Friday, December 2, 2016

When the Big Tent Collapses

Hillary Clinton's loss to Donald Trump has triggered the collapse of the "party of the big tent," and the only two poles left standing for the Democrats are plainly labeled "Wall Street" and "war profiteering."

If you're concerned about potable water in Flint, Michigan, the Democrats don't have a solution for you. But they'll happily promise to pay lip service to the problem in exchange for your vote. "That's more than the Republicans will do," they'll chide. And if you object that paying lip service doesn't amount to doing more, but merely to saying more, they'll shrug and say, "Take it or leave it."

The negotiation will follow the same lines on any other issue that matters--from climate change to the school-to-prison pipeline to election integrity to toxic trade deals.

In every case, if you want the Democrats to pretend to care about the issue that matters to you, you must first support their death- and usury-based profit models. That is the only deal on the table. To reject it is to be branded a right wing nutjob or a white nationalist.

2016 has already been disastrous for the U.S. and the planet. The only way it can become more disastrous is if we, the members of the voting public, fail to learn anything meaningful and actionable from the experience of our most recent presidential election.

Sadly, each time I hear a Democratic supporter of the NoDAPL movement imply that the Sioux of Standing Rock are somehow getting Trumped (when they are in fact getting Obamaed), it seems that the most obvious lesson of 2016 has failed to register with many of my fellow citizens.

That lesson is simple: The Democratic Party is not the party of opposition to the GOP; it is the party of controlled opposition. Instead of resisting the economic, racial, and environmental injustices advocated by Republicans, the Democrats enable and advance those injustices by mounting phony and feckless opposition to them. That is their job, their only role in our society. And it's killing us

An examination of four prominent surrogates for Hillary Clinton (each representing a distinct aspect of the Democratic Party's putative commitment of justice) should make this case plain to anyone who doesn't insist on viewing the matter through cobalt-tinted glasses.

After all, it should be weird that Josh Fox (who opposes fracking), Nomiki Konst (who opposes election rigging), Michael Moore (who opposes job-killing trade deals), and Jay Z (who opposes the prison-for-profit industry) all ended up supporting the presidential candidate whose political career has been dedicated to championing everything they oppose. But it isn't weird. It's how the Democratic Party works.

The Curious Case of Josh Fox

Josh Fox is an independent filmmaker best known for Gasland, which exposes the environmental dangers of fracking.

So how did he end up supporting the "queen of fracking" for president?

The explanation seems to get back to the Republican Party's denial of climate change. Like Bill McKibben and other climate change activists loosely affiliated with the Democratic Party, Fox appears to believe there's an important difference between denying climate change and ignoring it.

In the minds of pro-Hillary eviros, Republicans like George W. Bush are bad because they refuse to acknowledge climate change, but Democrats like Barack Obama are good because they sign unenforceable international climate treaties while expanding pipeline networks throughout the US and turning the Gulf of Mexico into a dumpsite for fracking chemicals. For Democrats, the solution to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions has less to do with reducing those emissions than with saying loudly and clearly, after every oil spill and pipeline explosion, "There there, atmosphere. We feel your pain."

You might expect a climate activist like Fox to gravitate to the Green Party, but Fox's contempt for the Greens is unbounded. He asserts that he "never saw Greens" when he participated in environmental protests, which is a page straight from the DNC playbook. Supporters of Bernie Sanders will recall that John Lewis used the same rhetorical tactic in a failed attempt to undermine Sanders' involvement in the Civil Rights movement.

Fox doesn't simply loathe Greens in general. He has a specific grievance against Jill Stein because her investment portfolio (like the investment portfolios of most Americans with 401k accounts) includes holdings in the fossil fuel industry through index funds. From Fox's perspective, Stein's hypocrisy for owning these stocks is unforgivable, but his own hypocrisy in supporting the candidate who spent her time as Secretary of State peddling fracking technology to the rest of the world is a justifiable form of political expedience.

That's an absurd double standard if Fox is truly committed to preventing fracking. But he isn't. Instead, he's committed to convincing you that if someone as opposed to fracking as he used to be can get behind the pro-fracking Democrats, you should too.

That's the way things work in the big tent.

The Curious Case of Nomiki Konst

Nomiki Konst is a political analyst best known for The Accountability Project, which exposes corruption in politics.

So how did she end up supporting the deeply corrupt Clinton campaign?

She followed the time-honored Democratic formula of supporting the candidate who spoke out against corruption in the primaries (Sanders) en route to supporting his establishment rival (Clinton) in the general election.

Democrats have relied on this formula for decades. It's how Jesse Jackson's backers in 1992 ended up supporting corporatist Bill Clinton; how Lyndon LaRouche's backers in 2000 ended up supporting corporatist Al Gore; how Howard Dean's backers in 2004 ended up supporting corporatist John Kerry; and how Dennis Kucinich's backers in 2008 ended up supporting corporatist Barack Obama.

As a vocal and committed Democrat, Konst spent her adult life developing the political muscle memory necessary for an effortless transition from Sanders to Clinton. As with Stockholm Syndrome, the victims of the Democratic Party become adept at self-abnegation in support of their abusers even when the abuse is physical, as Konst revealed in this video:

Konst wasn't merely present when a Clinton supporter struck a Sanders supporter with a cane for daring to stand up for her rights at a New York delegation. To her credit, she took pains to speak out against the injustice of the incident on the spot and to publicize it online.

But having observed the violence inherent in the Democratic establishment's oppression of insurgent voices--having documented and commented on many incidents of intimidation and voter suppression that Democrats used against their own voters and delegates in the primary process--Konst would later come to support Clinton.

