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News :: Media
Mass Sen. Liz Warren Speaks at Netroots Conference
19 Jul 2014
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Warren.jpg
19 July 2014

The Netroots Nation conference, which opened Thursday in downtown Detroit, was a display of demagogy and political buck passing, as leading Democrats, including potential 2016 presidential candidates, gave speeches that failed even to mention the social catastrophe taking place outside the Cobo Hall convention center.

The speaker most heralded by those in attendance—largely trade union functionaries, employees of liberal lobbying groups, and the staff of Democratic Party officeholders—was Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, elected in 2012 to the seat formerly held by Edward Kennedy.

Warren has been promoted by liberal publications such as the Nation and the Daily Kos web site (the initiator of the annual Netroots meetings) as a potential challenger to Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

A “Ready for Warren” group was established this week to foster her possible candidacy. It distributed convention-style hats and signs for a Warren candidacy before her speech Friday morning. There were chants of “Run, Liz, Run” when she took the stage, although they died out quickly.

Warren was introduced by Democratic Congressman Gary Peters, the party’s candidate for the US Senate seat from Michigan held by the retiring Carl Levin.

He sought to present himself as a son of the working class, citing his mother’s membership in the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), but was silent on his own career in the stock market as an officer at Merrill Lynch and vice president of investments for UBS PaineWebber.

Peters hailed the Obama administration’s bailout of the auto industry in 2009, which resulted in a 50 percent cut in wages for all new-hires and reductions in retiree health benefits, concluding, “Thank god for President Obama standing up for American workers.”

Warren was a more effective demagogue than Peters, although that is not saying much. She touted her own work in establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Board under the Obama administration, claiming it has resulted in $4 billion being returned to victims of fraud by the Wall Street banks—a rounding error compared to the banks’ annual profits.

She ran down a litany of issues of interest to her largely middle-class, privileged audience, including consumer protection, environmental regulation, net neutrality, promotion of unions, and equal pay for equal work (the issue that drew the loudest applause). But, significantly, she made no mention of the bankruptcy of Detroit and the measures being imposed to make the people of Detroit pay for the crisis through the slashing of pensions, jobs and wages and the privatization of the Detroit Institute of Art, the water and sewage system, and other public assets.

This silence was particularly remarkable, and obviously deliberate, given the repeated references to water shutoffs in Detroit in the course of the Netroots conference, which adjourned for two hours shortly after Warren’s speech so that those in attendance could join in a protest march against the shutoffs.

The Obama administration has made clear its support for Detroit Mayor Michael Duggan and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, both Democrats, who are jointly responsible for the policy of shutting off water each week to at least 3,000 residents who have fallen behind on their bills because of poverty, unemployment and cuts in social assistance.

Warren and her political allies like Peters were anxious not to go too far in their anti-Wall Street pretenses. Warren has steadfastly defended the Obama administration, which has carried out unprecedented attacks on the living standards and democratic rights of the working class, overseen the closure of schools and mass layoff of teachers while promoting for-profit charter schools, and enacted a health care “reform” that is undermining employer-paid benefits and reducing access to drugs and medical procedures for millions of people.

A supposed crusader against Wall Street abuses, Warren supports an administration that has refused to prosecute a single leading bank executive and guaranteed record stock prices and profits by pumping trillions of dollars into the financial markets.

The other major speaker at Netroots, appearing Thursday afternoon, was Vice President Joseph Biden. He was an unlikely attendee at a conference of supposed “progressives,” given that when he last ran for president, in 2008, he positioned himself on the right flank of the Democratic candidates, especially on foreign policy. He was chosen by Obama as vice president precisely to signal corporate America and the military-intelligence apparatus that a new Democratic administration would be a reliable servant of their interests.

Biden was nonetheless given a hero’s welcome at Netroots for his supposed role in pushing the Obama administration to endorse gay marriage in 2012. At one point during his address, the vice president was interrupted by a group of immigrant rights activists protesting the enormous increase in deportations during the Obama-Biden administration. He claimed to welcome their comments and to “feel their pain,” in the style of Bill Clinton, although he did not address the actual substance of the criticism.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was invited to address the Netroots meeting, but declined, choosing to speak instead to a conference of financial executives in Boston, where she substituted for former president George W. Bush, who had to withdraw unexpectedly. Nevertheless, the “Ready for Hillary” political action committee was a prime sponsor of the conference and pro-Clinton materials were present in abundance.

