Category Archives: Republicans

Political Nuance

“The trouble with socialism is eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

This was the text of the bumper sticker adorning the old Chevy pickup in front of me in traffic today. As fate would have it, it was actually the second anti-socialist bumper sticker that I would see during my daily commute. The odd, coincidental nature of the two messages got me thinking about the nature and content of political expression these days and more specifically the lack of depth of those expressions.

While I am hesitant to be overly judgmental of Mr. Chevy experience has taught me that he likely would have difficulty explaining to me the difference between communism, fascism, and socialism. He likely has little or no concept that there are socialist governments that produce things such as universal healthcare, free college tuition, and progressive environmental policies and have made no efforts at global domination.

Here in the rural south such anti-socialist sentiment is, of course, not usual and I cannot lay all the blame on the drivers’ lack of political education. Beyond this region there is a portion of the American public at large that is woefully deficient in basic civics, misunderstanding not only foreign political philosophies but also the structure of their own government.

This is not a new reality for us, reducing true political nuance to catch phrases such as the expression of Mr. Chevy. We have heard these from “Just Say No” to “Make America Great Again” and everything in between. All of these exclamations are presented as succinct answers when, in fact, they leave much more unsaid and unexplained than they enlighten. Their appeal is to the emotions and not to the intellect encouraging us not to look too deeply into our political belief systems. I’m sure my fellow drivers’ fundamental disdain for socialism would not include any efforts to curtail his police and fire protection or his Medicaid and Medicare which are decidedly socialist programs.

Politicians are more than willing to play into these tendencies, offering simpleminded solutions to complex problems that they know are insufficient but that play well in media sound bites. On the right this strategy is usually all too easy to spot. A factory worker with two kids, a mortgage, and a car note loses his job because the business automated or outsourced his position. To call out the actual cause would put a republican politician at odds with the corporate interest that are a major funding source to his party. Instead said politician expresses some vague claims about the unregulated immigration system and connects unemployment problems to a supposed porous border.

For conservatives it has been an effective strategy as they use simplistic political stances such as “pro-life” to drive wedges into the American electorate. This action plan has produced results such as senior citizens who reliably vote for a party dedicated to taking away their Medicare and Social Security because they feel a moral obligation to oppose abortion. There is no examination on the policies that advocate defunding things like early childhood nutrition programs, medical care for poor or underserved children, or educational programs for children and youth. They simply look for the pro-life label and vote accordingly.

We would be remiss, however, if we did not admit to the prevalence of similar policies and tactics on the left. As we approach the midterm elections of 2018 the catch phrase of the democrats is “Vote Blue no matter who.” This dovetails with the rhetoric of progressive pundits that continue to castigate any non-republican that did not vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. They have no compunction about telling those that cast their ballots for a third party candidate that they effectively voted for Donald Trump. The Green Party and the Russians, we are told, are responsible for stealing the election.

The discussion of the hacking of DNC emails centers on the duplicity of the Russian hackers and avoids any discussion of the substance of those emails. There are no serious conversations about the machinations of the democratic political establishment to assure that Hillary Clinton and not Bernie Sanders would be the party nominee. The dialog is always anti-Russian or anti-Trump (admittedly both are well worthy of criticism) and not on the qualifications are lack thereof of the democratic candidate.

We are told to forget the body of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler whose body washed up on that Turkish beach in 2015. A victim of the Syrian conflict, he epitomized the thousands of dead and displaced children that can be partially blamed on the regime change strategy perpetuated by the Obama administration. This was a part of the foreign policy initiatives that included the deposing of the democratically elected President of Honduras, the destabilization of the Brazilian government, and the destruction of Libya. The fact that these actions were enthusiastically carried out by Secretary of State Clinton is irrelevant. We are to simply “Vote Blue no matter who.”

Am I saying that in the end the Trump administration and the Obama administration are the same or that this is some kind of zero sum game?  Of course not. There is no ignoring the regressive goals of the Trump presidency, the flagrant personal greed and self-aggrandizement, or the disregard for any semblance of democratic principles. What are we to make, however, of a more palatable democratic administration that continues to funnel millions into the armed forces of Israel and Saudi Arabia which in turn sacrifices the lives of more Palestinians or Yemenis? Is it a simplistic equation that exchanges thousands of dead Muslims for a possible Supreme Court Justice? Were the record deportations under President Obama the price paid for the implementation of Obama Care?

