The New Republican and Democratic Parties

DemublicansIn the 150 years since the end of the U.S. Civil War, the Republicans and Democrats have maintained a relentless stranglehold on every level of American politics nearly everywhere at all times.  While a handful of upstart third parties and independent candidates have periodically made waves, none has ever come close to capturing the White House, or earned more than a brief smattering of Congressional seats.  Likewise, nearly ever state and local government has remained under the duopoly’s exclusive domain.

However, in order to maintain absolute control of American politics and fend off challenges from pesky third parties, the Democrats and Republicans needed to remain somewhat agile.  The times change, and in the endless quest to crest 50%, the parties must change with them.

Since the Civil War, both parties have shown themselves flexible enough to roll with the changes.  The Civil War, the Great Depression, and Civil Rights era each upended the political landscape, leading political constituencies to shift, and forcing the Democrats and Republicans to substantially and permanently reorient themselves.

Now, several decades removed from the last major reshuffling of the two major parties, we may be witnessing yet another major transformation of the duopoly as the elephant and the donkey struggle to remain relevant amid important social changes.  The convulsions of such a shift are reflected in the tumultuous spectacle of the parties’ presidential nomination processes.

The Republicans are in a state of disarray, with inexperienced outsiders currently leading the pack while career politicians struggle to find their way.  Meanwhile, the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, also faces a serious threat from an outsider, independent socialist Bernie Sanders.

Personally I very much doubt that an outsider such as Sanders, Donald Trump, or Ben Carson will emerge to claim the nomination of either party.  Party nominating procedures and the oceans of money flowing to mainstream candidates make it rather unlikely.  However, these outsiders’ surprising successes thus far may be an indication of something greater than their own charisma.  It may very well signal the fourth major shift in America’s two-party system since the Civil War. 

How and why is such a shift occurring? And what might the two parties look like after the dust settles? To answer those questions, we should be begin with a brief history of the duopoly itself. Read more »

My Second Book: Welcome to the Oglala Nation

Reinhart book cover (photo by Reinhardt)I’m happy to announce that my second book was recently published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Special thanks to editor Matthew Bokovoy, editorial assistant Heather Stauffer, and the entire UNP staff for all of their help and professionalism during the past several years in shepherding this project to completion.

The book is entitled Welcome to the Oglala Nation: A Documentary Reader in Oglala Lakota Political History.  The UN Press website for the book is here.  The Amazon page for the book is here. Read more »

The Pope and Kim Davis Sittin’ in a Tree . . .

APReutersSo lunatic bigot Kim Davis, she of the weekend jailing and teary and breathless public breakdown (oh, the little sacrifices we must make to preserve narrow minded discrimination in the age of who-gives-a-shit enlightenment), had an audience with the Pope.

In case you forgot, Kim Davis is not Catholic.  She’s Protestant.  An Apostlic Pentacostal Christian to be exact.  If you’re curious, it’s a view of Christianity that places one’s personal experience with God at the forefront, and believes that people of deep faith receive miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit and occasionally display their faith with fun stuff like speaking in tongues.

In other words, theologically speaking, it’s about as different as you can get from Roman Catholicism while still being Christian.  You know, the kind of divide that precipitated brutal religious wars no that long ago.

Catholicism, after all, is pretty strict in maintaining that salvation cannot be had solely through a personal relationship with God.  Rather, you need an interlocutor sanctioned by the Church.  That is, a priest who can take your confessions and grant you various blessings.

Man in the collar’s got a hot line to Jesus that you can’t access without his help.

In a strict Catholic interpretation, Kim Davis is likely going to Hell.  In a loosey goosey Apostlic Pentacostal interpretation, Old Papa Francis just might be the goddamned anti-Christ.

Of course the Devil is, as they say, in the details.

But why then?  Why did the leader of the Catholic Church meet with this Holy Roller?  Read more »

In Memoriam: Yogi Berra

As a boy of 8 and 9 and 10, growing up in the Bronx, I was a big New York Yankees fan.  When you grow up in the Bronx, that’s really all there is to brag about.  A zoo and the Yankees.

Nearly every game aired on channel 11 WPIX, and I watched as many as I could, which was nearly all of them.

The Yankees are by far the most successful team in the history of American sports.  Not even close.  They’re probably the most successful team in the world.  For this reason, rooting for the Yankees has often been equated with rooting for a large, wealthy corporation like IBM or GM.  I’ve always thought it’s a very poor analogy.

Rooting for the Yankees is actually like rooting for the United States.  Each in their own way, the Yankees and United States are the 300 lb. gorilla, that most powerful of entities winning far more than anyone else.  Their wealth creates many advantages.  Supporters expect them to win, and they usually do.  Opponents absolutely revel in their defeats.

All that success means you will be adored by some non-natives who are tired of losing and want to bask in your glory, even if it must be from afar.  But mostly you are hated.  Anywhere you go in America, some people love the Yankees and many more hate them.  Just like the United States is either loved or hated everywhere else in the world.

