Bernie Sanders: Where We Go From Here

The onetime insurgent candidate is now in a position to reshape the Democratic Party and take on Donald Trump.
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It feels like a bomb went off in Washington. In less than a year, the leaders of both major parties have been crushed, fundamentally reshaping a political culture that for generations had seemed unalterable. The new order has belligerent outsider Donald Trump heading to the White House, ostensibly backed in Congress by a tamed and repentant majority of establishment Republicans. Hillary Clinton’s devastating loss, meanwhile, has left the minority Democrats in disarray. A pitched battle for the soul of the opposition party has already been enjoined behind the scenes.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won overwhelming youth support and 13 million votes during primary season, now sits on one side of that battle, in a position of enormous influence. The party has named him “outreach chair,” and Minnesota congressman and Sanders political ally Keith Ellison is the favorite to be named head of the Democratic National Committee. This is a huge change from earlier this year, when the Sanders campaign was completely on the outs with the DNC, but many see Sanders’ brand of politics as the Democrats’ best shot at returning to prominence.

Sanders’ rise is a remarkable story, obscured by the catastrophe of Trump’s win. When I first visited with Sanders for Rolling Stone, 11 years ago, for a tour of the ins and outs of congressional procedure, he was a little-known Independent in the House from a tiny agrarian state, an eccentric toiler pushing arcane and unsexy amendments through Congress, usually on behalf of the working poor: expanded access to heating oil in the winter, more regional community health centers, prohibitions against regressive “cash-balance pension plans,” etc.

His colleagues gently described Sanders as a hardworking quack, the root of his quackery apparently being that he was too earnest and never off-message, even in private. He had fans among Republicans (some called him an “honest liberal”) and many detractors among Democrats, who often grew weary of his lectures about the perils of over-reliance on donations from big business and Wall Street.

In other words, Sanders was a political loner, making his recent journey to the top of the Democratic Party even more remarkable. He has been put in this position not by internal patronage but by voters who are using him to demand that Democrats change their priorities.

At his Washington office a week after the election, I sat down with Sanders and his wife, Jane, just after the release of his new book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In. When he offered to get me a copy, I told him I’d already read the e-book, at which he frowned. “Does that have the pictures?” he asked. He was relieved when I told him it did, including black-and-whites from his youth in Brooklyn.

Sanders’ experiences growing up in the hardscrabble Flatbush neighborhood still seem central to the way he looks at the world. All the adults in his neighborhood voted Democratic. The loss of the support of those kinds of people still eats at Sanders, like a childhood wrong not yet corrected. Thus the opportunity he has now to push the Democrats back in that direction is something he doesn’t take lightly. He’s spent his whole life getting to this point.

The senator and his staffers were obviously sorting through a variety of emotions, and it was hard not to wonder what might have been. But Sanders admonished himself once or twice not to look back. “It’s not worth speculating about,” he said.

Instead, Sanders laid out the dilemma facing the Democratic Party. The Democrats must find their way back to a connection with ordinary people, and this will require a complete change in the way they do business. He’s convinced that the huge expenditure of time and mental effort the Democrats put in to raise more than $1 billion for the Clinton campaign in the past year ended up having enormous invisible costs. “Our future is not raising money from wealthy people, but mobilizing millions of working people and young people and people of color,” he says.

On other issues, he was more careful. The senator’s sweet spot as a politician has always been talking about the problems of the working poor: the economic struggles, the anomalous-across-the-industrialized-world story of a decline in life expectancy among rural Americans. But those same voters just lost any sympathy many Democrats might have had by electing the race-baiting lunatic Trump. Exactly how much courting of such a population is permissible? Is trying to recapture voters who’ve made a racist choice in itself racist?

Sanders believes it is a mistake to dismiss the Trump movement as a monolithic expression of racism and xenophobia. Trump’s populist appeals, sincere or not, carried the day, and Democrats need to answer them. Trump pledged not to cut Medicare or Social Security, promised to support re-importation of prescription drugs from other countries, and said he’d reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act. Sanders insists he and his staff are going to try to hold him to all of these promises. How they’ll manage that is only a guess, but as ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders could easily force the Republicans into votes on all of these issues by introducing amendments during the budget resolution process, which begins in January. “Were those 100 percent lies that [Trump] was telling people in order to gain support?” he asks. “We’ll find out soon enough.”

Sanders seems anxious to communicate a sense of urgency to young people. No more being content with think-tank-generated 14-point plans that become 87-point plans in bipartisan negotiation, and end up scheduled to take effect in 2040. People want change right now. To survive Trump and turn the tide, Sanders says, he needs help. “You don’t have to run for president,” he says. “Just get people involved.”

After the election, you called the anger Trump connected with “justified.” When did you first recognize that sense of discontent and alienation was big enough to have the impact it did this past year?
I’ve seen it for years. I’ve seen a media, which has basically ignored the declining middle class, that doesn’t talk about poverty at all, and has no sense of what is going on in the minds of millions of ordinary Americans. They live in a bubble, talk about their world, worry about who’s going to be running 18 years from now for office. Meanwhile, people can’t feed their kids. That’s something I knew.

Talking about those issues, seeing that they resonated, that did not surprise me. How quickly they resonated did surprise me. How weak the Democratic establishment was, and how removed they were from the needs of ordinary people, that also surprised me.

President Obama talked after the election about winning Iowa by going into counties even if the demographics didn’t “dictate” success there. This seemed to be a criticism that the party had decided to ignore big parts of the country.
I talked about that in the book. That’s exactly what we did. We had 101 rallies in that small state. That’s grassroots democracy. You speak to three-quarters of the people who end up voting for you. In New Hampshire, we had just a zillion meetings – far more people came out to our meetings. If you had the time to do that around the country, the world becomes different. The assessment has got to be that not only did we lose the White House to the least-popular candidate in perhaps the history of America, certainly in modern history, but we’ve lost the Senate, we’ve lost the House, we’ve lost two-thirds of the governors’ chairs in this country. We’ve lost 900 seats in state legislatures throughout the country in the last eight years. Maybe it might be time to reassess?

Is there any way to read that except as a massive repudiation of Democrats?
No. I can’t see how any objective person can. It speaks to what I just mentioned; we cannot spend our entire life – I didn’t, but others do – raising money from wealthy people, listening to their needs. We’ve got to be out in union halls, we’ve got to be out in veterans’ halls, and we’ve got to be talking to working people, and we’ve got to stand up and fight for them.