So the hard questions are avoided or ignored and we follow the lead of Mr. Chevy and adorn our vehicles with our catch phrase political philosophies. The simplistic logic is always that we republicans are better than you democrats or we democrats are better than you republicans. You don’t have to look any deeper or apply any nuance as the answers are simple; the republicans want to make the rich richer at the poor’s expense, the democrats want to take your hard earned money and give it to lazy immigrants or any one of a thousand arguments that reduce issue analyzation and political discourse down to digestible soundbites.

The truth is that life is complicated and none of those easily digested slogans adequately elucidates the complexity of our world or the thoughts and motivations that drive it. We should not be able to look at the body of young Alan Kurdi lying dead in the surf and separate it from the policies of regime change or the body of Tamir Rice on that Cleveland playground and not understand why Colin Kaepernick took to his knee. No amount of flag waving or anthem singing can erase the blame or wash the blood away.

If I could have a real conversation with Mr. Chevy I would tell him that properly implemented socialist programs could assure him universal healthcare, low cost education, and a cleaner environment. Unfortunately he will likely continue to hold to those simple sound bites; real honest political dialog won’t fit on his bumper sticker.

Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class

The decision by Democrat party president Harry Truman to bomb the cities of Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on the 9th with the newly developed nuclear weapon signaled to the world that the U.S. was prepared to use military force to back up its new-found position as the leader of the Western colonial-capitalist powers, now referred to as the “Western alliance.” The main audience for that grotesque display of racist violence in 1945 was the Soviet Union but some 73 years later, militarism and war continue to be the central instruments of U.S. foreign policy.

This is the lesson we must stress continually as the public is being subjected to a constant barrage of incitements to support the use of military force by the U.S state against a growing array of enemies and potential enemies from Russia and China to Iran and the never-ending war on terror. Working-class and poor people must oppose war in part because they are the expendable cannon fodder used to advance ruling-class dominance under the banner of protecting the “national interests,” which are really only those of the economic elites. Fighting for those interests means killing poor and working-class people in other parts of the world.

In this era of economic warfare between competing capitalist nations and newly forming capitalist blocs, taking an anti-war position is a pro-working class, pro-poor, pro-displaced peasant/farmer, and internationalist position. The economic sanctions (a form of warfare) that the U.S. levies against various nations have nothing to do with concerns for human rights – official rationales notwithstanding – but everything to do with undermining economic competitors and non-compliant states and movements as in Venezuela. It should be clear that supporting U.S. aggression in the form of economic warfare, subversion, proxy war and direct military intervention is, in fact, supporting the interests of the U.S.-based transnational capitalist class. Yet many leftists have embraced a crude national chauvinism and joined liberals in demonizing various peoples and nations and thus objectively providing support to and political cover for the capitalist/imperialist system that they pretend to oppose.

The structural crisis of international capital is also a crisis of the nation-state, especially in the centers of global capital from London to New York. The imposition of neoliberal economic restructuring in the West generated a crisis of legitimacy for the neoliberal global architecture that was carefully crafted over the last four decades. The post-war compromise between capital and labor that was officially negated with the economic crisis of 1973-75 and the turn to neoliberalism produced the conditions and politics that produced Donald Trump in 2016.

But the crisis of legitimacy also produced something else – a more pronounced dependency by the state on the use of force, be it in the Black and Brown colonized areas where the economically marginalized reside or in the Black and Brown areas of the world that are no longer accepting their suffering as an inevitable and unchanging condition of their existence.

The $717 billion military budget Congress passed that transfers public resources to the pockets of the military-industrial criminals who profit from war is not only a rip-off scheme but also a recognition on the part of the rulers that military might is their best and perhaps only means to hold on to the loot they stole from the peoples of the U.S. and the world. And it is also why taking an anti-war and an anti-imperialist position is such a political threat to the rulers at this specific moment in history.

In April the Trump administration called on all agencies to expedite the process for increased arms sales abroad. So when Trump raises questions about NATO, we know he is hustling for the military industrial complex. When he calls on NATO countries to increase their military spending, the beneficiaries of that spending will be the shareholders of Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics Corporation, United Technologies and Northrop Grumman. At the same time, his critique of NATO begs legitimate questions: Why does NATO still exist, and why are nations like Colombia being brought into its structure?

It is an absurd position for the left to bash the Trump administration for undermining the so-called Western alliance when he criticizes NATO. For oppressed people around the world, NATO is an instrument of Western capitalist dominance, a structure of European/U.S. colonial power that is an enemy of humanity. So the responsibility of the left is to build on Trump’s anti-NATO remarks – whatever his motivations – by offering a real critique of NATO.

When Trump meets with Kim Jong-Un, the anti-war and anti-imperialist position would be to support any de-escalation of tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. If it wasn’t for U.S. imperialism there would be no North and South Korea in the first place, so how can any self-respecting leftist not support at least the rhetoric of peaceful resolution, knowing full well that the U.S. is eventually going to have to be kicked out of Korea entirely?