Who hates IBM? Read more »

Is the Syrian Refugee Crisis the Worst Since WWII?

refugeesThere’s a new meme infecting the internet.

The Syrian refugee crisis is the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

It’s all over the place.  Just google the words “worst refugee crisis.”  Don’t even put “Syria” or “WWII” in the search bar.  What follows is a string of mainstream media articles labeling the current Syrian refugee crisis as the worst since the big deuce.  It has become conventional wisdom.

But is the flood of humanity currently vacating Syria really the worst refugee crisis of the last 70 years? Read more »

Is Kim Davis Mentally Ill?

I think Kim Davis is mentally ill.  I say this not because she believes in god (I’m an atheist) or because I disagree with her politics on almost every conceivable level, ranging from the philosophical to the mechanical.

I think Kim Davis is mentally because I watched this video.



I realize Davis has been through a lot, all of it of her own making.  Nonetheless, to me this looks like someone who’s brain is short circuiting.  She’s not right in the head.  My amateur guess is bi-polar on a runaway manic streak.

It’s not the first time I’ve speculated about the mental illness of a public figure.  I once wrote a piece entitled I Suspect Anthony Weiner is Mentally Ill.

But Weiner was a famous, wealthy, powerful scumbag.  Fair game. Read more »

Watch the Wheels Come Off the Wagon of Southern Rock

The Outlaw.You’ve been an on-again, off-again working band for a decade.  During that period, there have been numerous breakups and seemingly endless lineup changes.  After years of grinding and uncertainty, you finally hit it big in 1975.  You get signed to a major label.  Your eponymous, debut album goes gold.  You’ve been assigned to a niche, what people are now calling Southern Rock, a genre that your band pre-dates.  You have a single that does okay.  You have a nickname; the lineup changes that somehow led you to a trio of guitarists has now been dubbed the “Florida Guitar Army.”  And you have an opus.  The last song on your album is worthy of your niche predecessors, the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.  It’s over 9 minutes of kick ass, balls to the wall rock n roll.

Then it all starts to wobble. Read more »

The Donald is Coming! The Donald is Coming!

REUTERS/Dominick ReuterI’ve lost track already.  During the past month, too many people to keep count of, each with a look of bemused panic in their eye, has asked me if I think Donald Trump has a chance.  Knocked back on their heels by the frenzy surrounding Trump’s recent surge, they implore me to tell them what I think.

Is it possible that this crude, bombastic display of runaway hair known as The Donald will actually succeed Barack Obama in the White House?

Alas, it’s hard to blame these worry warts.  Of late, the press marvels at Trump’s soaring poll numbers, and ruminates endlessly on his success in spite his obvious shortcomings and endless string of outrages, and wonders what that success says about American society and its broken political system.

From NPR to Ezra Klein, there’s no shortage of media mavens trumpeting Trump and theorizing what his success means.  Everyone seems to have an opinion.  Or if they don’t, they’re desperate to find one.  Confused by it all, The Atlantic went so far as to simply ask people why, oh why, do you support this man?  Then, sans analysis, the magazine simply threw up its hands and published the responses.

Why, oh why indeed.  Why is this barbarian at the gate?  Why is this roaring, fatuous pig of a man on the verge of undressing our republic and claiming its highest office?

In looking for an answer, I believe we should not dig too deep.  After all, Donald Trump doesn’t seem to over think much, so we probably shouldn’t over think him.

Admittedly, that’s a bit glib.  But if you’ve followed The Donald’s career, it’s hard to come away with any other conclusion than what you see is what you get.

And what I see right now is the same thing I always see when I look at Donald Trump: a garish, abusive, womanizing snake oil salesman.  A huckster pushing his product.

It just so happens that Donald Trump’s flagship product is Donald Trump. Read more »

Donald Trump and Heidi Klum Probably Deserve Each Other Right Now

Donald TrumpThere’s obviously no end to the list of dumb things Donald Trump is capable of saying.  He’s an endless wellspring of arrogance and stupidity.  And given some of the bumbling insanity that has issued forth from his mouth of late, his latest verbal turd seems hardly worth mentioning, much less discussing.  But alas . . . Read more »

Eating Iceland

I am recently returned from Iceland, the land waddling puffins, roaring volcanoes, and horses that look like Justin Bieber.

It was my first time visiting, and before arriving, I didn’t know much about this nearly arctic island other than some vagaries about vikings and banking scandals.  So I had very little in the way of preconceived notions about the cuisine, and didn’t expect anything in particular.

It turns out the food was quite good.  There’s lots of soup, and I’m a whore for soup, so that was a good match.  Also tons of seafood, which is another favorite of mine, although it doesn’t quite drive me to walk the streets with a handkerchief dangling behind my shoulder. Read more »

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