Category Archives: Bernie Sanders

Can a Socialist Win in the U.S.A.?

It’s a stretch to assume, the way all cable news anchors do, that a self-avowed socialist cannot become U.S. president, due to a supposedly inherent, gut-level American antipathy to socialism. The talking heads posit this in an attempt to convince the viewers that any hopes they have for fundamental change are hopeless if they challenge the omnipotent capitalist system. Don’t even think about it!

The fact is, Bernie Sanders was the most popular politician in the country in 2016; he would likely have won the Democratic nomination had the Democratic National Committee not skewed the primaries in Hillary’s favor. (Committee chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz herself declared in a leaked memo to staff that it would be “silly” to think Sanders would ever become president. Recall how she had to resign in disgrace when the rigging was revealed, at the Democratic National Convention, once the sabotage had been done. Her punishment? She’s a Representative of Florida in the Congress.)

But since Bernie has again declared his candidacy, taking off with a fundraising roar, the talking heads agree that Bernie’s time is past. Okay, we’ll grant that he put up a good effort last time, and can be credited with placing certain issues like health care for all, student debt relief, tuition-free colleges, and income inequality on the table. But last time there was a narrow Democratic field, and this time it’s crowded with “progressive” candidates who will steal some of Sanders’ fire. He is thus unnecessary and redundant.  The good parts of his message are echoed by his rivals, who meanwhile repeat the loyalty oath: “I’m a capitalist.”

Elizabeth Warren boasts: “I’m a capitalist.” Echoes Beto O’Rourke: “I am a capitalist.” “I am not a democratic socialist,” says Kamala Harris, “I believe that capitalism has great strengths when it works for all people equally well.” “I’m a capitalist,” says soon-to-declare Joe Biden. These are the safe candidates who could win the next presidential election against Trump.

So socialism is a big Sanders negative. Senior correspondents and analysts agree that association with socialism is “toxic” in America, that it’s Kryptonite for the Democratic Party.

Then there’s his age. He appears in good health and has stamina. He is not a typical 77-year-old U.S. male, as his socialist identity shows, and indeed he has admirable, understated history of anti-racist activism that contributes to his appeal among youth. But his critics listing his problems include this one.

Worse than being old, Sanders is white; and “experts” on cable news say that being white may be a negative in the race. And he’s male–an old white male whose staff last time included some men who sexually harassed women. (So he’s possibly a secret sexist?) Worse, he’s Jewish–and not the religious sort beloved of the Zionist Christian Evangelicals but probably an atheist.

So, obviously a hopeless cause. Not because of his age, really: the establishment’s favored candidate Biden is 76. Nor because of his whiteness, really; again, the media fawns on Biden and O’Rourke. Nor because of Sanders’ Jewishness (and his progressive politics which are rooted in New York City Jewish activism). No, it’s his (supposed) socialism that makes him a necessary target.

As Counterpuncher Paul Street noted in his excellent piece March 13, MSNBC has in particular raged against the prospect of a socialist running for president (again). The network is as a matter of policy promoting capitalism as the national creed, the key to American prosperity (such as it is), the socio-economic embodiment of Freedom. Joe Biden positively demands from his guests their endorsement of the system; when Joe Scarborough asked Col. Governor John Hickenlupper, who co-founded a Denver brewing company, if he was a capitalist, and Hickenlupper hedged on the matter, Scarborough was horrified. The clip of Hickenlupper declining to boast about being a capitalist was repeated endlessly on MSNBC to underscore the seriousness of the problem of anti-capitalist sentiment.

To such a state have we fallen! When over half of young people see socialism positively, and capitalism negatively. And some presidential candidates might calculate that they’re better off not advertising themselves in what many see as negative terms.

Last week MSNBC commentator and advertising executive Danny Deutsch fumed on Morning Joe: “I find Donald Trump reprehensible as a human being, but a socialist candidate is more dangerous to this company, country, as far as the strength and well-being of the country, than Donald Trump.  I would vote for Donald Trump, a despicable human being… I will be so distraught to the point that that could even come out of my mouth, if we have a socialist [Democratic presidential candidate or president] because that will take our country so down, and we are not Denmark.”

Wow. As a capitalist, Deutsch’s lot is with despicable Trump, versus Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib (and Denmark). He wants to draw the line there.

This is in a way an enlightening time to live, when things that were not discussed clearly before now come out into full sight. During my childhood, we were taught that the big struggle in the world was Communism versus Democracy, it being understood that democracy includes free market principles. (The term “capitalism” was avoided, associated as it was with Marxist discourse.) But with the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the USSR, the triumph of capitalism was shouted from bourgeois rooftops. What a revolutionary force in the world, so superior to the discredited, defeated socialism!

But since 1991 global capitalism has not succeeded very well, at least not in producing the positive changes people want. Certainly in this country today, young people live less affluently than their parents’ generation did; things are not getting better in many ways. It makes sense for youth to feel attracted to socialism, in the broadest sense, and ideally, to study some theory and engage in activism. The youth have not been successfully brainwashed to associate socialism automatically with  gulags, ideological conformity, and political oppression.

It is precisely because capitalism is in deep crisis that its high priests must insist on its inherent, eternal superiority and chide the youth for their foolish idealism.

I’m reminded of how, in 1925, just as the voting franchise in Japan was expanded suddenly to include all adult males, the existing law forbidding any questioning of the doctrine of the kokutai (the “national essence” of Japan as a country created by the gods, led by an unbroken line of emperors “coeval with Heaven and Earth” descended from the Sun Goddess) was augmented with a ban on criticism of the “system of private property.”  Of course it was already impermissible to criticize the emperor, or the Meiji Constitution he had given the people out of his benevolence. Now criticism of capitalism itself

was also firmly banned and harshly punished with prison terms.

Think of that. The emperor had been viewed as sacred, beyond criticism. Now capitalism was placed on a par with the kokutai, as something to revere.

Danny Deutsch wants us all to love capitalism. MSNBC does in general. CNN too, and Fox. They are, after all, capitalist networks whose advertisers impact the content of what they sponsor. Joe and Mika should alert the viewer each morning: “This is a capitalist network, paid for by capitalists who use 15 minutes per hour to sell their products and services. We accordingly report the news from a pro-capitalist, American point of view.” But that would be too blatant.

It’s good in any case that lines are being drawn, vaguely though they are; the commentators agree that young voters’ perceptions of socialism are unsophisticated. Sanders’ socialism is not that envisioned by Lenin but the type of welfare-state capitalism that has succeeded best in Scandinavia. Those who support socialism have many different ideas about what it is or should be, but they are clear on the fact that capitalism is one mode of production, very creative historically but not eternal, not the “end of history” but a mere stage beyond which humans can progress.

That’s really the key point of Marxist thought: the understanding that socio-economic structures are historically transitory. They come and go. There is still slavery in the world, but it has diminished over centuries. There are still millions chained to the soil and controlled like serfs, but wage-labor is more and more the global norm. The relationship between the worker and the capitalist employer, on the rise in Europe from the sixteenth century, constitutes capitalism. It had a birth in time, and will die in time.

What follows will probably be called socialism.  It will draw upon the Soviet and Chinese experiences of centralized planning, learning from successes and failures, but with a much deeper understanding of how markets work. Capitalism will be recalled as the dominant system in an era of  several hundred years, during which as Marx observed, the bourgeoisie played a revolutionary role. But today’s Danny Deutsches are no revolutionaries but reactionaries horrified that Capital is being questioned. “The soul of the capitalist is capital,” Marx observed. Threatened at the soul-level, the bourgeois commentariat takes aim at the Democratic Socialists, socialism in general, tuition-free college, medicaid for all.

Good, good. Let them attack. Let there be discussion. May capitalism and socialism become household words and debate rage. It’s high time.

Day of Wrath

In all times some must be rich, some poore, some highe and eminent in power and dignitie; others mean in subjeccion.
— John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, A Model of Christian Charity, 1630

I think I can see the whole destiny of America contained in the first Puritan who landed on those shores.
— Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1830

Today utopia is maligned because no one really wants to see its realization.
— Max Horkheimer, The Authoritarian State, 1940

I continue to see this repackaged antisemitism appearing everywhere, but perhaps most disturbingly on the left. And it seems tied into a growing cultic response regards the multiple environmental crises. And, thirdly, I see the retreat, from so many on the left, to a tacit or even overt endorsement of Democratic Party candidates or office holders. Often from people who claimed they were done with the Democrats, wanted to see them destroyed, etc. But are now describing the new “socialist” (sic) dems as, well… socialist. Suddenly, Tulsi or Omar or AOC are treated with comfortable amnesia. It is more proof, if any were needed, that marketing and advertising works.

There is no hope in anyone who cannot unequivocally reject all US actions against Venezuela. Unequivocally means stopping the liberal slandering of Maduro. He is the elected president. He represents Venezuela. He has also presided during a time of near constant pressure from U.S. funded and backed fascist opposition. Not to even mention sanctions. All the “mistakes” liberals claim Maduro has made were reactions to either covert attempts at destabilization, or outright assaults on his life. The U.S. has been attacking Venezuela for 18 years, and for the entirety of Maduro’s presidency. But still, there is a constant liberal commentary about his “mistakes”, how he has created chaos and poverty. This is another example of that casual unconscious racism for which the American bourgeoisie is so famous.

It is time to demand this faux left stop the revanchist position of white saviour — of knowing what decisions to make. I cannot find words for how sick I am of the condescending and subtle but indelible racism of white American liberals. No more perfect stage for this subject position can be found than Maduro and the Bolivarian revolution. And for the record none of the Democrats listed above passed the Venezuela test.

So why do so many on the left flock to these manufactured sheepdogs of the DNC? AOC and Omar and Bernie have all called Maduro a dictator, and all mediated their anti intervention remarks (some retracting them) with calls for “empowering” the Venezuelan people (because, I guess, voting in free elections is not empowering). All endorse the idea that the U.S., in its strategies for Venezuela, have only good intentions. In fact, both Omar and AOC have smeared all official US enemies, from Maduro to Assad to Iran. They are imperialists who have no problem with the slaughter of the global south. They are unambiguously pro Imperialist.

Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report wrote recently:

White evangelicals — once and still the greatest source of anti-Semitism in the U.S. – are paradoxically the firmest supporters of Warrior Israel and its Bible-mandated role in ushering in the coming “tribulation” and Christ’s defeat of evil. Accordingly, 53 percent of evangelical Christians supported President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while 63 percent of the general U.S. public opposed to the move. Rev. William Alberts, the “Counterpunch Minister,” writes that 87 percent of U.S. white evangelicals rallied to George Bush’s Iraq war because their spiritual leaders thought the invasion “would create exciting new prospects for proselytizing Muslims.” Rev. Albert calls this “Biblically legitimized imperialism,” but white Americans don’t require divine sanction to find excuses for killing non-whites. It’s how the West was won, and how the U.S. became a superpower.

Racialized imperialism is embedded in the white American worldview, including most whites that call themselves “progressives” – which is why so many of them support U.S. “humanitarian” military intervention in places like Libya and Syria, and now Venezuela. Humanitarian interventionists share with George Bush and Donald Trump the belief that the U.S. has the right – no, the responsibility – to use its superpowers to “protect” other peoples from their own governments.

And these topics are linked. The new hard boiled antisemites, a sort of newish voice of no nonsense real politik, leaps headlong into the oldest most well worn antisemitic tropes available…those about global secret Jewish power, and media influence and Rothschild’s banks. I had an unfortunate experience with Mint Press, that retitled my article (The Anti Imperialism of Fools, Counterpunch) to “The United States Doesn’t Need Jewish Help to Wage War”. Now why would they do that? Ask yourself that. And I certainly never submitted the piece to them, nor did they ever ask permission to print it or use it. And the photo they used was of Netanyahu. The attempt was to invert the meaning of my article that was, in fact, on antisemitism.

And this is, in a sense, what the Evangelical is doing as well. They support and embrace Israel, while maintaining their steadfast antisemitism in all other respects. For Zionists are not quite “Jews” to them.

I was on a thread in which the mantra became “why cant we talk about the disproportionate amount of campaign contributions to the Democratic Party from JEWS? The power they wield in media and politics”. To point out by way of quick answer that none of the Joint Chiefs are Jewish, nor are any high ranking generals in any branch of the armed services, nor are the five richest families in the US. But this is rebutted with, well, Zuckerberg and Page,… etc. What about Adelson and Soros? What does one say to this? 95% of concert violinists are Jewish, too. 74% of the NBA is black. So what? The fact that the US ruling class has identical interests with many Zionists or even almost all Zionists does not make a conspiracy of Jew power. One can hear in these new voices the echo of 1930s Berlin. Herr Rippontrop…. “we must have an adult conversation about the Jewish question.” “Yes, vee cannot run away from zer power in banking and zer cultural influence”. Today this is the voice of both the NASCAR white underclass and the voice, increasingly, of the (badly) educated white liberal — the one with mountains of student debt, few job prospects, and tons of resentment.

To be clear; and to rephrase the retitling of my earlier article, the US doesn’t need Zionists to make it go to war or invade or orchestrate coups. It’s been doing that longer than Israel has been a country.

And to be clear, the attack on Venezuela is both Imperialist and racist. One cannot over estimate the importance of race in the opposition to Chavez and now Maduro from the US and from the fascist white South Americans that are behind Guaido (Lopez really).

Allow me to quote Glen Ford again:

The historical U.S. embrace of apartheid Israel is rooted in much more than “the Benjamins” wielded by Zionist lobbies. The two most lawless states on the planet revel in their shared roguishness, bound together by race-based colonial ideologies that sanction and celebrate their crimes against humanity. Were it not for the U.S. superpower, there would be no State of Israel, an outpost of Europe in Arabia that most white Americans perceive as inhabited by kindred souls surrounded by savages, like the settlers of American mythology. It is the United States’ “exceptional” duty to arm and protect the “chosen” people of Israel, whose expansionist imperatives are perceived as benign and defensive, mimicking American Manifest Destiny.

