Polarization Between the Majority and Minority

Where is the demos in democracy?

What do Americans think as a people and a public? That is the eternal question in a country that was made famous by being founded as the first modern democracy. Among serious thinkers, the conventional theory of representative government has been that public opinion generally determines public policy, on average if not in every detail. This is what supposedly gives a public mandate to the political elite to rule on our behalf, as an approximation of self-governance but without direct democracy. Well, that is the theory. Is it true? To question this political dogma, in the past, was considered unpatriotic and seen as an attack on the very ideal of democracy. But times have changed, as has faith in claims of democratic representation.

Let us explore where Americans stand on the issues. This year’s Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey, Dueling Realities: Amid Multiple Crises, Trump and Biden Supporters See Different Priorities and Futures for the Nation (full data and visual summary), brings us some lovely info about the American population and conclusions can be offered. There is a decided shift showing a larger pattern across the board. It could be suggested that Donald Trump’s administration does not represent the direction the country is heading in, assuming there is any hope of actual democracy functioning in the slightest. Neither is the Republican Party in alignment with the general public nor with Independents. And Republican Fox News viewers are shown to be living in a separate alterative reality. The progressive, liberal, and leftist majority is seen across every category of issues, views, and policies (the metaphor of a political spectrum being a relative concept). This is not exactly new information.

What kind of country is America?

In looking at this survey, we are given a pictue of America as seen by Americans, the differences of view and the commonalities. So, what kind of country do we Americans believe we live in? Let’s go straight to the top, God. Most Americans no longer believe God has granted the United States a special role in history. Once having been an article of faith among the majority, only 40% of Americans still hold to this conviction in our political religion, although 64% of Republicans are holding strong to their sense of divine entitlement and presumably all the divine privileges that go with it.

It isn’t solely a partisan divide and maybe as much about specific kinds of religiosity. White evangelical Protestants, unsurprisingly, are totally into American theocracy as seen with their strong support of Donald Trump hand-picked by God as the Chosen One to rule over the Chosen People, albeit this is a slight interpretation of the data on my part. Then again, if much more weakly, black Protestants are barely holding onto a sense of America’s divine status; and many of those black  Protestants would be evangelicals as well. But most mainline Protestants, Catholics, etc don’t see it that way. Interestingly, back in the 19th century, it was evangelicals, as a minority religious group, who were among the strongest defenders of the separation of church and state — how things have changed.

Besides those two groups of primarily evangelicals, all other measured demographics are probably more prone to believing America has fallen under a divine curse. As for Christians in general, they’re just not buying this divine nationalism. On the other hand, no demographic, not even white evangelicals, thinks that America is and always has been a Christian nation, not even after four years of the Chosen One, President Donald Trump, ruling the land. America has not been made great again. So, it’s hard to know what God’s favor could mean anyhow, as there are much more religious countries out there. Indeed, church attendance has been dropping. God looks down on America and says, “No respect, no respect, I tell ya.”

After these rough past few years, the evidence is becoming less clear that we are the Chosen People. This calls into question our American Exceptionalism and hence our divine mandate to rule the world as the largest empire in history. But the survey didn’t ask which country now has gained God’s favor in replacing America’s divine status. We’ll have to wait to find out the results on that one, as God works in mysterious ways. For certain, God doesn’t hold the sway he once did here in the grand ol’ US of A, as only 39% agree that believing in Him is necessary for morality. About an equal number (38%) thinks that religion causes more problems than it solves. So, maybe God should look for a more hospitable place to call home.

America has stopped being the moral beacon for the world, according to Americans (74%), whatever might be God’s opinion on the matter. Huddled masses of immigrants take note. Most Republicans don’t see this nation as a good moral example with 55% taking this negative view, when only 33% agreed in 2018. Not even White evangelical Protestants can get on board with a belief in national moral superiority at this point. So, obviously, Trump’s brand of Christianity hasn’t inspired a flood of moral religiosity to buoy up public confidence. It turns out that there is more to religion than waving a Bible in the air or at least there used to be.

Americans have come to a consensus that America is no longer a Christian nation (74%) with a significant portion thinking it never was (22%). An increasing number think that this decline of Christian dominance is a good thing, at 39% which is up from five years ago when it was 29%. One can see a trend in falling religiosity and the weakening of theocratic impulses, as secular nationalism takes hold. Maybe the media has become our new shared religion, as we do devotedly worship it with the authorization it provides in shaping our sense of reality. People scroll their smart phones like rosary beads, bow their heads to their laptops as if before a shrine, and go into altered states as their eyes glaze over watching boob tube.

What’s the matter with America?

Let’s now move onto more general views of what is seen as mattering, since God no longer holds this place of pride. The majority of Americans generally agree with the majority of Democrats in how they prioritize most issues: coronavirus pandemic (60%, 85%), fairness of presidential elections (57%, 68%), health care (56%, 73%), jobs and unemployment (52%, 58%), crime (46%, 48%), terrorism (45%, 43%), abortion (36%, 35%), appointment of Supreme Court Justices (40%, 44%), federal deficit (36%, 31%), immigration (33%, 36%), and trade agreements with other countries (23%, 19%).