The same thing goes with capitalist Russia. How can someone position themselves on the left and align with a fraction of the ruling class to agitate against Trump’s Russia policies? What do those policies have to do with the economic contradictions facing workers in the U.S., unless those policies lead to potential conflict that must be opposed?

The imperial left has entangled itself in all kinds of political and ideological contradictions. It finds itself in alignment with the neoliberal right because it desperately believes the neoliberal right that controls the state (don’t be confused – governments/administrations come and go, but the state endures until it is smashed) will somehow put the brakes on the more extreme right that is not even in power! The left’s embrace of bourgeois patriotism and support for liberal totalitarianism in the form of collusion between the state and big telecommunications firms to restrict and control speech and information provides a foundation for the legitimization and expansion of fascistic forms of rule.

Our analysis of the duopoly must be unsparing. Both parties are the enemies of the people. Both parties are committed to policies that deny human rights to the people of the U.S. but also the world. And both parties have never hesitated to support the use of military force to advance U.S. geostrategic interests.

When Trump demanded more spending by European governments on NATO, that demand was widely panned as an assault on the interests of working-class Europeans. Many correctly noted that more expenditures by European governments for NATO amounted to policies that would “plunder and loot their citizens through higher taxation to help pay for NATO’s exorbitant expenses.” But the Democrats join the Republicans in the wholesale plundering of the public with obscene levels of military expenditures, including the commitment of more than a trillion dollars to upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal over the next 10 years while claiming there are no resources for housing, universal child care, public transportation, services for elders and clean water for the working class.

Therefore, we must engage in unrelenting agitation against both parties while urgently developing independent non-state and non-electoral popular structures. While we do this, we must build an anti-war movement and embrace the position of the Black Alliance for Peace that says without equivocation: “not one drop of blood from the working class and poor to defend the interests of the capitalist oligarchy.”

Dark Foreboding: Is the American Democratic Experiment Over

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

— William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming, 1919

Apocalyptic thinking has been with us for a long time, and it sometimes ushers in actual apocalypses, albeit at human scale, without biblical finality. For a century now, the Yeats poem above has served as an increasingly common reference point for those who fear apocalyptic events approaching. Today such fears are varied, the threats are real, and reactions range from crisis-mongering to self-serving denial, making any rational, coherent societal response almost impossible.

We’ve been heading this way for decades. We finally got here in 2016. It’s taken awhile, but the forces of chaos and greed seem to be cohering, tightening their grip on power, on government and culture, facing little or no effective opposition. An election is coming. It will matter. But how?

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

Worse, things are under attack, the center is the enemy. The US president veers toward dictatorial powers and seeks out new targets to disrupt or destroy. The US wages war around the world in at least 7 countries (with combat forces in 146 according to Seymour Hersh). The US Environmental Protection Agency wages war on the environment along with public health and safety. The US Education Department wages war on public education. The US Justice Department wages war on Justice, turning law enforcement into a profit-making, human-trafficking criminal enterprise. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development wages war on the poor, as do other agencies. The US Labor Department wages war on labor. The US Supreme Court wages war on pretty much 99% of the population. And so it goes: almost everywhere one looks, there is almost no center left to hold. Resistance is scattered, ineffective, inconsistent, fragmented – mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

This is our country that has loosed a blood-dimmed tide across the globe for decades. This is American exceptionalism that has flooded countries from Iran to Guatemala with its citizens’ blood for American ends. This endless flow of American violence and death has drowned our innocence, and still so many of us pretend there is no blood on our hands, no blood up to our eyeballs, no blood vengeance haunting our future.

That’s not the way we see the border, but that’s the way the border is. American-sponsored dictatorships and genocides are sending the children of their victims to our borders where we victimize them again and again and again. And finally, at least more than just a few people notice who and what we are, and who and what we have been for so long, and there is horror, at least for some. No border guards are yet showing signs of conscience as they carry out unlawful orders, but at least one immigration judge has expressed embarrassment at asking a one-year-old if he understood the proceedings the US was putting him through.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

And so we head for another election on November 6, bitterly divided as a country. It’s a so-called off-year election (no presidential race), but it may be darkly viewed as the last stand for the American democratic republic. Some say that 242-year-old experiment has already failed, and there’s logic to that opinion. The decline has been long, slow, relentless and the end will not likely be apocalyptic.