This is how screwed up we are now. When you have a Republican Party that wants to give huge tax breaks to billionaires, when many of their members want to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, when they don’t believe in climate change, when they’ve been fierce advocates of unfettered free trade – I’m talking about pre-Trump – why would any working person, when they want to cut programs for working people, support them?

I think we know the answer. We know what the Karl Roves of the world have been successful in doing. They’re playing off working-class people against the gay community, or African-Americans, or Latinos. But that only works when you have not laid the foundation by making it clear to those workers that you are on their side on economic issues.

Look, you may not be pro-choice. But if you know that your congressman is fighting for you and delivering the goods in terms of education, health care and jobs, what you’ll say is, “I disagree with him on that, but I’m going to vote for him.” We’ve seen this in Vermont. We have seen the conservative parts of the state where there are many people who have disagreed with me. But they vote for me, because they know I’m fighting for their rights.

In your book, there are a lot of moments where you say things like, “Look at products like the iPhone. These are American inventions, but they’re not made in America anymore.” Some people will say, “This is nationalism. Why shouldn’t liberal-minded people care about raising the standard of living for poor people in China, in India?”
I heard them. We ran into that big-time from corporate liberals. Two things here. I would say there are very few people in the United States Congress who have a more progressive outlook than I do in terms of global politics and international politics. I am deeply concerned about poverty in countries around the world, and I believe that the United States and other major countries have got to work to address those issues. But you do not have to sacrifice the American middle class in order to do that. I find it ironic that the billionaire class says, “We’re worried about the poor people in Vietnam, and that’s why we’re sending your job to Vietnam.” That’s the billionaire class talking.

Clearly we know what that is about. And you have some “liberals” who echo that point of view. I would like to see the United States government and the rest of the industrialized world work harder, with sensible policy to improve the standard of living, to help people create jobs, and sustainable jobs, not wipe out agricultural sectors. In Mexico, for example, NAFTA devastated, as you know, family farms when people could not grow corn to compete with American corn manufacturers.

How you create a sustainable global economy that protects the poorest people in the world is a very important issue for me. But you surely do not have to do that by wiping out the middle class of this country. I think we have a right in this country to hold corporate America accountable for gaining the benefits of being an American corporation, while at the same time turning their backs on the American working class and the consumers who helped create their profits and their wealth.

What about the criticism you got a lot last year, including from former President Clinton, that this idea that we can do anything about these globalist trends is unrealistic, that all we can do is “harness the energy” of the change?
Donald Trump has rewritten the rules of politics. Let’s give the guy credit where credit is due. No one thought . . . he started off as a joke, right?

CONTINUED:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/bernie-sanders-where-we-go-from-here-w452786

Goodbye, American neoliberalism. A new era is here

Trump’s election was enabled by the policies that overlooked the plight of our most vulnerable citizens. We gird ourselves for a frightening future

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‘What is to be done? First we must try to tell the truth.’ Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

The neoliberal era in the United States ended with a neofascist bang. The political triumph of Donald Trump shattered the establishments in the Democratic and Republican parties – both wedded to the rule of Big Money and to the reign of meretricious politicians.

The Bush and Clinton dynasties were destroyed by the media-saturated lure of the pseudo-populist billionaire with narcissist sensibilities and ugly, fascist proclivities. The monumental election of Trump was a desperate and xenophobic cry of human hearts for a way out from under the devastation of a disintegrating neoliberal order – a nostalgic return to an imaginary past of greatness.

White working- and middle-class fellow citizens – out of anger and anguish – rejected the economic neglect of neoliberal policies and the self-righteous arrogance of elites. Yet these same citizens also supported a candidate who appeared to blame their social misery on minorities, and who alienated Mexican immigrants, Muslims, black people, Jews, gay people, women and China in the process.

This lethal fusion of economic insecurity and cultural scapegoating brought neoliberalism to its knees. In short, the abysmal failure of the Democratic party to speak to the arrested mobility and escalating poverty of working people unleashed a hate-filled populism and protectionism that threaten to tear apart the fragile fiber of what is left of US democracy. And since the most explosive fault lines in present-day America are first and foremost racial, then gender, homophobic, ethnic and religious, we gird ourselves for a frightening future.

What is to be done? First we must try to tell the truth and a condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak. For 40 years, neoliberals lived in a world of denial and indifference to the suffering of poor and working people and obsessed with the spectacle of success. Second we must bear witness to justice. We must ground our truth-telling in a willingness to suffer and sacrifice as we resist domination. Third we must remember courageous exemplars like Martin Luther King Jr, who provide moral and spiritual inspiration as we build multiracial alliances to combat poverty and xenophobia, Wall Street crimes and war crimes, global warming and police abuse – and to protect precious rights and liberties.

The age of Obama was the last gasp of neoliberalism. Despite some progressive words and symbolic gestures, Obama chose to ignore Wall Street crimes, reject bailouts for homeowners, oversee growing inequality and facilitate war crimes like US drones killing innocent civilians abroad.

Rightwing attacks on Obama – and Trump-inspired racist hatred of him – have made it nearly impossible to hear the progressive critiques of Obama. The president has been reluctant to target black suffering – be it in overcrowded prisons, decrepit schools or declining workplaces. Yet, despite that, we get celebrations of the neoliberal status quo couched in racial symbolism and personal legacy. Meanwhile, poor and working class citizens of all colors have continued to suffer in relative silence.

In this sense, Trump’s election was enabled by the neoliberal policies of the Clintons and Obama that overlooked the plight of our most vulnerable citizens. The progressive populism of Bernie Sanders nearly toppled the establishment of the Democratic party but Clinton and Obama came to the rescue to preserve the status quo. And I do believe Sanders would have beat Trump to avert this neofascist outcome!

In this bleak moment, we must inspire each other driven by a democratic soulcraft of integrity, courage, empathy and a mature sense of history – even as it seems our democracy is slipping away.

We must not turn away from the forgotten people of US foreign policy – such as Palestinians under Israeli occupation, Yemen’s civilians killed by US-sponsored Saudi troops or Africans subject to expanding US military presence.

As one whose great family and people survived and thrived through slavery, Jim Crow and lynching, Trump’s neofascist rhetoric and predictable authoritarian reign is just another ugly moment that calls forth the best of who we are and what we can do.

For us in these times, to even have hope is too abstract, too detached, too spectatorial. Instead we must be a hope, a participant and a force for good as we face this catastrophe.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/17/american-neoliberalism-cornel-west-2016-election

Chomsky: Trump’s Win Puts Govt in the Hands of the ‘Most Dangerous Organization in World History’

Chomsky warns of a president who “could exploit the fear and anger that has long been boiling in much of the society.”