On the last four issues, Republicans are close to being in agreement as well. But on the first seven, Republicans strongly disagree with both the general public and Democrats. And on three other highly polarized and partisan issues (racial inequality, climate change, and growing gap between rich and poor), the average American is about smack dab in the middle. Actually, they are toward the middle on some of the others as well, although they have a general alignment with Democrats while, in those cases, Republicans are found on the complete opposite side. Two examples of the latter are 39% of Republicans seeing the coronavirus pandemic as critical and 33% with that opinion about health care, in contrast to 60% and 56% for Americans in general which is about equally distant from Democrats, if on the same side of the minority-majority divide.

It gets interesting with a religious breakdown. When looking at the top three issues for each group, there is wide agreement about the coronavirus pandemic and fairness of presidential elections. There is a consensus on these two among most included religious demographics: white mainline Protestants, Black Protestants, White Catholics, Hispanic Catholics, Other Christians, and the non-Christian religious. That makes this the majority religious position about what is seen as central at this present moment.

Also, Hispanic Protestants and the Unaffiliated put the coronavirus pandemic in their top three picks, but not fairness of presidential elections. White evangelical Protestants did agree about fairness of presidential elections while being alone in stating great concern for terroism and abortion, indicating that they are highly motivated by thoughts of violence and death, if not the slow violence and mass death by other means (pollution, lead toxicity, lack of healthcare, racial oppression, war, etc). As another popular issue, healthcare was held up as important to four of these demographics: Hispanic Protestants, White Catholics, Other Christians, and Unaffiliated.

Are Americans racists or socialists?

Here is a funny one. Almost half of Americans perceive the Republican Party as having been taken over by racists and the Democratic Party by socialists. The people in each party disagrees with that view, but it is amusing because of the lopsided quality of the accusations. Most Democrats don’t identify as socialist even as they wouldn’t take it as a slur against their good character, whereas Republicans understandably freak out when they get called racists. No one wants to be thought of as a racist, not even most racists these days.

That is because a growing number of Americans identify with the socialist label while an ever shrinking minority still embraces racist ideology. As Sarah van Gelder, in looking at other polling, explained the former: “While capitalism is viewed more favorably among all Americans than socialism, the reverse is true among those under 29, African Americans and Hispanics, and those making less than $30,000 a year, according to a Pew poll. And more Americans have a favorable view of socialism than of the Tea Party.” As the older generations die off and the country becomes a majority of minorities, along with inequality growing worse, net positive view of socialism could become common or even mainstream in the coming decades.

Yet when it comes to racism, even Donald Trump feels compelled to deny it even while he is throwing out blatantly racist rants. The fact that it has to be hidden behind lies, if open lies, demonstrates how shameful it is perceived. Everyone understands that racism is no longer acceptable (neither politically correct nor morally good), as public opinion has shifted left on social issues. At the same time, public opinion is likewise going left on fiscal issues. Attempting to slander Democrats as socialists and fellow travelers doesn’t quite have the sting it did during the Cold War.

These changes are seen all across the board, as a recent Fox News poll proved, not to mention the hundreds of other polls that have shown the same. To take another key example, from 2015 to 2020, the majority switched from agreeing to disagreeing with the statement that the values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life, and for as long as this question has been asked by PRRI this is the first time this response was seen. As the Cold War is growing distant, so is the War on Terror. But once again, Republicans stand alone in clinging to these old fears and animosities of a prior age of propaganda.

There are some even more damning divides on racial issues. Once a minority position, an emerging majority (56%) has been persuaded that cops killing Blacks is part of a broader pattern, not isolated incidents. In 2015, 53% said the opposite was true. Yet, as always, Republicans (79%) and Fox News viewers (90%) cling to their worst hateful prejudices in presently siding with this institutionalized and systemic racist law-and-order, compared to 40% independents and 17% of Democrats.

As the rest of America wakes up to this sad state of affairs, the political right has remained steady with their cold hearts unmoved by pleas of injustice and suffering. But it is good to be reminded that they are a polling minority in their callousness toward racial minorities, whereas white Democrats have fallen almost exactly in line with Blacks. White Independents, now at 46%, have also edged down into seeing racist-driven killings as a problem; although White Americans in general are hovering right on the divide of public opinion with equal numbers going both directions. As for white Christian groups, most of them are still feeling a bit racist while steadily moving away from the hardcore racism of white evangelical Protestants (70%), their former alignment disappearing with mainline Protestants now at 57% and white Catholics 58%.

What is the racial and racist divide?

To really get at racism, PRRI divided the polling sample into demographically equal sub-samples. They received questions about protests that were identical except in one way, by mentioning blacks or by not mentioning race at all. This was a brilliant way to get at people’s honest opinion and what is motivating it. Americans in general agree (61%) with the statement “When Americans speak up and protest unfair treatment by the government, it always makes our country better.” But Americans almost divided (52%) whether such free speech and freedom to assemble also applies to “Black Americans.”