The Green New Deal is being embraced and applauded by many on the left, much as AOC herself, and Ilhan Omar and Tulsi Gabbard are being embraced for saying a few tepid truths to power, or in the case of the GND, of rescuing capitalism. I mean, this is a kind of Stockholm Syndrome variant. I remember you would see guys arrested for the first time (usually) and how they desperately wanted the arresting officer to *like* them. They wanted the system about to punish them to *like* them. A small part of this was just the desire for some tiny affection while in a situation otherwise bereft of affection. But it was always more than that, too. It was the identification with aggression, with the aggressor, with power, and with violence. For this groveling before police detectives or even uniform cops (and often later guards) took on a slight odor of eroticism, too. Of S & M (see Pier Paolo Pasolini and Jean Genet). It also tied in with the sedimented traces of Puritan purges and self accusations.

Anyway…a bit of that is going on here. Gabbard says one thing about, oh, maybe we were helping ISIS. Like this is big news, right? Well, for the oily and noxious Stephen Colbert I guess it was. But no matter the rest of Gabbard’s imperialist framing of recent history, she is applauded. Or Ilhan Omar for saying stuff that everyone knows and says.. even while herself supporting the idea that the USA is a force for good in the world. There is a keen desire among even ardent leftists and critics of the U.S. to find an excuse to *like* the U.S. To like the system. To somehow be allowed to join in the festivities of the latest electoral pageant. And I do sympathize to a degree; it takes a toll to always be a minority voice of dissent. To always be a buzz kill. And deep down the thought of actual change is terrifying, and if a reason, however threadbare, is provided, that reason will be jumped on and praised.

Ilhan Omar is praised less for what she said, which was relatively minor (and walked back anyway) but because of who is criticizing her. Trump and Republicans criticize her, the neo-con Pro Zionists criticize her, ergo, she must be this terrific agent of social change. I mean, I’ve read several pieces talking about how scared the establishment Democrats are of the new “socialist” Democrats. Now it should be noted that Omar has waffled a good deal on the BDS issue, but regardless she has, it is true, been relentlessly attacked by the right (FOX News, the president, and a few conservative Democrats even). Attacked and smeared. Much as Maduro is smeared, come to think of it.

Now what Omar has said has been said literally thousands of times. Norman Finklestein has said it more articulately and in more depth, and done it for years. But he’s not a politician. Still, note that nobody is enshrining him for courage and truth. Perhaps they should, but they are not. The point is that these are comments (those of Omar and AOC) that threaten little. They unleash a lot of airtime for reactionary pro Zionist politicians, and they keep the idea of Israel and its specialness front and center. And they make left-leaning liberals, and sadly some actual hard core leftists, gush with new found and utterly irrational optimism. Omar has also voted along party lines in congress. (here is one example…thanks to Sam Husseini.)

This was a bill that encouraged the Arab League to recognize Israel, as well as allowing for the targeting of the IAEA (on Israel’s behalf, really). The point being this is standard Democratic Party voting. And Omar and AOC are perfectly in line with that. They are Democrats first, not beacons of truth.

A small additional aside here…AOC’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, likes to wear a t shirt emblazoned with the image of Nazi loving Subhas Chandra Bose, from the anti communist Congress Party of India. Bose was a contemporary of Gandhi. I’m not entirely sure what one does with such info, but file it under the rehabilitation of fascism.

Now, I even saw one article talking about how the establishment is scared of Bernie Sanders because he is too left.

Bernie Sanders? Come on, Bernie IS the establishment. Omar and AOC are the establishment, too. They are products of a careful vetting and coaching system, the end result of a marketing campaign. They are products of the political machine. The Democrats needed a new brand, and AOC is it. And Bernie tags along, as he has done for thirty years. I mean, my god, the man called Chavez a “dead commie dictator”. Whoa, what a radical! The guy has been rewarded with seats on committees and my guess is he will get a chance to give a big speech at the next convention to introduce the candidate of choice (if I had to guess, I’d say Kamala Harris, but I’m probably premature in that). Or Ilhan Omar who one writer dubbed an avatar of truth. For what? For saying Israel was kinda, sorta, racist? That AIPAC was too pushy? I mean not stop the presses material. But the larger problem here is that everyone continues to talk about the Democratic party and this binary system of oppression. We are all, including myself right here, talking and writing about the same dulled bankrupt duopoly of war and corporate theft. The war party, branch one and branch two. And everyone is already caught up in the empty spectacle of American electoral theatre.

Meanwhile, across Europe, and in South America, and in India, there are rabidly right wing fascist and ultra nationalist parties growing in power and strength. But the liberal establishment would rather focus on Israel and the *Joooos*. And here we come to a curious psychological mechanism: something I want to call the Cult of Compassion. It applies to both the antisemitism that is growing and to the new Green agendas. Now to be clear, these things are not fictions or fabrications…I mean, there IS an environmental crises (though the nature of this crises seems still rather opaque) and there is a vicious incremental genocide going on in Gaza. But one might wonder at why the populace of Yemen is so ignored. Why are the suffering people of Venezuela ignored or told to empower themselves with U.S. aid. Why are the people of Afghanistan ignored, ignored for over seventeen years of US occupation, or those of more than half the countries in Africa. No, the compassion for Palestinians is driven by the hatred of Israel. And Israel is worth hating. No doubt. But so is Saudi Arabia and so is the opposition in Venezuela, or the Nazis in power in Ukraine, or the Vatican. But there are few memes about the Vatican’s wealth — which is extensive, I can assure you. The cultic expression of compassion is never about the ostensive object — whether that is the children during the recovered memories witch hunt, or the victims of sexual aggression in #metoo, nor is it the planet or Nature now in the majority of Green movements. It is a form of narcissistic subject creation. The desire for a cause. And in an age in which nobody bothers to read the fine print or research sources, the media with the most visibility controls the narrative.

The U.S. has military bases in every country in Africa save one. It has ravaged the land and protected western mining rights. It has armed both sides in the countless small conflicts that are taking place even now across the continent. It has helped foment larger and vicious wars in which millions have died, maybe tens of millions. The U.S. has nine hundred bases globally and a military budget that has grown to something like 700 billion a year. All the so called new socialists are on board with this, too. They are giving cover to the forces of Imperialist plunder. When Mike Pompeo talks of taking on Nicaragua next and then Cuba, the voting record of Omar and Ocasio Cortez is helping him make that a reality. So why do experienced leftists call these imposters “socialist”? Where is the compassion for the people of Honduras, prey now to the brutal right wing regime that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put in power? How many of AOC’s adoring fans even know the name Berta Cáceres? What of Haiti? Or North Korea or Iran, or Syria, or any of the other official targets of U.S. aggression? The Democratic Party is not being changed by these quislings. They are only the bright and shiny (and younger) version of Bernie Sanders. And if you really did care about the environment, you would start here, with the war machine.

Oh, and then there is this (H/T @Club de Cordeliers and @Keatssycamore)…Omar fronting for rich white gentrifiers….

All this pantomime infighting between the Socialist Democrats and the pro Israel Democrats is only that. Pantomime, it’s political vaudeville. Nothing more. It provides cover for the supposed heroism of Omar and AOC.

But back to this question of antisemitism as it ties in with this new cultic passion for Green and Ecological awareness.

The imprint of Puritanism is strong even now, and the Evangelicals in government (about whom not nearly enough has been written or researched) have internalized far more of Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, of John Winthrop and Roger Williams than they would admit or even know. But America overall has never lost the basic psychic architecture of the Puritan. Certainly not in relation to ideas of collective public behaviour and thinking.

This philosophy of the national covenant was not only a logical deduction from the Covenant of Grace, but also the theme of the Old Testament: Jacob wrestles in solitude with Jehovah, but Israel make their cohesion visible in an external organization – a church, a corporation, a nation, even a plantation. In their corporate capacity, saints stand, as long as they hold together, in a relation to God separate from (although bound up with) their spiritual salvation. As a people they are chosen because by public act they have chosen God. The prerequisite is not, cannot be, a flawless sanctity of all citizens, but a deliberate dedication of the community to a communal decision, like a declaration of war.

— Perry Miller, The New England Mind; From Colony to Province

Before the great Protestant migration to America the devout were scattered in small communities or cells, half in hiding, and mostly out of touch with one another. What America offered (and it could well have been anywhere, it just happened to be America) was the opportunity to be united in one collective body. And they did view it as a grand experiment. But the relevant aspect here is that the more their endeavours met with failure or at least less than success, the more self accusing the collective became. For it was “their” fault, not the fault of the experiment. As Perry Miller wrote…“the more these people accused themselves of having shirked their covenant, the more they asserted that they had not lost confidence.” 

Hence, far more than in England, public days of purgation (following experience of wrath, or catastrophe or misadventure) and humiliation were evidence of not just their confidence but their basic virtue and a realistic assessment of reality in this “new” England. But there occurred in 1692 a rather profound shift in theological interpretation for the Puritans. From that day forward “corruption” was seen as a visitation of wrath. Meaning that corruption was not a cause but the result of wrath — a sign of wrath and a punishment. It was a shift from the external to the internal. From material misfortunate and sin, to sinful thinking and spiritual self pollution. Moral deficiency eclipsed failures of fortune, or failures of planning. All became attributed to interior spiritual weakness.

Allow me a longer quote here from Miller….

The subjective preempted the objective: a universal anxiety and insecurity had become no longer something which, being caused, could be allayed by appropriate action, but rather something so chronic that the society could do nothing except suffer-and perpetually condemn itself. In the thirty years after 1660, the conception of the relation of society to the divine was unwittingly (and unintentionally) transformed into a thesis which positively reversed primitive doctrine. The mental anguish of the second and third generations was intensified because, while recognizing that somehow they had declined, they had lost the measure by which to decipher exactly how much or why. And so the day of humiliation became, not a blood-letting and a cure, but an increase of appetite that grew by what it fed upon.

Contemporary America retains the structure of Puritan logic, sans the belief in redemption. And today the new American puritan lies about it. The false optimism is a direct outgrowth of this universal anxiety and ambivalence. The sense of American decline and promises broken feeds the need for various ersatz days of purgation. For public ritual displays of self flagellation. This ritual scaffolding has merged with a Rene Girardian scapegoating mechanism. For today there is a projection outward of that sense of acute anxiety and standing in for the body politic are celebrities or even politicans. Guilt or innocence has little to do with it, actually. From Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey, from Julian Assange to Jussie Smollet to Lori Loughlin — and the grand inquisitors like Robert Mueller and Jeff Sessions. I mean, from whatever sewer Trump crawled from, he is the perfect symbol of our internal corruption visited upon the land by an angry god. And this addictive need for public gossip and infantile amusements can be read as moral deficiency due for cataloguing in some grand fast day sermon, a jeremiad. Public spectacles of humiliation are a staple of American life, and have been since the early 1600s.

I have said before, though, that one aspect of the seemingly endless popularity of the Zombie story in film and TV is based in a desire FOR apocalyptic end of time events. Somewhere buried within the bourgeois mind is a desire to wash it all away and start over. And with that comes, in standard Hollywood terms, a new frontiersman mentality — it is to do Manifest Destiny again, only better, and starring ME.

Maybe (and I say this with some seriousness) all of this has to do with several decades now of Hollywood television and the profound insistence on a suspension of disbelief. One is trained to accept and follow nearly any narrative, regardless how illogical or meandering. And it also reflects overall the decline of the individual. What Adorno called the “unrestrictedly adaptable”, the “subjectless subject”.

But to stay on message here, the culture overall is, it seems, returning to ever older and earlier forms of ritual and collective violence (the very oldest antisemitic tropes are in play again). I will link to an earlier piece I wrote on antisemitism and some of the history.

America never learned how to be a society. The U.S. has always been preparing to be a great nation without ever even becoming a nation at all. From Manifest Destiny to the Monroe Doctrine to Responsibility to Protect, the mission has been about ‘others’. The empty rituals of the spectacle today are by virtue of their emptiness, reactionary. Winthrop reassured the early Puritan congregation that the mean and low were never meant to rise to positions of prosperity and respect. God ordained a hierarchy of classes.

From Propaganda, in a piece on Noam Chomsky recently…

The “Left” has taken quite a journey from the 1960s, the beginning of Chomsky’s career as a political commentator, to now. During that time, what people perceive as “the Left” transformed from something which was usually opposed to the status quo and genuinely radical into something more like what CIA official Cord Meyer called the “compatible left,” an agglomeration of “liberals and pseudo-intellectual status seekers who are easily influenced” by the elites that they purport to challenge, in the words of Doug Valentine. One of the primary purposes of “courting the compatible left,” according to Valentine, was to “court Socialists away from Communists” and into safe channels.

The new antisemitism seems joined at the hip to the anti communist left. What Doug Valentine called ‘The Compatible Left’. That relationship makes sense, of course. Over at Truthdig, Chris Hedges wrote a piece titled “Israel’s Stranglehold on American Politics.” It is both antisemitic AND anticommunist. To Hedges, Israel controls U.S. foreign policy. Apparently Zionist slanders are very ‘communist-like’. I think he says ten or twelve times that the article is not antisemitic. But it is. Israel does not control the U.S. government. AIPAC is a U.S. organization, in fact. That the U.S. is perfectly fine with Israeli war crimes in Gaza is not surprising. For one thing it helps normalize U.S. war crimes. It is never clear how Israel leverages the U.S., how exactly they are able to control America without whose support Israel cannot exist. Hypnosis? Blood sacrifice?

