Flouting The Establishment

February 18, 2020 Category: Domestic Politics


{1  As to the viability of Bernie Sanders as a Presidential candidate, the jury is no longer out.  It is now incontrovertible that Sanders would have triumphed in the general election–by a landslide–had the DNC not engaged in its shenanigans.  As revealed in the Panama Papers and many other revelations since 2016, we now know that the Democratic primary was rigged by Hillary’s surrogates (spec. by her plutocratic cronies in the DNC and the cadre of unabashed corporatists that operate the DLC).  Such duplicity should come as little surprise; as it was done to ensure the Party Establishment–beholden as it was to moneyed interests–remained fully intact (that is: un-thwarted by Progressives).  The fact that Hillary did not campaign sufficiently in the Rust Belt was a key factor in her loss; as that is where most of the pivotal (disenchanted) swing voters were located–all of whom were fed up with the Establishment.  (See Appendix 2.)  That Clinton embodied the Establishment did not bode well for her prospects in Middle America.  It was NOT the case the the Green Party candidate was a “spoiler”.  Even though Jill Stein received more votes in some of the swing states than the margin of victory for Trump, the alternate RIGHT-wing candidate (i.e. the Republican “spoiler”: the “Libertarian” candidate) received EVEN MORE votes–thereby siphoning more votes from Trump than Stein did from Clinton.  It might also be noted that had the DNC not rigged the Democratic primary against Bernie Sanders, he would have gotten the nomination; and–it has been conclusively proven–would have won the general election; possibly in a landslide.  So the blame for Trump’s election also lay at the feet of the (incredibly corrupt, unabashedly anti-Progressive) DNC and its (pathologically sycophantic) surrogates.}

{2  Want to further incense a Reactionary?  Simply insist that he be politically correct when articulating his grievances.  The lesson every p.c. aficionado must learn: One needn’t be patronizing to be Progressive.  The Reactionary’s problem is not that he is being impolite; it’s that his views are demonstrably errant.  Demands for p.c. can only succeed in distracting from the crux of the matter.}

{3  Of course, Hillary routinely played to her target audience as well–in her own self-serving ways.  More accurately, she played to VARIOUS target audiences, revamping her sales-pitch depending on which way the wind was blowing.  (Note her shameless appearances at AIPAC, for example.)  The situation was quite different for Hillary than it was for Trump.  Progressives–by nature–tend to be far more discerning than Reactionaries; so most of Hillary’s base didn’t fall for her artificially-flavored masquerade.  It wasn’t difficult to ascertain the true fealties of a woman who spent far more time at Goldman Sachs than in soup kitchens.}

{4  Imagine: Not once during her long, impeccably stage-managed campaign did Clinton make an honest effort to acknowledge people’s concerns about her cronyism, or about her glaring disingenuousness…let alone make a concerted attempt to address those concerns.  When confronted with people’s doubts about her (purportedly) noble intentions, not once did she say anything to the effect: “I hear you.  I understand what you’re saying about my record (of cronyism).  Here is my response: …”  Instead of addressing these (eminently valid) concerns, she–and her fawning supporters–simply scoffed at those who wondered how genuine she was being, and summarily accused them of misogyny.  (See footnote 12 below.)  Unsurprisingly, non-Hillary fans found this tac infuriating.  While Trump’s puerile ramblings resonated with the most credulous members of the electorate, Hillary treated the electorate as if they were all suckers.  It’s hard to say which scenario is worse.  (See footnote 3 above.)}

{5  This appeal existed independently of the incipient bigotry / nativism that Trump was able to exploit.  That he managed to tap into–and stoke–both incipient sexism and incipient racism simply bolstered the quasi-fascistic surge he rode to victory.  Another point: Anti-Muslim bigotry is not racism; it is a hostility toward those who hold beliefs that are seen as incompatible with (what is seen as) “American” culture.  That is to say: Pace ethnic stereotyping, anti-Muslim bigotry directs antipathy for a creed against an entire (multi-ethnic) community of people.  For more on this point, see Appendix 2.}

{6  Each candidate (qua candidate) was more a calibrated persona than a genuine person.  While Trump believed his own bullshit; Hillary knew her bullshit to be bullshit.  While Trump sold his fatuous talking-points with swagger, Hillary’s phoniness was obvious to everyone but her most delusive acolytes.  After having gone through the looking glass, this disparity enabled Trump to come off as the more authentic of the two.}

{7  We might also bear in mind that 2016 was the SECOND time that Trump ran for the U.S. presidency.  When he opted to declare his candidacy on the G.O.P. ticket, his high opinion of himself was nothing new.  His short-lived candidacy in the 2000 election fizzled simply because the time was not yet ripe for his brash brand of demagogy.  We were not yet a Reality-TV nation; and social media did not yet dictate the terms of discourse.}

