Friday, July 29, 2016

Hillary Born Again as Tax Wall Street Progressive?

     The Bernie Sanders movement, inheritor of the Occupy Movement, has done its work. Hillary Clinton had no place else to go other than to embrace their agenda and come out against the power of Wall Street, and the terrible march of inequality, accelerated since the 2008 Crash, thereby putting her at odds with some of her most important backers, and possibly the Democratic Party establishment. Is this a real rebirth? Is there really a New Hillary (remember the New Nixon?)?
    When she posed the rhetorical question last night of who will pay for free college tuition, she quickly answered that she would tax the wealthy, the corporations, making them pay "their fair share." This is Bernie's position, but she had nowhere else to go. She just couldn't avoid the issues of inequality, of corporate dominance, of the exploitation and suffering of students, agonizing under mountains of debt, their lives and productivity lashed to the voracious banksters. I wonder what these same financial interests thought they'd get for their investment in her campaign.
     But these issues have been out in the open at least since the Occupy Movement, and this is arguably their first tangible positive fruit: their embrace by a major candidate in a Presidential race. If Hillary has been calculating and opportunistic in the past, if she's felt she had to prove her military mettle, if she's relied too much for her appeal on her humanistic empathy for suffering mothers and children, then she moved towards expanding this last night in her acceptance speech. She obviously gets it; the question is, will she sustain it? Will she survive a position that disciplines her financial backers, who are so used to buying political power and corrupting it in their short-term favor?
     Given the unthinkable alternative in Trump, can she appeal to their better angels, evince their suppressed altruism, turn them into allies, as Roosevelt had allies in the banking industry, like Chase president Winthrop Aldrich (1885-1974), but who have only existed since Bill Clinton's time as the dominant partners in the alliance (see Nomi Prins's book All the President's Bankers)?
    No President or Presidential candidate has survived since Roosevelt who has taken this position, one which challenges the power of Deep State actors, the ones, in this case, who control the financial resources of the country, who until now, have been able to get the President to bail them out when their gambles went south, while stiffing the masses of mortgage holders. So Hillary runs a real risk of being violently removed from office, should she win and try to make good on these new promises.
     Yet these same Deep State actors cannot very well support Donald Trump, a breathtakingly ignorant and unprepared candidate, with a discredited financial past, whose only strength is his threatening bluster (one wonders how he's been able to enlist so many people in his support—another symptom of the failure of our education system?) Will they finally realize that the pendulum is swinging back, that their party is over? Or will some of them try to bring Hillary back into the establishment fold, where Obama still sits, funneling them money?

Democratic National Convention in Philly—

Democratic National Convention

    The fervor for Bernie was messianic in Philadelphia on the two days I was there, Sunday and Monday, July 24 and 25. The devoted crowd of supporters saw him as the savior of the corrupted US political system and the presumed “party of the people,” the Democrats, which had long gone over to the side of money. Hillary embodied this corruption in their eyes, and she had assumed diabolic proportions. Signs proposed she be indicted and sent to jail—not much different from the Republican outcries.
    On the other hand there was a giant genial walking puppet representing Bernie that seemed to offer reassurance of beatific protection as people marched in support. Along the route and in FDR park that was reserved for the protesters button and t-shirt hawkers offered an array of designs, including what had seemed to become his icon: square glasses and tousled white hair. I later discovered this on a stamped-out styrofoam slab.

 The genial puppet

 The Revolutionary Communist sign

 Corporate American Flag (published by Adbusters)

 There were many protests against rigged elections.

 The Bernie March Sunday passes in front of Philly's City Hall

 A second Bernie puppet—holding a pitchfork, a potent symbol of popular discontent in the march.

 Dead donkey logo

 Philadelphia opened fire plugs with spray heads all along the march—they were very welcoming.

