Reviving the Nonpartisan Party

I don’t know if you noticed, but my brother Jimmy finally read my blog and commented on the State Bank post a few days ago (a topic that he alerted me to). Here is what he said:

The history of the Bank of North Dakota is very interesting. It is a product of a populist political organization known as the Nonpartisan League, which was formed in 1915 by a former socialist. It soon took over the Republican party in North Dakota and even elected a governor, Lynn Frazier. In 1921, he became the first governor to be recalled after an investigation of the bank showed it to be insolvent.

(Which goes to show you that any institution can become corrupted by incompetent or dishonest executives, but at least with a state owned bank you have the ability to have them removed. What can we do to the CEO’s of privately owned companies that do the same? I believe that most of them are still in charge and doing quite well with their generous bonuses.)

In 1956, the Nonpartisan League broke away from Republican party and merged with the democratic party.

Despite these early problems, the Bank of North Dakota survived. I think it would be a good model for the rest of the country. I don’t think that a state owned bank needs to replace large commercial lenders or the federal reserve, but would be kind of like a “public option” for individuals and small businesses who want a low interest real estate loan, student loan or small business loan. the growth of state owned banks would provide a certain amount of stability in the economy and would also benefit the states that have them.

However, the “establishment” would certainly resist having to compete with a state owned bank that did not have to give dividends to its stockholders. I can hear Glen Beck now, standing in front of his chalkboard decrying the “socialist” origins of state owned banks.

It would take a true populist movement to establish state owned banks, not the tea party types that are too ideological and anti-government. Power to the People!

See, he is an example of what I had posted about earlier, the old-school populist Democrat. He raises at least two points worth discussing:

(1) Can a genuinely populist movement be too ideological and anti-government?

(2) I think we should revive the third party he refers to: the Nonpartisan Party. It only ceased to exist because it first merged with the Republican Party and then merged with the Democratic Party.

News we can choose

Old school journalist Ted Koppel lambastes both MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly, concluding with this:

The commercial success of both Fox News and MSNBC is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me. While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic. It is, though, the natural outcome of a growing sense of national entitlement. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s oft-quoted observation that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” seems almost quaint in an environment that flaunts opinions as though they were facts.

And so, among the many benefits we have come to believe the founding fathers intended for us, the latest is news we can choose. Beginning, perhaps, from the reasonable perspective that absolute objectivity is unattainable, Fox News and MSNBC no longer even attempt it. They show us the world not as it is, but as partisans (and loyal viewers) at either end of the political spectrum would like it to be. This is to journalism what Bernie Madoff was to investment: He told his customers what they wanted to hear, and by the time they learned the truth, their money was gone.

via Ted Koppel: Olbermann, O’Reilly and the death of real news.

One could argue that Ted Koppel himself was not completely objective and that his pioneering night time news show tended to tilt to the left.  And yet, if it is impossible to be objective in the news business, doesn’t that mean the postmodernists are right when they say that every group has its own “truth”?

Isn’t there a danger in only hearing what we want to hear?  Maybe conservatives should listen to MSNBC and liberals should listen to Fox.  Do you have any other solutions to this syndrome?

The other Republican victory

The Republicans also made big gains in our nation’s political infrastructure; that is, the important but often neglected state governments:

While the Republican gains in the House and Senate are grabbing the most headlines, the most significant results on Tuesday came in state legislatures where Republicans wiped the floor with Democrats.

Republicans picked up 680 seats in state legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures — the most in the modern era. To put that number in perspective: In the 1994 GOP wave, Republicans picked up 472 seats. The previous record was in the post-Watergate election of 1974, when Democrats picked up 628 seats.

The GOP gained majorities in at least 14 state house chambers. They now have unified control — meaning both chambers — of 26 state legislatures.

That control is a particularly bad sign for Democrats as they go into the redistricting process. If the GOP is effective in gerrymandering districts in many of these states, it could eventually lead to the GOP actually expanding its majority in 2012.

via Devastation: GOP Picks Up 680 State Leg. Seats – Hotline On Call.

Legitimate government controls?

George Will, in a column analyzing the election as a repudiation of liberalism, includes an interesting quotation:

George Mason University economist Don Boudreaux agreed that interest-group liberalism has indeed been leavened by idea-driven liberalism. Which is the problem.

“These ideas,” Boudreaux says, “are almost exclusively about how other people should live their lives. These are ideas about how one group of people (the politically successful) should engineer everyone else’s contracts, social relations, diets, habits, and even moral sentiments.” Liberalism’s ideas are “about replacing an unimaginably large multitude of diverse and competing ideas . . . with a relatively paltry set of ‘Big Ideas’ that are politically selected, centrally imposed, and enforced by government, not by the natural give, take and compromise of the everyday interactions of millions of people.”

via George F. Will – A recoil against liberalism.

And yet, aren’t conservatives accused of much the same thing, wanting to control people’s social relations and moral sentiments, replacing an unimaginably large multitude of diverse and competing ideas?

Is the only difference that liberals want to control everyone, except when it comes to sex, while conservatives want everyone to be free, except when it comes to sex? That, I’m sure, is an overstatement. But how would you state it?

Libertarians don’t want to control anything, and yet, arguably, preventing people from controlling you will take substantial state power.

Could we agree that there are certain social goods that the government does need to promote? Like what? Whereas other areas of human life need to be unregulated? Like what?

Who got the political spending?

Politicians spent some $4 billion trying to get elected, which comes to about $43 per vote. But who ended up with all that money? Mainly television stations and other media outlets. The Washington Post Company reported a 7% jump in revenue for the third quarter, which it credits to political advertising on its television stations, as well as its for-profit Kaplan University.

This article talks about other businesses that benefited–including pollsters, advertisers, and small town restaurants–to the point of calling the election “the midterm stimulus program.”

A dance of death

The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a statesman of the old school.  The Senator from New York was a Democrat, but he also served loyally in Republican administrations.  He was liberal politically, but he articulated positions that would now be called socially conservative (such as the horrific consequences of having children out of wedlock).  Steven Pearlstein reviews a collection of his letters and cites this haunting warning:

In a resignation letter he never sent to Nixon, Moynihan complains that “the extremes of left and right have joined in a dance of death” around “the presidency and every other institution of order and reason in American society,” exploiting society’s divisions for “short-term, narrow, shallow purposes.”

“The extremists of the left and right need each other, complement each other, strengthen each other,” he wrote, creating a symbiotic relationship that threatened “the quality, and ultimately the survival of the American democracy.”

via Steven Pearlstein – A short reading list for the congressional Class of 2010.

He’s right, isn’t he, about the way the far right and the far left feed off of each other?  And, whether you are a conservative or a liberal, can you see how the extreme ends of both spectrums, playing off of each other, can endanger the country?


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