{8  The political version of Stockholm Syndrome was addressed in Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?”  A sad irony was that Trump was just as ignorant (and anti-intellectual) as many of his most ardent fans.  As usual, this syndrome is at the root of right-wing populism.  (It had been right-wing policy that was responsible for the country’s ills; yet the solution touted by the G.O.P. was to legislate even FARTHER to the right.)  The syndrome persists because large swaths of the electorate are STILL fed up with “business as usual”.  The trick is to persuade people that the reason right-wing policy doesn’t work (as promised) is because the policies haven’t been FAR ENOUGH to the right. (See Appendix 3.)  The promised “trickle-down” effects of tax-breaks for the super-affluent and large corporations will someday, somehow, magically materialize.  Of course, it is never the case that such mythical benefits eventually trickle down to the rabble.  And a steeply progressive marginal tax-rate does NOT stymie entrepreneurial zeal or deter innovation.  Severe socio-economic inequality hurts everybody.}

{9  By “insiders”, it is meant: Those who seemed to serve a menacing abstraction known as the “Establishment”.  While Trump’s more truculent version of proto-fascism was slightly more jarring than the usual G.O.P. version, he was technically no more fascistic than most Republican icons since Reagan’s ascendency in 1980.  Hyper-nationalism is hyper-nationalism–and corporatism is corporatism–regardless of the packaging. (See Appendix 3.)  Be that as it may, Trump’s ersatz authenticity appeared positively genuine next to Hillary’s glaring inauthenticity. (See footnote 3 above.)  It’s tough to say which kind of posturing is more mendacious.  Both candidates were craven opportunists: One flaunted it; the other pretended to be something other than who she really was.  One tapped into the irritation of the electorate; the other came off as condescending.  As it turned out: pomposity triumphed over disingenuousness.  (In politics, the latter is far more of a turn-off than the former.  And there is nothing so preachy and sanctimonious as p.c.)  Moreover, sentiment tends to trump critical thinking whenever dialogue becomes over-heated.  In the uber-sensationalized media climate of the U.S., where info-tainment defines mainstream (corporate) media’s business model, political commentary is all heat, no light.}

{10  This fact was demonstrated in the Democrat party’s primaries, where such regions actively opposed Hillary FROM THE LEFT (and went for Bernie).  Just prior to the main election, almost 4 in 10 young voters (ages 18-29) said they were planning on voting for a third-party candidate (in other words: never-Trumpers who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Clinton).  Within a demographic that was typically overwhelmingly liberal, many were turned off by Clinton’s stagecraft as much as by the glaring fact that she was far from genuinely Progressive.  See Appendix 1.}

{11  Pursuant to the augmenting obsession with these handy communication prosthetics, Americans’ communicative acuity has drastically deteriorated.  With severely stunted attention spans, gross mental lethargy, as well as a glib inability (and unwillingness) to engage in prolonged discourse, it is no wonder so few people know much about anything.  The Trumpian echo-chamber was very much like a lobster trap: It had tasty bait for those hungering for SOMETHING; and once (obtuse) people staggered into that trap, they were not apt to come back out (even after Trump was exposed as a con-man over and over and over again).  All that those in the trap could hear from the outside were grumblings that everyone inside it was irredeemably “deplorable”.  Suffice to say: Such a harangue was not an incentive for anyone to clamber out.  The p.c.-monger’s message to Trump supporters: “Don’t emerge from your redoubts lest you be pilloried for bigotry!”  So instead of engaging in open conversation, they circled the wagons and stood their ground.  As usual, p.c. exacerbated the incipient problem.}

{12  The obnoxiously misandrist epithet, “Bernie Bros” was a redux of Clinton-surrogates’ pejorative for Obama supporters eight years earlier: “Obama Boys”.  Such tropes are invidious…not to mention erroneous.  In 2020, young women make up more of Sanders’ base than men; and account for most of his financial contributions.  In terms of race: Sanders polls especially high with Latino voters–far MORE so than with white voters.  Latinos also donated more money to Sanders than to any other candidate.  Polls consistently show that non-white voters prefer Sanders.  In fact, the demographic that likes Sanders the LEAST is white men.  The fact that unscrupulous–nay, perfidious–actors perpetuate the patently-false “Bernie Bro” narrative is endlessly galling not just because it is sexist and statistically inaccurate, it erases THE MOST PROGRESSIVE women from the electorate.}

