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
Categories: Economic justice, Two Party System
Paul – I agree with you on many points, but your assumption that what we currently have in the US – is actually ‘Capitalism ‘ (… or even that, Capitalism naturally leads to the nightmare that we currently experience …) is absolutely incorrect. This is a fundamental error on which, opinions and actions will consequently be erroneously built.
What is your idea of Democracy built on? …..I so not see evidence of the US Constitution, which I firmly support.
Disappointed in ROD, Elizabeth Peck
One of ROD’s purposes is to present ideas and challenge thinking. The Constitution itself is a nicely crafted piece of work, but my criticism is that it spoke of “we the people” but omitted all women, all indigenous populations, all slaves, and all men who didn’t own property. In short, it omitted all people except wealth white males. Not exactly democracy. As to capitalism leading to the nightmares that we are currently experiencing, I’d say it is responsible for the nightmares we’ve been experiencing for 2 and a half centuries and for the laying waste of innumerable third world countries in service of imperialism. While you noted that my premise that capitalism has led to a raft of social and economic nightmares is incorrect, you didn’t exactly provide me any evidence to support your assertion. I’ll stand with my positions. Capitalism is essentially survival of the fittest and everyone else survive as best they can.
But thanks for your view….always like comments even when they disagree with me. Paul
Interesting read. What can we do if we’re not SCC members?
Nothing for non-SCC members. Only SCC members can vote on this. There are 22 of us from Santa Fe county.
We must recognize that no system designed by humans has been or ever will be perfect. Further, even the best of systems will be corrupted over time. We must realize that the environment in which these systems function will change and that this change alone will lead to system failure. The best we can do is be observant, learn, then act to repair and/or replace as needed. All human systems are limited because we are by nature limited and far too often corruptible creatures.
Yes our winner takes all form of local representative government does not support the functioning of multiple parties and that has its pluses and minuses. So we are stuck with having two major parties and efforts to develop third parties serve only as spoilers and not a real way out. So I agree with efforts to replace the good old boy club that has come to dominate the democratic party with those who are (currently) more progressive. I agree that we need to participate at the local effort to support those who are more progressive and less owned by capital interests. Further we must not retire from political activism, even if we get a majority of progressives, but must keep a watchful eye on actual performance. However, we must also be pragmatists and expect that if we look close enough we will find warts on any candidate and any party and any system. In the end, none of us are without flaws and we must make decisions regarding which flaws are truly fatal. If we are honest with ourselves and those that we have accepted as our friends and allies, then we will be in better positions to make those decisions.
With regard to capitalism, to me it is a natural outcome of our human nature and I tend to think of it as neither a force of good or harm, nor certainly not as a form of governance. Unregulated, unbridled capitalism is an ugly thing that does result in great harm to most and to all, if one has spiritual leanings.
Again, great article and food for thought.
There are many -ism’s that have had a derogatory effect over time on the human condition. Both imperialism and capitalism in an unchecked society (as well as other -ism’s) lead to a disproportionate redistribution of wealth and a disintegration of the social fabric. The ultimate conclusion being revolution and mass change of governance.
The beginnings of our Constitutional Republic are a product of that time and the preceding history as is our place and time now… That said we are in a moment of time where the tyranny of corporate capitol as political voice has overridden the people’s vote…… Money is power
If the monetary playing field were level and the peoples voice were heard more loudly by those representing them the present rise of imperial corporatacracy could be changed both here and abroad.
The ability to represent your community, regardless your social status, would go a long way to bringing the peoples voice back into governance. The premise that a majority voice of the people will guide governance in the direction best suited to their need changes the dynamic. The capitalistic need for ever more profit would no longer be the driving force as it appears to be today. A sharper focus could be made on public health, welfare, and education, understanding that these things are for the common good and raise up all of society. It would become obvious to a greater number of people who would see good reason to lend their support. The military industrial and prison industrial endeavors might then be slowed and our wealth returned from them to activities which serve the people from whom the finance has been collected. With a clear, well educated, understanding of the purpose of governance there is a way to moderate and regulate the -ism’s and to employ the most useful portions of each political, economic, and social ideal to make a more equitable society.
The men who drafted our Constitution may not have been sainted in any way, but the ideas they had have great value and will endure if we stand together for what their words represent as a way to govern ourselves.
Short term the need is to regain the voice of the people who’s lives and livelihoods are directly impacted by what had been a gradual change to this corporate political gambit. It is most obvious the the pace has been hastened by the events and decisions over the last 30+ years through decisions made by people in power from both parties.
Unfortunately many people remain complacent until they become very uncomfortable, perhaps the level of discomfort has reached a threshold?
