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The Refusal of Democrats & Republicans to Face Political Reality

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Almost all of America’s Democratic and Republican voters are simply closed-minded, and refuse to acknowledge that each of this nation’s two political Parties is controlled by its billionaires and is profoundly corrupt, not allowing any progressive legislation (but only conservative and liberal legislation, which is backed by billionaires) to get through, nor any progressive jurist to receive a high court appointment, nor any progressive Presidential candidate to win the Party’s nomination — such as Bernie Sanders in 2016, and in 2020. It’s a dictatorship by America’s Republican and Democratic billionaires, no democracy, at all, and the vast majority of voters in each Party refuse to recognize this core reality about today’s America. To them, it’s Democrats versus Republicans, instead of billionaires versus the public. They are wrong, and they don’t even care that they are wrong. 

For example, on the Republican side, the fact that Donald Trump’s coronavirus leadership has been a catastrophic failure and is recognized throughout the world to be so, is ignored by some and denied by others, but it’s not recognized by Republican voters — they are in reality-denial about it. Also, for another example, these voters are in reality-denial about Trump’s racism and race-baiting. They deny the clear evidence of it.

However, on the Democratic side, the fact that Joe Biden is profoundly corrupt is simply ignored, as is the fact that he stole the nomination from Sanders by lying through his teeth. As is the fact that Biden was the U.S. Senate’s leading advocate in the Democratic Party for continuing segregation (‘separate but equal’). He was a stealthy bigot, not only on segregation, but on criminal justice. Also, the fact that Biden is an ardent proponent of U.S. imperialism and of the privatization of infrastructure in the conquered countries so as to sell them off to U.S.-and-allied investors, is likewise totally ignored by Democrats. (The main difference between Biden and Trump on foreign policy is over which country is the most important to conquer: for Trump it’s China; for Biden it’s Russia; but both want to conquer also Syria, Iran, Venezuela, and a few others.)

Perhaps the truth that both Republican and Democratic voters resist more strongly than any other is that the Republicans’ leadership regarding coronavirus-policy has been disastrously myth-laden and bad, and that Democrats are better only  in that they are not leading this disaster, but Democrats have actually gone along with Trump on it wherever the polls were showing that a majority of the public were supporting his policy on the given matter. In other words: Biden’s policy has been simply to gloat over Trump’s getting all of the blame, and to avoid crucial specifics on what his own policy and priorities would be. But a choice between two evils is still evil — it’s an evil system. What is evil there is not merely the options, but the corrupt system that restricts those options to only ones that are acceptable to the actual rulers, to the very few — the aristocracy — that benefit from, and control, the corruption. That’s what’s more evil than either of the two nominees is. It is the people who are financing their political careers. And this is the reality that the vast majority of America’s voters, in both Parties, refuse to recognize. They refuse to recognize the more-fundamental problem, which problem is the trap that the country has degenerated into. Without recognizing that more-fundamental problem, there is no way out of it — not even possibly a way out of it.

Here is how disastrous it is, as reflected in the coronavirus results:

Great leadership on this matter was recognized right at the very start of the soaring pandemic: 

On 5 April 2020, Suze Wilson, of Massey University, headlined “Three reasons why Jacinda Ardern’s coronavirus response has been a masterclass in crisis leadership”, and she wrote of New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

Imagine, if you can, what it’s like to make decisions on which the lives of tens of thousands of other people depend. If you get things wrong, or delay deciding, they die.

Your decisions affect the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people, resulting in huge economic disruption, mass layoffs and business closures. Imagine you must act quickly, without having complete certainty your decisions will achieve what you hope.

Now imagine that turning your decisions into effective action depends on winning the support of millions of people.

Yes, you do have enforcement capacity at your disposal. But success or failure hinges on getting most people to choose to follow your leadership – even though it demands sudden, unsettling, unprecedented changes to their daily lives.

This is the harsh reality political leaders around the world have faced in responding to COVID-19.

As someone who researches and teaches leadership – and has also worked in senior public sector roles under both National and Labour-led governments – I’d argue New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is giving most Western politicians a masterclass in crisis leadership.