{13  In a climate such as the one p.c. has fostered, it is no wonder that Trump’s brashness was construed as an indication of courageous truth-telling.  Those cajoled into supporting Trump were almost all suckers; as what he REALLY planned on doing was putting together the sort of ultra-right-wing cadre found in ANY past Republican administration–entailing economic policies that were HORRIFIC for the rank and file.  After railing against plutocrats throughout the campaign, Trump promptly created a cabinet of uber-plutocrats.  Trump’s economic policy is indistinguishable from the policy of the any G.O.P. politician since 1980.  (See footnote 9 above.)  The difference is that he SEEMS like something new; and in politics, perception is everything.}

{14  As a point of comparison: Try pointing out to a Revisionist Zionist that he is supporting a racist agenda, and see how far it gets you.  One does not expurgate a racist’s racism by notifying him that he’s a racist.  Doing so only causes him to dig in his heels (as with, say, the obdurate Judeo-Supremacy that is endemic to non-Christian strains of Revisionist Zionism).  Telling a racist that he is a racist is almost always pointless.  For either one of two scenarios will ensue–depending on the verity of the charge.  Either A: He is a racist, yet doesn’t admit–to others, or even to himself–that he is racist.  In that case, he will deny your indictment applies to him; and resent you for the accusation.  Or B: He is aware–on some level–that he is, indeed, a racist; and obviously doesn’t see it as problematic.  In that case, he won’t care that you’ve called him out on it.  Never in history has an unabashed racist been called a racist, and responded: “Well, gee-wiz, now that you mention it, I guess I am.  Now that it’s been brought to my attention, I shall change my ways!”  In either case, the accusation backfires.  What many fail to appreciate is that both sexism and racism are symptoms of underlying psychical and/or social problems (e.g. deep-seated insecurity; ignorance; etc.)  Therefore it is the underlying (psychological / sociological) issues that must be addressed.  Attacking the symptom head-on will only elicit defiance.}

{15  Some people simply vote for the most economically right-wing person who runs.  Others simply vote for whoever is anti-abortion or anti-immigrant.  Some don’t want their ability to carry firearms to be curtailed.  And some wealthy people just don’t want to pay any taxes.  When it comes to single-issue voters, all other considerations are immaterial.  There’s no getting through to them.  There’s no arguing with someone who is convinced that a zygote is a full-fledged human being; but EVERYONE wants clean air and clean water…and a good education for their kids…and not to go bankrupt trying to pay bloated medical bills.  And THAT is where swing-voters can be won.}

{16  Bear in mind, party conventions are more coronations than serious processes for selecting a nominee.  They are part week-long info-mercials, part week-long pep-rallies, and entirely about back-room horse-trading.}


In 2016, as each G.O.P. candidate dropped out of the Republican primary, many of their odious patrons switched their support to none other than…Hillary Clinton.  This should have surprised nobody.  The list of Clinton’s right-wing positions is far too long to enumerate in this brief Appendix.  In terms of economic policy, she is a neoliberal through and through–consistently (and unapologetically) backing corporate-friendly legislation.  This was done while paying lip-service to liberal ideals (“economic / social justice”) such as equal access to quality education; healthcare as a universal right; the need to reign in Wall Street; etc.  In Reality, she did little to support any of these things.

Clinton was a shill for Big Oil, Big Pharma, AHIP / AMA, the military-industrial complex, and–most of all–the big investment banks.  She is close friends with plutocrats like Lloyd Blankfein, Thomas Nides, Jacob Lew, Timothy Geithner, Jamie Dimon, et. al.  These are relationships that should set off alarms for any level-headed person.  (Also recall her taking bribes from Goldman Sachs, under the auspices of speaking engagements.)  A proponent of Neoliberalism (free market fundamentalism with a wink and a nudge); Clinton touted supply-side bromides–paving the way for corporate-friendly policies. 

An illustration that her interests and those of Wall Street were consummate is the position of her dear friend, Lloyd Blankfein in the 2020 election.  After enthusiastically gunning for Clinton four years earlier, Lloyd declared that he would gladly vote for Donald Trump over Bernie Sanders.  Translation: He considers Trump and a corporatist Democrat more comparable than a Progressive and a corporatist Democrat.

Add to that the fact that Clinton was certainly no friend of organized labor; and was hardly willing to challenge the will of her corporate paymasters.

In terms of foreign policy, Clinton was a tempered Neocon.  Never mind that she made the horrible decision to endorse the military incursion into Iraq under the Bush-Cheney regime.  To this day, she openly reveres Henry Kissinger–one of the most despicable people on the planet–and arguably the biggest war-criminal of the post-War era.  That fact alone is a very bright, red flag.