Horkheimer wrote in 1944:

Fascism is the caricature of social revolution. . . . The monopolistic elimination of competition takes within the fascist states radically destructive forms only against the Jews, on the outside against colonial or national groups. Apart from that this trend is only a side effect of the new subordination of the masses into the machine of production. The unchecked brutality of the individual entrepreneur will be checked in the age of working contracts and social welfare and be replaced by more rational relations within society. To understand the rationality of this, to understand the irrationality of this rationality, is our most important task. On the solution of this task depends also a theory of current antisemitism to a very large extent.

— Letter to Adorno, November 13, 1944

The popularizing of anti communism today (see, oh, Jordan Peterson, for example) and the rise of this revanchist antisemitism, runs alongside the rehabilitation of fascism one sees in media almost daily. They are tied together. In the same way one must see the links between U.S. racist police departments (fully militarized now, something that began in earnest under Obama) and the violence against the global south (see Venezuela, blackouts, and sanctions and sabotage of infrastructure). The fight for ecological well being begins with fighting these things, not supporting quisling Democrats. Rather than worrying about Israel being given money by US Zionists and Pro Zionist organizations, to then *control* America (sic), Hedges might better be concerned with what Leo Zhao (100 Years of Anti Communism) describes here…

Much of this legacy of mind-boggling corporeal violence, and the just as brutal history of economic strangulation and political coercion, other than a few episodes too big to hide, is brushed aside and ignored in mainstream Western narratives { } Even more concealed, disguised, and obscured than the process of physical and material onslaught are the innumerable and never ending operations in the war for hearts and minds. Even more hidden from public view are the myriad of disinformation campaigns; the countless counterfeit radio-stations; the labyrinthine global media networks (such as the “Radio Free…” networks, with tentacles deep in every continent); the CIA and Pentagon deals with Hollywood studios; the hordes of “independent” think-tanks publishing blatant lies under the flags of “liberty” and “human rights”. All of this comprising an elaborate global propaganda structure, with mutual support between its various branches, quoting and verifying each other. The red-scare content generated, which pushes imperialist agendas, normalises bourgeois ideology, valorises capitalism, and vilifies socialism, then finds its way into text books, taught in academies largely purged of leftist professors save for some tokens.

Israel is not *dragging* the U.S. war.

Today I will once more be a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshivization of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.

— Adolf Hitler (Speech to Reichstag, 30 January, 1939)

In other words, this is the epoch of immense and towering propaganda. And the first target of Western propaganda for over half a century has been communism. And today, the media outlets are in the hands of ever fewer people and organizations. An article here, from 2016 but only now translated, is worth reading if you wonder at all about this.

Antisemitism is tied directly to anticommunism. And left anticommunism is increasingly an acceptable position that is tied directly to normalizing and restoring the legitimacy of fascism.

Paul Manafort and the Crime of Not Provoking Russia

Paul Manafort has been convicted and sentenced to four years in prison for what the judge calls “white collar crimes” unrelated to “Russian collusion.” The mainstream press is in a state of shock. Surely, the morning cable anchors protest, he should have gotten 20 years!

He was friends with (“pro-Russian”) Ukrainian businessmen and politicians! He took fees for political consulting work with foreigners—that he never reported to the IRS! He committed bank fraud and tax fraud! And he may have had a role in the decision of the Republican National Committee at the Republican convention in July 2016, to modify a section of the program to remove reference to the provision of U.S. lethal military aid to Ukraine!

For two years that last accusation has been treated by the press as the truly damning one, the clear proof of a conspiracy to help Russia. There’s been a deliberate effort to generate outrage, where none really smolders in the masses’ breasts. How many people in this country feel strongly about the issue of Ukraine, could find the country on the map, have any knowledge in its history or any strong feelings about the matter of who should have sovereignty over Crimea?

The implicit argument is that not to give offensive weapons to the government in Ukraine at the time (then headed by Arseniy Yastenyuk, who had attained power through a U.S.-supported violent coup and the documented sponsorship of grotesque neocon beast Victoria Nuland) was anything other than the height of irresponsibility, if not treason. (“What more do we need than that?” demands the angry CNN “foreign policy analyst” or “national security analyst” while the hosts nod in agreement.), But this new regime in Kiev was riddled with fascists, was engaged in an effort to impose its armed authority over a rebellious ethnic Russian Donbas region, and might potentially be at war with Russia at any moment.

One could interpret the platform change as a rational retreat from an unnecessary provocation of Moscow. Why should that be so controversial or mysterious?

But to the talking heads of MSNBC and CNN, and maybe some on Fox, the minor move was sure, clear proof of Russian collusion. The party committee couldn’t have been applying mere common sense, and deference to a presidential nominee who’d expressed hope for normal relations with Russia. No, it had to have been hijacked by Russian agents.

In the real world, it’s just possible that Manafort (for whatever reasons) had educated Trump to some basic facts: Ukraine has long been ethnically divided between Ukrainians and (ethnic) Russians. The regime that seized power in February 2014 (toppling the democratically elected if highly corrupt one that Manafort had served) had completely alienated the Donbas region from the outset by its anti-Russian discriminatory measures, provoking the rebellion. As for the Crimean Peninsula, it had been Russian from 1785 to 1954, and the base of the Russian Black Sea Naval Fleet since the 1780s, so it wasn’t surprising that Moscow would want to re-assert sovereignty to prevent the very real prospect of losing its base to the relentlessly expanding NATO.

(It would have made sense for Bernie Sanders, had he won the Democratic nomination—that is, had we had a fair, not rigged, Democratic primary process—-to have stricken out any such language from a Democratic Party platform.)

I wrote a number of columns about Ukraine after the 2014 putsch opposing U.S. intervention in Ukraine and the U.S. effort, involving about $ 5 billion invested in what Victoria Nuland and Madeleine Albright both referred to publicly as “support for the Ukrainian people’s European aspirations.” (This was code for the drive of right-wing politicians in Ukraine to join EU after following the well-established pattern of former east bloc countries first joining NATO, then the European trade bloc.) Some of these were re-posted on Russian media. Am I thus guilty of collusion?

This matter of the non-support for military involvement in Ukraine, as a bad thing, is at the heart of the collusion case. The Manafort judge T.S. Ellis has been right to be skeptical, and to suspect that the prosecutors have been trying too hard to pin on Manafort a conspiracy charge implicating Trump and Russia. (Or a Trump staffer and a Russian businessman. Or a Trump aide and a Ukrainian businessman, or Russian-Ukrainian businessman, or Russian-American businessman.)

The fact of the matter is, as Graham Stack, a Fusion GPS researcher once hired to gather dirt on Manafort, pointed out last year: “Manafort was nothing like a pro-Kremlin influence on the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych… Instead, Manafort was one of the driving forces pushing Yanukovich towards signing the agreement with the EU. The Kremlin has every reason to hate him.”

That is, Manafort for his own business reasons wanted Ukraine to join the European Union, just like Victoria Nuland wanted to use the Ukrainian people’s (supposed) yearning to join the organization—that was then squeezing the life out of the Greeks and was subsequently rejected by the British—-as part and parcel of Ukraine’s planned entry into the anti-Russian military alliance. (This had been announced in 2008, the same year as NATO unveiled plans to welcome Georgia as well in the near term. That plan is on hold after the Russo-Georgia War of that year, just as plans to admit Ukraine are permanently on hold for fear—by the Germans, if not the U.S.—of provoking Russia.)

The motives of Nuland and Manafort were very different. She wanted a cause that would unite the opposition and facilitate regime change; he wanted a deal that would personally aggrandize him, given his investments in EU countries and in Ukraine. But  Russia was as of February 2014 opposed, for reasons Moscow stated clearly. (Basically, the cross-border economies are so deeply integrated, the cultures so similar and movement between the two countries so free that EU goods once in Ukraine would flow uncontrollably into Russia, damaging the Russian economy. Was the Russian stance unreasonable? Moscow offered Kiev a generous aid package, which Yanukovych accepted; meanwhile, Russia indicated it had no problem with Ukraine’s eventual EU membership once certain issues were resolved, and reiterated Putin’s aspiration for a Eurasia-wide free market to extend from Vladivostock to Lisbon. (Was this reasonable? Or does it “threaten our national interests” somehow?)

The Russians perhaps convinced Yanukovych that the austerity measures Ukraine would have to accept even for associate NATO membership would be destabilizing. So he withdrew from the provisional deal that had been pushed by Manafort.The  U.S.-backed  opposition declared Yanukovych a traitor loyal to Russia, and the government fell giving way to the current dysfunctional regime that lionizes fascists like Stephan Bandera.

One should definitely condemn Manafort for his past “consulting work”—with the likes of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, Gerald Ford, Ferdinand Marcos, Mobutu Sese Seko, and Jonas Savimbi. (This list of clients includes at least five mass murderers.) But why single him out for assisting the former, democratically elected Ukrainian president in his negotiations with the EU? (Oh, because he didn’t report the income…the tax fraud thing…  Terrible indeed.)

The fact is, Manafort would not have been on trial had there not been an effort to seize on any kind of link between anyone around Trump and any one or thing Russian to substantiate the charge of “Russian interference” in the U.S. election. The thinly researched and argued January 2017 “Assessing Russian Activities”intelligence report on that “interference” was followed by a drive to investigate Trump campaign collusion with Russia, with a clear political mission to explain Hillary’s loss by attributing it to Trump’s (treasonous, secret) relationship with Putin.

It hasn’t led to anything yet but a meeting in a Manhattan cigar bar Aug. 2, 2016 between Manafort, his deputy Mike Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian business partner of Manfort’s since 2005 (“thought to be linked to Russian intelligence”) that might have involved  the sharing of some polling data that by law should have been kept secret (or only shared with U.S. political operatives seeking to legitimately influence the outcome of the U.S. election).

Maybe some Russians used the information to influence targeted U.S. minds, using Facebook to throw the election result in Wisconsin. That would see horrible, would it not? An attack by other people on our democracy?! (While we never interfere, anywhere!)

The message is in any case clear. We should be outraged that “the Russians” “interfered” in “our election” tainting its result. We should view “our” elections as sacrosanct affairs, and be outraged that Trump staffers were willing to talk to Russian officials or private citizens, about the election or lots of other things, neglecting to report any contact with nationals of a country that (for some reason) we’re supposed to regard as an “adversary.”   Indeed, the overriding historical import of the movement to drive Trump from office is its re-enforcement of Russophobia in this country.

Trump is depicted as evil less due to his bigotry, misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, or corrupt business practices than due to his failure to do the right thing: take a hard line on Russia.

That means denouncing Putin, the way Hillary did. (Clinton as top U.S. diplomat called Putin a new Hitler, for re-annexing Crimea.) It means continuing to demand, as Obama did, that Russia withdraw from Crimea and cease whatever material support it provides to the separatists in the Donbas region or face continuing U.S. (and EU) sanctions. (These are hopeless demands, and are hurting Europe as well as Russia. Yet their maintenance is depicted as the only responsible route forward, and suggestions they be lifted portrayed as capitulation to evil.)

And it means howling in indignation when Paul Manafort, the closest thing to a “smoking gun” about collusion between Russia and Trump, only gets four years behind bars. It means disparaging Judge Ellis, noting his expressed concern about special prosecutors’ overreach and the possibility of the case becoming a “political weapon.”

News anchors visibly consternated by the sentence length seem troubled too by the likelihood that the Mueller probe will conclude with no real evidence. The dream of Trump being exposed as a Russian agent—promising sanctions relief after his victory in return for advance Russian notice about Wikileaks’ hacked emails publication schedule—-is fading.

In its place is the dream of replacing Trump in 2020 with an (appropriately) anti-Russian leader. This would mean one committed to NATO (which is still officially on track to include Georgia and Ukraine, to better encircle and provoke Russia); committed to the sanctions designed to hobble the Russian economy and prevent other countries from trading with it; committed to challenging Russia’s influence in the Middle East and depicting any such influence as “foreign interference” in a region that ought by rights be dominated by the U.S. as the world’s “exceptional” nation; and the insistence on the myth that the U.S. has “national interests” transcending class interests that need to be protected from Russia pursuing its own.

The appropriately anti-Russian leader the mainstream media seeks must of course be, preeminently, a proud capitalist. The restoration of normality must combine the new Russophobia (which has nothing to do immediately with anticommunism—since the Russian state is thoroughly capitalist and Putin’s party is both pro-market and pro-Orthodox religion—but draws on Cold War specifically anti-Russian tropes) with a clear repudiation of socialism.

*****

Saturday: Dave Gura on MSNBC expressing puzzlement that John Hinckenluper in a Joe Scarborough interview refused to call himself a capitalist (recognizing the negative connotations of that word among many young people).

Shame! the bipartisan panelists all agree; he should have proudly broadcast his capitalist status, and promoted the market as the key to creating jobs. If the Dems go with a “socialist” message, Trump will win! The very word socialism is Kryptonite!

These two phenomena—the mainstream ruling-class disappointment that the “Russian collusion” case is collapsing, and alarm at the soaring popularity of “socialism”—are related. To bring him down, one accuses the president of collusion with a country vilified throughout the Cold War; the USSR was targeted for its “socialism” but also attacked on the basis of ethnic stereotypes that remain useful to the anti-Russian propagandist. To make sure his successor is committed to the post-Cold War strategy of maintaining global hegemony and preventing the emergence of any rival, one must insure that someone who accepts capitalist imperialism takes office.

The morning TV news anchors, makers of public opinion, unite in agreement that it is unacceptable to question the motives of legislators who always vote in favor of Israel. (In this they in fact unite with Trump, who’s opportunistically charging the Democrats with antisemitism.) They also unite in agreeing it’s good the Hanoi summit between Kim and Trump failed, because it would be against U.S. interests to reduce sanctions until Pyongyang gets rid of it’s nukes (which it’s not going to do without sanctions relief, so the anti-Trump position is a virtual demand for war). These are some of the responsible positions of the anti-Trump mainstream.

