Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Party Like It's 2016

The modern Establishment has been weirdly successful in getting Americans to believe that even though we live in an oligarchy, there's still enough democracy left to make sure that every vote counts.

Not this year, though. Two upstart candidates, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, are knocking that supposition for one big loop. Citizen-consumers are discovering that our "democratic" system has very sneaky, fail-safe ways of purging unwanted candidates from its private Duopoly. Of course, the outsiders are not being imprisoned or vaporized  as they would be in blatantly totalitarian regimes. In our system  -- which the late Sheldon Wolin  dubbed "inverted totalitarianism" -- the purging is accomplished through more subtle, but still ham-fisted, means.

Methods to the madness are employed by the method actors of the media-political complex.  Six major corporations control 90 percent of all disseminated content, in TV, movies and print. Access to the powerful has become more important than holding the powerful to account. When ownership becomes more consolidated, public accountability slides down the memory hole.

 Then there's the authoritarian infrastructure of the parties themselves. Super-delegates are given weighted votes in order to prevent gains by independent or grassroots candidates. The public-spirited League of Women Voters no longer controls the general election debates. A privately funded and owned commission does that now. The previews of primary town halls and televised bicker-fests are controlled by the parties themselves,  and they're sponsored by the corporate-funded networks. The GOP has held too many, while the Democrats have held too few. But the ads are legion. The ratings are high and the record profits are beyond the wildest dreams of the owners.

 And finally, there is the ever increasing influence of the direct cash "gifts" to the candidates. It now costs more than a billion dollars to run for president. And the ultra-rich who foot the bill, as Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page have established, usually get what they want from the candidates they fund. No matter that the majority of us want expanded Social Security and universal health care. Since the rich do not want or need these benefits, the good life is not to be had by anyone but themselves. The richer that people get, the more paranoid they seem to become about some poor person stealing even the tiniest morsel from their dinner plates.

The fact that billionaire Trump is (allegedly) self-funding his campaign, and millions of ordinary people really are funding Bernie's is more of a direct challenge to Citizens United than any public interest group could ever have imagined. Money has finally arrived as a major campaign theme for perhaps the first time since bribery was legalized by the Supreme Court. And Big Money is not too happy about all this sunlight. It threatens to disinfect the whole sordid process.

Ballots aren't the only things that are weighted. Even sincere, popular, and legitimately elected politicians are prone to forget the voters once they are safely esconced in office. The corporate-controlled shadow governments of the CIA and the NSA and the Pentagon come knocking at the Oval Office door on Day One, extending their tentacles to give a welcoming squeeze and an offer the new dude cannot possibly refuse. Then there are the armies of lobbyists, euphemized as "consultants." These militarists and operatives are also regular guests on the corporate talk shows, the better to spread the propaganda and the news stories within the extremely narrow parameters which the ruling class allows.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders still presents a threat to the status quo, as the bigwigs strive to limit him, despite a recent slew of wins, to the bit part of the far-out fringe-dweller challenging Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump, once so inordinately elevated and showcased by the greedy media at rallies which sometimes resemble violent racial cleansing sites, suddenly finds his own racist self on the receiving end of an attempted purge. First, the elites pretended to be disgusted by the guy as he raked in the bucks for them. Now, they pretend to realize that their spectacle has gone on for way too long. Why? Because  the corporations funding the politics are beginning to withdraw their brands and money from a potentially violent brokered convention. The delegates might even get denied their complimentary cans of Coke.

Trump's own children can't even vote for him in New York's closed primary next week. Anyone who forgot to change his party affiliation before an arbitrary deadline expiring many months ago will not be permitted to vote. This punishes the independents who have elected Bernie Sanders in eight out of the last nine contests, but it will also depress turnout from Trump fans who are not registered Republicans. This scenario especially rewards Hillary Clinton, whose main support in the state comes from older, registered Democrats.

Party elders did forget, though, to bar never-registered young people, who were given more time to pose as members of either party in order to participate in New York's election. So we shall see.

Even in a democracy, political parties were never meant to be democratic. I've written before about French philosopher Simone Weil's call (immediately post-Hitler) to abolish all political parties. Parties exist for purely selfish reasons: to grow without end, to gain new consumers, and to make tons of money.

 Nothing in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights says anything about citizens having to elect representatives from within the confines of parties.

Tellingly, it was the post-French Revolution Reign of Terror that spawned the modern political party system. So is it any surprise that variations on the fear factor are always on the platforms of both Republicans and Democrats? The war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on women, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.... and guns, guns and more guns -- the controlling of them, the wearing of them, the proliferation of them. Where would American political parties be without violence and paranoia as the glue holding the teetering duopoly together?