A New York federal judge shot down part of a controversial anti-terror law Wednesday that journalists and scholars worry could see them locked up indefinitely for speaking their minds. The suit was brought by activists, including former New York Times journalists.

In an interview with TruthOut, political theorist Noam Chomsky warned the choice of Donald Trump will put the world at risk, saying the policy-adverse president-elect may let the Republican party run amok.

“On November 8, the most powerful country in world history, which will set its stamp on what comes next, had an election,” Chomsky said. “The outcome placed total control of the government — executive, Congress, the Supreme Court — in the hands of the Republican Party, which has become the most dangerous organization in world history.”

Chomsky claimed that the impact on climate science alone was frightening.

“The winning candidate, now the president-elect, calls for rapid increase in use of fossil fuels, including coal; dismantling of regulations; rejection of help to developing countries that are seeking to move to sustainable energy; and in general, racing to the cliff as fast as possible, ” he said before adding, “It is hard to find words to capture the fact that humans are facing the most important question in their history — whether organized human life will survive in anything like the form we know — and are answering it by accelerating the race to disaster.”

Turning to how it was that Trump came to be elected, the lecturer and author said no one should be surprised and that he has been warning of a Trump-like demagogue for years.

“For many years, I have been writing and speaking about the danger of the rise of an honest and charismatic ideologue in the United States, someone who could exploit the fear and anger that has long been boiling in much of the society, and who could direct it away from the actual agents of malaise to vulnerable targets,” he explained. “That could indeed lead to what sociologist Bertram Gross called ‘friendly fascism’ in a perceptive study 35 years ago. But that requires an honest ideologue, a Hitler type, not someone whose only detectable ideology is ‘Me.’ The dangers, however, have been real for many years, perhaps even more so in the light of the forces that Trump has unleashed.”

Asked about the potential for Trump to return to the aggressive militaristic ways of the President George W. Bush era, Chomsky said that was an open question given Trump’s erratic history of saying one thing and then contradicting himself moments later.

“I don’t think one can answer with any confidence. Trump is too unpredictable. There are too many open questions. What we can say is that popular mobilization and activism, properly organized and conducted, can make a large difference,” he remarked before adding ominously, “And we should bear in mind that the stakes are very large.”

Read the entire interview.

Trump in the White House: An Interview With Noam Chomsky

Monday, 14 November 2016 09:56

By C.J. Polychroniou, Truthout | Interview

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Noam Chomsky speaks in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 12, 2015. (Photo: Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina)

On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump managed to pull the biggest upset in US politics by tapping successfully into the anger of white voters and appealing to the lowest inclinations of people in a manner that would have probably impressed Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels himself.

But what exactly does Trump’s victory mean, and what can one expect from this megalomaniac when he takes over the reins of power on January 20, 2017? What is Trump’s political ideology, if any, and is “Trumpism” a movement? Will US foreign policy be any different under a Trump administration?

Some years ago, public intellectual Noam Chomsky warned that the political climate in the US was ripe for the rise of an authoritarian figure. Now, he shares his thoughts on the aftermath of this election, the moribund state of the US political system and why Trump is a real threat to the world and the planet in general.

C.J. Polychroniou for Truthout: Noam, the unthinkable has happened: In contrast to all forecasts, Donald Trump scored a decisive victory over Hillary Clinton, and the man that Michael Moore described as a “wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full-time sociopath” will be the next president of the United States. In your view, what were the deciding factors that led American voters to produce the biggest upset in the history of US politics?

Noam Chomsky: Before turning to this question, I think it is important to spend a few moments pondering just what happened on November 8, a date that might turn out to be one of the most important in human history, depending on how we react.

No exaggeration.

The most important news of November 8 was barely noted, a fact of some significance in itself.

On November 8, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) delivered a report at the international conference on climate change in Morocco (COP22) which was called in order to carry forward the Paris agreement of COP21. The WMO reported that the past five years were the hottest on record. It reported rising sea levels, soon to increase as a result of the unexpectedly rapid melting of polar ice, most ominously the huge Antarctic glaciers. Already, Arctic sea ice over the past five years is 28 percent below the average of the previous 29 years, not only raising sea levels, but also reducing the cooling effect of polar ice reflection of solar rays, thereby accelerating the grim effects of global warming. The WMO reported further that temperatures are approaching dangerously close to the goal established by COP21, along with other dire reports and forecasts.

Another event took place on November 8, which also may turn out to be of unusual historical significance for reasons that, once again, were barely noted.

On November 8, the most powerful country in world history, which will set its stamp on what comes next, had an election. The outcome placed total control of the government — executive, Congress, the Supreme Court — in the hands of the Republican Party, which has become the most dangerous organization in world history.

Apart from the last phrase, all of this is uncontroversial. The last phrase may seem outlandish, even outrageous. But is it? The facts suggest otherwise.  The Party is dedicated to racing as rapidly as possible to destruction of organized human life. There is no historical precedent for such a stand.

Is this an exaggeration? Consider what we have just been witnessing.

During the Republican primaries, every candidate denied that what is happening is happening — with the exception of the sensible moderates, like Jeb Bush, who said it’s all uncertain, but we don’t have to do anything because we’re producing more natural gas, thanks to fracking. Or John Kasich, who agreed that global warming is taking place, but added that “we are going to burn [coal] in Ohio and we are not going to apologize for it.”

The winning candidate, now the president-elect, calls for rapid increase in use of fossil fuels, including coal; dismantling of regulations; rejection of help to developing countries that are seeking to move to sustainable energy; and in general, racing to the cliff as fast as possible.

Trump has already taken steps to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by placing in charge of the EPA transition a notorious (and proud) climate change denier, Myron Ebell. Trump’s top adviser on energy, billionaire oil executive Harold Hamm, announced his expectations, which were predictable: dismantling regulations, tax cuts for the industry (and the wealthy and corporate sector generally), more fossil fuel production, lifting Obama’s temporary block on the Dakota Access pipeline. The market reacted quickly. Shares in energy corporations boomed, including the world’s largest coal miner, Peabody Energy, which had filed for bankruptcy, but after Trump’s victory, registered a 50 percent gain.

The effects of Republican denialism had already been felt. There had been hopes that the COP21 Paris agreement would lead to a verifiable treaty, but any such thoughts were abandoned because the Republican Congress would not accept any binding commitments, so what emerged was a voluntary agreement, evidently much weaker.

