Keep Calm and Vote Green: Fascism Is Not Coming

Posted on Sep 23, 2016

By Paul Street

  Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka—the Green Party’s presidential ticket—propose a Green New Deal, a “visionary agenda to tackle the interconnected problems of climate change and the economy.”(Dennis Van Tine / STAR MAX / AP)

Thinking about the upcoming United States presidential election contest between two of the most widely hated people in the nation, I am reminded of the old Aesop’s fable about “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” The tale concerns a shepherd boy who repeatedly fools his village neighbors into thinking a wolf is attacking his flock.

The first few times he does this, the villagers come running to drive off the imaginary wolf. Finally, a real wolf actually appears, and the boy again calls for help. But the villagers believe it is another false alarm and stay put. The sheep are eaten by the wolf. In some later versions of the fable, the boy himself is devoured.

READ: Jill Stein’s Green New Deal Deserves to Heard by Widest Audience Possible

The moral of the story is stated at the end of the Greek version: This shows how liars are rewarded—even if they tell the truth, no one believes them. As Aristotle is supposed to have said, when those who tell lies “speak truth, they are not believed.”

Every four years, liberal-left politicos scream wolf about how the Republicans are going to wreak plutocratic, racist, ecocidal, sexist, repressive and war-mongering hell if they win “this, the most important election in American history.” The politicos conveniently ignore the plutocratic, racist, ecocidal, sexist, repressive and military-imperial havoc that Democrats inflict at home and abroad in dark, co-dependent alliance with the ever more radically reactionary Republicans. Democrats fail to acknowledge their preferred party’s responsibility for sustaining the Republicans’ continuing power, which feeds on the “dismal” Dems’ neoliberal abandonment of the nation’s working-class majority in service to transnational Wall Street and corporate America. They commonly exaggerate the danger posed by the right-most major party and (especially) the progressivism of the not-so-left-most one.

It’s not that the liberal and progressive politicos lie about the presence of wolves. The wolves are out there. But they include Democratic wolves in fake sheep’s clothing joined with Republicans in what Washington journalist Mark Leibovich calls “the ultimate Green Party.” The nation’s capital, Leibovich notes, has “become a determinedly bipartisan team when there is money to be made. … ‘No Democrats and Republicans in Washington anymore,’ goes the maxim, ‘only millionaires.’ ”

LISTEN: Robert Scheer Speaks With Jill Stein About the Green Party and 2016 Election

It’s nothing new, which is part of why I have third-party-protest-voted in all but one (2004) of the nine U.S. presidential elections for which I have been eligible. This includes two of the last three, the only ones in which I have voted in a “contested state” (Iowa)—a state where the major-party outcome is in play.

So why might a serious left progressive living in a contested state (someone like this writer) consider following the venerable left political scientist Adolph Reed Jr.’s advice this year to “vote for the lying neoliberal warmonger” Hillary Clinton? Part of it could be that lefty’s sense that it is better for “the U.S. Left” (insofar as it exists) and the development of the dedicated, day-to-day, grass-roots social movement we desperately need in place beneath and beyond the election cycle when a corporate Democrat occupies the White House. The presence of a Democrat in the nominal top U.S. job is usefully instructive. It helps demonstrate the richly bipartisan nature of the American plutocracy and empire. Young workers and students especially need to see and experience how the misery and oppression imposed by capitalism and its evil twin imperialism live on when Democrats hold the Oval Office.

At the same time, the presence of a Republican in the White House tends to fuel the sense among progressives and liberals that the main problem in the country is that the “wrong party” holds executive power and that all energy and activism must be directed at fixing that by putting the “right party” back in. Everything progressive gets sucked into a giant “Get Out the Vote” project for the next faux-progressive Democratic savior, brandishing the promises of “hope” and “change” (campaign keywords for the neoliberal imperialist Bill Clinton in 1992 and the neoliberal imperialist Barack Obama in 2008).

Hillary will be much less capable than the more charismatic Obama (under whom there has been more popular organizing and protest than some lefties like to acknowledge) of bamboozling progressives into thinking they’ve got a friend in the White House. Unlike Obama in 2008, she’s got a long corporatist and imperialist track record that connects her to the establishment and is hard to deny.

WATCH: What Makes Jill Stein Qualified to Be President

It is an urban myth that Republican presidents spark and energize progressive and left activism. True, they’ve done outrageous things that can put lots of folks in the streets for a bit. One thinks of Richard Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and Bush Jr.’s invasion of Iraq. But the waves of protest recede, followed by repression, and everything tends to get channeled into the holy electoral quest to put Democrats back in executive-branch power. The second George W. Bush term was no activist heyday, thanks in significant measure to the great co-optive and demobilizing impact of Democratic Party electoral politics and the deceptive, not-so “antiwar” Obama phenomenon.

But the main reason it is easy to understand why many intelligent lefties stuck behind contested state lines might follow Reed’s advice is that Trump is no ordinary Republican wolf. By some dire portside reckonings (including Reed’s), “the Donald” is something like a real fascist threat worthy of mention in the same breath as Hitler and Mussolini. He’s a really bad version of the wolf who finally appears to devour the sheep in the ancient fable. Look at the following semi-viral jeremiad recently posted across “social media” by the longtime left journalist Arun Gupta—a spine-chilling reflection on what he fears a Trump presidency would mean:

I know it’s the fifth anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, but there is little to celebrate at such a grim moment. That being the likelihood Trump may very well win.
Black Lives Matter will be declared a domestic terrorist outfit. … Trump and Attorney General [Rudy] Giuliani would relish using the National Guard to crush blockades of oil pipelines and trains, and indigenous people defending their lands.

