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   The upcoming election in the US, at least from a Canadian perspective, a bit lost in the deluge of media coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic.  The American Left business party has a chance to regain the White House, but Webb asks the question in his essay on Unherd, “What if the new American Left is — as the philosopher Richard Rorty put it, exhausted?”

 

“And, he argued, national pride in America is just what the American left had lost — and if that was true in 1998 it is true with knobs on in 2020: to quote the great philosopher, “a spectatorial, disgusted, mocking Left” understands the nation in a way that “leads them to step back from their country and, as they say, ‘theorize’ it. It leads them to … give cultural politics preference over real politics, and to mock the very idea that democratic institutions might once again be made to serve social justice.”
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Rorty, who died in 2007, was not an complete enemy of the new Left’s keenness on race and gender — he thought they had a point — but he knew that it would end in tears. He knew that identity politics would ditch the uncomfortable, sweaty-smelling folks in the unions, the welders and electricians and carpenters and that those (mainly white) men would in turn ditch the Democrats. And so it came to pass, and now we might be post-Rorty with no road back.

Does the American Left have what it takes to knit together the nation when its modern iteration so clearly dislikes so much about it? After the statues ,what else must fall? What other horrors must be uncovered? The jury is out, to put it mildly, on whether American atonement might be over soon or just beginning. If the question is between social solidarity or continued struggle, plenty of modern Democrats have had it with the former and are willing to embrace the latter.

They may or may not be right, or justified, but if America finds no comfort and no direction we will all suffer the consequences. There’s a lot riding on the Biden presidency, if it comes. For them, and, as ever, for us.”

The other problem I see is that Biden may want to return to the status quo which if one recalls – the permanent war economy, gilded age level of economic inequality, and predatory capitalism – isn’t exactly a noble cause.

We need to flatten the wealth curve for our society to continue to move forward and prosper.  The out of balance economic shakedown that has been the status quo for so long needs to change.  Paul Street writing for Counterpunch lays out the grim details:

 

“+ 23. Capitalist Inequality Puts Anti-Science Fascist Lunatics in Power. The savage economic inequalities that are written into the inner logic of capitalism put a pandemic-spreading anti-science lunatic, the demented fascistic oligarch named Donald Trump, atop the world’s most powerful nation. In his useful book How Fascism Works, Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley notes that one of contemporary right-wing nationalist authoritarianism’s key taproots is harsh socioeconomic disparity:

“Ever since Plato and Aristotle wrote on the topic, political theorists have known that democracy cannot flourish on soil poisoned by inequality…the resentments bred by such divisions are tempting targets for demagogues…Dramatic inequality poses a mortal danger to the shared reality required for a healthy liberal democracy…[such] inequality breeds delusions that mask reality, undermining the possibility of joint deliberation to sole society’s divisions (pp.76-77, emphasis added)…Under conditions of stark economic inequality, when the benefits of liberal education, and the exposure to diverse cultures and norms are available only to the wealthy few, liberal tolerance can be smoothly represented as elite privilege.  Stark economic inequality creates conditions richly conducive to fascist demagoguery. It is a fantasy to think that liberal democratic norms can flourish under such conditions” (p. 185, emphasis added).

The political culture of pseudo-democratic duplicity and disingenuousness generated by modern capitalist inequality and plutocracy creates space for fascist-style politicians who “appear to be sincere” and “signal authenticity” by “standing for division and conflict without apology.  Such a candidate,” Stanley writes, “might openly side with Christians or Muslims and atheists, or native-born [white] Americans over immigrants, or whites over blacks…They might openly and brazenly lie…[and] signal authenticity by openly and explicitly rejecting what are presumed to be sacrosanct political values….Such politicians,” Stanley argues, come off to many jaded voters as “a breath of fresh air in a political culture that seems dominated by real and imagined hypocrisy.”  Fascist politicos’ “open rejection of democratic values” is “taken as political bravery, as a signal of authenticity.”

That is no small part of how malevolent far-right politicos – many of them dedicated enemies of science in service to the common good (e.g. the malevolent right-wing narcissist and instinctual fascist Trump and Brazil’s monumentally despicable and ecocidal racist Jair Bolsonaro) – have risen to power at home and abroad. The opening is provided by fake-progressive capitalist neo-“liberals” (in the U.S) and neoliberal social democrats and fake “socialists” (in Europe and elsewhere), whose claims to speak on behalf of the popular majority and democracy are repeatedly discredited by their underlying commitment to dominant capitalist social hierarchies. The demented fascist uber-assholes Trump and Bolsonaro, both of whom have acted to increase COVID-19 deaths in their own nations and thus in the world, are outcomes of capitalism in this and other ways.”

