Assessing Elections- Panel Discussion

by Cliff DuRand, Susan Goldman, Ken Rowland, and Carl Davidson 

ASSESSING THE U.S. MID-TERM ELECTIONS, 2010

What happened in the mid-term elections in the U.S. and why? What are the lessons we should take away from them? This was the topic of a public forum the Center for Global Justice held on November 22, 2010.

Only a day after the midterm elections, the U.S. media quickly coalesced around a narrative, accepted by everyone in the political establishment, that the victory of the Republican Party was a popular repudiation of the supposedly left-wing policies of the Obama administration.

Few have ventured this alternative narrative: after coming to power by posing as the tribune of “hope” and “change you can believe in,” Obama, through his pro-corporate and pro-war policies, has succeeded in alienating and politically demoralizing large sections of the population that had voted for him. Disillusioned, on election day they stayed home in droves.

These competing interpretations lead to very different views of how to move ahead from here. In his press conference the next day, Obama himself adopted the first analysis, pledging to work closely with the Republican Party, find some compromise on tax cuts for the wealthy, and improve his relations with corporate America. Progressives, on the other hand, conclude that Obama and the Democratic Party needs to take up the fight to oppose the lies and obstruction by championing real change that will meet the economic needs of the middle and lower classes.

Here are three of the presentations given at the forum by Cliff DuRand, co-founder of the Center for Global Justice, Susan Goldman, retired mental health nurse, and Ken Rowland, former chair of Democrats Abroad Voter Registration.

 

Campaign 2010 and Class War

By Cliff DuRand

It was just two years ago that our hearts soared when President-elect Obama gave his victory speech in Grant Park. After eight dark years our hopes were buoyed for changes that would address the nation’s deep problems and return a sense of pride in being an American. And on January 20 we wept with joy as we inaugurated our first Black president.

To understand what went wrong we need to look at the very different reaction of another group, the very rich, the plutocrats who had prospered beyond their wildest dreams under previous administrations. They looked upon this new, young, charismatic president with fear and trembling. They saw a man at the head of a massive popular progressive movement that, in the midst of a systemic crisis, could bring about the “wrong” kind of change, change that might narrow the income differences between them and a declining “middle class,” change that might punish the bankers and those on Wall Street who had caused the crisis by their reckless gambling, change that might even nationalize the banks so they could be made to serve the public rather than private interests. And even though from Day One President Obama continued the same bank-friendly bailout program begun in the waning days of the Bush administration and surrounded himself with Wall Street insiders, they were not reassured. Because what was at the root of their fears was his base. Those massive popular forces that had elected him had the potential to demand progressive changes that would reverse the relentless move to the Right during previous decades. They might even force their president to go farther than he intended. An awakened, mobilized populous is a dangerous thing, dangerous to the plutocrats.

And so, they launched a preemptive class war against the new president. They sought to block him at every turn, they hoarded the bailout money rather than release it as credit into the productive economy, they strategized to destroy the president, as Republican Senator Mitch McConnell has openly stated. Through the copious use of the filibuster, the minority party in the Senate blocked initiatives. In a quixotic quest for bipartisanship, President Obama and Congressional Democrats appeased the Party of No again and again. It was such appeasement that empowered his opposition… and disillusioned his base.

Meanwhile, increasing numbers of working Americans found themselves without work. Homeowners faced the loss of their homes. Millions found the American Dream slipping away as they experienced downward mobility. Austerity and insecurity became the new normal – insecurity, and resentment. Resentment that the government was giving trillions of dollars to save the rich, but doing too little to rescue ordinary Americans. The plutocrats and their allies were very successful in deflecting this resentment away from themselves and directing it against government. Rather than seeing government as the instrument of the popular will, many came to see government as the enemy. Since the Reagan administration the public had had it drummed into their head that “government is the problem.” Now many were all too ready to see “big government” rather than “big business” as the problem.

This has fueled the Tea Party movement. Financed by plutocrats like the Koch brothers, organized by their operatives and encouraged by lavish attention from the corporate media (especially that political machine called Fox “News”), this reactionary populism grew in the absence of any progressive populism. Some, although not all, of its followers could have been won to a progressive movement and maybe still can. What is needed is an organized effort (from unions?) to highlight how it is the giant transnational corporations, aided and abetted by a bipartisan consensus on “free trade” that is destroying the “middle class.” Such anti-globalization sentiments are strong among Tea Party rank and file as well as in the population as a whole.