Three communication skills every leader needs

When it comes to assessing New Zealand’s public health response, we should all be listening to epidemiologists like Professor Michael Baker [Otago U., “‘Overjoyed’: a leading health expert on New Zealand’s coronavirus shutdown [announced 23 March 2020], and the challenging weeks ahead” March 23, 2020]. On Friday, Baker said [“Coronavirus: NZ with a chance to be only Western nation to eradicate COVID-19 – expert”, 3 April 2020]. New Zealand had the “most decisive and strongest lockdown in the world at the moment” – and New Zealand is “a huge standout as the only Western country that’s got an elimination goal” for COVID-19.

What has been the result of that policy?

At the moment, as I write, the definitive website tracking the Covid-19 cases and deaths around the world, which is https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries, shows that the United States has had 26,860 cases per million residents, and 695 deaths per million residents. By contrast: New Zealand has had 388 cases per million residents, and 5 deaths per million residents. Per million people, America has 69 cases for each coronavirus case in N.Z., and 139 deaths for each such death in N.Z. That’s the difference between a society that serves its population, and a society that doesn’t. The difference is huge multiples, not merely a few percent.

But not all of the blame for this goes to Donald Trump, and not all of the credit for this goes to Jacinda Ardern. A dysfunctional society, such as America, has far lower levels of public trust in its leaders, because it has far less reason than New Zealanders do to trust their leaders. Even if Trump had been trying to do what Ardern did, Americans would have been vastly more resistant to it, than New Zealanders were. New Zealanders love their country, and don’t hate each other trying to grab control of it, out of fear that ‘the other side’ might win, as the case is in America. In America, the actual other side — the behind-the-scenes rulers — already have control, no matter which of their two Parties dominates, and so the only real solution for that dictatorship is for the public to take the country back from them. But this can’t be done if the voters are in denial of that reality. The head-in-the-sand approach can’t do it. But that’s the approach in America.

If Michael Baker was able to recognize as early as March 23rd that N.Z. was “looking like the only Western country with a chance of eradicating COVID-19,” then maybe his prediction’s coming true (to the extent that it has) wasn’t only luck. 

But how well have the best non-Western countries been doing on this matter? Here are the best coronavirus-performers among them (and, for the most part, they are countries that Americans have been taught to despise): Vietnam (12 and 0.4), Cambodia (17 & 0), Taiwan (23 & 0.3), Burundi (46 & 0.08), Niger (50 & 3), Thailand (54 & 0.8), China (60 & 3), Papua (65 & 0.8), Yemen (69 & 20), Chad (87 & 6), Burkina Faso (117 & 3), DRC (124 & 3). Mali (171 & 7), Benin (209 & 3), Somalia (246 & 6), Uganda (250 & 2), South Sudan (257 & 5), Togo (264 & 6), Liberia (278 & 16), Angola (283 & 8), Nigeria (298 & 5), Malawi (306 & 9), Syria (310 & 15), Sudan (311 & 19), Mozambique (386 & 3). And all of those can be compared to N.Z. (388 & 5). 

Above those were: Rwanda (389 & 3), Sri Lanka (392 & 0.7), South Korea (506 & 9), Zimbabwe (554 & 16), Cuba (582 & 11), Madagascar (608 & 9), Hong Kong (which is China’s richest city: 706 & 14), and Japan (768 & 14).

The next-lowest Western country is Australia (1,076 & 35). Therefore, the two best-performers in the West were N.Z. and Australia, which suggests that one of the common factors for their shared remarkable success is simply their being geographically isolated in the same region, which is predominantly non-Western, more Asian.

Then, the next-best Western country is Finland (2,700 & 64). Then Greece (3,027 & 56). Then Venezuela (3,153 & 27). Then Norway (3,332 &51). Then Estonia (3,337 & 64). Then Lithuania (4,040 & 50). Then Germany (5,359 & 121).

