Why Liberals Are Wrong About Trump

Glenn Rockowitz

author, formerly SNL, delight

Why are the liberals completely overreacting to Trump’s unique style of governing?

They’re not. He’s a fucking sociopath. And here’s a recipe for raspberry scones:

  1. Combine measured flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, the baking powder, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to break up any lumps. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until small, pea-sized pieces remain.
  2. Pour in 3/4 cup of the cream and, using your finger, mix until just incorporated and a rough, slightly sticky mound has formed (not all of the flour will be incorporated). Turn the dough and loose flour out onto a work surface and knead until most of the flour is incorporated and the dough just holds together (be careful not to overwork it). Lightly flour a rolling pin and the work surface. Using your hands, roughly form the dough into a rectangle, keeping the long edge toward you. Roll the dough into an 8-by-10-inch rectangle (if the dough cracks, push it back together), again keeping the long edge toward you.
  3. Remove the raspberries from the freezer, evenly arrange them in a single layer over the lower two-thirds of the rectangle, and press them into the dough (it’s OK if some break).
  4. Starting with the top, berryless third, fold the dough lengthwise into thirds, pressing on the layers as you go (use a spatula or pasty scraper if the dough sticks to the work surface).
  5. Flour the rolling pin again and gently roll the dough into an even 1-inch-thick block. If the ends become tapered, square them with your hands. Slice the dough crosswise (do not saw back and forth) into 4 equal pieces. Cut each piece diagonally to form 2 triangles.
  6. Transfer the scones to the floured plate and place in the freezer for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the scones from the freezer and transfer to the prepared baking sheet, setting them 2 inches apart. Brush a thin layer of the remaining 1 tablespoon cream over the tops of the scones and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake until golden brown on the top and bottom, about 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

View story at Medium.com

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Democrats debate identity politics

identity2

By Niles Niemuth
15 December 2016

In the aftermath of the victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, a heated debate has been raging in Democratic Party circles over the efficacy of identity politics and its role in the party’s electoral debacle.

Some figures within the party and its periphery have raised concerns that the overriding focus on racial and gender politics has prevented the Democrats from making an effective appeal to broader segments of society beyond those in better-off and more privileged layers of the middle class.

In a November 18 New York Times op-ed column titled “The End of Identity Liberalism,” Columbia University humanities professor Mark Lilla, seeking to draw the lessons of Clinton’s loss to Trump, writes: “In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.”

While Clinton was “at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they related to our understanding of democracy,” he asserts, “when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, LGBT and women voters at every stop.”

This focus on identity was a “strategic mistake,” Lilla writes. He calls instead for a “post-identity” liberalism that places a greater emphasis on civic duty and a new nationalism, drawing inspiration, in part, from Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Lilla’s column corresponds to remarks made by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders following the election. Sanders campaigned for Clinton after failing in his bid to win the Democratic nomination, but now he is implicitly criticizing her focus on racial and gender politics. “It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me!’” he said in a recent speech. “What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.”

The actual content of Sanders’ proposals is reactionary. In the name of “taking on the corporations” he advocates an aggressive economic nationalism that echoes the “America-first” trade war program of Trump. Nor does Lilla propose any serious program to challenge the interests of the corporate elite. In his commentary he makes a vague reference to the Democrats’ long-abandoned policies of social reform, but he does so to advocate not a struggle against the corporate elite, but rather a new, “left” form of American nationalism. His “post-identity liberalism” would “speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another.”

What is most striking, however, is the hysterical response such muted criticisms have evoked. The most vociferous attack on Lilla’s article has come from Columbia University law professor Katherine M. Franke, who equates Lilla with the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, in a blog post published by the Los Angeles Review of Books on November 21.

“In the new political climate we now inhabit, Duke and Lilla were contributing to the same ideological project, the former cloaked in a KKK hood, the latter in an academic gown,” Franke writes. “Both men are underwriting the whitening of American nationalism, and the re-centering of white lives as lives that matter most in the US. Duke is happy to own the white supremacy of his statements, while Lilla’s op-ed does the more nefarious background work of making white supremacy respectable. Again.”

For Franke, any move away from a politics based on racial and gender identity is equivalent to the promotion of racism and misogyny. “Let me be blunt: this kind of liberalism is a liberalism of white supremacy,” she declares. “It is a liberalism that regards the efforts of people of color and women to call out forms of power that sustain white supremacy and patriarchy as a distraction. It is a liberalism that figures the lives and interests of white men as the neutral, unmarked terrain around which a politics of ‘common interest’ can and should be built.”