What if the AFL-CIO declared a moratorium on all job relocations from the US and backed this up with militant mass actions and public outreach at the local level? [As suggested by Roger Bybee in the November issue of Z Magazine.] Such actions could go far to educate the public, winning them away from the corporate Right and mobilize them into a progressive movement for change we can believe in. The last two years should have made it obvious by now that we cannot wait for Obama to lead such struggles. We’ve waited too long for a savior already. Real change will have to come from a social movement, not from the political elite. The present political system is dysfunctional. Democracy requires the action of the people, it always has and always will.

A class war is underway in the U.S. As Warren Buffet has observed, so far his class is winning it. That’s because we haven’t been fighting. When will we begin?

 

Comments by Carl Davidson

While Cliff starts off a little more starry-eyed about Obama than I would, his essay here raises some good points for discussion.

First, his point that from ‘day one’ Obama continued the same ‘bank-friendly’ program and that it has worked against the progressive majority from day one. What I read here is the need for us to being projecting a popular front vs finance capital as our strategy. That means pulling aside the two-party labels masking the political landscape and seeing that our battle is with the neoliberals and proto-fascists of whatever party, with the Keynesians in the government, business and policy communities as allies.

Second, if we want to wage class struggle, a big help would be to dump the term ‘saving the middle class’ currently used by many trade unionists and Democrats. ‘Middle class’ only serves to make people think that they’re not ‘working class’ and certainly not ‘lower class.’ It drives a wedge in the working class between those with moderate incomes and those with lower incomes or among the long-term unemployed. We need to save and emancipate the working class, starting were the needs are greatest, but uniting everyone withing the class, and with other popular allies.

Third, on appeasement empowering our adversaries and disillusioning our base. Indeed. We need to expose bipartisanship as a starting point. Compromise may be required at the end of a given process, but not at the beginning or the middle. And frankly, I have yet to meet a single worker who talked about the importance of being ‘bipartisan.’ This is mainly a concern of media pundits and beltway policy wonks.

Fourth, on ‘government is the problem.’ This is tricky. On one hand, we need the tools of government to impose structural reforms. On the other, our government is tied by a thousand threads to finance capital and corporations, especially of the oil and military variety. We can turn it into a battleground and make use of any footholds or fortresses, but our long-range effort requires its exposure as far from neutral, but an instrument of our adversaries in need of replacement. Opportunism here is sacrificing the strategic view for the tactical.

Fifth, the Banksters fear of Obama’s base. This is right, but it’s more than that. They also fear the wider, poorer and younger base that has not yet entered the voting arena. The average voter, after all, is a 60-something retired blue collar white woman living somewhere between Ohio and Indiana. To wage class struggle, we need to view this base dynamically, voters and nonvoters, with an eye to the younger generations. We need to go where the ‘social dynamite time bombs’ are, not just where the Democratic voters are.

Six, what is needed is an organized effort. Indeed. And organizations require organizers. We need to ask ourselves, when did we become ‘activists’ instead of ‘organizers’? In the early 1960s and certainly in the 1930s, we had a culture of organizing. Time to rebuild it, starting with each and every one of us.

Seven, I’d be careful with the ‘anti-globalization sentiment’ among the Tea Party and elsewhere. This needs to be divided into two, separating a concern for global justice and fairness from white nationalism.

Eighth, on the AFL-CIO and Change to Win. First, there have been many positive changes. But they are still divided. It’s said that the unions have never been richer and have never been weaker, which is a point well taken. Some 88 percent of the working class has no union. Prospects for change would be considerably enhanced with EFCA, but that just takes us full circle back to the appeasement problem.

Finally, we are not starting from square one. We have some positive events to build on–the tens of thousand of California students that hit the streets, the Republic windows factory takeover in Chicago, the One Nation rally in DC, the 10,000+ turnout for a union-sponsored May Day that we had a hand in in NYC, and the wide range of battles around HR 676.

Now we have the Conyers Full Employment Bill, HR 5204, to give a national focus to the fight for jobs, which needs new forms of organization and projects at the base. This is the heart of a popular front vs finance capital, as well as where bridges to Economic Democracy and socialism can be built.

Want class struggle? Start where you are, get organized in every way, press for what people need, and we’ll get a fierce battle soon enough.

 

**************

The Political Landscape After the 2010 Election

By Susan Goldman

The increasing corporate stranglehold on our government and media and the lack of honest debate to find solutions to our problems leaves me sad and frustrated.