Clinton routinely plays along with the right wing’s jingoistic posturing against Russia; and endorses continued support for the House of Saud.  She supported the 2009 coup in Honduras, which overthrew a democratically-elected leader.  And–most despicably–she is an ardent supporter of Revisionist Zionism.  She eagerly supports Israel’s Judeo-fascist regime, including its on-going crimes against humanity (in a craven pander to AIPAC), and has held Benjamin Netanyahu (an unabashed Judeo-supremacist, guilty of significant war crimes) in high esteem.  To add insult to injury, Clinton participates in the ultra-right’s insidious vilification of the global Palestinian solidarity movement.  (She has denounced the BDS movement–something every decent person supports.) 

It is also plain to see that Clinton was never a Progressive on tax policy, on oversight / regulation of the financial services industry, or on mitigating money in politics (e.g. the revolving door between the public and private sectors).  During her campaign, her lofty perorations about investment in public infrastructure were less than sincere, given her dismaying recitation of supply-side pieties.  Pace her advocacy of spurious 2nd-Amendment apologetics (a pander to America’s abiding gun fetishism), she is somewhat moderate on domestic social policy–hitting the right notes on such touchstones as reproductive rights, gay rights, feminism, and a few other token gestures…so as to keep Progressives placated.  Yet her quasi-Progressive lip-service is so obviously scripted, it has always been difficult to take her seriously on much of what she says.

Memo to self-proclaimed “Progressives”: Voting for someone with a vagina does not make you a feminist.  Token gestures mean nothing.  It is policy that matters most; not the anatomical features of the person who happens to be promoting the policy.  And in terms of policy, Bernie Sanders–replete with penis–was far more of a feminist than Hillary Clinton ever was.  One might ask avid Hillary-supporters who fashioned themselves as “feminists” in 2016: Where were you when Carol Moseley Braun was running for president in 2004 (before it was en vogue for Democrats to support females OR African Americans aspiring to the Oval Office)?  When a woman–a black woman, nevertheless–actually was the best candidate (pace vestiges of the corrupt Chicago political machine), these stalwarts of female empowerment were nowhere to be found.

Once a cause becomes fashionable, it takes no courage to be an advocate.  The prototypical opportunist, Hillary only signed on to the gay-rights cause once it had become a politically-safe bandwagon to ride.  She never stuck her neck out for ANY marginalized community; as such a bold maneuver would have jeopardized her standing with the power-brokers who sustained her.

Of course, Hillary only ever rode bandwagons.  As her record showed, she was averse to going out on a limb, or doing anything that may have compromised her career prospects.  As for compromising on principle whenever it suited her: that defined much of her career.

To suggest that it was difficult for GENUINE Progressives to get excited about candidate Hillary would be an understatement.  The lack of enthusiasm for the ONLY viable alternative to Trump could be attributed, then, to a repudiation of the ersatz Progressivism of the checkered legacy of corporatist Democrats.  That…and, well, it was clear to everyone with sober eyes that Hillary Clinton was clearly not a good person (and almost as narcissistic as Donald Trump).


As usual, the queer calculus of the Electoral College hinged on voter turn-out in the swing-states.  This primarily being a function of enthusiasm, Trump prevailed in what was little more than a hype-generation contest.

The indictment that bigotry–whether in the form of sexism or racism–undergirded much of Trump’s support was factually correct; yet voicing this (eminently valid) concern did nothing in the way of enlightening his nativist supporters.  The misogynist tends not to care that he is–in fact–a misogynist; and is usually unswayed when his male chauvinism is pointed out to him.  (He will likely respond to the assault on his character by doubling down–thereby further ingratiating him with the good ol’ boys club that he so covets.)

The well-founded stigma of Hillary Clinton as the quintessential “establishment figure” was only the beginning.  Her espousal of p.c. protocols (especially her tendentious resort to “identity politics”) was especially off-putting to the rank and file (especially white workers who felt short-changed).  Telling someone who is disenfranchised that they will not receive sympathy due to being born into the wrong demographic is NOT a winning strategy.

In Appalachia and the Rust Belt, votes for Trump over Clinton by provincial, blue-collar WASPs were more out of antipathy toward the latter than an affinity for the former.  Such antipathy may have been in part attributable to nascent misogynistic tendencies; yet the majority of it was due to Clinton’s obvious phoniness, and incessant condescension.  In such cases, a vote for Trump was a defiant “fuck you” to an Establishment of which the christened Democratic nominee was a maudlin personification.

The numbers bear this out.