An English-only law would likely be passed, DACA be withdrawn, and sanctuary cities outlawed. White supremacists, Neo-Nazis, the Klan, and the Alt-Right would all be welcome into his administration, overtly or covertly.

There would be an all-out assault on reproductive rights and Planned Parenthood. Significant gains made at the National Labor Relations Board in the last few years will be overturned.

Huge swaths of the West under federal control will be turned over to logging, ranching, mining, and oil and gas industries.

Tens of millions would go from inadequate healthcare to no healthcare.

… Massive voter suppression becomes the norm. There will be organized vigilante violence, perhaps even mini-pogroms, against Muslim and Mexican communities with the state turning a blind eye.

…As soon as a recession hits, Trump would immediately go hunting for scapegoats to distract his followers. This could include a ban on Muslim immigration, a registration program, and mass round-ups of immigrants, meaning concentration camps to hold them before they were ousted, overseen by his ‘deportation force’ of Brownshirts.

There is a quaint notion on the left that somehow Trump is hot air. This ignores the dynamics he’s set in motion that will make new types of state-sponsored racial violence all but inevitable. … all the recent organizing gains will wither as the left is forced to wage losing defensive struggles against violent white nationalists. …

… there is a bizarre faith on the left that the ruling class will somehow keep him in check, despite the fact he will have control over every branch of government. …No one will be able to stop his dictatorial, white supremacist agenda. Congress won’t stop him. He will have a majority on the Supreme Court, and while sections of the ruling class may be deeply unhappy, they will still be safe and obscenely wealthy and can always escape.

In warning about Trump and instructing lefties not to vote third-party this time, Reed reminds us of the German Community Party’s fateful error: choosing not to ally with the German Social Democrats against the Nazi Party during the early 1930s. The moral of the story is clear: All sane left progressives need to report to duty to protect the flock under the banner of the admittedly horrid (good of Reed to admit that) Hillary.

CONTINUED:

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/keep_calm_and_vote_green_fascism_is_not_coming_20160923

U.S. Military Warns of Climate-Driven ‘Instability on an International Scale’

Posted on Sep 22, 2016

By Alex Kirby / Climate News Network

Naval Air Station Key West in Florida feels the forces of Hurricane Dennis in 2005. (Jim Brooks / US Navy via Wikimedia Commons)

LONDON—A group of senior defence experts in the US has warned that climate change is a threat to the country’s security, with the stark message that “the impacts of climate change present significant and direct risks to US military readiness, operations and strategy”.

They are members of the Climate Security Consensus Project, a bipartisan group of 25 senior military and national security experts—many of whom have served in previous Republican or Democratic administrations.

Meeting at a forum in Washington DC organised by the Centre for Climate and Security (CCS), the group said the effects of climate change “present a strategically-significant risk to US national security and international security”.

A statement from the members, who include retired senior officers from the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, expresses concern about risks to regions of the world of strategic significance to Washington—“risks that can contribute to political and financial instability on an international scale, as well as maritime insecurity”.

Likelihood of conflict

They say stresses resulting from climate change can increase the likelihood of conflict within and between countries, state failure, mass migration, and the creation of additional ungoverned spaces.

These could develop “across a range of strategically-significant regions, including but not limited to the Middle East and North Africa, Central Asia, the Indo-Asia-Pacific and the Arctic regions”.

They also fear that the impacts of climate change “will place significant strains on international financial stability through contributing to supply line disruptions for major global industries … disrupting the viability of the insurance industry, and generally increasing the political and financial risks of doing business in an increasingly unstable global environment”.

There’s absolutely nothing political about climate change. It’s a security risk, it makes other security risks worse, and we need to do something big about it”

Supporting their statement are two documents released at the forum, which the organisers said together urged “a robust new course on climate change”.

Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell, co-presidents of the CCS, said: “These reports make it crystal clear. To national security and defence leaders, there’s absolutely nothing political about climate change. It’s a security risk, it makes other security risks worse, and we need to do something big about it.”

One of the reports—on sea level rise and the US military—says a growing number of studies exploring the actual and potential physical impacts of sea level rise on US military installations “show that the risks are increasing at a faster rate than expected”.

The stability of the 1,774 US military sites spread worldwide along 95,471 miles of coastline “is set to change dramatically due to sea level rise and storm surge. …

“We cannot wait for perfect information before assessing the risks and impacts. … Essentially, the very geostrategic landscape in which the US military operates is going to be different from what it is today.”

The second report, described as a briefing book for a new administration, recommends ways to address the security risks of a changing climate. The first of these urges the new president to appoint a cabinet-level official to lead on domestic climate change and security issues.

Concerns about security

This is not the first time that the CCS has voiced its concerns about the security risks posed to the US by climate change.

What is notable this time is the group’s emphasis, during a bitterly divisive presidential election campaign, on the bipartisan nature of its work. Its language is uncompromising, and its insistence that there is “absolutely nothing political about climate change” will antagonise many Americans and reassure many more.

The presidential election in less than two months from now will see two viscerally-opposed contenders for the White House pushing diametrically different views on climate change, as well as many other issues.

Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton has said the science is “crystal clear”, and that climate change is an “urgent threat”.

But Republican candidate Donald Trump wrote this month: “There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of ‘climate change’.” He has described it as a hoax invented by the Chinese, and earlier this year called it “bullshit”.

Alex Kirby is a former BBC journalist and environment correspondent. He now works with universities, charities and international agencies to improve their media skills, and with journalists in the developing world keen to specialise in environmental reporting.

Two American Dreams: how a dumbed-down nation lost sight of a great idea

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As Clinton and Trump prepare to debate next week, noble ideals are overwhelmed in a culture where most Americans do not know what is real anymore and the dream of equal opportunity is a fantasy

by


Every child had a pretty good shot

To get at least as far as their old man got

But something happened on the way to that place

They threw an American flag in our face.