(from World Socialist Web Site )
See also:
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/07/19/root-j19.html

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The Political Charlatans of the Left
28 Jul 2014
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Defining “Progressive” and Spotting the Impostors by ANDREW TILLETT-SAKS

“The framework of thought is consciously manipulated by an effective choice and reshaping of terminology so as to make it difficult to understand what’s happening in the world, to prevent people from perceiving reality, because if they perceived it they might not like it and act to change it.”

– Noam Chomsky

This election season, millions of Americans will use the terms Progressive or Liberal. I will have no idea what any of them mean.

George Orwell wrote, “The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another.” Were Orwell writing in 2014, he would include Liberal and Progressive as well. In the regular frenzy for votes, politicians with wide-ranging politics will fly both banners. Despite no common definition or clear understanding of what the terms imply, millions of well-intentioned voters will follow the labels and deliver their votes.

The lack of clear language on the American Left prevents coherent thought and action. Because the Left cannot clearly define what it means to be Progressive or Liberal, it cannot effectively identify its friends nor its enemies. Wolves in sheep’s clothing reside in elected offices nationwide. Well-intentioned, egalitarian voters elect self-proclaimed Progressives and Liberals who proceed to desecrate workers and equality in return.

Modern Americans use Progressive and Liberal with a wide range of meanings, many of them contradictory.

The public brands politicians far apart on the ideological spectrum, from Joe Lieberman to Bernie Sanders, as Liberal. Starkly contrasting intellectuals, from Paul Krugman to Noam Chomsky, also commonly receive the label.

Progressive is no different. Political groups and ideas as different as Bill Clinton’s Reaganesque New Democrats and Michael Harrington’s Democratic Socialists of America self-identify as Progressive. Competition is fierce amongst all varieties of Democrats to self-brand as Progressive—every last candidate in the 2008 Democratic Party presidential primaries, from Dennis Kucinich to Barack Obama to Hilary Clinton to Bill Richardson, self-identified as a Progressive in campaign literature.

Progressive and Liberal are consistently used to distance oneself from Conservative, making it clear what the terms are not. What they are, however, is indiscernible based on their rainbow of representatives.

The most defining trait of the 21st century politician is the extent to which they believe free market capitalism should be regulated. The Conservative Right attacks the very existence of government in advocacy of laissez faire capitalism, while the Left ostensibly promotes regulation of the market’s excesses and non-market social welfare programs.

Despite this being the key dividing line in American politics and central to most hot-button political issues, the primary labels of the American Left have no fixed meaning on the matter. Liberal and Progressive refer to politicians and intellectuals all over the map on regulating free market capitalism. It is impossible to predict where a modern Liberal or Progressive will fall on bellwether economic issues such as trade unions, social welfare programs, progressive taxation, public schools, etc. Oft-described Liberal and Progressive Bill Clinton deconstructed social welfare programs and championed NAFTA, while similarly described Barack Obama completely abandoned his pre-election promise to trade unions to pass the Employee Free Choice Act and has pushed vigorously for passage of the newest free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement. Yet Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, also frequently referred to as Progressive and Liberal, relentlessly fights free trade agreements and refers to himself as a socialist economically! There exists no label on the mainstream Left that indicates support for restraining free market capitalism; its champions and opponents alike populate the ranks of our Progressives and Liberals.

There is a disastrous consequence to the mainstream Left’s lack of descriptive precision: elected officials routinely attacking the very Leftists and workers who voted them into power. The traditional, racism-fueled American political conundrum involves workers supporting conservative politicians explicitly against their own interests. Our loose terminology creates a different conundrum, politicians who win election based on ostensibly anti-corporate, pro-equality platforms only to betray their working class and Leftist supporters. Electoral politics for Democratic voters today is generally a game of bait-and-switch: Leftist rhetorical bait followed by conservative economic policy.

