Sunday, February 23, 2020

Something's Happening Here

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
--Stephen A. Stills, Buffalo Springfield

True confession: I'm a radical at heart. It's a biblical radicalism. I learned from Jesus that upending the money-changers was a damn good idea (takes a righteous dude to pull that off, but Lord! the negative publicity!). Radicalism comes from the Latin word for root, radix, getting to the root cause of what ails you. The main premise of my radicalism (just like Jesus!): the love of money is the root of all evil.

But a long time ago, I became a regular Democrat, and not just any regular Democrat, loyal to my party through good times and gawdawful scandals, but an establishment Democrat with a party position to prove it. That status and responsibility diluted my stronger juices into a more pragmatic but weaker tea of incrementalism -- can't always have what we want and don't always get what we need. Just be patient. There's another election coming up in two years. 

Anand Giridharadas
So I actually heard myself one day advise a candidate not to go too far out, nor too far in (if you get my drift), because American conservatism has been dominant now since Reagan, and who wants to get beat to a pulp as a "liberal" Democrat, when that doesn't have to be an issue? Especially in my rural Southern district. (As a Democratic executive officer, I'm going to have to support whoever ends up as our presidential nominee, and that truth has given me the heebie-jeebies and the occasional panic-attack.)

What happened is that swerve into moderation made us sometimes unwilling participants in a system of cash, influence, and power, which was understood as the only way to thrive politically. We watched fellow Democrats go corrupt for money, and we winked. Because in a plutocracy -- which is what we've managed to allow -- money became the only way to play, so when the Clintons sold the Lincoln bedroom, they were just doing what everyone else had been doing, and when Obama hired the very economists whose plutocratic policies had taken us over the clift in 2008, why, he needed those Wall Street guys because he didn't know how the economy worked. Buying into the billionaires' headspace about finance and taxes and power, and how power is wielded and for whose benefit, has been a muddy rut for way too many contemporary Democrats for way too long. And Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar all continue to court that crowd. Didn't I hear that even Elizabeth Warren has decided to accept Super-PAC money. Buttigieg appears to be the billionaires' "top choice." 

None of that political expediency cuts it any more. Why would I decide to vote for the first time for more of the same?

"There are candidates who would leave undisturbed the opportunity to create wealth on that scale [the scale of Mike Bloomberg, Jeff Bezos, etc.] and who encourage the private solution of public problems." (Anand Giridharadas, "The Billionaire Election")

Incrementalism. Smacks of being sold out.

But something is happening here that explains both the election of Twitterman almost 4 years ago and the movement behind Bernie Sanders right now, even bigger than 2 years ago. Resentment of wealthy elites among the MAGA crowd got twisted up with an undeniable racism unleashed by the rich demagogue who once got laughed at in public by a black man who should never have gotten into the White House. With Bernie Sanders (and Elizabeth Warren too), the rage is against the whole corporate structure of American life, against government and corporate policies that are written to keep the powerful in power.

"Your health insurance hasn’t somehow, mysteriously been made too expensive; your brick-and-mortar store hasn’t somehow, mysteriously been undercut. Someone did those things to you, probably by rigging the system to secure an undeserved advantage." (Anand Giridharadas, "The Billionaire Election")

The turnout of first-time voters in the Nevada caucuses is worth looking into -- fully half of the record turnout had not voted before. New voters also drove the record turn-out numbers in the recent New Hampshire primary. Rachel Bitecofer has been predicting this for months, the surging of new voters who want to throw over the establishment, scattering the money-changers from the temple, and don't we see it happening? A blossoming of anger (an emotion stronger than mere enthusiasm) at the very system of our inequality, and an unwillingness to fall in line with Democratic incrementalism.
Today a vocal chunk of the Democratic electorate is gravitating to a strikingly different conclusion: that America would actually be better off reducing its billionaire population through taxes and profit-trimming regulations.
Ballooning anti-billionaire sentiment is galvanizing billionaires [too]. Some have been motivated to go on television to cast their critics as na├»ve and un-American. Others donate to centrist candidates like Mr. Biden, Mr. Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who serve a cocktail of down-home incrementalism shaken with wealth defense. But it took a special billionaire — Mr. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York — to find a more direct way to thwart ascendant progressives. He is seeking to buy the election.  (Anand Giridharadas, "The Billionaire Election")
Mr. Giridharadas was a guest on "AM Joy" this morning, saying stuff like what he wrote in the editorial linked above. The host of the show, the other guests -- all of whom were rationalizing the basic fungibile virtues of a Bloomberg candidacy -- became a little panicked at his warning that "Something's happening here," and little wonder since the major news media are actually (and sometimes unwittingly) guardians of that economic status quo, whether they admit it or not. Giridharadas wrote, "Do you trust a news media that sells advertisements to corporations owned by billionaires, and sometimes to billionaire candidates directly, to inform you properly about the level of power billionaires have and what to do about it?"

No. No, I do not.


Mike said...

J.W., I had a similar response listening to Anand yesterday morning and them reading his article in the NYT. I voted for Warren with almosts no concern at her taking some PAC $, because she has demonstrated the political chops necessary to operate in this nearly fanatically divided world. It wasn't easy getting the CFPB into law, and its operation has been a major target of the Republicans. I also find her more able than Bernie to articulate political positions. Unfortunately, she's got some weaknesses, the biggest being she's a woman, and some seem to feel she isn't up to challenging the Twitterman. BS, she's already dealt with bullies in academia and in Washington, DC. But younger people don't seem to find her inspiring like they do Bernie, and that's where the energy is now in the Democratic Party (that's Democratic not Democrat party).
Anyway, if the party selects Bernie and he can continue to develop the revolution, he can fight on with my support. I think Bitecover is on to something: there is no significant independent voting public any longer which requires courting, so I conclude, there's no sense being middle-of-the-road any longer. The economic table has been turned completely on its side and its face has been turned into a major lie that most can still somehow climb onto it.

Pixelshim said...

Jerry, you have a knack for capturing my angst in this election season and putting into words. Thank you