Author Archives: jwcham

Is the Democratic Party Failing?

Fareed Zakaria’s recent op-ed and Sunday morning TV show raise the question of whether the Democratic Party really represents the poorer, working-class base  that it claims to.  Discussing a new book by Michael Lind, “The New Class War,” Zakaria points out that the Democratic desire to keep the country closed because of Covid-19 benefits educated elites who can work from home, but punishes lower paid workers who cannot.

Whether the Democratic Party is failing depends partly on who you believe its constituency is?  Is it the low-income black and brown immigrants, or is it the elite graduates of the most selective universities?  In the time of Covid-19, these two constituencies are in conflict.  As Fareed notes, the elites can work from home, while most low-paid workers cannot.  They have to go into their jobs doing maintenance, driving trucks, stocking shelves, working cash registers, etc.  The elites say we can’t take a chance by stopping stay-at-home too soon; the workers say they need to get back to work to feed their families.  Ironically, the lower-paid workers are the most likely to catch Covid-19 on the job.   The Democrats say they want to protect them, but it is almost lke the old Vietnam cliché, “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”

An added Democratic incentive is the opportunity to get Trump out of office.  If the Democrats can keep the economy closed long enough, Trump may lose many of his supporters.  Since the elite Democrats are not losing their jobs or income, especially with the stock market going up, keeping the economy closed affects them very little, while it is hard on many Trump supporters.

One of the most conspicuous examples of Democratic elitism is Hillary Clinton. A product of the Ivy League, she despised the people of Arkansas when Bill Clinton was their governor and she was first lady of Arkansas.  She delighted in her elite status as New York Senator and Secretary of State, but average people perceived that she looked down on them.  Thus, one of her campaign handicaps was that she was not likeable.  This perception of her was one of the main reasons for her defeat by a terrible candidate, Donald Trump.  Culturally, the Democratic Party is still Hillary Clinton’s party, dominated by highly educated  elitists.  Even as black and brown politicians increase their share of the Party, the elitists remain dominant, as illustrated by the recent Democratic primary.

Reviews of “The New Class War” by the NYT and The Guardian are not very complimentary because it challenges their liberal biases.  They criticize the book as a failed defense of Trump supporters, but they miss the point that it illustrates the Democrats own failure to appeal to its base.  They fail to see that the Democrats’ elitism has alienated many who should be their supporters.  It is similar to the Democratic failures pointed out in “What’s the Matter with Kansas” by Thomas Frank.  Additionally they tend to see the difference between Middle America and Coastal Elites as racial, when it is much more than that.  Middle Americans perceive that the Coastal Elites despise them, not on a racial basis, but simply as inferior human beings.  Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi know that they are God’s gifts to the fools in the heartland, whom they need to save from their own idiocy.

The voters in the heartland may not like Trump a lot, expecially farmers who have lost much because of him, but at least he doesn’t despise them and look down o them like the Democrats.  Joe Biden is not really a card-carrying member of the Coastal Elites, but neither does he bring anything new to the Democrats.  He is basically an empty suit saying “I am not Donald Trump.”  Because he doesn’t personally alienate people like Hillary Clinton did, he may have a chance in the coming election, but he is not going to change the nature  of the Democratic Party, many of whom of Hillary’s cultural heirs.

Fareed is smart enough to realize that no matter how terrible a President Trump is, he sitll has a chance of reelection mainly because of the failures of the Democratic Party.  He is warning the many decent people among the Coastal Elites that they had better worry and get busy to make the Democratic Party more attractive to average, ordinary people.

Old Pictures

With President Bill and Hillary Clinton in Warsaw, Poland, for the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II:

With the Clintons

A handshake from Secretary of State Warren Christopher at my retirement from the Foreign Service:

Warren Christopher at my retirement

Poland and Extension of the NPT

Monday was the 25th anniversary of the renewal of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and its indefinite extension.  One of the main characters at the NPT extension meeting was Polish Ambassador Tadeusz Strulak, who was the chairman of the associated Nuclear Suppliers Group.  He was one of my contacts at the Polish Foreign Ministry, but I can’t remember whether I was his main contact on NPT issues.  For certain, I was his main contact for the Missile Technology Control Regime, but I’m sure he also spoke the the Embassy political section about other arms control issues.

In his oral histroy interview with the Wilson Center he mentions that he was not lobbied by the Embassy on extending the NPT because the US knew the Polish position very well.  In general, the Poles wanted to be a party to every arms control agreement possible, because they had experienced wars, occupation, and threats from Russia and Germany throughout Polish history.  They wanted as big and as powerful a network of allies as they could garner.

My strangest personal dealing with him involved the MTCR.  He called me in to see him because he said that Poland was trying to join the MTCR, but the US was blocking their admission.  He said that during a visit to Washington he has tried to find out what was going on, and people told him the best person to talk to was me, because I had been one of the original creators of the MTCR, dating from President Carter.  I had heard nothing about the US blackballing Polish membership, but told him I would try to find out.

When I called back to Washington to find out what was going on, it turned out that the director of the State Department office in charge of the MTCR was someone who had been an intern in my office in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research years earlier.  He was reluctant to talk about it, but I thought I understood what was happening.  The US was blocking any new members until the organization of the MTCR could be updated.

The MTCR was originally just an agreement among the G-7 countries to coordinate on and limit the sale of missile technology and equipment to countries of poliferation concern.  The original plan under Carter had been to create an arms control regime for missiles similar to the NPT regime for nuclear weapons.  At that time, however, in the early 1980s there was strong opposition to the NPT by developing countries who thought it was unfair.  It prohibited non-nuclear countries from acquiring nuclear weapons, while it appeared not to force nuclear countries to get rid of theirs.  They felt it was an unfair double standard.

Thus, when we started talking to other G-7 members about a new missile regime, they were very reluctant to propose anything that looked like the NPT, because they thought it would alienate a number of otherwise friendly developing countries who were important trading partners and allies for other reasons.  Thus, as the negotiations to get some kind of agreement went on, the agreement came to look  more like that Nuclear Supplies Group (which Amb. Strulak chaired) than the NPT.

As talks with the allies began to move toward a suppliers group format, the main opposition came from the Pentagon, in the person of Richard Perle, who was the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy.  The urban myth is that Perle persuaded President Reagan not to agree with Gorbachev to eliminate all nuclear missiles at the Reykjavik, Iceland, summit.  Perle was a force to be reconded with and probably held up the MTCR for a year or longer.  When President Bush replaced Reagan, he quickly got rid of Perle.

Because the MTCR was an agreement among likeminded G-7 countries, it had a fairly simple organization.  Decisions were made by consensus.  As more and more countries wanted to join, however, the consensus rule became unwieldy.  Thus the US decided that before more countries (like Poland) could join, a better management system had to be put in place.  Thus, it turned out the President Clinton himself had blackballed Poland’s entry by refusing to join a consensus to let them in.  The problem was not with Poland, but of course that did not make the Poles any less unhappy about being kept out of an agreement that they wanted to join.

I don’t remember, but I think the consensus principle was probably favored by Richard Perle and the Pentagon to give the US a veto over anything the MTCR wanted to do (like admit Poland).