Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Party's Crashing Us Now

After the market crash of '08, government made a choice, a conscious choice about whether it still believed in democracy.  It knew that no one was going to let a bank bailout slide without a recovery act for the people hurt by the banks, but the federal government opted out of the latter. 

Over the following eight years with a Democrat at the helm of the executive branch, Republicans gerrymandered districts, repealed the voting rights act, abstained from and blocked innumerable votes, attempted to veto hard-won bills they just didn't like, tried to give religion a pass to discriminate, blamed women for their rapes and said they should be punished for their abortions, shut down the government, and slowly festered a toxic culture of hate in which "anchor babies", Muslim-American citizens with no ties to terror, gay wedding shoppers, teachers’ unions, and 15-year-old girls who'd been raped by their fathers posed more of a threat than corporations who'd gouged the American worker of billions of earned wages, giant polluters and fossil fuel companies who'd desecrated the planet to near extinction level, city emergency managers who'd caused an entire city of children to likely suffer permanent brain damage, police officers who murdered civilians in cold blood, pharmaceutical price gougers who'd killed by cost, and gun enthusiasts whose deranged protectionist bloodlust was apparently valued more than the lives of schoolchildren, the disabled, churches, moviegoers, et al.

And if you think there's one political party that didn't take this skeezy route, think again. The Democrats cried inertia, but their schema was just as brutal, if only slightly less deranged.  Many of these things the Republicans did were criminal acts and there were zero impeachments, trials, or prosecutions for any of it.  Republicans, with the silent complicity of the democrats, weakened the federal government to the point where it's now as ineffective as the U.N.

As a result, power has instead mediated to the unchecked balance of the states, which are like a fucking free-for-all.  A great deal of the lunatics at the state level run unopposed, are super corrupt, and are essentially lobbying wings of whatever giant industries keep their towns and counties' waning "jobs" market afloat.  While the bailout legislation the democrats signed off on made the banks pay back their loans to the Fed (with no real stipulations to prevent future bad behavior), the state governments have never recouped from the market crash and many are still wading in debt, eager to sellout to whatever poisonous, shitty franchise tyranny can keep their town from descending into a Flint or a Detroit.

This is not to mention the economic impact on the people in those towns and cities, large numbers of whom have dropped a whole class level and still persist in a purgatorial economic depression while the Democrats gloat over how wonderful the recovery has been.    Though markets do seem to be generally on the upswing (a pivot that seems to teeter on the brink of disaster at any second), the jobs the economy created were service industry, temporary, and other low-wage/low-benefit engagements.  Tech-sector bros, a giant lobby that tends to lean pro-Democrat, even created new labor models for precarious contract work, masterminded in part by David Plouffe, Obama’s 2008 campaign manager and Senior VP of Policy for Uber.

During this time, popular people's movements (Occupy and Black Lives Matter being the most prominent) rose up in response to capitalism’s attack against democracy and activists made great strides in their efforts for social justice- which democrats promptly took credit for, all the while acting like they were the great mediators between this extremist unwashed rabble (gleefully looting CVS aisles and doing bong rips in hippie tents near the financial district) and their proto-fascist counterparts in the Republican party.  But what Democrats actually did was rally for the status quo, which was a status quo moving ever rightward and becoming less lowercase-d democratic by the minute. 

Democrats will claim that they were too busy on the defensive, fending off the Republican assault mechanism.  But the truth is that after 8 years of capitulating to the Bush project, of being complicit in his dirty corporate politics and war crimes, the democrats forgot how to get offensive, how to generate energy, and fight with vitality and purpose like those popular movements had done so effectively. Instead, they refused to side with Occupy until fairer weather came along and told BLM in patronizing tones that both sides needed to cool down, creating false equivalencies between state violence and civil unrest.  They tried to act like their well-coifed, well-manicured, and polite disposition was some kind of synecdoche for civility and if we all just acted like professionals, dammit, we could barter some kind of negotiation. In short, they forgot they were sitting in the literal halls of justice and not the board room.  They drafted a bunch of votes, held a bunch of conferences and treaties, and politely asked for an incremental change that pretty much never came.

As the Republicans became increasingly upfront about their disdain for the will of the voting population or the electorate, Democrats decided to continue their surveillance of every American and protect their techbro buddies who wanted to do the same. They punished whistleblowers who tried to make the country safer or better in some way.  They drafted plans to devastate communities and the environment by drilling for oil at home, attempted to pass another NAFTA-like trade agreement which would continue to undermine labor and reward the elimination of blue collar US jobs, complained that $15 was too much to pay for a minimum wage, dropped robot bombs on overseas civilians, reigned in SuperPAC money, and courted corporate executives for Washington roles supervising the industries they were charged with overseeing.   They took vast sums of money from private prisons, giant investment banks, pharmaceutical companies, big oil, and defense contractors under the guise of the high cost of running for public office, though public funding of elections has always been an option on the table they didn’t seem interested in.  And their latest scheme, sponsored by Debbie Wasserman Schulz, the head of the DNC, is to make it harder for the Consumer Protection Bureau to regulate and punish predatory payday lenders who essentially tithe and starve out poor people who can’t pay exorbitant bills for things like public utilities which could easily be price-controlled at the federal or state level.  Oh, but Democrats totally passed gay marriage.  It had nothing to do with hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ activists working tirelessly to defeat the discriminatory laws Democrats all supported just a few years back.

