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News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

If we free Leonard Peltier, can we keep the Black Hills?

The U.S. legal system sucks.  With gusto.

It has evolved into  a system that insures no equal justice under the law.  Due process is a process of extortion and bilking through which the accused are coerced into the various forms of servitude.

The Leonard Peltier case makes the point.  Particularly at this time. 

When a member of the South Dakota Legislature, who is also some kind of pastor, mentioned on his blog that releasing Leonard Peltier might be some kind of gesture of reconciliation, he elicited a number of opinions on the blogosphere.  No facts, but a plethora oif blogospheric opinions.

The good pastor's posting acknowledged our long history of fucking over the indigenous people of our country and he calls for redress.  But short of an omnipotent miracle, nothing can be unfucked.  (There are occasions when the brutality of the language must match the brutality of the deeds.)  However, a tweet he sent out when the Governor asked for suggestions for celebrating 125 years of statehood is cause for caution:


SD seeks ideas to celebrate statehood. Giving the Black Hills back ain't happning but how about a meaningful reparation gesture of some sort. 

This is a propitious time to bring up the Peltier case because it demonstrates the way that justice is a race-based, class-based process of discrimination.   This week a member of the Kennedy family, Michael Skakel, who was convicted in 2002 of murdering a neighbor girl
in 1975 was granted a new trial.  The judge who granted the new trial did so on the basis that Skakel's defense attorney did an incompetent job.  Jeffrey Toobin, the lawyer-journalist on judicial matters,  finds that the judge seems to be looking for any kind of plausible argument to free Skakel.

In contrast, the Peltier trial was fraught with misconduct to the point of fraud and unfairness that has caused Amnesty International to list the trial not just a miscarriage of justice, but an outright abortion.  The entire matter of the occupation of Wounded Knee and the subsequent killing of two FBI agents is just another episode of the racial rage and the vicious dishonesty with which the American Indian people have been treated.

The two cases demonstrate how our justice system is driven by race, class, and connections.

The cautionary aspect of the good reverend's tweet that "giving the Black HIls back ain't happening:"  The Lakota people have been awarded money for the wrongful taking of the Black Hills, but have spurned the money, preferring a return of the Hills, or at least a good portion of them, to their custody.  America has never understood how or why the land is essential to the American Indian culture.  A culture built upon greed and indiscriminate exercise of power cannot understand a culture of generosity and mindful stewardship of the natural gifts.  The land is the scripture of Native American culture.  Its defilement is to the indigenous people of America what the burning of the Bible or the Koran is to their adherents.  The Black HIlls are the last remnant of their scripture.

There can be no reparation.  But there might be a temple where the traditions may be fully observed. 

What bothers some most about the return of the Black Hills or a good portion thereof is that the entire violation of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 will be called up for examination.  And that examination would cover all of west river South Dakota.  The prospect of a Lakota nation in the middle of the United States is disconcerting,  unthinkable for most. 

But it would be required if the U.S. is to honor its treaty.  And it would be justice.  Justice not delivered by devious dishonesty and misconduct. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Reviving Karl Marx

The overwhelming evidence that capitalism is not benefiting the U.S. and most of the western world comes from the capitalists themselves.  For three decades, the middle class in the U.S. has been under a systematic degradation as manufacturing jobs that once provided a living wage have been displaced by jobs that provide less-than-subsistence wages. 

We know that unemployment in the U.S. is much worse than the 7-some percent at which it has hovered for some time because that figure does not include those who have given up looking for work.  Talk of immigration reform misdirects attention away from a huge problem in Europe among the so-called industrialized nations. Here is the most recent unemployment rates in the European Union:

July 2012
June 2013
July 2013
Eurozone (17 countries)
European Union (28 countries)
*Jun 2012 **May 2012***May 2013Source: Eurostat

Youth unemployment in Italy and Spain has spiraled, and academic and journalistic organizations have begun surveying and tracking the youth  In those countries. Young people have largely given up looking for work and those who find it possible have moved to other countries.   Young people who have found  work in other countries have expressed attitudes toward their homelands that portend some political upheavals that threaten the current forms of governance.  They think strongly that the forces that have forced them to leave their homelands are the huge corporations which in effect are the ruling powers that caused the recession--in some countries a pronounced depression--and that those forces have reverted the countries back to medieval status in which a few overlords exercise rule and treat everyone else as serfs.  The European Union has asserted that the economic problems facing its member countries are a result of the profligacy in social programs, which is evidently true to a point.  But our western governments are afraid to raise the matter of the role large, global corporations are playing in the economic and social conditions in the world.


