• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

zaterdag 12 november 2016

How Did We Get Here? What Lies Ahead?

How Did We Get Here? What Lies Ahead?

Photo by Jamelle Bouie | CC BY 2.0
Photo by Jamelle Bouie | CC BY 2.0

Now is as good of a time as any to reflect on what has happened in this historic election.  As far as I see it, making sense of this election requires exploring three questions: 1. What has happened to the Democratic Party? 2. What factors drove the Trump victory? and 3. What is likely to happen moving forward?
First, the Democratic loss. There’s no two ways about it – this was a huge, and embarrassing loss for a party that’s clearly fallen out of favor with the mass public. Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment were badly exposed in this loss, and the party is in the middle of a full-on meltdown. The country was told that Trump had little to no chance of winning, and that Hillary was a shoe-in to be our first female president. Obviously, that was a fiction that few challenged considering all the polls that consistently predicted Clinton would prevail on November 8th.
Looking back, it should be obvious that the Democratic Party’s Achilles Heel was its near-complete failure to prioritize the issues of economic inequality, jobs, and the aiding of America’s working class, middle class, and poor. The Dems had ample opportunity in Obama’s first two years in office to adopt a platform committed to limiting Wall Street power and aimed at serving the public via reforms promoting re-unionizing of the nation, introducing universal health care, and instituting a living wage. To put it simply, the party blew it big time, and it’s come back to burn the party badly, with Clinton now serving in the public mind as the ultimate symbol of Wall Street power and greed.
If the Democratic Party wants to have any chance of remaining relevant in the future, it needs to completely clean house and redefine itself, removing the snake pit that passes for party leadership – including the Pelosis, Reids, Clintons, and Wasserman Schultzs of the world. For the party to have any chance at redemption, it needs to adopt a new New Deal or a new War on Poverty-style initiative, that on multiple fronts cultivates greater support among Millennials, the young, and other disadvantaged groups. Young Americans represent the only hope for the party’s future sustainability, and the refusal to prioritize the needs of this group will guarantee the Democrat’s irrelevance in future elections.
Second, we need to understand the reasons why Trump won. This requires recognizing the uniqueness of this election on multiple fronts. Trump’s victory was just as much about the Democratic Party’s implosion as it was about the triumph of Trump’s “outsider” political campaign. The Republican victory was not driven by the party’s ascendance among the public at large. If anything, the party is in big trouble looking ahead. Despite significant U.S. population growth from 293 million in 2004 to 325 million by 2016, total voter turnout for Republican presidential candidates in this period is as follows: 2016: 59.6 million votes; 2012: 60.9 million votes; 2008: 59.9 million votes; and 2004: 62 million votes. This translates into a net loss of 2.4 million votes (or a decline of four percent) over 12 years, despite 11 percent U.S. population growth during this same period. As bad as that looks for Republicans, Dems have been hurt even more as the overall percent of Americans voting fell dramatically. The party’s total votes received for presidential candidates fell from a high of 69.5 million in 2008, to 65.9 million in 2012, down to 59.8 million in 2016. This represents a 14 percent decline in Democratic voting over just 8 years. These findings suggest that Donald Trump didn’t take this election from Clinton so much as Clinton gave it away to Trump.
Outside of the Democratic Party’s collapse, we need to examine why tens of millions of people voted for Trump. There is no single magic bullet answer to this question, and anyone who claims to have one is not giving you the full story. On the one hand, it seems silly at this point to deny considering a mountain of polling data that much of Trump’s support originates from a noxious blend of sexist, racist, and xenophobic beliefs. I’ve documented this reality in previous writings, and we do ourselves little good by burying our heads in the sand and pretending that Trump is some modern-day Marxian hero, fighting a corrupt capitalist elite to the benefit of an enlightened, populist working class that is free of prejudice, hatred, and spite. This herculean image of America’s working class is heavily propagandistic.
Having addressed the socially reactionary and ugly aspects of Trump’s victory, there is also the reality that this campaign came to symbolize mass public anger at the economic status quo. This anger, at its core, is quite rational, even if Trump is a highly questionable spokesman for the cause. On the one hand, there is little evidence that Trump’sprimary campaign succeeded due to economic populism and voter rejection of corporate globalization. I presented exhaustive evidence earlier this year, drawing on numerous national surveys, showing that Trump’s primary victories were not the result of economic frustration and anxiety, as seen in concerns over poverty, joblessness, a weak economy, and the rising costs of health care and education. Rather, Trump’s support was statistically associated with issues like immigration, terrorism, gun control, opposition to addressing global warming, and other Republican bread and butter issues.
Despite the above findings, it now seems undeniable that somewhere along the way following the primaries, Trump’s economic message caught on among mass segments of the public who had been harmed greatly by the neoliberal, pro-business, corporate globalization agenda. His populism didn’t speak much to Republican primary voters, who instead embraced his reactionary social and cultural agenda. But Trump’s economic populism did catch on among the masses by election day. This part of his campaign was clearly captured in the New York Times’ exit polling data. Staring Americans in the face were the following findings:
* 79 percent of voters who agreed that the condition of the nation’s economy is “poor” voted for Trump, while 55 percent of those feeling it was merely “fair” did the same.
* 78 percent of those saying their “family financial situation” is “worse today” than in the past voted for Trump.
* 65 percent of those who said the “effects of trade with other countries” has been to “take away jobs” voted for Trump.