When did we lose the possibility of a country of freedom, tolerance, and honesty? OK, the Constitution allowed slavery. More recently, was it our willingness to incinerate Japanese civilians with atomic weapons? Was it our willingness to accept Reagan as president despite his dealing with Iran to rig the election? Was it our willingness to let the Supreme Court choose Bush for president? Was it our willingness to let Bush lie us into wars that haven’t ended yet? Was it our willingness to accept yet another blood dictatorship in Honduras (after all the others over so many years)? Was it our willingness to accept a Supreme Court decision (Citizens United) that turned democratic elections into plutocratic power auctions? Was it our acceptance of Republicans stealing a Supreme Court seat? Was it our election of minority-president Trump? Any of these points (and no doubt others) were turning points where the best lacked all conviction, while the worst rode their passionate intensity to the verge of total control of the US government. From there, it could be but a short distance to totalitarian control.

We’re heading into the 2018 election with polling that shows only a slight majority of Americans – around 53% – opposed to the direction of the country, opposed to Republicans, opposed to Trump. Republicans currently control the presidency, both houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court (with another justice online). The election can’t change the presidency. The election can’t change the Supreme Court directly (especially if Kavanaugh is approved beforehand). The election can change either house of Congress, neither of which is anything like a sure thing. If the House gets a Democratic majority, that puts all legislation on the negotiating table and raises the possibility of articles of impeachment for which this president has qualified since day one of his presidency. If the Senate gets a Democratic majority, that also makes all legislation negotiable and makes it harder for Republicans to pack the courts. If both houses of Congress get Democratic majorities, that gives the American experiment a chance to continue, dependent on Democratic courage long in short supply.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?  

So ends The Second Coming by Yeats, inconclusively, suggestively. There’s no knowing what may happen to head off our own rough beast slouching toward November. Perhaps Mueller will go public on Trump crimes. Perhaps the trade war will implode the US economy. Perhaps Trump will sack Mueller (or some other critical figure). Perhaps enough people will recognize – and reject – the already functional police state created by ICE jurisdiction. Perhaps Republican Senator Richard Burr, already on record as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russian collusion in 2016 happened, will seize the moment to hold hearings to learn “What did the President know and when did he know it?”

Or perhaps the fascist coup, the totalitarian American state, is already upon us and we’re only waiting for massive popular passivity to confirm it. There are those, after all, millions who seem to believe that Donald Trump really is the Second Coming.

An Allegory for Our Time

To preserve and expand its power, America’s power elite, hugely outnumbered, must keep the massive but powerless, subjugated and exploited public at bay. It does so in myriad ways. One is to divide and conquer the public. Perhaps the oldest means of doing this was to have written the U.S. Constitution and then years later to have created multiple political parties to confuse and distract the public. Another is to impose a police state that takes no prisoners. Another is to spin the legacies of US presidents whose behavior was so odious and heinous that to leave it bare and open to the public would likely cause a revolt. Another is to create foreign enemies to stoke fear and the revenue draining national security budget. Another is to create an open-door immigration law to further diversify the nation as well as to gain cheap labor. Yet another, more relevant to the allegory to be told, is to barrage the public daily with corporate mainstream media’s propaganda and untruths about any prominent politician who does not fall meekly in line with the power elite’s imperialistic agenda.

That brings us to the current U.S. president, Donald J. Trump, the only US president in America’s history to challenge the corpocracy’s power elite. There isn’t one aspect of his domestic or foreign policy views and actions that have not come under withering attack from those who are fearful of America’s corpocracy crumbling. Consider his seeking to localize more and globalize less America’s economy. If I were to pick two of the corpocracy’s strategies that have turned America into a third world country in terms of quality of life conditions for the citizenry they would be globalization and a burgeoning war budget. Consider his seeking to end America’s open-door immigration policy, one that I have already mentioned that serves only the power elite. Consider his seeking detente with Russia and North Korea, enemies created by his predecessors solely by and for America’s power elite.

In short, Trump goes against the grain of the corpocracy. He’s not really one of its members. He is the only US president never to have previously held public office, which means he wasn’t groomed in a poisonous crucible spewing out corruptible politicians. He made his fortune in the real estate industry, one of the least injurious of the major industries such as the war industry. In other words, despite his wealth and position, he senses and is trying to be responsive to the needs, despair and misery of Joe and Jill America, which brings us now to the allegory. I got it in an e-mail from a friend who tells me the author is unknown. Here it is.

The Racoon Story

If you really want to know how the majority of people feel? And this applies to both Democrats and Republicans; read below, it says it all. You’ve been on vacation for two weeks, you come home, and your basement is infested with raccoons. Hundreds of rabid, messy, mean raccoons have overtaken your basement. You want them gone immediately.