I spent a good portion of the summer in Illinois where I heard and read much discussion of a kind that is absent in South Dakota.   A local PBS radio station, located on the campus where I received my B.A. and later taught, has a discussion show.  I listened to one on which a former colleague appeared, along with professors from the campuses located in the area.   He is a retired professor of political theory and practice.  That is his official title.  He spurns the term professor of political science because he says the people who call themselves political scientists have given science a bad name.  The other participants were from a Catholic University and a state university which has established a large campus in the area.  They represented the fields of history, sociology, as well as political theory.


A point of discussion was how young people perceived their futures in a political context.  It was a consensus that the brightest young people are looking past the  banalities that comprise political discussion.  One of the discussants has studied the Occupy Wall Street movement and interviewed many of its participants.  He said that a striking aspect is that the young people are not accepting the definitions of capitalism, democracy, socialism, and Marxism that previous generations have passed down to them.  They are a generation that is skeptical of the old Cold War attitudes and rhetoric.  They are examining the world from the perspective of their own circumstances, and they do not see that the current state of affairs offers them a future.  They find that the current economic state of America is denying them opportunity, and they are looking for alternatives to a system that is oppressing them economically with a consciousness of the mistakes of the past.  The Occupy Wall Street movement was criticized for not having a clear agenda and an identifiable leadership.  But young people see those conditions as the fatal flaws that have created the situation where the 99 percent of Americans have only 1 percent of the wealth.   They are working on collaboration and consensus as the keys to effective governance in achieving true liberty, equality, and justice.  They dismiss the ranting about Marxism and socialism as ignorant cant and they also disregard the liberal factions for being drawn into baseless and pointless arguments. 

My former colleague, who is often a visiting professor on campuses, agrees that the most promising young people are aloof but alert.  All the accusations about Marxism, for example, make them curious to know just what Marxism is.  He says they do not confuse Marx's social criticism with the Communist Manifesto and the Soviet and Chinese brands of communism.  They are finding that income inequality in America arises from those factors that Marx cited in his observations on class warfare, but they do not see his solutions as effective or relevant.  Rather, they see that the form that capitalism has taken with global corporations as much of a social failure as Soviet communism, and that American capitalism has destroyed the equal opportunity and economic justice that were the operative principles in the growth of the American middle class.


Table 1: Income, net worth, and financial worth in the U.S. by percentile, in 2010 dollars
Wealth or income class
Mean household income
Mean household net worth
Mean household financial (non-home) wealth
Top 1 percent
Top 20 percent
60th-80th percentile
40th-60th percentile
Bottom 40 percent
From Wolff (2012); only mean figures are available, not medians.  Note that income and wealth are separate measures; so, for example, the top 1% of income-earners is not exactly the same group of people as the top 1% of wealth-holders, although there is considerable overlap.  
Marx has a new relevance in examining the relationship of those who hold the wealth with the rest of the people.  Young people who are facing the paying of college debts with jobs that hold them in a state of poverty represent the new workforce, and they are experiencing the same forces that laborers did when unions arose.  In one way, said the discussants, it is a familiar situation in American and world history.  In other ways, it presents new factors and situations to be confronted, and the current level of political discussion in America does not address the concerns.
The people on the discussion show noted that young people who have moved out of their home countries to find work do not find any reason for allegiance to their home countries.  They think that their future lies in the countries where they can live their lives.  This is not unlike, the discussants agreed, the circumstance that caused the emigration to America.  They posited the question of what will happen when American young people see this as their situation. 
The professors said they all experienced a critical restiveness in their most promising students, who question if America can once again be the land of opportunity.  The political forces in America seem oblivious to what is facing its prime-age workforce. 