My failure to find evidence of such economic anxieties during the primary season wasn’t for a lack of trying, as I scoured national surveys in search of the missing link between economic frustration and Trump voting to no avail. The now well-known April Gallup survey clearly showed that Trump’s primary supporters were not motivated by economic populism, and they were not more likely to have lost their jobs to outsourcing. Rather, most were middle to upper middle class types with above average incomes, little to no experience with being unemployed, and were largely well-to-do. Primary voters are typically more affluent, and Trump’s supporters were no exception. They had largely signed on to Trump’s nativist cultural agenda. But Trump’s appeal had clearly broadened by year’s end. No longer can the Trump vote simply be written off as the paranoid delusions of an impassioned group of reactionary hicks, troglodytes, and yokels. There is a very real economic component to Trump’s success, as seen in the public’s growing anger at a winner-take-all economy that fails to serve the interests of anyone not in the top 1 percent of income earners.
The voting public’s embrace of Trump is a dangerous gamble, however. On the one hand, it’s informed by a legitimate anger at the political-economic status quo and a system that has horribly failed the masses. On the other hand, those who claim Trump will “Make America Great Again” are projecting their hopes onto a candidate who is as maverick as they come, and who has no experience in working toward effective policy change in Washington. It’s impossible to predict with certainty just what he’ll do when he gets in office. Furthermore, he has given little indication that he cares about helping America’s poor, despite a lot of populist sounding rhetoric about the lost greatness of the working class. As far as I can tell, there are numerous possible outcomes that may lie ahead regarding Trump’s future, each of which is plausible based on specific aspects of his personality. None of them are encouraging in the least.
 Trump as a Reality TV Circus Clown
It may be that Donald Trump has little interest in the arduous work of governing a nation of 325 million people. In this scenario, think of him as a Jerry Springer ringmaster, presiding over a comic tragedy masquerading as presidential politics. To be blunt, “The Donald” may be completely and utterly full of shit when he says he wants to be president of the United States. Trump’s now infamous hedonistic personality profile, detailed in the pages of the New Yorker magazine, and depicted by his former biographer and ghostwriter, paints a picture of a shamelessly narcissistic, egocentric maniac who only cares about basking in the public eye, and as lacking the conviction, interest, or stamina to govern. He doesn’t care if the attention he receives is positive or negative. So long as it’s attention, that’s all that matters. Every media interaction is driven by a lust for public attention, while avoiding or downplaying real political proposals that challenge Washington establishment politics. Each press conference represents a chance to self-aggrandize, at the expense of substance, politics, and the nation itself. I am struck by the very real likelihood of this outcome, based on the message implied in the New Yorker profile that Trump may suffer from ADHD. As Trump’s biographer made abundantly clear, Trump is either unable or unwilling to focus on substantive issues for more than a few minutes at a time, seeing them as pointless and as a waste of effort.
The image of Trump as a scatterbrain who is uncommitted to serious political reform coincides well with reporting from this last July that Trump reached out to fellow Republican John Kasich to offer him the position of Vice President, while also offering him full control over domestic and foreign policy formulation in the White House. When asked what that would leave for Trump to do, the Trump campaign reportedly responded that he would be responsible for “making America great again,” whatever that means. This version of a Trump presidency is certainly possible. Americans familiar with the carnivalesque nature of Trump’s reality television career know that he is a relentless and shameless self-promoter, who quickly grows tired of people and situations he believes are boring or stale. It’s likely that his run for the presidency is the latest stage in a narcissistic career, one in which he takes advantage of the prestige of the office to further his public profile, while making numerous national and international connections to enhance his businesses’ profitability. In this scenario, Trump lacks any interest in governing, and becomes a figurehead and rubber stamp for the Republican Party’s reactionary, pro-business agenda. Essentially, it would be the Mike Pence presidency, not the Donald Trump presidency. There is obviously precedent for such a thing, considering the astounding power exercised by Vice President Dick Cheney during the George W. Bush administration.
If the Pence-Trump presidency becomes a reality, none of Trump’s proposals for helping working class Americans will be allowed to pass through a Republican Congress – save those that serve the agenda of America’s plutocratic elites. Supporters of Trump will no doubt reject this scenario as wholly wrong and inconsistent with the spirit of his campaign promises, but Trumps’ abdication of presidential authority is a distinct possibility, and it would not surprise me considering the superficialities endemic in the world of narcissistic reality television.
Trump as a Populist Pariah
It’s possible that Trump means it when he says he wants to “Make America Great Again,” and that he’ll work to try and implement his reactionary populist vision, as seen in his newly announced “First 100 Days” agenda. In this scenario, Donald Trump represents a cross between Ross Perot’s opposition to “free trade,” and Archie Bunker-style bigotry that demonizes non-whites as a subhuman “other.”  This part of Trump’s persona is well known to the public, as documented in his promises to “build a wall” between the U.S. and Mexico to keep the Mexicans from stealing our jobs, raping our women, and corrupting the citizenry with drugs.