That seems like an absurd position for Konst to take if she is truly committed to the elimination of corruption. But she isn't. Instead, she's committed to convincing you that if someone as opposed to corruption as she used to be can get behind the deeply corrupt DNC, you should too.

That's the way things work in the big tent. 

The Curious Case of Michael Moore

Michael Moore is a documentary filmmaker best known for chronicling the urban blight that besets industrial towns after massive job losses (as in his hometown of Flint).

So why would he support a candidate who championed NAFTA and helped push the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?

Part of the explanation seems to be the willingness of Democrats like Moore to focus entirely on what people say in public rather than what they do in private. Even though the Podesta emails from WikiLeaks confirm what most voters already knew about the TPP (i.e. that Hillary Clinton's public opposition to the international trade deal was a ruse), Moore was able to pretend that Clinton's phony opposition to the TPP was the political equivalent of Donald Trump's genuine opposition to it.

Democrats like to point out that words matter. For Democrats like Moore, it turns out that words are, in fact, the only things that matter.

While Clinton was in Flint, she spoke publicly and passionately about how the water crisis there needed to be seen as "a national priority." She outspent Trump by over $100M on campaign advertising (nearly double the amount needed to solve the water crisis in Flint)--even though any political advisor worth his salt could have told Clinton that one meaningful political action on her part--one gesture to people who couldn't pay her for making it--would have resonated with voters more profoundly than ten thousand political advertisements.

But of course, as Moore knows very well, Clinton's mission was never to help the people of Flint--not with their water problems or their job loss problems. The fact that they're broke because their jobs are gone is precisely why politicians like Clinton couldn't care less about the people of Flint. If they wanted nontoxic water, they never should have become too poor to bribe a politician into helping them in the first place. So even though corporate Democrats like the Clintons have done more to create cities like Flint throughout the country than any other kind of politician, Moore tells us we must support precisely such candidates--apparently to teach the communities they've blighted a lesson!

That seems like an absurd position for Moore to take if he is truly committed to opposing toxic trade deals such as the TPP. But he isn't. Instead, he's committed to convincing you that if someone as opposed to toxic trade deals as he used to be can get behind the pro-TPP Democrats, you should too.

That's the way things work in the big tent.

The Curious Case of Jay Z
Jay Z is a rapper best known in political activist circles for his opposition to the school-to-prison pipeline.

So how did he end up supporting a candidate who helped build that pipeline with her support for the 1994 Crime Bill, her advocacy for gutting welfare, and her characterization of urban youth as "superpredators" who must be brought "to heel"?

I suspect that the answer has something to do with the integral role played by the black misleadership class in the Clinton media machine. The Clintons have always understood the advantage of using people of color as their loudest cheerleaders just when they are imposing their most exploitative policies on the communities those spokespeople are presumed (usually by ignorant television viewers) to represent. By speaking out against the prison-for-profit industry while championing one of its chief stakeholders, Jay Z merely performed the same role as other professional black misleaders (such as Al Sharpton, Joy Reid, and John Lewis) who make the Clinton agenda look as if it has the support of the black community. 

Anyone familiar with Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow understands that the true superpredators who walk among us are the Joe Bidens and the Bill and Hillary Clintons of the world--the politicians whose donors figured out how to use a criminality clause in the Thirteenth Amendment (along with racially biased enforcement of anti-marijuana laws and a purposely arbitrary distinction between cocaine and crack) to create a new slave-based economy in America within the prison-industrial complex.

Jay Z understands the injustices of this system well enough to have made calls for "more schools, less prisons" a part of his onstage persona. He helped publicize the outrageous ordeal of Kalief Browder (who was confined to Riker's Island for three years simply for refusing to take a plea deal on a crime he didn't commit). And yet he supported a candidate who believes that marijuana should remain illegal (even though blacks are almost four times more likely than whites to be convicted for marijuana use) and that the death penalty is a necessary component of our criminal justice system (even though it is inflicted disproportionately on black convicts).

That seems like an absurd position for Jay Z to take if he is truly committed to opposing our racist incarceration state. But he isn't. Instead, he's committed to convincing you that if someone as opposed to mass incarceration as he used to be can get behind the prison-pushing Democrats, you should too.

That's the way things work in the big tent.

The Lunacy of the Reform-from-within Strategy

The Democratic Party isn't built to help you realize your objectives as a voter. It's built to appropriate your strength at the ballot box and to co-opt your sense of injustice.

When you join the Democrats, you can fall in line behind the people who want to stop climate change and corruption and job-killing trade deals and institutional racism and any other objectionable thing you can think of. The only satisfaction you will take from allying with Democrats is that your issue (unless it happens to be pro-Wall Street or pro-war) will be just as thoroughly ignored as everyone else's.

Eventually, you may become frustrated enough to say, "I'm tired of donating my time, energy, and money to a party that never does anything ordinary people want because it's too busy doing what the donors want."

You'll be scolded for your impatience and reminded that the Democrats are the party of the big tent, where everybody has a seat at the table--which is more than the Republicans can offer.

But here's the thing: It doesn't even matter whether they're right about the Republicans. The seat you're given might as well have a "Kick me!" sign taped to the back of it. If you choose to remain seated in that pointless chair at that pointless table inside that pointless tent, don't you dare blame the Republicans for how pointless the exercise is. That's the trap that keeps on trapping.

You can blame the Democrats a little bit for being treacherous and manipulative.

But you should mainly blame yourself for remaining seated.

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