Thursday, December 22, 2016

Gray Lady Clutches Neoliberal Pearls

Falsely equating right-wing populism with left-wing populism, The New York Times editorial board just delivered another in a long series of clumsy backhanded swipes at the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. 

It's happening to Barack Obama's America. It's happening to Lech Walesa's Poland. It's happening all over the democratic free world. The disdainful rabble are simply not properly groveling at the feet of constitutions and kowtowing to the naturally unequal miserable order of things. Therefore, we should be just as afraid of Bernie Sanders as we are of Donald Trump.

Of course the Times doesn't put its red-baiting in such gauche terms as that. They are daintily circumspect in their neoliberal propaganda: 
Populist leaders, whether of the far right or the far left, have made major advances across Europe and in the United States, drawing on a widespread sense of alienation, discontent with ruling elites and anti-globalization and anti-immigration views.
In nearly every case, whatever their specific agendas, populist leaders claim to represent the will of “the people,” and therefore believe they are empowered to ride roughshod over any person, institution or law that gets in their way. That kind of thinking led to the terrible dictatorships of the 20th century, a fact that becomes more relevant by the day.
Never mind that there is nothing even remotely "far-left" about populist Democratic leaders like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They are merely pro-capitalist liberal politicians with the effrontery to defend the programs of the New Deal and the Great Society and occasionally make greedy plutocrats feel uncomfortable. But to hear the Gray Lady whine it, Sanders and Warren are absolutely drunk on power, riding roughshod over anybody allegedly getting in their way.

The Times editorialists were probably overreacting to recent remarks by Bernie Sanders in which he's criticized the party's clinging to identity politics at the expense of the working class, which apparently is expected to stay trapped in its deplorable basket.

“I think it’s a step forward in America if you have an African-American CEO of some major corporation. But you know what, if that guy is going to be shipping jobs out of this country, and exploiting his workers, it doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot whether he’s black or white or Latino," Bernie had the audacity to say.

The Times doesn't name the alleged victims of this alleged lefty American populism, because they know that casting billionaires as oppressed victims would sound downright silly. So they merely mention, in casual passing, the dangerous socialism that they consider just as much a threat to their cosseted world as Donald Trump's own gleeful exposure of class divisions, malign wealth and crony capitalism.

This red-baiting is all about the discredited Clintonoid wing of the party wishing to remain powerful and relevant against all odds and against all sanity. Since the working class didn't come out for Hillary Clinton on November 8th, she and her media propagandists are coming out with a vengeance against the working class. The Democratic Party will be reformed over their dead bodies.

Now that the so-called Faithless Hamilton Electors have failed to subvert the Electoral College system and now that Vladimir Putin's alleged hacking of the Democratic Party is old news, centrists are scrambling to attack new scapegoats from the right. So why not stay closer to home this time?

It helps immensely that James Bennet, the recently hired chief of the Times editorial board, himself has roots that burrow deep into Clinton soil. As reported by the World Socialist Web Site, he is the brother of neoliberal "New Democrat" senator Michael Bennet of Colorado and the son of Douglas Bennet, a long-time political operative who served in several Democratic administrations, including that of Bill Clinton.

According to Politico, the Times began courting Bennet last spring, just as Bernie Mania was reaching a fever pitch and posing a threat to Hillary Clinton. Bennet reportedly took the offer on a promise that he will eventually succeed Dean Baquet as executive editor.

I'm personally agnostic about the current battle over the chairmanship of the decidedly un-democratic party.  Keith Ellison is the choice of the Bernie Sanders progressives, and Labor Secretary Tom Perez is the choice of the Obama/Clinton Wall Street faction. Since only about 400 party officials are allowed to vote for the leader, the rabble are reduced to signing petitions through various veal pen offshoots like MoveOn. For a party so suddenly averse to the Electoral College, the Democrats certainly have no intention of opening up their own corporate ballot process to the disrespectful proles skulking outside the Big Gilded Tent.

And they certainly have no qualms about smearing Keith Ellison in the most blatant racial and Islamophobic terms. He once said something nice about Louis Farrakhan in his youth. He endorsed Bernie Sanders. The horror.