Recognizing the savage racism that defines Trump’s social and trade agendas, he may still be sincere in his proposals to repeal NAFTA, abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership, designate China a “currency manipulator,” and implement tariffs on foreign goods to pressure U.S. companies from relocating abroad. A central problem with the “Trump as a populist pariah” scenario is that there is zero chance that Republican majorities in Congress will allow any of these proposals through, due to their threats to corporate interests and profits. Short of Trump circumventing the legislative process and governing dictatorially through executive order, there is no reason to think that his trade proposals have a snowball’s chance in hell of being implemented. How precisely will these policies be passed through a rightwing Congress that worships at the feet of corporate plutocratic interests? Whether Trump understands it or not, a president – at least one bound by checks and balances – is quite limited in what he can accomplish, especially when Congress wants to hamstring him. Obama learned this lesson all too well with a Republican congress determined to undermine him at every turn. Should Trump go the route of executive order to implement his trade agenda, his “solution” to the problem of corporate globalization will be worse than the problem. Trading democracy for dictatorship is a non-starter for any sane American – regardless of the promised payoff.
Trump as a Modern-Day Caligula
Americans would be unwise to discount the possibility of a proto-fascist or fascist president. We’ve seen enough of Trump’s pathological, serial lying and moral depravity to know that he could seek to become a dictatorial, “great man” in the history of American politics, ruthlessly suppressing his political opponents, and embracing a dictatorial style that frames criticisms of the president as treasonous. As a Roman emperor, Caligula’s time in power was short lived, and Trump’s may be too if he seeks to go the authoritarian route. Caligula became an infamous figure in western history due to his toxic mix of egotism, authoritarianism, and sexual debauchery. Historians associate his rein with deprave sexual acts, ranging from rape and incest to extreme sexual promiscuity and the forced prostitution of women. These traits all fall within Trump’s wheelhouse, whether we are talking about his creepy sexual advances toward his daughter, his reported sexual assault and harassment of countless women, his multiple affairs (and attempted affairs), and his instrumentalist approach to valuing women, judging them based on perceived sexual attractiveness, and treating them as possessions to be used and discarded.
The Caligula metaphor applies beyond Trump’s sexism. The much-maligned Roman emperor became infamous for ruthlessly crushing his political enemies. Declaring war on the Senate, Caligula organized numerous trials against his detractors, accusing them of treason, later presiding over their convictions and executions. Trump undeniably has an authoritarian streak, for example engaging in extreme politicization of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Greatly concerning was his cavalier announcement during debate two, that Clinton would “be in jail” if Trump wins. He has made this promise, prior to any formal presentation of charges, and independent of any trial or any formal presentation of evidence against her. Trump’s supporters’ chants of “lock her up” reflect a collective hysteria on the part of the reactionary right in their a priori demonization of political opponents. Forget that the FBI has now twice concluded that no charges should be brought against Clinton. This has prompted Trump to go after FBI director James Comey, depicting him (absurdly) as in the tank for Hillary. There is little reason to believe based on Trump’s previous comments that he will end his attacks on Clinton, despite the FBI’s failure to present evidence of illegality in “email gate.”
One could add to Trump’s witch hunts his years-long attack on Barack Obama, who the right alleges is a secret Kenyan, anti-American plant who threatens America’s national identity and security – a la the deplorable and racist “birther” conspiracy. And Trump’s attacks on Obama and Clinton are just the tip of the iceberg. His penchant for encouraging violence against political detractors at rallies raises legitimate fears about how he will deal with political dissent when he has actual political power. Will groups like Black Lives Matter be criminalized and declared terrorist organizations under a Giuliani Department of Justice? Trump’s promise to pay the legal fees for those who engage in felony assaults against Trump critics was a disgusting display of proto-fascism. These incidents suggest that this “president” has little commitment to the rule of law, or to the protection of dissent. His numerous calls to repeal First Amendment protections for journalists, and his support for violating the First Amendment religious rights of Muslim Americans via deportation and the forced closing of mosques should disturb anyone committed to basic civil liberties and a pluralistic society based on tolerance and celebration of diversity. In short, to frame Trump as a real danger to American freedoms is not hyperbole. It reflects a reasonable fear of his actions as commander in c­­­hief, extrapolating from his statements and actions on the road to the White House.
Trump comes into office shrouded in a fog of controversy. And that’s putting it lightly. Based on what we’ve seen in this election, he appears to have lost the popular vote, despite winning the majority of electoral votes. This failure represents a major scandal in and of itself – the second of its kind in the last decade and a half. This scandal alone is reason to be skeptical of conservative claims that Trump enjoys a public mandate to implement his political-economic agenda. Like Bush before him, it is unlikely that Trump will let this lack of a democratic mandate get in the way of his plans for the nation. Whichever of the three scenarios above is most accurate, the likelihood that Trump’s presidency ends up strengthening American democracy and the raising of the living standards of the mases is unlikely. None of the above scenarios provide cause for optimism, and I don’t know any sane or compassionate person who is excited about a Trump presidency moving forward.
Anthony DiMaggio is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University. He holds a PhD in political communication, and is the author of the newly released: Selling War, Selling Hope: Presidential Rhetoric, the News Media, and U.S. Foreign Policy After 9/11 (Paperback: 2015). He can be reached at: anthonydimaggio612@gmail.com
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The Long Death March of the Democrats



