Monday, June 25, 2018

Pitchforks In the Service of Plutocracy

 (updated below)

"My administration is the only thing standing between you and the pitchforks," Barack Obama reassured a group of nervous tycoons in 2009, when the government bailouts of Wall Street were eliciting a tsunami of popular outrage.

Absent a new New Deal and absent any prosecution of said Wall Street bankers, that outrage soon evolved into the Tea Party movement on the right, the ephemeral Occupy movement on the left, and the virtual canonization, via slick corporate media propaganda, of Barack Obama himself as combination martyr, philosopher-king and rock star.

People were carefully taught to despise and fear one another, rather than aim their ire properly at the runaway capitalism that got us all into such a mess in the first place. Home foreclosures, many of them fraudulent, skyrocketed. We were told it wasn't the bankers' fault, but the fault of all those irresponsible people who took on debt they couldn't afford.

 If people didn't lose their jobs outright, often never to work again, their wages stagnated even as the richest Americans sucked back more than 94% of the wealth "lost" due to Wall Street shenanigans and unprosecuted crimes. People were told by one party that their lack of work was due to migrants stealing all the jobs, and by the other party that they had a "skills gap," and needed just a bit more education in order to become the entrepreneurs of their own lives.

People were urged to join the Republicans if they blamed the first African-American "food stamp president" for their troubles. People were urged to join the Democrats to show their love for our first African-American president and to hope for a better life tomorrow.

 Republican leaders, meanwhile, showed their own perverted love for corporations and billionaires. Democratic leaders, despite their own fealty to corporations and billionaires, also graciously expanded their love for the top 10 percent of wealth-holders. They preached to the bottom 90 percent that with enough hard work and grit and education, they too could reach the ranks of the top 10 percent. And if they could not, then their special "identities" would carry them through. If they weren't to be paid a living wage, then at least their identity labels would be recognized and respected. 

It was a dog-eat-dog world then, and it's a dog-eat-dog world now. Competition, not cooperation, is "who we are" in America. That's been true for the past 240 years.  

And ten years after the financial bailouts and the greatest concentration of wealth placed in the fewest hands since the last Gilded Age, people are trapped inside two political parties. There's a civil war brewing. The disposable troops are the hapless draftees of the Duopoly, fighting one another for neither monetary nor spiritual benefit. People are punching down and across, instead of up at the top, where the real culprits and the true enemies are.

"Let them eat resentment!" has long been the unspoken motto of phony Republican populists, riling up the masses in service of the elites.

"Let them eat Trump for breakfast!' has replaced the insipid "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" and "when they go low, we go high" platitudes of the corporate Democrats as they rile up the mere aspirants to the upper middle class, and celebrities raise their own social media profiles by appearing at party-sanctioned protest photo-ops.

Going high by espousing policies for the greater good, such as single-payer health care and debt-free education, is simply not an option for professional liberals as they approach yet another lackluster midterm election season. #RussiaGate simply isn't selling any more. But Latino kids getting ripped away from their parents certainly is, all of a sudden, after Latino families getting ripped apart by harsh immigration enforcement for two terms of Obama went virtually ignored.

The enemy is Trump, and nothing but the Trump. And, of course, all his minions.

As I suspected, the corporate media's coverage of the Poor People's Campaign rally in Washington over the weekend turned out to be scanty to nil. Exceptions were the Washington Post and NBC.

When I clicked on the HuffPo this morning, I was momentarily heartened by an oversize photo of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) raising her fist in the air and firing up an angry progressive crowd.

Unfortunately, the venue was not the Poor People's rally for social and economic justice. It was right in the celebrity heart of LaLa Land. And the ominous headline was a very Trump-like incitement to violence. "Waters Storms: Trump Admin. Not Welcome Anywhere!"