These remarks are echoed by Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman, who denounces criticism of identity politics as the “primal scream of the straight white male.” She argues that those who want to “emphasise what we have in common instead of focusing on the differences” have a “delightfully kumbaya view of the world.”

Journalist Tasneem Raja, in a commentary published on National Public Radio’s Code Switch blog, which is dedicated to racial and identity politics, rejects Lilla’s criticisms as support for white supremacy. She accuses Lilla of being “keen on pulling the plug on conversations about multiculturalism and diversity” and thereby unconsciously playing “right into the hands of the newly emboldened neo-Nazis who helped put Trump in office…”

The unhinged response to Lilla’s column reflects entrenched social interests. Franke speaks on behalf of a layer of American academics for whom the politics of identity is a central mechanism for accessing positions of affluence and privilege.

Identity politics has become an entrenched industry. Many of its professional proponents have high-paying academic positions in black and gender studies. Such institutions are funded to the tune of billions of dollars and politically tied to the Democratic Party and corporate America.

According to her university biography, Franke’s research is focused on feminist, queer and critical race theory. She is the director of Columbia University’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, a member of the Executive Committee for the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, and a member of the Steering Committee for the Center for the Study of Social Difference.

The relationship of the Democratic Party–and bourgeois politics as a whole–to identity politics is not accidental or secondary. The fixation on the politics of race and gender is inextricably bound up with the protracted shift of the Democratic Party to the right, in line with the drive by the ruling class to claw back all of the gains that workers won through bitter struggle, particularly in the 1930s and the decades following the Second World War.

For the past half century, as it abandoned any commitment to social reform, the Democratic Party adopted identity politics and programs such as Affirmative Action as its modus operandi, building up around it a privileged layer of the upper-middle class on this basis. This period has at the same time seen a historic growth in social inequality, including, and especially, within minority groups and among women.

Between 2005 and 2013, black households earning more than $75,000 were the fastest growing income group in the country, while the top one percent possessed more than 200 percent the wealth of the average black family. Despite the enrichment of this small but substantial and influential layer, the vast majority of African Americans remain deeply impoverished. Half of black households, nearly 7 million people, have little to no household worth.

At the same time, large parts of the country populated by supposedly privileged white workers, particularly in the so called Rust Belt states where Trump defeated Clinton, have been devastated economically by deindustrialization.

Identity politics found its consummate expression in the Clinton campaign, which was based on an alliance of Wall Street, the military-intelligence apparatus and the right-wing purveyors of racial and gender politics.

The proponents of identity politics such as Franke are opposed to economic and social equality. They regard any orientation to working people on a class basis as a threat to their own racial- or gender-based privileges. They are deeply hostile to the working class—black and Latino as well as white.

The anger that these forces direct toward Lilla will be turned with even greater intensity against a politically independent movement of the working class

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/12/15/iden-d15.html

Identity politics vs. populist economics?

It’s a false choice – liberals need to look in the mirror

Economic justice and civil rights are not separate; the issue isn’t “identity politics” but liberalism’s failures

Identity politics vs. populist economics? It's a false choice – liberals need to look in the mirror
(Credit: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Andrew Harnik/Reuters/Scott Audette)

For many Democrats, the fact that the Obama years have ended with one of the biggest party implosions in American history — and not the implosion of the Republican Party, as most had anticipated — remains a difficult reality to accept. Thanks to the Democratic Party’s historic collapse, Republicans will soon have complete control of all levels of government in the United States: All three branches of federal government, a large majority of state legislatures and an even larger majority of state governorships.

Facing this bleak reality, one would expect Democrats to quickly take a step back for some reflection, if only to figure out how to start winning elections again. As the country braces for a Trump presidency, it is absolutely critical that Democrats accurately assess what happened last month and learn the right lessons.

Unfortunately, many Democratic partisans have taken another approach; one that is all too familiar. As The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald reported last week:

Democrats have spent the last 10 days flailing around blaming everyone except for themselves, constructing a carousel of villains and scapegoats — from Julian AssangeVladimir PutinJames Comeythe electoral college“fake news,” and Facebook, to Susan SarandonJill SteinmillennialsBernie SandersClinton-critical journalists, and, most of all, insubordinate voters themselves — to blame them for failing to fulfill the responsibility that the Democratic Party, and it alone, bears: to elect Democratic candidates.