I, like probably many of you, was engaged in the civil rights movement, the anti Vietnam war movement, the labor movement, the women’s movement, and the gay rights movement of the 1960’s and 70’s. All led to significant positive changes in the US. These were all bottom up, people powered movements.

The Tea Party is not a bottom up movement. It is controlled and manipulated by large amounts of corporate cash. It’s a caucus of the Republican party that I believe fills a void left without a strong progressive voice. However delusional, millions of Americans expected Obama to be that voice, to use the bully pulpit and fight for single payer, or at least a public option, or at least present alternatives to a troop surge in Afghanistan. I thought maybe he would give a speech on the moral and economic imperative of a strong social safety net like his powerful speech on race. Or how about an eloquent speech on increasing the tax base and revenue by creating jobs.

Instead, Obama and the Democrats were passive and caved into the Republicans and ended up with a watered down health care bill and stimulus package. They gave away the store and were still demonized by the Republicans. Most progressives are discouraged by this behavior and did not vote in this election. They stayed home, especially young people.

I don’t believe the narrative in much of the main stream media that Americans are right of center and want to cut taxes and government. There has been a concerted effort for at least thirty years by corporate interests, the rich elite, to silence progressives. Many polls and studies show that the majority of Americans want affordable, accessible health care for all, good public schools, assistance for the poor and most vulnerable, don’t support the war in Afghanistan. Yes, most Americans support these progressive values if asked in ways that don’t use hot button words like “welfare”, “taxes” or “socialist”.

Yet, you would never know that by following the main stream media run by corporate dollars. The election of politicians from both parties is paid for with these same corporate dollars. This election, an obscene amount of money was spent on television ads and glossy mailers, much of it from secret donors thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in “Citizens United”. The number one target of Republicans was to defeat Sen. Russ Feingold, the one politician serious about campaign finance reform.

We must know the political system is corrupted, which brings me back to those bottom up, people powered movements. Maybe we need a movement outside the political parties, an “economic” movement this time. The focus could be on campaign finance reform, jobs, and a strong social safety net. Progressives need to push back. FDR’s New Deal happened because he was pushed by the people. Certainly, without campaign finance reform, big business, financial institutions, the rich, will continue to pay the politicians to do their bidding on the backs of the middle class to serve a small elite.

Van Jones said that Obama said “Yes WE can”, not “Yes HE can”, and obviously he can’t. Maybe because his largest donor in 2008 was Goldman-Sachs.

***************

 

Election Comments

By Ken Rowland

Cliff’s comment that “democracy requires the action of the people” is absolutely on the mark. And he is correct in declaring that this will only happen with a large, organized effort to make clear how the US politics of both parties supports and promotes giant transnational corporations. The ultimate aim of these corporation is control irrespective of politics, and they are destroying the middle class, not only in the US but worldwide.

What is needed, in other words, is EDUCATION.

Let me step back for a moment and put our present situation in historical context. Painting with very broad strokes, we must remember that the American Revolution against England was not a result of the desire for democracy by the majority of the population, but rather was the expression of the campaign of the bourgeois class to take the ruling power away from landed aristocracy. The cry for democracy was the most effective means to that end.

The success of that campaign not only unleashed the latent power of capitalism, but wedded in the national character the economic form with political democracy, with freedom. This confusion in the public mind of a political system and an economic one remains a cornerstone in the propaganda mechanisms that control the popular American worldview.

But the revolution was not sufficiently successful to totally blind the common people to the abuses of the new moneyed ruling class, and the history of the 19th century United States, as in all of western Europe and Latin America, is filled with social movements and protests against policies and wars whose sole intent was to increase the power of wealth.

Though the economic elite was always able to minimize or dissolve particular movements, it was unable to subdue the progressive impulse. There was the constant threat of a development of revolution, either in the streets or in the polling booth. It was for this reason that the monetary system of the United States, the foundation every individual relies on for any sense of security, in 1913 was handed over to a private, for profit, non-governmental institution. The Federal Reserve.

The power of commerce at any level above simple barter was handed over to a small group of bankers responsible not actually to the government, but to the corporations on whose profits they depend. As long as the government cooperates in creating conditions to maximize profit for the grandest of the capitalists, the Federal Reserve will show a smiling public face. But what face would we see if our elected representatives became truly progressive, if it began to put the interests of the ordinary citizen above the profit of the corporation?