The effectiveness of this bait-and-switch has fostered the rise of a new class of pseudo-Left, neoliberal charlatans nationwide. Waves of these charlatan politicians continue to ascend, effectively dominating the Democratic Party. The Charlatans generally support liberal social issues, such as formal civil rights (i.e. marriage equality), basic women’s rights (i.e. the right to have an abortion), and racial ‘diversity’ (i.e. formal equality and ‘color-blindness’). However, they break from traditional Leftist economic positions. The Charlatans often scapegoat and battle worker unions, lead the charge in ‘reforming’ and ‘marketizing’ (privatizing) the public school system, and generally advocate supply-side, trickle-down economics in the name of ‘job creation’ and a better ‘business climate’.

The trademark of the Charlatans is to drench everything they do, progressive or conservative, in traditional Leftist rhetoric. They stoke Leftist enthusiasm by breathlessly emphasizing liberal social issues, while quickly glossing over their conservative economic stances with cliché rhetoric. They attack public schools in the name of racial equality and poor, minority students. They defend de facto racial inequality by celebrating token minority representatives amongst the rich and powerful—the act even works best when the Charlatan themselves is a racial minority, their mere presence projected as an inherently Progressive cause (see Barack Obama, Cory Booker, etc). They wage war on the last bastion of the American labor movement, public sector unions, in the name of improving the economy for the poor and unemployed. In sum, the Charlatans are masters of effecting inequality in the name of equality. Lost in the whirlwind of rhetoric, blinded by the shine of liberal social issues, most well-intentioned egalitarians take the bait.

Defining more clearly what it means to be a Progressive or Liberal—the two most popular labels of the mainstream American Left—would go a long way in stopping the Charlatan swindle. Wolves in sheep’s clothing can do no harm if they are spotted at the gates. As long as Leftists articulate mere vague notions of who they are and what they believe, a bit of euphemistic verbal gymnastics will permit politicians of different shapes to squeeze into the mold. If the Left speaks clearly and specifically about what it stands for, no amount of rhetorical flourish will stop those with contrasting politics from being sniffed out. If Leftists define themselves as believing in a robust public education system, no politician could gain their support without explicitly supporting full funding for our public schools. If Leftists define themselves as standing for democracy at work, no politician could gain their support without declaring support for public and private sector worker unions. And so on.

What exactly the definitions are for each term is less important than having any clear definitions and common understanding whatsoever. What it means to be a Progressive or a Liberal is arbitrary—at least I have no interest in debating the history or import of the labels themselves. The goal is to give them any common, fixed meaning and to stop the neo-liberal swindle.

In this spirit, I propose that Liberal be used only in its classic sense, referring only to those who believe in both social and economic liberalism. This implies support for civil rights and belief in the free market capitalist economy. Liberals shall be those who do not believe in perverting the free market. They oppose racist, sexist, and homophobic discrimination (which are all, in the end, extra-market forces). They also oppose trade unions, strong welfare programs, and progressive taxation (also extra-market forces). They preach equality of opportunity, not outcome. They speak a subtle variation of trickle-down economics, advocating improving the ‘business climate’ in the name of growing the economy for all. They advocate for competition in all aspects of society, from the labor market to schools to the healthcare industry.

Progressive should be used for those who believe that the free market must be profoundly restrained to alleviate inequality. Progressives should believe strongly in trade unions as a necessary counterbalance to corporate power. They should advocate taxing the wealthy at much higher rates, nationalization of essential social needs such as education and healthcare, and strong public welfare programs to address poverty. Progressives believe more in equality of outcome than mere equality of opportunity. They do not seek to accommodate wealthy employers, but support more Keynesian direct worker assistance such as higher minimum wage requirement and increased unionization. Progressives do not focus on simply ‘growing the economy’ or ‘job creation’ with faith that this will trickle down to the working class. Instead, they inquire directly to the conditions of the poor and believe it is the role of government to step in with support.

With the terms fixed as such, no politician could claim either label nor win the support of proponents without living up the to clear criteria. Liberal and Progressive could no longer be used interchangeably or meaninglessly. Most tangibly, with clear lines drawn for those who do and do not believe in regulating the excesses of free market capitalism, the ascendant Charlatans could no longer use lofty, vague, and disingenuous rhetoric to win the support of Progressives who believe in regulating the ugly excesses of the free market. Genuine Progressives could more easily identify the Charlatans as the neoliberal corporate lackeys which they are, and seek sincerely Progressive alternatives.