The Long Death March of the Dismal Dollar Democrats

Photo by Mike Licht | CC BY 2.0
Photo by Mike Licht | CC BY 2.0

Listening to the reigning corporate media’s political reporting and commentary leading up the 2016 elections, you might have thought that the Republican Party was on the verge of collapse thanks to its internecine war over the outrageous Donald Trump. Hello? Look now: the GOP has won the White House, retained both wings of Congress, and will soon enough hold down the Supreme Court.  It also holds most of the state governments. If any of the two major parties is in its death throes, it is the Democrats.
The Democrats haven’t just lost the one branch of elected government where they seemed to hold the advantage to any old normal establishment Republican like, say a John McCain, Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush.  No: now it has given the oval office to a white- nationalist-arch-sexist racist and nativist climate change-denying quasi-fascist.
Ever the accommodating neoliberal conflict-avoider and lifelong Republican-enabler, Barack Obama has dutifully proclaimed his readiness to gracefully oversee a peaceful transition of power to the second President Elect in this century to gain the nation’s highest office without winning the popular vote (how about that U.S. Constitution, fellow citizens!) –  to a man who started his sick march to the presidency by questioning the national location of Obama’s birth and who announced that he wouldn’t accept the results of the election unless he won.
I confess that I did not think Lady Klynton Kissinger Sachs (as some on Wall Street revealingly labelled her last year) would fail in her power-mad quest.  I thought she would squeak out a demographically enabled and Establishment-financed victory.  What can I say?  I’m an election prognostication layman, I took the “experts” at their “social science” word.
Along with many other Left writers and activists, I’ve been a lot better on why Trump would win if he did (and I always held out the possibility that he could). The long death march of the dismal dollar-drenched Dems is nothing new. Part of it is the horrifically wooden and uninspiring presidential candidates it recurrently puts up – hopelessly uncharismatic sacks of stale flour like Hubert Humphrey, Jimmy Carter (the 1980 model at least), Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton (Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are the obvious exceptions).
Another part is transparent moral depravity and corruption among two of its three top contemporary personalities: Hillary and Bill (he of the infamous crooked gubernatorial and presidential member) Clinton have in fact been “crooked” (Trump was sadly right about that) from the beginning of their political careers in Arkansas through the atrocious global “pay-for-play” Clinton Foundation and the related endless ongoing email scandal.  (The good family man Obama, like Jimmy Carter, seems to have avoided much of the personal and financial corruption that has afflicted the Clintons).
The bigger if related problem is the long rightward, neoliberal drift of the Democratic Party further away from any last commitments to social justice, democracy, peace, and environmental sustainability.  Trump may be appalling and dangerous on numerous levels, but he wasn’t wrong when he pointed out (in his usual clumsy manner) that the Clintons and other Wall Street-captive Democrats sold the nation’s “forgotten” blue collar working people down the river in the name of “free trade.” The co-presidential Clintons’ advance of the North American Free Trade Agreement – a disaster for the U.S. working class – and Barack Obama’s championing of the arch-authoritarian and global-corporatist Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) speak volumes about neoliberal-era Democrats’ service to the nation’s covertly reigning Deep State Few over and against the Many and the common good.  And Trump wasn’t wrong when he said that Hillary Clinton called the TPP the “gold standard of free trade agreements” when she was Obama’s Secretary of State – or when he surmised that she would shift back to being pro-TPP if she was reinstalled in the White House.
One revealing moment in the campaign came when Trump was going off on NAFTA and its negative consequences for American workers during one of the “presidential debates.” They had a split television screen showing both candidates’ face at the same time. While Trump spoke, you could see Mrs. Clinton rolling her eyes and grinning large as if the Donald’s comments on so-called free trade was every bit as insane as his onetime claim that Obama was born in a foreign country.  It’s a nice little picture in the big photo album of why she lost.
NAFTA, it might be recalled, dealt some serious death blows to an already fading U.S. labor movement, whose decimation over the last four plus decades is no small part of how vast swaths of the American working class can be enlisted to vote for right wing Republicans.
Another snapshot: on the night of the election I beheld House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) being interviewed by her fellow Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) member Judy Warner on the “P”BS NewsHour. Asked about the alienation of the white blue-collar Midwestern working class from the Democratic Party, Pelosi arrogantly proclaimed that the Democrats hadn’t gotten enough credit for boosting domestic U.S. oil production (climate be damned!) and thus jobs. She said that Obama had made all kinds of great efforts to help working people but had been obstructed by the GOP. She said that the Democrats’ main problem with working class voters was one of messaging, not policy: they just haven’t gotten out the message about how progressive they are.
Then she told Warner that “America is an entrepreneurial society” designed as such by “the Founders.” It was an interesting reflection that pretty much gave the game away. That’s your 21st century Democratic Party in a nutshell, progressives.
