What is the Moderate Center of a Banana Republic?

The Corruption Of Money
by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

Robert Wiessman, the director of Public Citizen, points out that there is broad popular support for transforming the economy and government. He writes: “. . . more Americans believe in witches and ghosts than support Citizens United . . . There is three-to-one support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.” Some other key areas of national consensus:

  • 83% agree that “the rules of the economy matter and the top 1 percent have used their influence to shape the rules of the economy to their advantage;
  • Over 90% agree that it is important to regulate financial services and products to make sure they are fair for consumers;
  • Four-fifths say Wall Street financial companies should be held accountable with tougher rules and enforcement for the practices that caused the financial crisis;
  • By a three-to-one margin, the public supports closing tax loopholes that allow speculators and people who make money from short-term trades to pay less taxes on profits than full time workers pay on their income or wages.
  • About two-thirds oppose corporate trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and 75% believe such deals destroy more jobs than they create.

These are just a few examples that show near unanimity on issues where the government – answering to the oligarchs – does the opposite of what the public wants and needs.

90 Percent Of Public Lacks Trust In US Political System
by Staff

Seventy percent of Americans say they feel frustrated about this year’s presidential election, including roughly equal proportions of Democrats and Republicans, according to a recent national poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. More than half feel helpless and a similar percent are angry.

Nine in 10 Americans lack confidence in the country’s political system, and among a normally polarized electorate, there are few partisan differences in the public’s lack of faith in the political parties, the nominating process, and the branches of government.

Americans do not see either the Republicans or the Democrats as particularly receptive to new ideas or the views of the rank-and-file membership. However, the candidacy of Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination is more likely to be viewed as good for his party than Donald Trump’s bid for the Republican Party.

The nationwide poll of 1,060 adults used the AmeriSpeak® Omnibus, a monthly multi-client survey using NORC at the University of Chicago’s probability based panel. Interviews were conducted between May 12 and 15, 2016, online and using landlines and cellphones.

Some of the poll’s key findings are:

  • Just 10 percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence in the country’s overall political system while 51 percent have only some confidence and 38 percent have hardly any confidence.
  • Similarly, only 13 percent say the two-party system for presidential elections works, while 38 percent consider it seriously broken. About half (49 percent) say that although the two-party system has real problems, it could still work well with some improvements.
  • Most Americans report feeling discouraged about this year’s election for president. Seventy percent say they experience frustration and 55 percent report they feel helpless.
  • Few Americans are feeling pride or excitement about the 2016 presidential campaign, but it is grabbing the public’s attention. Two-thirds (65 percent) of the public say they are interested in the election for president this year; only 31 percent say they are bored. However, only 37 percent are feeling hopeful about the campaign, 23 percent are excited, and just 13 percent say the presidential election make them feel proud.
  • The public has little confidence in the three branches of government. A quarter (24 percent) say they have a great deal of confidence in the Supreme Court and only 15 percent of Americans say the same of the executive branch. Merely 4 percent of Americans have much faith in Congress. However, more than half (56 percent) of Americans have a great deal of confidence in the military.
  • Only 29 percent of Democrats and just 16 percent of Republicans have a great deal of confidence in their party. Similarly, 31 percent of Democrats and 17 percent of Republicans have a lot of faith in the fairness of their party’s nominating process.
  • Neither party is seen as particularly receptive to fresh ideas. Only 17 percent of the public say the Democratic Party is open to new ideas about dealing with the country’s problems; 10 percent say that about the Republican Party.
  • The views of ordinary voters are not considered by either party, according to most Americans. Fourteen percent say the Democratic Party is responsive to the views of the rank-and-file; 8 percent report that about the Republican Party.
  • Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has never held elected office or worked for the government, but most Americans do not regard the Republican Party as especially receptive to candidates from outside the usual influence of Washington and party politics. Only 9 percent consider the Republican Party open to outsiders.
  • Most Republicans (57 percent) say Trump’s candidacy has been good for the Republican Party, although only 15 percent of Democrats and 24 percent of independents agree.
  • The Democratic Party is not viewed as friendly to outsiders either. Only 10 percent say the Democratic Party is open to candidates that are independent of the established order.
  • However, in contrast to Trump, the entry of Bernie Sanders into the race for the Democratic nomination is not see as a negative for the party. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Democrats say Sanders’ bid for the nomination has been good for the Democratic Party, along with 43 percent of Republicans and 22 percent of independents (54 percent of independents report it is neither good nor bad). Although Sanders has served in Congress as a House member and Senator for more than 25 years, he was an independent and did not register as a Democrat until recently. […]

While Americans have doubts about the overall political system and its fairness, nearly 3 in 4 say they have at least some confidence that their vote will be counted accurately. Just 1 in 4 report they have hardly any confidence that their vote will be counted.

Still, many Americans express qualms about how well the two-party system works for presidential elections. Nearly 4 in 10 regard the two-party system as seriously broken. About half say this system for electing a president has major problems, but could still work with some improvement. Just 13 percent of the public says the two-party system works fairly well.

Americans also question the fairness of the political parties’ presidential nominating processes. About 4 in 10 have little confidence in the equity of the parties’ nominating process for president. Four in 10 have some faith that the Republican Party’s means of selecting its standard bearer is fair, but only about 1 in 10 have a great deal of confidence in the process. Similarly, 38 percent have some confidence in the Democratic Party’s procedures, but only 17 percent have a great deal of confidence.