But the Regan Revolution effectively killed any possibility that this would happen. I am not talking about conservative ideals or fanatics who embrace ideology that is patently absurd in the face of reality. I am talking about the perfection of propaganda by those ideologists, the amazing ability to make people vote against their own well-being and not understand what they are doing.

The Obama election was a blip in the line of success of that propaganda, a blip that was erased by the last election, but it does demonstrate that there is a large and healthy majority in the US who may be too discouraged to act consistently, but who will act when given hope for change.

That is our challenge. To give hope to the individual that her actions can create a new world, a world where concern for universal welfare replaces the urge to war, a world where the value of any person is greater than the value of any commodity, a world where no man can gain through being the cause of suffering for others

That is the education we need to create, the education of hope to counter the propaganda of fear. It has taken the fear mongers 40 years to build their propaganda machine. We have far less time to counter it.

But we have the great advantage. The far right has had to fabricate, has had to lie and make the lie believed. That takes a long time. We have the truth. And when the truth is appropriately presented, it will be believed. Our challenge is the appropriate presentation.

We are not going to reach the followers of Sarah Palin, the demagogues like Mich McConnell. I believe we must reach the young. We must learn from the example of the movement against the War in Viet Nam. And we must reach the people of our generation, the people who are no longer captive to the realities of unemployment and other threats of retribution for speaking out, for acting.

I do not see the AFL-CIO taking strong public action for education. I can envision a one-day work stoppage by American Youth. How many retail stores and fast food restaurants could open without the clerkship of teenagers and twenty-somethings? And once their power was recognized, a third party movement, a true progressive party, would become real.

Our job is two-fold. One is to educate and provoke action. To re-awaken hope.

The other is to offer a practical alternative, to sift through the ample supply of radical economic models and arguments and settle on a single program of change. Not an ideology, but a starting point, a direction with opening actions, and the promise to create each new step from the lessons learned, not from desire for power or preconceived notions of the path, but always with the goal of human dignity and equality in mind.

Can we do this? Only if we have faith and hope and act to inspire others.

 

 

 

 

ASSESSING THE U.S. MID-TERM ELECTIONS, 2010

 

What happened in the mid-term elections in the U.S. and why? What are the lessons we should take away from them? This was the topic of a public forum the Center for Global Justice held on November 22, 2010.

 

Only a day after the midterm elections, the U.S. media quickly coalesced around a narrative, accepted by everyone in the political establishment, that the victory of the Republican Party was a popular repudiation of the supposedly left-wing policies of the Obama administration.

 

Few have ventured this alternative narrative: after coming to power by posing as the tribune of “hope” and “change you can believe in,” Obama, through his pro-corporate and pro-war policies, has succeeded in alienating and politically demoralizing large sections of the population that had voted for him. Disillusioned, on election day they stayed home in droves.

 

These competing interpretations lead to very different views of how to move ahead from here. In his press conference the next day, Obama himself adopted the first analysis, pledging to work closely with the Republican Party, find some compromise on tax cuts for the wealthy, and improve his relations with corporate America. Progressives, on the other hand, conclude that Obama and the Democratic Party needs to take up the fight to oppose the lies and obstruction by championing real change that will meet the economic needs of the middle and lower classes.

 

Here are three of the presentations given at the forum by Cliff DuRand, co-founder of the Center for Global Justice, Susan Goldman, retired mental health nurse, and Ken Rowland, former chair of Democrats Abroad Voter Registration.

 

Campaign 2010 and Class War

 

By Cliff DuRand

 

It was just two years ago that our hearts soared when President-elect Obama gave his victory speech in Grant Park. After eight dark years our hopes were buoyed for changes that would address the nation’s deep problems and return a sense of pride in being an American. And on January 20 we wept with joy as we inaugurated our first Black president.

 

To understand what went wrong we need to look at the very different reaction of another group, the very rich, the plutocrats who had prospered beyond their wildest dreams under previous administrations. They looked upon this new, young, charismatic president with fear and trembling. They saw a man at the head of a massive popular progressive movement that, in the midst of a systemic crisis, could bring about the “wrong” kind of change, change that might narrow the income differences between them and a declining “middle class,” change that might punish the bankers and those on Wall Street who had caused the crisis by their reckless gambling, change that might even nationalize the banks so they could be made to serve the public rather than private interests. And even though from Day One President Obama continued the same bank-friendly bailout program begun in the waning days of the Bush administration and surrounded himself with Wall Street insiders, they were not reassured. Because what was at the root of their fears was his base. Those massive popular forces that had elected him had the potential to demand progressive changes that would reverse the relentless move to the Right during previous decades. They might even force their president to go farther than he intended. An awakened, mobilized populous is a dangerous thing, dangerous to the plutocrats.