My, what an awful, awful man! Such a Russian stooge! Jeopardizing our national security, serving Russian interests, by pulling out of Syria! (When did insistence on indefinite deployment of U.S. forced illegally in Syria become so mainstreamed?) And by talking about an Afghan pullout!

And his campaign chairman was meeting Russians! (Let us recall Manafort was chairman all of three months.) And Manafort was secretly meeting Russians, our adversaries!

Such outrage. Such unanimity. Such slavish devotion to capitalism, imperialism, “our heroes” in the U.S. military, sterile political correctness plus unquestioned devotion to Israel, and of course the systematic vilification of Russia. The trashing of both socialism and Russia, the latter having nothing to do with the former anymore, but what difference does it make?  We’re supposed to believe that both of them are Kryptonite, and that the choice before us is between the responsible capitalist and Russophobe (such as Joe Biden) and the capitalist and imagined Russophile traitor Donald Trump.

Corporate and “Progressive” Democrats Threaten Medicare Itself

The Democratic Party won a majority in the House of Representatives in the November 2018 elections by making health care one of its top “messages.” Yet events from Bernie Sanders’ bill of 2017 to legislation that “progressive” Representative Pramila Jayapal introduced on February 27, 2019 show that the Party is on its way to destroy Medicare.

For decades activists identified the prize as “single payer health care.” The program would issue a Medicare card to everyone, like the one senior citizens get now. The card would be good at any doctor’s office, clinic, hospital, laboratory, and prescription pharmacy. These largely private businesses would be reimbursed from a public single-payer fund. The fund would receive broadly collected tax revenues; the patient would pay little or nothing at the reception desk, and no monthly premium. This is guaranteed, comprehensive health care.

In other words, single payer is Medicare for all, carried to completion by eliminating Part B premiums and by more comprehensive coverage including prescribed drugs.

Health care activists always agonized over the colorless name “single payer.” A few years ago many of them began to speak of Improved Medicare for All. Actually, it had been in the title of the benchmark bill, H.R. 676, when congressperson John Conyers introduced it in 2003. A few years later he shortened the title to The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act. The text remained stable, and although the bill went nowhere in Congressional committees, H.R. 676 became the centerpiece of organizing. It is readable, only thirty pages of double-spaced large type. Hundreds of trade union locals and councils endorsed this model legislation in a steady stream year after year.

The health care industry has enjoyed a long-term phase of expansion, like railroads in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Back then, the new way of moving heavy goods and people was amazing and useful; today, new biological and biochemical understanding makes possible longer life, survival from a heart attack, restored clarity of vision, and so on. In both situations, capital has had strong pricing power and taken fat profits. And just as anger at railroads swelled into a populist revolt against The Octopus (Frank Norris’ novel about the Southern Pacific railroad corporation), people today are angry at insurance corporations, pharmaceutical monopolies, and hospitals, whether or not they call themselves “non-profit.”1

Opinion polls measure growing support for single payer health care for all. Employers continue to raise the employee cost of coverage, or simply not provide a health benefit. Health insurance purchased individually on the so-called exchanges of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) turns out to be full of exceptions like a slice of Swiss cheese.

Sanders Promotes Health Care for All Then Undercuts Conyers

Popular support erupted into a political force when Bernie Sanders launched his presidential campaign at the end of April 2015. Record-breaking crowds filled his rallies around the country. The top three issues in a Sanders speech rotated – sometimes including inequality of wealth and income, sometimes climate change – but he always revved up on health care for all. It had been the cause of a few thousand health care activists. Now Improved Medicare for All became a challenge to the neoliberal establishment. For the first time in forty years, people were on the verge of a mass campaign for a major gain in their quality of life and their security.

It did not happen. Sanders did not win the Democratic presidential  nomination. He returned to the Senate, making an implicit or private deal with the party: he would speak as a independent progressive, but he will act on all serious matters as an unannounced Democrat.

Doing something about health care for people largely fell out of public view. Health care activists carried on. Policy aficionados spun proposals. Sanders had used the issue in his campaign, but sustained mass organizing for it did not happen.

Then in September 2017, senator Sanders introduced his “Medicare for All Act.” S. 1804 is three times as long as H.R. 676, and the reader must unravel cross-references within the text. Sanders made no mention of Conyers’ H.R. 676 at his press conference. Since then, no one has asked him the obvious question: Why didn’t Sanders simply introduce the text of H.R. 676 in the Senate?

The “Buy-In” Trap

Sanders’ bill would actually undermine Medicare. It would set up a “Transitional Medicare Buy-in Option and Transitional Public Option.” Sanders portrayed it as a four-year period (longer if necessary) to bring people of age 55 or over into Medicare, then down to age 45, then down to age 35, then everyone. This scheme is the very opposite of guaranteed single-payer health care for all.

How is Medicare financed today? Most of the money comes from payroll and income tax revenues, not enrollees’ Part B premiums, by a ratio of 3½ to one.2 We all pay into Medicare. At the moment when someone needs care, she gets it, period – without financial worry. That is the single-payer principle, and Medicare implements it, although not entirely, since enrollees must keep up-to-date on their Part B monthly premiums, and there are some co-payments for services.

Expanded and Improved Medicare for All would eliminate premiums and co-pays. That is what H.R. 676 declared, but in Sanders’ S. 1804 people younger than 65 could “join” Medicare by paying fat monthly premiums (a “buy-in”). People who want to sign up this way would use the notorious Obamacare exchanges.

Trade union campaigners for genuine Medicare for all, H.R. 676, wrote in a December 11, 2018 letter:

Unlike HR 676, S 1804 inserts supposedly incremental steps of public options and Medicare buy-ins for four years prior to arriving at a real single payer plan. Because S 1804 expands care while maintaining the private insurance companies, costs will skyrocket before the savings of single payer kick in. The incremental steps will become a roadblock rather than a path to single payer. Perhaps the worst part of this inclusion of the public option and the Medicare buy-in is the reinforcement of the false notion that there should or must be transitional steps to single payer. Neither the public option nor the Medicare by-in are based on sound policy. To place them in the bill for even a short period of time endangers the single payer goal.

All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care, HR 676, Kay Tillow, coordinator

It is a neat trick: under the guise of expanding Medicare, you make it more dependent on premiums. You change it from a public good, like the neighborhood fire station, into a commodity insurance product that individuals buy. You make health care dependent on the patient’s finances.

This perversion of Medicare is not only a fraud upon people of age 55, 45, or 35. It is a threat to Medicare itself. Whenever Medicare seems headed for a financial crunch, real or conjured, the pressure in Congress will be to shift more and more toward a premium- and co-pay-financed program rather than one supported by general and progressive tax revenues – and to take chunks of medicine out of Medicare.

An independent in name but a Democrat, in fact, senator Sanders at his press conference happily introduced several corporate Democrat co-sponsors of his bill. Behind closed doors he had let them write sections of S. 1804! The public option section was written by senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. “One part of the bill that I worked with my colleagues to put in was the ability for every American to buy into a nonprofit public option as part of a four-year transition…,” she said during the news conference introducing the bill.

A public option is a competition with insurance corporations rigged in their favor. They know how to repel potential enrollees who are likely to need expensive care. A government health plan cannot and, of course, should not play that game. It can either raise premiums, or it can turn the program into something like its poor cousin Medicaid. Either way, it cannot become improved Medicare for all.

Democratic Party: “Death to H.R. 676!”

Two important bills stood in contradiction to each other: one for Expanded and Improved Medicare for All (H.R. 676), the other a threat to Medicare itself (S. 1804). Conyers’ bill has been the acknowledged model legislation since 2003; Sanders introduced his in 2017.

But words do not move on their own. The corporate Democratic Party soon put H.R. 676 on the chopping block. Representative John Conyers was pushed out of Congress in a #MeToo incident, resigning from a hospital bed, denying the charges but not up to the rigor of a fair hearing if he could get one.

Somehow, sponsorship of H.R. 676 went to new congressperson Pramila Jayapal. 3 She immediately announced that she was in consultations to rewrite it. In the meantime, she surrendered the number 676 that had been reserved for Conyers’ bill since 2003. It was issued to military legislation on January 17, 2019.

After the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in the November 2018 elections, it became more urgent for them to gut single payer health care for all. Otherwise, they might have to deliver. Representative Nancy Pelosi, during a post-election whirlwind of bargaining to make sure she became Speaker of the House, agreed to help advance the same scheme that senators Sanders and Gillibrand had put into S. 1804: a buy-in to a premium-based option for people age 50 to 64. Jayapal, who also praised Pelosi during her run for Speaker, spoke out of both sides of her mouth. “I would prefer to have a reduction of the age of Medicare so that more people could qualify but not a buy-in, because that continues the problems that we have right now.” She said lowering the eligibility age “would be an appropriate way to go where we’re taking a step forward towards a system that will ultimately cover everybody.”

The Buy-in Trick Again

Representative Jayapal introduced H.R. 1384, her replacement for the Conyers’ model, on February 27, 2019. The 119-page bill is a masterful card trick. On one hand, it maintains the ban on premiums and co-payments, and it specifies a broad list of covered medical services, including some never proposed before in such legislation.

On the other hand, Jayapal copied Sanders’ big step backward – an optional “buy-in” transition period with premiums, only shortened from his four years to two. (After the first year, minors up to age 18 and people 55 and older would move automatically into the new system.) H.R. 1384 states:

The Administrator shall determine the premium amount for enrolling in the Medicare Transition buy-in, which may vary according to family or individual coverage, age, and tobacco status,… (H.R. 1384, Title X, Subtitle A, Sec. 1002 (e)(A))

Since Conyers introduced H.R. 676 in 2003, his bill never had a premium-based buy-in. Why does Rep. Jayapal think a buy-in period is necessary?

With a buy-in transition, the first experience people would have with the new system would be yet another commodity insurance plan with monthly premiums. This is a recipe for political failure. During those two years the tentative new system would soon be under attack as financially unworkable and just not popular enough.

People could buy in if they wished as individuals through the notorious Affordable Care Act exchanges (“Obamacare”). Because of the extensive benefits, the plan would be one of the most costly choices. Unaffordable for most as an individual premium plan, trying to compete in an unreformed health care system with its bloated costs, the buy-in would attract few enrollees. Enemies of genuine universal health care will pounce on the result, demanding that genuine Medicare for All be postponed and turned into a supplement of one kind or another to corporate health insurance.

Only H.R. 676 delivers guaranteed healthcare for all, the equal care for all of which our advanced society is capable. Bernie Sanders and Pramila Jayapal, just like openly corporate yet arguably less devious Democrats, cower before insurance capital, pharmaceutical capital, hospital capital, etc. These parasites demand that healthcare be a set of commodities that some can afford and others cannot. The people or the dollar – that is the inescapable choice.

  1. A nominally “non-profit” hospital today is not the church-run charity that it might have been a hundred years ago. Non-profit simply means that the corporation is tax-exempt. It does not pay dividends to stockholders, but it still makes a profit. Banks share in the loot, and layers of executives are paid millions of dollars. Affiliated for-profit clinics and labs may suck profits out under cover. Examine the Sutter Health and Kaiser hospital chains in California, for example.
  2. Medicare trust fund trustees’ report, 2018, pp. 45 and 78.
  3. Jayapal went to elite Georgetown University, got an MBA after that, worked on Wall Street on leveraged buyouts, switched to executive positions in several nonprofits, sat a mere two years in the Washington state senate, and won election to the House in 2016.

The Magic Socialist

So here it is, the announcement we’ve been waiting for … all aboard for another cruise on the new and improved U.S.S. Magic Socialist with your captain Bernie Sanders at the helm! If you’re not familiar with this extraordinary vessel, it’s like the luxury liner in The Magic Christian, except catering to credulous American socialists instead of the British filthy rich. Tickets start at just $27 dollars … so hurry, because they’re going fast!

That’s right, folks, Bernie is back, and this time it’s not just a sadistic prank where he gets you all fired up about his fake “revolution” for fifteen months, gets cheated out of the nomination, then backs whichever corporate-bought candidate the Democratic Party orders you to vote for.

No, this time the Bernster really means it! This time, when the DNC rigs the primaries to hand the nomination to Harris, or Biden, or some billionaire android like Michael Bloomberg, Bernie is not going to break your heart by refusing to run as an independent candidate, unbeholden to the corporations and oligarchs that own both political parties, or otherwise make you feel like a sucker for buying his “revolution” schtick. He’s not going to fold like a fifty dollar suit and start parroting whatever propaganda the corporate media will be prodigiously spewing to convince you the Russians and Nazis are coming unless you vote for the empire’s pre-anointed puppet!

Bernie would never dream of doing that … or at least he’d never dream of doing that twice.

There are limits, after all, to people’s gullibility. It’s not like you can just run the same con, with the same fake message and the same fake messiah, over and over, and expect folks to fall for it. If you could, well, that would be extremely depressing. That would mean you could get folks to believe almost anything, or that we were stuck in some eternally recurring multi-dimensional reality loop. The next year and a half in American politics would play out like one of those Groundhog Day knock offs meets The Magic Christian meets The Usual Suspects, directed by David Lynch, on acid. We’d be barraged by recycled Feel-the-Bern memes. Hacky sack shares would go through the roof. That creepy little bird would come fluttering back, land on Bernie’s podium again, and chirp out “L’Internationale.” People would start booking Tim Robbins for interviews. Ben & Jerry’s would roll out another revolutionary flavor of Bernie ice cream … and in the end it would all amount to nothing.

But that’s not going to happen this time. No, this time, the U.S.S. Magic Socialist is setting sail straight for Socialismland! This time, it’s really the Revolution! The end of global capitalism! And the best part of the whole deal is, you don’t even have to take up arms, stage a series of wildcat strikes, blockade major highways, occupy airports, or otherwise cripple the U.S. economy … all you have to do is vote for Bernie!