I’m disappointed that Bernie Sanders did not get the Democratic nomination.  I suspect the only way he will ever get into the race proper is if he runs as an independent.  The structural opposition within the Democratic party is just too strong to overcome currently.  I hope that Chomsky’s observations are correct and the political movements that have started now, remain active and continue to grow, allowing them to influence public policy in the future.

 

“AMY GOODMAN: Before we go to break, on Wednesday, just before Bernie Sanders announced, but it did look like he was about to pull out of the presidential race, I asked political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky about his assessment of the Bernie Sanders campaign in this time of the coronavirus pandemic.

NOAM CHOMSKY: If Trump is reelected, it’s a indescribable disaster. It means that the policies of the past four years, which have been extremely destructive to the American population, to the world, will be continued and probably accelerated. What this is going to mean for health is bad enough. I just mentioned the Lancet figures. It will get worse. What this means for the environment or the threat of nuclear war, which no one is talking about but is extremely serious, is indescribable.

Suppose Biden is elected. I would anticipate it would be essentially a continuation of Obama — nothing very great, but at least not totally destructive, and opportunities for an organized public to change what is being done, to impose pressures.

It’s common to say now that the Sanders campaign failed. I think that’s a mistake. I think it was an extraordinary success, completely shifted the arena of debate and discussion. Issues that were unthinkable a couple years ago are now right in the middle of attention.

The worst crime he committed, in the eyes of the establishment, is not the policy he’s proposing; it’s the fact that he was able to inspire popular movements, which had already been developing — Occupy, Black Lives Matter, many others — and turn them into an activist movement, which doesn’t just show up every couple years to push a leader and then go home, but applies constant pressure, constant activism and so on. That could affect a Biden administration.”

Counterpunch columnist Rob Urie tackles some of the political consequences of the neoliberal choices we have made as a society.

 

“The question of bailouts is fundamentally different from that of taking care of people. An adequate response to the pandemic will require years of dedicated effort, not tossing a trillion dollars at ‘the economy’ and hoping for the best. Social distancing and quarantines might require income and material support for tens of millions of people for as long as eighteen months. Nancy Pelosi is reportedly already balking at spending government money to do what is necessary. It would be a benefit to workers if she forced her corporate sponsors to provide paid time off for their employees, but she won’t do this.

The economic fragility behind the rapid descent into economic crisis isn’t a product of nature. It was purposely created by the bi-partisan political establishment at the behest of oligarchs and academic economists. NAFTA was meant to make workers economically insecure. Welfare ‘reform’ was passed to make life outside of capitalist employment intolerably tenuous. The minimum wage hasn’t been a living wage for forty years. And plans to cut Social Security and Medicare are meant to increase economic fragility. Likewise, austerity is the enforcement mechanism to keep the rich in control of American political economy.

This combination of manufactured social fragility and neoliberal governance will sooner or later produce a political rupture. The election of Donald Trump was the first act of one. An extended economic crisis can produce social solidarity or a deeply ugly political response. The Democrats’ choice to stick with their neoliberal program means that they are indifferent between electing Joe Biden and a second term for Donald Trump. Add the widespread unemployment that is already baked into their reflexive austerity and a more perfect formula for fascist ascendance is difficult to imagine.”

Is Bernie Sanders destined to become the next Jeremy Corbyn? A second excerpt from the Jonathan Cook essay we looked at yesterday.

 

The Sanders threat

Sanders is one of those glitches. Just like Jeremy Corbyn was in the UK. They have been thrown up by current circumstances. They are the first signs of a tentative political awakening to power, sometimes dismissed generically as “populism”. They are the inevitable outcome of the ever greater difficulty power faces in concealing its self-destructiveness as it seeks to remove every last limit to its voracious acquisitiveness.

Once upon a time, those who paid the price of power were out of view, in disenfranchised, urban slums or far-off lands. But the accelerating contradictions of power – of late-stage, global capitalism, if you prefer a specific name – have brought those effects much closer to home, where they cannot so easily be ignored or discounted. Growing sections of western societies, the central locus of power, understand that there needs to be serious, not cosmetic, change.