The three characteristics of political parties that Simone Weil outlined 70 years ago apply just as well to the modern Democratic and Republican machines:
1. A political party is a machine to generate collective passions.
2. A political party is an organisation designed to exert collective pressure upon the minds of all its individual members.
3. The first objective and also the ultimate goal of any political party is its own growth, without limit. 
She continued:
Because of these three characteristics, every party is totalitarian - potentially and by aspiration. If one party is not actually totalitarian, it is simply because those parties that surround it are no less so....
No man, even if he had conducted advanced research in political studies, would ever be able to provide a clear and precise description of the doctrine of any party, including (should he belong to one) his own.
People are generally reluctant to acknowledge such a thing. If they were to confess it, they would naively be inclined to attribute their incapacity to their own intellectual limitations, whereas, in fact, the very phrase 'a political party's doctrine' cannot have any meaning.
An individual, even if he spends his entire life writing and pondering problems of ideas, only rarely elaborates a doctrine. A group of people can never do so. A doctrine cannot be a collective product.
Extrapolating from those words of wisdom, it is thus patently dishonest for "party elders" to claim that the current popular outsider candidates are not a Real Republican or a Real Democrat. There is no such thing.

And, given the totalitarian nature of the two-party system in the United States, it really is something of a miracle that two outsider candidates have turned the tables and essentially co-opted them, instead of the other way around.

Maybe there's life in the old Democratic gal yet. Maybe the Duopoly is on the way to the dustbin of history.


annenigma said...

On the topic of Parties, here's my take on why Senator Jeff Merkley just endorsed Bernie Sanders.

Oooooh, that grassroots movement! Gotta get me a piece of that, says every politician in the land.

Excuse me, but why is this endorsement coming so late? Bernie's positions haven't changed. Merkley's roots/family background hasn't changed. Nothing has changed except Hillary's lead is now insurmountable = safe.

We're familiar with the practice in Congress of allowing certain individuals whose re-election might be shaky, to vote against a bill that the Party supports - providing it's SAFELY going to pass without their vote - insuring that the Congressman maintains support and re-election chances at home. It's a calculated move and common political/campaign ploy.

The fact is, there's a powerful grassroots movement that politicians desperately want to take advantage of, as does the Democratic Party. By rigging the nomination process all along to defeat Bernie, the Party is alienating the movement. With Hillary burning bridges with Bernie voters left and right, what's a Party to do? Recruit some sheepherders.

Notice the increase already in "uniting the Party" pleas? With precious few politicians willing (or allowed to) endorse Bernie, the Party needs more late/safe endorsements for this express purpose.

Ok, call me cynical, but Senator Merkley's endorsement of Bernie only after Hillary has it in the bag and thus is of little help to Bernie, and with nothing about Bernie having changed, it smells like politics as usual to me.

Karen Garcia said...


I got the same impression. Oregon voted overwhelmingly for Sanders and ergo the Senator "courageously" breaks away from the corrupt Millionaires' Club. He really had no choice. Whoopdy-doo.

I am anxiously awaiting (barring an electoral miracle, of course) to see just how Bernie frames his concession/endorsement speech. Will he make demands for the Party Platform and call for a new consolidated left-wing movement as he bows out? Or will he just fold? That is the Question. After all his rhetoric, I simply can't see him just folding. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt right up to the bitter end (or, if you want to be optimistic about it, the End of the Beginning.)

Jay–Ottawa said...

I have no statistics to back up the following statement, just an impression from standing back in my cooler moments to watch what's taking place between here and the horizon. Close to 100% of addicted readers to the NY Times are likely to vote in the Democratic column year in and year out, no matter what. They are composed of (1) the Democratic Party's branch of the neocon and neoliberal establishment, (2) despairing liberals resigned to lesser evilism, and (3) restorationist progressives intent on reestablishing an updated New Deal.

Therein lies the flaw and the trap, in number 3. The reforms needed to restore the US to its grand old peaks of economic and political justice (never that great in the first place) can never again be achieved through the Democratic Party, not even with a successful but polite Bernie revolution.

Even if, by some miracle, Lady Icarus nosedives before or during the Democratic Convention and the DNC is forced to serve Sanders up as the party's nominee. Even if the NY Times were to back Sanders post convention in all its columns. Even if Sanders were to defeat the Republican candidate in the general election.

Real corrections to the present state of affairs will have to come from an independent, long term, groundswell movement utterly disconnected from the Duopoly. News of such a revolution won't be found on 24/7 cable TV or the pages of the NY Times. Dutifully reading the NY Times––other than being forced to for professional reasons––just might be an indication that you are a Democrat of the 1, 2, or 3 variety.