It is well-documented that Bernie Sanders would have won the Democratic primary had it been fairly conducted (i.e. not rigged by the DNC); and that he indubitably would have prevailed over Trump in the general election.  This is made clear by the fact that during the primaries, Sanders fared far better than Clinton in the key swing states (the “rust-belt” states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin that clinched Trump’s victory).  Trump’s victory was narrower than many realize.  He eked out wins in rust-belt states by the tiniest of margins:

  • 0.7% in Pennsylvania (44,292 votes)
  • 0.7% in Wisconsin (22,748 votes)
  • And only 0.3% in Michigan (10,704 votes)

Those three states cumulatively accounted for enough electoral votes to determine the election.  Tellingly, in each of these states, Clinton won far fewer votes than the Democratic contender (Obama) had in the previous election. (!)  In fact, in Wisconsin, she received roughly 240,000 fewer votes than Obama had just four years earlier.  In Milwaukee alone, a Democratic strong-hold, voter turn-out declined by over 41,000 from the previous election.  In the state of Michigan, over 98,000 Democratic voters selected a candidate on every down-ticket position, leaving the option for U.S. president BLANK.  (Again, Clinton’s final tally was only 10,704 below that of Trump’s; meaning that Trump didn’t win because of a surfeit of support, but because so many Democrats couldn’t stomach Hillary.  Meanwhile, numbers make clear that had Sanders been on the ballot, he would have won the crucial swing-state state IN A LANDSLIDE.)

Once we consider that under 39,000 votes (due to a less-than 78,000-vote margin) ended up determining the election (cumulative, between the three aforementioned swing-states), we see that it was a drastic waning of galvanization amongst Progressively-inclined voters that accounted for the dreadful outcome.

Even more tellingly, Trump–who WON the state–received even fewer votes in Wisconsin than had Romney–who LOST the state four years earlier. (!)  In that pivotal swing state, Clinton lost numerous counties that Democrats had been winning for decades…even as down-ticket Democrats there were victorious that same day.  Nationwide, there were roughly 3 million people who’d voted for Obama four years earlier that did not even bother to vote in 2016.  This drastic diminution of participation is telling.  This was NOT because Clinton was too PROGRESSIVE.  Not only was a key part of the electorate not galvanized, many were turned off.  Astonishingly, roughly 9% of voters who had backed Obama four years earlier voted for Trump.  Another 7% of (former) Obama voters simply opted not to vote at all.  3% opted for a third alternative, as they just couldn’t stomach a corporatist like Clinton.

Most Progressives who DID opt to hold their nose and vote for Clinton did so begrudgingly; and primarily due to being terrified by the alternative.  Another indication that Clinton turned off a substantial segment of Progressively-inclined voters: In Kentucky’s (historically Democratic) Elliott County, Clinton lost by a staggering 45 points…even as (openly gay) Senate candidate Jim Gray EASILY won. 

All this shows that the outcome could be attributed to a severe dearth of mobilization on the “Left” (the Progressively-inclined) and the “center” (read: crucial swing-voters) around Clinton.  In other words: Trump was victorious not because he was so appealing; but because the alternative was so unpalatable.

The DNC (effectively working for Clinton’s campaign, as it was overtly scornful of Progressivism) had shifted drastically rightward (especially toward Neoliberal economic policy and Neocon foreign policy) while countenancing the toxic creed of “political correctness”.  And it all backfired spectacularly.  Meanwhile, it is clear that (the far more Progressive) Bernie Sanders, who eschewed the off-putting shenanigans of “identity politics”, would have swept ALL of the crucial swing states in the general election.  (In 2020, the DNC continues to show unmitigated contempt for Progressivism in general, and absolute disdain for Bernie Sanders in particular.)

To reiterate: In 2016, the Democratic nominee was far from Progressive, out of touch with the common-man, and–to top it all off–blatantly phony.  Trump, on the other hand, pretended to be against the corporate-friendly NAFTA (which had the Clinton brand all over it): a compunction that resonated with the working-class of middle America.  It is no wonder, then, that there was such a drastic paucity of excitement from the segments of the electorate with a (nascent) proclivity for Progressive thinking.  (It is also telling that votes for the Green Party candidate more than made up for the margin in each of the aforesaid swing states.)

Couple THAT problem (the failure to galvanize Progressive sectors) with the aggressive voter-suppression hijinks perpetrated by the G.O.P., and it is clear how Trump won THEN, and how he would win AGAIN.

In focusing on misogyny, racism, Christian fundamentalism, and other accoutrements of ultra-right-wing ideology to explain the outcome of America’s 2016 presidential election, we are only accounting for those who were never going to vote for a non-Republican anyway.  Rather, the explanation lay with the NON-far-right-wing base: swing-voters (esp. those in the “rust belt”) who were turned off by Clinton’s obvious pandering, her glaring inauthenticity, and her countenancing of officious p.c. ordinances.


