Category Archives: Republicans

The Democrats Out-Right the Right on North Korean Summit

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.

The Democrats asserted that the planned summit could only be judged successful if the North Koreans agreed to dismantle and remove all their nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, end all production and enrichment of uranium, dismantle its nuclear weapons infrastructure, and suspend ballistic missile tests.

Those demands would constitute an unconditional surrender on the part of the North Korean leadership and will not happen, and the Democrats know it.

But as problematic as those demands are, here is the real problem that again demonstrates the bi-partisan commitment to war that has been at the center of U.S. imperial policies: If these are the outcomes that must be achieved for the meeting to be judged a success, not only does it raise the bar beyond the level any serious person believes possible, it gives the Trump administration the ideological cover to move toward war. The inevitable failure to force the North Koreans to surrender essentially forecloses all other options other than military conflict.

This is a reckless and cynical game that provides more proof that neither party has the maturity and foresight to lead.

Both capitalist parties support the use and deployment of militarism, repression and war, but somehow – even though the historic record reveals the opposite – the Democratic party has managed to be perceived as less likely to support the war agenda than Republicans. That perception must be challenged directly.

The Democrats have had a long and sordid history connected to North Korea, and every other imperialist war that the U.S. has waged since the end of the Second World War. It was the policies of Democrat president Truman that divided the Korean peninsula and led to the brutal colonial war waged by U.S. forces. Conflict with Korea was valuable for Truman and his party advisors who were committed to re-militarizing the U.S. economy, and they needed the justification that the Korean war gave them. Truman tripled the military budget and established the framework for the network of U.S foreign bases that would eventually cover the world over the next few decades.

The bipartisan commitment to full spectrum dominance continues with no real opposition from the Democratic party-connected “resistance.” Even the Poor Peoples’ Campaign (PPC) that was launched in May and purports to be an independent moral movement still dances around the issue of naming the parties and interests responsible for the “moral failures” of the U.S.

On the other hand, the Revolutionary Action Committee, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the student- and youth-led anti-war movement and eventually Dr. King clearly identified the bi-partisan commitment to the Vietnam war. What Dr. King and the activists in the 1960s understood was that in order to be politically and morally consistent, it was necessary to name the culprits and identify the concrete geopolitical and economic interests driving the issue of war and militarism.

Appeals to morality as an element for popular mobilization against war can be useful. But such appeals have little more impact than an online petition if they substitute vague platitudes for substance and specificity.

So it was with the PPC’s week of actions against war. Just a few days before the week began, a vote took place in the House of Representatives to support yet another increase to the military budget. In a vote of 351 to 66, the House of Representatives authorized a significant hike to an incredible $717 billion a year.

And then just a few days after the PPC’s week of action on militarism and war, the Democrats delivered their reckless and opportunistic ultimatum to the Trump administration on North Korea that could very conceivably lead to another illegal and immoral U.S. war.

Not calling the Democrats out on their warmongering is itself immoral.

It is also quite clear that vague moral appeals are not enough to delineate the interests of the capitalist elites and their commitment to war as oppositional to those of working people and the poor, who in the U.S. serve the moneyed interests as enlisted cannon fodder.

The positions staked out by the leadership of the Democratic party just confirmed what was already commonly understood as the hegemonic positions among the majority in the foreign policy establishment.

Objectively, there was never much ideological space between the right-wing policies of Dick Cheney or John Bolton and the neoliberal right-wing policies of Democratic party policy-makers. The differences were always merely tactical and not strategic in the sense that they all want the North Koreans to be supplicants.

Unfortunately, the general public is the only sector confused about the intentions and interests of elitist policy-makers, especially those elements of the public conditioned to believe that the Democratic party is less belligerent and less committed to militarism than the Republicans.

The fact is that the Democratic party establishment is also firmly entrenched on the right. Defeating the bi-partisan right must be the task for ourselves and for the world.

That is why the peace, anti-war and anti-imperialist forces must do the work to clear up that confusion. The movement must declare without equivocation the position of the Black Alliance for Peace: Not one drop of blood from the working class and poor to defend the capitalist oligarchy.

Multi-Millionaire Mass Murderer for Senate

Donald Leon “Don” Blankenship isn’t just another typical rich, white, tall, 68-year-old Republican multi-millionaire ideologue serving out the last probationary year of his federal criminal sentence in Las Vegas while running for the US Senate in West Virginia.  He’s also an endlessly, self-righteously self-justifying mass murderer.

Don Blankenship isn’t your typical extermination-camp-type mass murderer. He’s a lifelong coal executive. Mostly his activities kill people slowly, in their natural habitat, or what used to be a natural habitat before coal mining started destroying mountains, rivers, aquifers, and other life-sustaining ecosystems.

None of this is much of an issue in the Republican primary race for the West Virginia Senate nomination. The primary is scheduled for May 8. As of April 5, Blankenship was rising in the polls, now standing second with 27% in a six-way race, nine points higher than a month ago. The leader has 29%, down four points over the past month (down 13 since February). In 2016 Donald Trump won 68% of the vote in West Virginia. In 2014 the Republican Senate candidate won 62%. Blankenship is self-funding his campaign and has reportedly already spent millions. Blankenship spokesman Greg Thomas framed the situation carefully:

While we don’t have much confidence in other people’s polls, it is not surprising that more and more West Virginians would be supporting Don Blankenship. Don’s message of being a proven job creator and a conservative leader in West Virginia who will fight against the D.C. establishment is being received well everywhere we go….

The more people know about Don, the more they like him. We are doing everything we can to make sure people hear our positive message.

Reality is a variable, especially in politics. Even in West Virginia, running as a former CEO convicted of conspiring to cut safety measures, directly leading to 29 dead miners, probably is not the best image to project, even though it’s precisely true. But that was back in 2010, back before the Trump era blossomed upon us, back when the US government actually tried to prosecute people who killed their employees, back when Rolling Stone described Blankenship with refreshing venom:

You might not know that he grew up in the coal fields of West Virginia, received an accounting degree from a local college, and, through a combination of luck, hard work and coldblooded ruthlessness, transformed himself into the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with the business and politics of energy in America today — a man who pursues naked self-interest and calls it patriotism, who buys judges like cheap hookers, treats workers like dogs, blasts mountains to get at a few inches of coal and uses his money and influence to ensure that America remains enslaved to the 19th-century idea that burning coal equals progress. And for this, he earns $18 million a year — making him the highest-paid CEO in the coal industry — and flies off to vacations on the French Riviera.

In 2010, Blankenship was in his tenth year as CEO and chairman of the Massey Energy Company, the largest coal company in Central Appalachia and one of the largest in the US (sold in 2011 to Alpha Natural Resources). Under Blankenship’s leadership, Massey was notorious for valuing productivity over safety. In October 2000, a Massey subsidiary unleashed some 300 million gallons of slurry laced with mercury and arsenic, killing all aquatic life nearby and polluting hundreds of miles of downstream waterways; the Bush administration cut short the investigation and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao (Mitch McConnell’s wife) assessed a $5,600 fine on Massey (which also spent about $50 million on cleanup and local fines).

In January 2006, safety violations led to a mine fire that killed two, and Massey’s culpability led to a settlement (over the objections of the widows) in which Massey paid $4.2 million in criminal and civil penalties, then the largest settlement in the coal industry’s history (but no one was prosecuted). In February 2006, a bulldozer fire killed the operator, leading Massey to plead guilty to 10 criminal charges in a plea deal that cost Massey $2.5 million, but again prosecuted no one. In 2008, Massey paid $20 million to settle thousands of clean water violations with potential total fines of $2.4 billion, which is a pretty good incentive for the company to go on polluting. In 2009, the US cited Massey for 495 violations at the company’s Upper Big Branch coal mine and proposed fines totaling $911,802.

On April 5, 2010, Massey safety failures led directly to an explosion that killed 29 miners (out of 31), the worst US mine catastrophe since 1970, which became known as the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster. The US assessed $10.8 million in penalties for 369 citations issued to Massey (which was cited more than 1,100 times for the same mine over the previous three years). On December 3, 2010, Blankenship resigned from Massey, three days before the mine safety report was issued. A year after the explosion, a state investigation fixed the blame on Massey leadership, up to and including Blankenship. On November 13, 2014, a federal grand jury indicted Blankenship on several felony charges of conspiring to violate federal safety standards, lying, and security fraud. In December 2015, a federal jury acquitted Blankenship of the felony charges, but convicted him of a misdemeanor charge of conspiring to violate safety standards. A federal judge ordered the maximum sentence for the conviction, one year in prison and a $250,000 fine. Blankenship appealed and lost, entered prison, appealed again and lost. His final appeal to the US Supreme Court was still pending when he was released on May 10, 2017, after serving his year. On October 10, 2017, the Supreme Court refused to hear Blankenship’s appeal. Blankenship responded to the court’s decision with a prepared statement that blamed the court system with a classic Republican trope of irrelevance and arrogance:

Our court system is so tangled up trying to decide whether illegal is illegal and whether males can use female public restrooms that they have no time to concern themselves with whether American citizens have received a fair trial. The judicial system is broken top to bottom and it’s not fixable.

Currently, still playing the victim, Blankenship is claiming his trial was tainted by prosecutorial misconduct and that “the actions of the prosecution are being reviewed by the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility.” The Justice Department has neither confirmed nor denied Blankenship’s claim. Blankenship contends that the fatal mine explosion was the fault of federal prosecutors and that his prosecution was part of an Obama administration conspiracy to demonize the coal industry. Blankenship also denies climate change.

Mass murderers are not known for their repentance or humility or integrity or sense of accountability, but that won’t make him stand out in the Senate, if he gets there. He probably wouldn’t even be the first actual mass murderer in the Senate, but he might be the most blatant and successful, at least by the numbers.

When you stop, rational and detached, to think about the Senate, you realize that there’s not one senator who’s not complicit in mass murder more widespread than Blankenship perhaps even dreamed of. There is not a single US senator who’s not a war criminal, and there’s also probably not a single senator who will be charged for war crimes, much less tried for and convicted of war crimes. Punishing a US senator for culpability in any of the American war crimes of recent decades is all but unimaginable.

Of all the members of the House and Senate since 2001, only Democratic congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland has any right to a presumption of innocence. And she may even be actually innocent of even the most tangential participation in our government’s daily execution of war crimes and crimes against humanity. But that innocence, that pure innocence, is hard to imagine. Barbara Lee sits in Congress, and she votes for bills that may seem beneficial or benign. And how many are truly beneficial or benign? The war economy is woven into the national fabric so pervasively that almost every act directly or indirectly facilitates our killing and our preparations to kill. The fine print in a bill to feed children in America (unlikely as that has become of late) also makes it possible to kill other children in distant places where they die anonymously and alone for the sake of our national security. Somehow.