However, if you dutifully go elsewhere for political enlightenment, then maybe you are a follower of Zinn, Chomsky and Paul Street.

A friend just sent me Street's April 12 article explaining all this and so much more. Krugman and the whole cast at the Times are dwarfs compared to Street and others writing in CounterPunch.

Let's play a game. Let's pretend you had a choice of reading only CounterPunch or only the NY Times. Oh wait––we're already living that pretend game. And look at you, still going first and long for the NY Times. Sure, you read other publications; but the Times is really high on the list, isn't it? And you don't spend as much time––every day!––with other pubs. If so, deep down, you're a 1-2-3 Democrat. And the Dems and the Times are cons.

Doug (Doktor) Richardson said...

-Hi Karen! Saw your NYT comment on The Huffington Post as one of the top ten best responses to Krugman's hit piece on Bernie! Well Done! Marie must burning alive with envy....

Doug (Doktor) Richardson said...

Karen I really agree with your post today, very enlightening. I would ad that there is definitely no Liberal Media - at all. There are so many examples of the conservative bias. We've had 35 years of lowered taxes and deregulation and what has it brought us? A few more Greedy billionaires, and a lowered standard of living for hundreds of millions of Americans. At least 7 foreign countries have a higher standard of living and a higher upward mobility rate than we do - Put simply; At least 7 other countries have better access to the American dream than Americans do! Our entire infrastructure is crumbling, falling apart and poisoning us.

People need to Wake up, before conservatives destroy America forever.

Tens of millions of Americans will get up and go to work for 40 hours or more and not earn enough to live on - capitalism has failed in America under republican rule, over 70% of elected officials are republicans right now. Yet the American media never asks republicans about these inconvenient facts - republicans are running things, so why is everything going wrong?

Bernie vs Hillary pragmatically - Hillary has refused to release the transcripts of those paid speeches to a group of people with direct knowledge of what caused the global financial meltdown. Before we vote for her as President we would like to know what promises did she make to these people?
My biggest concern for a Hillary candidacy is her high unfavorables among Independents and her off the chart unfavorability with repubs - tens of millions of otherwise disenheartened republicans will come out just to vote AGAINST Hillary, it's not fair but it's true.
Bernie has nowhere near the unfavorables among Independents or republicans, there is actually polling that suggests some crossover from the republican side, and some very strong support among independents, meaning Bernie Sanders would have a better chance of giving Dems control of the House & Senate - unimaginable with a Hillary candidacy.

We might as well talk about Jeffrey Epstein; Even if we ignore salacious innuendo and only look to the facts - Billionaire Epstein had paid sex with at least 34 under age girls - allegedly some as young as 12 & 13 on his jets and private island, was only charged with one count, let off with probation and some type of evening confinement, sealed court records in Florida while Bush's were in charge at the White House & Gov.s mansion in Florida, Epstein also called Bill Clinton a friend, with existing records detailing multiple jet trips and visits to his Island. Here's some links - - - - - - - - - - This sick bastard got off because of money in politics, making the story quite relevant - why no media interest? Trump knows him too.

Doug (Doktor) Richardson said...

On Krugman - The Krugman hit piece is just one more piece of evidence proving the Orwellian "Group Think" in NYC. They've all said from day one - not even trying to hide their derision - "Sanders is unelectable" too bad they forgot that the American people still have a say in that! The problem is that all the news we see now, originates in one space in NYC, they all know each other, they all know what side their bread is buttered on and they pretend there is a vast Liberal media out there- somewhere - but it's a Unicorn . There is no Liberal Media - anywhere. The American media is conservatively biased and if any of these ditto heads and group thinkers would step away long enough or - do the unthinkable - Ask an Average Working American! We would set them straight! But they gaze down on us from their Ivory towers in NYC sipping whatever it is rich people sip these days - sputtering platitudes about circumstances they know nothing about.

Doug (Doktor) Richardson said...

I think Bernie could make a big enough stink during this debate to get himself back in the race. If he brought up Epstein on national television as an argument against money in politics, if he would bring up an internet sales tax to bring small business owners on board, coupled with a federally subsidized laving wage even more business owners would give him a look. And for Black voters the subsidized wage and training bonus for employers and talk at length about THE JOB CORPS!!!

annenigma said...

Actually, Oregon has yet to vote (May 17). Better late than never, but I suspect Senator Merkley found his courage to support Bernie in some polls showing Oregon voters supporting Bernie.