Effects may soon become even more vividly apparent than they already are.  In Bangladesh alone, tens of millions are expected to have to flee from low-lying plains in coming years because of sea level rise and more severe weather, creating a migrant crisis that will make today’s pale in significance. With considerable justice, Bangladesh’s leading climate scientist says that “These migrants should have the right to move to the countries from which all these greenhouse gases are coming. Millions should be able to go to the United States.” And to the other rich countries that have grown wealthy while bringing about a new geological era, the Anthropocene, marked by radical human transformation of the environment. These catastrophic consequences can only increase, not just in Bangladesh, but in all of South Asia as temperatures, already intolerable for the poor, inexorably rise and the Himalayan glaciers melt, threatening the entire water supply. Already in India, some 300 million people are reported to lack adequate drinking water.  And the effects will reach far beyond.

It is hard to find words to capture the fact that humans are facing the most important question in their history — whether organized human life will survive in anything like the form we know — and are answering it by accelerating the race to disaster.

Similar observations hold for the other huge issue concerning human survival: the threat of nuclear destruction, which has been looming over our heads for 70 years and is now increasing.

It is no less difficult to find words to capture the utterly astonishing fact that in all of the massive coverage of the electoral extravaganza, none of this receives more than passing mention. At least I am at a loss to find appropriate words.

Turning finally to the question raised, to be precise, it appears that Clinton received a slight majority of the vote. The apparent decisive victory has to do with curious features of American politics: among other factors, the Electoral College residue of the founding of the country as an alliance of separate states; the winner-take-all system in each state; the arrangement of congressional districts (sometimes by gerrymandering) to provide greater weight to rural votes (in past elections, and probably this one too, Democrats have had a comfortable margin of victory in the popular vote for the House, but hold a minority of seats); the very high rate of abstention (usually close to half in presidential elections, this one included). Of some significance for the future is the fact that in the age 18-25 range, Clinton won handily, and Sanders had an even higher level of support. How much this matters depends on what kind of future humanity will face.

According to current information, Trump broke all records in the support he received from white voters, working class and lower middle class, particularly in the $50,000 to $90,000 income range, rural and suburban, primarily those without college education. These groups share the anger throughout the West at the centrist establishment, revealed as well in the unanticipated Brexit vote and the collapse of centrist parties in continental Europe. [Many of] the angry and disaffected are victims of the neoliberal policies of the past generation, the policies described in congressional testimony by Fed chair Alan Greenspan — “St. Alan,” as he was called reverentially by the economics profession and other admirers until the miraculous economy he was supervising crashed in 2007-2008, threatening to bring the whole world economy down with it. As Greenspan explained during his glory days, his successes in economic management were based substantially on “growing worker insecurity.” Intimidated working people would not ask for higher wages, benefits and security, but would be satisfied with the stagnating wages and reduced benefits that signal a healthy economy by neoliberal standards.

Working people, who have been the subjects of these experiments in economic theory, are not particularly happy about the outcome. They are not, for example, overjoyed at the fact that in 2007, at the peak of the neoliberal miracle, real wages for nonsupervisory workers were lower than they had been years earlier, or that real wages for male workers are about at 1960s levels while spectacular gains have gone to the pockets of a very few at the top, disproportionately a fraction of 1%. Not the result of market forces, achievement or merit, but rather of definite policy decisions, matters reviewed carefully by economist Dean Baker in recently published work.

The fate of the minimum wage illustrates what has been happening.  Through the periods of high and egalitarian growth in the ’50s and ’60s, the minimum wage — which sets a floor for other wages — tracked productivity.  That ended with the onset of neoliberal doctrine. Since then, the minimum wage has stagnated (in real value). Had it continued as before, it would probably be close to $20 per hour. Today, it is considered a political revolution to raise it to $15.

With all the talk of near-full employment today, labor force participation remains below the earlier norm. And for working people, there is a great difference between a steady job in manufacturing with union wages and benefits, as in earlier years, and a temporary job with little security in some service profession. Apart from wages, benefits and security, there is a loss of dignity, of hope for the future, of a sense that this is a world in which I belong and play a worthwhile role.

The impact is captured well in Arlie Hochschild’s sensitive and illuminating portrayal of a Trump stronghold in Louisiana, where she lived and worked for many years. She uses the image of a line in which residents are standing, expecting to move forward steadily as they work hard and keep to all the conventional values. But their position in the line has stalled. Ahead of them, they see people leaping forward, but that does not cause much distress, because it is “the American way” for (alleged) merit to be rewarded. What does cause real distress is what is happening behind them. They believe that “undeserving people” who do not “follow the rules” are being moved in front of them by federal government programs they erroneously see as designed to benefit African-Americans, immigrants and others they often regard with contempt. All of this is exacerbated by [Ronald] Reagan’s racist fabrications about “welfare queens” (by implication Black) stealing white people’s hard-earned money and other fantasies.

Sometimes failure to explain, itself a form of contempt, plays a role in fostering hatred of government. I once met a house painter in Boston who had turned bitterly against the “evil” government after a Washington bureaucrat who knew nothing about painting organized a meeting of painting contractors to inform them that they could no longer use lead paint — “the only kind that works” — as they all knew, but the suit didn’t understand. That destroyed his small business, compelling him to paint houses on his own with substandard stuff forced on him by government elites.

Sometimes there are also some real reasons for these attitudes toward government bureaucracies. Hochschild describes a man whose family and friends are suffering bitterly from the lethal effects of chemical pollution but who despises the government and the “liberal elites,” because for him, the EPA means some ignorant guy who tells him he can’t fish, but does nothing about the chemical plants.

These are just samples of the real lives of Trump supporters, who are led to believe that Trump will do something to remedy their plight, though the merest look at his fiscal and other proposals demonstrates the opposite — posing a task for activists who hope to fend off the worst and to advance desperately needed changes.

Exit polls reveal that the passionate support for Trump was inspired primarily by the belief that he represented change, while Clinton was perceived as the candidate who would perpetuate their distress. The “change” that Trump is likely to bring will be harmful or worse, but it is understandable that the consequences are not clear to isolated people in an atomized society lacking the kinds of associations (like unions) that can educate and organize. That is a crucial difference between today’s despair and the generally hopeful attitudes of many working people under much greater economic duress during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

There are other factors in Trump’s success. Comparative studies show that doctrines of white supremacy have had an even more powerful grip on American culture than in South Africa, and it’s no secret that the white population is declining. In a decade or two, whites are projected to be a minority of the work force, and not too much later, a minority of the population. The traditional conservative culture is also perceived as under attack by the successes of identity politics, regarded as the province of elites who have only contempt for the ”hard-working, patriotic, church-going [white] Americans with real family values” who see their familiar country as disappearing before their eyes.