Billy Joel, Allentown

We know it today as the American Dream. The now-obscure historian James Truslow Adams coined the term in his book The Epic of America, defining “the American dream” as:

a dream of a social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.

Adams was writing in 1931, but the dream was there from the start, in Jefferson’s “pursuit of happiness” formulation in the Declaration of Independence, “happiness” residing in its 18th-century sense of prosperity, thriving, wellbeing.

Nobody ever came to America with a starry-eyed dream of working for starvation wages. Plenty of that available in the old country, and that’s precisely why we left, escaping serfdom, peonage, tenancy, indenture – all different iterations of what was essentially a “rigged system”, to put it in current political verbiage – that channeled the profits of our labor upstream to the Man. We came to America to do better, to secure for ourselves the liberation that economic security brings, and for millions – mostly white males at first, and then slowly, sputteringly, women and people of color – that’s the way it worked out, nothing less than a revolution in the human condition.

Upward mobility is indispensable to the American Dream, the notion that people can rise from working to middle class, and middle to upper and even higher on the model of a (fictional) Horatio Alger or an (actual) Andrew Carnegie. Upward mobility across classes peaked in the US in the late 19th century. Most of the gains of the 20th century were achieved en masse; it wasn’t so much a phenomenon of great numbers of people rising from one class to the next as it was standards of living rising sharply for all classes. You didn’t have to be exceptional to rise. Opportunity was sufficiently broad that hard work and steadiness would do, along with tacit buy-in to the social contract, allegiance to the system proceeding on the assumption that the system was basically fair.

The biggest gains occurred in the post-second world war era of the GI Bill, affordable higher education, strong labor unions, and a progressive tax code. Between the late 1940s and early 1970s, median household income in the US doubled. Income inequality reached historic lows. The average CEO salary was approximately 30 times that of the lowest-paid employee, compared with today’s gold-plated multiple of 370. The top tax bracket ranged in the neighborhood of 70% to 90%. Granted, there were far fewer billionaires in those days. Somehow the nation survived.

“America is a dream of greater justice and opportunity for the average man and, if we can not obtain it, all our other achievements amount to nothing.” So wrote Eleanor Roosevelt in her syndicated column of 6 January 1941, an apt lead-in to her husband’s State of the Union address later that day in which he enumerated the four freedoms essential to American democracy, among them “freedom from want”. In his State of the Union address three years later, FDR expanded on this concept of freedom from want with his proposal for a “Second Bill of Rights”, an “economic” bill of rights to counteract what he viewed as the growing tyranny of the modern economic order:

This Republic had at its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights – among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship … As our nation has grown in size and stature, however – as our industrial economy has expanded – these political rights have proved inadequate to assure us equality. We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.

Political rights notwithstanding, “freedom” rings awfully hollow when you’re getting nickel-and-dimed to death in your everyday life. The Roosevelts recognized that wage peonage, or any system that inclines toward subsistence level, is simply incompatible with self-determination. Subsistence is, by definition, a constrained, desperate state; one’s horizon is necessarily limited to the present day, to getting enough of what the body needs to make it to the next. These days a minimum wage worker in New York City clocking 40 hours a week (at $9 per hour) earns $18,720 a year, well under the Federal Poverty Line of $21,775. That’s a scrambling, anxious existence, narrowly bounded. Close to impossible to decently feed, clothe, and shelter yourself on a wage like that, much less a family; much less buy health insurance, or save for your kid’s college, or participate in any of those other good American things. Down at peon level, the pursuit of happiness sounds like a bad joke. “It’s called the American dream,” George Carlin cracked, “because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

“Necessitous men are not free men,” said FDR in that 1944 State of the Union speech. “People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.” A dire statement, demonstrably true, and especially unsettling in 2016, a point in time when the American Dream seems more viable as nostalgia than a lived phenomenon. Income inequality, wealth distribution, mortality rates: by every measure, the average individual that Eleanor Roosevelt celebrated is sinking. Exceptional people continue to rise, but overall mobility is stagnant at best. If you’re born poor in Ferguson or Appalachia, chances are you’re going to stay that way. Ditto if your early memories include the swimming pool at the Houston Country Club or ski lessons at Deer Valley, you’re likely going to keep your perch at the top of the heap.

Income inequality, gross disparities in wealth: we’re told daily, incessantly, that these are the necessary consequences of a free market, as if the market was a force of nature on the order of weather or tides, and not the entirely manmade construct that it is. In light of recent history, blind acceptance of this sort of economics would seem to require a firm commitment to stupidity, but let’s assume for the moment that it’s true, that the free market exists as a universe unto itself, as immutable in its workings as the laws of physics. Does that universe include some ironclad rule that requires inequality of opportunity? I’ve yet to hear the case for that, though doubtless some enterprising thinktanker could manufacture one out of this same free-market economics, along with whiffs of genetic determinism as it relates to qualities of discipline and character. And it would be bogus, that case. And more than that, immoral. That we should allow for wildly divergent opportunities due to accidents of birth ought to strike us as a crime equal in violence to child abuse or molestation.

Franklin Roosevelt: “[F]reedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place.” The proposition goes deeper than sentiment, deeper than policy, deeper even than adherence to equality and “the pursuit of happiness” as set forth in the Declaration. It cuts all the way to the nature of democracy, and to the prospects for its continued existence in America. “We may have democracy in this country,” wrote supreme court justice Louis Brandeis, “or we may have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Those few, in Brandeis’s judgment, would inevitably use their power to subvert the free will of the majority; the super-rich as a class simply couldn’t be trusted to do otherwise, a thesis that’s being starkly acted out in the current era of Citizens United, Super Pacs, and truckloads of dark money.