Socialists will make the noteworthy quibbles that they already possess a perfectly lucid label for the Left (Socialist) and that neither Progressives nor Liberals represent a genuine anti-capitalist Left. They may very well be correct on both accounts, but there is utility nonetheless for Progressives and Socialists alike who are engaged in real political struggle in encouraging a more coherent Progressive movement.

The political crisis of treacherous, charlatan politicians on the Left is obviously the result of much more than imprecise language. Lack of organizational unity, more than anything, causes the crisis. This disorganization is likely the root of the confused language as well. Yet, as Orwell stated in his call for clear political language seventy years ago, “an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely.” Those who consider themselves Progressives should demand clarity whenever and wherever either term is used. Until we think and speak more clearly, the Charlatans will continue to deceive, Liberals will continue to co-opt Progressives, and a society based on Progressive values will become further and further from reality.

Andrew Tillett-Saks is an organizer with UNITE HERE Local 217. He can be reached at: atillett-saks (at) unitehere.org. Twitter: @AndrewTSaks.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/07/25/defining-progressive-and-spotting/
Record-low US primary voting shows mass alienation from two-party system
29 Jul 2014
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World Socialist Web Site
29 July 2014

A report issued last week tabulating the results of the first 25 statewide primary elections held in the United States this year found that voter turnout was the lowest in history, at least since the primary system became the norm after the Second World War.

Only 14.8 percent of eligible citizens have voted in the primaries held so far, a decline of 3.5 percentage points from the turnout in the same 25 states in 2010. This is less than half the postwar record turnout of 31.9 percent set in 1966.

In raw figures, the mass abstention is even more staggering. Of the 122.7 million citizens eligible to vote in the first 25 primaries this year, only 18.2 million actually went to the polls, while 104.5 million declined to participate in choosing Democratic and Republican nominees for the November 4 election.

Given the enormous media coverage of the primary campaigns and the record expenditures by both parties and a myriad of corporate-financed groups established to influence the outcome of the voting, the mass abstention is a stark reflection of the disillusionment and alienation of the broad mass of working people from the American two-party system.

Curtis Gans, director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate (CSAE) at American University and author of the report, made observations along this line in his analysis of the figures.

He wrote: “Many decades ago citizens turned out to vote out of a sense of civic duty and because of an allegiance to one or other major party. That motivation has largely been lost. The numbers in this report reflect how deeply citizens are turning away from political engagement and from positive feeling about one or another major political party.”

The CSAE report documents the obstacles to popular participation in elections, including voter registration procedures so cumbersome that 61 million eligible citizens are not registered and therefore cannot vote. To this could be added the exclusion of former prisoners from the voter rolls in many states, particularly in the South, and the spread of laws requiring photo IDs, enacted to reduce the percentage of voting by the poor, who have greater difficulty obtaining the necessary identification.

However, Gans noted that a slew of procedural measures established to make voting easier, including same-day registration, expanded mail-in voting, and early voting, showed no long-term effect. California, where two-thirds of the votes are cast by mail, and Oregon, which is entirely a mail-in procedure, both posted record low primary voting.

He concluded: “The core problem of participation does not reside in the realm of procedure, but rather in motivation. Contributing factors to the decline in motivation are not hard to find: campaigns that are run on scurrilous attack ads that give the citizen a perceived choice between bad and awful; one major party situated far to the right of the American center and the other without a clear and durable message; a decline in faith that government will address major societal need…”

This considerably understates the nature of the political dilemma confronting working people. It is not just the Republican Party that is “situated far to the right” but the Democratic Party as well.

Both parties adhere to the political consensus prevailing within the financial aristocracy, supporting imperialist war, attacks on democratic rights, and savage austerity measures that undermine working class living standards and public services. They seek to obscure the political monopoly exercised by corporate America with conflicts over secondary and tertiary issues, or by whipping up divisions along the lines of race, gender, sexual orientation and religion to conceal the fundamental class questions.

