Election year 2020: The system changes you
Both Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren are being marginalized by the establishment media. The nature of media attacks replicate what happened in 2016 with independents. Media coverage for the Democratic presidential runners often emphasizes spats rather than the substance of their platforms; at CNN YouTube.com it seems the Russian-trolls are at it again (although obviously there are other contractors, perhaps from Breitbart, inventing spam).
In reality the two American politicians have closely aligned platforms. According to World Politics Review, both candidates are aligned on major issues, but Warren is more a nationalist, while Sanders is more an internationalist. (This is confirmed in a podcast at Crooked Media.) On Govtrack.us‘s ideology-leadership chart, Warren is located just left of center, while Sanders is located further left and lower in leadership. But in reality, Sanders is a senior ranking member on two Senate Committees, whereas Senator Warren is a ranking member on only one.
Votesmart.org also offers glimpses into the politicians’ views on the issues. Sanders has a great number of liberal organization endorsements. Warren wants to improve the Affordable Healthcare Act and access especially for lower- and middle-income adults. She wants to ensure that the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) remains protected. Andrew Yang famously proposes to rejuvenate the economy; first, by making sure big-tech companies pay their taxes; and second, by using the money collected to pay the freedom dividend. Tom Steyer is supporting a 100% transition to a clean energy economy.
What is politically centrist? Who is more authoritarian?
According to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) the term centrist is misused nowadays by the corporate media. “Centrist” is not related to middle-of-the-road voters desires and preferences as one might generally believe. Instead, it is used to gage policies important for the neoliberal corporate citizens.
FAIR on how the corporate media defines center:
“You’d think that it means the policies that are embraced by a majority of the people are ‘centrist’ policies. That’s not what they mean in media. They mean policies that are embraced by the establishment. And that can be policies that are quite unpopular—like cutting Social Security to reduce the deficit is a ‘centrist’ idea that is wildly unpopular. It’s really a kind of shell game on the part of the media to try to present these ideas, that have very little popular support, as the ideas of the ‘middle.'”
In 2016, this writer reviewed a simple scoring system, the world’s “Smallest Political Quiz” which uses personality to place one as liberal, conservative, libertarian, or authoritarian. A centrist supports a balance of powers between federal and state government. An authoritarian is anyone, conservative or liberal, willing to accede individual rights to those in power. These might be people who like to follow; non-individualists may be convinced to follow anyone provided they are offered enough material incentives.
Demagogues today are just as likely to favor totalitarianism as in the past; whether a communistic Stalin, or a fascistic Mussolini. Billionaires load the dice in this regard because corporations can live forever—they know they are superhuman in many senses. Both sides of the aisle are marching this country towards totalitarianism, one in which legislators will decide what is best for their constituents. The stakes for the poor continue to rise in trickle-down democracy.
Here is how Bernie Sanders stated in a speech at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies about the political fork in the road for America:
“There is currently a struggle of enormous consequence taking place in the United States and throughout the world. In it, we see two competing visions. On one hand, we see a growing worldwide movement toward authoritarianism, oligarchy and kleptocracy. On the other side, we see a movement toward strengthening democracy, egalitarianism and economic, social, racial and environmental justice. This struggle has consequences for the entire future of the planet—economically, socially and environmentally.”
Meanwhile, Congress is mired in gridlock on a myriad of issues from immigration and detention to revamping affordable health care. Huge amounts of tax-payers’ time have been spent investigating President Trump’s legitimacy and orders. Outside the Capitol building, AGN photographed a battalion of planted stakes representing the hundreds of bills delayed due to stone-walling, fence-sitting, tabling of bills, or bills stuck in committee.
The system changes you
Among all legislators, openness is confuted as opportunistic and situational. There is a growing energy in support of candidates Sanders, Warren, or Yang. To appear to be truthful and caring matters a lot to commoners, even if almost all lawmakers staunchly uphold the defense debt as the golden-goose. More to the point, to gauge how far to the right the country has drifted, none of the candidates are talking about re-opening the 9-11 investigation, questioning presidential use of executive orders to bypass Congress, or the general abetment of corruption in our democracy.
For the most part the progressive candidates willingly equate a strong military with U.S. dominance in the global world order. In this way all the candidates are only different shades of grey in what the Washington Examiner describes as “A Conservative Foreign Policy Manifesto.” Here is how World Politics Review characterizes their foreign policy impotence:
Both Warren and Sanders tend to view foreign policy through the lens of economics, as opposed to security. They offer no grand strategy about how to balance geopolitical rivals, limited thoughts about how to deter nuclear proliferation and counter jihadist terrorism, and few insights about the roles that the United Nations, NATO and other multilateral organizations should play in U.S. global engagement.
While the Washington Examiner was describing foreign policy under Trump, it could just as well have been Obama, since all the negotiations are conducted so excruciatingly. (Under Obama, each minute now capitalizes at up to ten-thousand dollars, making his brand more valuable than the U.S. presidency, which can explain why he is not offering anyone endorsements but instead signaling his disgust at the “overly left.”)
Meanwhile, with each year Trump is in office, the national collective amnesia grows. The public is acclimated to the new norm in media whereby Presidential tweets are used to side-line issues and divide an increasingly unreasoning public. To make matters more depressing, people no longer listen except to tweet back or press their like or dislike buttons, since they are not allowed to discuss politics anywhere anymore. Candidates’ telegenics, mass popularity, and viral remarks are rated for their cult-of-personality. Never mind that real numbers of followers, likes or dislikes, and comments are manipulated by techies. The stakes, even if forgotten, are incredibly high. Not just bills but many critical conversations are conveniently derailed because our system is corrupt.