She was referring to recent events at Washington-area restaurants, where Trump officials were either hounded off the premises by activists, or formally asked to leave, as happened to Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and members of her family over the weekend. 
(Waters) warned members of Donald Trump’s cabinet to be prepared for a slew of outraged heckling and public shaming on the streets and in restaurants and stores if they continue to support the president’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy on undocumented immigrants.
“You think we’re rallying now? You ain’t seen nothing yet,” she vowed at an enthusiastic Los Angeles rally Saturday. “Already you have members of your cabinet that are being booed out of restaurants ... protesters taking up at their house saying ‘no peace, no sleep.’”
Waters is giving Trump exactly what he wants. She is feeding his administration's bunker mentality with manna from heaven. And if somebody in his cabinet gets hurt, all the better for him. The sense of mutual persecution which he engenders in his supporters will rise right along with his already-rising poll numbers.

At the risk of being accused of the dreaded "what about-ism," I wonder where Waters was when Obama's ICE and Homeland Security thugs were rounding up undocumented immigrants and deporting record numbers of them. Luckily for her and most of her fellow Democrats, Obama wasn't tweeting out incendiary messages calling them "animals" and "invaders" who don't even deserve due process rights.  Obama made it easier for both liberals and conservatives by simply calling the parents of unaccompanied minor refugees "irresponsible," with his only lofty goal being to send them a stern paternal message from the soft bottom of his heart. He also had a good relationship with Mexico, and very quietly sent Joe Biden to broker a deal for the detention and expulsion - and often imprisonment and torture - in that country, long before Central Americans ever got the chance to reach the United States border. He also bribed offered financial aid to the often corrupt governments of the refugees' countries of origin in exchange for their discouraging potential border-crossers by any means necessary.

In other words, Obama partially outsourced this country's longstanding policy of cruelty to refugees the same way he outsourced to foreign black site prisons the CIA torture he pretended to ban soon after he took his oath of office. 

Much is being made of Trump's weekend tweet calling for an end to due process rights for migrants. But little was made of the Congressional Research Team's 2014 report that the US appropriated more than $100 million to the Mexican government for the purchase of such inhumane anti-immigration enforcement tools as canine teams and electric prods. 

The New York Times, which actually once did quite an admirable job criticizing Obama's harsh immigration policies - including the odious "Secure Communities" dragnet he set up during his first term - has seemingly completely forgotten all about that legacy as it goes about the business of manufacturing anti-Trump outrage in its liberal readership. According to an editorial published on Saturday, the caging of migrants was a magical leap straight from George W. Bush to Donald J. Trump, with nary a Barack Obama in sight, other than his laudable executive order protecting the "Dreamers."

Still, as the editorial correctly notes, Obama actually got a huge break from Republicans when they falsely accused him of being soft on illegal immigration.
Party leaders fanned those flames, accusing Mr. Obama of being imperious and “lawless.” In one bit of twisted logic, Mr. Boehner argued that the House couldn’t possibly take up reform legislation because it couldn’t trust Mr. Obama to carry out said legislation. Thus, the battle lines continued to harden.
Nothing allows unfettered capitalism to continue ruling and ruining the world like accusing a true champion of the free market like Barack Obama of being a Marxist peacenik. It sent, and continues to send, millions of good-thinking liberals straight to his defense. The nostalgia craze for Obama and his no-drama, intellectual, "scandal-free" regime has become something of a cult in its own right. 
My (not highly recommended) published response to the Times editorial:
 I was just re-reading some of the NYT's brave editorials (here, here, here) lambasting President Obama's cruel immigration policies, including the Secure Communities initiative which ended up deporting more immigrants than in all previous administrations combined. The reader comments were quite revealing, with the most popular coming from the pro-deportation crowd.

But there was a resistance movement back then, too, especially during his first term. Democratic mayors refused to comply with a directive ostensibly designed to cull "dangerous criminals" and kick them out of the country. The vast majority of deportees caught in the ICE dragnet turned out be upstanding people who'd lived in the US for many years. This was a cruel policy that also ripped families apart.

So I guess it's testament to the divisive politics in the Age of Trump that the editorial board would now opt to completely gloss over this stain on the Obama legacy. To his credit, he did eventually soften his stance and give respite to the "Dreamers" - but only after political pressure from activists and civil rights groups forced him to do the right thing, both morally and in the interests of his party.