Again, while partisans are more confident in their own party, the levels are low. Thirty-one percent of Democrats express confidence in the Democratic Party’s nominating process, compared with 9 percent of Republicans and 6 percent of independents. Republicans have even less faith in their party’s system: 17 percent have confidence in the Republican Party’s nominating process. Only 11 percent of Democrats and 5 percent of independents agree.

Many Americans want changes to the process. Seven in 10 would prefer to see primaries and caucuses be open to all voters, regardless of the party registration. Only 3 in 10 favor a system of closed nominating contests, where only voters registered in a party can participate in that party’s primary or caucus. A majority of each party say they favor open primaries and caucuses, though Democrats are more likely than Republicans to support them (73 percent vs. 62 percent).

Most states hold primaries rather than caucuses, and most voters prefer primaries. Eight in 10 Americans say primaries are a more fair method of nominating a candidate. Less than 1 in 5 view caucuses as a more fair method.

US Is Not A Democracy
by Eric Zuesse

A study, to appear in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, finds that the U.S. is no democracy, but instead an oligarchy, meaning profoundly corrupt, so that the answer to the study’s opening question, “Who governs? Who really rules?” in this country, is:

“Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, …” and then they go on to say, it’s not true, and that, “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened” by the findings in this, the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, which shows that there is instead “the nearly total failure of ‘median voter’ and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

To put it short: The United States is no democracy, but actually an oligarchy.

The authors of this historically important study are Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, and their article is titled “Testing Theories of American Politics.” The authors clarify that the data available are probably under-representing the actual extent of control of the U.S. by the super-rich:

‘Economic Elite Domination theories do rather well in our analysis, even though our findings probably understate the political influence of elites. Our measure of the preferences of wealthy or elite Americans – though useful, and the best we could generate for a large set of policy cases – is probably less consistent with the relevant preferences than are our measures of the views of ordinary citizens or the alignments of engaged interest groups. Yet we found substantial estimated effects even when using this imperfect measure. The real-world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater.”

Nonetheless, this is the first-ever scientific study of the question of whether the U.S. is a democracy. “Until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions [that U.S. policymaking operates as a democracy, versus as an oligarchy, versus as some mixture of the two] against each other within a single statistical model. This paper reports on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.” That’s an enormous number of policy-issues studied.

What the authors are able to find, despite the deficiencies of the data, is important: the first-ever scientific analysis of whether the U.S. is a democracy, or is instead an oligarchy, or some combination of the two. The clear finding is that the U.S. is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it’s pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation’s “news” media). The U.S., in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious “electoral” “democratic” countries. We weren’t formerly, but we clearly are now. Today, after this exhaustive analysis of the data, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” That’s it, in a nutshell.

Fighting For A Legitimate Democracy, By And For The People
by Kevin Zeese & Margaret Flowers

Two weeks ago in reaction to the McCutcheon decision we touched on an issue that will become central to our movement: Has the democratic legitimacy of the US government been lost?

We raised this issue by quoting a Supreme Court Justice, former US president and a sitting US Senator:

“The legitimacy of the US government is now in question. By illegitimate we mean it is ruled by the 1%, not a democracy ‘of, by and for the people.’ The US has become a carefully designed plutocracy that creates laws to favor the few. As Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissenting opinion, American law is now ‘incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy.’ Or, as former president, Jimmy Carter said on July 16, 2013 “America does not at the moment have a functioning democracy.”

“Even members of Congress admit there is a problem. Long before the McCutcheon decision Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) described the impact of the big banks on the government saying: ‘They own the place.’ We have moved into an era of a predatory form of capitalism rooted in big finance where profits are more important than people’s needs or protection of the planet.”

The legitimacy of the US government derives from rule by the people. If the US government has lost its democratic legitimacy, what does that mean? What is the impact? And, what is our responsibility in these circumstances?

We can go back to the founding document of this nation, the Declaration of Independence for guidance. This revolutionary document begins by noting all humans are born with “inalienable rights” and explains “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted” and that government derives its “powers from the consent of the governed.” Further, when the government “becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government….”

After we wrote about the lost democratic legitimacy of the United States, this new academic study, which will be published in Perspectives on Politics,revealed that a review of a unique data set of 1,779 policy issues found:

“In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”

And, this was not the only study to reach this conclusion this week. Another study published in the Political Research Quarterly found that only the rich get represented in the US senate. The researchers studied the voting records of senators in five Congresses and found the Senators were consistently aligned with their wealthiest constituents and lower-class constituents never appeared to influence the Senators’ voting behavior. This oligarchic tendency was even truer when the senate was controlled by Democrats.

Large Majorities of Americans Do Not Rule

Let the enormity of the finding sink in – “the majority does not rule” and “even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”

Now, for many of us this is not news, but to have an academic study document it by looking at 1,779 policy issues and empirically proving the lack of democratic legitimacy, is a major step forward for people understanding what is really happening in the United States and what we must do.

Before the occupy movement began we published an article, We Stand With the Majority, that showed super majorities of the American people consistently support the following agenda:

  • Tax the rich and corporations
  • End the wars, bring the troops home, cut military spending
  • Protect the social safety net, strengthen Social Security and provide improved Medicare to everyone in the United States
  • End corporate welfare for oil companies and other big business interests
  • Transition to a clean energy economy, reverse environmental degradation
  • Protect worker rights including collective bargaining, create jobs and raise wages
  • Get money out of politics

While there was over 60% support for each item on this agenda, the supposed ‘representatives’ of the people were taking the opposite approach on each issue. On September 18, the day after OWS began we followed up with a second article dealing with additional issues that showed, the American people would rule better than the political and economic elites.

