Jared Diamond had it right. Following are three articles that should not be read without booze at the ready — if you’re progressively inclined, that is.
The Coming Collapse, by Chris Hedges (Common Dreams)
It is impossible for any doomed population to grasp how fragile the decayed financial, social and political system is on the eve of implosion.
The Trump administration did not rise, prima facie, like Venus on a half shell from the sea. Donald Trump is the result of a long process of political, cultural and social decay. He is a product of our failed democracy. The longer we perpetuate the fiction that we live in a functioning democracy, that Trump and the political mutations around him are somehow an aberrant deviation that can be vanquished in the next election, the more we will hurtle toward tyranny. The problem is not Trump. It is a political system, dominated by corporate power and the mandarins of the two major political parties, in which we don’t count. We will wrest back political control by dismantling the corporate state, and this means massive and sustained civil disobedience, like that demonstrated by teachers around the country this year. If we do not stand up we will enter a new dark age.
The Democratic Party, which helped build our system of inverted totalitarianism, is once again held up by many on the left as the savior. Yet the party steadfastly refuses to address the social inequality that led to the election of Trump and the insurgency by Bernie Sanders. It is deaf, dumb and blind to the very real economic suffering that plagues over half the country. It will not fight to pay workers a living wage. It will not defy the pharmaceutical and insurance industries to provide Medicare for all. It will not curb the voracious appetite of the military that is disemboweling the country and promoting the prosecution of futile and costly foreign wars. It will not restore our lost civil liberties, including the right to privacy, freedom from government surveillance, and due process. It will not get corporate and dark money out of politics. It will not demilitarize our police and reform a prison system that has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners although the United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population. It plays to the margins, especially in election seasons, refusing to address substantive political and social problems and instead focusing on narrow cultural issues like gay rights, abortion and gun control in our peculiar species of anti-politics.
And so, to quote Vladimir Lenin, what must be done?
We must invest our energy in building parallel, popular institutions to protect ourselves and to pit power against power. These parallel institutions, including unions, community development organizations, local currencies, alternative political parties and food cooperatives, will have to be constructed town by town. The elites in a time of distress will retreat to their gated compounds and leave us to fend for ourselves. Basic services, from garbage collection to public transportation, food distribution and health care, will collapse. Massive unemployment and underemployment, triggering social unrest, will be dealt with not through government job creation but the brutality of militarized police and a complete suspension of civil liberties. Critics of the system, already pushed to the margins, will be silenced and attacked as enemies of the state. The last vestiges of labor unions will be targeted for abolition, a process that will soon be accelerated given the expected ruling in a case before the Supreme Court that will cripple the ability of public-sector unions to represent workers. The dollar will stop being the world’s reserve currency, causing a steep devaluation. Banks will close. Global warming will extract heavier and heavier costs, especially on the coastal populations, farming and the infrastructure, costs that the depleted state will be unable to address. The corporate press, like the ruling elites, will go from burlesque to absurdism, its rhetoric so patently fictitious it will, as in all totalitarian states, be unmoored from reality. The media outlets will all sound as fatuous as Trump. And, to quote W.H. Auden, “the little children will die in the streets.”
Here is part one of the author’s diary chronicling the “oddest” House race in America (New York 19).
The Battle of Woodstock, by Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone)
What does it mean when the biggest threat to upstart Democrats is the national Democratic Party?
Before he knew it, pulling the veil back on Iraq was a memory. Beals) was now witnessing something just as strange that he felt the world needed to hear about: the machinations of congressional campaigning.
Major-party politics in America, he insists, is little more than a giant protection racket. As he describes it, the party bureaucracies use local elections as forums to gobble up cash by the multi-millions, with ideology or even winning being, at best, ancillary considerations.
The need to continually raise more and more money to support party bureaucracies becomes so intense that the notion of choosing candidates based on ideas or principles becomes a far-away dream.
“It’s like The Godfather,” says Beals. “You know how Michael says, ‘In five years, the Corleone family will be completely legitimate’? It’s just one day. One day. Like, we’re not there.”
“This is where things get dark, but I think there are a lot of people who want you to think we can’t win those votes,” he says. “They want us to just get back to focusing on the fundraising, and keep the cash cow going.”
Beals belongs to the camp that believes that part of what’s turned off voters in both parties is the co-mingling of corporate money and politics, and that the only way to win people back is to eschew that money. For this reason, he makes sure to work in a line about how “I don’t accept corporate PAC donations” at every door knock.
Since 2016, only a few high-profile Democrats have dared to edge within shouting distance of this point of view …
Depressed yet? Just one more.
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised, by Andrew Levine (CounterPunch)
If, as is widely predicted, Democrats trounce Republicans in the 2018 mid-term elections, the political scene in the United States could become a tad less awful. That is the good news.
The bad news isn’t news at all; it is that Democrats worth supporting for reasons other than Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and the odiousness of House and Senate Republicans, Republican governors, and Republicans at all levels of state and local government, are few and far between.
As candidates emerge from this spring’s and the coming summer’s primaries, the situation may become less bleak, but it will still not be good. The reason is plain: Democrats are odious too, and even if that wretched party is ultimately salvageable, this is not going to happen over the next few months.
It would be a step in the right direction, though, were some fresh progressive faces to come on the scene – women (the emphasis this year is on them) and men of evident dedication and integrity who would give voters reasons to vote for Democrats beyond the ones that are so painfully obvious.
As matters now stand, the only arguably defensible reason to vote for Democrats is to vote against Republicans. If the party leaders can be kept from sabotaging the efforts of genuine progressives, and if there are enough of them and their spiels turn out to be more honest than, say, Obama’s was ten years ago, then, perhaps that could change for the better.
Transforming the Democratic Party is a Herculean task. But it is a lot more doable than overturning the duopoly party system that Democrats and Republicans have concocted over the years …