So there's that one silver lining to Trump's cruelty. It's making people mad as hell. Polls now show that 75% of the population is against his own "zero tolerance" policy. 
 Do we care? Of course we do. And let's hope that we keep caring, and fighting injustice regardless whether the Dems win back power this year and in 2020.
Update, 6/26: Meanwhile, the corporate Democrats have designated Maxine Waters the "bad cop" for her calls for direct civic action against the Trumpies. The view of party elders, like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, is that the goading of public officials in public places of food and entertainment will have an adverse effect for liberals at the polls. The elders have therefore "distanced" themselves from Waters's rhetoric. Pitchforks, even if wielded in the ultimate service of plutocracy, have a way of getting out of control and extending themselves to... oh, I don't know... complicit Democrats who have no qualms about gifting the dreaded Trump with billions of dollars in war paraphernalia and personnel?

Maxine Waters did not directly call for violence, of course. But the HuffPo and other organs of professional "resistance" made that goal implicit in their banner headlines, in my humble opinion.

So the question we have to ask is this: what if the public shaming of the Trumpies is so successful that they actually quit their jobs and leave Washington forever? It's who we replace them with that should concern us.

Not one of the Democratic elders who are complaining about Maxine Waters's call to action have given even the slightest lip service to the civil disobedience and nationwide arrests of members of the Poor People's Campaign. Not even Maxine Waters is giving lip service to the Poor People's Campaign. 

Poverty is simply not a part of the official narrative.


Anna Radicalova said...

The Democrats are self-destructing. That pathetic excuse for a political party is contributing to the demise of democracy.

Ditto for the New York Times. That homophobic rag deserves nothing less than a tsunami of subscription cancellations after their new cartoon series playing on gay stereotypes in mocking Trump and Putin. I'm sure Democrats approve.

I'm totally DISGUSTED by both.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Anna, I had missed that cartoon. Link:

Looks like it was produced in a middle school. Very amateurish and unfunny, and as you say, homophobic. Maybe Joy Ann Reid was one of the consultants or a producer. I didn't read the entire list of credits, so I can't say for sure. It is amazing that an entire group of people could have produced something like this.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Bernie Sanders, the Independent Democrat, was promoted as a heavyweight who packed a knockout punch. Some of us say he took a dive.

The DNC club pulls most of the punches delivered horizontally against Republican "opponents." After all, they are members of the same club (h/t Carlin), which holds them to a code of decorum. Democrats and free-floating Liberals clutching their pearls in horror from time to time (at episodes like the separation of a few thousand children from parents) does not add up to a punishing punch.

Heaven forbid the DNC club should ever think to punch up at the oligarchy. As the saying goes, Hell hath no fury like a rich man spurned. To run for office you need money. To get that money you must trade in your soul, along with any moral standards it embodied.

Having money without a soul, or meticulously tending to the soulless who do have money, provides a magical immunity from laws at home and abroad. That includes the fundamentals of compassion and common decency, which probably arose from belief systems shown to be hypocritical or just another kind of moral signaling business enriching the few.

As for the poor and near poor, who only amount to half of the US population, the DNC club doesn't lift them up as advertized or even punch down at their deplorable uselessness; the DNC, like the rest of the Big Club, just ignores them. In Washington, as in other capitals of the world, the closer you stand to the rich, the more the poor vanish from sight.

BTW, if anyone finds a solid who-what-when-where-&-why account of the Poor People's Campaign––and its impact, if any––do pass on the link.

Karen Garcia said...


I posted a link to the Truthdig article and liveblog in my piece, the part where I write about the dearth of coverage.

The Poor People's campaign is a direct extension of the rally and movement inspired by MLK 50 years ago, shortly before he was killed. There has been so little coverage of it that I myself only learned of it a week or so ago... and I am one who constantly reads and scours the web. If you Google it, you'll find their website, plus a piece from Al Jazeera and a few others. I signed up for "membership" on their site.

I'm going to keep plugging it here along with other things that are not fully vetted and approved by the DNC and celebrity #Resistance Inc.

Karl Kolchak said...

Just how dumb are Pelosi and Schumer--do they REALLY think the average person comprehends the difference in roles between them and Maxine Walters? Now the Republicans will be running teevee ads with pictures of Dem candidates in between pictures of BOTH Pelosi (which they were already doing) AND Walters.

Great post, BTW. Spot on.