Voters in most so-called western democracies could not be blamed if they feel a bit like innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire of a gang war: Whew! We dodged the Trump bullet, but damn! now Biden’s taking aim!
The problem with this metaphor is that we may see ourselves as what is now euphemistically called “collateral damage” in this war. We’re actually the targets. The politicians would seem to be shooting at each other, but that’s only because they’re fighting over who gets to steal our stuff. The politicians are just pawns for a handful of powerful cadres who have already stolen 90% of the power and wealth of the planet. What they want is to ensure they get to keep all that, and slowly acquire the other 10%. To do that they want regressive taxation (see my last post), complete deregulation of their activities, and new laws that benefit and protect them.
In fancy activist terms, we are ruled by a corporatist plutocracy. “Corporatist” is just a fancy word for fascist, which means nothing more than an authoritarian dictatorship run in perpetuity by an elite power group that represses all opposition. That is essentially the modus operandi of all large corporations, and, now, most governments. “Plutocracy” means government control by the very wealthy.
There is nothing inherently evil or even necessarily corrupt in this. Corporatism can come in a variety of ideological flavours, depending on which elite it favours — “everyone in their place” patriarchal conservatives, the military-industrial complex, the “Main Street” corporate oligopolies, or the financial banksters. These gangs overlap and cooperate, but they also compete for who’s going to get the 10% of wealth and power that still hasn’t been stolen from the rest of us.
The patriarchal conservatives are especially popular in gang circles because they will often settle for more repressive laws (eg no abortions, no right to die, no immigrants stealing our share of the pie, jail all the protesters and militarize the cops); in return for support on this, they will support just about any laws that allow the theft and divvying up of the rest of the world’s wealth, the starving of social services for the “masses”, deregulation of every industry, tax cuts for the rich, and defunding of government services except the military.
So in the US we are seeing, for now, the departure of Trump, a chameleon who promised the moon to the white working class and then betrayed them when he realized his own wealth and power depended completely on playing nice with the corporatist gangs, who begrudgingly allowed the fake-nouveau riche orange tub of lard into their gang as long as he behaved. And for them, he has behaved very well.
And we’re seeing the installation of Biden, the long-time warmonger, social conservative, and corporatist shill reinstated in his place. No change at all behind the scenes, other than the superficial ideological difference (Like Trump’s, Biden’s position on abortion, for example, has been all over the map), and a different set of names of the specific group of gang leaders appointed to oversee the corporatist plutocracy for the next four years. This year’s appointees have been at least as notable for their military-industrial connections and their corporate lobbying connections as for their symbolic diversity.
So we can expect much more “defence” spending by the Biden gang — meaning that money will be spent on military budgets and war-mongering against Russia, China, Iran and Syria, although none of them poses any threat to the US. But it’s good for “the economy”! It also means that the criminal war against the civilians of Yemen will continue under this “moderate” administration, and that anti-progressive interventions in the rest of the world will be stepped up.
The complete lack of any so-called “leftists” in the cabinet suggests that the gang has concluded that the half-way measure of the Affordable Care Act was seen by the corporatists as an expensive sop that didn’t provide enough bang (in terms of placating the outrage of the masses) for the considerable buck.
Hence, don’t look for any expansions to public services under Biden, and especially don’t expect any reforms to regulations over monopolies, financial usury, and similar “unfair” business practices. Expect lots of symbolic gestures and platitudes on the environment, since polls show they are popular and don’t cost anything, but don’t expect anything of substance, such as an admission that the capitalist industrial growth economy is making our planet uninhabitable and has to be stopped at all costs, or even a Green New Deal.
There will be more hand-wringing under Biden, since he can do this more convincingly than the smug-faced Trump. He will also have much better speech-writers, which will play well to the dwindling portion of the electorate that is both literate and inclined to listen to speeches.