 

And so, they launched a preemptive class war against the new president. They sought to block him at every turn, they hoarded the bailout money rather than release it as credit into the productive economy, they strategized to destroy the president, as Republican Senator Mitch McConnell has openly stated. Through the copious use of the filibuster, the minority party in the Senate blocked initiatives. In a quixotic quest for bipartisanship, President Obama and Congressional Democrats appeased the Party of No again and again. It was such appeasement that empowered his opposition… and disillusioned his base.

 

Meanwhile, increasing numbers of working Americans found themselves without work. Homeowners faced the loss of their homes. Millions found the American Dream slipping away as they experienced downward mobility. Austerity and insecurity became the new normal – insecurity, and resentment. Resentment that the government was giving trillions of dollars to save the rich, but doing too little to rescue ordinary Americans. The plutocrats and their allies were very successful in deflecting this resentment away from themselves and directing it against government. Rather than seeing government as the instrument of the popular will, many came to see government as the enemy. Since the Reagan administration the public had had it drummed into their head that “government is the problem.” Now many were all too ready to see “big government” rather than “big business” as the problem.

 

This has fueled the Tea Party movement. Financed by plutocrats like the Koch brothers, organized by their operatives and encouraged by lavish attention from the corporate media (especially that political machine called Fox “News”), this reactionary populism grew in the absence of any progressive populism. Some, although not all, of its followers could have been won to a progressive movement and maybe still can. What is needed is an organized effort (from unions?) to highlight how it is the giant transnational corporations, aided and abetted by a bipartisan consensus on “free trade” that is destroying the “middle class.” Such anti-globalization sentiments are strong among Tea Party rank and file as well as in the population as a whole.

 

What if the AFL-CIO declared a moratorium on all job relocations from the US and backed this up with militant mass actions and public outreach at the local level? [As suggested by Roger Bybee in the November issue of Z Magazine.] Such actions could go far to educate the public, winning them away from the corporate Right and mobilize them into a progressive movement for change we can believe in. The last two years should have made it obvious by now that we cannot wait for Obama to lead such struggles. We’ve waited too long for a savior already. Real change will have to come from a social movement, not from the political elite. The present political system is dysfunctional. Democracy requires the action of the people, it always has and always will.

 

A class war is underway in the U.S. As Warren Buffet has observed, so far his class is winning it. That’s because we haven’t been fighting. When will we begin?

 

Comments by Carl Davidson

 

While Cliff starts off a little more starry-eyed about Obama than I would, his essay here raises some good points for discussion.

 

First, his point that from ‘day one’ Obama continued the same ‘bank-friendly’ program and that it has worked against the progressive majority from day one. What I read here is the need for us to being projecting a popular front vs finance capital as our strategy. That means pulling aside the two-party labels masking the political landscape and seeing that our battle is with the neoliberals and proto-fascists of whatever party, with the Keynesians in the government, business and policy communities as allies.

 

Second, if we want to wage class struggle, a big help would be to dump the term ‘saving the middle class’ currently used by many trade unionists and Democrats. ‘Middle class’ only serves to make people think that they’re not ‘working class’ and certainly not ‘lower class.’ It drives a wedge in the working class between those with moderate incomes and those with lower incomes or among the long-term unemployed. We need to save and emancipate the working class, starting were the needs are greatest, but uniting everyone withing the class, and with other popular allies.

 

Third, on appeasement empowering our adversaries and disillusioning our base. Indeed. We need to expose bipartisanship as a starting point. Compromise may be required at the end of a given process, but not at the beginning or the middle. And frankly, I have yet to meet a single worker who talked about the importance of being ‘bipartisan.’ This is mainly a concern of media pundits and beltway policy wonks.

 

Fourth, on ‘government is the problem.’ This is tricky. On one hand, we need the tools of government to impose structural reforms. On the other, our government is tied by a thousand threads to finance capital and corporations, especially of the oil and military variety. We can turn it into a battleground and make use of any footholds or fortresses, but our long-range effort requires its exposure as far from neutral, but an instrument of our adversaries in need of replacement. Opportunism here is sacrificing the strategic view for the tactical.