And what is the great contribution of the Obama presidency to the working class, pray tell?  The Dollar Obamber has overseen a continuing upward concentration of wealth so extreme that – as Bernie Sanders kept accurately saying over and over – the top tenth of the nation’s top 1 percent nearly own more wealth than the nation’s bottom 90 percent.
Flash back to the U.S.-born Obama’s first term. It was a critical moment. With Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress and an angry, “pitchfork”-wielding populace at the gates, an actually progressive President Obama could have rallied the populace to push back against the nation’s concentrated wealth and power structures by moving ahead aggressively with a number of policies: a stimulus with major public works jobs programs; a real (single-payer) health insurance reform; the serious disciplining and even break-up or nationalization of the leading financial institutions; massive federal housing assistance and mortgage relief; and passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have re-legalized union organizing in the U.S. But no such policy initiatives issued from the White House, which opted instead to give the U.S. populace what William Greidermemorably called “a blunt lesson about power, who has it and who doesn’t.” Americans “watched Washington rush to rescue the very financial interests that caused the catastrophe. They learned that government has plenty of money to spend when the right people want it. ‘Where’s my bailout,’ became the rueful punch line at lunch counters and construction sites nationwide. Then to deepen the insult, people watched as establishment forces re-launched their campaign for ‘entitlement reform’ – a euphemism for whacking Social Security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid.”
Americans also watched as Obama moved on to pass a health insurance reform (the so-called Affordable Care Act) that only the big insurance and drug companies could love, kicking the popular alternative (single payer “Medicare for All”) to the curb while rushing to pass a program drafted by the Republican Heritage Foundation and first carried out in Massachusetts by the arch 1 percenter Mitt Romney. It has been ugly corporatist mockery of “universal health insurance” with even the hint of a public option kicked unceremoniously to the curb.
As Obama later explained to some of his rich friends at an event called The Wall Street Journal CEO Council a month after trouncing Romney’s bid to unseat him: “When you go to other countries, the political divisions are so much more stark and wider. Here in America, the difference between Democrats and Republicans–we’re fighting inside the 40-yard lines…People call me a socialist sometimes. But no, you’ve got to meet real socialists. (Laughter.) You’ll have a sense of what a socialist is. (Laughter.) I’m talking about lowering the corporate tax rate. My health care reform is based on the private marketplace.” He might have added that his “health care reform” was dreamed up by Republicans, consistent with some of his elite supporters’ likening of the Obama White House to the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower.
Candidate Trump was not wrong to say (in his own maladroit and disingenuous fashion) that the American Dream has died for millions of “forgotten” (the word bears repeating) U.S. workers while the Democrats have advanced Wall Street’s job- and wage-crushing agenda behind the cover of self-righteous political correctness. In one of the many classic ironies of the neoliberal New Gilded Age, the ugly nativist tycoon and enemy of labor and workers Trump is permitted to absurdly pose as a “populist” tribune of the outraged American working man. He gets to do this not simply through sheer cunning and devious, populism- and racism-/nativism-manipulating campaigning but also thanks to the vicious state-capitalist and imperial corruption of the nation’s not-so leftmost major political party, which has abandoned the working class over many decades of rightward drift championed by (guess who?) the Clintons. As privileged upper- and professional-class (neo)liberal Democratic elites give Joe Six Pack/the Plumber the Goldman Sachs-financed middle finger and fake-progressively promote the bourgeois identity politics of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender much of the struggling and furious working class is left like low-hanging fruit to be snatched up by a billionaire demagogue like Trump.
Candidate Obama spoke in condescending terms about a small-town white working class that bitterly clung to guns, religion, and xenophobia.  Hillary upped the insult ante by calling half of Trump’s supporters “deplorables” – meant to signify vicious racists, homophobes, and sexists. As the left activist Tom Wetzel told me last summer, “It seems lately that identity politics has come to function as a mask for professional/managerial class disparagement of the working class.”
Contempt for the white working class cost Hillary Clinton the White House to no small degree. The exit polls are very clear on that.  Those polls also tell us I think that Bernie Sanders would very likely have prevailed over Trump in a general election.  His leftish populist campaign was pitched largely to the economic and anti-plutocratic grievances and sentiments of the white majority working and middle classes, most of whom aren’t frothing racists, nativists, and sexists (Hillary’s “deplorables” comment notwithstanding).  I think enough of those voters would have recognized Sanders as a more authentic articulator of their views and anger than Trump for Sanders to have prevailed over the Deplorable Donald.
As someone who was very critical of Sanders from the left (in part because of Bernie’s failure to go for the kill against Mrs. Clinton) from the get go, let me say flat out that the Democrats ran the wrong candidate. And Trump wasn’t wrong to point out that the Clintons and their allies atop the Democratic National Committee rigged the game against Bernie.  The rigging was consistent with the neoliberal corporate Democratic Party elite’s longstanding vicious hatred of left-leaning progressives and anti-plutocratic populists in the ranks of their business party.