Barack Obama, for his part, damned Ellison with faint praise at his press conference last week, merely calling him a "friend," while waxing rhapsodic over the "wicked smart" Perez. It's no coincidence that of all the Democratic labor secretaries in recent memory, Perez has become famous for reaching out to the business community. No way has he restricted his wicked smartness to the working folks who didn't vote for Hillary Clinton.

The Times ran a glowing article about this rising star last spring, praising Perez's ideological toothlessness right in the headline. Finally, we have a labor watchdog who is "not all bite!" The occasion of the puff piece was a visit by Perez to an overpriced New York City restaurant, where tipping had just been outlawed in favor of a slight (taxable) wage hike and (taxable) benefits for employees. The patrons forking out an average of $100 for a modest luncheon were pleasantly surprised at the very slight price hikes in the menu, which thanks to the newly-banned 20 percent gratuity, actually makes eating out cheaper for them.

Perez was only too happy to praise the restaurant for its "social responsibility" in raising its pathetic wages and sparing its workers the onerous responsibility of sharing and declaring their tips.
He is talking about “conscious capitalism” and “inclusive capitalism.” He is singling out “high road” employers. He is promoting B Corps, companies that adhere to lofty social and environmental standards. In doing so, he hopes he can persuade less enlightened corporations to change.
“The employers who do best are employers who reject these false choices,” Mr. Perez said. “It’s not a zero-sum world where you either take care of your workers or you take care of your shareholders. You can do good and do well, too.”
Truer, more wicked neoliberal words were probably never spoken. No wonder the rich Democratic donors are clamoring for him as party leader. They clothe him in the usual identity politics and bathetic back-story, supplying just the right liberal reason to elevate him. Since he is the son of Dominican immigrants and worked his way through Harvard by collecting trash, the working class rabble should have no logical reason to complain. Plus, as the Times helpfully explains, the working class can no longer speak for itself anyway. (The Paper of Record carefully doesn't mention that it was anti-union neoliberal policies that helped destroy the labor movement in the first place.)


PEARL said...

Wow! Karen. You have exposed the splits in the left of centerism which can lead to Trumpism continuing to follow a trail of arson. I do get many articles and comments from organizations that are battling the dangerous fallout of a Trump presidency and pledging to continue the battle for sanity in the nation.
And it is helpful having you point out the differences among those pretending to have concerns regarding the dangerous changes on our doorstep which is vital to know what and whom to support and whom to question.
However, it is becoming easier to find honest articles in the NYTIMES these days and hearing from more knowledgeable pundits on CNN which is the only main station I have on TV in Canada.
The Toronto Star has outstanding articles regarding U.S.shenanigans as well and the CBC news reports are amazingly accurate.

Do continue to expose the charlatans in our left of center midst so we get a clearer picture of where the pitfalls of wrong support can occur. I am disappointed by the support of CIA leakages regarding Russian questionable hacking by many so called Liberals which complicates issues and which information is not provable. We do not need another Cold War especially with Trump tweets further muddying the waters of international diplomacy.
Great article which gives us a meaningful balance regarding borderline issues which become too confusing via the major media reporting.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Hey, everybody, at long last, after almost eight years, President Obama has done the right thing again and again this past week. He zoned off parts of the Arctic and then the Atlantic coast from oil rigs, plus some other environmental good stuff around the country, like stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline; and yesterday that amazing abstention allowing the UN's censure of Israel to prevail.

"Just the latest example of diverging opinions between President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump," to quote the NY Times. What bravery in the face of AIPAC and the corporations. What a turnaround. What leadership! Another gold star for the legacy. A new day! Yes, there is a Santa Clause.

Oh, wait ….

Meredith NYC said...

Yeah, good post. It's time to discuss 'populism' in NY Times comments and columns. Let's find some other words.

I’m very annoyed how populist is being distorted by the media with negative connotation. And they compare Europe with it’s many varied nations and rw party situations and say populism is sweeping democracies. Don’t disturb the status quo.

Too bad about nyt bennet neo lib connections. we need change on that op ed page for sure.