The list of tyrants who came to power promising to “make X great again” (where X is the nation) is very long.  It was literally the campaign slogan of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines.

The mission should not be to “make America GREAT again” (technically, a meaningless slogan).  Rather, the mission should be to make America SMART again.  (By “smart”, it is simply meant: honest, discerning, intellectually curious, and well-informed.)  Making a nation “great” is little more than a jingoistic cliche.  (Guess who said that he would make Germany great again c. 1930.  Hint: The same guy who promised to put Germany first; to hell with everyone else.  Every demagogue is inclined to fetishize whoever he sees as THE VOLK, which is his target audience.)  It should come as little surprise that an Austrian psychopath employed the same rhetoric during the waning days of the beleaguered Weimar Republic.

To this day, a sinking feeling of existential despondency–a sense of lost greatness–is responsible for many Americans blaming all their woes on such perennial hobgoblins as “big government”, a waning military, a paucity of “law and order”, new ethnic incursions, the super-rich being over-taxed, and corporate centers having insufficient power…none of which makes any sense.  It is tempting to harken back to a mythical “golden age” that never really existed; and to scapegoat a chimerical nemesis to account for all of one’s woes.

In a state of what Durkheim called “anomie”, people are susceptible to demagogy.  But rather than nihilism, this kind of anomie” drives fanaticism.  It is not based on resignation, but on indignation.  So instead of engendering melancholy, it engenders zealotry.

Make our country “great” like it used to be?  Ridiculous as it is, the idea seems to be that IF ONLY we were more “patriotic” (whatever that means)…and we privatized everything under the sun…and we stopped protecting the environment…and the military-industrial complex was even further bloated…and Big Business was allowed to have free reign…and the financial services industry was unencumbered by pesky regulations…and healthcare were treated as a consumer product rather than as a public service…and corporations were treated as citizens…and police were afforded more license…and people had more guns stockpiled in their homes…and there were fewer brown people taking “our” jobs…then America could somehow be “great again”.

Here, “great” is undefined.  (What are the metrics for “greatness” that Trump was using?  How did he propose those measurements be increased?)  Meanwhile, “again” insinuates a LOST greatness.  Trump’s slogan conjures visions of an imagined halcyon era before civil rights: bygone days when the country was a free-market utopia unperturbed by a meddling Federal government.  Zany as it may be, this candy-coated delusion holds tremendous appeal for an astonishing number of Americans.

Faux (right-wing) populism is what Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson dubbed “plutocratic populism”: duping the masses into endorsing their own subjugation.  This is done by giving oligarchic designs the illusion of mass appeal–passing off corporate interests as conducive to the commonweal, for example.  (Note that Ivan T. Berend did a survey of “Populist Demagogues” around the world.)

Those hoodwinked into playing along with right-wing populism fail to realize that the meritocracy they exalt is a mirage.  For it escapes them that we live not only in a plutocracy (government by moneyed power), but in a KAKISTOCRACY (government by society’s least competent; least worthy).  Since the U.S. is ruled by financial interests, it is CONSTITUTIONALLY plutocratic; and since the U.S. is an inverse meritocracy, it is–for the time being–kakistocratic.  To not understand this is to not have even a rudimentary grasp of American politics…or of the flagrant socio-economic inequities that addle our pseudo-democracy.

What is often overlooked is the obsequiousness of Progressive meliorism (a.k.a. “incrementalism”, “realism”, “moderation”, “bi-partisanship”, and various other Orwellian euphemisms).  Corporatist Democrats scoff at any prospect for structural transformation as if any call for bold change was–by its very nature, quixotic.  They proceed as if the only practical way of making things better were deferring to the status quo.  Such self-imposed limitation brings about the very conditions they blame for said limitation.  After all, what is and isn’t realistic is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

These apologists for incumbent power structures dismiss rectitude as “purity”, as if being principled was the same as being bull-headed or ideological.  For them, compromising on principle (and pandering) is being “conciliatory” and “pragmatic”.

The grave misconceptions proliferating amongst Trumpian crowds are familiar ones; as they are misconceptions that are common in right-wing precincts.


The reason ostensive “Left-ism” has proven as ineffectual as it has is because it is not genuine Progressivism; it is merely a mitigation of how far-right the prevailing policy ends up being.  (Another hint: If one is a p.c. aficionado, one is not a Progressive.  Puritanism and authoritarianism are hallmarks of Reactionary thinking.)

Recall that the U.S. has a right-wing political party: the corporate wing of the Democratic party.  The only MAJOR alternative is a proto-fascist party, which is even farther to the right: the G.O.P.  This is illustrated by the fact that corporate media outlets like MSNBC and CNN despise Progressivism and Progressive figures; yet they are–preposterously–considered left-of-center.