 Code Pink marcher, Taos, NM, resident, artist-therapist, Josie Lenwell

 The Code Pink contingent in the march

 Lawyer and figure skating teacher, NYC resident, Marni Halasa—with wings

 Bernie as Che Guevara

 The puppet in repose in FDR Park, where the march ended up

    When Bernie graciously conceded Monday night and called for nomination by acclamation on Tuesday, many of his devotees felt betrayed and refused to give up their opposition to Hillary. His cult had taken on a life of its own.
    Now, I have been an ardent Bernie supporter since before he declared his candidacy. I too saw him as the antidote to the corruption of the Democratic party and of the political system as a whole in this country, whose consequences have been the destruction of the middle class and obscene levels of inequality, along with the shameless exploitation of students, and the diversion of universities from their traditional roles as incubators of independent thought to mere training grounds for corporate cadres. Similar critiques could be leveled at the criminal justice system and the health care and pharmaceutical industries. And despite Hillary’s strong humanitarian credentials she has too opportunistically embraced the adventurism of our military-industrial establishment, and the agenda of our financial industry. One wonders where the real Hillary was, after her decades-long quest to shore up her policy credentials in a male-dominated, even macho domain, and accepting large-scale contributions from these industries.
    Now she’s accepted the platform and policy imperatives from the Bernie camp, and hubby Bill has given his fetching account of her idealistic efforts for humanitarian causes, but are we expected to believe she’d turn against her banker supporters, that she’d break with her military allies? Will she actually rip political power away from those who’ve bought and paid for it, and return it to the People—just because it says so in the Constitution?
    Trump, meanwhile, promises single-handedly to solve all the problems of the dispossessed working class without bothering with Constitutional niceties—and the fearful, ignorant, resentful, hate-filled yeomanry believe him.
    Much is riding on Hillary’s speech accepting the nomination. How much will she confess to? Her mistakes in judgment (viz. Iraq)? Her overweening ambition? Her support from the most corrupting agents of our post-Citizens United political system? She has a lot to answer for.
    But she must win over the majority of Bernie supporters; she must make a strong case that she is returning the Democratic party to its Rooseveltian roots (was FDR an aberration?) and will change its course, from that of servant of the Deep State to that of agent of the Popular Will. Our problems have festered, growing to immense proportions, as the Republicans have paralyzed the legislation process and refused all new taxes. Can police departments really be reformed without federal money? The prison-industrial complex? Our collapsing infrastructure? The short-sighted immorality of student debt as a profit center for bond holders?
    This is a tall order: to reverse the direction of US politics and risk losing the support of corporate money for the Democratic Party—just when that money was turning away from the Republicans out of their nomination of Trump. Where will it go then? She could evoke powerful covert resistance from her erstwhile bankrollers in order to stand for the relatively powerless multitudes—although Bernie proved that they can finance an election (or at least a primary) campaign. Of course, she sees this, and appearing to do it is her only path to victory. But it will require stepping into the shoes of one who was taken for the political messiah, out of his unwavering determination to refuse to give in to those forces, never having been a creature of them in the first place.
    But Hillary is. One disadvantage she has is that she’s been around so long. In a sense, her run for the Presidency is like a comeback after the constitutionally limited two terms in office. The wisdom of that limitation, in a cynical view, is that after eight years a politician has been so compromised by corporate interests that the voters can no longer believe his promises. And the only President to have exceeded that limit was the one who “betrayed his class,” stuck it to those corporate interests, and earned their enmity to the point that their effort to reverse the New Deal has now about come to its 40-year fruition—FDR. No other President since then has tried—or has survived in office long enough to do so.
    By staying around so long, the forces opposing her—and demonizing her—have grown to immense proportions, on both the right and left. Her only path is to appear to have become a New Hillary (remember the New Nixon? it was an illusion). She must both drawn on her very real credentials as a supporter of women’s, children’s and family issues, but she must address the macro-economic tendencies that have favored wealth over democracy, education, long-term health, and even—with the mushrooming of the surveillance state—freedom itself. She must step into Bernie’s shoes and assume the mantle of the Occupy Movement.
    The very political and economic soul of America is at stake—and our future—much more than just electing the first woman, although maybe it will take a woman of Hillary’s breadth, intelligence and character to accomplish this.