Extremely well put. Be on the lookout for Saturday’s post and perhaps consider getting involved with the work outlined at the end of the post
To Elizabeth. I would say that it is much easier for us to define capitalism than to define democracy. I believe that very few humans experienced democracy during the last 10,000 years of western civilization but we all have experienced the patriarchal economic model, which today we call capitalism.
To SSMEGS. For too many Americans this article brings very new ‘news’ about who we have been and who we are. For most the first reaction may be to reject it all. So, I believe that the first step is to propagate this ‘new’ information. In addition to Paul’s article and its sources there is a not so new book on the subject. https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/431-the-democrats
To John. I agree we need to be observant, and vigilant and mindful. But we are not stuck with two parties. Or we do not have to be constantly expecting systems’ failure. Us, eruo-americans, need to accept the fact that, from before our coming to this world, we are indoctrinated into our respective patriarchal cultures, which as a system with its own male oriented principles and with minimal input from the feminine (see one of many books on the issue written by a local who is not with us anymore–http://www.craig-barnes.com/books/lost_feminine/–) dictates our values, likes, dislikes, etc. Without understanding where we come from and how we are transformed by our respective cultures/religions we will be able to change very little. (See http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/ )
Since the colonization of our minds and hearts is constant it will be difficult to achieve true, deep change (see Adbusters) but it certainly is not impossible.
Some very thoughtful comments to this post. I am eager to see more of this dialog, as a whole series of posts and radio shows will focus on the nexus of climate, economic and social justice and its inevitable struggle with privilege. Our privilege. We needn’t feel inexorable guilt over our privilege as we every bit as much born to our fortune, as those in squalor in a village in India were born to their plight. But where we differ is that we have the option of doing something with and about our privilege and to meet this challenge is the only way to achieve anything like justice.
I largely support the points made by jea87015, but I will add that wealth has always been and always will be a source of power and non-proportional influence (perhaps its ability to influence public views has been heightened by modern technology and advancements in advertising); that our founding fathers did a pretty good job in building a fairly resilient government construct, but they were not clairvoyant and not superhuman; that involvement/participation in government of the public will depend largely upon their emotional response to changes (perceived threats, patriotic fervor, lack of comfort, etc.); capitalism may thrive on ever increasing profit but it is largely an outcome of individual obsession with wanting ever more rather than an “ism” that people sign up to ; although many of us rally around what we perceive to be for the good of the greater number, many rally around what they think may be God’s will, the supremacy of individual rights, the way it used to be, the paternalistic comfort of a benign dictator, etc. I accept that it is our human nature that makes these things an eternal struggle (never to be finally won). But I think of this as a noble struggle and for those of us who do believe in fairness, justice, protection of the weaker, etc. to be committed to. There will be better and worse times in this struggle.
To Eduardo, I do think that our constitutional systems really makes it hard for more than two parties. I am not dismayed by that, as I think those parties are malleable and as long as there remains some majority voting system we can influence the nature of those parties. With respect to all systems eventually failing, again that is not meant to be a pessimistic view. I do mean that we should design systems to be as resilient as feasible but we should remain progressive in terms of changing our minds and the systems that are products of our minds as needed. Among those systems (cultural in nature) that are long overdue for change includes the need to move away from our largely paternalistic roots. However, even if we advance and become a more egalitarian society that fully supports women in power, we will remain subject to the limitations of our human nature (regardless of our sex). I think that deep true change is more likely to be doable as individuals than as a species or a society, but that should not deter any of us from striving for that outcome.
Paul, You do good work. I met you at the progressive summit in January. Some thoughts on below — and some encouraging words as well, I hope. Not to have a history lesson, but let’s not forget The New Deal of the 1930s which helped to democratize our economy — at least to some extent, at least for a brief while — through the time of immediate post-WWII America. And FDR brought into being the National Lanor Relations Board (NLRB) which legitigimized unions and enhanced worker’s rights. Last, but not least, the GI Bill of WWII gave the opportunity for millions of men & women from all backgrounds, rich & poor alike, to attend first-rate universities. Many would never had had the chance otherwise. They became the scientists, engineers, educators doctors and lawyers of my parents generation. As a result, a strong, vibrant, educated, middle class came into being. We don’t have nearly as much of that today in 2017, which is where so much of our current frustration comes from. My point being: there have, indeed, been times in American history when we have acheived great things for the working families and the populace as a whole — not just for Wall Street. We can do it again if we put our minds to it Any and all gains in life, however — as we all know — can be fleeting, disappearing in less than a generation. All the more reason to be vigilant. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”, it’s been said. I’d like to think the The New Deal was our first step; the NLRB second step; the GI Bill the third step. The next step — and next one after that — are up to us today, right now. Let’s take it. Yours respectfully, Harold Murphree Chair, Ward 22A
Sent on my Samsung Galaxy S7.