America isn’t the world’s worst coronavirus-country, at 26,860 & 695, but it’s certainly the worst large country, because it is the world’s 12th-worst, and its population is 331.6 million, whereas the second-largest of the worst 12 has only 11.6 million: Belgium (27,661 & 931). The third-largest of them, Israel, has 9.2 million (33,770 & 265). The 4th-largest, Panama, has 4.3 million (29,796 & 607). Five of the worst 12 countries have under 1 million population. America is the unchallengeable giant of the baddies, but Brazil has 213 million population, and its figures, which place it as the 16th-worst country (25,328 & 738), are very close to America’s.

So: both of the bad giants, America and Brazil, have Governments that are diametrically the opposite of N.Z.’s Government. Whereas N.Z.’s is democratic socialist, America’s and Brazil’s are fascist libertarian (otherwise called authoritarian neoliberal). Of course virtually all countries call themselves “democratic,” but most (actually) are not — it’s just PR, propaganda, for them. An international survey in 53 countries asked residents “Yes” or “No” on “My country is democratic,” and America ranked #38 out of the 53, with the top 10 countries, in order, being: Taiwan, Denmark, Switzerland, S. Korea, China, Austria, Vietnam, India, Norway, and Argentina. At the very bottom, #53, was Venezuela.

It’s therefore obvious that, even if America was, at some former time, a great country, it isn’t any longer. But, if it used to be, then it has declined enormously. Surveys show that Americans don’t think that the country is improving, but instead that it’s “on the wrong track.” Obviously, America is getting worse, not better. Also obviously, neither of the two billionaire-controlled Parties even has any sincere intention of reversing that decades-long trend into the abyss. The people who control it won’t let go of it. And the public don’t want to take control of it. They don’t even want to recognize how dire America’s condition, and direction, are. More of the same is acceptable to them; and, so, control of the country gyrates from Democratic billionaires to Republican billionaires and then back again, ad infinitum, but being the billionaires all the time, no real change. The billionaires face no effective resistance, in America, because the voters for each of the two Parties think that their “them” (“not us”) is the other Party, instead of being the nation’s billionaires. In such a circumstance, what group will even try to take the country back from the few hundred individuals who have controlled it, now, for decades — at least ever since 1981, if not since 1945? It’s going from bad to worse, but how bad will it get? Is there anything to reverse that decades-long trend? Certainly, a prerequisite would be for Democrats and Republicans to face, no longer to deny, the political reality in America. Nothing indicates any such tendency, as of yet. Therefore, lots worse seems likely.

Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Wendy Sherman’s China visit takes a terrible for the US turn

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Photo: Miller Center/ flickr

US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, had high hopes for the meeting in China. At first, the Chinese side did not agree to hold the meeting at all. The reaction had obvious reasons: Antony Blinken’s fiasco in Alaska left the Chinese disrespected and visibly irritated. This is not why they travelled all the way.

So then the State Department had the idea of sending Wendy Sherman instead. The US government actually needs China more than China needs the US. Sherman was in China to actually prepare the ground for Biden and a meeting between the two presidents, expecting a red carpet roll for Biden as if it’s still the 2000s — the time when it didn’t matter how the US behaved. Things did not go as expected.

Instead of red carpet talk, Sherman heard Dua Lipa’s “I got new rules”. 

That’s right — the Chinese side outlined three bottom lines warning the US to respect its system, development and sovereignty and territorial integrity. In other words, China wants to be left alone.

The bottom lines were not phrased as red lines. This was not a military conflict warning. This was China’s message that if any future dialogue was to take place, China needs to be left alone. China accused the US of creating an “imaginary enemy”. I have written about it before — the US is looking for a new Cold War but it doesn’t know how to start and the problem is that the other side actually holds all the cards

That’s why the US relies on good old militarism with an expansion into the Indo-Pacific, while aligning everyone against China but expecting the red carpet and wanting all else in the financial and economic domains to stay the same. The problem is that the US can no longer sell this because there are no buyers. Europeans also don’t want to play along.

The headlines on the meeting in the US press are less flattering than usual. If the US is serious about China policy it has to be prepared to listen to much more of that in the future. And perhaps to, yes, sit down and be humble.