With the latest primary, they've attempted to use superdelegate power, media manipulation and distortions, potential voter fraud, and disenfranchisement of their base to prove that voting itself is irrelevant. Why?  Because the socialist Jew is totally unrealistic about how things get done.  He has been out there standing on picket lines with unions and not waiting for the politically convenient time to champion human rights causes.  Doesn’t he realize that it’s coercion and control, pandering and pre-compromise that get things done?  Didn’t he realize that we already reserved the Presidency for the person who got second place last go-around?

So, after Democrats have eliminated old pie-in-the-sky Sanders, the Presidential race becomes less of a race than a confirmation hearing, a formality.  Because none of you are actually going to vote for Cruz or Trump, right?  With that said, it's less than a coin toss.  It's a coronation of one candidate.  There's only one name on the ballot.  Does that sound like democracy? Keep telling Bernie to drop out, though; that way you're complicit in it and the people will have spoken on how much they like their aristocratic god-kings.  In a sham democracy, every incremental inch they dig us further into or out of our graves comes with an endorsement from those stupid enough to vote into it.

The Democrats too made the choice between capitalism and democracy and guess which one they chose?  However, if you believe for a second that even one of the above mentioned examples of both parties reneging on their deference to the power of the people is true, even if you have your doubts on the validity of all of them, then democracy and capitalism both are fundamentally broken and the situation is dire.  The horizon is upon us and the drop beyond it is steep.   Would Trump’s fascist intent scare us one iota if there were a legitimate system of checks and balances in place to protect us from it?

We can rise to this occasion, but we can't do so by voting for or surrendering to incremental change.  And if you do so, don't be surprised and shocked when you are the one begging for the lag to catch up to your need.  These capitalist statists will chip away at your home value, your labor value, your social security, your life expectancy, your self-worth.  Your children will live a shittier, shallower future, if they're lucky enough to live to see it since going to school, drinking the water, eating the frankenfood, and getting sick are all now bigger risks than they once were.  Democrats and Republicans and the megalomaniacal executive suite inbetween all benefit from us being either too cynical to think that anything could ever change or too depressed to think anything we do could ever make a difference, but we can bust out of these pre-written narratives. 

It will be awkward to stand up now when you haven't before, to deviate from what the rest of the world seems to be telling you, but it will be rewarding because you will be on the right side of history.  And it's a relatively minor risk compared to the gambles people take all the time just fighting for the right to be recognized as a black or a trans human with dignity or to even be recognized as a woman who is allowed to comment on movies or video games on the internet.  Your risk in denouncing the system and asking for something better is relatively small.  I know because I'm a cowardly little shit and even as I inch further into an income level and a business class with certain expectations, all it costs is my pride to stand outside, to reject mainstream society's demented values and to be positive rather than cynical about new directions.  

I'm not a religious man or a believer of any kind, but I do feel that King is possibly the closest personification we've had of Christ on earth in historical memory.  In addition to their great moral clarity, King's words have a powerful literary grace.  One of his better known statements is that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice".  What's often forgot in our present moment is that the arc is only long because we are the ones who bend it.  It takes work and it takes patience sure, but we have to demand that it bend when it's not doing so.  We can't just rely on a lesser evil to bend towards us and not the other way.  The magnetism of the greater evil will always be equally as strong as us, if not even greater. It holds all things that humans innately desire- power, success, fame, wealth, control- but which the arc of justice finds intrinsically problematic.

Earlier in the same speech, King says "I must admit to you that there are still jail cells waiting for us, and dark and difficult moments. But if we will go on with the faith that nonviolence and its power can transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows, we will be able to change all of these conditions... We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience."

Democrats and Republicans are not concerned about their conscience when they undermine democratic methods of governing to achieve incremental changes to status quo, bending the arc towards more poison, more suffering, more torture, and more struggle while tossing out an inappropriately small amount of life preservers for a few.  For all the flustering about religion and God that both parties pay lip service to, the public is well aware that there's a deep spiritual void at the heart of the cooperation between state and capital.  Corporate and state power both know that people waiting for a better tomorrow are prone to look out for one another, and that their collective grief with the structural injustices that benefit the elite may one day be loud enough to stir even those comfortable enough to be complacent with the status quo.  So, they create divisions and find ways to silence or marginalize voices. They change the law to fit their needs and create the illusion of consent from a poorly informed or a morally compromised public.

There's a flipside to this though too.  A pro-democracy movement that works against this will need to first compete with it.  The situation we find ourselves in, particularly with regard to climate change, is serious, but can we get to the point of reversal quickly enough by allowing people to elect in?  Will we need to force people's hands, to stop debate, and to marginalize some voices or risk losing the species?  And if so, does this constant back-and-forth between various power communities represent a species worth saving?

What's at stake here is not just ideology or different approaches, but a full-on species-wide existential crisis that demands to know- who are we as a people? Are we a society that can live with its conscience?  Are we a world that even desires utopia or are we content to seek some slightly more desirable niche in this current state of discomfort, incrementally bending the arc to and fro and hoping it doesn’t one day whack us so hard that we all fall down? I'm not naive enough to think one election can make much of a dent in this age old philosophical debate, but I'm also not shortsighted enough to think that there won't be another election year with another Hillary and another Trump and another Cruz coming down the bend shortly.  There will be more setbacks and more harm and more challenges and maybe a few victories between now and then, but what will really change if it's just the same players playing the same game serving the same motives? 

And think about this-who will the Democrats enlist to be their snake oil salesman facsimile of a democratic socialist next time?  Capitalism is nothing if not adaptive.    If it senses change, it jumps at it.  It is always ready to deterritorialize for the sake of reterritorializing later.  The window of opportunity to break free from this box before we death spiral into dinosaur territory may be small.  Please use it and use it wisely. 

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