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Published On: Wed, Nov 11th, 2015

“The Populist Upsurge is Real” – A Liberal College Professor Finds Common Ground with the Tea Party

occupy wall street and tea party overlap

People are going to be pissed off no matter who wins this election and that is a very important social dynamic I believe is vastly under appreciated by the majority of mainstream pundits and analysts out there.  This is also very distinct from the environment that prevailed in 2008.  Four years ago, the financial markets were crashing and the economic future of America was circling the toilet bowl, yet a majority of Americans embraced the potential of a young, inexperienced biracial politician from Illinois who was saying all of the right things.  Despite the gigantic disappointment he has proven to be as President, there is no denying that he had all of the Democrats and most Independents under his spell on this day four years ago.

Fast forward to 2012 and the county isn’t “divided” as mainstream media talking heads like to say.  The country is pissed off.  Genuine and legitimate frustration permeates the land from sea to shining sea and rightly so.

– From my 2012 pre-election article: The Seventy Percent

TND Guest Contributor:  Michael Krieger

Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. I know of the man mainly from his frequent appearances on CNBC when I used to watch the channel (I’m proud to say I haven’t tuned in, even for five minutes, for several years now). He was always held up as the token “liberal,” who was more than eager to spar with CNBC’s endless parade of crony capitalist heroes and “socialism for the rich” supporting statists. During my post Wall Street years, I have from time to time come across his musings, but none have struck me like the insightful post he published three days ago.

The post is titled, What I Learned on My Red State Book Tour, and it’s an extremely important that all Americans read it. Here are a few excepts:

I’ve just returned from three weeks in “red” America.

It was ostensibly a book tour but I wanted to talk with conservative Republicans and Tea Partiers.

I intended to put into practice what I tell my students – that the best way to learn is to talk with people who disagree you. I wanted to learn from red America, and hoped they’d also learn a bit from me (and perhaps also buy my book).

But something odd happened. It turned out that many of the conservative Republicans and Tea Partiers I met agreed with much of what I had to say, and I agreed with them.

For example, most condemned what they called “crony capitalism,” by which they mean big corporations getting sweetheart deals from the government because of lobbying and campaign contributions.

I met with group of small farmers in Missouri who were livid about growth of “factory farms” owned and run by big corporations, that abused land and cattle, damaged the environment, and ultimately harmed consumers.

They claimed giant food processors were using their monopoly power to squeeze the farmers dry, and the government was doing squat about it because of Big Agriculture’s money.

I met in Cincinnati with Republican small-business owners who are still hurting from the bursting of the housing bubble and the bailout of Wall Street.

“Why didn’t underwater homeowners get any help?” one of them asked rhetorically. “Because Wall Street has all the power.” Others nodded in agreement.  

Whenever I suggested that big Wall Street banks be busted up – “any bank that’s too big to fail is too big, period” – I got loud applause.

In Raleigh, I heard from local bankers who thought Bill Clinton should never have repealed the Glass-Steagall Act. “Clinton was in the pockets of Wall Street just like George W. Bush was,” said one.

Most of the people I met in America’s heartland want big money out of politics, and think the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision was shameful.

Most are also dead-set against the Trans Pacific Partnership. In fact, they’re opposed to trade agreements, including NAFTA, that they believe have made it easier for corporations to outsource American jobs abroad.

Heartland Republicans and progressive Democrats remain wide apart on social and cultural issues. 

But there’s a growing overlap on economics. The populist upsurge is real.

I sincerely hope Donald Trump doesn’t become president. He’s a divider and a buffoon. 

But I do hope the economic populists in both parties come together.

That’s the only way we’re going to reform a system that’s now rigged against most of us.  

The above is both depressing and encouraging, but mostly encouraging. It’s depressing because Robert Reich is a man who clearly means well. He isn’t trying to grab as much money and power as possible, rather, he genuinely seems to want the best thing for this country. Despite all of that, it wasn’t until he actually visited “red states” and talked to people who he assumed he had very little in common with from a public policy perspective, that he discovered common ground. In other words, an intelligent, thoughtful and well meaning professor had been so successfully siloed into partisan group think, he wasn’t able to see the bigger political picture. If that was the case for Mr. Reich, imagine how divided and conquered the general population is?

Writing the above isn’t meant as a critique of Mr. Reich, we are all constantly learning. That said, the obvious overlap between “progressives” and “tea partiers,” has been clear for years. This is why I’ve always posted the following venn diagram whenever possible:

occupy wall street and tea party overlap

Of course, it’s not just me saying it. Ralph Nader actually wrote a book titled, Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State. While I agree with Ralph’s prediction in the long run, what is “stopping” this alliance from flexing its muscle in the present day? The longer we wait to confront the major issues of the day, the more pain and suffering the population will have to deal with. So what’s taking so long?