(My last online comment prior to Election Day: “Think about this. fellow workers and citizens.  The biggest nightmare for the ‘party of FDR’ tomorrow is a big turnout by the white working class.  Put that in your historical pipe and smoke it.”)
A good number of “progressive Democrats” and “pragmatic” leftists were poised to blame left Jill Stein and Left election boycotters/sitter-outers if Trump pulls off a Brexit-like November shocker. Their anti- “ultra-radical” knives were sharpened and out. They should sheathe their blades and taken an honest look in the big historical mirror. Stein barely cracked 1% of the vote.  A much bigger offender behind a Trump victory are the numerous portside leaders who tell lefties every four years to hold their noses and vote for the (to be frank) hopelessly corporate, corrupt, and imperial Democrats as the Lesser Evil (LE).  It’s kind of hard to expect the dismal dollar Dems be less disastrously corporate, neoliberal and imperial when top Democrats know that top progressive luminaries will always have their electoral back (in the name of LE voting [LEV]) – this no matter how consistently the Democratic Party’s honchos are shown to hold their party’s progressive wing in sheer elitist contempt (WikiLeaks has showed us quite a lot about that contempt in the current election cycle).
It’s unpleasant to behold. No matter how badly the big corporate, financial, and imperial bikers in charge of the Democratic Party abuse their party’s grumbling left wing, the captive progressives can’t resist the desire to ride on the back of the Democratic Harley, arms around their masters with their noses lifted away from the smell.
It’s all part of a viciously circular self-fulfilling prophecy wherein – as Jill Stein told me last April – “the politics of fear delivers everything we are afraid of…The Lesser Evil paves the way for the Greater Evil.” LEV contributes to the deadly vacuum of genuinely progressive voices for the legitimate “populist rage” and alienation of the nation’s working class majority. Resentment abhors a genuinely populist and left-democratic vacuum. In steps a Le Pen, a Trump, and, at the historical worst, a Hitler, to take ugly advantage of the sad silence/silencing of the left and to give populism a dangerous right-wing twist. It’s nothing new.
Make no mistake: the election of Donald Trump is an abject disaster on numerous levels: civil rights, basic cultural civility, judicial appointments and criminal justice, ugly sexism, religious tolerance, immigrant rights, women’s rights to an abortion, nuclear weapons policy, and – perhaps most ominous of all in terms of human chances for survival – energy and climate. Are there any silver linings? Perhaps.  Hillary Clinton seemed dead set on escalating tensions with that other nuclear superpower Russia over Syria (her call for a no-fly zone is madness) and other flashpoints.  That was very dangerous.  Trump prefers a less bellicose approach towards Russia, for whatever reason, something that makes World War III seem less likely.
There’s a chance that liberals and progressives will be considerably more inclined to pay serious critical attention to executive branch policy and to protest that policy with a really bad (that sounds like an understatement with regard to Trump) Republican in the White House.  There’s something about having an Ivy League-educated smooth-talking teleprompter-ized Democrat in the White House that puts so many U.S. liberals and progressives – folks who like to read The Nation and Mother Jones – to deadly sleep when it comes to the movement politics that need so desperately to be sustained and expanded beneath and beyond quadrennial electoral extravaganzas. It’s kind of pathetic what happens to that crowd when “their party” (not really) holds the oval office.
Trump’s ascendancy calls – or ought to call – into question the legitimacy and highlight the absurdity of American authority structures from the presidency on down and out.  The presence of this vicious clown in the world’s most powerful office is simply, well, absurd.  I wonder if we’d like to address, among other things, our continuing self-destructive and fetishistic attachment to an electoral system set up by openly anti-democratic eighteenth century aristo-republicans.  The Electoral College is, well, …it’s absurd, Monty Python-esque.  I personally have no intention of recognizing the legitimacy of the second U.S. president in my lifetime to be appointed after losing the popular vote. They can’t be serious. A Trump White House is preposterous. But, so, upon serious critical scrutiny, are most of the reigning power structures and systems in American society.
Above all, the election of Trump ought to signal the death-knell of the Clinton-Obama-Democratic Leadership Conference (DLC)–Hamilton Project-Robert Rubin-Lawrence Summers-John Podesta-Neoliberal ideology atop the Democratic Party. I mean, let’s ask progressives the Dr. Phil question about their embrace of the Dismal Dollar Dems: “how’s that working for you?” This is what the Goldman Sachs-Citibank-CFR Democrats have wrought: deadly GOP control of all branches of the federal government and a dangerous white nationalist climate change-denying buffoon in the White House. All this talk about the crisis and implosion of the Republican Party! Behold the plight of the pathetic right-wing corporate and imperial Democrats, the disgraced fake-progressive fake-liberal, right-wing-enabling Left-hating party of Big Business. But, of course, the main price of the right-wing takeover elitist Democrats enabled again won’t be paid by privileged and mainly white liberals, will it?  No, the real costs will fall on the shoulders of the disproportionately non-white poor.
Bill, Hillary, Barack and the rest should do the decent and honorable thing: disappear completely, along with the rest of their vicious elitist Neoliberal Democrat ilk. Progressives who have insisted on backing these criminals – and who have tried to bully those of us on the actual left into joining them in that ugly and viciously circular embrace – need to make themselves over or just drop off the face of the political landscape and let people who are more serious and radical step in.