 

Fifth, the Banksters fear of Obama’s base. This is right, but it’s more than that. They also fear the wider, poorer and younger base that has not yet entered the voting arena. The average voter, after all, is a 60-something retired blue collar white woman living somewhere between Ohio and Indiana. To wage class struggle, we need to view this base dynamically, voters and nonvoters, with an eye to the younger generations. We need to go where the ‘social dynamite time bombs’ are, not just where the Democratic voters are.

 

Six, what is needed is an organized effort. Indeed. And organizations require organizers. We need to ask ourselves, when did we become ‘activists’ instead of ‘organizers’? In the early 1960s and certainly in the 1930s, we had a culture of organizing. Time to rebuild it, starting with each and every one of us.

 

Seven, I’d be careful with the ‘anti-globalization sentiment’ among the Tea Party and elsewhere. This needs to be divided into two, separating a concern for global justice and fairness from white nationalism.

 

Eighth, on the AFL-CIO and Change to Win. First, there have been many positive changes. But they are still divided. It’s said that the unions have never been richer and have never been weaker, which is a point well taken. Some 88 percent of the working class has no union. Prospects for change would be considerably enhanced with EFCA, but that just takes us full circle back to the appeasement problem.

 

Finally, we are not starting from square one. We have some positive events to build on–the tens of thousand of California students that hit the streets, the Republic windows factory takeover in Chicago, the One Nation rally in DC, the 10,000+ turnout for a union-sponsored May Day that we had a hand in in NYC, and the wide range of battles around HR 676.

 

Now we have the Conyers Full Employment Bill, HR 5204, to give a national focus to the fight for jobs, which needs new forms of organization and projects at the base. This is the heart of a popular front vs finance capital, as well as where bridges to Economic Democracy and socialism can be built.

 

Want class struggle? Start where you are, get organized in every way, press for what people need, and we’ll get a fierce battle soon enough.

 

**************

 

The Political Landscape After the 2010 Election

 

By Susan Goldman

 

The increasing corporate stranglehold on our government and media and the lack of honest debate to find solutions to our problems leaves me sad and frustrated.

 

I, like probably many of you, was engaged in the civil rights movement, the anti Vietnam war movement, the labor movement, the women’s movement, and the gay rights movement of the 1960’s and 70’s. All led to significant positive changes in the US. These were all bottom up, people powered movements.

 

The Tea Party is not a bottom up movement. It is controlled and manipulated by large amounts of corporate cash. It’s a caucus of the Republican party that I believe fills a void left without a strong progressive voice. However delusional, millions of Americans expected Obama to be that voice, to use the bully pulpit and fight for single payer, or at least a public option, or at least present alternatives to a troop surge in Afghanistan. I thought maybe he would give a speech on the moral and economic imperative of a strong social safety net like his powerful speech on race. Or how about an eloquent speech on increasing the tax base and revenue by creating jobs.

 

Instead, Obama and the Democrats were passive and caved into the Republicans and ended up with a watered down health care bill and stimulus package. They gave away the store and were still demonized by the Republicans. Most progressives are discouraged by this behavior and did not vote in this election. They stayed home, especially young people.

 

I don’t believe the narrative in much of the main stream media that Americans are right of center and want to cut taxes and government. There has been a concerted effort for at least thirty years by corporate interests, the rich elite, to silence progressives. Many polls and studies show that the majority of Americans want affordable, accessible health care for all, good public schools, assistance for the poor and most vulnerable, don’t support the war in Afghanistan. Yes, most Americans support these progressive values if asked in ways that don’t use hot button words like “welfare”, “taxes” or “socialist”.

 

Yet, you would never know that by following the main stream media run by corporate dollars. The election of politicians from both parties is paid for with these same corporate dollars. This election, an obscene amount of money was spent on television ads and glossy mailers, much of it from secret donors thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in “Citizens United”. The number one target of Republicans was to defeat Sen. Russ Feingold, the one politician serious about campaign finance reform.

 

We must know the political system is corrupted, which brings me back to those bottom up, people powered movements. Maybe we need a movement outside the political parties, an “economic” movement this time. The focus could be on campaign finance reform, jobs, and a strong social safety net. Progressives need to push back. FDR’s New Deal happened because he was pushed by the people. Certainly, without campaign finance reform, big business, financial institutions, the rich, will continue to pay the politicians to do their bidding on the backs of the middle class to serve a small elite.