There is plenty of blame to go around, of course, and some of the scapegoats that Greenwald lists probably did have some impact, albeit minimal, on electing Trump. But when one looks at this year’s election objectively — not just at the Democratic Party’s failure to stop Trump, but at its failure to retake the Senate or make any gains at the state and local levels (Republicans now control 33 governorships and 32 state legislatures) — one has to be delusional not to recognize that the party itself is primarily responsible for this implosion.

Donald Trump — whom the majority of Americans view unfavorably and consider unqualified to be president — was a gift to the Democrats, and his nomination should have led to an easy electoral triumph. Instead, they nominated one of the most flawed candidates in history, and ran as an establishment party during a time when most Americans were practically begging for anti-establishment politics. As Trump’s loathsome chief strategist Steve Bannon recently put it: “Hillary Clinton was the perfect foil for Trump’s message. From her e-mail server, to her lavishly paid speeches to Wall Street bankers, to her FBI problems, she represented everything that middle-class Americans had had enough of.”

Trump’s victory was all the more depressing for progressives who had warned about the risk of nominating an establishment candidate with almost endless political baggage (in a season of angry populist politics, no less). During the Democratic primaries, these criticisms were either dismissed by establishment Democrats or critics were bitterly attacked for pointing them out. Recall back in February, for example, when Hillary Clinton implied that her progressive opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, was sexist for claiming that she represented the establishment: “Sen. Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the establishment.”

Though Clinton did not explicitly call Sanders sexist, her campaign was eager to paint the senator and his supporters as misogynists who opposed Clinton solely because she was a woman. The “Bernie Bro” narrative — which portrayed Sanders supporters as a bunch of white sexist frat-boy types, harassing women and people of color online — was propagated by the Clinton campaign and sympathetic journalists. It was also discredited time and again, particularly by the fact that the Sanders-Clinton split was more of a generational divide than anything else — as evinced by Sanders’ 37-point advantage among millennial women (ages 18 to 29) across 27 states and his popularity among younger black and Hispanic voters.

The kind of self-serving identity politics that we saw from the Clinton camp during the Democratic primaries leads into what has been the most contentious debate among Democrats and progressives since the election: Whether the party has become too preoccupied with the politics of identity and political correctness, while straying too far from a class-based politics that addresses the structural inequities of capitalism. Not surprisingly, the debate has been full of deliberate misinterpretations.

Consider how various news outlets reported on comments made by Sanders on his book tour last week while discussing diversity in political leadership. “We need diversity, that goes without saying,” noted Sanders, who was responding to a question from a woman asking for tips on how to become the second Latina senator, after this year’s election of Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada. “But it is not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me.’ That’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industries.”

From this comment, the New York Times reported that Sanders had said “Democrats need to focus more on economic struggles and less on the grievances of minorities and women,” while the popular liberal website Talking Points Memo posted the misleading headline: “Sanders Urges Supporters: Ditch Identity Politics And Embrace The Working Class.” These reports are both founded on a false dichotomy pitting economic justice and civil rights against each other. This was also illustrated by a tweet from the Times shortly after the election:

I won’t be shamed into voting for Clinton

Liberal supporters of the Democrats save their nastiest attacks not for Republicans but for anyone who criticizes them from the left. Khury Petersen-Smith says he’s tired of it.

Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail

Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail

IT’S BEGUN.

They tolerated–barely–the progressive campaign of Bernie Sanders so long as he never came too close to threatening Hillary Clinton’s hold on the Democratic presidential nomination. As dismaying as his on-the-mark criticisms of Clinton’s Wall Street-connected candidacy might have been, he was at least bringing some enthusiasm to an uninspiring election and a stale Democratic Party.

But now, the managers of the Democratic Party machine and their allies in the mainstream media are speaking with one voice: The party’s over.

Those who were excited about Sanders’ candidacy–and the notion that the U.S. political system could offer something besides austerity, war and oppression–should be thankful for the memories of a hopeful winter and spring. But now, goes the argument, they need to accept Hillary Clinton as the candidate to support this fall.

We should all take note that it isn’t the right wing campaigning against universal health care, free college tuition and student loan debt relief, and other planks of Sanders’ social democratic platform as “unrealistic.” They’re too busy scrambling to manage their own crisis in the form of Donald Trump and his impact on the endlessly pathetic and dysfunctional Republican Party.

It is, instead, the Democrats who are doing their best to dash the hopes and lower the expectations of people who dared to think that U.S. politics might have something to offer to working class people, women, people of color or LGBT people.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

HOW WILL they do it? How will the Democratic Party corral a generation that has become aware of and sickened by racist mass incarceration, Wall Street’s dictatorship over the U.S. economy and politics, and permanent war–and get them to support a candidate who has devoted her political career to championing those very things?