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Why Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer

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When Sarah Huckabee Sanders showed up on the scene as White House Press Secretary, the reaction was that of relief. Finally — someone civil, normal, friendly. Jen Psaki’s entry this year was something similar. People were ready for someone well-spoken, well-mannered, even friendly as a much welcome change from the string of liars, brutes or simply disoriented people that the Trump Administration seemed to be lining up the press and communications team with on a rolling basis. After all, if the face of the White House couldn’t keep it together for at least five minutes in public, what did that say about the overall state of the White House behind the scenes?

But Psaki’s style is not what the American media and public perceive it to be. Her style is almost undetectable to the general American public to the point that it could look friendly and honest to the untrained eye or ear. Diplomatic or international organization circles are perhaps better suited to catch what’s behind the general mannerism. Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer, but a Sean Spicer nevertheless. I actually think she will do much better than him in Dancing With The Stars. No, in fact, she will be fabulous at Dancing With The Stars once she gets replaced as White House Press Secretary.

So let’s take a closer look. I think what remains undetected by the general American media is veiled aggression and can easily pass as friendliness. Psaki recently asked a reporter who was inquiring about the Covid statistics at the White House why the reporter needed that information because Psaki simply didn’t have that. Behind the brisk tone was another undertone: the White House can’t be questioned, we are off limits. But it is not and that’s the point. 

Earlier, right at the beginning in January, Psaki initially gave a pass to a member of her team when the Politico stunner reporter story broke out. The reporter was questioning conflict of interest matters, while the White House “stud” was convinced it was because he just didn’t chose her, cursing her and threatening her. Psaki sent him on holidays. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Psaki has a level of aggression that’s above average, yet she comes across as one of the most measured and reasonable White House Press Secretaries of the decade. And that’s under pressure. But being able to mask that level of deflection is actually not good for the media because the media wants answers. Style shouldn’t (excuse the pun) trump answers. And being able to get away smoothly with it doesn’t actually serve the public well. Like that time she just walked away like it’s not a big deal. It’s the style of “as long as I say thank you or excuse me politely anything goes”. But it doesn’t. And the American public will need answers to some questions very soon. Psaki won’t be able to deliver that and it would be a shame to give her a pass just because of style.

I think it’s time that we start seeing Psaki as a veiled Sean Spicer. And that Dancing with the Stars show — I hope that will still run despite Covid.

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As Refugees Flee Central America, the Mexican Public Sours On Accepting Them

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Authors: Isabel Eliassen, Alianna Casas, Timothy S. Rich*

In recent years, individuals from Central America’s Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) have been forced out of their home countries by extreme poverty and gang violence. While initial expectations were that the Lopez Obrador administration would be more welcoming to migrants, policies have slowly mirrored those of his predecessor, and do not seem to have deterred refugees. COVID-19 led to a decrease in refugees arriving in Mexico, and many shelters in Mexico closed or have limited capacity due to social distancing restrictions. Now that the COVID-19 situation has changed, arrivals could increase again to the levels seen in late 2018 or 2019, with overcrowded refugee centers lacking in medical care as potential grounds for serious COVID-19 outbreaks.

Mexico increasingly shares a similar view as the US on this migration issue, seeking ways to detain or deport migrants rather than supporting or protecting them. For instance, Mexico’s National Immigration Institute has been conducting raids on freight trains to find and detain migrants. Public opinion likely shapes these policies. In the US, support for allowing migrants into the country appeared to increase slightly from 2018 to 2019, but no significant majority emerges. Meanwhile, Mexican public opinion increasingly exhibits anti-immigrant sentiments, declining considerably since 2018, with a 2019 Washington Post poll showing that 55% supported deporting Central Americans rather than providing temporary residence and a 2019 El Financiero poll finding 63% supportive of closing to border to curb migration.

New Data Shows the Mexican Public Unwelcoming

To gauge Mexican public opinion on refugees, we conducted an original web survey June 24-26 via Qualtrics, using quota sampling. We asked 625 respondents to evaluate the statement “Mexico should accept refugees fleeing from Central America” on a five-point Likert scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. For visual clarity, we combined disagree and agree categories in the figure below.