Blankenship’s rise is reportedly raising concern among Republican incumbents, who profess to be shocked – shocked – to find Republican values so vividly personified. If he gets the nomination, Blankenship will be running against Democrat Joe Manchin, who said after the mine killings that Blankenship had blood on his hands. That hardly makes him unqualified to sit in “the world’s greatest deliberative body” (self-styled) which remains all too content not to talk about its bloody hands all over Iraq and Yemen, while giving less than lip service to its hands-off approach to the deadly suffering of Americans in Puerto Rico and Flint, Michigan.

Greater Of Two Evils: Why The Democratic Party Is Worse Than The Republican Party For 85% Of The U.S. Population

How to conceive of the two-party system

Lesser of two evils

Among liberals and the different types of socialists, when the subject of the Democratic Party comes up, there are at least two variations. One is the familiar liberal argument that the Democratic Party is the “lesser of two evils”. For them, the Republican Party is the source of most, if not all, problems while the Democratic Party is presented as shortsighted, weak and/or incompetent bumblers. Among some of the more compromising members of the Green Party, the lesser of two evils manifests itself when it implores its voters to “vote in safe states”.

There are a number of reasons why I will claim that the Democratic Party is not the lesser of two evils. But for now, I want to point out that the lesser of two evils has at its foundation a political spectrum which is organized linearly with conservatives and fascists on the right. Along the left there are liberals, followed by social democrats, state socialists, and anarchists on the extreme left. All the forces moving from liberals leftward is broadly categorized as “progressive.” What this implies is that there are only quantitative  differences between being a liberal and being any kind of socialist. In this scenario, being a liberal is somehow closer to being a socialist than being a liberal is to a being a conservative. However, there is an elephant in the room, and the elephant is capitalism.

What unites all socialists — social democrats, Maoists, Trotskyists, council communists and anarchists — is opposition to capitalism. What divides us from liberals, whether they are inside or outside the Democratic Party, is that liberals are for capitalism. In relation to the economic system, liberals are closer to conservatives than they are to socialists of any kind. So, the “lesser of two evils “argument is based on the expectation that socialists will ignore the capitalist economic system and make believe that capitalism is somehow progressive. It might have been possible to argue this case 60 years ago, but today capitalism makes its profits on war, slave prison labor and fictitious capital. Characterizing this as “progress” is ludicrous.

The parties are interchangeable

Most anarchists and various varieties of Leninists claim there is no difference between the parties. They say that capitalists control both parties and it is fruitless to make any distinctions. I agree they are both capitalist parties, but what most socialists fail to do is point out that, in addition to protecting the interests of capitalists as Republicans do, the Democratic Party: a) presents itself as representing the middle and lower classes; and b) stands in the way of the formation of a real opposition to the elites.

The second reason I disagree with the idea that the two parties are simply interchangeable is that it fails to make a distinction between the interests of the ruling and upper classes (Republicans) on the one hand, and the upper middle class (mostly Democrats) on the other. There are real class differences between elites that should not dissolved.

The Democrats are the greater of two evils

The argument I will make in this article is that the Democratic Party is worse than the Republican Party for about 85% of the population. I make this argument as a Council Communist, and my argument in no way implies voting for Republicans, Greens or even voting at all. Before giving you my reasons for why the Democratic Party is worse for most people I want to give you a sense of how I came up with the figure of 85% .

Old money vs new money and the class composition in the United States

Sociologists have some disagreements over how many classes there are in the United States and what occupations cover what social classes. While some might have a bone to pick about my percentages, I am confident that I am at least in the ballpark. The ruling class constitutes the 1% (or less) of the population and the upper class another 5%. What these classes have in common is that they all live off finance capital and do not have to work. This is what has been called “old money”. This old money had its investments in extractive industries like oil, mining and the war industry. This is the stronghold of the Republican Party.

The upper middle classes consist of doctors, lawyers, architects, and senior managers who make a lot of money, but have to work long hours. It also includes scientists, engineers as well as media professionals such as news commentators, magazine and newspaper editors, college administrators and religious authorities. Yet there are tensions between the elites and the upper middle class. The upper middle class represents “new money” and makes their profits from scientific innovation, the electronics industry, including computers and the Internet, among other avenues. This class constitutes roughly 10% of the population. The upper middle class is the stronghold of the Democratic Party.

A number of economists from Thomas Piketty to Richard Wolff have argued that for these social classes there has been an “economic recovery” since the crash of 2008. For all other classes there has been decline. The role of the Democratic Party is:

  1. To represent the actual interests of the upper middle class; and,
  2. To make believe it is a spokesperson for the other 85%.

Far be it for me to say that the Republicans and Democrats represent the same thing. There is real class struggle between the interests of the ruling class and the upper class on the one hand and the upper middle class on the other. My point is that for 85% of the population these differences between elites are irrelevant. What the top three classes have in common is a life and death commitment to capitalism – and this commitment is vastly more important than where the sources of their profits come from.

Who are these remaining 85%? Poor people, whether they are employed or not, constitute about 20% of the population. When they are working this includes unskilled work which simply means no previous training is required. Working class people — blue and white collar — represent about 40% of the population. This includes carpenters, welders, electricians, technical workers, secretaries, computer programmers, and X-ray technicians. Middle class people — high school, grammar school teachers, registered nurses, librarians, corporate middle management, and small mom-and-pop storeowners — are about 25% of the population. Most poor people don’t vote and in a way, they are smart because they understand that the Democratic Party can do nothing for them. While many working-class people don’t vote, highly skilled working class people do vote, and many will vote Democrat. Middle classes are also more likely to vote Democrat with the exception of small business owners. In fact, research by labor theorist Kim Moody into the voting patterns of the last election showed that a high percentage of this petty bourgeois voted for Trump.

The Democratic Party has nothing to offer the middle class

When I was growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, my father worked as a free-lance commercial artist about 40 hours per week. My mother stayed home and raised my sister and I. One income could cover all of us. My parents sent me to Catholic grammar schools and high schools, which were not very expensive, but they had to save their money to do it. They helped pay for part of my college education after I dropped out and then came back. They helped my partner and I with a down payment on a house in Oakland, CA. Today both parents in a middle-class family need to work and the work-week for middle class workers is at least 10 hours longer. As for savings, if a middle-class family buys a home, it is much more difficult to save for their children’s education.

In 1970 I was living in Denver, Colorado and had my own studio apartment for $70/month. I worked 20 hours a week at the library as a page and could afford to go to community college part-time. Twenty years later I tried to communicate this to my stepdaughter who was 20 years old and then compared it to her experience. She was working full-time as a waitress, had to live with two other people and could only afford to take a couple of classes without going into debt. Reluctantly and seemingly defeated she had to return home to live if she were to ever graduate from a community college. The Democrats did nothing to stem the tide of the decline of the middle class. Working class and middle class people may continue to vote for Democrats, but that doesn’t mean Democrats are delivering the goods. It just means these classes don’t want to face that:

  1. a) They have no representation; and,
  2. b) There is no alternative party and they do not live in a democracy.

Now on to why I believe the Democratic Party is worse that the Republican party for this 85% of the population.

The Democratic Party has nothing to do with being liberal

Most people who support the Democratic Party don’t really consider the party as it actually is, but how they imagine is should be according either to political science classes they’ve picked up in high school or college or from what they have picked up unconsciously through conversations. They have also gotten this from Democratic Party members themselves who talk about liberal values while in practice acting like conservatives. These voters think the Democratic Party is liberal. What do I mean by liberal? The term liberal has a long political history which I have traced elsewhere1 but let’s limit the term to what I call “New Deal Liberals”.

These New Deal liberals think that the state should provide essential services like pensions, food stamps, natural disaster relief as well as road and bridge construction. They also think the state should intervene to minimize some of the worst aspects of capitalism such as child wage work or sex slavery. These liberals think that Democrats should support the development of unions to protect the working class. This class deserves an adequate wage and decent working conditions. They also think — as it is in the American dream — that in order to justify their existence, capitalists should make profit from the production of real goods and services. These liberals think that the Democratic Party should support the development of science and research to create an easier life so that the standard of living for the American population should go up from generation to generation. These are the values of New Deal liberals. If the Democratic Party acted as if it supported these things, I could understand why liberals would say voting for the Democratic Party is the lesser of two evils. The problem is that these New Deal liberals are trapped in a 50-year time warp when the last real liberal Democratic president was Lyndon Johnson. The Democratic Party hasn’t been liberal in 50 years. This is one reason why the program of New Deal liberal Bernie Sanders had been so popular.

It does not take a Marxist to argue that the United States has been in economic decline since the mid 1970’s. It won’t do to blame the Republicans alone for this 50-year degeneration. The Democratic Party has had presidents between 1976 and 1980, in addition to eight years of Clinton, as well as eight years of Obama. They have had twenty years’ worth of chances to put into practice liberal values and they have failed miserably. Under the Democratic Party:

  • The standard of living is considerably below the standard of living 50 years ago.
  • The minimum wage bought more in 1967 than it does today.
  • The standard of living for all racial minorities has declined since the 1970’s.
  • Unions, which protected the working class, have dwindled to barely 10%.
  • With the possible exception of Dennis Kucinich, no Democrat is prepared to commit to building infrastructure as a foundation for a modern civilization.
  • The proportion of wealth claimed by finance capital has dwarfed investment in industrial capital compared to fifty years ago.
  • The Democrats have signed off on all imperialist wars for the last 50 years.
  • Science has lost respectability in the United States as it fights a battle against fundamentalism. Do Democrats come out unapologetically for science and challenge the fundamentalists and the New Agers? There are more people in the US who believe in astrology than they did in the Middle Ages. Does the Democratic Party, in the name of its claimed roots in the Enlightenment, rescue the public from these follies? Hardly.

Please tell me in what sense is this party liberal?

The Democratic Party is not an oppositional party: the Republicans play hardball; the Democrats play badminton

It is right about this time that a liberal defending the Democratic Party would chime in and say something about the Supreme Court. The line is “If we don’t get so and so elected, then the evil right-wing judge will get appointed and Roe vs Wade will be threatened.” This line has been trotted out for the last 45 years. What it conveniently ignores is that the Democratic Party has been in power for at least 40% of the time, whether in the executive or any other branch. It has had forty years to load the Supreme Court with rabid liberals so as to bury the right-to-lifers when they had the chance. An oppositional party would have done this. The Democratic Party has not.