See, that’s the magic of electoral politics! The global capitalist ruling establishment, despite the fact that they own the banks and the corporations that own the government that owns the military and intelligence services, and despite the fact that they own the media, and all essential industries, and channels of trade, and are relentlessly restructuring the entire planet (which they rule with almost total impunity) to conform to their soulless neoliberal ideology, and are more than happy to unleash their militarized goons on anyone who gets in their way … despite all that, if we elect Bernie president, they will have no choice but to peacefully surrender, and transform America into a socialist wonderland!

Sure, they won’t be happy about it, but they will have no choice but to go along with whatever Bernie and his followers want, because that’s how American democracy works! We’ve seen it in action these last two years, since Donald Trump got elected president. The establishment wasn’t too thrilled about that, but they had to put aside their own selfish interests and respect the will of the American people … because imagine what might have happened if they hadn’t!

For example, they might have concocted a story about Trump being a Russian intelligence asset who was personally conspiring with Vladimir Putin to destroy the fabric of Western democracy so that Russia could take over the entire planet. They could have had respected newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post and television networks like CNN and MSNBC disseminate this story, and subtly reinforce it in endless variations, on a daily basis for over two years. They could have appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the facts of their made-up story, and indict a bunch of unextraditable Russians and a handful of inveterate D.C. slimebags to make the whole thing look legitimate. At the same time, they could have had the media warn everybody, over and over, that Trump, in addition to being a traitor, was also the second coming of Hitler, and was on the verge of torching the Capitol, declaring himself Führer, and rounding up the Jews. They could have generated so much mass hysteria and Putin-Nazi paranoia that liberals would literally be seeing Russians and Nazis coming out of the woodwork!

Fortunately, the global capitalist establishment, out of respect for democracy and the American people, decided not to go that route. If Americans chose to elect a jabbering imbecile president, that was their right, and far be it from the empire to interfere. Tempting as it must have been to use all their power to demonize Trump in order to teach the world what happens when you get elected president without their permission, they restrained themselves … and thank God for that! I don’t even want to contemplate the extent of the rage and cynicism they would have fomented among the public by doing those things I just outlined above. That might have left people with the false impression that their votes mean absolutely nothing, and that the entire American electoral system is just a simulation of democracy, and in reality they are living in a neo-feudalist, de facto global capitalist empire administrated by omnicidal money-worshipping human parasites that won’t be satisfied until they’ve remade the whole of creation in their nihilistic image.

Thankfully, the ruling classes spared us all that, so now we can hop aboard the Magic Socialist and take another cruise with Cap’n Bernie! Considering how magnanimous they’ve been with Trump, once Bernie wins the election fair and square, the empire clearly won’t have any problems with him nationalizing the American healthcare system, tripling taxes on the super-rich, subsidizing university education, and all that other cool socialism stuff (i.e., the stuff we mostly still have here in Europe, along with some semblance of cultural solidarity, although the global capitalists are working to fix that).

Oh, yeah, and in case you’re worried about Bernie backing the empire’s ongoing regime change op in Venezuela, don’t be. He’s just playing 4D chess, like Obama did throughout his presidency, by pretending to do the empire’s bidding while he actually went about the business of resurrecting hope and eradicating racism. Bernie’s just being sly like that! It might seem like he’s aligning himself with mass murdering thugs like Elliot Abrams and sadistic ass freaks like Marco Rubio, but he isn’t. Not really. It’s just an act. I mean, he has to get elected, doesn’t he?

How else are we going to get to Socialismland?

Despite Caving on Superdelegate Votes, Democratic Leaders Stick With Old Wine in Old Bottles …

The challenge by progressives to Democratic party leaders for November’s midterms—and the 2020 presidential election—is to tone down the anti-Trump focus and play up domestic planks as did the Great Depression’s president Franklin D. Roosevelt (“FDR”) to solve the nation’s critical domestic needs. Campaigners do not want to waste time and energies in yet another party defeat because the party continues to abandon the interests of millions once under its “big tent” in catering to the interests of banks, big business, and the rich.

*****

So Democratic party’s leaders finally surrendered to its progressive wing’s demand to disallow the 716 superdelegates bloc to vote on the first ballot for a presidential nominee in 2020. That took two years at hard labor for progressive movements to wear down the Democratic National Committee (DNC) movers-shakers from using this Machiavellian tactic to stop a super-popular candidate from blocking its hand-picked pro-corporate nominee.

To move the party back to its base and prioritize today’s domestic needs that campaigners can offer voters will require fighting the DNC cabal’s long-practiced backroom tricks and threats. A few days before the Chicago annual meeting of members was the cabal’s 30-2 vote reversing the rules committee’s two-month-old ban on taking donations from union leaders in the fossil-fuel industry. That will keep the doors open to company contributions constantly influencing Congress.

DNC members apparently overlooked this deed in also passing a procedural-reform package including both same-day registration and party change, open primaries, toughening conflict-of-interest rules and financial oversight of DNC finances, and adding an Ombudsman committee for complaints.

For progressives, that means the next and greatest hurdle in both the November midterm elections for Congress and the 2020 presidential contest is to wear down the DNC’s resistance to planks still packing stadiums and halls for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ hugely popular platform planks: Medicare-for-All, $15 minimum wage, tuition-free public colleges, expanded Social Security, and a federal public-works jobs program. They are the same kind of vote-getting planks created and implemented by the famed Great Depression president, Franklin D. Roosevelt (“FDR”) for a mostly destitute and despairing nation.

But the DNC cabal’s opposition has been fiercely opposed to such plans, especially Medicare-for-All. DNC and Congressional minority leaders—Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Chuck Schumer—reap thousands in annual donations from the health-care industry. Small wonder then that last year, Pelosi insisted that “Americans aren’t ready for Medicare-for-All.” In July, her hedge was that if the Democrats win the House in November, “Medicare-for-All” proposals “should be evaluated.”

The cabal’s stance is criminal, given that millions of uninsureds will die in that stall. By May, some 45,232,000 were uninsured because of cost, many because they could no longer afford Obamacare, thanks to Congressional Republicans killing its subsidized mandate and/or the insurance industry’s constant increases in premiums and deductibles.

Yet the Reuters-Ipsos June/July poll of nearly 3,000 respondents showed that 70% support Medicare-for-all (Democrats: 85%; Republicans: 52%). Current cost estimates for the program show health-care savings of $2 trillion dollars over a 10-year period over the present for-profit system because of significant low-overhead in federal administration of the program.

Increasingly disappointed in the last few years in the Democratic party’s choices of losing candidates for Congressional and president, campaign volunteers are going to be increasingly absent. Many veteran campaigners hoped the cabal would be almost totally focused on fixing the nation’s critical domestic needs, as was FDR rather than foreign adventuring.

We veteran canvassers have a greater sense of voters’ values and demands than the party’s indoor leaders and technocrats. And we have the slammed doors or welcoming greetings to prove it. Most householders on our walking lists are unlikely to vote for Congressional or presidential candidates serving Wall Street, the industrial complex, or super-conservative “centrism.” We know we’ll hear about Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors or the critical need to attack Russia, Iran, North Korea, or China before they attack us.

What we heard on the doorsteps even in the 2015-16 presidential election was Americans’ yearning for a new FDR to address most American’s vital domestic needs, not endless wars continually supported by the party on behalf of multinational corporations. Didn’t 139 House Democrats just vote to allocate $717 billion for military spending?

We expect to be braced now on doorsteps on why the party doesn’t support Bernie’s platform or his presidential candidacy when he’s still ranked as America’s most popular politician and attracts standing-room crowds because of those planks.

Some householders may be politically savvy enough to ask why Pelosi is still House minority leader and pouring the DNC’s old wine into old bottles, something even Democratic cohorts are discussing in weighing her replacement after the midterms.

But she still remains the powerful voice of the cabal—and is a top fundraiser. As such, she wrote a six paragraph letter to Congressional colleagues the day before the DNC’s general meeting with pointed orders for the midterms. Four paragraphs dealt with fighting the Trump regime. True, “working people” are mentioned five times in her demand that incumbents focus on delivering a “strong economic message for the people.” But she carefully avoided planks about Medicare-for-All, a $15 hourly wage, and ludicrously urged the impossibility of eradicating political corruption, and closed with:

As November rapidly approaches, we must also stay focused on delivering our strong economic message to hard-working families across America that we are fighting For The People: working to lower health care costs and prescription drug prices, increasing workers’ pay through strong economic growth by rebuilding America, and cleaning up corruption to make Washington work.

She’s supported by the cabal’s latest tactic against progressives, the “New Democrats,” organized to preserve major donations from Wall Street, Big Pharma, big corporations, and the military-industrial complex. Its political-action committee (NewDemPAC) has raised $2.7 million. They counted on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to pick and fund its midterm candidates.

Support comes from neo-liberal groups and institutions, especially the Clintons’ Third Way Democrats, to carry the centrist dogma of super-caution in times when FDR-like bold actions are essential. The Third Way is touting 12 super-small planks to rebuild the economy: an American Investment Bank for small businesses and an Apprenticeship America plan to fund 100 apprenticeship programs.

The Third Way’s president defended these two top planks as the means “to stand up and launch a serious, compelling economic alternative to Sanderism.” Yet 40% of American families fret over paying for food, housing, increasing utility rates, and health care. An FDR assuredly would quickly expose Trump’s second-quarter boast that the GDP (gross domestic product) is at 4.1 percent, and his lies about a booming economy. Too many Americans are not experiencing it and echo the cry of “You can’t eat GDP. GDP doesn’t pay the bills.”

How are we volunteers to tell householders and renters that these ”New Democrat” programs are “serious, compelling economic solutions” to their basic problems?

Obviously, though this right-wing group has spent thousands on focus groups and “listening” tours around the country for those planks, their audiences must have been the well off. They’re deaf to the real needs attracting most voters in the Rust-Belt states to candidate Donald Trump and the millions flocking to Sanders’ rallies. It’s doubtful they care that 57% of Democrats and 51% of U.S. millennials view socialism positively, according to a July 30-August 5 Gallup poll. Or why such voters yearn for a new FDR to implement Sanders’ planks.

FDR was a powerful, experienced, and practical problem-solver as president. His leadership rescued the nation from its darkest hours of the Great Depression and grateful millions rewarded him with four terms in the White House.

Fresh from governing and working hard to rescue New York state, FDR was a jaunty 51 when he moved into the White House in 1933 with a pragmatic “brain-trust” staff experienced in relief work and practical economics. They hit the floor running.

In the first 100 days, they set up “New Deal” programs despite howling opposition from a terrified Democratic cabal and those in Congress, and the colossal power of big business, and the “banksters.” All of them learned no one could intimidate or deter Roosevelt in his near-impossible mission, not even Churchill, Stalin, or Hitler.

He and his team started by tackling the financial industry’s depredations with a bank “holiday,” followed by a tough law (Glass-Steagall) forbidding them to play the stock market. Another law refinanced home loans. A new agency (Securities & Exchange) finally policed Wall Street. Farmers got crop subsidies, preventing the nation from starving. Millions of unemployed got jobs fixing long-neglected and vast infrastructure needs (Works Progress Administration) so the nation got dozens of dams and the Tennessee Valley Authority for cheap power and flood control. Millions of idle youths got jobs doing environmental work (Civilian Conservation Corps).

FDR’s second term gave the elderly Social Security and brought unions protections for wages, hours, and collective bargaining (the National Labor Relations Board).

He primed the public pump both with temporary public debt and hiking taxes on the rich, actions petrifying today’s DNC cabal because of its heavy dependence on big donors bent on preserving the status quo of low taxes and few federal regulations.

The New Deal “investment” cost $500 billion in today’s dollars, but was repaid by jump-starting a dying economy into a miraculous recovery before WWII. Treasury revenues climbed because of federal paychecks spent on food, housing, goods and services. That fed business profits, increasing taxes and bank reserves for loans to those businesses and industries. Improved highways and ports moved commerce faster and farther which, in what’s called the “multiplier effect,” created jobs.

In short, led by FDR, the Democratic party was then in tune with the times and priorities of most Americans. As one old-timer recently remarked: “Roosevelt was so popular that the party wouldn’t have had to spend a dime campaigning.”

If he were in charge today, he would stump the country with specific plans crafted by a “brain-trust” and immediately implement them by Executive Order if a frightened Congress balked at fast-tracking such bills into law.

Every Congressional candidate for the November midterm elections would be “strongly urged” by an FDR to rescind the recent corporate tax-cut of 21% if it’s to be paid by cutting $2 trillion from Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, and public schools. At the least, they would be told to either block making those cuts permanent after the 2025 sunset or face another Executive Order forcing 95% of those cuts be invested in factory startups and wage increases.

A new FDR team also would be creative enough to block tax havens and money moved to international banks. Those cunning and greedy current actions to stratify profits rob the Treasury of billions in federal revenue.

In addition, they would fight for a $15 per hour wage in 2018, not 2025 because most Americans’ wages are not just stagnant, but dropping while living costs are rising and layoffs are increasing. The July PayScale study reported a decrease in 80 percent of industries and overall by 0.9% from this year’s first quarter.

Indeed, workers are earning 1.4% less than a year ago when measured against today’s Cost of Living (COLA) rate? No state has a minimum wage yet of $15 per hour. In 15 states alone, it’s still $7.25. In Georgia and Wyoming, it’s $5.15. But, then, if none in the DNC’s elitist cabal has ever had to survive on $5.15 or $7.25 per hour, why would they consider advocating wage hikes or increases in Social Security cheques to match the COLA rate?

Additionally, an FDR would make short work on the campaign trail of Trump’s claim that June’s unemployment rate was 4%. Such a statistic involves 6,600,000 humans and the 359,000 who’ve given up looking for work in times when manufacturing has “suddenly leveled off.” If robots are expected to cut manufacturing jobs by a third in the next decade, it means a jobless rate of 39,021,210, a catastrophic number compared to the Great Depression’s highest year (1933) of 12,830,000 when FDR took office.