While many Americans think that the government representing wealthy interests is new, in fact it goes back to the founding of the country. Historian Charles Beard wrote in the early 1900’s that the chief aim of the authors of the U.S. Constitution was to protect private property, favoring the economic interests of wealthy merchants and plantation owners rather than the interests of the majority of Americans who were small farmers, laborers, and craft workers.

The person who is credited with being the primary author of the Constitution, James Madison, believed that the primary goal of government is “to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” He recognized that “if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure.” As a result of these oligarchic views, only 6% of the US population was originally given the right to vote. And, the first chief justice of the US Supreme Court, John Jay believed that “those who own the country ought to govern it.”

This resulted in the wealth of the nation being concentrated among a small percentage of the population and their wealth being created by slaves and other low-paid workers who had no political participation in government. The many creating wealth for the few has continued throughout US history through sweat shops, child labor and now, poverty workers, like those at the nation’s largest employer, Walmart. By putting property ahead of human rights, the Constitution put in place a predatory economic system of wealth creation.

In fact, Sheldon Wolin describes the Constitutional Convention as blocking the colonists desire for democracy, as economic elites “organize[d] a counter-revolution aimed at institutionalizing a counterforce to challenge the prevailing decentralized system of thirteen sovereign states in which some state legislatures were controlled by ‘popular’ forces.” The Constitution was written “to minimize the direct expression of a popular will” and block the “American demos.” For more see our article, Lifting the Veil of Mirage Democracy in the United States.

In many respects, since the founding, the people of the United States have been working to democratize the United States. Gradually, the right to vote expanded to include all adults, direct election of US Senators was added as a constitutional amendment but these changes do not mean we have a real democracy. The work is not done. The legitimacy of people ruling has not been achieved.

While we have the right to vote, our carefully managed elections consistently give Americans a choice of candidates approved by the wealthiest; and through campaign financing, media coverage, ballot access, managing who participates in debates and other means, the ruling elite ensure an outcome that will not challenge the power of the wealthiest Americans and the country’s biggest businesses.

This week, Nomi Prins, a former managing partner at Goldman Sachs wrote about the long history of how the nation’s biggest bankers have controlled presidents throughout the last century. She writes: “With so much power in the hands of an elite few, America operates more as a plutocracy on behalf of the upper caste than a democracy or a republic. Voters are caught in the crossfire of two political parties vying to run Washington in a manner that benefits the banking caste, regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican is sitting in the Oval.”

In many respects, our task is to complete the American Revolution and create a real democracy where the people rule through fair elections of representatives and there is increased direct and participatory democracy.

Living In The Illusion Of Democracy
by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

The Democrats and Republicans Have Created Fraudulent Debates

The hubris and manipulation of the two establishment parties is evident in the presidential debates. The two Wall Street-funded parties decide who is allowed to participate in the debates. The so-called debate ‘commission’ is a disguise apparatus of the Democratic and Republican parties. It is a commission in name only, in reality it is a corporation created by the two parties and controlled by the two parties. When the disguise is removed, it becomes obvious that the Democrats and Republicans are choosing to only debate Democrats and Republicans, and preventing any competition.Democracy Not Plutocracy

In 1988, the Republican co-founder, Frank Fahrenkopf, who remains a co-chair, indicated at the news conference announcing the ‘commission’ that they were “not likely to look with favor on including third-party candidates in the debates.” The New York Times quoted the Democratic co-founder, Paul Kirk, saying: “As a party chairman, it’s my responsibility to strengthen the two-party system.” As a result, there has not been a third party candidate in the debates for 24 years, even though there have been third party candidates on enough ballots to win a majority of electoral college votes in every election. Closed debates create the illusion that there are only two candidates running for president.

When the ‘commission’ was founded, the League of Women Voters warned that the parties taking over the debates would “perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.” They resigned their historic role as the non-partisan sponsors of the debates because they refused to be “an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.” They foretold the truth, and now we must all work to undo the hoax.

This year, 76% of voters want four-candidates in the debates. A majority of people in the US believe neither party represents them. The two parties are shrinking and now each make up less than 30% of the voters, with a record 50% of voters considering themselves independents. The two establishment parties have nominated the two most unpopular candidates in history with six in ten voters disliking Clinton and Trump. An Associated Press/GfK poll found that four out of five voters fear at least one of the two nominees, and 25% fear both, a number confirmed by Gallup. Three-quarters of those planning to vote will do so based on whom they dislike rather than whom they support.

This is why three-quarters of voters want Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party included in the debates – people want more choices. Both will be on almost every ballot but voters will not get to hear from them and learn what they stand for. The dislike of the two parties and their candidates is also why the fake ‘commission’ must do all it can to prevent voters from knowing that they have more choices for president.

And, they have an ally in the media which expects to receive $6 billion in political advertising in 2016.The media wants that advertising more than they want a real democracy. As the CEO of CBS said, “Super PACs may be bad for America, but they’re very good for CBS.” As a result, you will see no criticism of the fake debate commission. Jill Stein was able to briefly sneak in an article on The Hill website about her experience during the first debate last week, i.e. being excluded from the debate, escorted off campus when she was doing media interviews, holding a people’s debate outside the debate area and 22 people being arrested for protesting the closed debates, as well as how her campaign used social media to break through. The article was up briefly, but quickly disappeared from the front page.

In almost every election a large majority of US voters want more candidates in the debates but the phony commission serves as a blockade, preventing real democracy. If we want a democracy that is of, by and for the people, it is critical we end the debate commission’s fraud on US voters. Rather than creating barriers to participation, the rule should be simple and objective: if a candidate is on enough ballots to win 270 electoral college votes they should be included in the debate as very few overcome the ballot access hurdles placed before independent parties.