Trump has been on a tear destroying what was left of US international diplomatic relations put into place by Kissinger and Brzezinski. His “policies” are consistently right wing “interventions”, whether they succeed or not. At the same time, domestically Trump has been consistently right wing on every issue from public schools, to immigrants to social programs. What he has done has destabilized international and domestic relations. Conservatives have been doing this kind of thing for 50 years, but with more diplomacy. If the Democratic Party were really an oppositional party, I would expect to find liberal interventions that are roughly the reverse of what Trump and the conservatives have done. There have been no such interventions.

Examples of what an oppositional party would look like

Under an oppositional Democratic regime we would have found a normalization of trade relations with Cuba. There would be scientists and engineers sent to Haiti to build and repair roads and bridges destroyed by natural disasters. There would be normalization of relations with Venezuela and bonds built with the social democratic parties of the Latin American left. Domestically the minimum wage would be restored to at least the standard of 50 years ago. After all, statistics show “productivity” has gone up in the late 50 years. Why wouldn’t the standard of living improve? Social Security and pensions would be regularly upgraded to keep up with the cost of inflation. Bridge and road repair would have been undertaken and low-cost housing would be built. A real liberal president might be so bold as to deploy US soldiers to build them since most them would no longer be employed overseas. They might also have put forward bills implementing a mass transit system, one that is as good as those of Europe or Japan. Has the Democratic Party done any of these things?

This is “opposition”?

Internationally the Democratic Party’s policies have been indistinguishable from the Republicans. Obama did try to normalize relations with Cuba but that was in the service of the potential for foreign investment, not out of any respect for the social project of building the socialism Cuba was engaged in. The US Democratic regimes have done nothing for Haiti. Its attitude towards the Latin American “pink tide” has been hostile while supporting neo-liberal restoration whenever and wherever possible.

Domestic Democratic regimes have done nothing to stem the tide of longer work hours and marginalization of workers as well as the temporary and part-time nature of work. Social Security and pensions have not kept up with the cost of inflation. The Democratic Party has had 20 years to repair the bridges, the roads and the sewer systems and what has it done? The Democrats had 20 years to build low-cost housing and get most, if not all, the homeless off the streets. What have Democrats done? Like the Republicans, the Democrats have professed to have no money for infrastructure, low cost housing or improving mass transit. Like the Republicans they have gone along in blocking Universal Health Care that virtually every other industrialized country possesses. But just like the Republicans they suddenly have plenty of money when it comes to funding seven wars and building the prison industrial complex. Time and again Democratic politicians have ratified increasing the military budget despite the fact that it has no state enemies like the Soviet Union.

In 2008 capitalism had another one of its crisis moments. Marxists and non-Marxist economists agree that the banks were the problem. The Democrats, with that classy “first African American president” did not implement a single Keynesian intervention to reign in the banks. No banker has even gone to jail. What a real Democratic opposition would have done is to tell the banks something like, “look, the public has bailed you out this time, but in return for this collective generosity, we require that you make your profits from undertaking all the infrastructural work that needs to be done, like building a 21st century mass transit system and investing some of your profits in low cost housing.” This is what an oppositional party would do. Notice none of this has anything to do with socialism. It’s straight New Deal liberalism.

In sum, over the last 45 years have you ever seen a consistent left liberal intervention by Democrats that would be the equivalent of what Trump is doing now or any conservative regime has done in the last 50 years in any of these areas? Has Carter, Clinton I or Obama done anything equivalent in their 20 years of formal power that Republicans have done in their 30 years? No, because if they ever dreamed of doing such a thing the Republicans would have them driven from office as communists. When was the last time a Democratic candidate drove a Republican from office by calling them a fascist? The truth of the matter is that the Republicans play hardball while the Democrats play badminton.

The second reason the Democratic Party is not an oppositional party is because “opposition” is a relative term. The lesser of two evils scenario works with the assumption that parties are partisan: all Republicans vote in block and all Democrats vote in block. This, however, is more the exception than the rule. Most times some Republicans support Democratic policies and most times some Democrats support Republican measures. Many Republican policies would not have been passed had the Democrats really been an oppositional party. In 2004, when Ralph Nader ran for president, he was raked over the coals for “spoiling” the elections. Yet as later research proves, more people who were registered Democrat voted for Republicans than the total number of people who voted for the Green Party.

The Democratic Party is a party of the elites

Those politicians and media critics who inhabit the nether worlds between left liberal and social democracy such as Robert Reich, Bernie Sanders, Cornell West are tenacious in their search for the “soul” of the Democratic Party. They insist on dividing Democrats into conservative and liberals. The latest version is to call right-wing Democrats “corporate” Democrats as compared to some other kind of Democrat labelled “progressive”. The implication is that it is possible not to be bought hook line and sinker by corporations if you are in the Democratic Party. I am skeptical that any person can run as a Democrat candidate, win an election and not make some compromises with corporations even at a local level. I am cynical this can be done at a state or national level. Corporations are ruling class organizations and they own both parties. There is a reason why Martin Luther King, Malcolm X never joined the Democratic Party.

If the last Democratic primaries in which Clinton II was handed the nomination over Bernie Sanders was not enough to make you leave the party, the World Socialist Website published two major articles on how the CIA is running its own candidates as Democrats this year. When a world terrorist organization runs candidates under a liberal banner, isn’t that enough to convince you that the Democratic Party is a party of the elites?

Earlier I stated that the upper middle class represents the Democratic Party and the upper class and the ruling class represent the Republican Party. While each may have inter-class differences it is essential for all three social classes that their struggle be seen by the 85% as something this 85% has a stake in. It is important for the ruling class and the upper class that there is a party that appears to represent the unwashed masses (the Democrats). The ruling class and the upper class need the Democratic Party even if they have differences with the upper middle class, whom the Democrats represent. They need the Democratic Party to help create the illusion that voting is an expression of democracy. But the Democratic Party has as much to do with democracy as the Republican Party has to do with republicanism.

The Democratic Party’s presence is an obstacle to building a real opposition to elites

By far the greatest reason the Democratic Party is worse than the Republican Party is the way in which the presence of the Democratic Party drains energy from developing a real opposition to the elites and the upper middle class.

The Democratic Party attacks the Green Party far more than it attacks Republicans

While the Democratic Party plays badminton with Republicans, it plays hardball with third parties, specifically the Green Party. It does everything it can to keep the Greens off the stage during the debates and makes things difficult when the Greens try to get on the ballot. After the last election, Jill Stein was accused of conspiring with the Russians to undermine the Democrats.

If the Democratic Party was a real liberal party, if it was a real opposition party, if it was a party of the “working people” rather than the elites, it would welcome the Green Party into the debates. With magnanimously liberal self-confidence it would say “the more the merrier. May all parties of the left debate.” It would welcome the Greens or any other left party to register in all 50 states and simply prove its program superior.

The wasted time, energy and loss of collective creativity of non-elites

About 10% of the 40% of working class people are in unions. Think of how much in the way of union dues, energy and time was lost over the last 50 years trying to elect Democratic candidates who did little or nothing for those same unions. All that money, energy and time could have been spent in either deepening the militancy of existing unions or organizing the other 30% of workers into unions.

Think of all untapped creative political activity of working class people who are not in unions that was wasted in being enthusiastic and fanatical about sports teams because they see no hope or interest in being part of a political community. Instead of being on talk show discussion groups on Monday morning talking about what the Broncos should have done or could have done on Sunday, think of the power they could have if instead they spent their time strategizing about how to coordinate their strike efforts.

Think of all the immigrants and refugees in this country working at skilled and semi-skilled jobs that have wasted what little time they had standing in line trying to get Democratic Party politicians elected. That time could have been spent on more “May Days Without An Immigrant” as happened thirteen years ago

Think of all the middle class African Americans whose standards of living have declined over the last 45 years who wasted their vote on Democrats and put their faith in the Black Caucus. Think of the wasted time, effort and energy of all middle class people who often actively campaign and contribute money to the Democratic Party that could have been spent on either building a real liberal party or better yet, a mass socialist party.

For many years, the false promise that the Democratic Party just might be a party of the working people has stood in the way of the largest socialist organization in the United States from building a mass working class party. Social Democrats in the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) who should have known better continue to blur the line between a real socialist like Eugene Debs and left liberals like Bernie Sanders. With 33,000 members there are still factions of DSA that will not break with the Democrats.

Are there real differences between the neo-liberal Democrats and the neo-conservative Republicans? Are there differences between Soros and the Koch brothers? Yes, but these differences are not, as Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Claire have said, “a dimes worth of difference”, especially compared to what the presence of the Democratic party has done for 50 years to 85% of the population. Their fake opposition has stood in the way of building a mass left political party.

The Democratic Party is a parasite on social movements

Can you remember a time when the Democratic Party had an innovative program of their own that was clearly separate from the Republicans yet distinct from any left wing social movements?

I can’t. What I have seen is a Democratic party that does nothing but sniff out the flesh and blood of social movements and vampirize them. I have no use for identity politics, but I can remember a time when the Democratic Party wanted nothing to do with it. Now it runs candidates based on identity politics. Black Lives Matter is now part of the Ford Foundation, a Democratic Party think tank. The Occupy Movement term “occupy” was taken as a name for a Facebook page sympathetic to the Democrats, Occupy Democrats, as if the Democratic Party could be occupied. The Democratic Party, which did nothing for feminism while it was attacked and marginalized by the right wing since the 1980’s, has suddenly “discovered” feminism in the Pink Pussy cats. This is an upper middle class party that sings “We Shall Overcome” fifty years too late.

What should be done?

Rather than focusing on the evil Republican Party, which makes the Democrats seem merely wishy-washy or inept, the policies of the Democratic Party should be attacked relentlessly while paying little attention to Republicans. In the election years, the Green Party should abandon its strategy of soliciting votes in “safe states”. Instead, the Greens should challenge those who claim to be “left-wing” Democrats to get out of the party as a condition for being voted for. In my opinion, there needs to be an all-out war on the Democratic Party as a necessary step to building a mass party. The goal of such a party should not be to win elections, but to use public opportunities as a platform for deepening, spreading and coordinating the commonalities of the interests of the poor, working class and middle class people.

  1. Counterpunch, “Left Liberals Have No Party”

American Public Troubled by “Deep State”

“Public Troubled by Deep State” is the headline that the Monmouth University Polling Institute tags to its recent poll.

Polling about the term “Deep State” is problematical, because as the polling report says:

Few Americans (13%) are very familiar with the term “Deep State;” another 24% are somewhat familiar, while 63% say they are not familiar with this term.

So the careful pollsters at Monmouth defined the term as follows for their interviewees:

The term Deep State refers to the possible existence of a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy.

Then they asked whether such a group exists.

Monmouth reports the results as follows:

Nearly 3-in-4 (74%) say they believe this type of apparatus exists in Washington. This includes 27% who say it definitely exists and 47% who say it probably exists. Only 1-in-5 say it does not exist (16% probably not and 5% definitely not).