 World Can't Wait banner in front of Arch St. United Methodist Church

 Painted mask portraits of victims of drone strikes and police violence

 WCW member Samantha Goldberg hands out our anti-war flyers

 One of the panels of the painted masks

 WCW's drone model—one of three

 The evangelist barker with signs

 His confrontation with the Revolutionary Communist phalanx

 Revolutionary Communist line

 Immigrant rights marchers

 Part of the display in the Methodist Church sanctuary

 Reply to Trump

 (Queen) Hillary impersonator—note vulture on shoulder and bats coming out of hair

 Part of Revolutionary Communist line in front of City Hall

 Puerto Rican liberation partisan in front of City Hall

 Statue of former Philly mayor, the murderous Frank Rizzo (1972-80)

 The wonderful dancing fountains on the west side of City Hall

Bernie & me

     As if to remind us what messianic zealots look like, I witnessed a bizarre encounter Monday, while I was handing out anti-war leaflets with World Can't Wait in front of the Arch Street United Methodist Church, right across from the beautiful renaissance City Hall. Around the corner came a contingent of fundamentalist evangelists, bearing 3-part white-on-black signs strapped to their backs with a stick, shooting 10 feet into the air, quoting scriptural exhortations to repent and come to Jesus. Their spokesperson, a bearded man in his 30s, ranted his damning message through a headset-mounted mic into a bullhorn: every other religion was false and a path to hell. His favorite word was "abomination." He reserved special vitriol for the Pope ("The Pope should go back to hell where he belongs") and for our Methodist Church, who had set up both their sanctuary and a spacious side room for protesters to rest and recharge.
    But then, from the other direction (the City Hall side of the sidewalk), up marched a phalanx of Bob Avakian's followers, the Revolutionary Communists, all wearing the same orange and black flaming t-shirt, which read "Real Revolution." They lined up in front of the door to the church, as if to protect it, while their leader, speaking into a much smaller bullhorn, tried to respond to the evangelist spewing damnation, but was being drowned out. When the exchange moved to the subject of abortion, one of the Communist marchers whispered "mic check" to their leader, who then changed his tactic to the Occupy's People's Microphone. The Communist line then began chorusing "Abortion is not murder" and "a foetus is not a baby" and almost drowning out the evangelist's "abortion is murder" shouts.
     As they spoke over each other, I had a musical epiphany: this cacaphony should be formalized into a vocal fugue à la Frank Loesser's "Fugue for Tinhorns" that opens Guys and Dolls, in a yet-to-be-written musical of this convention.
     I videoed 3 minutes of it, which you can see here on YouTube.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Political Parties or Election Agencies

   On his call-in show this morning on WNYC Brian Lehrer asked anti-Trump Republicans to call. One woman from Sparta, NJ, complained that she was on the verge of voting for Hillary, until Hillary embraced Debbie Wasserman-Schultz after the email scandal this past Monday forced her to resign as chair of the National Democratic Party, and then rehired her on her own campaign. So Hillary was apparently oblivious to Wasserman-Schultz's moral dereliction and the fact that many people—including Republicans who couldn't stomach Trump—were watching her, trying to convince themselves to vote for her despite her reputation of moral wobbliness and political opportunism.

    Huh? Where does Hillary get this monumental insensitivity? Indelicacy? Sense of entitlement? OK, so last night Obama said that our system isn't perfect, but isn’t that just a sop to get people to overlook what bothers them? Are the establishment politicos really listening?

    Too much complacency! If we had a parliamentary system with multiple parties that were more homogeneous on issues, and regimes had to be formed via compromises and negotiating, we’d be a lot closer to the will of the people. As it is the Dems and GOP are less parties than they are election agencies, the places to go for wealthy interests who want to influence policy with money. So the public face of these agencies becomes one of a bloated, complacent boss (cf. Tweed)—and this is what we have to choose from?

    The third parties—Libertarian and Green—are going to see a bump this election season.