One of the difficulties in raising public concern over the very severe threats of global warming is that 40 percent of the US population does not see why it is a problem, since Christ is returning in a few decades. About the same percentage believe that the world was created a few thousand years ago. If science conflicts with the Bible, so much the worse for science. It would be hard to find an analogue in other societies.

The Democratic Party abandoned any real concern for working people by the 1970s, and they have therefore been drawn to the ranks of their bitter class enemies, who at least pretend to speak their language — Reagan’s folksy style of making little jokes while eating jelly beans, George W. Bush’s carefully cultivated image of a regular guy you could meet in a bar who loved to cut brush on the ranch in 100-degree heat and his probably faked mispronunciations (it’s unlikely that he talked like that at Yale), and now Trump, who gives voice to people with legitimate grievances — people who have lost not just jobs, but also a sense of personal self-worth — and who rails against the government that they perceive as having undermined their lives (not without reason).

One of the great achievements of the doctrinal system has been to divert anger from the corporate sector to the government that implements the programs that the corporate sector designs, such as the highly protectionist corporate/investor rights agreements that are uniformly mis-described as “free trade agreements” in the media and commentary. With all its flaws, the government is, to some extent, under popular influence and control, unlike the corporate sector. It is highly advantageous for the business world to foster hatred for pointy-headed government bureaucrats and to drive out of people’s minds the subversive idea that the government might become an instrument of popular will, a government of, by and for the people.

Is Trump representing a new movement in American politics, or was the outcome of this election primarily a rejection of Hillary Clinton by voters who hate the Clintons and are fed-up with “politics as usual?”

It’s by no means new. Both political parties have moved to the right during the neoliberal period. Today’s New Democrats are pretty much what used to be called “moderate Republicans.” The “political revolution” that Bernie Sanders called for, rightly, would not have greatly surprised Dwight Eisenhower. The Republicans have moved so far toward a dedication to the wealthy and the corporate sector that they cannot hope to get votes on their actual programs, and have turned to mobilizing sectors of the population that have always been there, but not as an organized coalitional political force: evangelicals, nativists, racists and the victims of the forms of globalization designed to set working people around the world in competition with one another while protecting the privileged and undermining the legal and other measures that provided working people with some protection, and with ways to influence decision-making in the closely linked public and private sectors, notably with effective labor unions.

The consequences have been evident in recent Republican primaries. Every candidate that has emerged from the base — such as [Michele] Bachmann, [Herman] Cain or [Rick] Santorum — has been so extreme that the Republican establishment had to use its ample resources to beat them down. The difference in 2016 is that the establishment failed, much to its chagrin, as we have seen.

Deservedly or not, Clinton represented the policies that were feared and hated, while Trump was seen as the symbol of “change” — change of what kind requires a careful look at his actual proposals, something largely missing in what reached the public. The campaign itself was remarkable in its avoidance of issues, and media commentary generally complied, keeping to the concept that true “objectivity” means reporting accurately what is “within the beltway,” but not venturing beyond.

Trump said following the outcome of the election that he “will represent all Americans.” How is he going to do that when the nation is so divided and he has already expressed deep hatred for many groups in the United States, including women and minorities? Do you see any resemblance between Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory?

There are definite similarities to Brexit, and also to the rise of the ultranationalist far-right parties in Europe — whose leaders were quick to congratulate Trump on his victory, perceiving him as one of their own: [Nigel] Farage, [Marine] Le Pen, [Viktor] Orban and others like them. And these developments are quite frightening. A look at the polls in Austria and Germany — Austria and Germany — cannot fail to evoke unpleasant memories for those familiar with the 1930s, even more so for those who watched directly, as I did as a child. I can still recall listening to Hitler’s speeches, not understanding the words, though the tone and audience reaction were chilling enough. The first article that I remember writing was in February 1939, after the fall of Barcelona, on the seemingly inexorable spread of the fascist plague. And by strange coincidence, it was from Barcelona that my wife and I watched the results of the 2016 US presidential election unfold.

As to how Trump will handle what he has brought forth — not created, but brought forth — we cannot say. Perhaps his most striking characteristic is unpredictability. A lot will depend on the reactions of those appalled by his performance and the visions he has projected, such as they are.

Trump has no identifiable political ideology guiding his stance on economic, social and political issues, yet there are clear authoritarian tendencies in his behavior. Therefore, do you find any validity behind the claims that Trump may represent the emergence of “fascism with a friendly face?” in the United States?

For many years, I have been writing and speaking about the danger of the rise of an honest and charismatic ideologue in the United States, someone who could exploit the fear and anger that has long been boiling in much of the society, and who could direct it away from the actual agents of malaise to vulnerable targets. That could indeed lead to what sociologist Bertram Gross called “friendly fascism” in a perceptive study 35 years ago. But that requires an honest ideologue, a Hitler type, not someone whose only detectable ideology is Me. The dangers, however, have been real for many years, perhaps even more so in the light of the forces that Trump has unleashed.

With the Republicans in the White House, but also controlling both houses and the future shape of the Supreme Court, what will the US look like for at least the next four years?

A good deal depends on his appointments and circle of advisers. Early indications are unattractive, to put it mildly.

The Supreme Court will be in the hands of reactionaries for many years, with predictable consequences. If Trump follows through on his Paul Ryan-style fiscal programs, there will be huge benefits for the very rich — estimated by the Tax Policy Center as a tax cut of over 14 percent for the top 0.1 percent and a substantial cut more generally at the upper end of the income scale, but with virtually no tax relief for others, who will also face major new burdens. The respected economics correspondent of the Financial Times, Martin Wolf, writes that, “The tax proposals would shower huge benefits on already rich Americans such as Mr Trump,” while leaving others in the lurch, including, of course, his constituency. The immediate reaction of the business world reveals that Big Pharma, Wall Street, the military industry, energy industries and other such wonderful institutions expect a very bright future.

One positive development might be the infrastructure program that Trump has promised while (along with much reporting and commentary) concealing the fact that it is essentially the Obama stimulus program that would have been of great benefit to the economy and to the society generally, but was killed by the Republican Congress on the pretext that it would explode the deficit. While that charge was spurious at the time, given the very low interest rates, it holds in spades for Trump’s program, now accompanied by radical tax cuts for the rich and corporate sector and increased Pentagon spending.

There is, however, an escape, provided by Dick Cheney when he explained to Bush’s Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill that “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter” — meaning deficits that we Republicans create in order to gain popular support, leaving it to someone else, preferably Democrats, to somehow clean up the mess. The technique might work, for a while at least.