The United States is in a Democracy Crisis

The fraudulent debates are one example of many of how US democracy is manipulated and managed to ensure that only candidates who represent the wealthy can be elected. The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs reported this year on the extent of the democracy crisis. They found the legitimacy of US government has disappeared:

“Nine in 10 Americans lack confidence in the country’s political system, and among a normally polarized electorate, there are few partisan differences in the public’s lack of faith in the political parties, the nominating process, and the branches of government.”

There is close to unanimous consensus that the elections fail voters and do not create a legitimate government. The poll taken as the primary season came to a close found “only 13% say the two-party system for presidential elections works.” The elections have left most Americans feeling discouraged with 70% saying they experience frustration and 55% reporting they feel helpless. Only 13% feel proud of the presidential election.

The excluded parties are taking unusual steps to reach voters. Jill Stein accomplished a historic breakthrough during the first presidential debate, by using cutting edge social media tools to insert her live voice into the debate in real time. The Stein-Baraka campaign used Facebook, Twitter and Periscope to reach approximately 15 million voters within 24 hours of the first debate, “Jill Stein” trended at #1 on Facebook on debate day and Google searches spiked with one of the top search phrases being “How do I vote for Jill Stein?” No 3rd party candidate has reached such a large audience since Ross Perot was included in the debates 24 years ago. But, this cannot compete with the two party debates which appeared on every network with an audience of more than 80 million and constant discussion in the media leading up to the debate and after it.

During the upcoming vice presidential debate on Tuesday, candidate Ajamu Baraka will be using the same social media tools as Stein as well as being inserted live into the debates by Democracy Now. Baraka will answer every question as if he were included by pausing the debate and then returning to it after he answers. This three-candidate debate can be viewed on Jill Stein’s Facebook page and website, as well as on Ajamu Baraka’s Facebook page and on Democracy Now.

Presidential debates are not only about getting someone elected, they are also about setting the political agenda for the country. With only the Democratic and Republican nominees included many key political issues are not being discussed. The debates spend a lot of time on nonsense while ignoring many important issues that impact the lives of the people of the United States as well as ensuring a liveable planet.

In the first debate, time was spent on whether President Obama was born in the United States, or whether Donald Trump’s criticism of a former Miss Universe was inappropriate. But there was no discussion of tens of millions of people living in poverty, what the country can do to confront climate change, how to erase student debt or whether the United States should be an empire.

In fact, the word “empire” has never been in a presidential debate as the political elites do not want to discuss the reality of US global domination. They do not want people considering that an empire economy is the reason for many of our economic problems. These are a few issues among many that will not be discussed this election season.

And, if an issue like healthcare is discussed there will be no one on stage who represents the views of the 60% of voters who support a single payer, improved Medicare for All, because neither of the establishment party nominees do. There will also be no one on stage to talk about key movement issues like the systemic racism exposed by Black Lives Matter, the wealth inequality demonstrated by Occupy, and the protests against pipelines by Indigenous Peoples and communities across the country. On these and many other issues there will be no discussion or only discussion from the point of view of two Wall Street-dominated parties. The political agenda will be warped and ignore the people’s concerns.

27 thoughts on “What is the Moderate Center of a Banana Republic?

  1. There was at least 2 people who stopped following my blog minutes after this was posted. I find that hilarious. Did the truth hurt their feelings?

    That is such a bizarre response to someone sharing basic facts. I realize the facts involved are far from happiness-inducing. But to stop following my blog doesn’t actually make the facts go away. The reality is still there and isn’t likely to get better by pretending it is otherwise.

    Oh well…

    • Before these former followers left, it would have been nice if they had answered the question: What is the moderate center of a banana republic? Or: How many licks does it take to get to the moderate center of a banana republic? A good question. Let’s find out. A One… A two-HOO… A tha-three.. CRUNCH!!!

      Anyway, don’t these people have any clue what kind of blog they were following? Or were they just randomly following my blog? It’s not as if it’s a secret what kind of blog this is. I post stuff like this on a regular basis, even moreso recently.

      But in all honesty, I really would’ve liked to have seen their answers. It is sort of an important question. If you don’t have an answer to it, that is as or more problematic than the question itself. If generations (or even centuries) of Americans had seriously thought about that question and attempted to answer it, we might not now be in this mess.

      It is a strange and perplexing situation to find ourselves in. Many banana republics have existed over this past century. What does anyone do when they assumed they were in a functioning democracy and then come to realize it’s a banana republic?

      It’s not unlike asking about what were various populations thinking when they submitted to or became complicit with various authoritarian governments, instead of fighting back against oppression, injustice, and violence. Almost everyone likes to think they would have been a freedom fighter against the Nazi regime or an American Revolutionary fighting against the British Empire. But in reality, most people who find themselves in such situations do nothing or worse.

      Here we find ourselves in such a situation with a government that isn’t just not genuinely democratic but with clear authoritarian tendencies, including the terrorizing and killing of millions of people around the world. So, what are we going to do? Will you wait for the government oppression to turn on you and those you love before you consider taking action? Why not prevent it before it gets to that point? Once it does get to that point, who will be left to stand up for you?

  2. I recently finished reading “What Is The Bible?” by Rob Bell… chapter 28 is entitled “Why Americans Often Miss the Major Themes of the Bible”.