One tactic has been to get political figures seen–rightly or wrongly–as the most party’s most “progressive” faces out front in backing Clinton: Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama and, yes, Bernie Sanders himself.

But that’s not all.

Party leaders and their liberal supporters are cynically using outrage at racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, and economic inequality–generated and crystallized by resistance movements, from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter–to shame progressives and leftists into supporting Clinton.

Liberal commentators have in particular targeted Sanders supporters who, disgusted by the various undemocratic maneuvers used against their candidate and by Clinton’s own dismal record, say they can’t stomach voting for a candidate who epitomizes everything Sanders’ “political revolution” was supposed to be against.

But their insults extend to anyone who challenges Clinton and the Democrats from the left and want something better.

In March, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow took to the Times op-ed pages to denounce as “bonkers” people on the left who question whether Clinton deserves their vote in November.

Blow began by recounting an exchange between Sanders supporter Susan Sarandon and MSNBC host Chris Hayes. In the midst of other remarks, Sarandon said that she wasn’t sure what she would do in November if Clinton were the Democratic nominee, but that some argue a Trump presidency would be so over the top that it would force a needed revolution.

Blow hit the roof. “The comments smacked of petulance and privilege,” he wrote scornfully. “No member of an American minority group–whether ethnic, racial, queer-identified, immigrant, refugee or poor–would (or should) assume the luxury of uttering such a imbecilic phrase, filled with lust for doom.”

It was another example of a proven fact about liberalism–Democrats and their media cheerleaders save their deepest contempt not for right wingers, but for those who challenge them from the left.

The idea that the left should hope for a Trump presidency to provoke resistance is wrong. But Sarandon’s aside about that prospect wasn’t the central thrust of her interview anyway. She spoke for the most part about her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, militarized police, sexism and discrimination, and the ruin of the working and middle classes by corporate greed–all of which give her strong reasons to oppose Clinton.

Blow conveniently ignored the political points, while baiting Sarandon–and, by extension, other Clinton critics–along the lines of race, sexuality and nationality.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

BLOW ISN’T the only one. On the blog Bustle.com, Mari Brighe wrote: “The point is that if you’re happy to let a GOP candidate win the presidency because Sanders isn’t the Democratic candidate, you’re not nearly as progressive as you think you are, and you probably should examine your own social privilege.”

Instead of acknowledging the countless actions that Barack Obama’s Democratic Party has taken to alienate previously enthusiastic supporters–the record number of deportations and bombing no less than seven countries in the past seven years, to name a couple–Brighe shifts the blame to those who refuse to ignore these injustices.

It turns out that we’re the real enemies of the oppressed in this country–because we won’t “look past your signs, your ideals, your clever slogans and your movement, and realize that you’re standing on our necks,” Brighe concluded.

Michael Arceneaux, writing for the Guardian, wheels out another old line to claim that the people most committed to the principles of solidarity with the oppressed, here and abroad, are the problem, not the solution. “Cling to your self-righteousness all you want,” Arceneaux writes, “but be very clear that only some people can afford this kind of sacrifice.”

So taking action to make Black Lives Matter, building solidarity with Palestine, resisting Wall Street, defending women’s right to choose abortion–all fights that Hillary Clinton has, during her career, helped to make necessary–are sideshows compared to our concern for our own egos. Arceneaux lectures us to “do something besides pretending that your lack of vote does anything but suit your own moral superiority at the expense of others.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

WHAT THESE writers are doing is taking disgust at Clinton’s conservatism and twisting it. They present principled opposition to oppression and inequality as privileged self-indulgence.

But in the face of so many outrages–from legal decisions that blame rape survivors for the actions of their assailants or that further empower already out-of-control police, to the unending destruction of the environment–principled opposition to injustice is something that we need more of, not less.

But the scolders in the service of Hillary Clinton are prepared to demean the awareness raised, for example, by the Ferguson and Baltimore uprisings by trying to harness it for a candidate whose support for the criminalization of African American youth is clear.

These writers are also disregarding what seems to be a greater willingness among progressives and leftists–Black activists in particular–to defy the logic that we have to accept the “lesser evil” to fight the greater evil.

Are they calling Samaria Rice–the mother of Tamir Rice, murdered by the Cleveland police, who has seen nothing but betrayal from politicians–“privileged” for her refusal to endorse a presidential candidate? Similarly, Michelle Alexander, author of the The New Jim Crow, is hardly speaking from a position of blinding self-involvement when she identifies the Clintons as central architects of mass incarceration and calls for a political alternative.