But the case for economic equality goes beyond even equations of power politics. Democracy’s premise rests on the notion that the collective wisdom of the majority will prove right more often than it’s wrong. That given sufficient opportunity in the pursuit of happiness, your population will develop its talents, its intellect, its better judgment; that over time its capacity for discernment and self-correction will be enlarged. Life will improve. The form of your union will be more perfect, to borrow a phrase. But if a critical mass of your population is kept in peonage? All its vitality spent in the trenches of day-to-day survival, with scant opportunity to develop the full range of its faculties? Then how much poorer the prospects for your democracy will be.

Economic equality can no more be divorced from the functioning of democracy than the ballot. Jefferson, Brandeis, the Roosevelts all recognized this home truth. The American Dream has to be the lived reality of the country, not just a pretty story we tell ourselves.

I have always gotten much more publicity than anybody else.

Donald Trump

Then there’s that other American dream, the numbed-out, dumbed-down, make-believe world where much of the national consciousness resides, the sum product of our mighty Fantasy Industrial Complex: movies, TV, internet, texts, tweets, ad saturation, celebrity obsession, sports obsession, Amazonian sewers of porn and political bullshit, the entire onslaught of media and messaging that strives to separate us from our brains. September 11, 2001 blasted us out of that dream for about two minutes, but the dream is so elastic, so all-encompassing, that 9/11 was quickly absorbed into the the matrix of FIC. This exceedingly complex event – horribly direct in the result, but a swamp when it comes to explanations – was stripped down and binaried into a reliable fantasy narrative of us against them, good versus evil, Christian against Muslim. The week after 9/11, Susan Sontag was virtually crucified for pointing out that “a few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand how we came to this point”. For this modest proposal, no small number of her fellow Americans wished her dead. But if we’d followed her lead – if we’d done the hard work of digging down to the roots of the whole awful thing – perhaps we wouldn’t still be fighting al-Qaida and its offspring 15 years later.

Here’s a hypothesis, ugly, uncharitable, but given our recent history it begs inquiry: most of the time most Americans don’t know what’s real any more. How else to explain Trump, a billionaire on an ego trip capturing a major party’s nomination for president? Another blunt-speaking billionaire tried twice for the presidency in the 1990s and went out in flames, but he made the mistake of running as himself, a recognizably flesh-and-blood human being, whereas Trump comes to us as the ultimate creature, and indisputable maestro, of the Fantasy Industrial Complex. For much of his career – until 2004, to be exact – he held status in our lives as a more or less normal celebrity. Larger than life, to be sure, cartoonishly grandiose, shamelessly self-promoting, and reliably obnoxious, but Trump didn’t become Trump until “The Apprentice” debuted in January 2004. The first episode drew 20.7 million viewers. By comparison, Ross Perot received 19,742,000 votes in the 1992 presidential election – yes, I’m comparing vote totals with Nielsen ratings – but Trump kept drawing that robust 20 million week after week. The season finale that year reached 28 million viewers, and over the next decade, for 13 more seasons, this was how America came to know him, in that weirdly intimate way TV has of delivering celebrity into the very center of our lives.

It was this same Trump that 24 million viewers – a record, of course – tuned in to watch at the first Republican debate last year, the glowering, blustering, swaggering boardroom action figure who gave every promise of shredding the pols. One wonders if Trump would have ever been Trump if there hadn’t been a JR Ewing to pave the way, to show just how dear and real a dealmaking TV rogue could be to our hearts. Trump’s performance on that night did not disappoint, nor through all the debates in the long march that followed, and if his regard for the truth has proved more erratic even than that of professional politicians, we should expect as much. In the realm of the Fantasy Industrial Complex, reality happens on a sliding scale. The truth is just another possibility.

I speak the password primeval.

I would give the sign of democracy;

By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

In nine days Trump and Hillary will take the stage for their first face-to-face debate. There will be blood. The knives are going to be out, and the ratings are bound to be, need it be said, yuge. The American Dream will no doubt be invoked from both podiums, for what true-blue patriot was ever against the American Dream? And yet for the past 30 years the Democratic candidate has worked comfortably within a party establishment that’s battered the working and middle classes down to the bone. The “new” Democrats of the Clinton era are always strong for political rights, as long as they don’t upset corporate America’s bottom line. Strong for racial and gender equality, strong for LGBT rights (though that took time). Meanwhile this same Democratic establishment joined with the GOP to push a market- and finance-driven economic order that enriches the already rich and leaves the rest of us sucking wind.

That’s the very real anger Trump is speaking to, no fantasy there. Bernie as well; small wonder their constituencies overlapped, though Trump’s professed devotion to the common man stumbles over even the simplest proofs. On whether to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, Trump’s moral compass has spun from an implied no (wages are already “too high”), to implied yes (wages are “too low”), to weasel words (leave it up to the states), to yes and no in the same breath (“I would leave it and raise it somewhat”), and, finally, when pressed by Bill O’Reilly in July, to yes-but (raise it to $10, but it’s still best left to the states). All this from the candidate who’s firmly in favor of abolishing the estate tax, to the great benefit of heirs of multimillionaires and none at all to the vast majority of us.

Meanwhile, the Fantasy Industrial Complex is doing just fine this election season, thank you. Speaking at a Morgan Stanley investors’ conference in March, one of the commanders of the FIC, Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of CBS and a man whose 2015 compensation totaled $56.8m, had this to say about the Trump campaign. “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS. The money’s rolling in and this is fun … this [is] going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/17/american-dream-divided-nation-equal-opportunity-trump-clinton-campaign

The crisis of the Democratic Party: Clinton’s poll numbers

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16 September 2016

The presidential contest in the United States has tightened considerably, with Democrat Hillary Clinton leading Republican Donald Trump by the barest of margins. Trump has erased most of the lead of eight to ten points Clinton enjoyed a month ago.

