing to expand their shared other-interest to include the Somalians.
Another aspect of The Party is generally captured in the notion of Nationalism, the Make America First framing. And, by itself, it perhaps is not all bad (e.g. paying more attention to keeping high paying factory jobs in America), unless it turns into the Fascist version of it. In the Fascist version, only the favored few are considered the Americans who are to be Made First. Fascist Politics and Fascist Religion is emerging in many realms of American Government and Society, as documented by Goldberg (2018); Hedges (2007, 2018); and Stanley (2018), to list a few, and, also see Saving Capitalism in Lynne (2020,Chapter 15). Also see the Metaeconomics Blog on America’s Nationalist Awakening, and, how it does not really fit the meaning of America.
And, we are almost to the end, there is also the matter of Fantasyland, a feature of the American experience going back to the very beginning (see Andersen, 2017). Conspiracy and fantasy have always been a part of American politics, and, has been especially prominent in recent years on the Right, and, specifically, in The Party. Why? Andersen (2017) speculates the Right in generally is more prone to conspiracy because the belief in the supernatural is more common on the Right, especially as represented in the large number of offshoot, Protestant religions. In fact, as Hedges (2007) makes clear, many of said religious offshoots also have a Fascist flavor, so it can be very problematic. In any case, if one believes in angels, miracles, and ghosts it is easier to believe in QAnon and other bizarre conspiracy theories. Believing in the supernatural can also lead to believing that Dominion voting machines internally shift the votes --- perhaps even manipulated by some imagined foreign power --- away for the favored candidate of The Party, especially when that candidate gives credence to conspiracy theories.
Intriguingly, while everything identified so far raises substantive concerns for the US Political System, the worst is yet to be mentioned. In particular, perhaps the most pernicious of all the features of The Party is represented in the main theme of Lynne (2020), which is about Tempering Excessive Greed. As Schmidt (2020), the founder of the Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans who find The Party not suitable to Republicans as Conservatives, said it in an interview on MSNBC on December 9:
The …(new)… Party is an organized conspiracy for the purposes of maintaining power for self-interest, and the self-interest of its donor class. There is no fidelity to the American ideal... "
Schmidt (2020) goes on to also claim The Party has abandoned all the principles of classical liberalism, the humane liberalism envisioned by the Enlightenment thinkers like Adam Smith. The willingness to abandon classical liberalism also explains the shift to favoring an autocracy, even an authoritarian with a fascist flavor. The Enlightenment vision was always underlying the notion of an American Ideal, which is also akin to the original American Dream, as in all --- everyone, not just those favored in The Party --- “… are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness (US Declaration of Independence).” And, as part of the American Dream there would be no Tyranny of Merit, no Culture of Cruelty.
Both Contributive and Distributive Justice would be in play, as the American Ideal was to always work to reduce injustice of all kinds. In fact, reducing injustice, like Enlightenment thinker Adam Smith made clear, is the only way to form the main pillar of a viable capitalism --- that of justice ---which is also the pillar of a viable, balanced, joint capitalism&democracy.
So, there is a certain irony here. Many in the core support group for The Party have joined in the shared other-interest in bringing the American Dream back (i.e., bring back the dignity of work in a well-paying job, and, not limit upward mobility to only those in the meritocracy), which is certainly a part of the hope in those who yearn to Make America Great Again. The irony: The organized conspiracy to maintain power through self-interest which was revealed especially in the aftermath of the 2020 election, with all manner of extreme legal measures, even bizarre claims placed in front of the SCOTUS, cannot achieve it. Said efforts were all about maintaining the self-interest, the power of a few people in a kind of Autocracy rather than in a Democracy, at least not the American Ideal of same. Such efforts do anything but Make America Great Again: In fact, it causes ever more destruction, as made clear in Metaeconomics. Too much shift toward self-interest causes economic inefficiency, chaos, and unhappiness which is exactly what has happened as the US moved through the I-We-I cycle documented by Putnam and Garrett (2020). In fact, it might well be better to Make American Think Again, with the Thinking on how to bring a balance in I&We back into the system.