Furthermore, these opinions do not follow a partisan divide.  The report continues:

Belief in the probable existence of a Deep State comes from more than 7-in-10 Americans in each partisan group, although Republicans (31%) and independents (33%) are somewhat more likely than Democrats (19%) to say that the Deep State definitely exists.

This leads the director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, Patrick Murray, to volunteer:

We usually expect opinions on the operation of government to shift depending on which party is in charge. But there’s an ominous feeling by Democrats and Republicans alike that a ‘Deep State’ of unelected operatives are pulling the levers of power.

In addition, there are some significant but not drastic racial and ethnic differences on this question.  Says the Report:

Americans of black, Latino and Asian backgrounds (35%) are more likely than non-Hispanic whites (23%) to say that the Deep State definitely exists.

The report also asked about government surveillance of the citizenry and here again there is widespread concern: Fully 8-in-10 believe that the U.S. government currently monitors or spies on the activities of American citizens, including a majority (53%) who say this activity is widespread and another 29% who say such monitoring happens but is not widespread. Just 14% say this monitoring does not happen at all. There are no substantial partisan differences in these results.

This too causes the director of the Institute to be concerned.  “This is a worrisome finding. The strength of our government relies on public faith in protecting our freedoms, which is not particularly robust. And it’s not a Democratic or Republican issue. These concerns span the political spectrum,” says director Murray.

We can add to the concern about a manipulative unelected apparatus at work in the government the widespread distrust of the press summarized in this recent Gallup/Knight poll:

Today, 66% of Americans say most news media do not do a good job of separating fact from opinion. In 1984, 42% held this view.

Less than half of Americans, 44%, say they can think of a news source that reports the news objectively.

On a multiple-item media trust scale with scores ranging from a low of zero to a high of 100, the average American scores a 37.

This paints a pretty grim picture of trust in both our government and our media.  Perhaps “Deep Media” should be a term added to “Deep State.”  But perhaps it is cause for optimisim.  It seems that people are waking up and thinking for themselves.  That is bad news for the organs of control and propaganda that direct our lives.  And perhaps it is good news for those who try to fight the endless wars we experience and who feel that it is the Deep State that gins them up and the mainstream media that creates the environment for them.  Skepticism is the first step in getting to the truth and escaping domination.

US Doubles Down As Empire Declines

US empire is in decline. Reports of the end of the US being the unitary power in world affairs are common, as are predictions of the end of US empire. China surpassed the United States as the world economic leader according to Purchasing Power Parity Gross National Product, and Russia announced new weapons that can overcome the US’ defense systems.

What is happening in the United States, in response, is to do more of what has been causing the decline. As the Pentagon outlined in its post-primacy report, the US’ plan is more money, more aggression and more surveillance. Congress voted nearly unanimously to give the Pentagon tens of billions more than it requested. Military spending will now consume 57% of federal discretionary spending, leaving less for basic necessities. The Trump administration’s new nominees to the State Department and CIA are a war hawk and a torturer. And the Democrat’s “Blue Wave” is composed of security state candidates.

The US is escalating an arms race with Russia and China. This may create the mirror image of President Reagan forcing Russia to spend so much on its military that it aided in the break-up of the Soviet Union. The US economy cannot handle more military spending, worsening austerity when most people in the US are in financial distress.

This is an urgent situation for all people in the world. In the US, we carry an extra burden as citizens of empire to do what we can to oppose US imperialism. We must be clear that it is time to end wars and other tools of regime change, to become a cooperative member of the world community and to prioritize the needs of people and protection of the planet.

There are a number of opportunities to mobilize against US empire: the April 14-15 days of action, the Women’s March on the Pentagon in October and the mass protest planned against the military parade in November.

Turmoil in Foreign Policy Leadership

This week, President Trump fired Secretary of State Tillerson, nominated CIA director Mike Pompeo for the State Department and chose Gina Haspel to replace Pompeo at the CIA. As we write this newsletter, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is on the verge of being fired. The deck chairs are being rearranged on the Titanic but this will not correct the course of a failing foreign policy.

The Pompeo and Haspel nominations are controversial. Pompeo believes torturers are patriots. He is a war hawk on every conflict and competing country, including Russia and especially Iran. And, unlike Tillerson, who stood up to Trump on occasion, Pompeo kisses-up to Trump, defending his every move. Haspel led a CIA black site torture center and ordered destruction of evidence to obstruct torture investigations.

The Democrat’s record on torture is not good. President Obama said he would not prosecute Bush era torturers, infamously saying, “we need to look forwards as opposed to looking backwards.” John Brennan who was complicit in Bush-era torture, withdrew under pressure from becoming CIA director in 2008, instead becoming Deputy National Security Adviser, which did not require confirmation. After Obama’s re-election, Brennan became Obama’s CIA director.

Brennan was inconsistent on whether torture worked. He tried to elevate Haspel, but the controversy around her prevented it. When the CIA spied on the US Senate Intelligence committee over their torture report, Brennan originally lied, denying the spying, but was later forced to admit it. He was not held accountable by either the Democrats or Obama.

Haspel headed a black site in Thailand where torture was carried out. She ordered the destruction of 92 secret tapes documenting torture even though the Senate Judiciary requested the tapes, as had a federal judge in a criminal trial. According to a federal court order, the tapes should have been turned over to comply with a FOIA request. Counsel for the White House and CIA said the tapes should have been preserved. Haspel’s actions should lead to prosecution, not to a promotion as head of the agency, as CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who exposed torture and served time in prison for it, reminds us.

The Trump nominations leave the Democrats on the cusp of a complete surrender on torture in an election year. Caving on torture by approving Pompeo and Haspel will anger Democratic voters and risk the high turnout need for their anticipated 2018 “Blue Wave”.

Republican Senator Rand Paul says he will oppose both nominees. If all the Democrats oppose, the Senate will be split 50-50, requiring one more Republican to block the nominees. Fifteen Democrats supported Pompeo’s nomination as CIA director, so Democratic opposition is not ensured. Will Democrats oppose torture or be complicit in normalizing torture?

Democrat’s Security State Blue Wave

Militarism and war are bi-partisan. When Trump submitted a military budget, the Democrats almost unanimously joined with the Republicans to increase the budget by tens of billions of dollars. But, that is not all, a series of investigative reports by the World Socialist website reported the Democratic Party is becoming the party of military and intelligence candidates.

The series identifies more than 50 military-intelligence candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in 102 districts identified by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as targets for 2018. The result, as many as half of all new congressional Democrats could come from the national security apparatus. An example is the victory in Pennsylvania by Conor Lamb, an anti-abortion, pro-gun, pro-drug war, ex-Marine, which is being celebrated by Democrats.

The Sanders-Democrats, working to make the Democratic Party a progressive people’s party, are being outflanked by the military-intelligence apparatus. In the end, Democratic Party leadership cares more about numbers than candidate’s policy positions.

Patrick Martin writes:

If on November 6 the Democratic Party makes the net gain of 24 seats needed to win control of the House of Representatives, former CIA agents, military commanders, and State Department officials will provide the margin of victory and hold the balance of power in Congress. The presence of so many representatives of the military-intelligence apparatus in the legislature is a situation without precedent in the history of the United States.

Just as Freedom Caucus Tea Party representatives hold power in the Republican Party, the military-intelligence officials will become the powerhouse for Democrats. This takeover will make the Democrats even more militarist at a dangerous time when threats of war are on the rise and the country needs an opposition party that says ‘no’ to war.

What does this mean? Kim Dotcom might be right when he tweeted, “The Deep State no longer wants to rely on unreliable puppets. They want to run politics directly now.” What does it mean politically? There is no two-party system on militarism and war. Those who oppose war are not represented and must build a political culture to oppose war at home and abroad.

US Foreign Policy Elites in Denial About Russia’s New Weapons

There is dangerous denial among US foreign policy elites about the Russian weapons systems announced by Putin in his state of the union speech last week. Military-intelligence analyst the Saker compares the US’ reaction to the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. US elites are in the first two stages.

The US does not have an adequate defense to the weapons announced by Putin. As the Saker writes, “Not only does that mean that the entire ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] effort of the USA is now void and useless, but also that from now US aircraft carrier battle groups can only be used against small, defenseless, nations!” US leadership cannot believe that after spending trillions of dollars, Russia has outsmarted their military with ten percent of their budget.

Former Secretary of Defense William Perry exemplifies this denial, claiming Putin’s weapons are “phony,” exaggerated and do not really exist. Then he blames the Russians for starting an arms race. Of course, in both the National Security Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review, published before the Putin speech, the US announced an arms race.

US political and military leadership brought this on themselves. The US’ leaving the SALT treaty in 2002 and expanding NATO to cover the Russian border led to Russia’s development of these new weapons.

Further, Obama, and now Trump, support spending more than a trillion dollars to upgrade nuclear weapons. Perry falsifies history and blames Russia rather than looking in the mirror, since he was defense secretary during this era of errors.

The new Russian weapons systems do not have to lead to an unaffordable arms race. The US should re-evaluate its strategy and find a diplomatic path to a multi-polar world where the US does not waste money on militarism. We can divest from the military economy and convert it to civilian economic investment, as the US has many needs for infrastructure, energy transition, health care, education and more.

US global dominance is coming to an end. The issue is how will it end? Will the US hang on with an arms race and never-ending wars, or it will it wind down US empire in a sensible way. The Saker writes:

The Russian end-goal is simple and obvious: to achieve a gradual and peaceful disintegration of the AngloZionist Empire combined with a gradual and peaceful replacement of a unipolar world ruled by one hegemon, by a multipolar world jointly administered by sovereign nations respectful of international law. Therefore, any catastrophic or violent outcomes are highly undesirable and must be avoided if at all possible. Patience and focus will be far more important in this war for the future of our planet than quick-fix reactions and hype. The ‘patient’ needs to be returned to reality one step at a time. Putin’s March 1st speech will go down in history as such a step, but many more such steps will be needed before the patient finally wakes up.

As of now, the Pentagon and US leadership are in denial and not ready to face reality. The people of the United States, in solidarity with people of the world, must act now to end the war culture and convince US leadership that a new path is necessary.

Join the days of action!

April 14-15 – National Days of Action to End the Wars at Home and Abroad.

October 20-21 – Women’s March on the Pentagon

November 10 – 12 – No Trump Military Parade

On Guns

I grew up as the child of a small Houma Indian community in south Louisiana. My father was a hunter, trapper and commercial fisherman so my early years were spent at his side observing and learning those life-ways. In our household a gun was just another tool with which we put food on the table.

