Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Why the Republicans Are in a Panic Over the Rise of Trump

Republican spokesmen David Brooks & Peter Wehner, as well as mouthpieces The National Review  and Commentary have condemned Donald Trump in the strongest terms, while GOP politicians like Mitt Romney and Lindsay Graham are trying to take measures to insure that he is not the party’s nominee, but there is precious little explanation for their panic in terms of the real power structure in this country.

If we consider the relationship between Republicans and their financial support, their existential fear of Trump becomes clearer. But first, we have to acknowledge that real power in this country has increasingly become concentrated in the "deep state," the defense industry, the big corporations and the big banks and financial interests. These entities have supplied the greatest share of financing to both parties, but especially the Republicans, so that no law or reform, no matter how popular, has a chance of being implemented if it impairs the interests (read the bottom line) of these huge financial sources—think of single-payer health care and the conventional wisdom that it was “impossible” to put into effect, despite its overwhelming popularity.

This power structure has been in effect a long time—C. Wright Mills already described it in 1956—but it so overwhelming today, boosted by the Citizens United decision, that we can no longer consider the United States to be a popular democracy.

The white working class have been the biggest losers in the evolution of the US economy towards extreme inequality, runaway industries, and the financialization of essential social institutions, including education and health care. Yet the Republican party has until now been able to convince this large group that they best represent their interests by embracing the so-called “values” issues—male power (“right to life”), gun rights, anti-immigration, lower taxes for all, small government to encourage freedom and entrepreneurship—while actually advancing the interests of the “deep state,” which is the same as the superwealthy. This was always a deceptive confidence game, so it couldn’t last forever, and now Trump has exposed its fraudulence.

Trump is running supposedly without the financial support of the deep state actors, and he is attracting white working class support with his vague, throwaway promises and tough-guy trash talk against perceived threats, such as immigrants and Muslims. But Trump threatens the bond between the Republicans and their money sources: he doesn’t need them himself (so he says), and he removes popular support from Establishment Republicans, making them less useful to their heretofore patrons in the real deep state power structure.

So Trump could let the financial air out of the Republican party, exposing them as the party of the superrich, full stop, with nothing of substance for their historical base. They would then be incapable of winning elections, therefore useless to these interests.

So the Republicans see Trump as the author of the handwriting on the wall—they’ve come to the end of their power trip—and just when they’re at the apex of their governmental power, with a majority of governorships, statehouses, and both houses of Congress. They are manifesting the panic of the condemned, the drowning, those about to be left behind by “history.”

So the deep state actors, the 0.1 percent, the neo-liberals, the globalizers, privatizers, defense contractors, banksters and obscenely overpaid CEOs, would then logically transfer their support to the Democrats, a more effective conduit of popular legitimacy, and already pretty much in their pocket—certainly Hillary is! It’s the perfect time for the rise of third party, one that represents true democratic interests. Bernie is, of course, the closest thing we have to this right now—and he beats Trump by 15 percentage points to Hillary’s 10, according to today’s Times. This is the judgment of the independents, those who trust neither party.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Bernie vs. Hillary & the "Deep State"

My two wonderful daughters have had a spirited email debate over Bernie vs. Hillary. Forgive my paternal pride at reading their articulate analyses. But I felt compelled to give my root reasons why I support Bernie:

Dear Nora & Molly,

    Hillary was certainly there in the corridors of power when she was first lady. She’s gone on to acquire even more experience, and she is brilliant at it, a great communicator. And it’s also true that the special burden of her gender may have compelled her to triangulate more than a man might have had to. If Democrats have to prove how tough they are in wielding our hypertrophied Defense establishment against the threats, real and imagined, in the world, a woman has to be even more demonstrative about it. I almost forgive Hillary for voting for the Iraq war, along with all but 22 Senators (Senator Byrd’s “Honor Roll” in the movie about it).

    But also, being part of Bill Clinton’s “New” Democratic party shift to the corporate right, she ended up on the wrong side of many issues during the 90s. But the redefinition of our political parties during that time, essentially validating the Reagan “revolution”—namely the financialization of our society, the promotion of “market fundamentalism,” the erroneous idea that markets are self-regulating and that less government regulation is better (a fundamental Koch Brothers article of faith)—marked a terrible watershed in our economic and social history. She was part of this revolution, and she is deeply embedded in Establishment politics. This means that she is deeply indebted to the corporate forces that have been taking over American society, culture and the economy at increasing speed since Reagan’s presidency, forces that push for privatization (in education, infrastructure, prisons) with disastrous results, that set up the models for our humanistic institutions such as universities to emulate, with very harmful results as well.