    Bell’s reason, in short, is that the Bible is pretty much entirely written within the framework of the people of God living under the thumb of a powerful Empire that is at best negligently harmful, and at worst outright oppressive. Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Assyria, Rome… and today it’s America. The intended audience of the revolutionary themes of the Bible is not us, but the people beneath us. That was one of the first times it occurred to me that every war since WWII has arguably been about solidifying the dominance of the West and of Capitalism on a global scale.

    And today is in turn the first time it occurs to me (though it ought to have been obvious, really) that even as a member OF the Empire, I am also one of the many Americans merely along for the ride, subject to the will of the ruling elite.

    I am curious, Benjamin, what you would say is the answer, or the way forward? I’ve heard a lot of conspiracy theories in the past about Red Shield (or Rothschild) banks and how they secretly run our society from the shadows, and I decided years ago that even if I were to believe the theory, the battle seems long lost and I can’t think of anything worth doing to try and fight it again. Does the idea of the American Oligarchy end there as well? Would we eventually have to once again resort to violent revolution to achieve an actual representative republic this time? Because if that’s the case, I’m not at all hopeful we would win.

    • Sorry it took a while to approve your comment. I noticed that it got caught up in the system where I didn’t see it right away. WordPress has problems with its comment system.

      I understand where you’re coming from. But I don’t know the way forward. Or rather I’m not sure it’s exactly about figuring out an answer, per se. I doubt conspiracy theories can tell us much that is useful. It’s not that I disbelieve in conspiracies. I’m certain we live in a world ruled by conspiracies, big and small, global and local, but that probably isn’t the central concern.

      We are on the edge of revolution, whether it will erupt quickly or transform slowly, whether it will be violent or peaceful. I’m thinking revolution is near inevitable, if you want to consider that to be an ‘answer’ of sorts. The point is that change will happen, one way or another, no matter what anyone thinks. The present status quo isn’t sustainable. Something will replace it, whatever that might be, and I’m not sure who will like the end result.

      Revolutions aren’t exactly about winning. They just happen. Then people attempt to pick up the pieces. And ruling elites attempt to reassert themselves. But whatever change happens can never be undone. It is what it is. And what will be will be. I’m not much for predictions, as I don’t see any inevitable result of change, even as change itself is inevitable. All I know is that a new world is emerging.

    • I just wish the public became more aware. It’s the saddest thing in the world to see how easily people are manipulated by a ruling elite that keeps most of the population ignorant with inferior education, propagandized with big biz media, distracted with the spectacle of party duopoly, and divided by economic inequality, bigotry, and fear-mongering.

      What would happen if the majority of the American public openly acknowledged and debated the fact that we now live under an authoritarian banana republic? This goes with the question I asked in the title to the post. I was being snarky in asking it, but the question itself is all too serious. I hear self-identified ‘moderates’ and ‘centrists’ all the time talking in terms of mainstream politics. It’s obvious they are clueless about where most Americans stand on the issues. Even most Americans are unaware they are a majority, which is how they are kept feeling isolated and helpless. Yet none of the facts I share in this post are a secret. So, why do these facts have so little impact? Revolutions have been started for lesser reasons.

      What can centrism and moderation possibly mean under such circumstances? Put it in other terms. What did or does centrism and moderation mean in the early British Empire, Maoist China, fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa, Zionist Israel, theocratic Saudi Arabia, authoritarian North Korea, etc? What did or does centrism and moderation mean in the US during racial slavery, Native American genocide, the Gilded Age, prejudice-motivated Prohibition and drug wars, Jim Crow, sundown towns, redlining, racialized legal and prison system, police brutality, worsening inequality, corporatist takeover of government, etc?

      These questions are never asked by most self-identified ‘moderates’ and ‘centrists’. What possible meaning can moderation and centrism have when in practice they mean defending a corrupt system and rationalizing an unjust status quo? How can self-proclaimed moderate centrists speak for any rational and moral sense of a moderate center when such ideological rhetoric is used to silence and dismiss the majority opinion of the public, the very people supposedly represented in what is claimed to be a democracy?

      • I found comments by you and two other people in the trash. I have no idea how they are ending up there. My past assumption was that no comment could end up in the trash without my intentionally putting it there, but apparently I was wrong. WordPress seems to arbitrarily throw some comments into the trash. That means I have to regularly check both spam and trash to make sure comments aren’t getting lost.

  3. I was just now thinking about MLK’s writing on the “white moderate”. Those white moderates he spoke of are what today we might refer to as the liberal class or centrists. They are those who want to be good people or at least be perceived as good people while not rocking the boat.

    MLK rightly saw moderates as a danger to any movement that challenges injustice. But I might note that MLK was indirectly criticizing the black moderate as well, although for obvious reasons he thought it wise to leave that part implicit. It should be noted that MLK became more radical over time, as the failure of moderation became ever more clear.

    Anyway, what is interesting is how such criticisms of the faux moderate are as applicable today as they were back then. It is strange and sad how someone like MLK can be held up as an exemplar, even as his actual message is ignored.

    • The American Revolution would have been fine if the slaveholding aristocrats and plutocratic oligarchs hadn’t taken control of the new government. At least the British Empire had tradition that kept it’s government in check. Once a political coup took hold, the first constitution of the Articles was eliminated unconstitutionally and the working class revolutionaries were suppressed. It was game over after that and the US has struggled with dysfunction and corruption ever since.

      We could have had an entirely different kind of country. The Articles was designed to avoid all the problems we now face. And the Anti-Federalists (who were the real Federalists) predicted how it would all go wrong, if the pseudo-Federalists stole power from the new American public. There was nothing wrong with the Articles. They were working according to design. It was an attempt to create a confederation, a close alliance of separate small nation-states. It was genuine self-governance at the local level. It was an amazing first step toward modern democracy. But the experiment was strangled to death in the crib.