My first experience hunting was with a single-shot 410 shotgun with which, as a youngster, I brought home my first meal, a fat little marsh hen. In that experience was embedded one of the most important firearm lesson my dad would teach me. While I had friends who would use an occasional, non-eatable, seagull or blackbird for target practice my dad was emphatic that “if you kill it you eat it!” Waste and wanton destruction was a cultural faux pas that was unacceptable.

It is this background that always foreshadows my contemplation of the gun debate that has been so prevalent in America these past couple decades. I consider my observations on this charged political oratorical struggle to be somewhat non-partisan. I’ve been a registered independent since I signed my first voter registration nearly forty years ago. As an indigenous scholar with definite anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist leanings I do not fit squarely into either of the two political polarities. From this position issues are judged on merit, I would hope, and not as democratic issues or republican issues.

My social media feed today contains opinions across the spectrum from the friend who remembers fondly the bygone years when high schoolers had gun racks in their pick-up trucks to the social activist who wants to end private gun ownership this minute. They are, of course, entrenched in their respective political parties and leave little room for the possibility of common ground.  If there are to be solutions found it would seem that a first step would entail a lowering of those party flags. Unfortunately, it seems that with every incident, with every mass shooting, the flags go up, the bunkers are strengthened, and the doors are closed.

On the right, once you get past thoughts and prayers, we are pointed in the direction of mental illness or violent video games while the left calls out the corrosive influence of the NRA. This, of course, does not imply that there is some sort of both sides do it equivalency but rather speaks to the fact that both camps have now stock, pre-loaded responses ready for the revolving news cycle.

I feel forced to question the assumptions and interpretations of the gun rights advocates. Statistics tell us that mental illness is responsible for 5 percent or less of gun deaths in the United States. Further, it is understood that mental illness affects men and women somewhat equally yet the perpetrators of mass shootings are predominantly male. As to the influence of violent video games, these also exist in countries such as Denmark or Japan yet they have somehow escaped our mass shooting epidemic.

While I understand fully how the continued carnage in our classrooms inspires a passionate call in some to eliminate private gun ownership I cannot fully acquiesce to the idea as a solution. On the practical side we live in a nation of over three million guns; we are 5 percent of the world’s population yet we own over half of the world’s guns. If the sale of guns were outlawed today, this dynamic would not change for some time. Change, especially political change, has and always will be incremental at best. Fair, just, or infuriating, it is a reality we are forced to live with.

Added to this is the actuality that in America today money is considered legally to be speech so that now organizations such as the NRA can pour millions of dollars of gun manufacturers’ speech into the pockets of politicians to influence or obscure the issue. By equating money with speech the debate is skewed and any attempt to find a democratic consensus is curtailed.

An honest, personal perspective; I don’t see how giving up my shotgun or hunting rifle, if I care for and use them responsibly, could curtail or reduce needless gun violence. I feel like giving up these tools with which I can feed my family or enjoy recreationally would be patently unfair or unjust. While, at the same if I am asked or legislated into giving up my right to own a semi-automatic assault rifle I would wholeheartedly agree. My experience in the Armed services with the M-16 more than demonstrated to me its impracticality as a hunting weapon and its lethality as a weapon of war.

For those who feel that they need an assault rifle to stand against a potential tyrannical government I remind them that said tyrannical government possesses weapons such as tanks and hellfire missiles in abundance. A personal AR-15 is little deterrent to the most powerful army on earth. If we want to be truly safe from a tyrannical government, a vicious drug gang, or any imagined threat we should put all our efforts into securing a government that is ruled by its people and not by its corporations or special interest groups. When over 80 percent of the U.S. population supports common sense gun regulation yet the debate remains stymied in a political quagmire there would seem to be a fault in the political foundation.

If these common sense regulations only result in a 5 or 10 percent drop in mass shootings are not those lives worth the effort? I know there are those that proclaim that any legislative restrictions will lead eventually to confiscation. To that argument we have but to point to District of Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 Supreme Court decision that affirmed the right to individual ownership of guns. If you agree or disagree with the decision, it is still the law of the land and the government is obligated to it. Besides the reaffirming of those 2nd Amendment rights it did, also, reaffirm the government’s right and duty to regulate that right. You can have a rifle or pistol but you can’t own your own personal cruise missile.

Democracy is a matter of trust; can you trust your government to defend the right to own a gun while at the same time restricting the type and capacity of said weapon for the greater good of all? Or do you feel like all that stands between you and tyranny is your AR-15? Is this withholding of trust worth the price paid in blood for the anarchy it produces?

Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…

Since the FBI never inspected the DNC’s computers first-hand, the only evidence comes from an Irvine, California, cyber-security firm known as CrowdStrike whose chief technical officer, Dmitri Alperovitch, a well-known Putin-phobe, is a fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank that is also vehemently anti-Russian as well as a close Hillary Clinton ally.
— Daniel Lazare, Consortium News

The masses did not mistakenly choose fascism. Rather, there is a more fundamental nonidentity between class consciousness and mass movements. Fascism was not a Falschkauf (mistaken purchase) followed by buyer’s remorse. The people fought for it, fiercely and stubbornly—though this desire for fascism is also a desire for suppression, a “fight for servitude,” if you will, or an “escape from freedom,” as Erich Fromm put it in the title of his 1941 book.
— Ana Teixeira Pinto, E-Flux

This week an angry dead end kid named Nikolas Cruz took his legally purchased AR 15 and walked into a school and opened fire. The FBI knew about Cruz because he had been reported to them. Cruz had been reported to the school, too. But nobody followed up. Cruz himself is one of those unpleasant looking young men that are visibly angry, and who exhibit, even in photographs, a quality of emotional disturbance. But nobody followed up. The FBI is too busy writing narrative fiction about Russia. The FBI is more concerned with constructing terrorist threats and then busting various patsies and making a big show of their success. This same week the US has continued to bomb Yemen alongside Saudi Arabia. This same week Mike Pence stomped around the site of the Winter Olympics and managed to insult most every foreign leader in attendance, but most acutely the hosts of this event. But then Pence is a vulgar rube from the hinterlands of Indiana. A fundamentalist Christian whose knowledge of the world is even smaller than his boss, the President.

The Hill reported….“Approval of the FBI has increased among Democrats and decreased among Republicans since President Trump took office, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.” So, uh, Dems and liberals are fawning over the FBI because, presumably, Mueller is after Satan-in-Chief The Donald, while Republicans are pouting because, presumably, the FBI isn’t dropping the fictitious investigation of Russian collusion. Meanwhile, the FBI, famed for various cluster fucks like Waco and Ruby Ridge, not to mention COINTELPRO and countless undercover surveillances on journalists and dissidents of all kinds, is being embraced by liberal America. (COINTELPRO, as a reminder, attacked the Black Panther party, and among its victims were Fred Hampton, Geronimo Pratt, and Mumia Abu Jamal. And it was J.Edgar Hoover who wrote letters that described Hampton as the ‘new black messiah’ — one that needed to be dealt with). That is your virtuous FBI.

Now part of this is just the desire among liberals for the status quo. At all costs. It is liberals far more than Republicans who want a Norman Rockwell America. The arch conservative wants something closer to gated communities of whiteness and armed privatized security roaming the streets keeping their property safe. It is the liberal Democratic voter who WANTS TO BELIEVE in the goodness of America. Who wants to believe in all that progress in civil rights and gender equality. But both will in the end default to authoritarian political control. They always have.

Joseph Kishore over at WSWS wrote back in 2016 already:

… the Times’ article set the tone for a wave of war-mongering commentary in the American media. Lipton was interviewed on the cable news channels and the Public Broadcasting System’s evening news program. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin declared on MSNBC that the US had been “attacked by Russia.” He called for an independent commission, citing the bipartisan panel set up after 9/11. CNN commentator Jake Tapper referred to Russia as the “enemy” and openly wondered, in the course of interviewing former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, whether President-elect Trump was “siding with the enemy.

But most Democrats believe in Russian evil doing. They believe Putin is a tyrant. They WANT TO BELIEVE. Now, the logic of Crowdstrike and all those US security experts on cyber warfare is that only the most sophisticated hackers could have penetrated the protections of the U.S. government, while at the same time only the most unsophisticated cyber hackers, revealing their amateurish clumsiness by leaving a variety of Russian language clues in the meta data, could have done such a thing. It is the same logic that posits Taliban or ISIS commanders, cunning…evil geniuses..who plot the overthrow of western civilization..but who are also simultaneously primitives living in caves. The Russians are also evil geniuses but also primitives.

On one level the U.S. loves the uneducated. America has never trusted intelligence or education. But they have to at the same time be the best. The best at everything. The best killers. The most violent soldiers. Etc. But not the most educated. Trump’s approval ratings climb as he cuts funding to libraries and the arts. Such actions have always been an electoral winner in the USA.

Edward Luce had a cogent piece at Financial Times of all places. He wrote

America’s elites have stored more wealth than they can consume. This creates three problems for everyone else. First, elites invest their surpluses in replicating their advantages. Kids raised in poorer neighbourhoods with mediocre schools stand little chance. Their parents cannot match the social capital of their wealthier peers. The drawbridge is rising. The gap between the self image of meritocratic openness and reality is wide. Psychologists call this “self-discrepancy”. Economists call it barriers to entry.

This is an important observation. He also added:

…Social capital is about knowing what to say to whom and when, which is a sophisticated skill. Technical learning is for others. Children of the elites are learning how to raise money for philanthropic causes. Economists define this as a positional good. Sociologists call it virtue signalling. Mr Trump calls it political correctness.

And finally, Luce points out that the new bourgeoisie (not his word) are suffering from a loss of even the appearance of a meritocracy. Too few jobs for what are now the over-educated (well, over degreed). And Luce concludes with a particularly astute insight. The bourgeoisie are finding they need Trump. Without him there is no distraction. And then he poses the question for these aspiring classes; do they really love the highly educated as they claim? Do they deserve admiration because of their degrees?

And here we touch upon the core issues at work socially in the Trump phenomenon. Trump is easy and even enjoyable to make fun of. He IS a distraction. But Trump also serves a very clear purpose for the 1%. Those who reign above the haute bourgeoisie. For Trump is still implementing the same policies that Hillary Clinton would have. The same wars, by and large. The same military build up. All the right people are still making money. The difference is in Trump’s less important appointments. The difference is Jeff Sessions for one. And the various minor cabinet hacks and flunkies he has installed in positions of limited but not insignificant power. He is normalizing in a way unprecedented, the weaponized ignorance of the Christian right.