I read some NYT comments the other day defending the Democratic Party's right to use super-delegates and create whatever rules it wants "because it's like a private club", then went on to criticize Bernie for not paying his dues to the club by raising money for other members like Hillary has. George Carlin told us long ago that our country is run by The Club and we aren't in it. His "Who Really Controls America" act is still a hoot, truer than ever. The comments below the video are worth reading too.

With two essentially private clubs already using legal teams and dirty tricks to keep third parties off the debate stage and off state ballots, it's mindblowing to realize they also have the ability to actually cancel caucuses and primaries "to save money" which is the excuse given. That means we're one step away from officially and completely losing our vote in the primaries and we'll be stuck with their two selections in the general election. Colorado Republicans actually eliminated their caucus this year and I remember reading that Washington State Democrats debated eliminating theirs a couple of years ago but kept them for this election.

When Democrats cry about Republicans disenfranchising voters, they should look in the mirror. Why shouldn't both these Parties be outlawed? They both violate our rights to vote and our selection of who to vote for, but because they do so without using race or language to discriminate, they get away with it. We need a new and improved Voting Rights Act that prohibits political parties from restricting our right to vote for any candidate or party, period. What they're doing may be technically legal, how can it be Constitutional? Take the caucuses (please!). The infirm elderly, the disabled, those who travel for work, and those who work out of state or country, can't even vote under the caucus system. It stinks.

Karen Garcia said...

I wouldn't touch that Epstein story with a ten foot pole, or believe a word that the vicious Ann Coulter says. There is no evidence that Bill actually participated in any orgies. For one thing, he appears way too feeble these days. The Clinton campaign is already comparing Sanders supporters to the Tea Party crowd, so why give them any more ammo? The Clintons have always paradoxically thrived on the right-wing smear machine, because it helps to render legitimate criticism from the Left toothless. Let's go after her on her neocon foreign policy and ties to Goldman Sachs instead.

And jeeze, I must really be losing it. I could have sworn Oregon had already voted, maybe because it is such a sure thing for Sanders. Thanks for the correction, Anne!

Doug (Doktor) Richardson said...

Hey Karen, I mention the Epstein story (and posted multiple links) not to insinuate Bill Clinton, he was not in a position of power when Epstein got leniency - the Bush's were. That is my point, by ignoring the story we only empower the billionaire class and their ties to power that should be brought out into the light of day.
I continue to be amazed by the willingness of people far and wide to ignore this story when the facts are so plain. The George W. Bush prosecutors who were so conspicuously inserted into power helped this guy get off and the Jeb Investigators, perhaps the same bunch who helped Michelle O'Connell's murderer get away, were in on this too.

annenigma said...

I don't follow Ann Coulter so I don't know what she's saying, but I've been following this case for years. I first caught whiff of it in the Guardian and boy does it stink. I don't recall seeing it covered in our domestic media. With all the powerful connections, it's obvious why.

The scandal dates back to well before Billygoat Clinton lost his get up and go. (Besides, Viagra's been around since 1998). The whole thing is a great example of the lifestyles of the rich and famous, how these men routinely prey upon women, especially young girls, how they share their playthings/sex slaves with their friends, and how they all get away with it through their money and powerful connections.

Speaking of connections, Jeffrey Epstein's phenomenal career and financial rise is almost unbelievable.

Anyway, the Clintons are so covered with stinking muck, what difference would it make if the media dared to go there now? But of course they won't. That means that the only ones talking about what really goes on among the High and Mighty will be those talking heads on Hate Radio preaching to their choir. So most Democrats can continue to strut around proudly, thinking their shit doesn't stink.

Doug (Doktor) Richardson said...

@Karen Garcia; P.S. I posted the link to the story that happened to quote Coulter because it had so many good links in it. The Epstein story epitomizes the Wall Street problem IMHO as it shows just how much you can get away with if you accumulate piles of money, you can cultivate phony friendships with people who crave power and money more than they crave good judgement.

Doug (Doktor) Richardson said...

WOW!!!! The original link is gone. That page has been destroyed. The story with Anne Coulter as the sole commenter is not what I intended. Obviously the links that were included were too good. Bummer.

Doug (Doktor) Richardson said...

{"Also, a hedge fund prosecution in which Epstein offered to give evidence was heating up. Alberto Gonzales, who was U.S. attorney general throughout most of the Epstein investigation and resigned just before the non-prosecution agreement was signed, told The Daily Beast that he “would have instructed the Justice Department to pursue justice without making a political mess.” But that may have been an impossible mandate, given the players involved.