The GOP is irrelevant to this group of young people.  The Democratic Party seems too afraid of the labels its opponents cast upon it to take the necessary decisive action to restore the opportunity that once was America.
For the 46.5 million people living in poverty and the millions  being pushed into it, the system proposed by Marx might seem superior to the one that is in control of the economy.  Those in control have found that they can make huge profits without creating jobs and opportunity for a talented and educated workforce. 

To these people, the system has convincingly demonstrated that the system does not work..  The future of America is not in the hands of Congress or the political parties.  It is in the hands of those people in the process of deciding what to do about America.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Some ain't too swift in Rapid City

Two weeks  ago, I huddled in a powerless house in Rapid City during the unseasonal blizzard.  We went there to meet my daughter and husband and grandson from Denver and  gathered at the house of my son-in-law's mother.   Also in attendance were my daughter's newly adopted greyhound from Florida and my spouse's Boston Terrier puppy.  We arrived on Thursday evening when rain was shrouding the town and making it very difficult to figure out the detours  around the many street closures because of construction.  During our attempt to find our way through the construction maze,  the empty light came on in the gasoline gauge.  But  everyone made it to the appointed house and spent a normal evening doing what families do when they get together.

By Friday morning, the snow was slamming down on a high wind.  A branch on a huge crab apple tree in the back yard crashed on the deck, bringing a cable  with it.  About noon we heard an electrical transformer explode and the power went out.  I thought it time to fill up my empty gas tank and get some food, so we plowed through the drifting snow to a Safeway store not too far away. The 4-wheel drive was useful.   At that point the snow was drifting but was so watery that the car tires could cut through it  to grip the pavement, but the temperature was dropping and the snow was beginning to pack down into a slushy ice.  By evening no power was restored, so we cooked supper on a charcoal grill in the car port.  We huddled in blankets and afghans as the house cooled down, and tended to dogs and a toddler by candlelight.  We tried to get some reports on what to expect on a battery powered radio, but no radio stations were reporting news other than to observe we were in an unusual winter storm (Duh!) and the authorities were advising against travel.  By this time, the snow was piled high enough that we saw that we could not go anywhere even if we could back our 4-wheel drives out of the driveway into the street.  And big tree limbs were dropping into the streets to further block any traffic.  The radio stations continued their country music and evangelical rants against that devil Obama and his  liberal minions.  But nothing about what to expect from the storm or the official response to it. 

 Eventually, to stay warm and conserve the candles and dwindling power in our phone batteries, we went to bed wondering whether some of the food in the warming refrigerator should be moved to the colder carport. 

On Saturday morning, one radio station had a lengthy interview with  an emergency manager.  Rapid City had banned all travel, but not in time to keep a bunch of people from getting stranded in the snow.  Particularly vexing was that people were getting into their cars and following emergency vehicles and snow plows and getting stuck in the process to further impede the workers' efforts to deal with the storm.  The manager cited one case in which fire trucks were seriously delayed in responding to a fire by the foolish motorists getting in their way.  And the manager put out a call for people with snowmobiles to volunteer their help in rescuing stranded motorists.  The report that morning assured people that roads were being cleared and power restored.

The blizzard was a disaster in many respects.  It was no bigger a disaster than the performance of the radio stations.  At a time when there is no power for television and computer and wifi connections, battery-powered radio assumes an essential role. But radio stations are no longer equipped to serve that role.  Aside from that one interview, there was no news other than national feeds, which reported that the Black Hills were experiencing a blizzard.  Duh.  The twang-billy stations still played music of lament about scraping that there stinky stuff off ma boots, and the evangelicals still preached their message of hatred and rancor from the first epistle to the anti-Obamaites.  There were no reports even faintly resembling an attempt to provide news relevant to dealing with the blizzard.  The public radio towers must have been taken down by the blizzard, because I could not find their signal.