And this includes, of course, the open racism and xenophobia on display and perhaps crystalized in Mike Pence’s boorish crassness at the Olympics. Pence suffers no doubts. The new Christians of televangilism never do. These are creationists and believers in the rapture. That they are barking mad has been known for a while now, but never before have they entered the corridors of power. The 1% carry on as before. So does the Pentagon and CIA — though the infilitration of the Christian extremists in the Air Force is well documented. Remember, all Presidents must have prayer breakfasts for fuck sake. They must go to Church. They get a dog, and they put on leather bomber jackets for photo ops. And they have a spiritual advisor. There is a whole laundry list of must do’s. What is different now is that stupidity is being not just normalized but accepted as, perhaps, a virtue. Beevis and Butthead go to Washington. Bill & Ted’s excellent adventure on Capital Hill. How different, really, was George W. Bush? (the newly rehabilitated GWB, in a curious charm make over…but I digress…).

So, no, the aspiring haute bourgeoisie do not REALLY love education. The hard work of studying is for proles. For Asian kids and social climbers and those quota scholarship kids. The idea of learning having some inherent value is now fully gone from the public imagination. Socrates who? He played *soccer* for Brazil, no? Literally nobody reads. I mean book stores are closing en mass. The Gutenberg era is over. I wrote recently on my blog about Hugh Kenner. I used to sneak into his lectures at UCSB in the early 70s. There are no Hugh Kenners anymore. Erudition is to become an obsolete word.

The state of Minnesota is taking Huckleberry Finn off high school reading lists. Harper Lee is being taken off, too. No doubt others will follow. Hurtful. Twain’s epic novel is, apparently, “hurtful”. I am coming, I have to admit, to just not care about who has hurt feelings.

All those social correctives that looked to rid the culture of racist images and language are now appropriated for other purposes. For narcissistic vehicles for anger. For America is as angry a society as the world may have ever seen. All that I see now, the new McCarthyism, the Russophobic propaganda that is swallowed wholesale, and not just swallowed but used as a kind of narcotic — is carried along and draws energy from a deep reservoir of rage. The old Puritan consciousness that wants nothing more than to chastise and shun is alive in the U.S. today. All these hurt feelings are expressions of the narcissistic desire to believe in our own uniqueness and specialness. And such subjective manufacture helps distract from the increasing sadism of American society overall.

The real violence of a system based on inequality is buried. It is obscured. The violence of capital, of wage slavery is mystified. All relations under capitalism are coercive. And when the early Capitalist class collaborated with the Church to burn a few hundred thousand women as witches in the early 1700s, across Europe, they were setting a structural dynamic in motion. The Inquisition and witch burning were not the result of magic, but of the need for scapegoats and for ridding the system of autonomous women and small craftspeople. It set up a class war, essentially, one mediated in that case by a deep hatred of women. And fear. The destruction of various celebrities (mostly) for sexual *misconduct* has already been appropriated by NATO and CAA and even Paul Kagame got in the act (see Emma Watson and the Rwandian war criminal share a dais…all to *help* women in war torn areas, or something. I mean who knows. But its mind numbing how quickly such things are activated). Angelina Jolie, who never saw a country she didn’t want to bomb or quarantine (see marriage and honeymoon in Namibia) is also is out stumping for NATO aggressions under cover of protecting women in war zones. No mention of stopping war zones from being created, of course. MeToo became, as quick as you can write hashtag, a vehicle for the exact opposite of that for which it began. And this was predictable.

Today the system has other scapegoats and other needs than it did during the witch trials in Europe. But the violence of capital is alive throughout the carceral system, alive in black communities where cops operate as anti insurgency soldiers bent on pacification. Fallujah or Baltimore, there is not a lot of difference. And the violence of Nikolas Cruz will cause great oceans of tears and hand wringing. Get rid of guns. Okay, how about those in the hands of cops — or those in the army or marine corps? Those are OK, because they don’t shoot up schools. Well, not *our* schools, anyway. There is a sort of pattern recognition in the public now. Shoot up a school is a certain class of irrational violence. People will posit notions about anti depressants or whatever. And it might have some truth to it. Maybe a lot, but I can guarantee that few will read anything about the beliefs of these *sick* shooters. That they all, like Anders Breivik, adhere to classic fascistic values and ideology. They do not fall out of the sky. They are the product of a vast number of forces, but they also kill not just because they suffer humiliation and are frustrated and emotionally disfigured. Or, rather, that emotional disfigurement creates the fascist sensibility. They do not think it is wrong, what they do. Cruz had a history of aggressive behaviour toward women. He was a member of ROTC and posted constantly on social media with various guns and weapons. Those who knew him said he was obsessed with guns. The chilling photos of cops in SWAT attire arresting a kid who wanted to be just like them. There is a strange closed loop of morbid mimetic activity on display.

The U.S. today creates enemies. It often seems the primary activity of America, the manufacturing of global enemies and threats. Of late it is Putin and Kim Jong Il. But they are only the latest in a long line. U.S. police departments, heavily militarized, and increasingly trained in Israel for counter insurgency, are no longer in the policing business but rather in the soldiering business. They are militia, not peace officers. The dysfunctional extreme for what this produces is Nikolas Cruz. But how far is Cruz from the Florida cop who murdered a begging man, on his knees, on video? How far from George Zimmerman? One suspects those three might enjoy a beer together and share many of the same values. I am always struck when reading about these alleged lone wolf shooters how NOT alone they are. Klaus Thewelit’s seminal work Male Fantasies should be required reading.

But if male-female relations of production under patriarchy are relations of oppression, it is appropriate to understand the sexuality created by, and active within, those relations as a sexuality of the oppressor and the oppressed. If the social nature of such “gender-distinctions” isn’t expressly emphasized, it seems grievously wrong to distinguish these sexualities according to the categories “male” and “female.” The sexuality of the patriarch is less “male” than it is deadly, just as that of the subjected women is not so much “female” as suppressed, devivified.
— Klaus Thewelit

Theweleit didn’t see genocide as the thwarted expression of inhibited sexual energies. His point was rather that the production of gender and sexuality are intimately tied to the content of anti-Semitism and overt racism—both before, during, and after the fall of the Weimar Republic. Fascist sexuality is not so much repressed as it is ideological: it idealizes virility and fertility as political imperatives.
— Ana Teixeira Pinto

The cultural post-modernism of today, at least in the U.S., is technologically sophisticated and socially hyper conservative. The neoliberal system might marginalize white nationalists but they cultivate their symbolism and much of their rhetoric. A Nikolas Cruz desired completion as the captain of capitalist manhood. His failures, his lack of productive labor, his relative poverty, escalated his hatred of those he saw as responsible — and at the head of that list one would guess would be women. But the indoctrination of men like Cruz, or boys, begins earlier. As Theweleit writes: “No man is forced to turn political fascist for reasons of economic devaluation or degradation. His fascism develops much earlier, from his feelings; he is a fascist from the inside.”

The violence of the U.S. military, globally, inflicted on the most defenseless nations and people cannot be separated from cops in Chicago or Baltimore or Los Angeles, nor from Fallujuh and Libya and Syria. I mean, the U.S. has occupied Afghanistan for sixteen years. The U.S. military metaphorically rapes these countries. And it is a kind of re-colonializing. Sylvia Federici called the World Bank and IMF “the new Conquistadors”. Nor can it be separated, finally, from Harvey Weinstein or James Toback. Nor from the lynch mob hysteria that has coopted the entire #metoo* phenomenon.

Nikolas Cruz sensed he was broken, and his longing for restoration was reflected back at him by those men who would later capture him. Kevlar and weaponry, helmeted faceless phallic superbodies. He could only merge with his fantasy through mimetic approximation. Cruz may be seen as insane, but he was not *only* insane.

The anti-Russian propaganda that is spewed out daily by mainstream media is an insidious and destructive force that also cannot really be separated from the tidal swell of violence on the streets and in the institutions of U.S. society. Manufacturing contempt for North Korea or Yemen or Libya is not *only* propaganda. It has consequences to the psyches of the people that must absorb that inculcating assault.

(Go back and read Ben Judah’s bizarre and lurid anti Putin piece at Newsweek,July 2014 — the one with Putin in shades on the cover, his eyes reflecting a burning …we presume…America. Read it now and just try to digest that this is what passes for *real* news as opposed to fake news).

In March of last year Brian Cloughly began an article on this massive anti Russian propaganda this way…

On January 30 NBC News reported that “On a snowy Polish plain dominated by Russian forces for decades, American tanks and troops sent a message to Moscow and demonstrated the firepower of the NATO alliance. Amid concerns that President Donald Trump’s commitment to NATO is wavering, the tanks fired salvos that declared the 28-nation alliance a vital deterrent in a dangerous new world.

One intriguing aspect of this slanted account are the phrases “dominated by Russian forces for decades” and “vital deterrent” which are used by NBC to imply that Russia yearns, for some unspecified reason, to invade Poland. As is common in the Western media there is no justification or evidence to substantiate the suggestion that Russia is hell-bent on domination, and the fact that US troops are far from home, operating along the Russian border, is regarded as normal behaviour on the part of the world’s “indispensable nation”.

This is just one example of out of literally hundreds and hundreds. One could find the same against Maduro and Venezuela and against the DPRK. It hardly needs pointing out that Hollywood produces endless paeans of love for militarism and male destructiveness. Capitalism produces economic inequality and as such cannot exist without political and social oppression. The contradictions of Hollywood’s endless fascist product and its equally endless hand wringing over sexual harassment or gun control should be obvious. The sexual harassment in Hollywood goes back to Shirley Temple. It is built into a system in which all parties are there to monetize themselves. It is also true that men with power must punish those beneath them. They cannot exist without subordinates. What Theweleit wrote of the *soldier male* (his term for the prototype ur fascist) that the most urgent task facing him…“is to pursue, to dam in, and to subdue any force that threatens to transform him back into the horribly disorganized jumble of flesh, hair, skin, bones, intestines, and feelings that calls itself human.” Hollywood produces narratives that make the non human heroic. The first Terminator was a watershed moment in that respect. A film whose message was that an android…no, a ‘killer’ android…made a better parent that the human version.

Propaganda that creates phantom enemies is justified because Trump is now the perfect villain. And as such, is a tool of the ruling class. He is the justification for the abandonment of all notions of integrity and honesty, compassion or honour. One case of harassment I know of included a woman who had signed a non disclosure agreement and took payment of tens of thousands of dollars. She disclosed anyway and was applauded as heroic. It is not heroic to break your word. To take a payoff and then snitch anyway. But punishment is its own justification. Trump’s vulgarity is a kind of pride in ignorance trope. He intentionally chooses to be crude, because that is what his base desires. They may not admit it, those suburban small businessmen and managerial white class — but they do. A sense of shunning the soft and sensitive. Stories about escorts and golden showers only adds to his appeal. Those guys wish they could afford escorts. Trump is the grandson of a whore house owner, after all. He never sold himself as Adlai Stevenson.