Instead, said attorney Brad Edwards, “Epstein committed crimes that should have jailed him for most of his life…he was jailed for only a few months.” And this week he walks through his door a free man."} - - -

Karen Garcia said...

I remember Prince Andrew being more directly implicated in the Epstein affair, but that was pretty much squelched by "The Firm," aka the Royal Famileh. The young lady who came forward to tell her story was character-smeared, as I recall.

Another slimy character who used by be associated with Bill was a guy by the name of Ron Burkle, who flew the former president around on a jet nicknamed AirF*** One. And the Canadian mining magnate named Giustra. It is so hard to keep up with all the sleaze.

But sorry, whenever I see the name Ann Coulter in print, I hear fingernails screeching across a blackboard. She actually helps to make Hillary look good.

annenigma said...


I used to go among those who went to NYT first, but haven't for quite some time. When there's breaking news, they are the last to cover it. The content aggregator site, The Drudge Report, is by far the fastest. It must be because NYT is so proprietary that if they didn't write it, they don't want to cover it.

Actually, the NYT doesn't cover many issues that they should. The TPP is one glaring example. They of course also black out Bernie most of the time, or make him look bad. The quality of their news is generally lacking in context and relevant details which makes reading comments so vital, in order to make those connections.

I never paid for a subscription and I sure as heck wouldn't now. I could skip their website and not miss a thing, but I'd miss a lot of things if I only relied on them for news. I read dozens of blogs and news sites each day. I don't have time to waste on the NYT, but I will look over their headlines but not their overrated opinion columnists nor the comments there as a rule. I might comment to editorials or news articles if they allow it. The only thing they really have going for them is international presence - which they waste.

The NYT might still be fine for local NY coverage, but they aren't a world class or even a national newspaper anymore in terms of quality. So many news sources, so little time!

Karen Garcia said...

Re The Times:

In light of the upcoming New York primary, I've started contributing to Comments again. I feel it is my civic duty to push back against their propaganda, and I believe that my profound disdain for their sleazy operation shines through. Otherwise, I couldn't be bothered, especially as far as their opinion writers are concerned. The game is to elicit a frenzy of outraged clicks to the drivel of Douthat and Brooks and Dowd and the gang, and I refuse to play that game very much any more. It's like preaching to the choir.

Krugman is different. Even before his recent Bernie-bashing, I was on to him, and so were Meredith and some others, especially the fine people over at Naked Capitalism. He still has his fans and admirers who should be disabused of their fealty asap. Krugman is too powerful and (usually) too clever and too branded as a liberal to make this an easy task.

Doug (Doktor) Richardson said...

Karen I see you like a Modern day Lady Godiva (clothed in shimmering silver gowns), shining in the White Light of truth & Hope. I truly apologize for not checking to see if my link was still good and now that I know how you feel about coulter ( I view almost anybody in the MSM as damaged goods)I swear I will never darken your door with her bile again.
I am feeling a little desperate to get Bernies' name out there in a light that shows him fighting the good fight against evil such as epitomized by Epstein and anyone who helped him.
Hillary .... IF she wins, will be SO damaged, (because the media will bring out the Epstein story AFTER Hillary is the nominee) she won't be able to govern.

Doug (Doktor) Richardson said...

Just in case anybody imagines that the Epstein story/case/saga won't be covered by the media once Hillary is the nominee - (even though we have perverted sex, billionaires, politicians,private jets, private islands, beautiful girls, prostitutes, pimps and high powered, well known lawyers like Kenn Starr who prosecuted Clinton, O.J. lawyer Alan Dershowitz, Royal British Prince Albert, Alberto Gonzalez, Jeb bush, George Bush and more...) Super Star author James Patterson of many movie & TV adaptations will be releasing a ":Tell All " book about Epstein and his contacts and his disgusting misadventures and how he got away almost scott free... in... approx. September 2016.

Erik Roth said...

First, and foremost, kudos to Karen, without whom we would be lacking cohesion in our commitment and confidendence in our conscience. Ms. Garcia, your clear and keen view is an inspiration.
But, as for the anguished speculation about what might be our fate as expressed in many of these comments, I assert that that is squandered thought.
This year appears to be as portentous as 1968. Then, at this time, Martin Luther King, Jr., had just been assassinated. Consider all that yet lay ahead to happen throughout that momentous year.
Now, we have many months before the November election. The "deep state" will remain in play, if not control. But likewise, so will the lumpen proletariat, for good, bad, and ugly.
My point is simply this.
Focus and effort should be on what must be done, not on any gamesmanship or playing the horses.
Eyes on the prize, people!