 

Van Jones said that Obama said “Yes WE can”, not “Yes HE can”, and obviously he can’t. Maybe because his largest donor in 2008 was Goldman-Sachs.

 

***************

 

Election Comments

 

By Ken Rowland

 

Cliff’s comment that “democracy requires the action of the people” is absolutely on the mark. And he is correct in declaring that this will only happen with a large, organized effort to make clear how the US politics of both parties supports and promotes giant transnational corporations. The ultimate aim of these corporation is control irrespective of politics, and they are destroying the middle class, not only in the US but worldwide.

 

What is needed, in other words, is EDUCATION.

 

Let me step back for a moment and put our present situation in historical context. Painting with very broad strokes, we must remember that the American Revolution against England was not a result of the desire for democracy by the majority of the population, but rather was the expression of the campaign of the bourgeois class to take the ruling power away from landed aristocracy. The cry for democracy was the most effective means to that end.

 

The success of that campaign not only unleashed the latent power of capitalism, but wedded in the national character the economic form with political democracy, with freedom. This confusion in the public mind of a political system and an economic one remains a cornerstone in the propaganda mechanisms that control the popular American worldview.

 

But the revolution was not sufficiently successful to totally blind the common people to the abuses of the new moneyed ruling class, and the history of the 19th century United States, as in all of western Europe and Latin America, is filled with social movements and protests against policies and wars whose sole intent was to increase the power of wealth.

 

Though the economic elite was always able to minimize or dissolve particular movements, it was unable to subdue the progressive impulse. There was the constant threat of a development of revolution, either in the streets or in the polling booth. It was for this reason that the monetary system of the United States, the foundation every individual relies on for any sense of security, in 1913 was handed over to a private, for profit, non-governmental institution. The Federal Reserve.

 

The power of commerce at any level above simple barter was handed over to a small group of bankers responsible not actually to the government, but to the corporations on whose profits they depend. As long as the government cooperates in creating conditions to maximize profit for the grandest of the capitalists, the Federal Reserve will show a smiling public face. But what face would we see if our elected representatives became truly progressive, if it began to put the interests of the ordinary citizen above the profit of the corporation?

 

But the Regan Revolution effectively killed any possibility that this would happen. I am not talking about conservative ideals or fanatics who embrace ideology that is patently absurd in the face of reality. I am talking about the perfection of propaganda by those ideologists, the amazing ability to make people vote against their own well-being and not understand what they are doing.

 

The Obama election was a blip in the line of success of that propaganda, a blip that was erased by the last election, but it does demonstrate that there is a large and healthy majority in the US who may be too discouraged to act consistently, but who will act when given hope for change.

 

That is our challenge. To give hope to the individual that her actions can create a new world, a world where concern for universal welfare replaces the urge to war, a world where the value of any person is greater than the value of any commodity, a world where no man can gain through being the cause of suffering for others.

 

That is the education we need to create, the education of hope to counter the propaganda of fear. It has taken the fear mongers 40 years to build their propaganda machine. We have far less time to counter it.

 

But we have the great advantage. The far right has had to fabricate, has had to lie and make the lie believed. That takes a long time. We have the truth. And when the truth is appropriately presented, it will be believed. Our challenge is the appropriate presentation.

 

We are not going to reach the followers of Sarah Palin, the demagogues like Mich McConnell. I believe we must reach the young. We must learn from the example of the movement against the War in Viet Nam. And we must reach the people of our generation, the people who are no longer captive to the realities of unemployment and other threats of retribution for speaking out, for acting.

 

I do not see the AFL-CIO taking strong public action for education. I can envision a one-day work stoppage by American Youth. How many retail stores and fast food restaurants could open without the clerkship of teenagers and twenty-somethings? And once their power was recognized, a third party movement, a true progressive party, would become real.

 

Our job is two-fold. One is to educate and provoke action. To re-awaken hope.

 

The other is to offer a practical alternative, to sift through the ample supply of radical economic models and arguments and settle on a single program of change. Not an ideology, but a starting point, a direction with opening actions, and the promise to create each new step from the lessons learned, not from desire for power or preconceived notions of the path, but always with the goal of human dignity and equality in mind.

 

Can we do this? Only if we have faith and hope and act to inspire others.

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published this page in Democracy 2014-07-03 10:20:40 -0500