Thursday’s New York Times headlined the results of the latest CBS/Times poll, “Clinton, Trump Locked in Tight Race,” with its survey showing Clinton with a two-point lead over Trump head-to-head, 46 percent to 44 percent, and tied with Trump at 42 percent each in a four-way race, when Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are included.

Statewide polls showed Trump closing the gap or taking small leads in such battleground states as Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Florida and New Hampshire, although Clinton remained ahead in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina and was competitive in previously Republican states like Arizona and Georgia.

It is significant that the trend in the polls is at least as much a decline in support for Clinton as it is a rise in support for Trump. Clinton is doing particularly poorly with younger voters, who flocked to support Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. A Gallup poll last week found Clinton’s approval rating among voters age 18 to 29 was only 33 percent, the lowest for any age group.

There is enormous disaffection with the choice that the two-party system presents to the American people, particularly among younger voters and those not affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican parties. In a Quinnipiac poll, 52 percent of independents and 62 percent of young people aged 18 to 34 said they would “consider voting” for a third-party candidate.

The obvious question is why, in the face of widespread popular revulsion, particularly among young people, against the racist bigotry and bullying authoritarianism of Donald Trump, the most unpopular figure ever nominated by one of the two major capitalist parties, the Clinton campaign is so obviously struggling.

The answer is that the Democrats—and Clinton in particular—are themselves deeply reviled. As a political organization, the Democratic Party represents an alliance between dominant sections of Wall Street, the military-intelligence apparatus and the most privileged sections of the upper middle class. Behind its empty rhetoric, the attitude of these layers to the working class is one of hostility and contempt.

Clinton, in an unguarded moment before wealthy donors last week, let slip the outlook of the Democrat Party when she said that half of all Trump supporters made up a “basket of deplorables,” speaking of broad sections of the population as if they were another species. Those backing Trump, she said, were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it.”

There is no question that Trump has appealed to all those forms of bigotry in the course of his campaign. However, he has also made an appeal, in an entirely demagogic way, to deep-seated economic grievances. Among white men without a college education, he leads Clinton by as much as 50 percentage points.

If there is unrest among white workers, the apologists of the Democratic Party claim, it is due entirely to racism, exacerbated by eight years of the administration of the first black president. President Obama repeatedly asserts that conditions in America are “pretty darn great,” and liberal pundits hailed, falsely, the latest Census report on income as proof that claims of widespread economic distress in America had no factual basis (see: “Further considerations on the household income report: Poverty and inequality in America”).

In fact, what is ultimately fueling social and political discontent is the enormous decline in living standards, over which the Democrats no less than the Republicans have presided. The association of the Democratic Party with liberal social reform belongs to a particular historical period—between the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 and Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs of the mid-1960s.

Since then, a half century has passed without a single meaningful social reform, as the Democrats have moved continuously to the right. During his time in office from 1977 to 1980, Jimmy Carter laid the foundation for the social counter-revolution that took place under Reagan during the 1980s. And during the years of Bill Clinton, the Democrats oversaw the dismantling of welfare, the end of the Glass-Steagall restraints on the banks and other right-wing measures.

Throughout this period, the trade unions transitioned from their alliance with the Democratic Party on the basis of ferocious anti-communism into outright instruments of the corporations and the state. They have and continue to collaborate in the “orderly shutdown” of factories and mines, after pushing through wage and benefit cuts on the bogus pretext of “saving jobs.”

The Democratic Party’s “liberalism” consists, not in advocating economic reforms, but in promoting identity politics—setting aside a portion of the profits and perks of the ruling elite for a small section of highly privileged blacks, women, gays, etc., to give a veneer of “diversity” to an increasingly unequal and undemocratic social order.

This reached its culmination in the election of Obama, the first African-American president, who promised “hope and change” and delivered war and economic stagnation. Now we have the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, who would be the first female president, presumably giving a feminine touch to the delivery of cruise missiles and 500-pound bombs and the evisceration of Social Security, Medicare and other social programs in the interests of big business.

What passes for “left” politics in the United States, from the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party to its supporters in the pseudo-left, is completely bankrupt. Yet this bankruptcy is an expression of a broader crisis of political legitimacy of the state apparatus as a whole.

In the end, the actual policy differences between Clinton and Trump are comparatively small. The next administration, regardless of who heads it, will escalate the drive to war against Russia and China, and intensify the ongoing assault on jobs, living standards and social benefits. But the rise of Trump points to new dangers in the political situation. The Trump campaign is tapping into the same social anger, and giving it a noxious right-wing expression, as similar political movements that have developed over the past decade in Europe.

The urgent conclusion that must be drawn from the political crisis in the United States is the necessity for building a revolutionary socialist movement–to unite working people across all lines of race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, etc., in a struggle for common class interests: jobs, decent living standards, the rebuilding of the social infrastructure of roads, schools, water systems and hospitals, and an end to imperialist war and police violence.

 

Patrick Martin

WSWS

Trump is the Symptom, Clinton is the Disease

trumillary

I asked you who is the lesser evil when even the Washington Post posits Hillary Clinton to the “political right” of Trump on international issues?

And you responded: “So I guess I should vote for Trump?”

Gimme Shelter: Fleeing Trump to the Democrat’s Big Tent

You are right that there are differences between the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. No one recognizes that better than the ruling elites who are tripping over each other to join the Clinton bandwagon.