The lack of any useful information in Rapid City during the blizzard is a symptom of the overall deterioration that besets America's news media.  Up until the late 1990s, for example, Aberdeen had three radio stations that had news staffs.  My spouse was one of the reporters.  During any kind of community emergency, those news people would be at work relaying pertinent information over the air.  Reports on the state of roads and power would be updated continuously. 

Greyhound coping with blizzard.
But the MBA syndrome hit the radio business.  Rather than try to make the radio stations make money by building an audience through providing it with locally produced programming and reporting, the stations were bought up be "media" companies that made money by eliminating as much overhead as possible.  Staffs were eliminated, except for announcers and advertising sales people.  The programs are satellite feeds coordinated by computers.  Most news is from a national network feed. 
 Some stations will have an announcer read state news from a wire service and read the local weather forecast.  Often the weather forecast is recorded on tape and replayed throughout the day and night.  There are no reporters or news editors reporting on local events,  although some stations do have part-timers covering high school athletics and recording reports on the events.  

Boston Terrier puppy coping with blizzard.

Toddler grandson coping with blizzard.
The ruling criteria for radio programming is how cheaply it can be done and still to have an audience for the selling of ads.  Radio station licenses are periodically reviewed and a point of such reviews is how the stations are serving the public to justify a broadcast frequency on the public airways.  It is a  game of seeing how little will suffice to justify a license and how cheaply it can be done.  Media companies do not buy radio stations to improve programming and service to the public.  They totally operate on the principle of seeing how much they can earn by doing as little as possible as cheaply as possible. 

In situations such as the early October blizzard, the lack of media attention and effort has its effect on the sources for information.  When reporters call into government agencies and power companies, the organizations grudgingly respond by getting requested information.  Or in the case of Rapid City, the police department volunteered the information that the city was banning all travel to keep citizens out of the way and to keep them from getting stranded in the snow.  The experience with the power company was quite different.

By Saturday afternoon with no power and no news about when to expect it, we started calling Black Hills Power.  Their call center is in North Dakota.  The calls produced the information that lines and power were being rapidly restored and we could expect power at any time.  On Sunday morning, there still was no power.  A call produced the information that power had been restored to our location at 4:53 that morning.  We checked the circuit breakers to make sure they did not go off when power was restored.  They were still connected, so we called back.  This call produced the information that the company was unable to restore power to 14 homes in our area.

So, with no heat and no way to prepare warm food, we called motels and found one--with power--and went there for the night.  The news we received on a television station was that 14,000 customers were still without power. 

As we drove out on I-90 Monday morning, we saw the carcasses of cattle in the ditches, in the median, and in the pastures.  What had  been a weather adventure became a tragedy for ranchers and their stock. 

The radio news media was simply not up to dealing with the storm.  It has eliminated the ability to gather and provide useful information in such situations.  It has disqualified itself as a news source, and now can only flood the airways with twang music and the sanctified hate speech of the evangelicals. 

It is just one facet of the journalistic inadequacies into which our legacy news media have fallen.  It just is not capable of covering the world most of us live in. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Non compos mentis is all the rage

You would think those icons of Texas intellect Louie Gohmert and Ted Cruz came out of the same school.  Actually, their incoherent, schizophrenic representations of the world make one wonder if they went to school.  But both have gone to law school.  Gohmert went to Texas A. & M. and Baylor.  Cruz went to Princeton and Harvard.  They have both held high positions in jurisprudence, Gohmert as a judge and Cruz as a solicitor general and a specialist before the Supreme Court.  Cruz was called brilliant by one of his most left-leaning professors at Harvard.  But from the recent things these men have said and done, one wonders if they are strays from the farm (or in the case of Texas, the ranch) for the mentally unsound. 

The loony alarm bells are not set off by their political leanings, but by the anti-social and destructive things they say and do to define their political beliefs.  One wonders further if they are  beliefs or mental aberrations.  The fact is that people of brilliance in some areas of mental workings can be idiots.  Idiot savants, who cannot function in society, are known to be able to do mathematical computations at the speed of computers or be able to play music at the level of virtuosos, but they cannot otherwise function without intervention and supervision.  In such cases, one must look beyond the areas of brilliance for symptoms of mental dysfunction.  They can be dangerous. 