‘All Governments Lie’

Journalism Icon I.F. Stone’s Words Ring Truer Than Ever in ‘All Governments Lie’ 

Posted on Nov 11, 2016
By Jordan Riefe

   The late investigative journalist I.F. Stone, publisher of I.F. Stone’s Weekly, gets to work at his Washington home in this 1966 photo. (William J. Smith / AP)
“All governments lie,” said legendary journalist I.F. Stone, who dedicated his career to uncovering those lies in I.F. Stone’s Weekly, a prototypical print blog he ran out of his house for close to 20 years. His famous maxim is the title of an incisive critique of mainstream media in theaters now—“All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, and the Spirit of I.F. Stone,” directed by Fred Peabody and executive-produced by Oliver Stone.
A legendary political writer for the New York Post and The Nation during the 1930s and ’40s, Isidor Feinstein Stone (Izzy) was blacklisted in 1950 but would not be muzzled. Beginning with a readership of 5,000, including Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein, I.F. Stone’s Weekly had amassed more than 70,000 readers when he discontinued it in 1971. It was cited number 16 in “The Top 100 Works of Journalism in the United States in the 20th Century.”
While the movie’s title may sound a bit cynical, Peabody makes his case in the opening seconds with a montage of government whoppers—Lyndon Johnson dreaming up the Gulf of Tonkin incident as a pretense for aggression in Vietnam; Nixon telling the media, “I am not a crook”; Colin Powell ringing the alarm over “yellow cake” in Baghdad; and Donald Trump saying, well, just about anything.
It transitions smoothly to Matt Taibbi on the campaign trail covering the GOP candidate in New Hampshire for Rolling Stone magazine. Few would question Taibbi’s bona fides, considering his muckraking work on Goldman Sachs and the 2008 election before that, but even fewer would consider Rolling Stone outside the mainstream.
While that publication lands left of center on the spectrum, it can hardly be called a “haven for dissent.” That’s how Democracy Now! host and executive producer Amy Goodman describes the role of media, but she worries that corporate money has co-opted mainstream voices.
The mainstream is targeted by many who credit it in some part with the rise of Trump and other transgressions, such as beating the drum for war in Iraq. “The biggest crime since World War II,” Ralph Nader calls the U.S. invasion, adding, “with mainstream media complicity.”
As if to confirm Goodman’s fears, CBS chief Les Moonves is caught saying of Trump, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS” at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference earlier this year. “I’ve never seen anything like this, and this is going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”
In 2014, Jeremy Scahill formed The Intercept with Glenn Greenwald, formerly of The Guardian, and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras (“Citizenfour”), who resigned in September. The Intercept initiative was underwritten by a $250 million endowment from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
“If we don’t get to the heart of the matter, that there was, long ago, a coup in this country, a silent coup where corporations took total control of the process of selecting leaders in this country, then nothing’s going to change,” warns Scahill, who began his journalism career as a Democracy Now! intern. “The coup has already happened, and none of these people seem to realize it.”
More dire assessments come from former New York Times journalist and current Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges, who tells us, “Those reporters who care more about the truth will eventually become management problems.” On this point, “All Governments Lie” begins to get fuzzy.
Is Taibbi a management problem for Wenner Media, which owns Rolling Stone, Us Weekly and Men’s Journal? And what will it take for MSNBC to start having second thoughts about David Corn, also in the movie, who broke the news of Mitt Romney’s 47 percent video for Mother Jones and is a regular guest on the news network’s evening show, “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell”? How long before the same bosses tell him to comport himself “more like a senator,” as “The Young Turks” anchor Cenk Uygur recalls in the film about the lead-up to his own departure from that network?
What about omissions, including WikiLeaks, a virtual pariah among some on the left in this election cycle? Although the famous 2010 “Collateral Murder” video provided by Chelsea Manning gets an airing, neither she nor WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange rates a mention. Neither does Seymour Hersh, who broke the Abu Ghraib story for The New Yorker. When his later account of the Osama bin Laden takedown didn’t match the official story, no U.S. outlet would publish it; it ran in “The London Review of Books” instead.
While all the journalists included in the movie are independent-minded, they don’t necessarily fit the film’s central conflict—independent versus mainstream voices. Not to suggest that each of these reputable scribes is stifled by corporate overlords, but a more appropriate binding principle for the film might have been the dire need for unfettered investigative journalism.
Goodman says good journalism has the state in its crosshairs. It may sound like a battle cry, but Izzy Stone would call it a cry for peace. “Every idea subverts the old to make way for the new,” he wrote in 1954. “To shut off subversion is to shut off peaceful progress and to invite revolution and war.”