      The American public didn’t accept this coup by a new ruling elite without a fight. But the new president Washington was quick to re-establish the class-based system of political power and to put the majority back into its place. The American Revolution didn’t end with the British troops pulling out of the colonies. Average Americans kept on fighting for years against the new government that sought to oppress them. This second phase of the American Revolution, however, failed. They never teach that in US schools, that the American Revolution failed.

      Here is my view. I don’t see history a clearly demarcated ruptures, as eras with starting and ending points. As far as I’m concerned, the American Revolution never ended. The Civil War was a continuation of the American Revolution, as were the early 20th century race wars and civil rights movement (a period when the US government genuinely feared another revolution, which justified their violent attack on the Bonus Army encampment).

      I’d go even further with this line of thought, as have others. The American Revolution was a continuation of the English Civil War, which itself was a continuation of the Protestant Reformation. BTW some people ask if the Protestant Reformation was worth it as it led to some of the most violent and deadly conflicts in world history, the European religious wars. The destruction of Catholic societies went hand in hand with the destruction of the ancien regime, a moderating force that allowed for a more shared vision of society such as the feudal commons.

      All of this is mixed up with the Enlightenment Age which can be seen as a renewal, if not full completion, of the Axial Age. And of course the Axial Age arose because of the collapse of the Bronze Age civilizations with their bicameralism or whatever it is that was going on with them. The world would be simpler and maybe more sane if those earliest civilizations hadn’t ended in catastrophe and instead could have continued to develop. The new empires that formed out of the post-Bronze dark ages took a much more oppressive pathway of development, the kind of imperialism we know today and that set the stage for the American Empire. There has been a schizophrenic mentality of democracy and authoritarianism ever since.

      Anyway, the American Revolution can be seen as either a mistake or a missed opportunity. The same thing could be said for much else in history. Looking back on the the shared past of humanity, it is a near endless battlefield strewn with mistakes and missed opportunities. But even mistakes and missed opportunities can offer lessons to learn from. If the American Revolution hadn’t happened, the British Empire might not have felt the pressure to reform itself to avoid further revolution or other disruption. And if the British Empire hadn’t reformed, Canada and Australia as we know them today might not exist. Every mistake and missed opportunity leads down a path of other possibilities. The American Revolution for all its failures helped to unleash radical ideas that transformed the global world.

      Anyway, I enjoyed the article. Here is a point that became clear to me in recent years:

      “The transnational nature of the Revolution, du Rivage shows, has been blanked out. The promise of transatlantic unity in a move toward modernity was very real.”

      It was never just an American Revolution. First of all, it was a British Revolution as the main actors who incited it were British subjects. But it goes beyond that. The revolution was supported and funded by multiple other empires and countries, from the French to the Dutch. And the British were largely using non-British (e.g., Hessians) to fight. On the colonial side, there weren’t only non-English and non-colonists fighting such as French troops but there were also foreign officers who led colonial soldiers. It was an international war. And the American Revolutionaries often made this clear, as both Washington and Paine declared themselves citizens of the world and accepted honorary citizenship status from France. Without the ‘American’ Revolution, there wouldn’t likely have been other revolutions following it. Without the French Revolution and the European wars that it helped cause, the authoritarian monarchies would have had more likely maintained control of Europe.

      “Had the radical Whigs secured their power in Britain, our Revolution might well have taken on a look and feel far more like those of the later Canadian and Australian dissolutions from the Brits: a political break toward “home rule” but without any of the elaborate paraphernalia of patriotism attached to it. We would probably still have had some piece of the British flag upon our own, and Betsy Ross would have sewn in vain.”

      That is the point about it not just being an American Revolution. Paine was first and foremost a British subject, having been born in and spent most of his life in England. He sought to spread the revolutionary fervor throughout the British Empire. And he sought to spread democratic moderation in the French Revolution. There is no doubt that history could have gone in many different directions.

      “Had the British won, we might now be taught about a fight between brave British emancipators and indigenous slaveholders, with the black slaves who defected to the British-loyalist side seen as self-emancipators, as the blacks who defected to the Union Army are now, and with Washington’s and Jefferson’s rhetoric of liberty shown the same disdain we have for the not-very-different libertarian and individualist rhetoric of their heirs in the Confederacy. We would perhaps wonder, far more than we are now allowed to, how radical Whigs like Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Paine ever allowed themselves to betray their own Enlightenment principles by making the tragic error of entering into a compact with slaveholders.”

      Even if the British had won, the ideals of the American Revolution could still have won. It’s possible that the colonists losing the battle might have dispersed their revolutionary ideals even further. It was because of the supposed victory such as it was that those ideals could be squashed and delegitimized by the new US government. Those revolutionary ideals could have simmered for a while longer and they might have been able to force greater change both in the colonies and elsewhere. The American Revolution ended up stopping in its tracks the growing movement of abolitionism and feminism in the colonies, because the ruling classes got involved and demanded to put these revolutionary concerns on the backburner. The revolution became independence from empire instead of freedom for self-governance, the two having a very different emphasis.