This enables right-wing ideologues to routinely complain about problems for which right-wing policy is to blame.  It’s like the arsonist blaming the fire-department for not putting out the conflagration fast enough…after the arsonist himself erected road blocks in between the station and the burning building.

In mainstream discourse, the “Left” simply means on the left side of the Overton Window.  Since the late 70’s, the Overton Window has been shifting to the right of the center of (what might be considered) the absolute political spectrum.  Today, even the left side of that window is slightly right-of-center on that spectrum.  So a panoply of euphemisms have emerged to describe positions.  In a kind of Orwellian Doublespeak, corporate-friendly Democrats are called “moderates”.  Thus corporatist Democrats (along with corporate media outlets) are often referred to as “centrist” Democrats; and they fashion themselves as “liberal” due to rather timid stances on a few social issues (women’s rights, gay rights, and civil rights for racial minorities)…often more token gestures than serious efforts to ameliorate structural inequality.  And when it comes to economic matters, they are patently anti-Progressive.

Over the past four decades, the rightward phase-shift of the Overton Window is impossible to miss; yet it has drastically skewed perceptions of “left” vis a vis “right” (and thus the definition of “centrist”) on the political spectrum.  If one party claims that 2+2 equals 4, another that it equals 7, and yet another that it equals 16, that doesn’t make the “2+2=10” position a prudent compromise.  That’s not how objective Truth works; and–as much as many would like to think otherwise–the most important political issues are a matter of objective Truth.

It is sheer folly to ascertain Truth via plebiscite (call it “Reality by referendum”).  There are dire consequences to this myopic thinking (treating the Overton Window as a gauge for the limits of viable political positions; and thus the bounds of acceptable political discourse).  We find ourselves assaying right- and ultra-right positions and simply splitting the difference…then calling the result “centrist”.  (The middle of kinda wrong and extremely wrong is still wrong.)  Yet this is the kind of obtuse thinking that now informs the farcical categories of “left” and “right” in the U.S.

This is analogous to 10 being considered the “moderate” answer to 2+2; putting the “equals 7” lobby left-of-center…even though it is still off-base.  Reality is not established via plebiscite; and the correct answer for the majority of important political questions is objectively determined.  (“Healthcare for All” is more moral AND more efficient; costing far less while offering much better service to more people.  Period.)

Consequently, in the argot of American politics, insufficiently right-wing is now dubbed “Left-ist”; which is why corporatist Democrats are not recognized–by themselves OR by the ultra-right–as a right-wing phenomenon.  It’s also why corporatist Democrats consider Progressives “too far left”…even though Progressives (at least the one’s not countenancing p.c.) are the ones pointing out that 2+2 does, indeed, equal 4.  Meanwhile, self-styled “centrists” will stick with the “equals 7 or 8 or thereabouts” position…while congratulating themselves for castigating the “equals 16” lobby for being too far right.

Case in point:  In the advent of the 2008 economic crash, the infusion of public funds into the economy (the “stimulus”) would have been much more effective had it been much larger.  The ploy, though, was to blame the stimulus’ shortcomings on it having been done at all.  To the degree that policy is insufficiently to the right, the thinking goes, the fault must lie with the antithesis of right-wing policy: that dreaded bogeyman known as “liberal-ism” (alt. Progressivism).

In reality, the financial services industry hadn’t been regulated nearly enough; and it continues to cause systemic problems to the present day–including spiraling socio-economic inequality and ever-more-highly-concentrated wealth / power.  Absurdly, the contention–by Republican AND corporatist Democrats–was that regulation PER SE must be to blame for all economic woes; so what the economy needed was more of a (unaccountable, unhindered) “free market”…as if, upon being poisoned by diluted arsenic, one were to contend that it was the paucity of arsenic that accounted for the sickness.  Once the nausea set in, the misguided inclination was to blame the water in the elixir rather than the toxin.  (“If only the arsenic weren’t so watered down, you’d now be much healthier!”)

Such is the contorted reasoning of kleptocratic malefactors like Gary Cohn, Steve Schwarzman, Carl Icahn, Paul Singer, the Mercers, the Koch brothers, and–yes–corporatist Democrats like Jamie Dimon.  These figures, who consistently vote for right-wing economic policies, are far more reprehensible–and do far more harm to society–than even the most virulent racists / sexists with whom most of us are justifiably concerned.