Here is how former New York Times journalist, lecturer, and minister Chris Hedges describes the media situation in an interview with Steve Paikin, “The Collapse of the American Empire?“:
Paikin: [From your book, America, the Farewell Tour] “‘The most ominous danger we face comes from the marginalization and disintegration of institutions including the courts, academia, legislative bodies, cultural organizations, and the press that once ensured that civil discourse was rooted in reality and fact; helped us distinguish lies from truth; and facilitated justice.’…In that America, what hope do empirically provable facts have?”
Hedges: “You have pinpointed something that’s very honest. When national and political discourse are no longer rooted in verifiable fact, then facts are interchangeable with opinions. Truth is whatever you want it to be…And that creates a kind of schizophrenia where you may see reality in front of you but reality is denied by the power elites, and by the organs, the media platforms, that disseminate the opinions of the power elites.”
Fighting normalized totalitarianism
Democratic totalitarianism, such as in China or Russia, is not acceptable in a country founded upon democratic revolution. Our education system values not only inquiry-based learning, but well-springs of American cultural folklore, children’s stories such as “George Washington and the Cherry Tree.”
With regard to the American middle-class, both candidates as well as Andrew Yang, seem to locate on the progressive left. However do politicians voice pro-imperialism foreign policy because they can no longer resist the system? MRN depicts Sanders as taking his constituents for granted on foreign policy in Israel during one of his town halls, railing that only he understands the imminent threat represented by Hamas. Warren, who became a Democratic in the 1990s after many years as a Republican, has marketed herself as a “capitalist with accountability.” She has many good ideas at her campaign site, but ultimately those ideas must be exchanged with the cost of more foreign interventions.
U.S. election campaigns must involve more discussion about waging preemptive wars, expanding executive power, surveillance, and corporate personhood—all done while continuing to throw domestic infrastructure needs under the bus.
“A campaign to defund the war machine can also be a campaign to fund jobs, schools, housing, transportation, green energy, and everything else that should be funded. Such a two-sided campaign can bring peace-activists together with activists for domestic causes.”—War is a Lie, David Swanson
In an era when the poor are increasingly being criminalized, having their food stamps and healthcare denied, or having their sleeping tents bull-dozed away, only a few independent newspapers take the views of the homeless seriously—but they are being e-censored.
“In December, Trump confirmed his plan by appointing Robert Marbut as head of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. Marbut is known as the “Joseph Mengele of the homeless” for his cruel experiments and philosophy that the solution to homelessness is punishment, not housing. After decades of failing to house its people, the government is moving to call working people no longer needed by the tech economy “Lebensunwertes Leben”–the Nazi term for ‘life unworthy of life.'”—People’s Tribune
Trump has already appointed a cabal from private industry to head public agencies in a move recognized by government bureaucrats as hiring “the fox to guard the henhouse.” Former CEOs are busy dismantling decades worth of hard-fought federal laws and civilian protections, while encouraging austerity and privatization. Under Trump, government is already thinning out, with loyal-to-the-mission employees being encouraged to leave, short-term-profit-oriented contractors hired, and office decentralization taking place, while the public suffers losses in reliability and service.
Accountability is more than voting
The trail of twists and turns under Trump are not mere soap opera; this is the most sordid type of daily reality show. The losses are not just a few points off the basketball game. Human lives are at stake. The worst part is that legislation is also increasingly conducted sub-rosa or during midnight sessions under procrastination. Just last year, Americans endured the longest government shut-down in history; to kick off the new decade, in just another executive action, Trump ordered aerial strikes on Iran while he was taking refuge at Mar-a-Lago. Meanwhile, it appears that former-President Obama is pulling strings to undermine the Bernie Sanders campaign (according to various progressive sources).
Jacobin’s Meagan Day: Why Obama will try to stop Bernie (Interview by The Hill)
Activists repeatedly warn that we have ten years to address irreversible climate change. The Bold Progressives and a few others genuinely get it. Leaders in Congress such as Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, former-Senator Al Franken, Senator Mazie Hirono, Senator Brian Schatz, Senator Jeff Merkley, Senator Tammy Baldwin, Senator Sherrod Brown; and in the House may include: Mike Honda, Mark Takano, Ruben Gallego, Bonnie Coleman, Alan Grayson, Keith Ellison, Rick Nolan, Donna Edwards, Raul Grijalva, Mark Pocan, and Hakeem Jeffries. Today they may also include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Pramila Jayapal, Kara Eastman, Deb Haaland, Jamie Raskin, Andy Kim, Andy Levin, Katie Porter, Jessica Cisneros, Veronica Escobar, Chris Larson, Mike Levin, Marie Newman, JD Scholten, Rashida Tlaib, Mandela Barnes, Arati Kreibach, Jocelyn Benson, Morgan Harper, Stephen Smith, and Dana Balter—all these legislators are working towards a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, Social Security Expansion, Debt-Free College, Wall Street Reform, and a Free & Open Internet.
Progressive Democrats, Democrats, Independents, Green Party, and even Socialist candidates are hoping that by supporting one another on the issues, they can unite voters under a campaign canopy that will enact changes in Congress and prevent future economic implosion or the start of new costly wars.
Top photo by AGN, activists claim 347 bills are stalled in the House as of 2019