      “That historical account would be as self-serving and tendentious, in its own way, as our current glorious one. Against the skeptical view of the achievement of the American Revolution, one can easily posit a view more radical than even the ideology of radical Whigs quite suggests. Three decades ago, Gordon Wood, in “The Radicalism of the American Revolution,” asked us to see the Revolution in the broadest historical scale, and to realize that, whatever its failings and brutalities and hypocrisies, it represented a decisive break with doctrines of inherited power and monarchical rule, and a move toward democracy that had scarcely been so dramatically accomplished since very ancient times. Jonathan Israel’s forthcoming book “The Expanding Blaze” promises to make a similar case: that the revolution was the great radical act of its day, responsible, directly and indirectly, for the onset of the modern age. Abolitionism rose from the promise of the Revolution more than the Revolution sustained slavery.”

      A revolution in a sense can only succeed to the degree that it continues. Those who stole power with a coup were dead set on ending the revolution and so ending the revolutionary fervor with its revolutionary ideals, although they were fine with making liberal use of revolutionary rhetoric when useful. But the revolution didn’t really end, as it never was simply an American Revolution. It really was an international phenomenon, as the revolutionaries intended it to be. As such, the revolution continued internationally even as it ended in the colonies. That is what gets lost in national histories, when dealing international revolutions. The US doesn’t own the American Revolution. Once started, such revolutions easily morph and relocate. The revolutionary genie can’t be put back in the bottle.

      “Indeed, that abolitionism burned brighter in Britain than in the independent States, as historians have argued, had at least something to do with America’s triumph: Britain could demonstrate that it was better, more honorable, than its former colonies at a time when such a demonstration was urgently sought. Then, too, the separation of the Southern plantation owners from the West Indian ones weakened a formidable lobbying force within the Empire. Still, if history is not always written by the winners, it shapes itself to the slope of events: had the episode arrived at a different outcome, as it easily might have, the American rebellion could well have come to be seen as the French Revolution often is, if on a far smaller scale—a folly of Enlightenment utopianism unleashing senseless violence.”

      The British Empire could make itself look good by abolishing slavery. It’s the same logic for why the American Empire passed civil rights laws during the Cold War. Both the British Empire and American Empire were worried about the prospect of further revolution. The legitimacy of their power was being questioned and so they sought moral justification in the public mind by doing what they wouldn’t otherwise have done.

    • It’s interesting to note that the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are further head socially, even if they are becoming more neoliberal.

      Canada, AUstralia, and New Zealand have better social mobility along with lower inequality
      All 4 of course have universal healthcare
      The safety net is a lot more robust

      The culture is also less warlike than the US.

      • There is difficulty in comparing them, as they are all part of the same basic set of ideological traditions and cultural influences. All of their economies and governments have been closely intertwined for centuries. Even the US economy quickly re-established trade with Britain after the revolution. It was always as much a civil war as it was a revolution.

        The Western neoliberalism we see now is largely a byproduct of pre-revolutionary British imperialism (and other varieties of trade-based imperialism, such as even earlier seen in the influential Spanish Empire). The American Empire is simply an extension of the British Empire. There is no way to separate the two.

        All those countries that are supposedly less war-like depend on the military of the American Empire to maintain international trade agreements and trade routes. The American Empire inherited this role from the British Empire, and ever since the two have been close allies in maintaining the Anglo-American geopolitical order.

        So much of the US taxpayers money doesn’t go to healthcare and such because it has to pay for this international military regime. That is what is hard for Americans to understand. We get cheap products because of imperialism, but there is a high price paid for living in the belly of the beast.

        There are in many ways greater advantages to living more on the edge of the empire. It’s why early American colonists in the pre-revolutionary era had more freedom and wealth than British subjects living in England. That is the advantage of living in Canada or whatever, getting many of the benefits of the Anglo-American imperial order without having to pay as much of the direct costs for maintaining it. Of course, those in developing countries pay the worst costs of all, both in blood and resources.

        If not for the complicity of the governments and citizens of dozens of countries, the Anglo-American empire and Western geopolitical order wouldn’t be possible. It was a set of alliances that were cemented in place because of two world wars and a cold war. It is hard to find too many completely innocent people within such an evil system of authoritarian power.

        It is a strange phenomenon that those at the center of empire are both heavily oppressed and among the most accepting of oppression. I think it’s because, when you’re so deep within such an authoritarian structure, oppression becomes normalized. It doesn’t occur to you that all your money going to maintain the empire could have been used to fund public education, public healthcare, etc.

        Thomas Paine ran into this problem. When he came to the colonies, he became riled up and found it was easy through writing to rile up others. Being on the edge of the empire offers some psychological distance that allows greater critical clarity. But when Paine returned home to England, he couldn’t get the even more oppressed and impoverished English peasantry to join in revolution, even though they would have gained the most from it.

        In fact, the reform that was forced by threat of revolution did end up benefiting those English lower classes. But that reform had to be inspired from fear of external threat. It was the ruling elite that embraced reform, rather than it having been enforced upon them by the lower classes in England. The British monarchy and aristocracy was talented at suppressing populism while allowing just enough reform to keep the threat of foreign revolution at bay. But if not for that revolutionary fervor kicking at their back door, such internal reform may never have happened.

        Interestingly, what led to the American Revolution was when the British ruling elite decided to shift the costs of the empire to the colonies. The colonists were fine with empire when they benefited more than they had to pay. That is similar right now with the equivalent to colonists in the present Anglo-American imperial order. But if similar the costs of this empire were shifted to the allied nations, I bet you’d suddenly see revolutionary fervor against empire.

        That probably would be a good thing.

  4. I think that one of the biggest issues is that the top 10-20% of Americans are in bed with the very rich. Combined they have a great deal of economic power, and unlike the top 0.1%, they have a solid amount of votes so that they can change society.

    Remember this?
    That means things are going reasonably well for the top 20%.