http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/item/journalism_icon_if_stones_words_ring_truer_than_ever_20161111


Trump and Israel

Analyst: If Trump gives Netanyahu a green light ‘Palestinians will detonate in the face of Israel’

Israel/Palestine 
 on  7 Comments

The implications of Donald Trump’s shocking victory in the U.S. presidential race have not taken long to emerge in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as the Israeli officials seem to be seizing the chance to create facts on the ground before Trump’s four-year term even begins.
The Israeli infrastructure minister, Yuval Steinitz told a Hebrew broadcast early yesterday that settlement construction across the West Bank and East Jerusalem will see a swift and wide expansion in the coming period. The Israeli minister noted that, due to political pressure from the U.S., settlement expansion had not gone as planned in these areas, and the election presents an opportunity to work without obstruction.
In addition, a second Israeli television station reported yesterday that the Israeli cabinet approved 7,000 new settlement housing units in Jerusalem that have been frozen for years because of opposition from the Obama administration.
The quick response from the Israeli side to Trump’s triumph strongly suggests that Israel plans to fully capitalize on his winning to serve its interests with settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories and the ongoing distortion of the demographic and geographic reality on the ground. It also appears that the Israeli government hopes the new U.S. administration will aid them in the diplomatic battle as well, and possibly put an end to the U.S.-led peace process.
Naftali Bennett, the education minister in Netanyahu’s government has said that Trump’s arrival in the White House would put an end to the two-state solution. Bennett stated. “The era of a Palestinian state is over.”
It is not astonishing that Israeli officials moved to expand the settlements after Trump’s victory. Trump has already pledged that if he was elected he would move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which would indicate a clear American recognition of the Israeli claim over the city.

Palestinian Response

For Palestinians, it was not expected that the winner of the U.S. election, whoever it was, would shift American policy toward the Palestinian cause. United States foreign policy has been always characterized by a bias in Israel’s favor.
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump vowed to unconditionally support Israel during their heated campaign as this matter has never been disputed between the Democrats and the Republicans. The outgoing American president, Barak Obama has just handed Israel the biggest military aid package in the American history. His successor will definitely follow in his footprints. Although, Palestinians see that it may be harsher this time.
A lack of interest and frustration with the U.S. election has been the widespread response on the Palestinian street and among political parties, except for the Palestinian Authority (PA) which still expresses a willingness for peace talks and negotiations with Israel regardless of the total lack of interest on the Israeli side.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said that the PA would “deal with any president elected by the American people on the principle of achieving permanent peace in the Middle East based on the two-state solution on which is stubbornly rejected by the Israelis as they claim it constitutes great danger for their entity and security.”
Hamas, the Islamic movement that controls the besieged Gaza Strip, asks for re-evaluating and re-balancing for the American policy toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Sami Abu-Zuhri, Hamas’s spokesperson, said that America has always been a reason behind the Palestinians’ continuous suffering as it provides the Israeli occupation with military, financial, and logistical support that has been used against the Palestinian people.
“We do not expect changes in the U.S. policy, it will remain as it was, very biased for the interests of Israel,” Abu-Zuhri noted.
Other Palestinian parties called on the PA to stop looking at the U.S. as a silver bullet for the Palestinian case since it failed to fairly respond to Palestinians’ complaints against the Israeli crimes, intransigence, settlement expansion, and movement restrictions in the past.
Islamic Jihad’s, Hani Habib, said that the PA should work for achieving Palestinian unity between the disputed sides in order to end the split and work together for the Palestinian’s people full rights.

Unconditional support

The US policy has been stable when it comes to Israel, said Hussam el-Dajani, a political commentator based in Gaza.
“We are sure that the unbounded support will continue for Israel, but cannot determine how exactly the American administration will react to the conflict. Will the negotiation process be resumed and on what basis?”, he wondered.
He noted that if Israeli practices in the West Bank go uncontrolled, and the facts on the ground continue to be altered with of a green light from America, an angry collective Palestinian response is to be highly expected. “If Israeli practices change a lot on the ground, Palestinians will detonate in the face of Israel. It will be paying a heavy price if the far-extremist Israeli government was not deterred. Therefore, I do not see it will be 100 percent positive for Israel at least in the long term,” el-Dajani added.
Redwan el-Agres, a Palestinian activist said that it is better for the ugliness and bias of U.S. policy to be explicit rather than to have it hidden and embellished as it would have been if Clinton was elected. “Clinton and Trump would have worked against us, let them do it without deception at least,” he concluded.
About Isra Saleh El-Namy
Isra Saleh El-Namy is a journalist in Gaza.
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