I believe there are two primary drivers behind our current predicament. The first is human nature. People are tribal. Generally speaking, most individuals will ultimately gravitate toward an ideology that helps them understand the world around them, and will then cling to that ideology and defend it to the bitter end against those who disagree (those people become their “enemies” and are easily vilified). This can manifest in many different forms, from religion, to political party partisanship, to nationalism. Such unbending adherence to one ideology or another leads to most of the conflict and irrationality we see around us. This is because once someone has “committed” to an ideology, they close themselves off to even hearing other points of view. At that point, learning and critical thinking ends, and dogmatism takes over. To help those in finance understand what I’m trying to say, it’s very much like when you are in a losing stock position, but can’t get yourself to close out the trade and cut your losses. It’s the exact same seemingly insurmountable emotional commitment at play.

One of the ways I’ve tried to prevent this mindset from infecting my own psyche, is by shunning political labels entirely. In my early days of writing many people characterized me as “libertarian,” although I never personally embraced such a label. As discussed earlier, once you embrace a label you end up defending a side more so than thinking critically. You have committed the sin of identity politics, and from that point forward you feel it is your duty to defend other “libertarians” and wage war against those who you perceive to be “on the other side.” Although discarding political labels confers obvious advantages, many people simply can’t do it. Why?

Again, back to human nature. Most people feel a need to identify with, and become part of, a larger group. Unfortunately that larger group is almost never “the human race” as it should be. Why? Because if people tried to identify with everyone then they couldn’t feel special. People like to feel special, and that they’re a small part of a bigger struggle against other groups of humans who are in the wrong. Not in the wrong about specific policies mind you, but in the wrong merely because those other humans have not chosen to identify with the particular group you have aligned yourself with. You can usually tell who these brainwashed people are, because they constantly critique other people as “libtards” or “tea party wackos.” There’s no need for these loaded labels, but many people love to use them anyway. Why? Because with a single word they can be dismissive and degrading without ever having to talk to the other side and discuss real issues.

Which brings me to the second reason American citizens have yet to unite on the greatest issues of national importance, despite the fact that a vast majority of the population agrees on them: Status quo propaganda.

The status quo are deeply unethical and corrupt, but they aren’t stupid. They know how to divide and conquer people, and through the media, they are doing a great job of keeping citizens of these United States angry at each other, as opposed to angry at them.

Robert Reich’s experience presents the perfect example. He admits he didn’t realize how much he has in common with “red state” tea partiers until he went out and talked to them. The problem here is that it’s not exactly feasible all for coastal people to travel to the heartland and vice versa in order to come to a mutual understanding. Most people depend on the media for information about the world around them and “those other people out there.”

Unfortunately, the media intentionally misinforms people and makes them distrustful of “the others.” Fox News will make it seem like liberals are child-sacrificing heathens who simply want to get everyone to have an abortion while taking away their Christmas tress. Likewise, MSNBC makes it seem like it’s an indisputable fact tea partiers are ignorant, racist schmucks who want to shoot everything that moves and turn American into a Taliban-like Christian theocracy. Of course, neither of these things are true.

The truth is, the American public is tricked into thinking they disagree with each other on the big issues, when in reality there’s enormous overlap. Until we stop being tricked, the status quo will continue to suck the economy dry through their religious-like embrace of corruption and crony capitalism. Unfortunately, the people who could benefit the most from reading this post, will never see it.

For related articles, see:

The Seventy Percent

#StandwithRand: The Filibuster that United Libertarian and Progressive Activists

Former Senator Opines on the Incredible Corruption in America and the Fourth Branch of Government

A Libertarian-Liberal Alliance Forms to Tackle Criminal Justice Reform

Thoughts on Election Day: Relax—Both Parties Are Going Extinct

Former Aide to Bill Clinton Speaks – “My Party Has Lost its Soul”

The Pitchforks are Coming…– A Dire Warning from a Member of the 0.01%

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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michael kriegerAbout Michael Krieger

My name is Michael Krieger, and I am the creator and editor of Liberty Blitzkrieg. I’m originally from New York City.

As far as my academic and professional background, I attended college at Duke University where I earned a double major in Economics and Spanish. After completing my studies in 2000, I took a job at Lehman Brothers where I worked with the Oil analyst in the Equity Research Department.  In 2005, I joined Sanford C. Bernstein where I served as the Commodities Analyst on the trading floor. About halfway through my time there, I started to branch out and write opinions on bigger picture “macro” topics that no one else at the firm was covering. These opinion pieces were extremely popular throughout the global investment community, and I traveled around providing advice to some of the largest mutual funds, pension funds and hedge funds in the world.

I loved my job, but as time passed I started to educate myself about how the monetary and financial system functions and what I discovered disgusted me. I no longer felt satisfied working within the industry, and I resigned in January 2010.  At that point, I started a family investment office and continued to write macro pieces on economic, social and geopolitical topics. That summer, I drove cross country for six weeks and ultimately decided to leave the crowded streets of Manhattan for the open spaces of Boulder, Colorado, where I currently reside.

In the years that followed, I gradually recognized that my true passion centers upon writing on issues of significant societal importance given the extremely challenging times we live in. This realization culminated with me losing interest in financial markets and eventually launching this website in early 2012.

Visit Liberty Blitzkrieg:  click here.

This article was published at Liberty Blitzkrieg and is reprinted with permission.

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