Power needs to be rid of Sanders, just as it previously had to rid itself of Corbyn because both are that rarest thing – politicians who are not imprisoned within the current power paradigm. Because they do not serve power cultishly like most of their colleagues, such politicians threaten to shine a light on true power. Ultimately, power will use any tool to destroy them. But power prefers, if possible, to maintain its cloak of invisibility, to avoid exposing the sham of the consumption-driven “democracy” it engineered to consolidate and expand its power. It prefers our collusion.

The reason the Democratic party establishment is trying to bring down Sanders at the primaries stage and crown a power-functionary like Buttigieg, Biden or even Elizabeth Warren – or if it must, parachute in a billionaire like Michael Bloomberg – is not because Sanders would on his own be able to end the globe-spanning power of pathological capitalism and consumerism. It is because the nearer he gets to the main shadow play, to the presidency, the more power will have to make itself visible to defeat him. (Language makes it difficult to describe this dynamic without resorting to metaphors that make power sound fancifully human rather than structural and ideological.)

As the other candidates increasingly look unsuited to the task of toppling Sanders for the nomination, and rigging the primaries has proved much harder to do covertly than it was hoped, power has had to flex its muscles more publicly than it likes. So narrative is being marshalled to destroy Sanders in the same way that the antisemitism and Brexit narratives were used to halt Corbyn’s grassroots movement in its tracks. In Sanders’ case, the corporate media is preparing a readymade Russia narrative against him in case he gets nearer to power – a narrative that has already been refined for use against Trump.

(Trump’s relation to power could be the basis for an entirely separate post. He is not an ideological threat to power, he is one if its functionaries. But he is a potential Harvey Weinstein or Prince Andrew. He can be sacrificed if needs be. The Russiagate narrative has served two purposes useful to power. It has tamed Trump’s ego-based politics to ensure he does not threaten deep power by making it more visible. And it has created a compelling political drama that channels and dissipates the “resistance” to Trump, satisfying much of the left’s own need to feel they are doing something, when in fact they are simply strengthening Trump and deep power.)

Caught in a trap

Late last week, as the landslide in Nevada for Sanders was imminent, the western media uncritically reported claims, based on unnamed “US officials”, that the Vermont senator is seen by the Russians as an “asset”, and that the Kremlin is trying to help either him or Trump to get elected. No one making that claim was identified, no explanation was offered of how Sanders could serve as an asset, nor was evidence cited for how the Russians might be able to help Sanders win. Power doesn’t need facts or evidence, even when its claims are self-evidently disruptive to the democratic process. It exists chiefly in the realm of narrative and ideology. This is a story, just like Corbyn’s “antisemitism crisis”, that is made true simply through repetition.

Because power is power, its narratives can defy the most elementary rules of logic. After all, how could an unverified, evidence-free narrative about Russian interference on behalf of Sanders’ campaign be more important than actual interference by anonymous “US officials” intended to damage Sanders’ campaign? How could such undemocratic, unaccountable efforts to interfere in the outcome of the US election be so readily peddled by the media unless the entire press corps is incapable or unwilling to engage their critical faculties in favour of the democratic principles they claim to uphold? Unless, in truth, they are not there representing us, the people, and our interests, but are instead simply servants of what amounts to a power-cult.

As I have documented many times before, Corbyn found himself caught in a trap of the kind now faced by Sanders. Any supporter (including Jews) who denied that the Labour party Corbyn led was antisemitic, or argued that the antisemitism claims were being weaponised to damage him, was cited as proof that Corbyn had indeed attracted antisemites to the party. Concluding that Corbyn’s Labour party was not antisemitic, based on the evidence, was treated as evidence of antisemitism. But as soon as Corbyn agreed under media and party pressure to accept the alternative – that an antisemitism problem had taken root on his watch – he was also implicitly forced to concede that something about him and his values had allowed antisemitism to take root. He found he was damned either way – which is precisely how power makes sure it emerges the winner.

Systems, whether they be strictly social or political try to maintain a equilibrium, and to threaten that equilibrium results a great deal of unrest and turbulence as one of the first priorities of any system is the preservation of said system.  The tenor of so many articles in the American counter-culture media are about the obstacles Bernie Sanders faces, not only from his political opponents, but from his own ‘team’ and the supposedly friendly liberal media.  This excerpt from Counterpunch laments the multi-pronged attack Sanders faces, not only from his formal political opponents, but also from within.