There are also many questions about foreign policy consequences, mostly unanswered.

There is mutual admiration between Trump and Putin. How likely is it therefore that we may see a new era in US-Russia relations?

One hopeful prospect is that there might be reduction of the very dangerous and mounting tensions at the Russian border: note “the Russian border,” not the Mexican border. Thereby lies a tale that we cannot go into here. It is also possible that Europe might distance itself from Trump’s America, as already suggested by [German] Chancellor [Angela] Merkel and other European leaders — and from the British voice of American power, after Brexit. That might possibly lead to European efforts to defuse the tensions, and perhaps even efforts to move towards something like Mikhail Gorbachev’s vision of an integrated Eurasian security system without military alliances, rejected by the US in favor of NATO expansion, a vision revived recently by Putin, whether seriously or not, we do not know, since the gesture was dismissed.

Is US foreign policy under a Trump administration likely to be more or less militaristic than what we have seen under the Obama administration, or even the George W. Bush administration?

I don’t think one can answer with any confidence. Trump is too unpredictable. There are too many open questions. What we can say is that popular mobilization and activism, properly organized and conducted, can make a large difference.

And we should bear in mind that the stakes are very large.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

C.J. Polychroniou is a political economist/political scientist who has taught and worked in universities and research centers in Europe and the United States. His main research interests are in European economic integration, globalization, the political economy of the United States and the deconstruction of neoliberalism’s politico-economic project. He is a regular contributor to Truthout as well as a member of Truthout’s Public Intellectual Project. He has published several books and his articles have appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, newspapers and popular news websites. Many of his publications have been translated into several foreign languages, including Croatian, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish.

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HILLARY VOTERS OWE IT TO AMERICA TO STOP CALLING EVERYONE A NAZI AND START READING WIKILEAKS

NOVEMBER 11, 2016

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If you still believe that Donald Trump was elected because of racism, it is because you have remained willfully ignorant of what has been happening in your country. If you still believe that Trump’s election is indicative of a neo-fascist uprising in America, it is because you have not ventured outside of your self-reinforcing validation loop of fellow Clinton voters and your corporate media echo chamber. If you still, days later, think that Hillary Clinton’s loss is the fault of anyone other than Hillary Clinton, it’s because you haven’t been reading WikiLeaks.

This cannot continue. If the progressive revolution has any hope of mounting a meaningful counteroffensive at any time in the future, the people who supported Hillary Clinton need to stop calling everyone a Nazi long enough to do some actual research into the facts behind where they went wrong in 2016, humble themselves, and admit that they have been completely wrong about everything.

I’m not expecting them to admit it out loud, and I’m not expecting it to happen right away; people will need time to process whatever intense emotions are still ripping through their systems. But at some point, liberals are going to have to put down the bullhorn, stop blaming all their colossal blunders on everyone else, and start getting clear on the facts about the nation they call home and the candidate they voted for. That’s the only way we can begin moving this thing in a healthy direction.

Just so we’re clear, Democrats don’t get to blame the WikiLeaks documents on a subversive Kremlin conspiracy anymore. Julian Assange has confirmed that he didn’t receive the documents from Russia, there will be no more echo-chamber red-baiting now that we’ll be getting a president who has no interest in a conflict with Russia, and the concocted “blame Putin for everything” schtick has already faded into obsolescence now that it has no more place or relevance. It’s time to take accountability for your own understanding of what has been happening in your country’s government and start doing some real research.

I’ve seen people with perfectly good, functioning brains trying to compartmentalize themselves away from the furnace of cognitive dissonance that’s lurking right under the surface by saying completely indefensible things like “This is all because those stupid Bernie supporters wouldn’t support her,” and “The primaries weren’t rigged,” and even “Bernie wouldn’t have been able to win either.”

Right, guys. The candidate with the extremely popular platform and the relentlessly enthusiastic following, who was nearly able to defeat Clinton despite a media blackout and an outright conspiracy against him from the very people responsible for ensuring a fair election, who Real Clear Politics reports was crushing Trump by double digits in head-to-head polling, would not have fared better than the historically unpopular candidate who was under multiple FBI investigations. This is the kind of pants-on-head idiocy that will kill the Democratic party unless it stops.

Bernie, unlike Hillary voters, did his homework. He had his finger right on the pulse of what was happening in his country, and fifteen months ago he predicted the exact outcome of what would happen under an establishment candidacy, precisely as it went down. On August 28th, 2015, Bernie Sanders said the following at the DNC Summer Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Read it and tell me his accuracy doesn’t give you goosebumps:

“Let me be very clear. In my view, Democrats will not retain the White House, will not regain the Senate, will not gain the House and will not be successful in dozens of governor’s races unless we run a campaign which generates excitement and momentum and which produces a huge voter turnout.

With all due respect, and I do not mean to insult anyone here, that will not happen with politics as usual. The same old, same old will not be successful.

The people of our country understand that — given the collapse of the American middle class and the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality we are experiencing — we do not need more establishment politics or establishment economics.

We need a political movement which is prepared to take on the billionaire class and create a government which represents all Americans, and not just corporate America and wealthy campaign donors.

In other words, we need a movement which takes on the economic and political establishment, not one which is part of it.”

He got it. Like those of us who supported him, Bernie Sanders understood the spirit of the times; he understood where America is at right now. But the elites of the Democratic party refused to allow us to act on that knowledge, so the American people elected the only other candidate who had his finger on America’s pulse, Donald Trump. Those elites, and every other factor that enabled this colossal political blunder to take place, need to be purged from the Democratic party to prevent such mistakes from repeating themselves.

And the first step is to move out of denial, to cease compartmentalizing so that we can all come out of the fog of cognitive dissonance and begin looking at the reality of what has happened and what is happening. You can’t fix a problem until you recognize and acknowledge it. Unless that happens, Democrats are guaranteed to lose in 2018, and again in 2020, until they lose viability as a political party and are replaced.

So read WikiLeaks. Turn off the TV. Use the New York Times to line your birdcage and start exploring alternative media. Read some of the things actual Trump supporters are saying so you can get a feel for their side of things, like this extremely popular Reddit post which has been “gilded” an extraordinary 38 times as of this writing, wherein the author voices frustration over the ways the political left misunderstands his position.

Hillary voters owe it to their country to finally discover the reality of what’s been occurring right under their noses this entire time in order for a true progressive revolution to become a real possibility and to ensure that the next time a golden opportunity like Bernie comes along, they don’t miss it.