He and his team would counter such a disaster again by the “multiplier effect” by resurrecting both the WPA and CCC, along with a federal guaranteed annual paycheck, again paid for by temporarily increasing the federal debt and raising taxes for U.S. companies moving overseas or “going robotic.”

Despite these immense and highly visible domestic challenges, the cabal’s actions to ignore them depend heavily on planks chiefly demonizing Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t war hawks. Media critic Norman Solomon notes: “…polling shows that few Americans see Russia as a threat to their well-being. That they’re far more concerned about such kitchen-table issues as healthcare, education, housing and overall economic security.” A recent Hill/HarrisX poll also shows 54% of Americans favor a second Trump-Putin meeting and that 61% believe “better relations with Russia are in the best interest of the United States.”

Loss of special-interest contributions has been one major threat. But Bernie showed how to raise millions by “volume” of $27 contributions from individuals.

Moreover, the DNC’s choice of a presidential candidate cost them the 2016 election because some 35% of eligible Democrats failed to vote. They balked either because a plutocrat regarded them as “deplorables” of fled to third parties like the Greens or Trump as the lesser evil. Too many of the cabal’s recent actions show the same disregard for millions of ordinary voters, the definition of insanity: doing the same things and expecting different results.

The battle lines between progressives and the “New” elitist Democrats have yet to be hardened. It’s never too late for campaigners and candidates to convince the DNC leaders to pour new wine into new bottles to bring back millions of voters they’ve ignored for the last three decades. That means seeking out new FDR types for Congress in the midterms and the White House in 2020.

As for the thousands of volunteers counted on to get-out-the-vote (GOTV), we’re tired of wasting time, creativity, “foot-power,” and money working for candidates continuing to ignore actions addressing the nation’s vast domestic needs. Give us another FDR and immediate action on Bernie’s planks or we’ll vote with our feet.

The Wisdom Of Serpents

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
— Mathew 10:16

While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
— Eugene Debs, Statement to the Court upon being convicted of violating the Sedition Act, September 18, 1918

Last month I called Bernie Sanders’ Democratic party primary run “sheepdogging” my term for a move the national Democratic party seems to execute every presidential primary season when there’s no incumbent White House Democrat. The job of the sheepdog candidate is to herd leftish voters and activists back into the Democratic party one more time by giving perhaps sincere but limited and ineffectual voice to some of their issues.
— Bruce A. Dixon.  “This is what happens when we follow the Democrat sheepdog.  And what can happen if we don’t”, Black Agenda Report, June 3, 2015

I keep watching the ways in which people, left leaning liberals anyway, and even some I thought were leftists, fall over themselves to believe in the Alexandria Ocasio Cortez victory. Now, I don’t believe, I should make clear. But I find what is interesting is the ways in which this story became a kind of fairy tale and found traction. First, it’s New York. If this occurs in Port Huron or Tampa or Bakersfield — there is no story. Secondly, this woman came out of the Democratic Party machine, out of Ted Kennedy’s office and Bernie Sanders campaign. Does that not tell you something? But third, there is something curious about her whole story. And her web page says her father was a small business owner and other places it says he is an architect. None of this matters, mind you, except that she is certainly not well known in the Bronx by activists or anyone else. She strikes me, personally, as culturally a Westchester County product, not the Bronx. And I guess I find her a bit too telegenic, too perfect an image. Not to mention she is already parroting DNC rhetoric about Russiagate and already making friendly with the fascist opposition against Venezuela. One would think a Latina would know better, no? The U.S. is, after all, on the verge of possible military intervention in Venezuela — and house and senate Democrats are perfectly aligned with this thinking. When did anyone last hear a Democrat voice support for the Bolivarian revolution? Then there is the fact that her most intense support came from white affluent gentrifiers in her district. So a radical she is not.

Now this is not about Ocasio-Cortez. I think soon enough the reality will set in. Or maybe it is. I will return to that. But my question has to do with why anyone wants to believe in a Democrat in the first place? Now, the very first presidential election I ever voted in, yay those many year ago, was 1972. I voted for Democrat George McGovern of South Dakota. That was the last time I voted Democrat as well. And it is an interesting side bar note here that current Democratic Party shills like Maddow and Jonathan Chait love to compare all left leaning democrats to McGovern. And the truth is, Goldwater lost just as badly but the Republicans responded by doubling down on the extreme paleo conservatism of Barry and got themselves 8 years of The Gipper. But I digress.

Let’s take a look at what the Democratic Party has been up to lately…

Here, from Forbes magazine…:

…the Senate on Monday voted in favor of a $716 billion military spending bill for the 2019 federal fiscal year. The House had already passed it last month. This is $82 billion higher than the current budget, which itself was more than the Trump administration requested. Who says those in the Beltway can’t pull together for a common cause?  This year, 67.5% of House Democrats and 85% of Senate Democrats voted in favor.

Ponder that a moment. Over 700 billion. I mean that is getting close to double what it was under Bush or Obama. And yet people are living under freeway overpasses, in packing crates, and in make shift encampments on the edge of every city in America, literally. Over 42 million Americans, as of 2016, were listed as food insecure. 13 million children. Now the Democrats also defeated a proposal put forth by Sanders’ surrogates that looked for very tepid limited restrictions on fracking and an also mild statement on Palestinian rights. Both were shot down by the Dems.. (per Lauren McCauley):

Former U.S. Representative Howard Berman, American Federation of State, County, and Muncipal Employees executive assistant to the president, Paul Booth, former White House Energy and Climate Change Policy director Carol Browner, Ohio State Representative Alicia Reece, former State Department official Wendy Sherman, and Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden…

In other words the Democrats want no change.

Meanwhile the drinking water in Flint Michigan is no better than it ever was. Then we have the Democrats whole-hearted support of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, who, with U.S. approval and help and support have destroyed Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world. Dan Glazebrook wrote last year (it’s worse now):

And on 23rd January, the UN reported that there are now 22.2 million Yemenis in need of humanitarian assistance – 3.4 million more than the previous year – with eight million on the brink of famine, an increase of one million since 2017.

The United States is directly helping a mass genocide of the Yemeni people. And very few Americans care. No Democrats care. Well, let me clarify, for this is a perfect example of the Democratic Party and its record. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Bernie Sanders introduced a bill to limit (sort of) U.S. involvement in the aforementioned genocide. It was soft stuff. But 15 Democrats helped Republicans table the bill. Little discussion came out of that. And it was bullshit legislation anyway.

Now, this is all sort of tweezing apart stuff that is so horrific and nightmarish that it’s hard to know how to describe it. The war against defenseless Yemen began under Obama. You remember him? That Democratic President. Trump, of course, intensified support for the genocide. And Democrats are not complaining. Children are starving and dying from famine and cholera…but there is no coverage of this, really. Why is there no outrage about Israel shooting down unarmed protestors? Well, Chuck Schumer signed a bill with other Democrats to make criticism of Israel a crime. Killing OK, criticizing NOT OK.

Now, ahead of Mike Pence’s (the Dominionist bat shit nuts VP) visit to Ecuador, a number of Democrats signed a bill to bring Julian Assange back to stand trial. James Cogan writes…

The signatories are a roll-call of leading congressional Democrats: Robert Menendez, Dick Durbin, Richard Blumenthal, Edward J. Markey, Michael Bennet, Christopher Coons, Joe Manchin, Jeanne Shaheen, Diane Feinstein and Mark Warner.

They went out of their way to get behind shutting up Assange and throwing him in a dark cell in Leavenworth and then just forgetting about him.

Cogan adds…:

…in a sweeping conspiracy theory, the CIA, FBI and NSA portrayed the 2016 publication by WikiLeaks of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and then emails sent by top Democratic Party figure John Podesta, as the product of a nefarious Russian plot to undermine Hillary Clinton and assist the victory of Donald Trump.

Many liberals, if not most, and certainly the majority of Democrats are all on board to prosecute Assange. Trump very usefully serves that purpose, you see. The hatred of Trump (who seems to work very hard to be hated) allows for the Democrats (and their liberal enablers) to escalate the new Russophobic propaganda and divert attention from things like the increased defense budget, the private prison complex that profits hugely from the ICE raids and illegal deportations, and the continuing (even growing) crimes of mass incarceration. No, people are given to partisan fighting over issues like gay marriage, or flag desecration, or gender neutral pronouns or whatever. They do not have public fights about foreign policy because both major parties are in total agreement. Trump is only carrying out policy that Obama started, largely, and that Hillary would have continued as well (only likely worse). For foreign policy is the black hole in American consciousness.

The US has been in Afghanistan for sixteen years. Why do people not talk about this? Sixteen years. That’s a permanent occupation. The U.S. under Democratic leadership and under the direction of Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, destroyed Libya and assassinated its leader Muammar Gaddafi. Clinton then famously laughed about it on TV. Libya is now holding outdoor slave sales. It is a failed state where once it was one of the most advanced and stable countries in the region. Or Syria. The targeting of the Assad government was a unanimous decision of both parties. Or sanctions against Iran…again both parties. Or militarizing Africa (or support for war criminal Paul Kagame), both parties. In fact, Democratic presidents Obama and Clinton were far worse than Republicans in terms of protecting western Capital in Africa and building up AFRICOM.

Or take the recent Democratic Party attack on the Trump/Kim Jong-Un summit. Ajamu Baraka wrote:

If more proof was needed to persuade anyone that the Democrats are indeed a war party, it was provided when Senator Chuck Schumer and other Democrat leaders in the Senate engaged in a cynical stunt to stake out a position to the right of John Bolton on the summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Schumer demanded terms that no nation anywhere on earth at any time in history, could accept. Ergo, he wanted this summit to fail. And that failure then would make it easier to justify an invasion of the DPRK.

You see, the Democratic Party is the party of finance capital, of Wall Street, and the only difference from Republicans is that Democrats tend to express themselves in the terms of identity politics. Trump’s presidency expresses itself in the terms of nativist xenophobic racists. But honestly, they all vote mostly the same.

Obama’s electoral coalition was driven by the professional class that had arisen to manage the various segments of the financialized economy. Since they derive significant benefits from late capitalism, the professionals eschew class-struggle based politics.
— Peter Lavenia. “The Revenge of Class and the Death of the Democratic Party“, Counterpunch, November 16, 2016

Never mention class. Things that have some importance, such as marijuana legalization were decidedly better under Democrats. And that certainly matters. But remember, all those small incremental gains by Democrats did little or nothing to change the staggering inequality of the system itself. But people are terrorized. That is why Ocasio-Cortez is embraced so uncritically. People are genuinely terrified. They are without protection at work, and they are unprotected by any sort of comprehensive medical program. They are unprotected from the militarized racist police forces of every American city and town. A militarization, it should be noted, that began in ernest under Obama.

But perhaps most important in any discussion of the Democratic Party are their ties to the CIA.

Patrick Martin writes:

An extraordinary number of former intelligence and military operatives from the CIA, Pentagon, National Security Council and State Department are seeking nomination as Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections. The potential influx of military-intelligence personnel into the legislature has no precedent in US political history.

If the Democrats capture a majority in the House of Representatives on November 6, as widely predicted, candidates drawn from the military-intelligence apparatus will comprise as many as half of the new Democratic members of Congress.”

This is interesting for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that the DNC does nothing to hide this but rather sees it a sure fire vote getter.

Martin again:

The total of such candidates for the Democratic nomination in the 102 districts is 221. Each has a website that gives biographical details, which we have collected and reviewed for this report. It is notable that those candidates with a record in the military-intelligence apparatus, as well as civilian work for the State Department, Pentagon or National Security Council, do not hide their involvement, particularly in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They clearly regard working as a CIA agent in Baghdad, an Army special ops assassin in Afghanistan, or a planner for drone missile warfare in the White House or Pentagon as a star on their résumé, rather than something to conceal.

Among these new candidates running as Democrats are former CIA operatives (Abigail Spanberger), a military intelligence officer with two tours in Iraq (Patrick Ryan), a naval intelligence officer, who also served in the US European Command in Stuttgart, Germany (Jonathan Ebel), a deep cover op for the CIA in Latin America ( helly Chauncey), a twenty three year Navy Seal veteran with several tours in Iraq (Joel Butner), a Pentagon advisor to David Petraeus (Andy Kim), a former member of the 82nd Airborne and part of a Joint Special Operations Task Force on counter-terrorism in Afghanistan (Jason Crow). This is just a sampling. There are also a host of former State Department candidates, too.

One example (quoting Martin again…) is:

Sara Jacobs is another State Department official turned Clinton campaign aide, working on “conflict zones in East and West Africa,” particularly the campaign against Boko Haram in Nigeria, and helping to “spearhead President Obama’s efforts to improve governance in the security sector of our counterterrorism partners,” according to her campaign website. She was a foreign policy adviser to the Clinton campaign and is now seeking the Democratic nomination in California’s 49th District …

But, in fact, there are forty some others. The Democratic Party is now the party of the CIA and Pentagon, and in both cases with a heavy emphasis on intelligence. Career military and CIA veterans make up the best financed of Democratic Party candidates. Again, these bios are seen as a plus for the DNC — and this in no small measure is the result of Hollywood film and TV. The infiltration of Hollywood by the Pentagon, CIA, and FBI is now hardly even a secret. Almost every show with anything to do with the military has CIA advisors right there in the writers’ room. And if the story has to do with cops, you can count on veteran law enforcement advisors, too.

The anti-Trump fervor is understandable, and justified, but the Democrats are not the opposition. They are better spoken version of the same Imperialist state. And domestically, these veteran CIA operatives and military intel veterans are hardly going to embrace progressive causes. They are hardly going to look to dismantle the racist militarized police apparatus or challenge the racist judicial system. They are not going to seek reforms for mass incarceration. Most of them have experience with black sites and torture, with the pacification of entire populations, and with all manner of counter insurgency tactics.

