Thursday, February 14, 2008

Catching The Political Trade Winds

We The People don't get to decide who will be President on our own, and in truth the Founders never meant us to. The system was designed by elites, first and foremost for elites, and the people usually only get to have a provisional say. Often the choice is not much different than our children being able to decide which hat they wear to one of two Day Cares. I'm not a big fan of Day Care in general, but it's raining outside, so a hat makes sense, and looking forward to switching providers is not to "kid" ourselves. We'll still be forcibly compelled to attend. We'll still be controlled by strangers paid to feed, watch, and discipline us from afar. Most of us aren't rich enough to have our own nannies, tutors, and servants, and do we not know from experience how vastly different Montessori, Catholic, and Evangelical pre-schools can be?

David Wilhelm is a bellwether. Interviewed in the video above, he's a former Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman and Clinton I national campaign manager. He is currently an Ohio super-delegate, a director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, and the head of a venture capital fund focused on developing alternative energy in the Midwest. His endorsement of Barack Obama likely marks the first swell of Party super-delegates, at least half of whom remain uncommitted, to the Change camp. His defection is a signal to other supers like New Mexico's governor Bill Richardson, who has refused to endorse Hillary Clinton after intense pressure from her husband. (Who reportedly remarked, "weren't two Cabinet appointments enough for you?!") Wilhelm's endorsement and Richardson's non-endorsement resonate as a cumbrous Democratic Party creaks and hauls, not yet certain if it can catch the wind, heel over, and sail large on a new tack.

This election is not just one Party or another, even though most or all in our lifetimes have been; these atmospherics are stirring up more profound effects. The Obama religion is propelled less by soaring rhetoric than by circumstances and decisions made years ago, combining to provoke desire and a path for a dramatically different direction. Ships of state have tremendous inertia, it is very difficult to turn them more than a few degrees, and most elections are struggles over partial control of the rudder. But in this cycle, something remarkably rare has occurred: the other side took complete control of the steering, so both the proles and the elites have begun doing the same dance. Such has happened only three times before in this country: before the American Revolution, the Civil War, and after the Great Crash of '29. Each of these epochal events was defined by an "Enough!" moment which turned into a movement. Each movement was primarily motivated against a specific abuse which had gone too far, each was still opposed by a die-hard 30% of the domestic populace, and each defined its philosophical justification well after its formation.

By 2002, a significant minority of the financial aristocracy had become decidedly uncomfortable over blatant, big-thinking BushCo corruptions, ones which practically guaranteed fiascoes the like to dwarf Vietnam. By 2003, many doubted Kerry's capacities to win the ship, or steer it, so they unveiled a charismatic orator at the 2004 Democratic Convention who could be relied upon to electrify and perhaps resuscitate a Party with little remaining pulse. He was being groomed and financed, just as Bill Clinton once was, as heir apparent, as backup plan, and perhaps as something more over the horizon. People in Chicago knew he was dynamite, and given the condition of the Party and country, they pushed him onto a bigger stage.

Post-Kerry, a consensus began to spread and concretize. Not only were elites and proles alike deeply cynical over the stolen elections, finances, and freedoms, but a realization built that a Great Game itself was drawing to a close. The Bush Doctrine would have to be scuttled, exorcised, and entombed; with acknowledgments to how difficult achieving even one of the three would be, arguments raged over what should be done next, and how. They boiled down to a lower-risk Clinton approach (If I Could Turn Back Time) vs. a higher-risk Obama approach (We'll Invest In You, If You Invest In Us). With an incumbent and a challenger, a certain "let the best man win" dynamic remained in place. As a hint at the aristocracy's desire for change, the two approaches were heavily financed by elites in nearly equal measure, despite the higher-risk option trailing distantly in the polls, by 25+ points as little as three months ago.

For all practical purposes, winning high-margin popular victories and gaining traction in the Party Establishment both require steady backing by favorable media (which live to "get religion") and by the super-well-offegates such as Rupert Murdoch who own them. The news is primarily written for and about the elites, so as a group they're even more consensus-driven and media-influenced than regular janes and joes. The media has gravitated into Obama's orbit like particles orienting themselves around a strange attractor, amplifying his charisma, recently starting to air much more unflattering angles on the Clinton campaign. Even Murdoch's NY Post endorsed Obama, and the Wall Street Journal released a damning story this morning detailing the turmoil among Hillary staffers. It went out on Page One, and if the Clintons enjoyed the pull they had last year on Wall Street, the story wouldn't have run, not with its brass knuckles on.

Many observers take it as given that elites control how proles vote, and while that is more true than not, in this case the nomination's outcome is taking its cues from the popular votes. 500,000 people have also given money to Obama's campaign. Super-delegates have been talking amongst themselves for months, waiting for a chance to break from the Clintons; they feel the barometer falling, too. As for elites, they're sensitized to money-making opportunities, looking to maintain or increase their own (and to some extent America's) wealth and leverage. They have much more than a vote or campaign contributions to lose--if they nod the wrong way, they lose not only influence, but may face active years of retribution.

The next White House is going to be hit with a huge crisis, three heads of the same monster; debt, dollar revaluation, and foreign policy overshoot. To move forward, we're going have to find a bigger, better, more convincing bubble. Alternative energy is the only bubble big enough to float the ones which came before it. As it happens, an American consensus is gathering, one which believes we should craft a world which does not see fossil fuels as a primary energy source. Which is also getting serious about energy independence as a goal. I see it in my neighborhood, the bikes and scooters, the diesels, the subcompacts, the electric cars, the bios, the hybrids are all over the place. I'm starting to see solar panels in Seattle. The popular will is there, and so is the gasoline price.

Freeing our culture's soul from fossils isn't going to be easy. It will mean fights with oil companies who cannot be kept out of buying into a new energy grid, fights with NIMBYs, it will mean short-term compromises on coal-burning power plants--but it will also mean job creation, an ability to steadily de-escalate our foreign occupations, and a new domestic industry unleashing tremendous innovation. Once America's imagination, its most precious resource, is focused on a clear objective--beat the rest of the world on alternative energy production--we can go ahead and do it. The initiatives will extend right down to the municipal and household levels. That will mean not only choices, it will mean betting the farm because we're already in the hole, and it'll probably be seen by many as fascism. But facism's de facto right now--the next government will be involved in energy production, sure, but it already is involved in a spectacularly dysfunctional way. Fascist or not, our resources will be better allocated.

We've bet the farm before to invest against rampant abuse, and even if it wasn't always pretty, we always emerged as a nation, and one greater. Any sensible person would doubt after the past two terms, after the past 50 years, that we are about to change. Particularly on a week in which the Pentagon got another 7.5% budget increase for next year, not including supplementals. Just watch David Wilhelm's interview, and consider his motivations on alternative energy. He knows we've got plenty of lemons, and wants to make a fortune making lemonade. This is where the wind is starting to blow, and it's going to be blowing in a new direction for a long time.

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