Mainstream Republicans, such as Romney and the Bush bunch, are gravitating in droves to the better Republican who happens to be a nominal Democrat. To the right of them, practically the entirety of the neo-conservative establishment is converting to born-again Hillaryistas.

Charles and David, the ultra-libertarian Koch brothers and Republican Party kingpins, have rejected Trump, cutting him off from a major source of funding. Another billionaire politico and sometimes Republican, Michael Bloomberg gave Clinton his endorsement at the Democratic National Convention.

Refugees fleeing the land of the GOP are finding succor in Clinton’s big tent. Clinton’s New Democrats are actively courting the conservatives being pushed out of the GOP by the embarrassing Mr. Trump.

The ruling elites are practically unanimously opposed to Trump for two reasons: he’s unreliable and he is not a good snake oil salesman for their cause. Those of us to the left of Attila the Hun also oppose Trump, but not for the same reasons. See, for instance, Peace and Freedom Party presidential candidate Gloria La Riva’s description of Trump as a “disgusting bigot, the embodiment of the worst excesses of the capitalist system.”

First, the ruling elites find Trump untrustworthy to carry their water. Maybe Trump will come around on “free trade” issues or maybe he won’t. But with Clinton they have a proven faithful servant.

Back in 2008, when Wall Street demanded a bailout with no strings attached, mainstream Republican President Bush devotedly accommodated the banksters as did Democratic presidential candidate Obama. But Republican presidential candidate McCain thought that some conditions should be put on this gift of free money from the American tax payers.

That is when former CEO of Goldman Sachs and architect of the bailout, Hank Paulson – incidentally serving as Bush’s treasure secretary – blackmailed McCain to either genuflect to Wall Street, or Paulson would come out publically for Obama. Wall Street got the bailout and later trillions of dollars more under Obama’s “quantitative easing.” The financial elite migrated en masse to the new Democrats.

That migration continues with Hillary Clinton, Wall Street’s anointed retainer. Unlike in the past when the big financial interests hedged their bets by contributing to both Democrats and Republicans, the smart money is going to the donkey party in 2016.

Second, Wall Street understands that not only will Clinton be more compliant, but she will also be better at legitimizing their class rule. Trump with his open chauvinism and nativism would be too obvious and could provoke a greater resistance to the neoliberal project. It’s not that the ruling elites are squeamish about racism and imperialism, but they are adverse about making it so plainly obvious.

Sympathy for the Devil: Voting for Clinton

Absent the few Bernie-or-busters, the net result of the Sanders candidacy has been to deliver a new generation of voters into the Democratic Party. A Pew poll predicts 90 percent of unwavering Sanders supporters plan to vote for Clinton in November. There they join the great majority of African American voters as a captured constituency to be flagrantly ignored by Clinton.

Given the logic of the lesser-of-two-evils voting, these citizens have no recourse but to suck it up as Clinton rushes to the right to woo the remnants of the Republican Party. Gallup polls reports Republicans want leaders who stick to their beliefs, while Democrats more readily accept compromise.

December’s Children: Opposing Neoliberalism by Voting for It

The lesser-of-two-evils defense dictates that we vote for Clinton – despite all her admittedly bad stuff – for fear that a Trump presidency would dismantle public health care, attack the unions, and stack the Supreme Court to the right. This argument fails on two counts: it perpetuates a drift to the right with no prospect of reversal and it creates the conditions for an even more noxious phenomenon than Trump come 2020.

On the first count, you say that you’ll hold your nose and vote for Clinton in November and then in December you’ll lobby against her. But Clinton isn’t stupid. As long as she knows that lesser-of-two-evils adherents will still vote for her, she’ll continue feinting to the left and moving to the right. Unions will still be targeted, because Clinton knows Wall Street will abandon her if she doesn’t deliver low wages and high profits.

Bill Clinton was able to end welfare as we know it, pass the NAFTA “free trade” scam, enable the incarceration of multitudes of poor people of color, conduct “humanitarian” bombing of Yugoslavia to achieve regime change, etc. This was a rightist Republican agenda, which the Republicans could not enact. Yet a slick Democrat could deliver precisely because the lesser-of-two-evils adherents voted Bill Clinton into a second term.

Privatizing Social Security was next on the Bill Clinton’s chopping block. But Monica Lewinsky, my favorite Democrat, thwarted that plan. Now it is Hillary Clinton’s “turn” to continue that legacy.

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction: A Clinton Presidency

On the second count, there is a curious relationship between the Clinton and Trump candidacies. In short, Trump is the symptom; Clinton is the disease. In other words, the conditions that have allowed for a candidacy such as the likes of Trump were the product of neoliberal policies personified by the likes of Clinton.

Trump has been able to tap into a genuine sense of powerlessness and dispossession among the American people. These sentiments are materially based on rising income inequality. We are working longer hours – surpassing even the Japanese work week – and we are more efficient than ever, but our living conditions are stagnating or depressing.

This time around, we got a repugnant blowhard like Trump. But we don’t have to worry about him getting elected in 2016. The ruling elites will take care that he will be lucky to win Alaska. Trump’s already fatally shaky presidential prospects will be enormously even less impressive as the corporate media continues to whittle him and his big hands down.

But what will the prospects be after four years of Clinton’s police and security state, imperial wars without end, austerity for working people, and free money bonuses for Wall Street? Come 2020, the conditions – as the US heads into a deeper and more damagingrecession – for an even more ominous and threatening rightist reaction will be created by Clinton’s neoliberal agenda. The lesser-of-two-evils adherents will again admonish us to re-elect Clinton for fear that an even more dangerous demagogue is running against her.

