Fear and loathing of the mob is even extending to the storied Big Tent of the Democratic Party. Having lost about a thousand state and national seats in the last decade, the party remains riven by its own factions of populism and elitism. Its much-touted Unity Tour proved to be a big flop, possibly because DNC Chairman Tom Perez's idea of unity was to purge the leadership of the populist Bernie Sanders supporters.
Since that purging did not automatically convince the populist faction to fall on their knees and beg for mercy, the next step is to publicly shame them for merely existing. "Is the Democratic Party Becoming Too Democratic?" archly asked the New York Times this week in an editorial written by two credentialed academics:
(Come on, proles! You knew just from reading the title of this piece that it would be the latest in the Times' timeless series, "A Thousand and One Ways to Blame Bernie, Bash Trump, and Beatify Hillary.")Part of the problem for parties is our insistence that they be run democratically. That turns out not to be a very realistic concept. Yes, we can hold elections within parties, but party leaders will always have vastly more information about candidates — their strengths and flaws, their ability to govern and work with Congress, their backing among various interest groups and coalitions — than voters and caucusgoers do. That information is useful, even vital, to the task of picking a good nominee. As the political scientist E. E. Schattschneider once said, democracy is to be found between the parties, not within them.Casting doubts about a party’s legitimacy — in particular picking a presidential nominee — can have real electoral consequences. In 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders highlighted Hillary Clinton’s contributions from well-heeled donors, and particularly her strong support among the party’s superdelegates, as signals that the nomination contest had been fixed for her and that the only way for the Democratic Party to be a truly democratic party would be to nominate Mr. Sanders.
But the authors do have a point. As the late political philosopher Simone Weil observed, a political party exists in the interests of itself rather than in the interests of its members. And since the main goals are "to generate collective passions," to attract money and members, and to win and maintain power, it is always necessary to lie by employing the egalitarian language of democracy. Therefore, the very name "Democratic Party" is a lie unto itself.
Weil wrote that political parties by their nature are misanthropic:
"Political parties are organizations that are publicly and officially designed for the purpose of killing in all souls the sense of truth and of justice. Collective pressure is exerted upon a wide public by the means of propaganda. The avowed purpose of propaganda is not to impart light, but to persuade. Hitler saw very clearly that the aim of propaganda must always be to enslave minds. All political parties make propaganda. A party that would not do so would disappear, since all its competitors practice it... Political parties do profess, it is true, to educate those who come to them: supporters, young people, new members. But this is a lie: it is not an education, it is a conditioning, a preparation for the far more rigorous ideological control imposed by the party upon its members."Another French philosopher, Jacques Rancière, writes that the Hatred of Democracy now being openly displayed by the political "centrists" of the Democratic Party is as old as the de facto oligarchies which have controlled civilizations throughout history:
Double discourse on democracy is nothing new... we're used to hearing that democracy is the worst of government with the exception of all the others"... (but) the new antidemocratic sentiment gives the general formula a more troubling expression. Democratic government, it says, is bad when it is allowed to be corrupted by democratic society, which wants for everyone to be equal and for all differences to be respected.... The thesis of this new hatred of democracy can be succinctly put: there is only one good democracy, the one that represses the catastrophe of democratic civilization."The current crisis in American democratic propaganda has its roots in the most severe wealth inequality in modern times.
In good times, leaders can more or less successfully urge people to consume - both material goods and entertainment - as a substitute for direct civil engagement. But with the hollowing out of the middle class comes the inevitable backlash. The financialized economy, or rule by the bankers, is virtually destroying the ability of most people to consume. Resulting dissent and unrest are threatening the confidence of the same elites who allowed deregulated capitalism to destroy the very consumerism which has nurtured it so well. Thus the haste with which they are now ramming through the repeal of Net Neutrality, the highway robbery known as Tax Reform, the ultra-consolidation of the already-consolidated mass media, revving up the war machine to epic suicidal as well as homicidal proportions, and making their emergency plans to privatize Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. They don't want too many healthy people getting in their way.
In a brand new report, Thomas Piketty and 100 other researchers have concluded that with extreme wealth inequality only growing worse with every passing year, all over the world, a whole panoply of social, economic and political catastrophes are inevitable. Worldwide, the top one percent of income "earners" have captured twice as much of the capital growth as the bottom half of the global population. Since 1980, with the rise of finance-controlled neoliberal forms of government, the massive transfer of public to private wealth has occurred in nearly all countries - so much so that public wealth is zero or in negative territory. While actual countries, like the US, have become richer, their governments have become poorer - by design. It gives them a perfect excuse to punish the poor in the name of "fiscal responsibility."
The Republicans, of course, have long stopped pretending to be on the "side" of the people who elect them in safe, gerrymandered districts. And increasingly, so have the establishment Democrats, with their own refusal to even acknowledge the wishes of the "Demos" for such nice but "impossible" things as universal health care, debt-free public education, a living wage and guaranteed incomes for those who cannot work or cannot find work. All they offer to the base is fear of Russia, with a concurrent redirection of populist anger at sexual harassment in Hollywood, corporate broadcast and print news, and to a much lesser extent, the Beltway and Silicon Valley. The financiers of Wall Street have so far been curiously exempt from the scandals, despite their many other serial predations and crimes against the body politic.
We do not even enjoy "representative democracy" in this country. Rather, as Jacques Rancière observes, we live under a system of Representative Oligarchy, "a representation of minorities who are entitled to take charge of public affairs either directly or though consultation."
Everything is presented in terms of the economy and the Market, with the only "reality" offered to us, and to which we should aspire, being the unlimited power and glory of wealth. This is why centrist Democrats like Barack Obama constantly talked up a "balanced approach" to allow the co-existence of unlimited oligarchic greed with society's Left Behinds. The "losers" are urged to hone their skills, work hard, compete against your fellows, share the sacrifice, aspire to riches, and instead of complaining, get out there and vote!
Meanwhile, the rulers euphemize the slashing of the safety net with such weasel words as "modernization" in order to help the masses adapt to their ever more harsh realities. It's propaganda designed to give our oligarchy a renewed legitimacy. It follows, therefore, that the main reason that the wealthy liberal class hates Trump so much is because he foments the "divisiveness" making it so hard to keep the population sedated and under oligarchic control.
The true definition of democracy is the struggles of ordinary people, both individuals and groups, for social and economic justice. These include struggles against the electoral system and the parties themselves.
Democracy has nothing to do with money-driven political parties and their agendas. It has everything to do with Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on a bus.