by Glenn Ford Black Agenda Report Jan 28, 2019
The best thing that can happen in 2020 is for Bernie Sanders to do fantastically in the primaries and be cheated out of the nomination, once again, thus giving millions of leftish Democrats a chance to do something useful with their lives: leave the party.
Early this century, the oligarchy of filthy-rich white men that rule the United States reached a consensus among themselves on the necessity of maintaining a regime of endless war and austerity. In truth, there was no other policy choice available to the Lords of Capital. The financial oligarchy’s success in consolidating virtually all political and economic power in an ever-shrinking cabal of the super-wealthy has all but eliminated the last refuges and hideaways of democracy in the U.S., while condemning most of the population to eternal insecurity amidst falling living standards.
Late stage western capitalism has nothing to offer its own citizens but austerity, and no way to compete with the dynamic societies of Asia except through war. Yet, the rulers must maintain the charade of domestic social progress and mass upward mobility, although no such possibilities exist under this system.
It is a ruling class political dilemma made far more complex by the disruption wreaked on the two-capitalist party system by Donald Trump, the orange-tinted huckster and mega-opportunist. Trump captured the Republican Party apparatus by throwing red racist meat to the hordes of white supremacists that are still the most decisive force in the U.S. electorate. The polite White Man’s Party of Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes was suddenly stripped to the waist and showing its Aryan tattoos.
The provocateur in the White House shattered the façade of racial harmony that had been carefully cultivated over decades by corporate media, while at the same time calling into question the corporate consensus on so-called “free trade,” “humanitarian” military intervention (regime change) and increasing hostility to capitalist Russia.
The bulk of the ruling class and their operatives in the national security services and media sprang into (often hysterical) action to neutralize and expunge Trump, the disruptive element. In the mad process, however, they have done incalculable damage to the very national institutions that give legitimacy to the bourgeois political order — that is, the institutions that justify the rule of the rich in a supposedly democratic state.
When the CIA, the FBI, the corporate media and most of the Democratic Party are howling the occupant of the White House is illegitimate, they strip the office, itself, and the electoral process for achieving that office, of its legitimacy. And when they claim that a few Russians with a hundred thousand dollars were able to set Americans at each others’ throats and decisively swing a national election, they paint a picture of extreme instability and political fragility — not a superpower, but a weak society on the brink of disaster and dissolution.
The legitimacy of the corporate regime was simultaneously challenged from leftish quarters, by Bernie Sanders, whose 2016 primary campaign failed to stop the warmongering corporatist Hillary Clinton, but succeeded in proving that super-majorities of Americans (including Republicans) want Medicare for All. Sanders’ proposals on health care, livable wages and free college education awakened expectations and thirst for a better life among masses of Americans. Sanders’ proposals are not transformative, revolutionary or “socialist.” However, the mere raising of expectations among the masses of people is dangerously destabilizing in a society where the corporate rulers have decreed endless austerity and war.
The oligarchy cannot tolerate or accommodate a New Deal, Green or otherwise. Their model of development is embodied in Jeff Bezos’ demand that New York City fork over billions for the pleasure of his corporate presence. Austerity is not really a policy at all, but a recognition that late stage capitalism is incapable of investing in productive enterprises that create good jobs for masses of people, or to provide security and adequate social services for the rearing of healthy, happy families. Instead, capital exports jobs to the Global South, where workers can be super-exploited; feasts on the bones of the public sector in the home country, privatizing every public good that holds the prospect of private profit; gorges on war production and diverts trillions to the virtual casinos of the derivatives markets.
Similarly, endless war is less a policy than an acknowledgement that the U.S. cannot compete with China in fostering infrastructure development in Africa, Latin America and Asia — for the same reason that the U.S. cannot connect its own cities with high-speed rail: the system is moribund and cannibalistic, and has already stripped the home country of productive capacity. War is the only game the oligarchy thinks it can win.
In the years following 9/11, both corporate parties began to speak of the “War on Terror” as a “twilight” struggle that would last “generations.” The message to U.S. society was: this is wartime forever; lower your expectations; don’t demand upward mobility under these perpetual martial circumstances — it’s unpatriotic.
Trump’s racialist coup in the Republican Party and Bernie Sanders’ breakout among the Democrats threatened to disrupt the “twilight” predations of the Lords of Capital. Trump told white workers the lie, that he would claw back the jobs that were exported to China and elsewhere, while Bernie evoked a revived New Deal. The ruling class blitzkrieg against Trump is now entering its third year, and has spawned a New Cold War that is methodically targeting dissent on the internet.
The Democratic half of the rich man’s duopoly has moved frantically to pre-empt a second Sanders bid for the party’s presidential nomination, deploying reliable corporate chameleons like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris to nail down the all-important Black vote and subvert ”New Deal” sentiment from the inside by pretending to be Medicare for All supporters.
The corporate media — the same folks that buttressed Trump’s campaign with billions in free air time, in expectation that Hillary would knock him flat like a straw man on Election Day – are busy constructing a whole roster of corporate alternatives to Sanders, hoping to head off the kind of popular movement-style politics that Bernie thrived on in 2016.
Kamala Harris is by far the most dangerous corporate threat to a revival of the Sandernistas, for obvious reasons of race and gender. However, as a career prosecutor, Harris is a lifelong operative in the mass incarceration machine. She is so wedded to the beast, she opposed compliance with a court order to dramatically reduce California prison overcrowding, because it would shrink the number of inmates available for work in the prison system. Harris can be effectively neutralized from the Left, as being even more pro-mass Black incarceration than Hillary Clinton, who never personally put anyone in prison.
It is critical that mass incarceration loom large in the unfolding campaign season. Austerity means freezing unequal and oppressive social relationships in place, and policing the resultant misery, anger and frustration. Therefore, an austerity regime requires the revving up of the state coercive and carceral machinery. In the Age of Austerity, the Lords of Capital need a Jailer in the White House. A Black female jailer like Harris is ideal for the ruling class.
Most importantly, the rulers need to give people something to feel good about — the illusion that progress is being made, despite their own frozen or worsening economic realities. The trick is to promote racial and gender “firsts” and market them as socially transformative, in the midst of actual social and economic decay.
Kamala Harris fits the bill, perfectly – which is why she is the most dangerous to a Sanders project, and why Sanders should jump into the race right away, before the corporate media declare a “front-runner” and otherwise make him appear irrelevant.
You don’t have to be a Democrat to root for Sanders in the primaries. What there is of a mass Left – and virtually all Black political activity — is locked up in the Democratic half of the corporate duopoly. The tens of millions of social democrats effectively neutered within the Democratic Party must leave, if there is to be a mass resistance to late capitalist austerity, war and mass incarceration. Although Bernie Sanders is probably the most popular politician in the nation, with the most favored political program, the billionaires who control the Democratic Party will move heaven and earth to prevent him from getting the nomination — as was done in 2016.
The best scenario for the Left is for Sanders to do so well in the primaries, corporate party leadership is forced to resort to dirty tricks and transparently undemocratic means to steal the nomination from him in the clear light of day. At that point, progressives would have yet another chance to escape their subordination, humiliation, and ultimate irrelevance in a corporate-owned party, and to create or join a social democratic formation.
People of the Left like me, who are not social democrats, would cheer an exodus from the Democratic Party as a huge historical development in itself, freeing millions from the corporate political machine — a kind of emancipation.
So, start running again, Bernie — and force the Party’s corporate operatives to rig the game, like last time. In righteous defeat, you could change the course of history.