This post is informed by “Donald Trump: Ruling Class President” by Donald Street. Don’t be fooled by the title. Street illustrates that the ruling class is only marginally more controlling our lives under Trump than under Obama, Clinton, or other Dems. Nothing less than a grassroots revolution of our two-party system can address this. A must read.
Two Peas in the Same Corporate Pod: The Democratic and Republican Parties
Across New Mexico, State Central Committee members prepare for the election of the Democratic Party of New Mexico’s (DPMN) new chair, vice chair, and other key committee and Congressional District leadership roles. Roxanne and I are both SCC members, and we have been meeting with other SCC members in Santa Fe and communicating with others throughout the state. There is a grassroots movement brewing within the State to revitalize and reform DPNM. This post is informed by Donald Street’s CounterPunch article, “Donald Trump: Ruling Class President” and my experience with the Democratic party for almost five decades. It is not a pretty tale.
Street reaches back to our founding fathers to delineate the degree to which our Constitution was framed, not to allow for the people to rule, but to control the people and keep them from ruling. Things may have appeared to improve since then, a bit over here, a bit over there, but fundamentally, the corporate sector remains in control no matter which party is in power. Indeed, with the increasing collusion of the media and the influence of money in politics, one might conclude that we, the people, are now more removed from power and influence than ever before. If we are ever to Retake Our Democracy it must come from the grassroots up, and so I am encouraged by the level of local and statewide activism that is going to challenge DPNM’s existing power structure. But before discussing that effort, let’s set the groundwork with excerpts from and commentary on Street’s article:
“In a recent New York Times Magazine reflection on the chilling extent to which Trump’s rise is consistent with dodgy, fascist-like tendencies in the long history of the American right, the prolific liberal historian Rick Perlstein notes that the irony of a “populist” president who has “placed so many bankers and billionaires in his cabinet, and has relentlessly pursued so many 1-percent-friendly policies” is “far from unique…. It was no less evident in the presidencies of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama than it was during the Reagan and Bush presidencies and under Trump today.”
Before you react with knee-jerk nostalgia for Obama, recall that Obama deported more people than any US president, produced more oil/coal than any US president, was at war his entire 8-year term, endorsed the Keystone Pipeline, supported the economic enslavement of Puerto Rico, advocated for the TPP, and never shut down Guantanamo. Moreover, when presented with the opportunity to privatize the mega banks and create a US public bank, he instead chose to embrace Goldman Sachs, et al, and turned to their execs to guide a bailout of the banks, instead of a bailout of homeowners. While most progressives had so much hope in January 2009, we quickly found that our new president was just as tied to the oligarchy as the 43 presidents who came before him. He sure could preach, and you felt warm and fuzzy listening to him and watching his family, but then there are the inconvenient facts of so many of his policies. Left with a Trump-Clinton choice, it was the populist billionaire versus HRC and her all-too-cozy relationship with Wall St. and all things Goldman Sachs. Moneyed interests would get their work done no matter who won in November.
As Street describes, our ‘democracy’ plays out within the context of a fundamental contradiction between populism and a democracy dominated by the influence of money. “Bourgeois ‘constitutional’ states practicing a strictly limited and deceptive form of ‘democracy’ have been torn by a fundamental contradiction. On one hand, victorious candidates have to win enough popular votes to prevail in elections. They can hardly do that by proclaiming their commitment to the rule of the wealthy capitalist Few. On the other hand, they cannot garner the resources to win elections and govern effectively without the backing and cooperation of the investor/capitalist class, whose control of money and the means of production is critical to political power and policymaking.”
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis summed it up this way: “Americans must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Needless to say, with the wealth gap never greater and the media and corporatocracy in firm control of both parties, it is clear what America has been choosing, even if unwittingly. And as Street goes on to describe, the challenge to retake our democracy is enormous as the framework for ruling class control was established when our nation was founded and has enjoyed uninterrupted control of the political process from 1776 to today.
Street goes back to the founding of our nation and comments that “the U.S. Constitution was structured precisely and quite brilliantly to encode and enforce the impossibility of the Founders’ ultimate nightmare: popular sovereignty. American history remains haunted by the darkly democidal enshrinement of the ‘first new nation’s’ crippling charter. The document invokes ‘We the people’ and ‘the general welfare’ only to set up a government dedicated to the hegemony of the propertied Few.” Indeed, in 1776 “people” equalled land-owning white males, with women, slaves, and Indians relevant only to the degree they served the interests of the landed class. And as Street again points out, from a very fundamental perspective, little has changed since then. “The 1% is united in neoliberal consensus across both parties around Wall Street-led globalization and a huge Pentagon System to expand and protect global finance capitalism. Both the Republicans and the Democrats are committed to the neoliberal world-capitalist and imperial order, with big finance calling the shots while unions, the working class, and the poor are relegated to the margins.” Street goes on to describe how the two-party system serves the corporate sector and resists truly populist insurgence. “Great working class and farmer rebellions against the emergent new corporate plutocracy never translated into national politics thanks to the prior existence of a constitutionally mandated winner-take-all two party and elections system that channeled ballots into one of two reigning capitalist parties – aptly described by Upton Sinclair in 1904 as “two wings of the same bird of prey.”