You call the city, 4 different exterminators, but nobody can handle the job. But there is this one guy and he guarantees you to get rid of them, so you hire him. You don’t care if the guy smells, you don’t care if the guy swears, you don’t care if he’s an alcoholic, you don’t care how many times he’s been married, you don’t care if he has a plumber’s crack, you simply want those raccoons gone! You want your problem fixed! He’s the guy. He’s the best. Period!

Here’s why we want Trump. Yes, he’s a bit of an ass; yes, he’s an egomaniac, but we don’t care. The country is a mess because politicians suck, the Republicans and Democrats can be two-faced and gutless, and illegals are everywhere. We want it all fixed! We don’t care that Trump is crude. We don’t care that he insults people; we don’t care that he has changed positions; we don’t care that he’s been married 3 times; we don’t care that he fights with Megyn Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell. We don’t care that he doesn’t know the name of some Muslin terrorist.

This country is weak, bankrupt, our enemies are making fun of us, we are being invaded by illegals, we are becoming a nation of victims where every Tom, Ricardo, and Hasid is a special group with special rights to a point where we don’t even recognize the country we were born and raised in; “AND WE JUST WANT IT FIXED” and Trump is the only guy who seems to understand what the people want.

We’re sick of politicians, sick of the Democratic Party, Republican Party, and sick of illegals. We just want this thing fixed. Trump may not be a saint, but he doesn’t have lobbyist money holding him; he doesn’t have political correctness restraining him; all you know is that he has been very successful, a good negotiator, he has built a lot of things, and he’s also not a politician, he’s not a cowardly politician. And he says he’ll fix it, and we believe him because he is too much of an egotist to be proven wrong or looked at and called a liar. Also, we don’t care if the guy has bad hair. We just want those raccoons gone, out of our house, NOW. The raccoons have got to go.

End of story.

In Closing

Wonder what will be Trump’s legacy some day? Like that of Honest Abe? No. Abe was not so honest, was a racist, and triggered a war that killed 750,000 Americans simply so the power elite could maintain a unified” country large and strong enough to keep expanding its empire. Like that of Likeable Ike? No. Over a million Koreans were slaughtered due to his decisions, not to mention the reign of terror by his puppet dictators in Central America. Like Harry Truman? No. In addition to his culpability for war crimes against N. Korea, he sent millions to their deaths just to show Russia America was no weakling and thus to usher in a profitable Cold War. Like LBJ and his murderous war crimes? No. Like Bill Clinton, called “the world’s leading active war criminal?1 No. Like George Bush and his devastation of Iraq? No. Like his predecessor, Obama who began drone killing shortly after taking office and kept on droning and rationalizing?2

No, I predict that when Trump’s tenure is over he will have been the least murderous of all his predecessors save two who died early in office and the most populist president of any before him. To ensure a continuation of his policies and actions that erode the dangerous and malevolent power elite of the corpocracy, all Americans who agree with the Racoon Story need to help build a “Citizens’ Voice Alliance” or a “Peoples’ America.” Notice that I didn’t call them “parties.”

  1. Herman, E.S. Clinton Is the WorId’s Leading Active War Criminal, Z Magazine, December 1999. Herman is an economist and media analyst.
  2. See, for example, my article, Spinning the Legacies of America’s Presidents, Dissident Voice, July 31; OpEdNews, August 1, 2016.

Betraying The President

President Trump was savagely attacked by the American political and academic community over the Helsinki summit, during which, in their opinion, he capitulated to President Putin on every issue.

All attempts to defend him have been in vain

The American press, who consider themselves to be the freest and most professional journalists in the world, continue their race to the bottom. First they humiliated their own president and country (there’s no other way to say it) during the Helsinki summit itself. Rather than asking about the most important issues on the global agenda, they were only interested in Russia’s interference in the American election. I guess that superpower has no other problems that are worth discussing with Russia (such as North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, Iran’s growing power in the Middle East, the failure to contain China, the collapse of the transatlantic alliance, or the inability to palm Ukraine off onto another financial sponsor), other than Moscow’s alleged influence on the US 2016 election. However, even if this is such a riveting topic, journalists should still ask questions, not simply make declarations that are all variations of “Why should the American people and Trump believe you when you say that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 elections?” Things got to the point that the American president was forced to defend his Russian counterpart in the face of their inappropriate behavior.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive in Helsinki, Finland, on Sunday ahead of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump is under increasing pressure to confront Putin directly about special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russians accused of conspiring to interfere in the 2016 election

And these reporters/peddlers of propaganda needed someone to apologize for them. A quick glance through the articles and commentary published by the US media following the summit confirms that they paid no attention to either Syria, Ukraine, disarmament issues, or the progress being made by diplomatic work sessions. Their focus was almost entirely centered on Trump’s “unacceptable” and “shameful” behavior. “The moment called for Trump to stand up for America. He chose to bow,” wrote the Washington Post. An article by columnist Thomas Friedman in the Seattle Times was actually titled “Trump and Putin vs. America.”