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/3704461/hillary-voters-owe-it-to-america-to-stop-calling-everyone-a-nazi-and-start-reading-wikileaks/#oT7PxomXzHQ1pvDO.99

The myth of the reactionary white working class

trump_supportes

12 November 2016

In the days following the victory of Donald Trump in the presidential election, the Democratic Party and media have attributed the results to the ignorance, backwardness and inherent racism and sexism of the “white working class.”

“Why Trump Won: Working Class Whites,” read the headline of a Wednesday article in the New York Times. Columnist Charles Blow wrote in Thursday’s Times op-ed page: “I can only assume that President Donald Trump will be a bigot. It is absolutely possible that America didn’t elect him in spite of that, but because of it.”

The so-called “left” press has advanced the same racialist narrative: The Nation’s Monica Potts noted with hateful sarcasm, “This election season has seen no shortage of tender, worried portraits of the white working class and its economic grievances…”

Potts explains Trump’s victory in terms of identity, race, and gender. The working class in rural communities “make[s] more money than their poor neighbors,” she writes. “They think they work hard, and they think other people—their neighbors, immigrants, the African Americans in ‘inner cities’—do not… While they could be doing better and surely struggle, it is their cultural identity that is important in this election… This wasn’t about anguish. It was about identity.”

This identity-based presentation of Tuesday’s election is a false narrative exploded by the most basic analysis of the data from the election.

The most significant statistic from 2016’s election is the massive drop in support for both the Democratic and Republican candidates. While uncounted votes from California may slightly alter these figures, Hillary Clinton received about ten million fewer votes than Barack Obama did eight years ago. Trump, who lost the popular vote while winning the electoral vote, received the least votes of any candidate from either party since 2000. These figures are even more striking because of a drastic increase in the population of eligible voters: 18 million since 2008.

Far larger in number than the vote for either candidate are the 99 million eligible voters who abstained from the 2016 election or voted for a third party. This is a measure of social discontent and not of apathy. In other words, while Clinton and Trump received the vote of 26.6 and 25.9 percent of eligible voters, 43.2 percent chose neither.

Among those who did vote, Trump received the votes of just over 27 million white men, about equal to the 27.2 million white men who voted for Republican Mitt Romney in 2012. As for women, 35.5 million voted for Clinton in 2016, a significant drop from the 37.6 million who voted for Obama in 2012. Remarkably, just 30 percent of women eligible to vote cast ballots for Clinton in 2016, compared to 47 percent who did not vote.

Clinton also suffered significant losses among African-American, Latino and young voters. In 2012, Barack Obama won 16.9 million African-American votes, over 3 million more than Clinton’s 13.7 million. Just over 9 million Latinos voted for both Obama and Clinton, despite a significant increase in the Latino voting population over the past four years. Among people aged 18-29, Clinton’s 13.6 million votes is roughly 8 percent less than Obama’s 14.8 million figure from 2012, despite a similar growth in this age demographic.

As a percentage of votes cast, all racial groups swung toward the Republican candidate in 2016 compared to 2012. However, white voters showed the lowest swing to the Republicans (1 percentage point), compared with African-Americans (7 percentage points), Latinos (8 percentage points), and Asian-Americans (11 percentage points).

These shifts, which occurred within the broader framework of abstention, were driven largely by economic issues. Fifty-two percent of voters said that the economy was the most important issue in the election, far above the second most important issue at 18 percent. Racial and gender issues did not register, while sixty-eight percent of voters said their financial situation was the same or worse than it was four years ago. Thirty-nine percent said they were looking for a candidate who “can bring change,” and of these, 83 percent voted for Trump. This equals roughly 40 million votes, or two thirds of Trump’s total.

Another indication that Trump was seen as the “change” candidate against the status quo is the fact that, of the 18 percent of voters who said they disliked both candidates, Trump won 49 percent to Clinton’s 29 percent. Fourteen percent said neither had the right temperament to be president, with Trump defeating Clinton 71 percent to 17 percent in this group. Remarkably, 57 percent of voters said they would be concerned or scared by a Trump presidency, but Trump still won 14 percent of these voters. These figures indicate the depth of the hatred that exists for the political establishment.

The elections saw a massive shift in party support among the poorest and wealthiest voters. The share of votes for the Republicans amongst the most impoverished section of workers, those with family incomes under $30,000, increased by 10 percentage points from 2012. In several key Midwestern states, the swing of the poorest voters toward Trump was even larger: Wisconsin (17-point swing), Iowa (20 points), Indiana (19 points) and Pennsylvania (18 points).

The swing to Republicans among the $30,000 to $50,000 family income range was 6 percentage points. Those with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 swung away from the Republicans compared to 2012 by 2 points.

The affluent and rich voted for Clinton by a much broader margin than they had voted for the Democratic candidate in 2012. Among those with incomes between $100,000 and $200,000, Clinton benefited from a 9-point Democratic swing. Voters with family incomes above $250,000 swung toward Clinton by 11 percentage points. The number of Democratic voters amongst the wealthiest voting block increased from 2.16 million in 2012 to 3.46 million in 2016—a jump of 60 percent.

Clinton was unable to make up for the vote decline among women (2.1 million), African Americans (3.2 million), and youth (1.2 million), who came overwhelmingly from the poor and working class, with the increase among the rich (1.3 million).

Clinton’s electoral defeat is bound up with the nature of the Democratic Party, an alliance of Wall Street and the military-intelligence apparatus with privileged sections of the upper-middle class based on the politics of race, gender and sexual orientation. Over the course of the last forty years, the Democratic Party has abandoned all pretenses of social reform, a process escalated under Obama. Working with the Republican Party and the trade unions, it is responsible for enacting social policies that have impoverished vast sections of the working class, regardless of race or gender.

The present political juncture presents real dangers for the American and international working class. The Trump administration will be the most reactionary in American history. At the same time, the election of Donald Trump heralds a period of renewed, explosive social convulsions.

Eric London

WSWS 

It’s Worse Than You Think

Posted on Nov 11, 2016

By Chris Hedges

New York City police officers guard Trump Tower, President-elect Donald Trump’s Manhattan home. (Richard Drew / AP)

Widespread social unrest will ignite when Donald Trump’s base realizes it has been betrayed. I do not know when this will happen. But that it will happen is certain. Investments in the stocks of the war industry, internal security and the prison-industrial complex have skyrocketed since Trump won the presidency. There is a lot of money to be made from a militarized police state.