Those who try to shame us into voting for Clinton avoid the substance of criticism so as to avoid acknowledging her long record of political crimes. Adding to those already mentioned, consider Clinton’s call for the detention and deportation of child migrantsfrom Central America in 2014.

Or her personal role in defending and promoting the 2009 coup in Honduras. The coup continues to have catastrophic repercussions in Honduras, including the recent assassination of human rights activist Berta Caceras. Yet Clinton takes pride in her role in in her memoir Tough Choices.

These opinion articles and blog statements that attempt to shame us into supporting a politician we oppose share other features in common. They accept the all-or-nothing, narrow logic of the U.S. elections–the idea that if you aren’t actively supporting a Democrat’s bid for office, then you’re assisting a Republican’s victory.

It isn’t the fault of ordinary people outraged by injustice that the U.S. electoral system is so undemocratic that it offers such a limited “choice.” Perhaps the shamers should examine the hidden-in-plain-sight secret of U.S. “democracy”: Most people don’t vote. An honest look at that reality would reveal widespread alienation from politicians and from a government that is disinterested in representing the will or interests of regular people.

Instead, the blame is heaped on us. This points to the conservatism of writers like Charles Blow. Behind the shaming of Clinton’s critics on the left is an embrace of the status quo.

Thus, in the same column cited above, Blow writes that “there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Not only that, but…there were also 84 federal judiciary vacancies with 49 pending nominees. The question of who makes those appointments matters immensely.”

Yet when you consider the injustice handed down in the Stanford rape case and the countless acquittals and non-indictments of cops who murdered Black people, the undemocratic and oppressive role that courts play in this country should be questioned.

Instead, Blow points to the justice system as a reason to participate in Election 2016. The idea that we should vote for Clinton in the belief that she might be more likely to appoint justices sympathetic to oppressed groups and social movements is a celebration of an arena where we’re powerless.

It’s one of many examples where Democrats implore us to vote for our enemy and hope for the best. Don’t blame us for refusing to do so.

https://socialistworker.org/2016/06/30/wont-be-shamed-into-voting-for-clinton

Bill Clinton’s Five Major Achievements Were Longstanding GOP Objectives

Sunday, 15 May 2016 00:00

Truthout | Interview with Thomas Frank: 

Bill Clinton, standing between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, taking the oath of office of President of the United States on January 20, 1993. Clinton ran for president as a champion of the working class, but largely abandoned their economic interests while in office – preferring Wall Street to Main Street -- beginning with his signing of NAFTA.

Bill Clinton, standing between Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, taking the oath of office of president of the United States on January 20, 1993. Clinton ran for president as a champion of the working class, but largely abandoned their economic interests while in office – preferring Wall Street to Main Street — beginning with his signing of NAFTA. (Photo: White House)

What is the core philosophy of today’s Democratic Party and does it serve anyone’s interests other than a wealthy elite? Thomas Frank lays bare Democrats’ abandonment of their purported values — and the role this has played in entrenching economic inequality — in his sardonic new book, Listen, Liberal. Order your copy by making a donation to Truthout today!

Thomas Frank, author of Listen, Liberal, discusses the Hillary Doctrine’s basis in neoliberalism, how the Democratic Party stopped governing on behalf of the working class and how President Bill Clinton’s major achievements actually enacted conservative goals, and ultimately hurt working people.

Mark Karlin: The innovation class, the creative class, the wealthy class, the professional class with Ivy League degrees: How did President Obama become the avatar for believing these groups should be the decision makers in government?

Thomas Frank: Obama thinks such people should be in charge because they came up through the same system as him. “Because he himself was a product of the great American postwar meritocracy,” his biographer Jonathan Alter writes, “he could never fully escape seeing the world from the status ladder he had ascended.”

Most of our other Democratic leaders (the Clintons, for example) came up the same way and believe the same thing. Indeed, what Alter describes is standard-issue stuff for Democrats these days. The Democrats are a class party in the fullest sense of the phrase, and the class whose perspective they reflect and whose interests they serve is the highly educated, white-collar professional class. Theirs is a liberalism of the rich.

Can you describe a little about what you call “The Hillary Doctrine,” including how microlending is a good example of her belief in opening doors of entrepreneurship to solve the world’s economic problems?

The Hillary Doctrine was Clinton’s understanding of American national interest when she served as Obama’s secretary of state. The idea was that the US would henceforth be the world’s defender of women and girls. Hillary didn’t mean this in a general sense, however. The kind of women we were committing ourselves to specifically were female entrepreneurs.