The Democratic Party is the party of affluence. And these candidates reflect a growing hostility to the working class and a growing embrace of conservative law and order values. And in that sense Ocasio-Cortez fits right in.

Nick Pemberton wrote:

The Democrats have engaged in the deregulation of the economy. They have attacked unions. They have cut funding for public schools and replaced them with prisons. They have promoted pipelines and wars for oil. They have supported vicious trade deals that hurt workers and destroy the environment. If the world was to run as is with Democrats in place of Republicans we would still become extinct in the near future. If not by nuclear annihilation, then by climate change.

So, back to Ocasio-Cortez for a moment. Teodrose Fikre wrote:

Year after year, election after election, we keep falling for the latest fresh faces who promise to go to DC and drain the swamp of corruption and nepotism. The results always end up the same way, hope being paid back with hopelessness as the politicians we put our faith in sell their souls in order to retain power and celebrity. This is how the establishment remains fixed no matter who gets elected; the people in charge are not the politicians we elect but the donors who fund their campaigns and the insiders who determine rank and privileges within the party infrastructure. ( ) No more voting for the lesser of two evils and no more listening to people who try to convince you that supporting ideas outside of the Democrat/Republican divide is wasted energy. Don’t fall for the merry-go-round of personalities who keep being unleashed to sheepdog voters back to this two-party racket.

PS. More than 90% of mainstream media is owned by six corporations (read six people), they don’t allow true change agents to have access to the airwaves. Be cautious and twice skeptical when unknown candidates are given millions in free advertisement by the same interests they’re supposedly fighting.

Ocasio-Cortez was on Colbert, she was given a feature in Vogue. (Cynthia McKinney, who has a good deal more integrity than almost anyone else in her rotten party, was never invited on Cobert when she stood alone to call out President Bush on his Carlyle Group links, Saudi connections, and illegal invasion of Iraq. Why? Not telegenic or perky enough?).

So let me summarize…..The Democratic Party is now drawing heavily from military intelligence, the CIA, Pentagon and State Department (with specific emphasis on those with intelligence experience). These sorts of backgrounds suggest most of these candidates have knowledge of propaganda and psy-ops, as well as a basic value system that is consonant with American exceptionalism. They know a lot, we presume, about marketing strategies and about disinformation. So, is it not peculiar to anyone that this new face of pseudo socialism pops up right now — literally out of nowhere? See, to me it feels very Obama like. It’s perception management meets electoral long game strategic thinking. Honestly, all the talk of keeping an eye on her (Ocasio-Cortez) and making sure she honors her principles, etc…all of this feels wildly naive and almost delusional, frankly. One has to learn to read the codes. And since it is a proven fact that the Democrat Party is utterly corrupt, in bed with Wall Street and big corporate entities in agriculture, telecoms, and pharmaceuticals, as well as the military itself — why would one want to give a candidate FOR this utterly corrupt party the benefit of the doubt?

Now on my bullshit meter (a term I don’t really like but whatever) the needle went directly to red. In fact it broke and stuck in the red zone. So, the subjective side is I just found everything about her fake. I recoiled with that awful feeling of being faced with a fraud. Apparently many did not have that response. But I did. Bernie was called a *sheepdog*. The political slang for a left leaning candidate who cant and doesn’t want to win but who will draw disaffected voters back into the party. Bernie eventually endorsing Hillary Clinton, of course. I’m wondering why Ocasio-Cortez is not so perceived? Except I suspect she does want to win and to keep on winning. OC in 2024!!! That is what I think might well happen. She ticks off all the boxes. She has to wait until she turns 35 if I’m not mistaken, but this feels every bit a trial balloon. We shall see.

Meanwhile….here is something to support and make known: Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee

Making the 2018 Elections a Struggle for Peace, Jobs and Justice

As we head into a pivotal mid-term election year, it is clear the Democratic Party establishment has not learned a key lesson from the 2016 election. That is, that many of the party’s former and current constituents reject the party’s establishment leadership and its lackluster program. These voters are looking for alternatives. In 2016, en masse they deserted the party for a new kind of politics they found in Bernie Sanders and some saw in Donald Trump.

Voters passed judgment on the leading figures of both parties. Distrust and discontent disrupted politics as usual. The opportunity to fill this void with left-of-center electoral initiatives abound. It starts with building on the momentum of Bernie Sanders’s campaign that resonated with tens of millions. In some fashion or another, ready or not, the 2018 midterm elections must become an arena of struggle for peace, economic security and racial justice.

Sanders’ leadership in 2016, and still today, falls short in two key areas to meet this challenge. First, during his campaign he did not offer Americans a bold new foreign policy. To start with, a plan to end the war on terrorism and the foreign military adventures that have made us less safe and destabilized and laid waste to a dozen nations. Secondly, after November, instead of calling for discussion on forming a new political party he and his advisors chose to form yet another 501c entity, Our Revolution, primarily as a vehicle to move the Democratic Party to the left. It would behoove Sanders to reconsider both choices. The Democratic Party’s electoral structure is certainly a vehicle for advancing progressive and even left candidates, but the party’s owners are not likely to hand over its bank accounts to Sanders, labor unions and people’s organizations.

Months after the elections the Clinton-Obama-Pelosi centrists still hold the reins and drive a shameless hubris as they scramble to blame someone for the party’s declining appeal and its 2016 losses. No, it was not Obama and Clinton’s support of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) or Bill Clinton’s betrayal of labor unions on NAFTA.  It was not due to Hillary’s use of the term “super predators” in 1996 to describe black youth involved in criminal activity. No, it was not the shortcomings of the bureaucratic, insurer-friendly Obamacare.

No, it was the Russian television network Russia Today brainwashing its 8 million American viewers. No, it was Russian cyber meddling in the election, for which months later we have zero evidence. Same goes for alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. No, the loss was due to FBI director James Comey’s late in the game letter to congress about Clinton’s emails. No, it was WikiLeaks alleged release, in collaboration with Russia, of emails showing the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sought to derail Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Which, as we learned was the case.

After a full-court media campaign to convince Americans of Russian meddling, many remain skeptical. In a May 2017 CBS poll, 55 percent of Americans considered the allegations a distraction that “get in the way of getting things done.” In October, 41 percent still agree they were a distraction.1

Clinton again blamed Bernie Sanders in her post-election book tour, dubbed by some The Denial Tour.  “His attacks caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election….” Not exactly the kind of message designed to heal and unify the party going into 2018 elections. Since polls show Bernie is the most admired politician in America, topping 70 percent, to say her grumbling is a political misstep for the party is an understatement.

Yet, even as Clinton’s own poll ratings dropped to 30 percent, she continued to maintain the loss was due to something other than an uninspiring campaign and the neo-liberal, anti-working class politics the Democratic Party’s centrist leadership has pedaled for 30-plus years. Clinton even blamed the Democratic National Committee (DNC), led by a loyal Clinton supporter, Debbie Wasserman Schulz, saying it “…was on the verge of insolvency. Its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong.”2

A crisis of legitimacy

Both Sanders and Trump’s campaigns rode on a crisis of legitimacy in the two parties. Today, only 18 percent of voters consider themselves strong Democrats. The no longer Grand Old Party is slightly worse off at 15 percent. So far, Trump maintains most of his loyal voter support, which we should keep in mind, is only around 25 percent of the total electorate.

The attendant political volatility arising from the 2016 election combined with numerous international crises, presents an opportunity for demagogic appeals to patriotism, xenophobia and racism to deepen and spread. At the same time, it is an opening to advance a working-class political and economic program to provide meaningful, concrete solutions to address people’s grievances and discontents. A program, we might call a Sanders plus program, the plus being a plan for peace.

The Sanders wing of the Democrats is hesitant, waiting. Will Sanders break with the party? Be sidelined? Clearly, Sanders is taking on the establishment, pushing his economic program of social benefits, but it appears his aim is to reform or take over the party. A tough job when those hanging on to power, did not mention Sander’s program until September, when 15 Democratic senators finally endorsed single-payer national health insurance. In the House, progressive Democrats have signed on Bernie’s program for free post-secondary education, paid parental leave and expanding social security. However, there is little evidence of serious actions being taken on the part of the leadership to rally Americans behind the legislation. After Sanders introduced his single-payer bill, Hillary Clinton and other Democratic leaders, notably Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, told voters they do not support single-payer. Again, the failure of the leadership to learn the lessons of 2016.

Understandably then, Americans give the leadership low marks when it comes to presenting alternatives to Trump’s reactionary program. A Washington Post – ABC News poll in late October this year found only 28 percent of voters thought the Democrats were offering real alternatives.3 Nearly one half of Democratic responders and 65 percent of independents said the leadership was just criticizing Trump. One attempt to launch an alternative program failed miserably.

The Democrats “Better Deal” falls flat

In July, a Pelosi–Schumer road show unveiled the party’s alternative to the Trump-GOP program: “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.” In a Washington Post, Op-ed, Pelosi said the Deal, “represents a renewed Democratic commitment to the hard-working men and women across the United States who have been left out and left behind for too long.” It rained hard in Berryville, Virginia that day, the site of show. Reviews rained even harder on the Democrat’s proposal. It made no mention of Sanders’ far-reaching social benefit program that would lift up the left out. Their effort to make a splash with the working class was drowned in empty words, rhetorical promises and contrived apologies for abandoning working-class voters.

If Schumer, Pelosi, Clinton et al wanted to rebuild the party they only need reach out to the millions who responded to Sanders program for expanding social benefits at the expense of the billionaire class. Instead all we hear is Russia, Russia, Russia. Some pundits allege the Democratic leadership is tone-deaf to political reality, but their silence is due to an unwillingness to break with their corporate sponsors any more than are the masters of the once Grand Old Party. Instead both parties, and institutions in their orbits, are worried Americans are losing faith in the long-standing institutions of the limited “democracy of the few” embodied by the two-party capitalist system.

In January, Linda Chavez, a former Reagan cabinet member turned media pundit, put it this way in her New York Post column: “Democracy can only exist as long as the people trust its institutions. The greatest calamity of this election cycle has been the weakening of that trust.” Another reading of her statement is both Sanders and Trump upset the well painted façade of democratic governance. Neither candidate could be trusted to be loyal administrators of the bi-partisan imperialist foreign policy and neo-liberal economic program of capitalism.

While Chavez may lament this decline, those seeking a more just, peaceful society have an opportunity to step into this vacuum and begin building a new political party responsive to, and with, our nation’s multi-national working class, white and blue collar, youth and students. The massive discontent with politics as usual offers fertile ground. The first step is to agree on a working-class program for economic security, peace and racial justice. The next is to bring it into the 2018 mid-term election and beyond.

Resolutions at the AFL-CIO Convention in October showed emerging sentiment among labor union leaders for independence from the two parties and for renewing the idea of a Labor Party. A resolution calling for a pro-worker agenda and “an independent political voice,” stated: “The time has passed when we can passively settle for the lesser of two evils.”4

According to the People’s World reporting from the convention, 50 delegates met for a discussion on the idea of a Labor Party.5 Postal Workers President Mark Dimondstein led a convention floor discussion and roused an applause when he said: “The Democratic Party was not delivering anything even when it had control of the White House, the Congress and the Senate.” This echoed the position of another resolution on electoral politics that concluded that: “continuing to follow the same model, expecting different results, is not an effective strategy for labor.”6

Help wanted: political leaders who stand for something

Propelling the urgency for bold alternatives in 2018 and beyond is that another capitalist economic crisis is looming on the horizon. Absent an alternative such a crisis will enlarge the opening for demagogic solutions like those offered by Trump’s GOP, as well as, austerity measures authored by the corporate allies of both parties. Might it be possible that Our Revolution will find an independent political footing to meet this challenge? Might progressive labor unions unite with people’s movements and Our Revolution to meet this challenge? These possibilities deserve urgent attention if we are to prevent Trump’s new GOP from consolidating power.7

Single-payer advocates welcomed senate Democrats finally getting behind Medicare for all legislation, but there is a steep hill to climb to win over skeptical workers fed up with just about every establishment Democrat. Democratic Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio said, in a New York Times interview in June, following the loss of Jon Ossoff in Georgia, that the party had become “toxic” in much of the country as voters see Democrats as “not being able to connect with the issues they care about.”8

In the same article D. Taylor, the president of the union Unite Here, representing hospitality workers across the country said, “Millions of Americans are desperate to be led by political leaders who stand for something, are willing to take risks, and are willing to tell the truth and engage Americans where they live. That just isn’t happening.” Labor unions and people’s movements who wait for the Democratic Party to make it happen will still be waiting in 2024. Now is the time to build and organize the mass sentiments revealed by the Sanders’ campaign. It’s no time to hesitate or go slow. It is time to take bold risks with confidence and trust that people will respond.

Although the Tim Ryans of the Democratic Party are not likely to call their own foreign policy “toxic,” 2016 showed millions of voters were concerned about Hillary Clinton’s aggressive support of military interventions. Sanders’ repeated criticism of her record resonated broadly with young people, progressives and among the working class. In the fall, Trump even told his voters at rallies that a vote for Hillary would be a vote for more war.

Yet, since the election the Democratic leadership has lent tacit support to Trump’s military budget increases and his ratcheting up of aggression against Venezuela, Iran, North Korea and China. Particularly egregious is the support of both parties’ leaders, for Saudi Arabia’s murderous war against the people of Yemen. Aggression that began with support from the Obama Administration. Not a word of criticism, except for a handful of progressive Democratic officials.

An electoral counter to such dangerous jingoism requires fielding dozens of congressional candidates on a program for peace. This is the glimmer of rationality that peace-loving, oppressed and war-torn peoples around world desperately await U.S. activists to initiate in the citadel of imperialism. Left and progressive organizations that avoid this work shirk their international responsibilities.