Street concludes by opining on the 2016 primary: “The elite financial campaign finance and speech royalty data suggest that Hillary Clinton was Wall Street’s preferred candidate last year. Still, Trump was never really an anti-establishment candidate beyond the deceptive rhetoric he cynically employed – consistent with the longstanding fake-populist ‘essence of American [and bourgeois] politics’ – to win enough white working class and rural votes to prevail over dismal, dollar-drenched Hillary Clinton.” The cynic in me feels that the DNC would actually have preferred to lose with Hillary than to have won with Bernie, as Bernie represented a loose canon with an army behind him. He spoke the truth to power unflinchingly, he bypassed corporate and 1% campaign contribution,s and was beholden to no one. But our DNC was not okay with that and tilted the scales and then staged an utterly controlling national convention in which not a word was said about the DNC’s manipulation of the primary process. Click here to read the full Street article. It is definitely a tremendous read and goes into interesting detail about several historical moments that reflect the sustained control of our democracy by the ruling class.
On a national level the DNC just had a chance to show the world it had learned something from the Wasserman-Schultz era. As pointed out in a Gaius Publius post, they failed to learn a thing: “Whatever the merits of the two leading candidates, Perez and Ellison, with respect to this position, it could not be more obvious that the Party establishment, including and especially its outgoing, still-popular, eight-year president, really really wanted Perez to win. Why? Control, the Appearance of Control…For whatever combination of reasons, the need of many long-time Party insiders, from the county level up through the national level, for control of the Party is extremely great. This may be in part due to the nature of humans to protect territory, especially long-held territory. The local clique that has always run Cub Pack 257 out of your local church, for example, may resent like hell the influx of a group of new parents who start thinking, ‘Why are you running things this way?'” The post goes on to observe: “Today, Sanders and his supporters are the current incarnation [of insurgents that need to be repressed]. Establishment Democrats’ need to keep control of the Party — to keep the rest of the Party in line and under their thumb — is still clearly one of their guiding principles.”
Here in New Mexico, DPNM had been nothing but a controlling force throughout the primary, state, and national conventions, seeking at every turn to suppress the voices of the new blood coming into the Party via the Sanders’ campaign. DPNM will deny it, but the suppression of the straw poll at the 2016 Party Convention and the subsequent attempt to pass an utterly moderate Democratic Party Platform in a process that allowed for no input or modification of the platform were both establishment efforts to maintain the status quo. Both efforts crashed and burned due to the tenacity of Sanders’ supporters. In the DNC vote for a new chair, all but one of our DNC members voted for Perez. And when Perez won narrowly, DPNM sent out a tone-deaf email to everyone as if this election was the best thing since sliced bread. The email was as tone deaf as every DPNM action taken at the National Convention, including Lujan-Grisham tastelessly giving Bernie delegates sunburn oil to treat their ‘bern’ only two days after WikiLeaks had revealed just how Bernie had actually been ‘burned.’ There has never been a sincere apology from either the DNC or DPNM about the primary process, the state and national conventions, nothing. And that lack of public apology says a good deal about the state and national party leadership.
This brings me to the State Central Committee vote on the April 29 and my appeal to the 344 SCC members who will be voting. Whoever you vote for on the 29th, know that we are up against a monstrous challenge, that the powers that govern the party at a national and state level have to be completely usurped. The controls that were evident at last year’s DPNM Convention and the attempt to control activist resistance to what was a far too moderate platform were mirrored at the national convention by the complete silencing of Bernie delegates and the complete lack of debate about any issue that could rock the Dem. Party alliance with Wall St. If we are ever going to achieve anything like social justice, this controlling approach to democracy must be utterly undone. Creeping gradualism will lead us nowhere.
I encourage SCC members reading this post to get out of their comfort zone and vote for fiercely activist candidates for Chair, Vice Chair, Congressional District positions, and committee roles, and to share this post with other SCC members. We need leadership who will speak truth to power and do so without concern of facing scorn from party leadership. If the Bernie campaign meant anything, and if we have any hope to free ourselves from a corporation-dominated Party, the work starts here in NM, and it is inconceivable that we elect the same old tired leadership and expect change. If we do act boldly, we will continue to do service to the corporatocracy, or as the one of my favorite political thinkers Chris Hedges noted four years ago:
“Both sides of the political spectrum are manipulated by the same forces. If you’re some right-wing Christian zealot in Georgia, then it’s homosexuals and abortion and all these, you know, wedge issues that are used to whip you up emotionally. If you are a liberal in Manhattan, it’s – you know, they’ll be teaching creationism in your schools or whatever…Yet in fact it’s just a game, because whether it’s Bush or whether it’s Obama, Goldman Sachs always wins. There is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs.”
We have much work to do to rebuild the DPNM while parallel processes are occurring in other states, and then from the grassroots up we Retake Our Democracy at a national level. It starts on April 29.
Paul & Roxanne