    The top 20% however are making life worse for the rest of us:

    That may be where the armies of Clinton supporters find their base from – if things are going well for them, why vote for change? They want the status quo.

    • There are some things that need to be understood.

      There can’t be free markets without everyone involved in and impacted by those markets being equally free. There is no democracy in politics without there being democracy in all aspects of society, specifically the economy. And there is no freedom without fairness and justice. These are simple and undeniable truths that, if applied, would transform society.

      The only other choice is one form of authoritarianism or another. It’s amazing how American oligarchy has come to be portrayed as democracy, just as amazing as how American plutocracy has come to be portrayed as free markets. Few people are against democracy and freedom, but obviously we have neither and so it’s a moot issue.

    • I think that the “lesser evil” people just want the status quo. They got rich off it.

      That’s what they are trying to do – obfuscate their desire to have no change.

    • That is a great article. The author explains precisely what some moderate centrists in defense of liberal imperialism don’t want to be known. That is the key point.

      When we speak of moderate centrism, it’s an issue of moderating toward what center. The US has always been a liberal society, but it is a confusion of forms of liberalism. I’ve long argued that even ‘conservatives’ are as much liberals as are ‘progressives’, just two different varieties in many ways defending the exact same social order.

      Trump has never been an outsider. He has been at the very center of American plutocratic social order, neoliberal economics, big biz media. and corporatist politics. He has for many decades been a close friend, associate, and donor of major politicians, including the Clintons. He is as inside as they come. It’s not only that he is a product of this system but elites like him are a key component to how the system functions.

      Trump is American society distilled to its most pure essence.

      “When it comes to assessing US President Donald Trump, it seems there are only two possible positions – he’s either the saviour of the US or the greatest threat yet to the liberal world order. He’s either good or evil, right or wrong.
      But it is possible to be critical of Trump and of the visceral reactions of liberal-internationalist critics – American and European – at the same time. And even more, to suggest that Trump is actually a kind of blowback of liberal internationalism, the unofficial ideology of the American foreign policy establishment. He is a by-product of the fault lines of the very system that nourishes his liberal critics, of the system they defend but has yet has brought the US, and the world, to this low point.

      “Actually, he is the naked face of the hard power, xenophobia and imperialism at the core of American liberal world order that was sublimated – forced underground – after 1945, hiding in official discourses about the ‘rule of law’, freedom, human rights and ‘security’. He is what imperial liberal internationalism looks like without the sophistry and relentless PR.”

    • The Establishment created the conditions for a person like Trump to gain popularity. They have lost legitimacy because of their greed and other failures.

      The issue is, Trump is no better and will continue to wage class warfare on the rest of us, while waging war abroad. He is largely a standard GOP person.

    • I’m sorry it took so long for me to approve this comment. Once again, a bunch of comments ended up in the ‘trash’. I don’t know how that keeps happening, but I sure wish it would stop. I’m going to have to get in the habit of checking the trash for comments every few days or at least once a week.

      That is a great article. That is the kind of thing that should be regularly published in the mainstream media, but of course it won’t for many obvious reasons. It gives voice to a damning judgment of our entire society. I appreciate the author criticized Vance who for a time became the darling of the mainstream media, as he helped the upper classes further justify their scapegoating of the poor, despite Vance’s pretense of sympathy. I particularly liked the following from the article you linked:

      “It is as popular now as ever to blame poor people for their station in life. Republican politicians love to talk about how poor people could stop being poor if only they made better choices or worked harder. If only they’d stop buying iPhones, they could afford insurance! These assholes – and I do not use that slur lightly – have no clue what it is like to grow up poor. They have no clue how hard it is in many places in the US just to keep the lights on and food on the table. It is easy for them, from the comfort of their cushy offices and homes, with full bellies and bank accounts, to pretend that poor people like my mother are poor because they are stupid or lazy or ignorant or irresponsible rather than confront the broken systems that perpetuate poverty in Appalachia and all across the US. Poor people don’t contribute to reelection funds, but those who profit from poor people sure do. Therefore, truth be told, most politicians couldn’t care less about the plight of the poor. There’s so much profit to be made from poor people – think payday loans, high-interest rent-to-own stores, for-profit colleges, and overpriced mobile homes – that politicians and their crony-capitalist donors have a vested interest in keeping them poor.

      “Many of us who have personal experience with poverty understand that addiction, mental illness, poor health, and lack of education are symptoms of poverty rather than causes. When I think about all the suffering my mother endured over the course of her life, I can’t help but wonder how anyone could think that she was to blame for her poverty. She started working at 12, and she worked every day for years, long after her body gave out on her. She made choices, some good, and plenty bad, but poor people have fewer options when faced with impending and potentially life-changing decisions. Poor people like Mom are often forced to choose from a small number of shitty options, and most of them try to find the one that is slightly less shitty than the others. When people are eaten up mentally and physically by a lifetime of compounded shitty choices, they reach a point where they can’t even decide what is best anymore, because they realize that no matter what they do – no matter how hard they try – they are cogs in a broken machine and nobody cares about them anyway. Poor Appalachian people are broken, but not nearly as broken as the systems that keep them poor. “

    • I’m sure it is happening in many places. Certainly, many things like it are happening all over and have been happening for a long time. The problem is we’ve grown so used to injustice and oppression. It takes a lot more to shock us. If MLK was around to day, he would have a much harder time getting media attention.

      With the corporate consolidation of media and the growth of think tanks, the propaganda model of news has become so much more entrenched and influential. Social media is able to fight against this to some extent, but social media can only accomplish so much. The plutocrats have never been so wealthy and so powerful as they are now.

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