So it was all the more eerily prescient that in an interview with Chris Hedges last year, Wolin observed that it is essentially verboten for the media-political complex to openly declare that American democracy has been kicked upside the head, resulting in the creation of the Total Capitalistic State. Speaking such a truth might give the plutocratic ruling class a bad case of agita, even if it's mentioned in the obituary of the man who made educating the public about this inconvenient truth his life's work.
Wolin was talking about the capture of private media and public institutions by unfettered capital long before Bernie Sanders started running for president, of course. And given that such plain-speaking from within the political establishment is as rare as a snowball in hell, whether Bernie does in fact have a chance in hell of winning the Democratic nomination has been rendered moot. He is changing the dialogue. He is mentioning the S word, (socialism) and the world has not come to an end. That is quite a revolutionary breakthrough in the historic scheme of things.
The recent rise of Bernie Sanders is comparable to the rise of Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party in the early 20th century. TR failed to win the presidency under that populist banner, but the rhetoric still became part of the conversation. Wall Street was put on notice. And by the time the market crashed in 1929, the populist stage was set for Cousin Franklin's New Deal.
What Sheldon Wolin has called the radical experiment, "an unprecedented expansion of state power during peacetime" of FDR's great social programs has been under reactionary attack ever since, with the Democrats wimping out to Republicans when they are not actually aiding and abetting them. The Cold War and the fight against Communism was the initial excuse for shredding the safety net, with that excuse now morphing into the perpetual War on Terror. Fear and want, they think, will keep people quiet.
That Sanders is even getting mainstream coverage on the proposed expansion of New Deal programs should at least put a temporary halt to their open evisceration by the GOP, and their piecemeal evisceration by Clintonian Third Way Democrats. To that extent, he is right about his campaign being tantamount to a revolution.
It's the beginning of a counter-counterrevolution against the corporate capture of government."The ultimate merger would be between capitalism and democracy," Wolin wrote of the right-wing war against the New Deal in Democracy, Inc. "Once the identity and security of democracy were successfully identified with the Cold War, the stage was set for intimidation of most politics left of right."
Unlike Nazism, Stalinism and fascism, inverted totalitarianism in the United States is "a system driven not by an individual ruler, but by abstract totalizing powers, one that succeeds by encouraging political disengagement rather than mass mobilization, that relies more on 'private' media than on public agencies to disseminate propaganda reinforcing the official version of events."
Here's looking at you, New York Times, from your boosting corporate political candidates, to your boosting preemptive wars of aggression, to bowdlerizing the message of one your harshest, most accurate critics in the obituary that you just deigned to write about him.
"Managed democracy" is the definition of inverted totalitarianism. American democracy is largely contained within the now-permanent electoral process. We are invited to give our opinions on candidates and wedge issues rather than upon substantive issues. We're invited to rail against Ben Carson's snake oil and Marco Rubio's sordid finances instead of the things, like medical care and paychecks, that affect us personally. We're invited to equate voting for a pre-selected candidate with legitimating that candidate.
Wolin wrote, "The United States has become the showcase for how democracy can be managed without appearing to be suppressed. This has come about, not through a Leader's imposing his will or the State's forcibly eliminating opposition, but through certain developments, notably in the economy, that promoted integration, rationalization, concentrated wealth, and a faith that virtually any problem -- from health care, to political crises, to faith itself -- could be managed, even subject to control, predictability and cost-effectiveness in the delivery of the product. Voters are made as predictable as consumers.... The regime ideology is capitalism, which is as virtually undisputed as Nazi doctrine in 1930s Germany."
Another word for this state of affairs is "neoliberalism," or as Margaret Thatcher charmingly defined it, "There is no alternative." (TINA.)
That is why, even though he might not have a chance of winning, Bernie Sanders is turning TINA right on its over-inflated head. He's chasing away the apathy that the oligarchs are counting on. He's afflicting the comfortable. And that includes Hillary Clinton. Even if she wins the presidency, she will lose political capital and public approval for every campaign promise that she decides to break.
Meanwhile, here is the complete 2014 Real News Network conversation between Sheldon Wolin and Chris Hedges. It's divided into eight 20-minute parts, so you can watch it at your leisure.