This article also appeared in Counterpunch.
Clinton and Trump. Fear and Fascism.
We live in an age of consequences; intended and unintended. If we are to avoid, or at least blunt, the worst of what is to come, then we must look to the root of our problems and to our own roots for solutions.
Fear is the main enemy. Fear will paralyze us and perpetuate the system. That is why fear is the machines’ strongest weapon. Given the unprecedented disgrace of the primary election and the pitiful weakness of both Trump and Clinton as candidates, we are likely to experience a fear-mongering crusade without parallel in American electoral history. Get ready people because fear is all they have left.
But take heart. History has not come to an end. Its almost as if there is a moral order to the universe: as if karmic forces are putting us hard to our lessons; as if “for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” is the new and true law of life.
Those who vote Clinton to fight Trump (or even Fascism) cannot escape the consequences of American politics by traveling down the same road we have taken every four years. We are already way past the bend. Setting aside consistent polling data that has for months shown Sanders far and away the best candidate to defeat Trump, a vote for Clinton is a vote for “more of the same.” And this “more of the same” is precisely the existing order of things from which Trump sprang.
Support for Clinton may, or may not, defeat Trump this time, but, as Green Party candidate Jill Stein has pointed out, Trumps has deep roots in the existing system, a system the Clinton machine has helped to create and will fight to maintain. Trump grows right out of American political soil, he is an expression of our political system and political culture, not an exception to it.
The two party system is a system. For three decades at least, the “mainstream” or official American discourse has drifted steadily to the right preparing the way for the rise of Trump. The lesser evil has paved the way to the greater evil, not prevented it. But, lets keep our heads. The same two party system is showing unmistakable signs of decline. It is up to us to create a democratic resistance with the capacity and vision to defeat Trump.
We cannot afford to adopt the simplistic idea that fascism is a plague, a virus, a disease of the mind and spirit more mysterious or irrational that other political beliefs. It can be understood well enough to combat it. Like all the great “isms” and ideologies, fascism defies easy or precise definition. Let’s leave the ultimate question of what Trump is, and what fascism is, open to debate.
But strategy demands a working definition if not an ultimate one. Trump is without doubt the boogeyman and the biggest baddest boogeymen in modern memory are fascists. But boogeymen do not just appear out of nowhere. Fascism can be understood as a set of institutional relationships.
In an era of rising fascism, President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt wrote to Congress:
The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.[emphasis added]
The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe, if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living.
Both lessons hit home.
Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing. This concentration is seriously impairing the economic effectiveness of private enterprise as a way of providing employment for labor and capital and as a way of assuring a more equitable distribution of income and earnings among the people of the nation as a whole.
Since 1938, when FDR warned us, the corporate power has grown dramatically. It is not just “stronger than their democratic state itself,” it has merged with the state. The failure of “assuring a more equitable distribution of income” is part of the on-going crisis that set the stage for Trump and the threat of fascism. In the end however, its all up to what “the people tolerate.”
Who can deny that the merger between the immense wealth of the corporations and the political power of the government is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the US politics since the Sixties? The corporations rule and share sovereignty with the state. How else can “Citizens United” be interpreted, except as a recognition of this fact, many decades in the making.
Power is the new profit and like prior forms of capital accumulation it knows no bounds even unto ecocide.
The corporatization of our institutions have drained away any democratic content they once contained. More than the direct control of institutions by some corporate board members, corporatization occurs when institutions internalize the corporate model, adopt the managerial mindset, and run some essentially public service like a business. The military has become big business. Generals manage wars not win them. Prisons, schools and universities, political parties, media, hospitals, even some of our labor unions operate on managerial models.
The Clinton machine played a pivotal role in creating the corporate power particularly in the key financial sector. By abandoning its New Deal voter base, becoming the party of Wall Street, and accomplishing core Republicans goals, the “third way” Democrats embodied triangulation. The Clinton machine took the merger of power and money to its logical conclusion by innovating a new form of global political corporation known as the Clinton Foundation. Profit is power, power is profit.
While the Clintons had to engineer this merger Trump was simply born to it. Trump is wealth inequality, entitlement to unearned riches, and its fusion with political power personified. Trump and Clinton are both, we hope, the final episodes of the so-called “Reagan Revolution. “ A revolution no president since has even tried to reverse. Not Clinton. Not Obama. Since Reagan only one major party candidate has even promised to return government to the vision and policies of the New Deal, and that, of course, is Bernie Sanders.
The consequences of this unchallenged corporate power — economic misery, distress, despair and death — have been pushing the white working class left toward Sanders and Stein and right toward Trump. The hollowing out of institutions like the labor movement, that once achieved some measure of political and economic democracy, are preconditions for fascism. The weakness of labor and the social movements leaves millions with nothing much more than resentment, sexism, racism, homophobia and the glory of our military might to assuage their wounded pride.
If the present trends continue to deliver “more of the same”— and we have no reason to expect Clinton to change course — then the broad economic and social conditions that gave rise to Trump will simply intensify. It is likely that far worse than Trump will arise unless the people make history. Remember, the boogymen of the past, the Bush dynasty, are now allies with Clinton providing political support and funding against this new and seemingly more dangerous threat.
Will Trump reap what the Clinton machine has sown?
Not if we break the cycle and support candidates and parties that actually represent our interests. Not if we build pro-democracy movements of all kinds. That means Sanders or Green Party in 2016 and the kind and scale of demonstrations planned for the Democratic Convention in Philly.
Be there or be triangulated.