A good place to start is to press candidates and incumbents to support a new direction in foreign policy as advanced by AFL-CIO resolution: War is not the Answer.9 It calls on the president and congress “to bring the war dollars home and make our priority as a nation rebuilding this country’s crumbling infrastructure, creating millions of living wage jobs and addressing human needs such as education, health care, housing, retirement security and jobs.  Furthermore, it calls “for a foreign policy based on international solidarity of all workers, mutual respect of all nations and national sovereignty…”

If candidates won’t sign on, challenge them. Pressure them. Americans are tired of war. The AFL-CIO resolution reflects this sentiment. Make 2018 a struggle for peace. General election and primary challengers running on a plan for peace may not win, but such a presence is urgently needed to elevate the struggle for peace, economic security and racial justice.

  1. Americans worried about Russian influence on elections,” October 30, 2017. SurveyMonkey poll conducted from October 23 to October 26.
  2. CNN, Chris Cillizza, Editor-at-large. “In election blame game, it’s time for Hillary Clinton to take her share,” June 1, 2017.
  3. Washington Post. “Trump’s approval rating remains historically low and confidence has declined.” Washington Post-ABC News poll, October 29-November 1, 2017. November 13, 2017.
  4. Resolution 2: “An independent political voice.” Resolutions, 2017 AFL-CIO Convention.
  5. John Wojcik and Mark Gruenberg. People’s World, “AFL-CIO calls for a break with “lesser of two evils” politics,” October 25, 2017.
  6. Resolution 48: “Exploring new directions for labor in electoral politics.”
  7. See my analysis of this danger in the December 2017, Adonde Press pamphlet, “The 2016 Election: Analysis, Lessons and Task Ahead.”
  8. Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin. New York Times. “Democrats Seethe After Georgia Loss: ‘Our Brand Is Worse Than Trump.’”, June 21, 2017.
  9. Resolution 50: “War is not the Answer.” Resolutions, 2017 AFL-CIO Convention.

Preparing For The Coming Transformation

The year 2017 has been another active year for people fighting on a wide range of fronts. The Trump administration has brought many issues that have existed for years out into the open where they are more difficult to deny – racism, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism and patriarchy and the crises they create. More people are activated and greater connections between the fronts of struggle are creating a movement of movements. These are positive developments, bright spots in difficult times. They are the seeds of transformative change that we can nurture and grow if we act with intention.

The crises we face have been building for decades. They are reaching a point of extremism that will create an even greater response by people. What that response is, where it goes and what it accomplishes are up to all of us to determine.

The overreach by the plutocrats in power may bring a boomerang effect, energizing the population to take action and demand the changes we desire and need. We may reach a moment, a turning point, when the movements for economic, racial and environmental justice, as well as peace, can win significant changes, beyond the comfort zones of those in power. The boomerang will only occur if we educate and organize for it, and its size will also depend on us.

We have no illusions that this work will be easy. Those in power will do all that they can to derail, misdirect and suppress our efforts. Our tasks are to resist their tactics and maintain our focus on our end goals. This requires understanding how social movements succeed and being clear in our demands for transformative change.

We see several key areas where people are energized to work for changes that are opportunities to expand the current movement of movements into a powerful force that will overcome the stranglehold by the corporate duopoly parties. This is the first of two articles to help prepare us for the work ahead. In the second article, we will describe these key issues in greater depth and what we need to do to create the transformative moment we need.

The Long Development of this Transformative Era

The era of transformation has been developing over many decades. If we view it through presidential administrations, a frame of reference used commonly in the United States, we see that both major parties represent the interests of the wealthy and corporations, not the majority of the population, and that they effectively divide and weaken popular movements.

After Bill Clinton’s administration loosened regulations on finance, setting the stage for the 2008 crash, brought in trade agreements like NAFTA and weakened the social safety net, and George W. Bush’s administration expanded military aggression around the world and the domestic security state, as well as further enriching the wealthy, people were hungry for change. Barack Obama effectively built his ‘hope and change’ campaign around this desire, vaguely but eloquently promising what people wanted. His words allowed people to imagine that a transformation was coming.

Obama raised expectations, but he did not fulfill them. His cabinet was made up of Wall Streeters from Citigroup. He continued and expanded foreign wars, the wealth divide grew and tens of millions went without healthcare even after his private insurance-based Affordable Care Act became law. The frustration that had been building during the Clinton-Bush years burst onto the scene with Occupy, Fight for $15, Black Lives Matter, debt resistance, immigration reform, Idle No More and other fronts of struggle.

After Occupy, the media told us the people’s struggle went away, but, as we show in the daily movement news reporting on Popular Resistance, all of those struggles expanded. The corporate media’s failure to cover the national mass protest movement does not change reality — the resistance movements continue, are growing and are impacting popular opinion and policies.

Where We Are and What We Must Do

In 2013, we wrote a two part series describing the status of the movement and what the movement must do. In the December 2013 article, “Closer than We Think” we described the eight stages of social movements, an analysis by long-time civil rights and anti-nuclear activist, Bill Moyer. The movement had gone through the “Take-Off”, Stage Four of the social movement when encampments covered the country, seemingly overnight, and brought the issues of the wealth divide, racist policing, climate change, student debt and other issues to the forefront. The meme of the 99% against the 1% illustrated the conflict between people power and the power holders. We passed through Stage Five, “the Landing,” where the encampments disappeared and people asked, “What happened? Did we accomplish anything?”

Our second article in January 2014 focused on the tasks of the movement and explained that we were now in Stage Six, the final stage before victory. This is a long-term phase that could last years where the goal is to build broad national consensus of 70% to 90% support among the public for the goals of the movement and to mobilize people as effective change agents.

During this phase, the contradictions in the system become more obvious to people. For example, as the United States and world experience the harsh realities of climate change in massive storms, widespread fires, droughts and famine, the government’s response is inadequate. When Obama was president his administration was an anchor on the world, weakening international climate and trade agreements. His secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, used her influence to promote fracking. The Trump administration has gone further, denying climate change, erasing words and phrases that describe it from government reports, silencing scientists and undermining the inadequate steps made to confront climate change that were put in place in the Obama era.

The inadequate response to the climate crisis is one example of many multiple crisis situations that exist in which the government does not respond, responds inadequately or even takes actions that make these crises worse. In some cases, the power holders go too far, as we see in the recently passed tax bill, designed to protect the donor class, and in abusive police practices as the racism and violence of our society are exposed. The overreaction in the end helps build the national consensus we need to achieve our objectives.

The contradictions arise because there are obvious solutions to each crisis we face, but those in power refuse to put them in place. National consensus for these solutions grows during this phase, and the failures of the money-dominated political system become more obvious.

As a result, a transformative moment is building now. It can be seen in the 2016 presidential campaigns where people showed frustration with both corporate parties. Electoral challenges inside the parties showed populist anger based on hundreds of millions of people struggling every day to survive in an unfair economy. Donald Trump built his campaign around economic insecurity from the right and Senator Bernie Sanders did the same from the left. Now, Trump is betraying conservative populists with economic and healthcare policies that add to their insecurity and with the wealthiest cabinet in US history serving the interests of Wall Street, the self-interest of elected officials and adding to the distrust of the DC duopoly. The realization of Trump’s betrayal is only beginning to show itself in the lives of those who supported him.

The Democrats have been struggling to come to grips with how they lost to Donald Trump. A large part of the party is in denial, blaming their failures on the fiction of Russiagate — claiming the Russians were responsible for their loss rather than a widely-disliked candidate who represented Wall Street and war for her entire career. The Democrats continue their internal divide: the divide between Wall Street donors who want the party to serve their interests and voters who want the party to represent their interests. Invariably the Democrats will be unable to turn their backs on their donors and will nominate a fake change agent who will spout popular progressive rhetoric and dash those hopes when in office.

It is critical for us to step out of the limitations of two and four year election cycles and recognize that social transformation does not arise by electing the perceived least evil. Social transformation occurs through a people-powered movement of movements that arises over decades of struggle and shifts the political reality so that the power holders must respond.

Issues Driving the Backlash 

There will be a backlash. It will look to the Democrats like a backlash against Trump’s extremism, but it will be broader. It will be a backlash against the extremism of the corporate duopoly. Their bi-partisan policies always put the wealthy and big business interests first. The boomerang will be built on the conflict between the necessities of the people and the planet vs. the greed of the wealthy.

There are a number of fundamental issues that are priorities for large majorities of the population, around which people are mobilizing and where national consensus is developing. They have the potential to connect our movements into a powerful force.

One of our tasks is to develop clear demands so that we cannot be side-tracked by false or partial solutions. If these fundamental issues are addressed through bold and transformative solutions, they will shift the political culture and our political system in a significant way towards the people-powered future we need. They will create change at the root causes of the crises we face.

These transformative issues include economic inequality, lack of access to health care, ensuring Internet freedom and a people’s media, confronting climate change and environmental disasters, ending US Empire and militarism at home, and addressing domestic human rights abuses, whether it is exploitation of workers, mass incarceration, racism or disrespect for Indigenous sovereignty. Throughout all of these issues there is a thread of racial injustice so our struggles must not just solidify around class issues, but must also solidify around the necessity of ending systemic racism.

We will address these issues and next steps in greater depth in the first newsletter of the new year. We wish all of you a peaceful week and hope you are able to spend time with loved ones. We are committed to being with you through the struggle and to doing all we can to stop the machine and create a new world.

Why WikiLeaks Was Right: Rigging the Democratic Way

It took some time of muzzling and concealment before the horror, but various Democrats have finally come clean about the Hillary Clinton machine: things were, it seems, rigged, stacked, and doctored.  This was the language of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump from opposite sides of the political spectrum, the code of anti-establishment anger, the message for disruptive change.

Such anti-establishment creatures were ultimately reviled by orthodox party priests as futile hopes, misguided and bound to lose.  In the great tradition of US presidential politics, they had to be neutralised.

As each less credible than the last figure fell before the Trump juggernaut, Clinton felt she could hold her own on the Democratic wing, keeping Sanders at bay and ultimately convincing a broken Democratic party machine that her famed outfit would steady the ship for an effortless docking in the White House.

Donna Brazile’s revelations, to that end, can hardly be deemed “explosive,” as Politico puts it.  (Damp squib, more like.)  The Podesta emails available on the WikiLeaks site already showed a picture of concern and application against the Sanders threat, a nursed fear that his message was biting.  Tactics are discussed, dirt suggested as to how best to stall and eliminate the Bernie momentum.

In her book Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House, the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman reveals collusion and bad smell complicity.  She insists, however, that there was nothing “criminal” in it, though it “compromised the party’s integrity”.  “If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead.”

Brazile is, as ever, careful with the water: she is always ready to wash her hands vigorously in the anticipation that she might be accused of bad faith and shape changing.  She claims to have “promised Bernie when I took the helm of the Democratic National Committee after the convention that I would get to the bottom of whether Hillary Clinton’s team had rigged the nomination process, as a cache of emails stolen by Russian hackers and posted online had suggested.”

The more Brazile goes into the story, the more the story seems old and known. What matters is that she has woken up to it, to Clinton as ruthless and omnivorous.  “Right around the time of the convention, the leaked emails revealed Hillary’s campaign was grabbing money from the state parties for its own purposes, leaving the states with very little to support down-ballot races.”

Brazile’s revelations stimulated interest among certain Democratic politicians, notably Elizabeth Warren who decided to recapitulate the rigging theme in three of five national television interviews.  “We recognize the process was rigged,” explained Warren to Judy Woodruff of PBS, “and now it is up to Democrats to build a new process, a process that really works, and works for everyone.”

Unfortunately for Warren, much of this is fuming after the horse has bolted, the wringing of hands at milk long spilt.  She might well have picked another option, glaringly obvious and daring, but decided to fall into line with the DNC machinery when her protest would have counted most.  Warren ultimately joined forces to give Clinton ballast on the campaign trail.  The ignorance card is only bound to take you so far.

A former Sanders campaign strategist sees the play by Warren for what it is.  “There is a Bernie donor base that’s very important if you want to be in national political office. This is a play for that.” To that end, “Repairing that relationship is more important than poisoning the well with the Clintonites.”

That may well do much to continue undermining the reform agenda, which the Democrats have yet to embrace.  While Clinton attempts to monetise her abysmal failure to defeat Trump through speeches, publications and interviews, Brazile is now reconsidering her slant.

Did she ever actually say, let alone suggest, that the process had been tampered with, sewn up and manipulated in favour of Clinton?  No.  On Twitter, she fretted: “Today’s lesson: Being quoted by Donald Trump means being MIS-quoted by Donald Trump.  Stop trolling me.”

In another statement, Brazile seemed to have undergone a remarkable transformation, suggesting that the author of Hacks had been abducted and substituted.  The problem, as ever, was who was capitalising on her sudden insight.  “Trump looks for a daily excuse to distract from his job.  No, the primary system wasn’t rigged!  States control primary ballots.”

Perhaps this is hardly surprising, when one considers the Russian mania that suffuses her Twitter postings, the usual bellyaching blame game that keeps company with Clinton.  “Russia,” she writes in a re-Tweet of a link from The Guardian, “funded Facebook and Twitter investments through Kushner associate.”  On November 4, she chirps in smug satisfaction how, “Report shows the complex way Russian hackers went after Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.”

Another re-Tweet features a piece by Joy-Anne Reid in The Daily Beast as another attempt to throw critics off the scent, hoping that attention will not be paid to the atrocious conduct of the Clinton machine: “Donna Brazile’s Bombshell Isn’t that Hillary Clinton rigged the race, but that the Democratic Party Blew it.”

All that is true, but the ugly, grizzled picture of Democratic decline and fabled suicide was epitomised by its poor choice of candidate, the party establishment’s inadvertent admission that ossification had set in.   The Warrens fell silent, and Sanders retreated, leaving his supporters to grieve and observe the unfolding calamity.  Trump duly scooped up the remains. WikiLeaks was, after the dust had settled, discomfortingly right.