The push-back Sanders gets from the liberal establishment is indicative that the policies Sanders stands for will upset the apple cart so to speak, and directly affect the status quo.  The fact that the current status quo in the US is geared to serve a the minority of the population is seemingly irrelevant.

Threats to the status quo are all consuming and most be defended against at any cost.  The Democratic primaries of 2016 would seem to bear witness to this as the DNC chose a candidate that was less likely to beat the republican candidate in an election, but if elected would have maintained the system as is.  The defeatist calculus was that it was better to lose to false populist cretin than have a president that would change the rules of the game toward a more people-centric political polity.

That same battle is being played out again with Sanders as not only must he contend with his actual political opponents, but he must fend off defenders of the status quo that are attacking him from within.

Finally, Sanders is a “radical,” they tell us, when only a “Centrist” can win. Funny, a centrist didn’t win in 2016. And in 2008 we all voted for a guy who promised “change,” even though he didn’t deliver. Does anyone seriously believe, with 40% of Americans near the Poverty Line, and most of the rest just one illness away from bankruptcy, with young people leaving college saddled with a lifetime of debt, few families able to afford a home without the debt of a mortgage, and many only getting by on credit card debt, that voters are looking for the status quo? If you do believe this, chances are you’re one of the comfortable few, maybe one of the top 10%, and you are not representative of most of the people in this country.

Liberal Media would have us believe that the country is evenly divided into Democrats and Republicans – well, in a way it is. According to Gallup, Democrats and Republicans are tied 27% of likely voters each. That leaves 45% of Independents and those are the people who will decide this election. They will not vote for a Democrat out of Party loyalty or even in many cases simply because they are not Trump. These are people who don’t want to be affiliated with either Party. This is a group that repeatedly repudiated the uninspired Party careerists like Gore (at the time, at least), Kerry, McCain, Romney, Jeb, Clinton and Biden. They will not have gone heavily for Sanders in polls and they elected Trump – many of the same people who voted for Trump said they would have voted for Sanders had he won the Nomination.”

Sander’s democratic socialism – the type of governance that we see in Canada and the Scandinavian countries –  is the real threat here and the structural backlash we are seeing speaks volumes to who the current US polity is designed to serve.

Both exist.  The interface between the public and private sectors of society need to be closely monitored, as the potential for nefarious ‘deep state’ activities is quite real.

 

(Rebecca Gordon writing for Tom’s Dispatch writes) “McLaughlin told National Public Radio’s Greg Myre and Rachel Treisman that he had received some “blowback” from his joke, and added:

“I think it’s a silly idea. There is no ‘deep state.’ What people think of as the ‘deep state’ is just the American civil service, social security, the people who fix the roads, health and human services, Medicare.”

I’ll give one cheer for that kind of deep state: not a secret, extra-official shadow government, but the actual workings of government itself for the benefit of the people it’s meant to serve. Personally, I’m all for people who devote their lives to making sure our food is as safe as possible, the cars we drive won’t kill us, our planes stay up in the air, and roads and railways are built and maintained to connect us, not to speak of having clean air and water, public schools and universities to educate our young people, and a social security system to provide a safety net for people of my age — all of which, by the way, is in danger from this president, his administration, and the Republican party.

But there’s another way of thinking about the deep state, one that suggests an ongoing threat not to Donald Trump and his pals but to this democracy and the world. I’m thinking, of course, of that vast — if informal, complex, and sometimes internally competitive — consortium composed of the industries and government branches that make up what President Dwight Eisenhower famously called the “military-industrial complex.” This was exactly the “state” that I think President Obama encountered when he decided to shut down the George W. Bush-era CIA torture program and found that the price for compliance was a promise not to prosecute anyone for crimes committed in the so-called war on terror. January 2009 was, as he famously said, a time to “look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

Here is Mike Lofgren, a long-time civil servant and aide to many congressional Republicans, writing in 2014 about that national security machine for BillMoyers.com. In “Anatomy of the Deep State,” he described the power and reach of this apparatus in chilling terms:

“There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol…

“Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose.”

Lofgren was not describing “a secret, conspiratorial cabal.” Rather, he was arguing that “the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day.” This has certainly been the experience of those who have, in particular, opposed U.S. military adventures abroad. They discover that many of the lies, deceptions, and crimes of that “state within a state” are openly there for all to see and are being committed in the equivalent of broad daylight with utter impunity.”

As always, we in our democracies need to be vigilant and aware of the potential for collusion and skullduggery and do our best to make sure terrible things do not happen in our name.

 

 

 

 

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