READ: Revenge of the ‘Deplorables’

Our capitalist democracy ceased to function more than two decades ago. We underwent a corporate coup carried out by the Democratic and Republican parties. There are no institutions left that can authentically be called democratic. Trump and Hillary Clinton in a functioning democracy would have never been presidential nominees. The long and ruthless corporate assault on the working class, the legal system, electoral politics, the mass media, social services, the ecosystem, education and civil liberties in the name of neoliberalism has disemboweled the country. It has left the nation a decayed wreck. We celebrate ignorance. We have replaced political discourse, news, culture and intellectual inquiry with celebrity worship and spectacle.

Fascism, as historian Gaetano Salvemini pointed out, is about “giving up free institutions.” It is the product of a democracy that has ceased to function. The democratic form will remain, much as it did during the dictatorships in the later part of the Roman Empire, but the reality is despotism, or in our case, corporate despotism. The citizen does not genuinely participate in power.

“It is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” Noam Chomsky told me with uncanny insight when I spoke with him six years ago. “The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists, but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.

“The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen,” Chomsky went on. “Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like [Joseph] McCarthy or [Richard] Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest, this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer: We have an enemy’? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens, it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate, it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.”

The repression of dissents will soon resemble the repression under past totalitarian regimes. State security will become an invasive and palpable presence. The most benign forms of opposition will be treated as if they are a threat to national security. Many, hoping to avoid the wrath of the state, will become compliant and passive. We, however, must fight back. We must carry out sustained acts of civil disobedience, as many have done in streets around the country since the election. But we must also be aware that the democratic space allotted to us in our system of inverted totalitarianism has become much, much smaller.

Trump, with no democratic institutions left to restrain him, will accelerate the corporate assault, from privatizing Social Security to exonerating militarized police forces for the indiscriminate murder of unarmed citizens, while he unleashes the fossil fuel industry and the war industry to degrade and most probably extinguish life on earth. His administration will be populated by the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, men and women characterized by profound intellectual and moral impoverishment, as well as a stunning ability to ignore reality. These ideologues speak exclusively in the language of intimidation and violence.

Half the country lives in poverty. Our former manufacturing centers are decayed wrecks. Our constitutional rights, including due process and habeas corpus, have been taken from us by judicial fiat. Corporations and the billionaire class carry out legal tax boycotts. Police gun down unarmed citizens in the street. The military, under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, is empowered to carry out the extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens within the United States, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in our black sites. We are the most spied upon, watched, eavesdropped, photographed and monitored population in human history. When the government watches you 24 hours a day, you cannot use the word “liberty.” That is the relationship between a master and a slave. And governments that wield this kind of surveillance power swiftly become totalitarian. Trump and his cronies have been handed by bankrupt elites the legal and physical mechanisms to instantly transform America into a brutal police state.

Rudy Giuliani; Newt Gingrich, who advocates stripping U.S. citizens of their citizenship if they are deemed to be terrorists; retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and John Bolton—these men will not exhibit legal or moral restraint. They see the world through the Manichaean lens of good and evil, black and white, patriot and traitor. Politics have been transformed, as philosopher Walter Benjamin wrote of fascism, into aesthetics. And the ultimate aesthetic experience for the fascist, Benjamin warned, is war.

State terror and state violence, familiar to poor people of color in our internal colonies, will become familiar to all of us. Racism, nationalism, misogyny, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, intolerance, white supremacy, religious bigotry, hate crimes and a veneration of the hypermasculine values of military culture will define political and cultural discourse. The ruling elites will attempt to divert the growing frustration and rage toward the vulnerable—undocumented workers, Muslims, African-Americans, Latinos, homosexuals, feminists and others. White vigilante violence will be directed at those the state demonizes with little or no legal ramifications. New enemies, at home and abroad, will be manufactured. Our endless wars in the Middle East will be expanded, perhaps to include a confrontation with Russia.

There were some, such as Ralph Nader, who saw this dystopia coming. They desperately tried to build a viable third party and empower citizen movements to give the dispossessed working class a vision and hope. They knew that the longer corporate power had a stranglehold on the economic and political system, the more we seeded the ground for an American fascism.

The elites put up numerous obstacles—refusing to let Nader or later, Jill Stein, into the debates, making ballot access difficult or impossible, turning campaigns into long, money-drenched spectacles that cost billions of dollars, and skillfully using the politics of fear to intimidate voters. But the elites were aided by a bankrupt liberal class. In presidential election after presidential election, especially after Nader’s success in 2000, so-called progressives succumbed to the idiotic mantra of the least worst. Those who should have been the natural allies of third parties and dissident movements abjectly surrendered to the Democratic Party that, like the Republican Party, serves the beast of imperialism and makes war on the poor, the working class and the middle class. The cowardice of the liberal class meant it lost all credibility, much as Bernie Sanders did when he sold his soul to the Clinton campaign. The liberal class proved it would stand and fight for nothing. It mouthed words and ideas it did not truly believe. It bears significant responsibility for the phenomena that created Trump. It should have had the foresight to abandon the Democratic Party after President Bill Clinton passed the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, to build parties and institutions that defended the interests of the working class. If it had stood up for working men and women, it might have prevented them being seduced by protofascists.

The rot of our failed democracy vomited up a con artist who was a creation of the mass media—first playing a fictional master of the universe on a reality television show and later a politician as vaudevillian. Trump pulled in advertising dollars and ratings. Truth and reality were irrelevant. Only when he got the nomination did the mass media see their Frankenstein as a threat, but by then it was too late. If there is one vapid group that is hated even more than the liberal class, it is the corporate press. The more it attacked Trump, the better Trump looked.

Trump is emblematic of what anthropologists call “crisis cults.” A society in terminal decline often retreats into magical thinking. Reality is too much to bear. It places its faith in the fantastic and impossible promises of a demagogue or charlatan who promises the return of a lost golden age. The good jobs will come back. The nation will again be prosperous. The decrepit cities will be rebuilt. America will be great again. These promises, impossible to achieve, are no different from those peddled to Native Americans in the 1880s by the self-styled religious prophet Wovoka. He called on followers to carry out five-day dance ceremonies called the Ghost Dance. Native Americans donned shirts they were told protected them from bullets. They were assured that the buffalo herds would return, the dead warriors and chiefs would rise from the earth and the white men would disappear. None of his promises was realized. Many of his followers were gunned down like sheep by the U.S. army.

We face the most profound crisis in human history. Our response is to elect a man to the presidency who does not believe in climate change. Once societies unplug themselves from reality, those who speak truth become pariahs and enemies of the state. They are subject to severe state repression. Those lost in the reverie of the crisis cult applaud the elimination of these Cassandras. The appealing myths of magical thinking are pleasant opiates. But this narcotic, like all narcotics, leads to squalor and death.

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