So, Mark Twain is hurtful. Libraries are being shuttered across the country. Book stores are closing. The U.S. poverty levels have exceeded those of many developing countries. The compulsive hatred of Putin by many who have almost zero idea about Putin or Russian history is disproportionate to any rational analysis, but not surprising. Trump and Putin are like weird doppelgangers in the liberal imagination.

For the propagandists of the exceptional and indispensable nation the by-product of their creative activities is Nikolas Cruz. Trump shares with the far right parties growing across Europe the open disdain for democracy and free speech. Cruz was wearing a Trump cap in one of his Instagram photos. He wasn’t wearing a Che t-shirt. He wanted to kill antifa. He was not an isolated mentally disturbed killer. He was a fascist killer. He wanted to be made whole and inviolate. The way all fascists want to be whole, but cannot.

The Trump Base and Year 2

Trump’s much trumpeted first State of the Union address came and went… The event is traditionally meant to sum up achievements and challenges of the administration’s first year, setting the stage for the remaining three, all in the somber, live presence of the entire US government in all branches, with the rest of the nation tuned in through other means. But as even the BBC commentator quickly remarked, the luster of this special occasion has objectively long disappeared — and all the more so with this president who has missed few opportunities to communicate with his subjects far less formally, usually drawing (and duly receiving) attention by elliptic zingers in channels designed for frivolous social small talk. Now, sure, this speech was still promptly and critically combed over: relative emphases subtly weighed, numerous liberties with the facts meticulously inventoried, and trademark oxymorons (like “beautiful clean coal”) duly noted. But in the end, the carefully choreographed and executed event revealed little news, which frames it more as one of the occasional subliminal proofs that this chief US executive can still stick to the script, moderating Twitter with teleprompter, and ultimately, as another reassurance to his supporters among the masses (the “Base” for short here), that they can still count on him.  Which brings us then to some important broader questions as we enter Year 2 of this administration.

The main one, rather bluntly, is: how does this Base still persist? Really, there is no good reason for Trump to have a base any wider than the slim top of the wealth pyramid that he so blatantly represents. After all, in the broad spectrum of more modern right-wing populism — from a Thatcher to a Hitler — most had a modicum of lower-class personal pedigree that allowed some identification from rank-and-file followers. But there’s no such thing here, not even some sappy “rags-to-riches” myth — just inherited wealth, shrewd business dealings and pure, unabashed Veblenian “conspicuous consumption”, Mar-a-Lago style. This question is even starker in this post-Great Recession era when Reaganesque neoliberal fairy tales have lost most currency. Furthermore, these 15 months (just since the election, with many more before) of continuous faux pas, scandal and turmoil are objectively discrediting. Finally, this administration has by now really shed most of its “anti-establishment” veneer, revealing openly pro-elite, anti-public core policies. So, why has the Base not disintegrated yet? What is it in the Trump brand and message that actually still resonates with some broad segments of the proverbial “99%”? And what will it take to change that?

There are certainly no simple answers here, but we might turn for some clues to president’s apologist Newt Gingrich, who commented the day after the infamous January 11 immigration vulgarities:

Trump relies on the fact that his opponents are so nihilistic and elitist that they’ll react hysterically to something like this. […] And [Trump’s] base isn’t remotely corroded by this. Almost anything he does that is outside the establishment resonates in the end with people who say, well, at least he’s sticking it to the powerful.

Please parse this carefully. Ignoring details and exaggerations, it does accurately reveal the basic play: regardless of the ostensible recipient, Trump’s communication is mostly aimed at the Base: cementing at the core, extending around the edges. There is no need to cozy up to Republican party establishment. By now, they have no choice but to fall into line. No need to harangue the moneyed elites. They’ll be getting their payback and they know it. And no need bothering to soften up outright opponents. The message is targeted at reaffirming his populist brand directly, and even more so by eliciting predictable opposition reaction that reinforces that.

There is nothing particularly original about this age-old approach of divide-and-conquer. It was quite prominent in the US even in the post-Civil War era and ensuing Gilded Age. Among many others, Robert Reich articulated its pitfalls in his 1997 resignation speech. More recently, in her excellent  latest book, “No is Not Enough – Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need”, meticulously analyzing this kind of multilevel shock therapy, Naomi Klein states:

In truth, nothing has done more to build our present corporate dystopia than the persistent and systematic pitting of working-class whites against Blacks, citizens against migrants, and men against women.

In the present context, this generally might mean: Stop playing the Trump game and falling for his tricks, provocations and divisiveness. Stop being reactive.  A sensible resistance should start defining its own frame and game. Somewhat more specifically, offered are three interrelated modest suggestions:

Look at the big picture and stop preaching to the choir.  It’s a globalized world out there, with the many well known negative effects ranging from the “race to the bottom”, all the way to global climate impacts and beyond. This is a deeper subject, but suffice it to say that the same basic systemic problems of the political economy that have generated countless refugees fleeing wars in large swaths across Africa and Asia, along with scores of economic migrants fleeing destitution in other parts of the Global South, have also adversely affected various US “demographies”, including much of the Base. Mobile global capital can play many games, but few are net-gain, with most being zero-sum and the discontents paying the price far out of sight.  As such, raising the awareness of these global connections, and shifting the primary focus away from specific underprivileged groups, might take some wind out of the deleterious anti-immigration populism sails and rock the Base. To quote Klein again:

Instead, the overarching task before us is not to rank our various issues – identity versus economics, race versus gender […]  It is to understand in our bones how these forms of oppression intersect and prop each other up, creating the complex scaffolding that allowed a kleptocratic thug to grab the world’s most powerful job […].

Granted, this is not easily done. However, one step in this direction is to stop knee-jerk rallying to the cause of one identity group — just because Trump baldly singled it out — at the effective expense of other ones.

Let go of the 2016 election. The spectacle of the heavily politicized Mueller investigation, with its sometimes byzantine complexity, claims and counterclaims, should be left squarely out of this discussion. This might seem even harder with the just announced bombastic indictments of “13 Russian nationals”. To be clear, this is not to say that alleged campaign illegalities should not be duly investigated: perjury, obstruction of justice, whatever…  nobody should be above the law. But nothing here seems to really go beyond the boundaries of a seriously flawed electoral system, and a legacy of smear campaigns that runs deep in US politics. The stubborn insistence on some hackneyed, game-changing “Russian interference” belies the Democratic establishment’s effort to exonerate its own, much more evident, consequential and damaging culpability in shifting the 2016 election away from the high road paved by the Sanders campaign. Period. The Base understands that pretty well, and such hypocrisy plays right into the hands of reaffirming it.

Never forget foreign policy. When the going gets rough, the one staple entry in the US executive playbook is the good ol’ “rally ‘round the flag”. Not foolproof — thankfully — but still tried, tested and dangerous. Under the guise of benevolent global hegemony and axiomatic American exceptionalism many scapegoats can be found, with rather facile bipartisan support and perilous consequences. Ample modern evidence has shown that behind semi-abstract “wars” (on Terror, Drugs, etc.) lie identifiable targets; and the most recent mainstream media pronouncement of “Russian plot to disrupt America’s democracy“ is ominous enough. More generally, “America First” could be interpreted as a focus on domestic needs at the expense of fewer foreign adventures or something much more sinister. Seeking clarity here might go a long way to disarming one of the administration’s levers on the Base.

In the end, the “Trump base” is not some mystical bunch. They are an amorphous and heterogenous group of flesh-and-blood humans. We all know some personally. Many certainly suffer from various prejudices. But leaving extremist fringes aside, probably most are decent people, with at least a general sense of fairness and a healthy dislike for hypocrisy. Admittingly or not, many are part of that group simply for apparent lack of better options.  To a significant enough degree, these are bona fide members of the proverbial “99%”. To paraphrase what Gore Vidal (and many others) once astutely said, the challenge is to make them realize and vote their own interests.  Of course, none of this will be easy nor can it yield quick results. The (often perceived as paramount) drive to galvanize Democratic base support and “get out the vote” for next election cycle can easily be tempted by the lowest hanging fruit of patently scandalous Trump administration excesses.  But to be effective, an American progressive movement (broadly understood) must dissociate itself from the trite “merely liberal” tropes with a much narrower, “major-partisan” agenda, a significant contributor to the deeper problems of which Trump is but a symptom. As Andre Vltchek recently lamented on these Dissident Voice pages (albeit with an emphasis beyond just the US):

It is now absolutely clear that the Western left lost patently and shamelessly. It has almost no power, it has no courage to fight or to take risks.

Among other risks to be taken in Year 2 is to get out of the comfort zone and engage Trump at his very base.

The Trump Base and Year 2

Trump’s much trumpeted first State of the Union address came and went… The event is traditionally meant to sum up achievements and challenges of the administration’s first year, setting the stage for the remaining three, all in the somber, live presence of the entire US government in all branches, with the rest of the nation tuned in through other means. But as even the BBC commentator quickly remarked, the luster of this special occasion has objectively long disappeared — and all the more so with this president who has missed few opportunities to communicate with his subjects far less formally, usually drawing (and duly receiving) attention by elliptic zingers in channels designed for frivolous social small talk. Now, sure, this speech was still promptly and critically combed over: relative emphases subtly weighed, numerous liberties with the facts meticulously inventoried, and trademark oxymorons (like “beautiful clean coal”) duly noted. But in the end, the carefully choreographed and executed event revealed little news, which frames it more as one of the occasional subliminal proofs that this chief US executive can still stick to the script, moderating Twitter with teleprompter, and ultimately, as another reassurance to his supporters among the masses (the “Base” for short here), that they can still count on him.  Which brings us then to some important broader questions as we enter Year 2 of this administration.

The main one, rather bluntly, is: how does this Base still persist? Really, there is no good reason for Trump to have a base any wider than the slim top of the wealth pyramid that he so blatantly represents. After all, in the broad spectrum of more modern right-wing populism — from a Thatcher to a Hitler — most had a modicum of lower-class personal pedigree that allowed some identification from rank-and-file followers. But there’s no such thing here, not even some sappy “rags-to-riches” myth — just inherited wealth, shrewd business dealings and pure, unabashed Veblenian “conspicuous consumption”, Mar-a-Lago style. This question is even starker in this post-Great Recession era when Reaganesque neoliberal fairy tales have lost most currency. Furthermore, these 15 months (just since the election, with many more before) of continuous faux pas, scandal and turmoil are objectively discrediting. Finally, this administration has by now really shed most of its “anti-establishment” veneer, revealing openly pro-elite, anti-public core policies. So, why has the Base not disintegrated yet? What is it in the Trump brand and message that actually still resonates with some broad segments of the proverbial “99%”? And what will it take to change that?