The source of this notion of liberation through female entrepreneurship is the microlending movement, in which Hillary has been an enthusiastic participant for many decades. It arose as part of neoliberalism in the 1990s: The IMF [International Monetary Fund] and World Bank would “structurally reform” a country’s economy, and to help out with the human dislocation that resulted, they would give microloans to small entrepreneurs, who were encouraged to start tiny businesses like gardening or handicrafts. Over the years, the microlending movement accreted all these details: The entrepreneurs had to be women. They had to be hooked up to a bank. They had to have a Western mentor. They had to have smartphones. And so on.

You can see the appeal of this movement: It’s telling you that the solution to poverty is not unions or government or anything like that, but for everyone to work hard and start their own businesses — and, incidentally, to extend the reach of Western financial institutions to every village on the planet. A pure win-win. Everyone feels good. Everyone feels virtuous.

Except for the people who live in those countries, of course, because they know it doesn’t work. You don’t build a country’s economy by having everyone buy a goat and sell milk to one another. All these people have to show for this strategy is debt. Some empowerment.

I was captivated by your description of Hillary Clinton being surrounded by a “microclimate of virtue.” Can you describe what you mean by that and how it was represented in your section, “No Ceilings,” that included Melinda Gates and a panel to show how much women in power “cared” for poor women? I love your sardonic description, “the presenters called out to one another in tones of gracious supportiveness and flattery so sweet it bordered on idolatry.”

Every biography of Hillary Clinton talks about her goodness, her high-mindedness, her rock-solid dedication to principle. Reading those books, I couldn’t imagine what they meant, since Hillary is as much of a shape-shifter and a compromiser as any other politician.

When I saw her in person, however, it all made sense. It was at a Clinton Foundation event, as you mention. Everyone took their turn on the stage, praising everyone else, in the highest and most gracious forms you can imagine. There was an almost intoxicating sense in the room of the goodness and virtue of everyone present, with Hillary herself anchoring the swirl. It must be hard for someone who wasn’t there to believe, but these people seemed to regard her with an idealism that was almost cult-like.

The exaggeration of it all showed me that this sense of virtue is not only central to Hillary Clinton’s appeal, but to liberalism generally. This is a movement that has done tremendous harm to minorities and working people over the last few decades, and yet liberals have such an elevated sense of what fine people they are. It is a precious self-image.

You trace the modern abandonment of working men and women by the Democrats to a book by Fred Dutton in 1971. Can you explain the tome and its implications?

Dutton was a high-ranking Democratic Party official who later became a prominent Washington lobbyist. Among other things, he served on the McGovern Commission, which worked to reorient the Democratic Party away from labor and working people. Dutton’s book was called Changing Sources of Power, and it was sort of an explanation of why the McGovern Commission did what it did. Basically, Dutton was one of those establishment people who were simply bowled over by the sheer righteousness of the youth movements of the 1960s — something I also found a lot of in the advertising industry in my first book, The Conquest of Cool. The kids were so wise and so profound, Dutton thought. They had brought politics to a whole new philosophical level. And, meanwhile, as everyone could see, working people were so backward and so ugly, supporting the Vietnam War and all that stuff. Of course you wanted to ditch one group and embrace the other.

Given what was going on back then, it’s easy to understand why Dutton felt as he did. He wasn’t totally wrong about blue-collar workers and the Vietnam War, for instance. But turning your back on the concerns of working-class organizations for whatever reason meant turning your back on their issues, with consequences that are all too clear today.

You argue the abandonment of labor by the Democrats came to full fruition in the two administrations of Bill Clinton? How did Clinton who came from a working-class upbringing eventually betray the workers of the United States?

First of all, I’m not so sure about his background. It is true that he came from a very poor state, and that his family struggled, but Clinton’s biographers always emphasize that he wasn’t really of the working class: He always drove a new Buick, etc.

Clinton never had a really great relationship with workers’ organizations, but the worst thing Clinton he did to them was NAFTA. There were many trade agreements, of course, but NAFTA was the one that mattered, both because it was the first one and because labor put everything into stopping it. Indeed labor had stopped it when George H. W. Bush tried to get it through Congress. Clinton got it done, however, with a little muscle and a vast fog of preposterous claims about how NAFTA would increase exports and manufacturing employment.

His admirers saw NAFTA as his “finest hour,” because he had stood up to a traditional Democratic constituency. What an achievement. NAFTA handed employers all over America the ultimate weapon against workers: They could now credibly threaten to pick up and leave at the slightest show of worker backbone — and they make such threats all the time now.