Overall, a plurality (43.84%) opposed accepting refugees, with less than a third (30.08%) supportive. Broken down by party affiliation, we see similar results, with the largest opposition from the main conservative party PAN (52.90%) and lowest in the ruling party MORENA (41.58%). Broken down by gender, we find women slightly more supportive compared to men (32.60% vs. 27.04%), consistent with findings elsewhere and perhaps acknowledgment that women and children historically comprise a disproportionate amount of refugees. Regression analysis again finds PAN supporters to be less supportive than other respondents, although this distinction declines once controlling for gender, age, education and income, of which only age corresponded with a statistically significant decline in support. It is common for older individuals to oppose immigration due to generational changes in attitude, so this finding is not unexpected.

We also asked the question “On a 1-10 scale, with 1 being very negative and 10 very positive, how do you feel about the following countries?” Among countries listed were the sources of the Central American refugees, the three Northern Triangle countries. All three received similar average scores (Guatemala: 4.33, Honduras: 4.05, El Salvador: 4.01), higher than Venezuela (3.25), but lower than the two other countries rated (US: 7.71, China: 7.26) Yet, even after controlling for general views of the Central American countries, we find the public generally unsupportive of accepting refugees.

How Should Mexico Address the Refugee Crisis?

Towards the end of the Obama administration, aid and other efforts directed at resolving the push factors for migration in Central America, including decreasing violence and limiting corruption, appeared to have some success at reducing migration north. President Trump’s policies largely did not improve the situation, and President Biden has begun to reverse those policies and re-implement measures successful under Obama.

As discussed in a meeting between the Lopez Obrador administration and US Vice President Kamala Harris, Mexico could adopt similar aid policies, and decreasing the flow of migrants may make the Mexican public respond more positively to accepting migrants. Lopez Obrador committed to increased economic cooperation with Central America days into his term, with pledges of aid as well, but these efforts remain underdeveloped. Threats to cut aid expedite deportations only risks worsening the refugee crisis, while doing little to improve public opinion.

Increasingly, the number of family units from Guatemala and Honduras seeking asylum in Mexico, or the United States, represents a mass exodus from Central America’s Northern Triangle to flee insecurity. Combating issues such as extreme poverty and violence in Central American countries producing the mass exodus of refugees could alleviate the impact of the refugee crisis on Mexico. By alleviating the impact of the refugee crisis, refugees seeking asylum will be able to navigate immigration processes easier thus decreasing tension surrounding the influx of refugees.

Likewise, identifying the public’s security and economic concerns surrounding refugees and crafting a response should reduce opposition. A spokesperson for Vice President Harris stated that border enforcement was on the agenda during meetings with the Lopez Obrador administration, but the Mexican foreign minister reportedly stated that border security was not to be addressed at the meeting. Other than deporting migrants at a higher rate than the US, Mexico also signed an agreement with the US in June pledging money to improve opportunities for work in the Northern Triangle. Nonetheless, questions about whether this agreement will bring meaningful change remain pertinent in the light of a worsening crisis.

Our survey research shows little public interest in accepting refugees. Public sentiment is unlikely to change unless the Lopez Obrador administration finds ways to both build sympathy for the plights of refugees and address public concerns about a refugee crisis with no perceived end in sight. For example, research in the US finds public support for refugees is often higher when the emphasis is on women and children, and the Lopez Obrador administration could attempt to frame the crisis as helping specifically these groups who historically comprise most refugees. Likewise, coordinating efforts with the US and other countries may help portray to the public that the burden of refugee resettlement is being equitably shared rather than disproportionately placed on Mexico.

Facing a complex situation affecting multiple governments requires coordinated efforts and considerable resources to reach a long-term solution. Until then, the Central American refugee crisis will continue and public backlash in Mexico likely increase.

Isabel Eliassen is a 2021 Honors graduate of Western Kentucky University. She triple majored in International Affairs, Chinese, and Linguistics.

Alianna Casas is an Honors Undergraduate Researcher at Western Kentucky University, majoring in Business Economics, Political Science, and a participant in the Joint Undergraduate/Master’s Program in Applied Economics.

Timothy S. Rich is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Western Kentucky University and Director of the International Public Opinion Lab (IPOL). His research focuses on public opinion and electoral politics.

Funding for this survey was provided by the Mahurin Honors College at Western Kentucky University.

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