There are certainly no simple answers here, but we might turn for some clues to president’s apologist Newt Gingrich, who commented the day after the infamous January 11 immigration vulgarities:

Trump relies on the fact that his opponents are so nihilistic and elitist that they’ll react hysterically to something like this. […] And [Trump’s] base isn’t remotely corroded by this. Almost anything he does that is outside the establishment resonates in the end with people who say, well, at least he’s sticking it to the powerful.

Please parse this carefully. Ignoring details and exaggerations, it does accurately reveal the basic play: regardless of the ostensible recipient, Trump’s communication is mostly aimed at the Base: cementing at the core, extending around the edges. There is no need to cozy up to Republican party establishment. By now, they have no choice but to fall into line. No need to harangue the moneyed elites. They’ll be getting their payback and they know it. And no need bothering to soften up outright opponents. The message is targeted at reaffirming his populist brand directly, and even more so by eliciting predictable opposition reaction that reinforces that.

There is nothing particularly original about this age-old approach of divide-and-conquer. It was quite prominent in the US even in the post-Civil War era and ensuing Gilded Age. Among many others, Robert Reich articulated its pitfalls in his 1997 resignation speech. More recently, in her excellent  latest book, “No is Not Enough – Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need”, meticulously analyzing this kind of multilevel shock therapy, Naomi Klein states:

In truth, nothing has done more to build our present corporate dystopia than the persistent and systematic pitting of working-class whites against Blacks, citizens against migrants, and men against women.

In the present context, this generally might mean: Stop playing the Trump game and falling for his tricks, provocations and divisiveness. Stop being reactive.  A sensible resistance should start defining its own frame and game. Somewhat more specifically, offered are three interrelated modest suggestions:

Look at the big picture and stop preaching to the choir.  It’s a globalized world out there, with the many well known negative effects ranging from the “race to the bottom”, all the way to global climate impacts and beyond. This is a deeper subject, but suffice it to say that the same basic systemic problems of the political economy that have generated countless refugees fleeing wars in large swaths across Africa and Asia, along with scores of economic migrants fleeing destitution in other parts of the Global South, have also adversely affected various US “demographies”, including much of the Base. Mobile global capital can play many games, but few are net-gain, with most being zero-sum and the discontents paying the price far out of sight.  As such, raising the awareness of these global connections, and shifting the primary focus away from specific underprivileged groups, might take some wind out of the deleterious anti-immigration populism sails and rock the Base. To quote Klein again:

Instead, the overarching task before us is not to rank our various issues – identity versus economics, race versus gender […]  It is to understand in our bones how these forms of oppression intersect and prop each other up, creating the complex scaffolding that allowed a kleptocratic thug to grab the world’s most powerful job […].

Granted, this is not easily done. However, one step in this direction is to stop knee-jerk rallying to the cause of one identity group — just because Trump baldly singled it out — at the effective expense of other ones.

Let go of the 2016 election. The spectacle of the heavily politicized Mueller investigation, with its sometimes byzantine complexity, claims and counterclaims, should be left squarely out of this discussion. This might seem even harder with the just announced bombastic indictments of “13 Russian nationals”. To be clear, this is not to say that alleged campaign illegalities should not be duly investigated: perjury, obstruction of justice, whatever…  nobody should be above the law. But nothing here seems to really go beyond the boundaries of a seriously flawed electoral system, and a legacy of smear campaigns that runs deep in US politics. The stubborn insistence on some hackneyed, game-changing “Russian interference” belies the Democratic establishment’s effort to exonerate its own, much more evident, consequential and damaging culpability in shifting the 2016 election away from the high road paved by the Sanders campaign. Period. The Base understands that pretty well, and such hypocrisy plays right into the hands of reaffirming it.

Never forget foreign policy. When the going gets rough, the one staple entry in the US executive playbook is the good ol’ “rally ‘round the flag”. Not foolproof — thankfully — but still tried, tested and dangerous. Under the guise of benevolent global hegemony and axiomatic American exceptionalism many scapegoats can be found, with rather facile bipartisan support and perilous consequences. Ample modern evidence has shown that behind semi-abstract “wars” (on Terror, Drugs, etc.) lie identifiable targets; and the most recent mainstream media pronouncement of “Russian plot to disrupt America’s democracy“ is ominous enough. More generally, “America First” could be interpreted as a focus on domestic needs at the expense of fewer foreign adventures or something much more sinister. Seeking clarity here might go a long way to disarming one of the administration’s levers on the Base.

In the end, the “Trump base” is not some mystical bunch. They are an amorphous and heterogenous group of flesh-and-blood humans. We all know some personally. Many certainly suffer from various prejudices. But leaving extremist fringes aside, probably most are decent people, with at least a general sense of fairness and a healthy dislike for hypocrisy. Admittingly or not, many are part of that group simply for apparent lack of better options.  To a significant enough degree, these are bona fide members of the proverbial “99%”. To paraphrase what Gore Vidal (and many others) once astutely said, the challenge is to make them realize and vote their own interests.  Of course, none of this will be easy nor can it yield quick results. The (often perceived as paramount) drive to galvanize Democratic base support and “get out the vote” for next election cycle can easily be tempted by the lowest hanging fruit of patently scandalous Trump administration excesses.  But to be effective, an American progressive movement (broadly understood) must dissociate itself from the trite “merely liberal” tropes with a much narrower, “major-partisan” agenda, a significant contributor to the deeper problems of which Trump is but a symptom. As Andre Vltchek recently lamented on these Dissident Voice pages (albeit with an emphasis beyond just the US):

It is now absolutely clear that the Western left lost patently and shamelessly. It has almost no power, it has no courage to fight or to take risks.

Among other risks to be taken in Year 2 is to get out of the comfort zone and engage Trump at his very base.

The Boomerang Effect: How Netanyahu Made Israel an American Issue, and Lost

Despite massive sums of money spent to channel public opinion in the United States in favor of Israel, unmistakable trends in opinion polls are attesting to the changing dynamics of Israel’s support among ordinary Americans.

Not only is Israel losing its support and overall appeal among large sections of American society, but among young American Jews, as well — a particularity worrying phenomena for the Israeli government.

The trend promises to be a lasting one, since it has been in the making for years, starting some time after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

It was on that date that the affinity between Israel and the US purportedly grew to unprecedented levels, since both countries claimed to be fighting “Islamic terror.” In reality, the attacks, the ensuing media discourse and subsequent wars have all coagulated the support of Christian Evangelists behind Israel, as they saw the widening conflict in the Middle East as part of a long-awaited prophecy.

It was precisely then that the support of Israel by American Liberals, especially those identifying with the Democratic Party, began to weaken.

With time, supporting or not supporting Israel became a partisan issue, which is, itself, unprecedented.

While the Israeli government under Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, exploited every opportunity to maximize support for Israel in order to achieve objectives deemed important by the Israeli right wing, ultra-right and religious parties, Netanyahu’s conceited and confrontational style has alienated many Americans, especially Democrats.

Worse, Netanyahu’s policies of entrenching the Occupation, blocking any peace efforts and expanding illegal Jewish settlements, also began to shift the kind of support that Israel has historically taken for granted, that of American Jews.

A comprehensive Pew poll published in October 2013 indicated that a growing number of US Jews question the sincerity of the Israeli government in its alleged efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Palestine. Only 38% thought Tel Aviv was sincere, and only 17% agreed that the illegal Jewish settlements are conducive to Israel’s security. 44% thought otherwise.

The Israeli government, aware of the generational gap within the US Jewish communities, seemed more fixated on maximizing the unprecedented trend of support it was receiving from US Republicans and religious conservatives, especially Christian Evangelists.

Fast forward to January 2018 and Israel’s ratings among American Jews has plummeted even further.

According to a recent Brand Israel Group study, “support for Israel among Jewish college students in the United States has dropped 32% between 2010 and 2016,” reported the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The report was accompanied by stern warnings from the CEO and director-general of the influential Jewish Agency, Alan Hoffman, who described the findings as “extremely worrisome.”

However, no contingency plan is likely to reverse these numbers any time soon, since they are consistent with the overall perception of Israel among the US population.

The assumption that the US Jews is an insulated group which lends support to Israel, irrespective of political trends in the country as a whole, no longer suffices.

US Jewish communities are changing, and so is the entire country:

The number of those identifying as ‘liberal’ in the US has leaped from 27% to 41% between 2000 and 2015, respectively.

This change was accompanied by rising sympathy towards Palestinians by that same group as indicated by a May 2016 Pew poll. More liberal Democrats said they sympathized with Palestinians than with Israel, in a ratio of 40% vs. 33%, respectively.

At the time, it was prematurely concluded by various media analysts that the growing disenchantment with Israel had much to do with the feud between Netanyahu and then US President Barack Obama. Netanyahu had repeatedly challenged – and often humiliated – popular Democratic President, Obama, on various issues, notable amongst them is the expansion of the illegal settlements and the Iran nuclear deal.

The trend, however, continued, simply because once an issue falls in the realm of Washington’s partisan politics, it immediately becomes a polarizing one.

For decades, Israel was considered the only issue that united all Americans regardless of their political and ideological affiliations. That is no longer valid, and Netanyahu has played a major role in this.

The trend among Liberal Democrats was countered with another trend among Republicans, who have adopted the cause of Israel as their own. According to Pew, 79% of conservative Republicans support Israel, while 65% among liberal Republicans share their views.

While Christian Evangelists succeeded in making the unconditional support for Israel the litmus test for any candidate who seeks their vote, the Israeli cause is no longer a rally cry for Democrats.

Pew concluded that “the share of liberal Democrats who side more with the Palestinians than with Israel has nearly doubled since 2014 (from 21% to 40%) and is higher than at any point dating back to 2001.”

More studies by Pew were conducted in January 2017 and January 2018, all confirming that the trend is a lasting one.

Of all Democrats, only 33% sympathized with Israel according to Pew’s January 2017 poll. It was the “first time ever” that the Democratic Party “was split in nearly half between the support for Israel and the support for Palestinians.”

And as support for Palestinians grew among Democrats, so did the margin between the two major parties as the most recent January 2018 Pew research indicates.

While support for Israel among Republicans has remained high, a whopping 79%, support for Israel among Democrats has sunk even further, to 27%.

True, Netanyahu’s strategy in courting US conservatives has proved a success. However, the price of that success is that the relationship between Israel and the American public has fundamentally changed.

Netanyahu has shoved Israel into the heart of polarizing American politics, and although he has achieved his short-term goals (for example, obtaining US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel) he has irrevocably damaged the decades-long consensus on Israel among Americans, and in that there is a great source of hope.