Professors do not have to be teaching for very long before they are confronted with a student who shows promise and brilliance but proves dysfunctional and incompetent outside of  isolated areas of talent.   The task of professors is to encourage and help such students build lives on and around their talents, to help them construct a sound foundation and framework to complement and integrate their talents so that they may utilize them.  That is the  ingenuity of the general, liberal arts education.  For the most part, it works.  But there are those who are defeated by the task of dealing with all the aspects of human society or who  cannot or do not want to surmount some sociopathologies that threaten to take possession of them.  Sociopaths have problems with the principle of cause-and-effect   In the fog of narcissism that gathers around them, they cannot consider who will be affected by their actions and how they will be affected.

Ted Cruz is example of a person whose personality is possessed by a sociopathic streak.  It was something that became apparent when he was in law school.  An article in CQ quotes his former roommate that Cruz had a snobbish streak and would study only with classmates from other elite Ivy League schools.  He would not even consort academically with those from Brown or the University of Pennsylvania.  Such extreme selectiveness reveals a social ambition that reverts to a medieval notion of class and refutes the premise of equality, the first self-evident truth cited when we announced our separation from the feudal world of class rankings and the system of oppression.  And, as experienced professors know, extreme snobbishness in students generally expresses itself in racism and other forms of class discrimination.  It is a prime characteristic of the fascist mentality.

When Cruz was elected senator, he saw that the power and status of his ambition was within reach, and the discriminations that drove him were fully unleashed.  The trappings of power most often produce a full revelation of personality of those in the process of attaining it,  and the sociopathic elements of Cruz's character threw off all restraints as he mounted his opposition against Barack Obama and the Affordable Healthcare Act.  For one who could dismiss even the graduates of Brown and the U. of Pennsylvania as unequals who were of no consequence to him, the 46 million Americans who do not have healthcare insurance were not given a thought.  Cruz's ambition was to unleash a legislative insurgency that could bring down the country, if necessary, and give him the power he so craved.  And he gave no thought as to the consequences his ploy for power would produce in other people.  He and his cohorts shut down the government and cost the struggling economy $24 billion under the premise of saving the country from the effects of the Affordable Care Act.  But true to the sociopath's mentality, they cannot acknowledge the irreparable damage they have inflicted on the country.  And they cannot be called into account for what they will not acknowledge.  Rather, they congratulate themselves on their show of strength.

Cruz's defect is shown in his oblivion to the effects on the country of what he has done.  His House crony finds a way to place the blame for something he does on others: "The President and Harry Reid should not have shut this government down," he said.  The workings of his mind are incomprehensible, but he seems to think he is being crafty and clever. 

The 1012 presidential election campaign, particularly the Republican primary, was filled with words of mental derangement from Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain, and the like. Ignorance combined with the irrational may be entertaining, but when minds such as this are directing and affecting the affairs of the nation, grim disaster is in the making. 

Despite Cruz's display of unsound mind, he has a solid backing from his constituents in Texas, and he earned $800,000 for his campaign fund from avid donors.  This is what is the most portentous about the Cruz and cronies actions.  There is a very large constituency that finds that the unhinged and incoherent words and deeds emanating from disordered minds represents their interests.  Like their representatives in Congress, they have absolutely no concern for the damage they have inflicted on the nation.  They are quite willing to take destructive action against their fellow citizens.

When irrational. unconscionable, malicious action becomes a standard of a large segment of the citizenry, the processes of government cannot deal with it.  Mental chaos precedes physical chaos.  The government shutdown has made the cultural divide in the country more pronounced, more menacing, and chaos more certain. 



Sunday, October 13, 2013

Predictions of America's failure coming true.

