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Common Dreams - February 15, 2020

"Bernie Sanders’s greatest service has been to insist on his “democratic socialist” moniker, even when many insisted he should opt for the safer “social democrat.” I always approved of his choice, because the disrupting label initiated a thought process that now seems to have reached a critical mass. If Sanders is a democratic socialist, then what exactly are Warren, Buttigieg, and Biden? How far removed are they from FDR and LBJ’s domestic vision? That’s the kind of vital discussion ordinary people all over the country are engaging in, even if the academic elites are lagging far behind. But they’ll come around yet, once working people show them the way in mastering the hidden language of power."

One of the most frustrating things for me, as a political writer over the last twenty-five years, was the inability of most liberals to grasp what neoliberalism was. But compared to even five years ago, the situation has changed dramatically, as many more ordinary people—nurses, teachers, salespeople, accountants, drivers—understand what the ideology signifies. They are rapidly moving away from the false Republican-Democrat dichotomy, or the identity politics prism which blurs the true nature of neoliberal inequality and focusing on the true nature of power.

Bernie Sanders calls it the reign of the “billionaire class.” He constantly enumerates the dominant corporate industries that have a stranglehold on American politics. He talks about the 1% who are scared of political revolution. He’s right. Neoliberalism is what happened to both the Democrats and the Republicans when they agreed to put into practice, starting from the 1970s onwards, certain radical ideas about human social organization that had been percolating since the end of World War II.

Both Democrats and Republicans agree on the basic consensus, with only slight variations on emphasis. Thus it is futile to expect any improvements for working people with the preferred candidates of either party, because both are equally dedicated to preserving extreme corporate domination and the annihilation of freedom and dignity for those who do not have such power.

Neoliberalism has tried to bring about a fundamental reorientation of human psychology. We might say that the “meritocrats” it likes to cheer so enthusiastically are the embodiment of this psychological transformation. Citizens have been indoctrinated to think of themselves as independent profit centers, as everyone looks out for themselves. Any shared sacrifice for the common good is demeaned as idealistic or utopian—even basic decencies such as a living wage or inexpensive college education or health care that doesn’t bankrupt you.

At the policy level, deregulation, privatization, and fiscal austerity, kicked into high gear since the Carter presidency, have meant that functions that should remain public have been turned over to private entities, the idea of universal welfare goes out the door and is replaced by earned benefits, and everyone finds themselves at the mercy of unchecked corporations that have no loyalty to class, community, or culture.

But after nearly 50 years of monopoly on political discourse, both left and right in America erupted in open rebellion in 2015. We are now witnessing the second act of this movement, in the form of the Sanders ascendancy which seeks to return the Democratic party to its participatory roots.  

What encourages me so much is the resistance of ordinary voters to the kinds of hoodwinking that used to be more fatalistically accepted in earlier times. ...
Read full commentary at Common Dreams