Wild Horses: Breaking with the Two-Party Duopoly

Every four years the American people are treated to a beauty contest, euphemistically called elections, where only two billionaire-sponsored contestants are allowed to compete, thanks to the exclusively privateCommission on Presidential Debates. Little wonder that someone asunpopular as Hillary Clinton will win on the basis of (I’m not making this up) congeniality, because her recognized opponent in this dichotomized universe of two-party politics is Trump. Bottom line, Clinton’s biggest asset is Trump.

So the choice dictated by with the lesser-of-two-evils strategy is either Big Sister or Big Hands, because it’s two-horse race. But now is the time to vote for someone who reflects our politics and begin the protracted process of building an opposition movement outside the two corporate parties.

Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate succinctly sums it up: “[voting for] the lesser evil paves the way for the greater evil.”

Roger D. Harris is on the State Central Committee of the Peace and Freedom Party, the only ballot-qualified socialist party in California.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/09/16/trump-is-the-symptom-clinton-is-the-disease/

The Normalization of Evil in American Politics

ELECTION 2016
The racist, misogynist, authoritarian strain has always been there, but Trump’s candidacy has brought it into the mainstream. And media have helped.

Photo Credit: uplift_the_world / Shutterstock.com

Time was when a presidential candidate who played footsie with segregationists and white supremacists would have banished to the fringes of the American political scene. But Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has changed all that.

Oh sure, there have been plenty of codes telegraphed to the anti-black base of the GOP’s southern flank: Ronald Reagan’s choice of Philadelphia, Mississippi, as the place to make a “states’ rights” speech in his 1980 presidential campaign; Richard Nixon’s southern strategy and “Silent Majority” framing. But after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, expressions of outright racism were frowned upon in presidential politics. And articulations of misogyny were generally doled out in the form of withering condescension.

I don’t need to recount for you Trump’s friendliness with the alt-right, the white nationalist movement that was given a platform at Breitbart News by Stephen K. Bannon, the man Trump hired as his campaign CEO. You don’t need to take my word for it; Bannon has boasted of this fact. And you surely know of Trump’s numerous retweets of posts and memes from white supremacist websites. And who can forget all of the lovely things he’s said about women, calling them fat pigs and demeaning them for having menstrual periods?

Just yesterday, Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, declined for a second time to say that former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke was “deplorable,” stating that he isn’t “in the name-calling business.” Isn’t it enough, Pence asked, that he and Trump have disavowed Duke’s endorsement?

Trump yesterday won the endorsement of Operation Rescue president Troy Newman, an anti-choice extremist who co-authored a 2003 bookaccording to People for the American Way, that “argued that the government has a responsibility to execute abortion providers.” In 1988, Newman’s co-author, Cheryl Sullenberger, was sentenced to three years in federal prison for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic.

On Friday, Donald Trump appeared before evangelical Christians assembled at the Values Voter Summit, an annual confab convened by FRC Action, the political arm of the Family Research Council. The conference exhibit hall featured the booths of such co-sponsors as Tradition, Family and Property, a paleo-Catholic cult whose founder described the Spanish Inquisition as the church’s most glorious moment, and the conspiracy-theorist and segregationist John Birch Society, which William F. Buckley thought he had managed to purge from the conservative movement in 1962. This was the first time the JBS appeared in the Values Voter hall of sponsors. It could be said that the Trump candidacy helped pave the way, what with his embrace of the conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones, and his numerous winks to white nationalist extremists.

The following day, FRC President Tony Perkins, who has endorsed Trump, defended the alt-right when I asked him about the movement at a press conference. Its existence, he seemed to say, was the fault of President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, for having “snuffed out” the voices of people who disagree with the administration’s policies.

To lay all of this at Trump’s feet would be to give him too much credit. As I’ve argued before, the misogynist, racist, nativist, anti-LGBT right wing that took over the GOP in 1980—of which Perkins himself is evidence—has much to answer for, not least of all, the rise of Donald Trump as the party’s standard-bearer. Trump may not have been the first choice of right-wing leaders, but they created the conditions that cleared his path to the nomination, and most have lined up behind him since he won it.

But mainstream media are also complicit in this normalization of hatred, allowing it to masquerade in the guise political positions. For decades, when reporting on the Christian right, for example, media have treated it as a religious movement, barely mentioning—if at all—the roots of movement positions in the segregationist backlash of the South. Instead, media executives allowed themselves to be cowed by the right wing’s outrage machine, every time it cranked up its conveyor belt of allegations of the anti-religion bent of reporters.

Today, the same tendency is evident in the false-equivalence reporting prevalent in the degrees to which media cover different stories. Questions about Clinton’s emails demand teams of reporters toiling for months; scandals involving Trump are too often written as one-off reports—so fearful are mainstream editors of fielding an accusation of liberal bias.

In the meantime, a monster has been allowed to grow in our midst. Bannon takes an obscure fringe of the right and elevates it to a platform that garners tens of millions of pageviews per month. Trump hires Bannon. Media say, hey, that’s interesting, do one story, and say, “Next?”

Covering the Values Voter Summit this September 9 and 10 was downright depressing. Trump addressed the conference on Friday, and Pence on Saturday—meaning that the conference attendees represent a legitimized constituency of the GOP, as they have for 30 years. The founders of the religious right are passing onto their just rewards. Organizers Paul Weyrich and Howard Phillips died in 2008 and 2013, respectively; Phyllis Schlafly died on September 5 (but not before she took the opportunity to endorse Trump). The movement they founded, however, continues to wreak the havoc of hate on the American political landscape, and the media dare not call it by its name.

 

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s senior Washington editor, and a weekly columnist for The American Prospect. Follow her on Twitter @addiestan.

http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/normalization-evil-american-politics?akid=14641.265072.zEwOhs&rd=1&src=newsletter1063713&t=4

Solidarity with Standing Rock

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The Dakota Access pipeline needs to be stopped — and the broken system that allowed it to get this far must be fixed.