The figures presented in the CSAE report are worth considering in some detail, since they demonstrate that the great mass of the American people have become so alienated from the two-party system, and particularly the Democratic Party, that there exists an enormous political vacuum in the country.

Of the 25 states holding primary elections prior to mid-July, 15 showed record low overall voter turnouts. Only three showed an increase in turnout from 2010 to 2014. Democratic turnout was higher in only four states, while Republican turnout was higher in six states. Democratic Party turnout hit record lows in 15 of the 25 states.

Republican primary turnout, at 8.2 percent of eligible voters, was down from the 2010 level of 9.6 percent, but only slightly below the average of 13 midterm elections over the last half-century, where the average Republican primary turnout was 8.9 percent.

The historical decline is thus in large measure due to declining participation in Democratic Party primaries—significant because for decades the Democratic Party was the main vehicle for the subordination of the working class to capitalist politics, with the AFL-CIO unions peddling illusions that Democratic candidates were “friends of labor.”

Popular participation in Democratic Party midterm election primaries hit its post-World War II high in 1970—a year of mass antiwar activity and popular radicalization that the unions and organizations such as the Communist Party and Socialist Workers Party sought to divert behind supposedly antiwar candidates within the Democratic Party. This culminated in the 1972 presidential campaign of George McGovern.

In 1970, 20.9 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in Democratic Party primaries. This year, that figure is down to only 6.4 percent of eligible voters. In other words, popular participation in Democratic midterm primaries has fallen by 70 percent over the past 44 years. Participation in Republican midterm primaries has fallen by 38 percent over the same period.

Voter participation in Democratic primaries has fallen for 11 consecutive midterm elections, from 1974 to 2014. (Because voter participation is generally much higher in presidential years like 2008 and 2012 than in non-presidential years like 2006 and 2010, the study compares 2014 only with other “midterm” elections, when only congressional and state offices are on the ballot).

The experience of the Obama administration represents a definite turning point in this long-term process of decline. Democratic turnout increased significantly in both the 2006 congressional elections and the 2008 presidential election, with record numbers of black and other minority workers going to the polls.

But whatever the initial illusions that the first African-American president would produce a positive change in the conditions of life for working people, the right-wing, pro-Wall Street record of the Obama administration has produced a historically unprecedented collapse in popular support for the Democratic Party, culminating in a 29 percent decline in participation in Democratic mid-term primary elections between 2010 and 2014.

The figures presented in the CSAE report strongly suggest that millions of working people are fed up with the Democratic Party and are looking for an alternative to oppose the reactionary policies of the financial oligarchy promoted by both the Democrats and Republicans.


http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/07/29/prim-j29.html
Some Democrats haven’t noticed that the next election is this year, not 2016
29 Jul 2014
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Dreamy footsoldiers of the Left

ELECTION fever grips the American Left. A mood of scrappy, let-us-at-’em impatience unites such gatherings as Netroots Nation, an annual shindig which this year drew thousands of activists, organisers, bloggers and candidates to Detroit from July 17th-19th. Unfortunately for the broader Democratic Party, the election that inspires the grassroots is the 2016 presidential race. The mid-term congressional elections, which will happen much sooner (in November this year), provoke a more muted response, even though there is a good chance that Republicans will seize the Senate and cripple the rest of Barack Obama’s presidency.

The kind of people who attend Netroots Nation are passionately and uncompromisingly left wing. Their champion is Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a former professor who crusades against “big banks”, “powerful corporations” and their enablers on the Right. “The game is rigged,” thundered Ms Warren, whose demands include more generous Social Security benefits (pensions) for the old (paid for with steep tax hikes), cheaper student loans, a higher minimum wage and other forms of redistribution. Not for her the business-friendly centrism of the Clinton clan. Hillary Clinton did not attend Netroots Nation, instead giving a TV interview in which she suggested that a bit of economic growth might make it easier to curb inequality

Sweet dreams are made of this

Ms Warren’s warm-up act was Gary Peters, a local congressman who, unlike Ms Warren, is running for election this year. Mr Peters, a moderate ex-banker, is trying to win a Senate seat that Democrats desperately need to win but might not. He could use some grassroots support, but the crowd barely noticed him. They were too happy chanting “Run Liz, Run!” or waving “Elizabeth Warren for President” boater-style hats (“they’re fun, they’re old-timey,” said a hipster handing them out). Ms Warren says she is not running for the White House. No matter. Some 100 days from an election that could condemn Mr Obama to near-impotence, some progressives prefer to daydream about President Warren, “who won’t stand for all the Wall Street bullshit”, to quote a new (endearingly terrible) folk song by her supporters.