    Bill Clinton’s move to the right was a way of getting in on the bonanza of corporate money, that was already flooding the political arena before Citizens United. So basically, the Republicans won; the “New” Democrats, led by Bill Clinton, went over to their side, but while winning the economic argument, they also lost ground politically, since they were no longer the only corporate party any more. So they had to become even more extreme in their ideas, while trying to subvert the day-to-day functioning of Congress (holding hearings and keeping the secret from Democratic members of committees—this is the 90s, as documented in The Wrecking Crew by Thomas Frank). Then they stole two elections for Bush (now well documented), got us into that horrendous, unnecessary and wasteful war—which profited Bush’s cronies in the Defense industry enormously.

    So we’re at a point now where due to the Republicans’ deliberate actions, the Congress has been rendered impotent. This is NOT the way the system is meant to function, Nora. It is designed for compromise and NOT gridlock. Gridlock is technique being used by Republicans to undermine Americans’ faith in their government in order (1) to get them to participate less and (2) to believe that private corporations should handle hitherto public functions—a recipe for disaster. This is cynical and even treasonous, certainly anti-Constitutional.

    We have, though, a situation in which the real power in this country resides primarily not with elected officials, but with the operatives of the “Deep State.” This is a loose group of defense contractors, corporate CEOs, military brass, big banks, and the Israel Lobby (AIPAC and Adelson), who determine policy by paying for it, that is, buying politicians, and who have taken over many state governments (through ALEC), and whose aim is simply to transfer money from the public purse, the Treasury, into their coffers. This is the naked function of war, of “quantitative easing” (money transfers to banks, given freely), of deregulation (no more fines for murderous pollution—see Koch brothers’ history), of the $3+billion/year support for Israel (which goes to buy US-made armaments and security systems). See The Deep State by Mike Lofgren, former Congressional aid to John Kasich, when he was a congressman from Ohio.

    And then there’s the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the one area where Obama and the Republicans are on the same side, and which is getting NO exposure in the US press. This would transfer sovereignty over matters such as wages, environmental regulation, and safety standards to global corporations, whose decisions would supersede those of our elected representatives. It’s a corporate giveaway of sovereignty; it’s scandalous; it’s frightening. Bernie talks about it. Does Hillary?

    So where are Hillary and Bernie in all this? Hillary takes laudably liberal positions on a host of issues, most of them social. Then she talks about living in the real world. To me this is code for living within the cramped ambit of power that’s left to our elected politicians by the purveyors of the Deep State. But if we do this, we’ll be bankrupt; we won’t have the resources to take care of our general needs. Unless these forces are reigned in, they’ll simply squeeze us dry with military adventures and sexy hardware, and bank giveaways. Bernie knows this, talks about it. Even if elected, he’d be up against huge odds to be able to get them under control and assert the Constitutional power of the People once again, a power which is now in serious remission. They might try to assassinate him, as they did JFK (a different configuration of Deep State, but some of the same players are involved—viz. military & CIA).

    Now I know that history doesn’t play out as neatly as our fantasies or fears would have it. If any Democrat is elected President, we’ll finally have a rational balance on the Supreme Court, which will correct the corporate tilt we’ve had to endure for several decades now. The Republicans are reaping their whirlwind—by cultivating their lunatic fringe they’ve created a monster who no longer needs them. I’m still astonised at the number of nominally rational people who are “ethnically” Republicans who still think they’re dealing with old-style Bob Dole-Nelson Rockefellar-Herald Tribune Republicans. They’re extinct. The GOP fears that if Trump is nominated the Deep State corporate moneybags may not need them any more, and then Hillary would be the ideal recipient of their largesse—and we’d still be in the situation we are now, with slightly different social-issue tuning.

    Could we survive a Hillary presidency? Probably. With her in office, other forces might be unleashed that would take on the Deep State, but they will not originate from her. She might join them belatedly.
    But if Bernie is elected, he’d lead the charge to return to Constitutional democracy, and this is desperately what we need.