There is no reasonable and practical way to arrive at economic efficiency, peace, and happiness with self-interest, I-only framing. Any sense of moving on a path to Make America Great Again (perhaps something akin to the mid-1950s) requires balance in I&We, Individual&Community. And, the big part missed by The Party (at least the self-interest only leadership): The need for balance in joint Market&Government, with investment needed in both, rather than touting self-interest (excessive greed version) in Market-only and dismantling Government.
As Putnam and Garrett (2020) demonstrate, the American Dream was actually real for many, especially in the mid- 1950s (but not everyone: Mid-1950s America had many unresolved racial and gender issues even though the Dream was still possible for many others). It was a time (with a bit of it in the mid-1970s, too) when we had a reasonable balance in I&We on all measures --- More Optimal Income and Wealth Inequality; Political Cooperation; Social Participation; and, most importantly, good balance in Individualism and Community. The I-We-I cycle documented in Putnam and Garrett (2020), which starts out as an “I” (self-interest only ) system in the late-1800s and moves through a better, best balance in I&We in the mid-1950s, and again in the mid-1970s, has crashed. It is now just as bad as it was in the late-1800s, with only the “I” (the self-interest) driving everything. The Dream is not possible with “I-only”, self-interest only framing. As Metaeconomics makes clear, an “I-only” system (just like a “We-only system) will self-destruct, and ironically it is the main reason The Party exists: It is a symptom, the result, of the Destruction of the American Dream, the latter possible only for a few in the Meritocracy.
The irony is huge: If the leadership of The Party is about self-interest only, as Schmidt observes, and, other evidence (especially the post-2020 election maneuvering for power) supports, it cannot succeed. The framing (and underlying theory) is completely flawed. It is like a giant con, a carnival hawker selling snake-oil: It will never work (and, an aside, the reptilian core, as in the brain of a cold blooded snake from which we might supposed the “snake-oil” emanates --- not really, but you catch the metaphor here --- is where the self-interest is embedded, so, it makes sense!).
So, just what (and who) is The Party? Popular culture regularly alludes to several of the fundamental issues leading to The Party, in such movies as Hillbilly Elegy, and, any number of Xmas movies played (and, new ones developed) every year. The desperation (as represented in the opioid crisis) caused by the lack of dignified work that pays enough to make a decent living is a main theme of the Elegy movie. The themes also tend to be about the American Dream, as in the Elegy book (see Vance, 2016), which only works for a few: Anyone can Dream, but few can act it out.
Also, the Xmas movies often point to some privileged, wealthy person --- often depicted as out of touch with the Common Man, out of touch with the small town --- who discovers same, and becomes renewed. The Charles Dickens Christmas Carol especially comes to mind: Scrooge (I-only, self-interest only Scrooge) becoming mindful with the help of the Xmas Ghosts --- in Metaeconomics framing, now empathizing with the shared other-interest of the Cratchit family --- and through tempering the excessive greed of the self-interest gaining a new kind of peace and happiness. Scrooge tempered his excessive greed, moving to peace, happiness, and, yes, economic efficiency, for everyone he engaged. We might even say a bit of Socialism with a Christian twist (it is a Christmas story, afterall) is applied in the form of a shared other-interest to do good things, together, worked to temper the Scroogism.
The result? Balance in a joint Scroogism&Socialism, Right&Left, and, writ large, perhaps a political party focused on real problems, one with good balance in the I&We, Market&Government. There have been attempts at such a Party, thinking here of the Nonpartisan League, the NPL, of the early-1900s (see Shoptaugh, 2020). Also, as Putnam and Garrett (2020) document, the US was close to such balance in the mid-1950s, with Political Cooperation being the norm. The 1956 Republican and Democrat Platforms look like they were written by the same political consultant. And, the question of whether The Party is anywhere close to such a balance: Not.