The Democrats’ footsoldiers can ill afford to daydream in 2014. Even as digital technology transforms elections, recent research shows that flesh-and-blood volunteers tend to trump paid advertising. Candidates need supporters to sway their friends and neighbours. This “ground war” is most crucial, for both sides, in the half-dozen swing states where Senate races could go either way. The trouble is, these states are quite conservative. So the Democrats running for office there often have views on guns, coal or fracking that appal progressives, who are therefore reluctant to knock on doors for them.

Like the Republicans with their Tea Party zealots, the Left must choose between purity and pragmatism. MoveOn, a lefty campaign behemoth which claims 8m members, has endorsed only nine Senate candidates so far in this election cycle, conspicuously excluding centrists in tight races in Georgia, Kentucky and Louisiana. The group will “sit out” some races; its members have drawn a “bright line” against endorsing senators who voted against increased background checks for gun-owners, for instance. In 2014 that rules out Mark Begich in Alaska and Mark Pryor in Arkansas.

Another group, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), whose members raised over $2.7m for 2012 candidates, calls itself “the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party”. Its leaders can sound Tea Party-ish, declaring that “ideology” matters as much as finding candidates who can win. The PCCC has invested in such hopeless causes as the Senate race in South Dakota to demonstrate the power of “anti-corporate” messages delivered by the Democratic candidate there. Several leftish groups think the mid-terms are a chance to show that economic populism is the best way to woo unhappy voters, nationwide.

Yet Tea Party parallels are imperfect. Flinty conservatives often scoff that moderate Republicans are no better than Democrats. Progressives are different: many think that Republicans are wicked. That pushes their leaders, at least, towards pragmatism. “We may have to compromise on some things [to beat the Republicans],” says a boss at Democracy For America (DFA), a group founded by Howard Dean, a former Vermont governor and presidential hopeful who claimed to represent “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party”. Take Alaska’s embattled senator. To DFA, Mr Begich has been “terrible” on oil and gas and “not good” on guns. But he is “fantastic” on inequality. In Louisiana local DFA members are holding their noses and helping a pro-oil Democrat, Senator Mary Landrieu. Ultimately, DFA vows to be “all over” any race that might decide the fate of the Senate. Should Democrats lose in 2014, blame candidates “who didn’t run on expanding Social Security or [raising] the minimum wage,” insists Charles Chamberlain, DFA’s executive director.

Both DFA and the PCCC plan to use digital wizardry to help members place campaign calls to districts across the country: a nifty trick in places where members despise their own party’s local candidates. MoveOn tells activists that saving the Senate is the “most important priority” of 2014, reminding them that Mr Obama’s ability to nominate judges is in the balance. Over on the centre-ground, Ready for Hillary, a group working to rally a volunteer army for Mrs Clinton’s use (should she choose to run in 2016), will “amplify” any 2014 endorsements made by their heroine, instantly urging supporters to lend a hand to that campaign.

On current showing, many will ignore such calls to arms in 2014. Despair with Mr Obama and this Congress may be part of the explanation. Progressive footsoldiers are waiting for the scrap that really interests them: a fight to drag the Democratic Party leftwards to victory in 2016. Republicans, who have plenty of problems of their own, cannot believe their luck.


http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21608759-some-democrats-have
The America That Won't Be
30 Jul 2014
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We Could of Had it All?

“The trick of the reformer is to act as if the values espoused are happening in reality, but leave them as only words. Radicals know, values are more than words, they involve action and sticking to principle.”