He didn’t back them

Naturally, most of the noise is coming from his personal enemies, who finally have the opportunity to challenge the main pillar of Trump’s legitimacy — his commitment to defending America’s national interests. Former FBI director James Comey wrote indignantly, “This was the day an American president stood on foreign soil next to a murderous lying thug and refused to back his own country.” Mr. Comey was the one who supported the cruel and deceitful Hillary, refusing to obey the law and protect his own country from an attack against his own president and constitution.

However, (unfortunately for Trump), even many Republicans have added their voices to the howl of criticism. Republican senator Jeff Flake holds the same opinion, claiming that he did not think that he would live to see such a day. The Republicans were displeased, first of all, that in Putin’s presence Trump questioned the national intelligence agency’s findings about Russian interference during the run-up to the election. And though the American president has already retreated a bit  —  claiming that although he places a high value on the work of the intelligence community, he simply wants to leave the past in the past  —  even so, the wave of rage has not subsided.

Stupidity, treason, or the nation’s best interests?

In terms of tone, the press articles only diverged in regard to their differing assumptions about the motives behind Trump’s capitulation to Putin. Some wrote that Trump lacked professionalism and backbone. According to the Washington Post, prior to the summit his aides had prepared as many as 100 pages of briefing materials offering advice and strategies to help Trump negotiate with Putin from a position of strength  —  but that the president ignored almost all of it.

HELSINKI, FINLAND ñ JULY 16, 2018: US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr looks on during a joint news conference by Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump following their meeting at the Presidential Palace. Valery Sharifulin/TASS

Others claim that the problem isn’t that there’s something deficient about the American president, but that the Russian leader has something extra. “President Trump’s weakness in front of Putin was embarrassing, and proves that the Russians have something on the president, personally, financially or politically,” declared House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. And former CIA Director John Brennan bluntly labeled the US president’s actions as treasonous. It will be interesting to see if the Democrats continue to advance this idea, because treason, unlike many of other charges that the establishment is pursuing against Trump, is a clear-cut basis for launching impeachment proceedings.

Treason did actually occur  —  however it wasn’t Trump who was guilty of it, but rather the political and academic community. A few voices of reason, such as Russia expert Stephen F. Cohen, tried to explain the obvious. Trump is doing what other American presidents before him have done  —  he is meeting with the head of the Kremlin in order to prevent a nuclear war. In addition, the US president is trying to start afresh with Russia and turn that rival into an instrument of US foreign policy  —  a means to help contain Iran or China. However, the liberals and globalists who have declared war against him are undermining every effort by the occupant of the Oval Office and thus weakening the US position on the global stage. And, of course, no one is going to try to impeach them  —  in the end, they don’t have to answer for anything, and, according to Trump, “[all they] know how to do is resist and obstruct.” And unlike them, the president would rather “take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics.”

What did the American president accomplish?

What specific goals did President Trump manage to achieve during the Helsinki summit?

First of all, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin reached an agreement to resume their dialog on strategic stability and the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Given the past few years of escalating tensions surrounding these issues, plus recent events during which the whole world was literally on the verge of nuclear war, this step represents a real breakthrough. During that very meeting, the American president received specific proposals from his Russian counterpart, which have not yet been announced.

Second, as a result of the negotiations, agreement was reached in regard to the most important aspect of US policy in the Middle East: reducing Iran’s influence in Syria. President Putin affirmed Russia’s commitment to reestablishing full compliance in the Golan Heights with the 1974 agreement on disengagement between Syria and Israel.

Third, the American president managed to establish the prerequisites for constructing a new architecture for the global market for carbon emissions, in order to safeguard US economic interests.

President Donald Trump and President Vladmir Putin press conference

In addition, during the final press conference after the summit, Donald Trump was handed a real bargaining chip by his Russian counterpart, which he can use in his political battle at home against his relentless opponents. In response to questions about Russia’s alleged interference in the US presidential election, Vladimir Putin announced that William Browder’s company, Hermitage Capital  —  which has been accused of tax evasion on $1.5 billion of its Russian earnings that were taken out of the country  —  had actually funneled $400 million into campaign contributions for Hillary Clinton.

