In America now

Everyone has to give a commentary on the elections in the United States, apparently, and though I have never so much as stepped on American soil, it is expected of me.

The big winner was Joe Biden, in more ways than commentators have noticed; the apparent weakness of his overall position actually gives him more power against those who are seeking grab power themselves, but more later.

The election was all showbusiness, and that is what we have come to expect. It is turbo-charged since Hollywood pizzazz became the norm in all public presentations, and the Presidential Election is Hollywood-style with the stops pulled out, and that is the spirit in which I followed it, to the extent I did.

It would be comforting to believe this and the visceral hatred splitting the nation is new, but in 1835, when the ink was barely dry on the Constitution, De Tocqueville, who celebrated American democracy said:

For a long while before the appointed time has come, the election becomes the important and, so to speak, the all-engrossing topic of discussion. Factional ardour is redoubled, and all the artificial passions which the imagination can create in a happy and peaceful land are agitated and brought to light. . . . As the election draws near, the activity of intrigue and the agitation of the populace increase; the citizens are divided into hostile camps, each of which assumes the name of its favourite candidate; the whole nation glows with feverish excitement, the election is the daily theme of the press, the subject of private conversation, the end of every thought and every action, the sole interest of the present.

I say that Biden won, but there are the legal challenges. (Were there instances of corruption, stolen votes, dead voters and fraud? I expect so: there usually are in the American system.) It goes to the courts then to confirm the result we already know: the United States were founded by lawyers; the Union’s constitution and institutions were shaped by lawyers, and so it is expected that it will be fought out through lawyers. That is a habit of the American system almost unheard-of in the Commonwealth. On the other hand, it is far better than the alternative we see in less favoured lands.

The Presidency is a winner-takes all situation; it is not like a Commonwealth Prime Minister weighing the strength or weakness of a parliamentary majority, so the narrowness of win does not weaken the incoming President. What does, on the surface, is that his party failed to win control of the Senate, or to move the House of Representative much either. However, all is not what it seems.

The ground-level of the Democratic Party has become a very different place. This was the ancient party of the establishment – the party of Andrew Jackson, Jefferson Davis and George Wallace, the party that came out of the established powers and upheld them, championing in turn the old states, the plantation system and slavery, Jim Crow, and the gang bosses of New York. It was reliability encapsulated, against the insurgent Republican Party that wanted to tear down slavery and ossified power, but it learned to adapt, to create client groups dependent on them, in the New Deal and the entrenched dependency of welfare systems: even the Civil Rights Act was a cynical client-creation system when Jim Crow had failed. Now the roots are very different, filling with radicals that are the antithesis of what the Democrats were, whose ideas would cause collapse of systems, which are shattering the client systems. Now the man of their party is on top, with all the executive power in his hands, they want a turn at the wheel.

This is where the apparent weakness becomes a strength. By having power restrained, Biden cannot give that power to the nutcases – while he retains sufficient power to do as he wishes. Without control of the Senate, the wild-Democrats cannot fill all the offices of the Union with fellow nutcases: it requires compromise, which leaves Mr Biden in control of appointments, not the radical element.

Much has been made of the new conservative Supreme Court, and again this is to Mr Biden’s advantage, though not in the same way. The political argument over the court has been about the willingness of justices to overturn legislation, by reading into the Constitution words which are not there: a conservative court reads the American Constitution as it is written, and so is les willing to overturn legislation and executive acts. That strengthens the power of the President and of the House of Representatives. Mr Biden, for all the bluster by those behind him, should welcome a conservative court, and when the time comes he should appoint more conservative justices to it.

I doubt that the politicians will see it this way.

On the other hand, I am not an American, and I could have got it all wrong, and any American is welcome to tell me it is none of my business, which it isn’t.

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Betsy Ross and the losses of Victory

Perhaps Nike could change their name from Nike (“Victory”) to Ētta (“Defeat”), as they have been routed in the culture war. If you missed it, for Independence Day 2019, the company launched a new range of trainers, the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July, with the Betsy Ross flag on them – and were then accused of racism, and immediately withdrew the range, and were then accused of being unpatriotic and lost a $1 million subsidy and the respect of millions of customers.

A single accusation of possible racism caused the whole range to be pulled, at a loss to the company we can only imagine. Into this stepped Doug Ducey, Governor of Arizona, not in a formal address but (in the modern style) in a series of Tweets:

“Words cannot express my disappointment at this terrible decision. I am embarrassed for Nike.  Instead of celebrating American history the week of our nation’s independence, Nike has apparently decided that Betsy Ross is unworthy, and has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism”.

In retaliation for this slur against the United States, the Governor withdrew a state subsidy that was to help Nike develop a factory in Goodyear, Arizona. From our side of the pond it is hard to imagine a politician not siding in terror with the Cultural Marxists, but here is the Governor of Arizona punished the company for rolling over to the mob. That is sturdy resolve we do not see amongst British politicians.

Now Nike is facing a boycott by American patriots.

The BBC report was its usual one, accepting the accusation of racism without demur: of the Betsy Ross flag they wrote “Although opinion is divided over its origins, the flag was later adopted for use by the American Nazi party.” and give prominence to a picture of an American Nazi rally in the 1950s where it appeared. They say the alt-right have used it too. Truly, the BBC are incurable. (The only divisions of opinion on the flag are not political; just whether Elizabeth Ross herself designed it and whether Washington had a hand in it.)

My first reactions to the story were surprise: first that a politician has not rolled over to the first whiff of accusation, and secondly that one of the richest companies in the world, which sells sneakers to the poorest at hundreds of dollars a pair, lives off taxpayer subsidies.  In America they have name for that: ‘corporate welfare’.

A passing word too for those boycotting Nike; good for you. Perhaps you could help us in Britain to organise boycotts of companies here who bow before a handful social justice warriors with laptops and nought else.

It is not of course that protesters are actually offended, just pretending to be offended, unless the offence is just that someone has different priorities from theirs. They are not offended: they want power over those companies.  As this site noted before on this:

The Betsy Ross flag, for those unfamiliar with our colonial cousins, was the first independent flag of the new United States, or the most famous version of it, in a pattern first sewn (according to some accounts) by Betsy Ross of Philadelphia.  The canton of the flag has a ring of thirteen stars, for the thirteen newly independent colonies. It has been used in patriotic celebrations ever since it first flew during the War of Independence and is a common display on Independence Day.  We will not see it disappearing:  it appears each 4th July, and at Presidential inaugurations, including that of Barack Obama, who was not exactly alt-right.

The proof it the inherent racism in the flag was a photograph showing the American Nazi Party displaying it at a rally in the 1950s, beside a vast icon of George Washington. That the flag has been used by millions of Americans of all opinions, religions and races over two hundred years is weighed as nothing when a Nazi purloins it.

(I shall have to hide my collection of Beethoven in that case, as Hitler was a fan, and swear never again to eat pickled cabbage for the same reason. The latter is no hardship.)

What now for Nike / Ētta? A single expression of concern that need not have gone beyond the company’s wall has left them looking cowardly, which is not a good look in sportswear, has cost them $1 million in corporate welfare, millions more in losing the sales of goods they had already made and marketed, and now they are facing a consumer boycott. Mighty as you may be, never think to yourself ἀνίκητος εἶ ὦ παῖ.

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