On some random day about a year ago I was listening to Adele’s song “Rolling in the Deep”, and I had a very odd, disconcerting thought. It is a thought too long neglected; a thought about hypocrisies in the twilight days of the American Republic, at the moment where the road diverges and a decision must be made about which road to travel. The status quo is trembling as it sputters out. The social contract, which was effectively the class struggle fought to a stalemate entering the post-World War II period and maintained with the threat of communism, has been used to wipe the asses of every politician, bureaucrat and business tycoon making it, effectively, nothing more than a feces covered rag. Forces of reaction and crude, sadistic individualism are mounting the final counter-offensive, ready to be the ones to decide whether or not we should incite World War III and make explicit the neo-feudal private tyrannies that have captured all apparatuses of democratic control over the economic system. And so I sat there with my thought.

The thought snuck into to my head right at the time when Adele sings, “We could’ve had it all”. The thought really had nothing to do with the song, although maybe in a roundabout way I feel like a scorned lover; as I think we all must feel, especially in the millennial generation. Thoughts are weird in that way, they pop up unexpectedly from random stimuli. The thought could really do without most of the song, but while I listened to the chorus I imagined a few words to add to the song as they continued repeating in my head, “But, we won’t be that America.” We could’ve been, but we won’t be. We should’ve been, but decided not to be. Maybe using “we” is a bit harsh, because “we” acts as if some abstract collective made the decision, instead of the powerful, the plutocratic elites. If a “we”, the people, were to make the decision, the country would already be going down a road less traveled.

Either way, what the hell is “that America”? It is the America that could’ve been, but won’t be; a collective democratic fantasy of a more just world done in by reality and our own denial of each other’s ability to produce that world. For we must remember, that while there are oppressors and dominators, the people themselves clamor for their enslavement and distrust each other. Not only do those at the top dictate, but those on bottom follow their marching orders, sometimes with zealous glee. Voltaire’s aversion to the masses may be founded on proper judgment about their mob insanity when whipped up into idiotic fervor due to their enforced ignorance, both by their own hands and the hands of the powerful. America the myth will be done in by what will be recorded as a ludicrous act of suicide.

The America committing suicide is the America I dreamed about when I was a little shit sitting at a desk in elementary school; America the transcendent; America the land of justice, liberty, and equality; America the place where difference is not just tolerated, but celebrated; America the land of peace; America the land of economic satisfaction for all; America, America, America! It was an America based in a myth, a fantasy handed to us children leading us astray from any critical analysis of America as it is. But, it was also a way for society to state its idealistic values, no matter how dissimulated those values became in action. The America that could’ve been is upheld in certain values espoused, yet is wholly unachieved in the real world; because of this, we will always be the America that won’t be, instead of the America that could’ve been.

Unbeknownst to me when I was a little tyke, the values were already fucked even when we called this place America. For we named a place inhabited prior to conquest, not after what it was called by those who were disappeared through one of history’s most genocidal acts. No, instead we, the Europeans and their descendants, proclaimed it to be America during conquest and forever after. The values were already dilapidated the moment the first slave stepped foot on these shores, the second genocidal act, shored up through the creation of whiteness and the bitter hierarchizing of races and ethnicities to create privilege and its subsequent racist intuitional and institutionalized logic. The values were always just idealistic propositions, normative suppositions eaten up by every citizen and in many cases propaganda to strengthen support for revolution and the subsequent nation-state.

The thought only makes sense if you don’t look back to history and see better times. Reactionaries and conservatives beware, because this diatribe is not for those who wish to return or the perpetually fearful of change. The problem, the fucking problem, is that most of the people out there on the street don’t have a damn clue what their connection to history is. Seriously, ask them, just dare to ask them about the Spanish Civil War, the Lowell strikes, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, or any other great moment in popular struggle. Beyond the most likely surprised look representing a “WTF” moment at being asked to know something about history, they will have only silence to offer.

The damned seismic alarm is going off, it’s blaring at its highest octave. Today is the day to discuss the trash heap of history we never seem to deal with; today is the day to talk about progress and its resolute failure; today is the day to talk of tragedy and the farce ahead of us; non-linear history as the battering ram against the false idea of perpetual betterment without conscious action to make it so. And so I write as an act of love for my childhood vision of America, for the virtues I felt then and continue to feel now are noble. I write out of desperation and hope, in comitragic irony, because the America that won’t be is the America that should be.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/07/30/the-america-that-wont-be/