How did the Clinton administration become a surrogate of Wall Street, resulting in the far-reaching repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act?

In 1992, Clinton ran as a populist, deploring income inequality, but that was just an act. As president he seems immediately to have decided to cast his fortunes — and those of his party — with Wall Street. Bank deregulation was a persistent policy of his from the very beginning — he signed the Riegle-Neal Act in 1994, for example, and the Mexican bailout (a big favor to Wall Street) came shortly thereafter. Along the way, he helped bail out a too-big-to-fail hedge fund, he twice appointed Alan Greenspan to run the Federal Reserve and he ensured that certain derivative securities would not have any kind of federal supervision at all.

At the time, Clinton’s admirers thought this record was something to boast about. He had brought his party out of the Rooseveltian dark ages and had embraced modernity, etc.

Why did he do it? My explanation is simple class identification. Clinton’s real class story has to do with his career in college and graduate school, where he became a star of the rising professional cohort. People with this kind of background saw (and still see) Wall Street as a part of the enlightened world, a part of the world inhabited by people just like them. They’re so smart! Plucking wealth from thin air!

This is a little off message regarding the book, but can you speculate why the Republicans were so obsessed with removing Clinton from office when he was fulfilling so much of the GOP agenda, including negotiating with Newt Gingrich about cutting Medicare and Social Security?

“Fulfilling so much of the GOP agenda”: That is a point worth reiterating. Clinton had five major achievements as president: NAFTA, the Crime Bill of 1994, welfare reform, the deregulation of banks and telecoms, and the balanced budget. All of them — every single one — were longstanding Republican objectives. His smaller achievements were more traditionally Democratic (he raised the earned-income tax credit and the minimum wage), but his big accomplishments all enacted conservative wishes, and then all of them ended in disaster.

So why did the right try so hard to get rid of him? For one thing, because they always do that. They never suspend the war or stop pushing rightward. There is no point at which they say, “OK, we’ve won enough.” For another, because Gingrich couldn’t control the rank and file, a problem that persists to this day.

The final conservative consequence of the impeachment, although this one was surely not intended: impeaching Clinton made him a martyr and hence a hero to Democrats. It secured his family’s and his faction’s grip on the Democratic Party apparently forever.

You write in your last chapter: “And every two years, they [the Democrats] simply assume that being non-Republican is sufficient to rally the voters of the nation to their standard.” That sure sounds to me a bit like Hillary Clinton’s basic pitch (paraphrased): “I’m not going to get a lot done because that’s reality, but I’ll be sitting in the Oval Office instead of that demagogue Trump. So vote for me.” Any resonance there?

That is exactly how I meant it, although of course I couldn’t see that Trump was going to be the GOP nominee when I was writing the book.

Is the Acela Express the main transportation route between lawmakers, regulators, lobbyists and financiers?

The Acela runs between Washington and New York just a little bit faster than the ordinary Amtrak train. It costs much, much more, however. Because once you’re on that Acela train, you’re instantly in the secured precincts of the tidy and prosperous professional class. All these nicely dressed people typing away on their keyboards. People looking over spreadsheets. People reading management books and talking management talk. People flattering each other. People shushing each other in the quiet car. Shushing each other so vehemently I once saw a quiet car dispute almost turn into a fistfight. It is literally the express train of the class war. Every sort of narcissism and upper-class social pathology is on full display.

A few weeks ago on the Acela train, I sat near a man who seemed to be some sort of Hillary Clinton adviser. He was talking very loudly on his cellphone about her latest TV commercial, about how she was finding her own voice, which sounds banal but which I guess is a good thing to do if you want to be president of the United States.

When you end with a rather pessimistic notion that the betrayal of the Democrats in power will not easily change, you state “that the problem is us.” Who are you referring to as “us”? Liberals? How does the Bernie Sanders movement that came near to toppling Clinton Inc. fit into your answer?

“The problem is us” in the sense that liberalism is dominated by a certain class outlook and that I am part of that class. I am calling on other members of that class to look in the mirror and understand who they are — that they are just as much products of their economic position as are the blue-collar workers they so hate. In particular, I am calling on them to understand that they aren’t the fine and virtuous people they believe they are. That it is because of them that inequality is out of control, that Wall Street is wrecking the world, that middle-class America is falling apart. And that they have an obligation to do something about it.

