Jed Morey is the publisher of the Long Island Press and author of The Great American Disconnect; Seven Fundamental Threats to our Democracy.
A plague on both your houses. A plague on both your parties. A plague on both sides of our divided American family. A plague on every estate, each pillar of the republic that crumbles beneath us as we plunge into the abyss of noxious rhetoric.
Primary season is the time when demons are exorcised. I get it. Frothing evangelicals ironically flock to candidates who twist scripture and abandon Christian values in favor of nationalism and violent rhetoric. Some of the poorest Americans feverishly support candidates who would eliminate their very means of existence in order to preserve the generational wealth of the opulent minority. Progressives gnash their teeth and carry signs criticizing the establishment while self-righteously re-tweeting corporate media soundbites over a latte.
The Trump ascendancy is viscerally disturbing. Populist candidates have captivated ardent xenophobes in America before, but they’ve typically flown too close to the sun and wilted in the national spotlight. Donald J. Trump’s traveling show should have unraveled by now as a result of his shallow intellect, overt racism and misogyny, and absence of policy. Instead, America’s id (founded in racism) has made an unholy alliance with its ego (we elected a black president so we’re in a post-racial era), bringing our Bircher-to-Birther fantasies to life in the form of The Donald.
The proposed counterweight to this insanity is a Democrat, who, by the numbers, is the most qualified modern Republican candidate in the race. Pro-war. Pro-Wall Street. Late to every meaningful social issue. Hillary Clinton’s colors can’t change fast enough to camouflage her identity in an attempt to please whichever constituency she finds herself addressing. No matter how hard she tries to sell her liberal activist roots, the stubborn fact remains that she has moved effortlessly between ideologies her entire adult life. As a teenager volunteering for Barry Goldwater she glided toward Eugene McCarthy and then George McGovern with brief stops along the way to support Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller. Clinton’s DNA is strictly political, without a trace of ideology to be found.
A plague on both your houses.
American political history suggests that somewhere along the way our national superego awakens to suppress the worst of our urges. We relegate fringe candidates to their proper place in history and gravitate to the more centrist message.
But what is to be done now that a reality television show star and a power-hungry warmonger have hijacked our national consciousness? Just go with it, apparently. We’re spectators in the Coliseum fueling the madness like it’s the Hunger Games, as though somehow this is either normal or inevitable.
As a practical matter, the election is over. Hillary Clinton will win the presidency by the largest electoral margin since Reagan-Mondale. Why? Because you cannot alienate entire swaths of ethnic voters. This is 2016. It’s math.
Moreover, we aren’t yet in the political and economic climate that favors would-be dictators, no matter how hard the sell. This isn’t the Weimar Republic.
Before the coronation, however, the path ahead will be strewn with the carcasses of officers and activists, bogeymen and pundits. Every perceived societal ill will be shoved under a microscope and diagnosed by unlicensed citizen physicians with a Facebook account. Or worse, a network. The major parties will pepper us with hunks of misleading chum and we’ll feast on them like mindless sharks. The minor parties will barrage their followers with grandiose ideological messages devoid of practical context.
The syncopated rhythms of the above tribal drum beats will serve to distract us from the unfolding American coup d’état; a coup, mind you, that is nearly complete.
The American plutocracy is more than a conspiracy theory. It’s a “thing.” A thing to be studied, understood, and talked about. The Bernie Sanders campaign was the closest we came to starting a national conversation and moving this idea from the fringes to the mainstream. But because the discussion was tethered to a political campaign, it automatically took on a tribal affiliation.
The recent nominating conventions were underwritten by corporate sponsors. “Corporate Personhood” is actually an accepted legal concept. The revolving door between corporate America and the halls of Congress is perpetually spinning. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 15 percent of the federal prison population resides in privately run prisons. Private military contractors are “deployed” throughout the world to represent the United States’ interests. America has been bought, sold, bankrupted, and consolidated.
This didn’t happen overnight. It took decades. Corporate propagandists have steadily torn apart the fabric of our workforce, starting with the now prevailing narrative that unions have “outlived their usefulness” and that their greed destroyed America. The only hope we have is to crush the unions and give corporations a fighting chance to succeed without having to, you know, pay their workers. The ingenious part of this story is how propagandists have convinced the working class to repeat these lies, despite the fact that only 13 percent of today’s workforce is unionized.
Progressives gnash their teeth and carry signs criticizing the establishment while self-righteously re-tweeting corporate media soundbites over a latte.
Should we dismantle the trade unions and allow our nation’s infrastructure to be built by the lowest bidder? Should we strip away protections from our teachers and first responders? Are these the people really responsible for destroying the middle class? I should think not.
Profits are soaring in corporate America. The corporate tax rate, however, has not followed suit. In the 1960s, before the assault on the middle-class began in earnest, corporate taxes made up 20 percent of the nation’s GDP and 23 percent of all federal revenue. Today it’s 12 percent and 6 percent, respectively. What a sham.
The media we consume is largely controlled by corporate America as well. The idea that information has been democratized by the Internet is simply incorrect. While it might have started out that way, information has been commoditized instead. The books we read, the music we listen to, the news we consume, the social media we inhale—all cooked, carved and served to us by massive corporations. Just like our two-party system, corporate media is the ultimate illusion of choice.
Apple or Microsoft? Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts? Democrat or Republican? Fox or MSNBC?
A plague on both your houses.