Sacred Stone Camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Many have gathered since April 2016. (Photo: Nima Taradji/Polaris)

Some environmental victories come in the form of a single, decisive moment: the president’s signing of an executive order, for example, or the long-awaited announcement of a jury verdict or Supreme Court decision.

Other victories are more incremental: less the result of a moment than a movement, one that has grown and strengthened over time. Right now, in North Dakota, we’re witnessing the blossoming of one such movement. We’re also witnessing, once again, just how effective individuals can be when they band together and collectively speak truth to power.

On Friday afternoon, members of this movement scored a major triumph — just minutes after processing the news of a devastating legal setback. This remarkable turn of events is testament to the faith and fortitude of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe as well as the thousands of others who have joined their cause over the past several months. While their ultimate victory is yet to be won, there can be no doubt that these individuals have already made history by demanding justice and standing up for their rights.

The Dakota Access pipeline, if completed, would carry half a million barrels of crude oil daily through four states — more than 1,100 miles — on a journey that would ultimately take it to refineries located along the Gulf of Mexico. The companies building the pipeline, led by a company called Energy Transfer Partners, have indicated that they’re willing to spend upwards of $3.8 billion to bring their investment to fruition.

“A marginalized community has spoken out in its own self-defense, and instead of being ignored, it has been heard. And the chorus of supporters demanding justice isn’t fading; it’s actually getting louder.”

They’re also willing, it would seem, to desecrate or outright destroy any number of sites held sacred by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe: symbolic cairns, stone prayer rings, even burial grounds. In addition, the current proposed route for the pipeline would pass under North Dakota’s Lake Oahe just half a mile upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux’s reservation. The tribe has long relied on Lake Oahe as its primary source of drinking water. It also uses the lake for irrigation, fishing, and recreation.

In July, tribe members attempted to halt construction of the pipeline by filing a complaint in federal court, charging that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had not followed proper procedures for public review when fast-tracking its approval. Over Labor Day weekend, however — as both supporters and opponents of the pipeline anxiously awaited a federal judge’s ruling on the matter — Energy Transfer Partners saw fit to begin bulldozing land in preparation for the pipeline’s construction.

This unconscionable and provocative act was greeted, understandably, with a demonstration of opposition by the Standing Rock Sioux — whose cause by this point had been joined by members of more than 200 other Native American tribes as well as by hundreds of nonnative allies. Past demonstrations had been peaceful affairs. The one that took place two Sundays ago, however, was different: In a scene that recalled some of the ugliest images from the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the private security firm hired to keep demonstrators at bay chose to use pepper spray and guard dogs. According to one eyewitness, children and tribal elders were among those who suffered dog bites.

Amid this context of violence and uncertainty came the judge’s ruling on Friday afternoon: The Standing Rock Sioux’s motion for injunctive relief was denied. The Army Corps had followed proper procedures in granting its permits, the court concluded; construction on the pipeline could continue.

But then, just as this first shock wave was making its way through the demonstrators’ encampment on the shores of Lake Oahe, a second shock wave hit: the U.S. Department of Justice — with support from both the Department of the Interior and the Department of the Army — announced that it was calling for an immediate and indefinite pause in construction on the lands adjacent to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Furthermore, according to the announcement, any pause should extend until after “serious discussion” had taken place between the federal government and Native American tribes “on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.”

My organization believes that the Obama administration made the right call in asking the Justice Department to intervene. Such reform is as necessary as it is overdue. The permitting system that allowed Dakota Access to be fast-tracked is broken — riddled with loopholes that have been wantonly exploited by builders and widened further by the Army Corps of Engineers’ complicity.

Thanks to an Army Corps action known as Nationwide Permit 12, massive projects like Dakota Access are often broken down into hundreds of individual micro-projects to avoid the requirement for meaningful public review under the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA, passed by Congress in 1969, requires that major actions with the potential to impose environmental hazard or harm be subject to public review. When companies like Energy Transfer Partners take advantage of Nationwide Permit 12, their intention is typically to bypass the very transparency that NEPA was designed to ensure.

This isn’t the first time that the oil and gas industry has abused this regulatory loophole. But it needs to be the last. Either the Army Corps of Engineers needs to stop allowing such abuse, or it needs to scrap the provision altogether.

The Natural Resources Defense Council stands with the Standing Rock Sioux and fully supports their right to preserve their heritage, their water, and their sovereignty. And we believe that the movement they have spawned will redound to the benefit of all Americans who seek greater transparency and increased public input for oil and gas infrastructure projects that lead to the destruction of our land, air, water, and climate.

In English, the Lakota phrase Mni wiconi translates into “Water is life.” The stark simplicity of that eternal truth, combined with justified outrage at the imminent desecration of their heritage, is what has compelled so many members of the Standing Rock Sioux to speak out. And as they would be the first to acknowledge, their struggle is also our struggle. The grace and strength they have exhibited as they fight for their culture — and for clean water — stand as a model for all communities whose resources are imperiled by an oil and gas industry that consistently puts profits before people.

Their struggle is far from over. But regardless of its ultimate outcome, the Standing Rock Sioux won something valuable on Friday — and thanks to their unyielding efforts, so have we all. A marginalized community has spoken out in its own self-defense, and instead of being ignored, it has been heard. And the chorus of supporters demanding justice isn’t fading; it’s actually getting louder. A movement is building, undeniably, toward a moment.

Contribute to the Camp of the Sacred Stones’ legal defense fund.

Rhea Suh is president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/09/13/solidarity-standing-rock