I like to think that Bernie is saying the same thing, in his own way.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Mark Karlin is the editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout. He served as editor and publisher of BuzzFlash for 10 years before joining Truthout in 2010. BuzzFlash has won four Project Censored Awards. Karlin writes a commentary five days a week for BuzzFlash, as well as articles (ranging from the failed “war on drugs” to reviews relating to political art) for Truthout. He also interviews authors and filmmakers whose works are featured in Truthout’s Progressive Picks of the Week. Before linking with Truthout, Karlin conducted interviews with cultural figures, political progressives and innovative advocates on a weekly basis for 10 years. He authored many columns about the lies propagated to launch the Iraq War.

 

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36035-thomas-frank-bill-clinton-s-five-major-achievements-were-longstanding-gop-objectives

It’s Time for the Left to Abandon Liberalism Once and For All

As the Democratic Party, now with two massive figureheads, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton, begins to fracture as the battle over what direction the party should move wages on, we are starting to see two very different camps use the same word: liberal.

This poses a problem as to what a liberal is, and this is addressed by Danny Katch in his book Socialism … Seriously, in which he points out that, “Millions of people find themselves classified as liberals by default, ranging from those who march against banks and bombs to those who bail out the former and drop the latter. That’s not a very useful category.” He points out that in today’s politics, a liberal is basically anyone who isn’t a Republican.

As the party splinter begins to widen, the term liberal is no longer going to suit the leftists who align more on Sanders side, or even further. For socialists, this has meant abandoning the term altogether. One reason is, as Katch argues is that while “Liberalism can agree with socialism that some things about capitalism should be reformed, and socialists often work alongside liberals to win those changes. Where we differ is that liberalism views reforms as ways to preserve capitalism while socialism sees them as steps toward replacing it.”

While not everyone will default to the position of socialism as they abandon the liberal ideology of saving capitalism, it does seem to be the most viable alternative at this point in time. Liberals in general, as Katch highlights, have done nothing but mock the Republican platform but for many years have failed to offer solutions. We see this today as Hillary Clinton takes the presumptive position for the Democratic Party is offering herself up as merely the alternative to a seemingly xenophobic and racist Donald Trump. Clinton has campaigned solely on offering more of the same of the last eight years of President Obama, doing little to nothing to offer fresh ideas or solutions.

All the while, Sanders has put forth much more radical ideas, albeit, within the confines of the capitalist system, he is breaking the mold and putting forth ideas that upset the status quo. This is a move many believe has cost him the nomination, he was unwilling to play part in the Democratic strategy of winning on the coattails of President Obama, yet if he succeeds the nomination come July, he is expected to fall in line and support Clinton, making himself another cog in slowly turning wheels of the Democratic Party.

The Green Party’s Jill Stein, a self-proclaimed liberal, is putting forward ideas that seem to upset the capitalist machine but does fail to speak out in favor of a real alternative such as socialism. Her campaign does a great job of highlighting that capitalism won’t fix our problems, but for whatever reason fail to take up the platform that to win the battle for green energy or to win the fight for equal pay, higher minimum wage, and all the other radical ideas she is putting forward, we must first abandon and replace capitalism.

While her language is guarded, it would make the most sense to stop referring to her, and those like her, those who are not interested in putting Band-Aids on capitalism, as liberals and instead take up a moniker of leftist, or if the shoe fits, socialist. Liberalism has been one of the great failures of the past century, failing to solve the world’s biggest issues and even issues directly inside the United States. Liberalism had to rely on the Supreme Court to enact same-sex marriage rights, liberalism has failed to provide healthcare to every single American, and it has failed to protect racial minorities from rampant racism and discrimination.

The liberal idea that progress should be made in incremental steps has left too many bodies in its ever so slow moving wake. It is time to take the left’s revolutionary ideals to the masses and not wait for a petty minority of conservatives and centrist Democrats to catch up.

As both the Democratic and Republican Parties splinter and burn in the aftermath of the 2016 primaries, it’s time for political action groups to rise from the ashes, to put forth new ideas and to once and for all stop playing the two-party game that has held us captive for so long.

While Clinton and her supporters are correct in saying she is a better choice that Trump, a vote for Clinton offers no forward progress and leaves us with four to eight years of stagnation. For those living in poverty, those locked up in for-profit prisons for non-violent drug offenses, to those who are sick and still cannot afford to see a doctor, that stagnation is too much to bear.

It is time for leftists to speak up and abandon liberalism and to rise up to the challenge of putting forth new ideas. A true opportunity for change has presented itself and the future of progress hinges on how we move forward.

Dan Arel is a political writer and social activist. He is the author of Parenting Without God and the upcoming book, The Secular Activist.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/05/11/its-time-for-the-left-to-abandon-liberalism-once-and-for-all/