Since America's inception as a nation,  there have been many learned people from the Old World who thought it could not succeed.  Their  basic premise is that "ordinary" people can't govern themselves because they are dedicated only to self interest and can only bicker, backbite, bitch, and prosecute their contempt and hatred of other people.  British writer Thomas Carlyle commented often on the inability of ordinary people to form a workable government.  He thought democracy was self-defeating:

Democracy will prevail when men believe the vote of Judas as good as that of Jesus Christ.

He thought that our form of government would eventually fall into the dysfunction we are currently experiencing:

Only perhaps in the United States, which alone of countries can do without
governing, every man being at least able to live, and move off into the wilderness, let Congress jargon as it will, can such a form of so-called Government continue for any length of time to torment men with the semblance, when the indispensable substance is not there.
 The government people get is the government they want and deserve:

In the long-run every Government is the exact symbol of its People, with their wisdom and unwisdom; we have to say, Like People like Government.

It has taken us taken us 238 years, but we have finally fulfilled the predictions of those who didn't think we were capable of making democracy work. 




Friday, October 11, 2013

A black hole for Democrats

A call went out for volunteers to help with a mass mailing and telephone calling during the 2010 campaign.  A couple who reliably showed up to help on such occasions came in and asked where they could help.  I was busy sorting the letters and filling out the bulk mail paperwork when I noticed the couple rather quickly slip out the back door.  The next day I saw the man in the grocery store, said I didn't get a chance to talk to him, and asked him if something was wrong.  He said if he wanted to be treated the way he was the previous night, he'd go hang out at the Republican headquarters.  He said there are days when he wasn't sure the Democratic Party wanted him or that he could support the Party.  He brought up the idea of changing his registration to independent:  that way he could vote in the primaries and avoid the unpleasantries and insulting rudeness that active participation in a political party seemed to so frequently offer.  He mentioned that other people had expressed the idea to him.

This man's complaint was not the only one I heard during that campaign, and I have heard many since then.  A few weeks ago I  heard a conversation among some Democrats in which one person expressed some dismay about party matters.  Another person made the comment in effect that the person had no grounds to complain after all that the party had done for the person.  The comment was a puzzler. I could not think of any instances in which the party had done anything for anybody but its candidates.  But I could think of a multitude of instances in which people did many, many things for the party.  The person who expressed the dismay is one who had come through for the party on many occasions when someone else did not and has noted that an acknowledgement or a word of thanks was never offered.  In recent years I have heard many complaints about how cliquishness was diminishing interest and participation in party business. 

An old colleague of mine offers some insight into the significance of the behavior of political parties.  Like me, he is retired, but is still active in a research organization that studies and conducts polls.  His position title was professor of political theory and practice. He refuses to be called a political scientist.  He says the people who call themselves political scientists have given science a bad name.  While staying in my old home area recently, I heard him on a public radio station discussion show on the splintering and fractiousness within the political parties.  Later, I exchanged emails with him, as he had information about the organizational matters that affect political parties and other organizations.

Anyone who has participated in volunteer organizations has experienced the people who have commonplace and unremarkable lives, but claim great authority in their volunteer work as they strive for power and dominance.  My colleague makes the point that the concern about bullying in schools and the kind of teenage society portrayed in the film "Mean Girls" is actually a reflection of  the way adult society operates.  His explanation is that social stratification took a mean turn in the late 1970s and 1980s when the U.S. job market began to eliminate manufacturing jobs and consign them to workers in foreign lands who worked for subsistence in what was often prison camp positions.  Workers in the minds of many were just another form of expendable, cheap energy, he says.  As people strove to distinguish themselves from expendables, their society reverted to the juvenile nastiness of schoolhouse cliques.   Many wanted to be identified with the elite 1 or 10 percent.  This reversion to rather primitive and crude class distinctions has defined politics for the last quarter century or so.

Volunteer organizations have become the theater of war in the struggle to identify with a controlling class.  My colleague points to the diminishment of fraternal organizations as a symptom of the battles for classes.  He said at one time they were the refuge of brotherhood from the discriminatory and exclusionary practices of  a status seeking society.  When those organizations became venues for the struggles for dominance, control, and status, they failed.  My colleague points to the effect this kind of internal competition for control has had on churches, colleges and universities, as well as the fraternal organizations that are dying off.  He cites this very struggle as the basis for the political turmoil in state and national legislatures and within the political parties.