An aside, here: My grandfather was an organizer for the NPL. My father and brother (who just ran for office in a red state, and, got an impressive number of votes for his problem solving, NPL framing, but not enough to carry him to the state legislature) carried on the tradition of being politically oriented to problem solving rather than partisan, tribal sparring. Many family stories about the thinking behind the NPL influenced my early thinking. Said early experiences, when I think back, actually played a big part in the path I walked during the 4-5 decades leading to Metaeconomics framing and dual interest theory. Metaeconomics holds the potential to clarify the role of the political frame in the economy, as that frame is represented in the shared other-interest, among many other shared other-interest frames at work in the life of a real Human (in contrast to a self-interest only Econ). A truly productive Party --- and/or truly productive cooperation among Parties --- could be formed using Metaeconomics framing and theory, a Party that saw the jointness, interdependence, and nonseparability of the I&We.
And, as we close out here: The recent debacle of The Party pushing to have the 2020 election undone, in favor of the candidate of The Party, using a variety of far-fetched, often conspiracy theory based (and unethical) claims about the election that were filed in the lower court system, and an even more far fetched claim that was filed with the SCOTUS, need to be briefly mentioned. I will not go into the details here, other than to say, that Metaeconomics sees the key role of the empathy based other-interest in tempering self-interest, especially the pernicious self-interest, the arrogance of self-love styled self-interest displayed by the leaders of The Party, that which Adam Smith warned us about. It is about ethics, with the far fetched claims anything but ethical (and clearly not based in empirical reality, so anti-empirical&unethical).
The Metaeconomics point is this: Empathy (mindfulness, in terms from psychology) is the first step on the way to an ethical system that works for everyone. US Democracy, going back 250-years, has been mindful, and has as a result been working on evolving that ethical system, and has embedded it not only in the US Constitution, but in Case (Common) Law, and, then, with rulings on Legislative Law consistent with the Constitution and that Case Law. The important point is that the Law --- because it reflects an ethical system --- held against the pernicious pursuit of self-interest by the Texas Attorney General, the Attorney Generals of 18-states that supported the claim, and a 120+ Republicans (representing The Party) in congress, as well as a substantive number of other Republican Governors and politicians, who needed to be tempered, bounded, and otherwise reeled in. Actually, Democracy prevailed, and the reeling-in was done: The empathy based ethical system of US Democracy --- as represented in the Law, and, in many respected attorneys and firms who refused to play the dangerous game against Democracy by The Party --- held-off the attack. Will it do so again?
Well, Metaeconomics helps us think about the overall frame of what to do about it, if ---and more like when --- it does, as the Anti-Democracy (which is also Anti-Science and Unethical) quest of The Party appears very real. And, arguably, the RINO (Republicans in Name Only) group seems to have shifted, now represented in The Party, with those who have been disparagingly labeled as RINO by The Party being the actual Conservative Republicans.
Overall, it is about finding a widely shared other-interest that everyone --- not the favored few, not the meritocracy --- that everyone can go along with. As Adam Smith made clear, there is the continued need to humble the arrogance of … self-love, and bring it down to something which other men can go along with (Smith, 1759/1790, loc 1714-1727). The US Constitution and Courts --- the US Rule of Law, especially that evolving in the Common Law --- works to humble that arrogance.
The essential empathy based other-interest is that which everyone on the gender continuum (not just men!) can go along with: Fortunately the lower courts and the SCOTUS stayed on the path everyone who believes in US Democracy could go along with, during the contentious period after the 2020 election. And, the rest, many in The Party? Well, hopefully they can be brought back --- with both Business&PoliticalParty, Market&Government, playing a key role --- to believing in the hope, the American Dream, of US Democracy.
Most importantly --- sorry to be so repetitive, but it cannot be emphasized enough --- for a truly humane liberalism based capitalism&democracy to evolve and remain viable, the other-interest in the main precepts, such as everyone is “…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” must be widely shared. It is clear The Party fails on that front, and, as a result, needs to be either fixed, abandoned, or at minimum isolated to only have minor influence without substantive power. Something more akin to the political parties of the mid-1950s, perhaps even the dream of a nonpartisan party of the early-1900s --- focusing on problem solving of real people rather than tribal partisanship --- will work far better: Metaeconomics at work, here.
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