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Common Dreams - March 2, 2020

"The leaders of the Democratic Party—the Clintons, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer,Tom Perez—would rather implode the party and the democratic state than surrender their positions of privilege. The Democratic Party is not a bulwark against despotism. It is the guarantor of despotism. It is a full partner in the class project. Its lies, deceit, betrayal of working men and women and empowering of corporate pillage made a demagogue like Trump possible. Any threat to the class project, even the tepid one that would be offered by Sanders as the party’s nominee, will see the Democratic elites unite with the Republicans to keep Trump in power."

Aristotle, Niccolò Machiavelli, Alexis de Tocqueville, Adam Smith and Karl Marx grounded their philosophies in the understanding that there is a natural antagonism between the rich and the rest of us. The interests of the rich are not our interests. The truths of the rich are not our truths. The lives of the rich are not our lives. Great wealth not only breeds contempt for those who do not have it but it empowers oligarchs to pay armies of lawyers, publicists, politicians, judges, academics and journalists to censure and control public debate and stifle dissent. Neoliberalism, deindustrialization, the destruction of labor unions, slashing and even eliminating the taxes of the rich and corporations, free trade, globalization, the surveillance state, endless war and austerity—the ideologies or tools used by the oligarchs to further their own interests — are presented to the public as natural law, the mechanisms for social and economic progress, even as the oligarchs dynamite the foundations of a liberal democracy and exacerbate a climate crisis that threatens to extinguish human life.

The oligarchs are happy to talk about race. They are happy to talk about sexual identity and gender. They are happy to talk about patriotism. They are happy to talk about religion. They are happy to talk about immigration. They are happy to talk about abortion. They are happy to talk about gun control. They are happy to talk about cultural degeneracy or cultural freedom. They are not happy to talk about class. Race, gender, religion, abortion, immigration, gun control, culture and patriotism are issues used to divide the public, to turn neighbor against neighbor, to fuel virulent hatreds and antagonisms. The culture wars give the oligarchs, both Democrats and Republicans, the cover to continue the pillage. There are few substantial differences between the two ruling political parties in the United States. This is why oligarchs like Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg can switch effortlessly from one party to the other. Once oligarchs seize power, Aristotle wrote, a society must either accept tyranny or choose revolution.

The United States stood on the cusp of revolution—a fact President Franklin Roosevelt acknowledged in his private correspondence — amid the breakdown of capitalism in the 1930s. Roosevelt responded by aggressively curbing the power of the oligarchs. The federal government dealt with massive unemployment by creating 12 million jobs through the Works Progress Administration (WPA), making the government the largest employer in the country. It legalized unions, many of which had been outlawed, and through the National Labor Relations Act empowered organizing. It approved banking regulations, including the Emergency Banking Act, the Banking Act and the Securities Act, all in 1933, to prevent another stock market crash. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration provided the equivalent in today’s money of $9.88 billion for relief operations in cities and states. The Democratic president heavily taxed the rich and corporations. (The Republican administration of Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s was still taxing the highest earners at 91%.) Roosevelt’s administration instituted programs such as Social Security and a public pension program. It provided financial assistance to tenant farmers and migrant workers. It funded arts and culture. It created the United States Housing Authority and instituted the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which established the minimum wage and set a limit on mandatory work hours. This heavy government intervention lifted the country out of the Great Depression. It also made Roosevelt, who was elected to an unprecedented fourth term, and the Democratic Party wildly popular among working and middle-class families. The Democratic Party, should it resurrect such policies, would win every election in a landslide.

But the New Deal was the bête noire of the oligarchs. They began to undo Roosevelt’s New Deal even before World War II broke out at the end of 1941. They gradually dismantled the regulations and programs that had not only saved capitalism but arguably democracy itself. We now live in an oligarchic state. The oligarchs control politics, the economy, culture, education and the press. Donald Trump may be a narcissist and a con artist, but he savages the oligarchic elite in his long-winded speeches to the delight of his crowds. He, like Bernie Sanders, speaks about the forbidden topic — class. But Trump, though an embarrassment to the oligarchs, does not, like Sanders, pose a genuine threat to them. Trump will, like all demagogues, incite violence against the vulnerable, widen the cultural and social divides and consolidate tyranny, but he will leave the rich alone. It is Sanders whom the oligarchs fear and hate.

The Democratic Party elites will use any mechanism, no matter how nefarious and undemocratic, to prevent Sanders from obtaining the nomination. The New York Times interviewed 93 of the more than 700 superdelegates, appointed by the party and permitted to vote in the second round if no candidate receives the required 1,991 delegates to win in the first round. Most of those interviewed said they would seek to prevent Sanders from being the nominee if he did not have a majority of delegates in the first count, even if it required drafting someone who did not run in the primaries — Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio was mentioned — and even if it led to Sanders’ supporters abandoning the party in disgust. If Sanders fails to obtain 1,991 delegates before the convention, which appears likely, it seems nearly certain he will be blocked by the party from becoming the Democratic candidate. The damage done to the Democratic Party, if this happens, will be catastrophic. It will also all but ensure that Trump wins a second term. ...
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