He said the Republican Party very stridently makes class division a defining principle.  It became bluntly stated with Mitt Romney's 47 percent remark and Paul Ryan's winners and losers division of the citizenry. It is evident in the emigration policy struggle, and in the resurgence of racial denigrations generally.   It is the Mean Girls syndrome at its most intense. 

My colleague stresses that no sentient person can surf the Internet, listen to talk radio, or watch cable news and not recognize that much of the nation's verbal efforts are being directed at inciting hatreds and their consequent exclusions of classes of people.  But what is taking place within organizations is not so overtly obvious, and this poses a problem that Democrats have not faced.

My colleague has looked at the voter registrations of South Dakota, among other states,  for evidence of the internal turmoil that is affecting politics.  He points out that South Dakota runs on federal money but has a state legislature and a general political attitude that shuns and vilifies the very federal programs that sustain the state.  The people like to believe in their independence and self-sufficiency, and they are particularly vehement against those people who openly seek government help--except for the agricultural sector.  Farm aid does not have the stigma of other welfare programs.  But, he says, the attitudes of class status have a more insidious aspect when it comes to the Democratic Party, which professes equality of human status and opportunity.  When people experience dismissal and insulting rudeness in their political relationships, they recognize that the people identified with the party are not practicing the principles of the party.  And as in the fraternal organizations, they lose their reason for belonging.  The growing independent registrations are symptoms of dissatisfaction with the party at the personal level.  My colleague said that switching from a party registration to an independent registration is a personal declaration of independence from the established political rule.  America is undergoing a deconstruction of its political system.

My colleague says the Occupy Wall Street movement and its barely noticeable status is a largely misinterpreted event in American politics.  The movement was a largely nonviolent demonstration, but was met with reactions as if it were a violent protest.  The movement retreated, but my colleague said it did not produce a change of minds.  It produced a change in attitudes about what it takes to make a successful protest.  The participants found that peaceful demonstrations tend to be ignored.  And they also know that movements such as the Arab Spring can be co-opted by those forces that seek power and dominance.  The colleague and his fellows have studied and are in contact with people in the Occupy movement and he says that the movement was criticized because it did not seem to have  established leaders or a stated agenda.  That, he said, was the whole point.  Vying for leadership and asserting positions are a part of the politics that Occupy members see as the failures of our democracy.  There is a difference between arguments to reach a clarity of position and purpose and arguments which are about who rises to the status of power.  The Occupy Movement sees those who covet the trappings of power as contrary to the purpose of the movement.  And so, many people who are involved in the movement are registered to vote as independents, and expanding that registration has become a goal of the movement. 

Democrats in South Dakota probably  have more sympathizers with the party's stated cause than registrations indicate.  But there is a very significant group in the party who think that some leaders have compromised their principles away in the name of winning elections.  They feel betrayed and demeaned by some party candidates and leaders, and are pulling back from active participation in party functions.  Such a retreat was what my friend who walked out of the campaign office was considering.  I don't know if, when he moved, he changed his party registration, but I do know a number of people who have.

My colleague said that there are many people who do not have the social skills to contribute to an organization.  But he says, that does not seem to be the case in the Democratic Party, as he and his fellows have interviewed people and collected data.  He says some would be leaders in the party are just very selective about whom they will bother with courtesies and respectful acknowledgment.  And that attitude projects itself strongly and is lethal to the life of any organization.   Democrats who are imperiously dismissive of some members are like people who profess Christian charity but practice devilish exclusion.  They are mean girls who appear to be just what they are. 

Ultimately, my colleague says, what is troubling American politics is not partisanship.  It is the same old primitive attitudes about class and superiority and inferiority that we once hoped the human race would be lifted out of by the ideas of democracy.  The struggle in both parties is for power and dominance fueled by disregard for large portions of the human race.  Portions, which my friend says, will inevitably rise up and create new organizations that can accommodate them. 


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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States