False Idols and False Narratives
America twice fell victim to the Great Man Theory that President Obama could deliver us to the Promised Land, wherever that might be. Well, at least 51 percent of America fell for it. The other 49 percent remained stubbornly unconvinced of his hero status. Either way, he will leave office with one of the highest approval ratings of a two-term president in history. This will likely grow over time as the democratic narrative hardens and we grow ever-more nostalgic. And those who opposed him every step of the way will likely grow to loathe him even more.
To his supporters, Barack Obama will be the peaceful patron saint of the United States; the man who withdrew America from conflict abroad and eased our pain during difficult times. To his detractors, he will be the cowardly fool who bowed, scraped and apologized his way through eight years.
Both narratives will be false.
In reality, this president was a stone-cold assassin, both literally and figuratively. Barack Obama’s interpretation of the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) was broader and more deadly than George W. Bush could have ever imagined. Under the cover of the AUMF, the administration carried out remote bombings and assassinations in Yemen, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and perhaps elsewhere. Proponents of drone warfare like to say that it is legal. It’s not. They like to say that it keeps our “boots off the ground.” It doesn’t.
It’s not legal because the interpretation of the AUMF is a state secret and strictly a domestic affair. It’s not legal because it defies international law. The ultimate litmus test is to flip the script and imagine the United States with drones from Iraq flying overhead. Or Somalia. Or Venezuela. Honduras. El Salvador. Afghanistan. Grenada. Korea. Vietnam. Cambodia. (How far back shall we go?) Each of these countries was subjected to direct invasion or covert military action by the United States. Under the logic applied by the Obama administration, these nations would have the absolute legal right to fly drones over Langley and take out key U.S. officials. Nor does it keep “boots off the ground.” The Obama administration’s assassination program is a signature recruiting tool for terrorist organizations throughout the world.
Less obvious is his clever use of financial weaponry. The administration, with the Federal Reserve as proxy, declared monetary war on the world through quantitative easing. It was a stroke of brilliance that guaranteed our recovery and suppressed global opportunity to keep up with us. That was in plain sight. To understand just how powerful and financially intuitive the Obama administration has been, consider the timing of oil prices. At the precise moment we needed to curb Russian aggression in Ukraine, turn the tide in the Venezuelan elections, bring a stubborn Iran to the negotiating table, and put money back into the pockets of American consumers, oil prices magically fell to the lowest point since the weeks following 9/11.
Nearly every major policy enacted after the Clean Air Act has been designed to tear down working families, deregulate corporate America and pad the pocketbooks of the top 1 percent.
Economists will point to surplus reserves, increased domestic shale production, and decreasing demand, all conditions that existed prior to the precipitous decline in oil prices this year. Politicians will point to the fact that energy profits have declined and fracking companies are nearing, or in bankruptcy. Why would Wall Street commit economic suicide by artificially taking oil prices simply to help out the Obama administration’s diplomatic objectives? It wouldn’t, unless there was something in it for them. Watch carefully what happens to oil prices after the coronation and all the deals have been struck within the oligarchy. Private equity firms have stockpiled $60 billion to buy the remains of the idle fracking companies in preparation for the energy sector rebound.
This is how Empires work. This is what an oligarchy looks like. The plutocrats in charge are so many steps ahead of the public it’s laughable. Sick, actually.
Throughout the process they’ll keep us in check by turning us against one another. But guess what?
ISIS isn’t entering the country through Mexico.
The government isn’t coming for your guns.
Social Security isn’t going bankrupt.
Unions didn’t destroy this country.
Israel has a right to exist. So does Palestine.
The police shouldn’t have access to military artillery.
Corporations aren’t people.
Islam is the new Communism is the new Fascism is the new Imperialism.
Hillary is a corporatist.
The Donald is a moron.
We have had one contiguous administration since Nixon. Nearly every major policy enacted after the Clean Air Act has been designed to tear down working families, deregulate corporate America and pad the pocketbooks of the top 1 percent. Most positive social progress that has been legislated has ultimately been perverted, watered down, or abandoned. Liberals can point to progressive acts, such as marriage equality, as progress, but it’s important to understand that this is a gift from the ruling class to distract us from the ongoing theft of our liberties. Cynical? You bet. The elite lost nothing by allowing this to happen, which is why we got it.
Now we are supposed to decide between the ultimate establishment candidate and a demagogue who are gleefully dividing us while driving for the same result: to retain power in the hands of the few.
The pain progressives are feeling—the absolute squeeze taking place in the minds of Bernie Sanders supporters—was played out perfectly in this recent conversation between intellectual heavyweights Chris Hedges and Robert Reich on Democracy Now.
If you are a self-proclaimed progressive as I am, this conversation will resonate with you. Either back the democratic shill for the elite and work to build upon the Sanders “political revolution” to affect change in 2020, or throw our weight behind Jill Stein to pull votes from the Democrats, let the empire burn, and start anew in a decade, perhaps two. It depends upon how much time you think we have and whether or not the next generation will have the fortitude to carry out the revolution.
It’s a great debate, but doesn’t really matter. As I alluded to above, the establishment has this sewn up, so I believe this to be largely theoretical. Republicans aren’t the only ones effectively peddling fear. In November, behind the privacy screens and curtains in voting booths across America, the majority of citizens will vote either with their misguided, misinformed hearts or their well-informed, feverishly stoked fear.
Madame President, I salute you in advance for breaking a barrier that should have been broken long before you. I’m actually excited for my daughters to know this is possible. Moreover, I am one of those who will be relieved that a Democrat will be filling vacancies on the Supreme Court. Beyond that, I will be working against you to tear down the oligarchy and praying we haven’t run out of time.
A plague on your house on the hill.