Thus, in addition to the US president’s previous demands that the Democratic Party provide the FBI with access to its computer servers that were supposedly hacked “on orders from Moscow,” Donald Trump now has public testimony that Hillary Clinton’s election campaign was financed by “dirty money.”

Developments in the very near future will show how the US president will deal with the aftermath of the summit with his Russian counterpart. Whether or not he will be able, or allowed, to implement the agreements that were reached will largely depend on the outcome of the next round of the domestic political battles in Washington.

The Millstone around Trump’s Neck?

This Bible passage (Matthew 18:1-6) is getting a lot of attention recently. Let me use the King James Version so beloved by evangelicals:

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?  And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

This text has been used to criticize Trump’s grotesque child-abusing border policy by a range of Christian groups, pro- and anti-Trump and maybe some others. Anyway the passage occurred to me as I watched the news, and I’m not even Christian, just familiar from childhood with gospels. I can understand why it might have crossed a few million other minds simultaneously as this horror story unfolded.

Some of the most moving passages in the New Testament deal with the treatment of children. When the chief priests in the Temple in Jerusalem hear children cheering Jesus and complain, he cites Psalm 8:2 about how praise for the Lord comes out from the mouths of babes and sucklings (Matthew 21:16). In Mark 10:13-16 Jesus, in response to protests he is spending too much time with children, says famously, “Suffer the little children to come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Et cetera.

This is why Karl Marx told his daughter Eleanor (after, as she recounted, “patiently elucidating the story of the carpenter whom the rich men killed”): “We can forgive Christianity much because it taught us the worship of the child.” (Not once but often in her childhood, according to her account.) Marx was very pro-child.

In 1975 McGraw-Hill published a volume in its Karl Marx Library series entitled On Education, Women and Children. I don’t have it on hand and can’t readily cite it now but remember feeling impressed by Marx’s psychological insights about how children grow up.

Socialist societies, to the extent that societies deserving that designation have ever existed, have placed priority on the care of children. Certainly children’s housing, security, education, medical care. These efforts have been widely studied in this country and sometimes inspired “socialist” institutional changes. One could mention the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), a federal assistance program begun during the New Deal in this country in 1935 (but ended during Bill Clinton’s tenure in 1996).

The International Year of the Child pronounced by UNESCO in 1979 led to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child ten years later. (One must mention, however, that the U.S. withdrew from UNESCO last October—in protest of its bias against Israel, surprise, surprise—and the U.S. Congress has never ratified the Convention.)

In the U.S. groups like Focus on the Family depict themselves as protectors of children (or imagined children, including every human egg fertilized as we speak). One of the most horrible pieces of recent U.S. legislation is referred to as the “No Child Left Behind” act. Hillary Clinton ran twice as a mother—-so warmly maternal, did you notice?—who had told us it takes a village to raise a child.

The worship of the child, that is to say, passed from Christianity into Marxism and the socialist experiments that prompted in response global reforms. But in the 90s triumphant capitalism became crueler; most notably, the 1994 crime bill endorsed by Clinton virtually criminalized a generation of black youth. Still, there remained a thin veneer of humanitarianism. Clinton’s attorney general had the good sense to let Elian Gonzalez return to his dad in Cuba, for example, in 2000.

But now the world hears these reports and sees these images of the U.S.A. that had once said: “Give me your tired and your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Now the message is: You tired, poor people, hardly breathing after your 1000-mile trek, need to be detained as criminals, the children among you held separately and dispersed all over the country pending some possible reunion somewhere at some point, there being no guarantee parents won’t be deported while their children remain in confinement. That’s not as evil as stuff terrorists have done to children in Iraq and Syria. ICE is not ISIS. But it’s shockingly bad.

All of Latin America knows that Trump is a racist buffoon using anti-immigrant (especially anti-Hispanic immigrant) sentiment and the issue of the wall to maintain his appeal to his base. The “zero policy” is overwhelming supported by Republican Party voters.

But It’s one thing to inveigh against Mexican advantages within NAFTA or accuse Mexico of sending its rapists to the U.S. It’s one thing to insult leaders of neighboring nations. That’s just adults, acting childish.

It’s another to cruelly treat Honduran, Salvadoran and Guatemalan families including those seeking asylum, ripping parents from their kids after their hazardous 1000-mile trek. It’s another thing to compound childhood trauma with more trauma, to show the state of the power to enforce obedience to its laws.

In a CIA study of world infant mortality rates, the U.S. stands at 170 out of 225—behind virtually all of Europe, and, of course, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Macao, Hong Kong. It is tied with Serbia. Trump’s stand on Planned Parenthood promises no improvement.

