May 1, 1929, 90 years ago marked a day off worker protest and police crackdown in Berlin that marked the breakdown of the Weimar Republic that ultimately less to the rise of Hitler. It provides a main plot point to the Netflix drama “Babylon Berlin” that is certainly worth watching. Events have a strange way of causing other events, something historians and political scientists study with great attention. Today is an anniversary but also a reminder to watch history unfold around us with an attentive eye not only for the past, but the future as well.
On November 15, 2016, I presented an analysis of the 2016 US elections to the European Space Agency's Strategic Department Lunchtime Lecture. A link to the presentation may be found here:
Yesterday, I finally figured out how to cast my Amazon Prime videos to the Chromecast on the big TV. Eureka! Now with Netflix built into the TV itself, and with Amazon Prime just a Chromecast away, I'm getting itchy to rid ourselves of the cable box and the hundreds of cheeks we pay for and never watch. And save hundreds every year. Shall I cut the cord?
I often analogize for my general education students the plight of the political scientist explaining the body politic to that of a medical doctor examining a chain-smoking patient complaining about shortness of breath. The wheezing political patient is the presidential horse race taking place in the early primary states and the disbelief among many that Donald Trump still leads the opinion polls so long after his candidacy was supposed to succumb to new-found voter sobriety.
"Disintermediation" is an economics term that signifies when a new technology erodes the business model maintaining the "middle man." Think about record stores or video rental firms. Since people now get their music and their movies over streaming Internet, it no longer makes economic or business sense to pay for the middle man - the bricks and mortar store that sold or rented a physical commodity - the record, DC, or video cassette-DvD. Analogously, declining costs for reaching voters directly through email or online websites, now make it possible to raise money directly and to spread the word among likely voters, in essence "disintermediating" the role of the political parties. This is also true for elected office holders, who now actively "shake down" industries and interest groups by introducing legislation that threatens to upset the previously negotiated arrangements. Of course, any legislative change allows the lobbyists to solicit more lobbying money from their interest groups, which are fed to the campaign coffers of the elected office holders.
Thus is spawned the "political industrial complex," which is perceived by many as a rigged game. And it is. The commercialization interests of the lobbying sector now "trump" the traditional role of the political parties, and hence the disgust of those who feel left out - now identified as the Joe and Jane Sixpacks, the white working class which has seen dramatic declines of income and societal status. This is precisely the demographic that most strongly support Trump. Without labor union support, the working class whites are threatened both by immigrants who compete most directly for those same low-skilled jobs and the rising economic clout of African-Americans who previously were excluded from the business mainstream by discriminatory laws and practices. Trump voices that frustration, which is intensified by the feeling on the part of the white working class, that without money, they are now the excluded from the commercialized political industrial complex of office holders and lobbyists who routinely shake down their constituents for donations - done directly and not through disintermediated political parties.