There actually was an election coup in 2020, but it’s not the one Trump has attempted, nor the alleged one conspiracy theorists posit Biden to have accomplished. It was the coup that, just like four years ago, blackballed Bernie Sanders when it looked like he was getting more popular than their hand-picked gang-member-for-president.
Four years ago, deciding that Bernie was more of a threat to the establishment than Trump, they used the mainstream media to spread fear and misinformation about him, who they feared could cost them the election to Cruz, Rubio, Bush or Kasich (and who might cost them big-time if he actually acted on his campaign promises). Their nasty campaign worked: Hillary Clinton, the “sure-fire” candidate, was selected instead.
That backfired, but they discovered the politically malleable Trump was actually pretty easy for them to control, and his blather distracted from their successes at increasing their share of wealth, and deregulating industry, at an unprecedented pace.
So this year, knowing that they couldn’t get the Republicans to dump Trump for a more mentally stable candidate, they again focused on defeating Bernie Sanders (and to a lesser extent Elizabeth Warren), when Bernie appeared poised to win the nomination again (see chart above). They posted hundreds of op-eds in the mainstream media warning that the so-called “leftist” candidates were “unelectable”, and had ill-thought-out and “dangerous” platforms — and that voting for any of them was “handing the election to Donald Trump”. They said this with no sense of irony. They endorsed the obedient Biden and poured money into his campaign, and strong-armed other candidates to endorse Biden or face being the “spoiler” (shades of Ralph Nader) who forever destroyed the Democrats’ presidential hopes.
This campaign also worked, so they got their candidate nominated and into office, and the strong-arm tactics even worked on the so-called “leftists”, who endorsed and worked furiously for Biden. Though they really had no choice — if they’d refused to endorse Biden and Trump had won (which he would have), they’d have become perpetual pariahs.
So, as in most western so-called “democracies”, your choice really comes down to which corporatist tool candidate to support. Any candidate that rouses the masses to take back wealth and power from the gangs is going to face the wealth and power of those who simply will not allow that to happen. If that wealth and power were more equally distributed, a “democratic” rebuff might be possible. But it is no longer so. Even when the occasional non-gang member is elected, it is quickly made very clear to them the consequences of not doing what they’re told, and they fall into line.
It’s pretty much foolproof. The incumbent fools in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia, among others, make that quite clear. They all reneged on election “promises” to favour the corporatists.
This is mad. It’s not democracy. Yet the mainstream media continue, despite all the evidence, to talk about how a new democratic resurgence is possible. We have a new opportunity, they extol, to tackle the ecological, economic and social justice crises that are getting ever-worse, and to wipe away the scourge of crippling, cruel, and unsustainable debt levels. George Packer in the Atlantic writes:
Beneath the dreary furor of the partisan wars, most Americans agree on fundamental issues facing the country. Large majorities say that government should ensure some form of universal health care, that it should do more to mitigate global warming, that the rich should pay higher taxes, that racial inequality is a significant problem, that workers should have the right to join unions, that immigrants are a good thing for American life, that the federal government is plagued by corruption. These majorities have remained strong for years. The readiness, the demand for action, is new.
George is a wonderful investigative reporter, and of course he is right. But surely he understands that all of the above actions, if taken, would redistribute wealth and power away from the gangs that control both parties (and their counterparts in many other countries). As such, they simply will not be allowed to occur.
I know I sound cynical in this, but what I’m describing isn’t an evil plot; it’s just humans behaving in their self-interest in a system that is not in anyone’s control, not even theirs.
It’s completely insane, but it’s perfectly understandable. And, just as the inequality I described in my last article won’t go away as a result of some great human enlightenment, neither will the perversion of the (never entirely noble) idea of democracy.
Thanks to systems no one actually designed, that are now so dysfunctional they are collapsing, most of the citizens of earth in 2020 are fated to live in an alms-based economy and ruled by a corporatist plutocracy.
It’s mad. But it will be over soon.
Next in the “mad world” series: Taking stock of our health care and education systems.