A party where one can find the likes of Chuck Schumer, Lloyd Blankfein, Thomas Nides, Jacob Lew, Joe Manchin, Steny Hoyer, Timothy Geithner, Rahm Emanuel, and Michael Bloomberg is NOT a party that any Progressive could ever call home.  (Emanuel, we might recall, openly referred to Progressives as “fucking idiots”.  The irony is deafening.)  To suggest that someone who supports such opprobrious figures could be characterized as remotely “Progressive” is a sick joke.  (Hint: If your champions are corporate toadies, you’re probably not a Progressive.)

The Democratic Party’s strategy vis a vis Progressives is to co-opt their popularity (and thus their segment of the electorate) without having to co-opt their IDEAS.  This is done by paying oodles of lip-service to Progressive ideals without actually having to implement Progressive policies.  It’s about placating, not about heeding.  Listening without really hearing.  We might bear in mind that the smoothest of tongues are also often forked tongues.

Being against Trump (or against the ultra-right wing in general) isn’t enough.  One has to be FOR something inspiring.  (“Well, hey!  At least he/she isn’t TRUMP” is not an inspiring rallying cry.  A potted plant isn’t Trump either.)  Slightly-less-awful-than-Trump is a very low bar to clear; and is hardly a Progressive aspiration.  Too many corporate Democrats congratulate themselves for being anti-Trump–as if refusing to support a sociopathic buffoon were somehow a monumental accomplishment.

Such a shoddy criterion for endorsement bodes ill for Progressivism.

Another case in point: In one of the 2020 congressional races, the Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi is backing a Koch-backed Texan named Henry Cuellar (a shill for investment bankers and other corporate interests, who votes with Trump 70% of the time) over his Progressive challenger (a Mexicana human rights attorney named Jessica Cisneros).  Cuellar is anti-choice AND vociferously pro-NRA.  Referring to someone so flagrantly right wing as anything other than “right wing” is a twisted joke.

For anyone other than a right-wing hack, choosing Cisneros would be a no-brainer.  In a saner world, she–like Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Talib–would be considered middle-of-the-road; as their policy positions actually reflect the interests of the vast majority of the general populace.  Meanwhile, the likes of Chuck Schumer et. al. would be so far to the right, they’d almost be off the chart.

The execrable roster of corporatist Democrats is disturbingly long; and–tragically–dictates how power is allocated.  Only with the Overton Window shifted so far rightward can such perfidious actors call themselves “Democrats” with a straight face.  In a saner world, this would be inconceivable.  That so many “Democrats” go along with this charade demonstrates how deranged the political taxonomy has become.

The fact remains: A fake populist can only be beat by a REAL populist.  Why?  Because both are based on comparable appeal…even as their actual policies are diametrically opposed.  The former is utterly disastrous for the commonweal; the latter is based entirely on the commonweal.  Yet BOTH resonate with pedestrian sensibilities; as they “speak to” the common-man.  Demagogues have understood this since time immemorial.

And this brings us back to the 2016 election.  Had the DNC really wanted to defeat Trump, it would have allowed the genuinely Progressive candidate (Bernie Sanders) to be elected the party’s nominee…as he would have been if the Democratic primaries had been conducted on the level.  Alas, being a right-of-center (corporatist) operation, the DNC was not about to let an ACTUAL Progressive secure the Democratic nomination.

Meanwhile, being a proto-fascist party, the majority of the G.O.P. was fine with having a proto-fascist as their nominee.  So the choice was between ultra-right-wing yet INTRIGUINGLY DIFFERENT vs. kinda-right-wing yet business-as-usual.

Tellingly, once Trump secured the nomination, the only right-wing outlets to call foul (notably: “The National Review” and the “Weekly Standard”) were run by career G.O.P. insiders who didn’t appreciate having an “outsider” (i.e. someone they suspected they may not be able to control) crash their party.  The joke, it seems, was on both the DNC and RNC.

Of Trump, Clinton, and Sanders, only Sanders REALLY WAS anti-Establishment.  This fact was lost on legions of misinformed voters–who’s choices were guided more by the amygdala than by the prefrontal cortex.  (Alas, when parlayed into drastic action, anger rarely leads to prudent choices.)  There are, of course, different ways that one can be “anti-Establishment”–some right-wing, some left-wing.  The “catch” is that right-wing populism is an oxymoron.  In other words: It’s an excuse to implement fascist policies by passing them off as good for the common-man.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Alas, the intellectually moribund American polis continues to be afflicted by the political version of Stockholm Syndrome–whereby the working class becomes the architect of its own subjugation.

Pages: 1 2 3 4

CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 - 2010-2019 - masonscott.org
Developed by Malagueta/Br
Note to readers: Those reading these long-form essays will be much better-off using a larger screen (not a hand-held device) for displaying the text. Due to the length of most pieces on our site, a lap-top, desk-top, or large tablet is strongly recommended.


Download as PDF