How can you more alienate normal humanity than inflicting pain on children, wrenching them from their mother’s arms? There are several millstones around Trump’s neck, but this could be the one that drags him down.

Trump Isn’t The Problem, He’s the Manifestation of America’s Id

Paul Krugman, professor of international trade and economics at Princeton University

The speed of America’s moral descent under Donald Trump is breathtaking. In a matter of months we’ve gone from a nation that stood for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to a nation that tears children from their parents and puts them in cages.
— Paul Krugman, New York Times column, June 21, 2018

conomist Paul Krugman is a smart Princeton professor who won a Nobel Prize, and most of what he says in this column is heartfelt, decent, and humane. His argument is relatively simple: since there is no present immigration crisis, there is no basis – practical, moral – no decent basis whatsoever for the current government’s inhumane, illegal, brutal treatment of immigrants and their children. In an apparently deliberate exercise of hatred and bigotry, the Trump administration is committing crimes against humanity.

That’s all quite true, quite obvious, and millions of people already recognize the government’s mindless cruelty for what it is – mindless cruelty that stimulates the mindlessly cruel base of Trump supporters from the cabinet on down.

But the way Krugman opens his column is mind-bogglingly delusional at best, dishonestly partisan at worst. Yes, “America’s moral descent under Donald Trump is breathtaking,” but not because of its speed. America’s moral descent has been with us from the beginning. America’s beginning was a struggle to ascend from the accepted moral order rooted in slave-holding authoritarianism, where inequality was God-given and women and children were property. The big difference between now and then is that then the angry white men making a revolution had enlightened ideals that were in conflict with the darker angels of their nature. The core dynamic of American history has always been the struggle between those who want to realize American ideals and those who don’t. The record is decidedly mixed, but the big victories mostly belong to the exploiters and killers. Trump is clearly in that line of descent.

Krugman asks us to believe that, in January 2017, America was “a nation that stood for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This is just a fantasy. These are words from the Declaration of Independence and have no weight in law that defines the nation. The preamble to the Constitution sets our national goals as a more perfect Union, Justice, domestic Tranquility, the common defence, general Welfare, and the Blessings of Liberty. In January 2017, our common defence was secure, except in the paranoid rantings of demagogues. Every other aspiration of the Constitution was in a shambles of long duration.

As he rose to the Presidency, Donald Trump was not so much a unique persona in triumph as he was the cobbled-together excrescence of more than 40 years of collective struggle by right-wing operatives trying to build their own fantasy of America, which Trump now embodies, perhaps imperfectly in the eyes of the idealist right. But he’s their Frankenstein creation and the rabble loves him, contradictory sewn-together bits and all.

Trumpenstein was a long time in the making, but one could see the first bits taking shape at least as early as Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign. The racist veins were pulsing clearly at the kick-off in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in quiet celebration of the lynching of the three civil rights workers, Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, who went unmentioned. The racism of the right has only grown with race-based drug laws, race-populated prisons, race-based poverty, police executions, and on and on. The Clintons were shameful accomplices. No president since Reagan has dialed back American racism. Obama spoke eloquently about race, but that didn’t keep Republicans from racializing politics, much to the glee of the Tea Party, and Obama never pushed back effectively, instead becoming the deporter-in-chief after blessing the military coup in Honduras that later fed the immigration wave fleeing oppression and murder.

Yes, we are now officially “a nation that tears children from their parents and puts them in cages.” We are also a nation that took years to notice our official brutality to immigrants, especially asylum seekers, and most especially those seeking asylum from brutal dictatorships we nurture and support. American brutality on the border is hardly a serious departure from American brutality in Iraq or Vietnam or Korea or in nations of Native Americans where we took children and put them in cages we called Christian schools.

Krugman surely knows all this and more, so why won’t he see it or say it? It’s as if he’s drunk the kool-aid of American Exceptionalism and must deny anything not pre-blessed by our cultural cult. Republicans were rabid to impeach Clinton for lying about a blow-job, Democrats couldn’t even impeach Bush for lying us into war (a war we’ve yet to escape). Obama couldn’t even close Guantanamo, but he refused to prosecute the torturers, and now one of them runs the CIA. It’s taken America years of bipartisan betrayal to get where we are now, but how can we change if we can’t even say clearly and directly who we are and how we got this way?

Krugman is wholly justified in any moral outrage he may feel about the Trump administration, but he is not justified, morally or intellectually, in making Trump a scapegoat embodying longstanding American evils long promoted by the right with little opposition. Trump is a mirror for the country, and if the country doesn’t like what it sees, the country needs to change.

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”