The only two measured demographics, as brought up in the PRRI report, that absolutely believe all Americans should have equal rights are blacks and Democrats, although many of the other demographics still mostly favored giving blacks such rights (the views of other races and ethnicities were not mentioned in the report, but I didn’t look at the raw data). The demographics of white conservatives all were strongly opposed to blacks not being violently oppressed and silenced, but to be fair they were less supportive and more divided on protesting in general. Even so, most Americans, no matter their race, are equal in their majority support of the citizen’s right to protest. Once again, conservatives are the minority even among whites.

But of course, America’s racist history rears its ugly head the moment the question is racialized. The variations in demographics, though, are not entirely as expected. As most Americans support protesting on principle, even only a slim majority holding to the same for blacks, there is nonetheless many white demographics that would defend this right for blacks. There are the college-educated, as always. Gender is the opposite of how typically portrayed. White men (50%) are more supportive of black protests than white women (44%), which might relate to white men being one of the key demographics where Trump saw declining numbers among his voters this past election. White men can’t be blamed for everything.

Besides conservatives, it’s the white religious, including among mainline Protestants, who are among the most racist on this issue, as their majority support for protests drops to 35-38% when applied to blacks. This reminds one of why most Americans now assume that believing in God is not necessary for being moral. Obviously, the religious faith of these whites has not helped them to see all humans as the children of God with souls that are equal before God. When blacks are at issue, they don’t see souls at all but just the color of their skin.

A similar pattern is seen with White Christian groups being most likely to view Confederate flags and monuments as symbols of Southern pride, rather than racism. It’s strange that racism among whites tracks so closely with religiosity or at least religious identification. This says a lot about religion in America. Indeed, anyone familiar with American history knows that churches and religious leaders played an important role in defending and maintaining slavery, Jim Crow, etc. Yet religion was also central in blacks fighting back against slavery, as seen with the civil rights movement.

The divide over racism within American Christianity is itself racial. The vast majority of black Christians believe in a God who loves all people equally, but this view of God’s universal love is not nearly so strongly held by white Christians. I must admit, for all my cynicism, I do find this a bit shocking. I never would have thought the racial division would be this stark, even though it’s a tired truism well known in the South that Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week.

Is there unity in diversity?

Even so, white conservatives and white Christians aren’t completely lost in paranoia and bigotry. Among Republicans, only 17% claim (or admit?) to prefer the U.S. to be made up of people of western European heritage. That is barely above the national average of 10% in support. Similarly, a mere 18% are bothered by the idea of America where most people are not white. It’s a little bit higher wth Republicans at 27%, but that isn’t too bad. The numbers would have been starkly different not that long ago. The increase of immigrants and the growing number of minorities, not to mention the rise of interracial relationships, is having an impact on changing attitudes. It’s become normalized to show diversity in the media. It’s no longer perceived as scary.

Still, the full and open embracing of diversity remains a divisive issue and the population is about evenly split. That is to say, even though white supremacy is not seen as the solution, Americans hold onto concerns about multiculturalism or whatever it is a symbolic proxy for (breakdown of communities? loss of culture of trust?). As expected, those who more fully embrace diversity are Blacks, other non-whites, the multiracial, and college-educated whites. It should be noted that these are growing demographics and represent the majority.

Gender roles and societal norms was another areas the PRRI survey looked into. Most Americans disagree (60%), contrary to most Republicans that agree (60%), that society seems to punish men just for acting like men. Republicans also think that society has become too soft and effeminate (63%). Both Democrats and Independents are in line with the majority in opposition to Republicans. The religious are evenly divided on this issue, as are men. That is quite intriguing, though, that half of men have no concern about these conservative fears of a supposed decline of masculine and male-dominated society. Most women, of course, have little concern about this area of male identity politics.

These kinds of social issues related to egalitarianism tend to sync with political issues, specifically attitudes about democracy. A two-to-one majority says the popular vote, not the electoral college, should determine the presidency. Once again, Independents (68%) side with Democrats (86%), opposite of Republicans (39%), in demanding greater democracy and a more representative government such that all voters are treated as equal no matter where they live. There is some other demographic variance, but still the majority are in favor — whites and non-whites, men and women, young and old. Republicans, especially Fox News viewers, are the outlier in being absolutely opposed to equal rights and full self-governance for all other Americans, no matter where they live or their skin color.

This is changing in mainstream society, a sign of hope. “Majorities of Americans,” reports PRRI, “say that there is a lot of discrimination against Black people (75%), Hispanic people (69%), and Asian people (55%). Far fewer say that there is a lot of discrimination against either Christians (37%) or white people (32%).” Following the pattern, this includes majorities, in this case large majorities, of Independents and Democrats.

Many Republicans (52%) also feel compelled to admit that blacks face major discrimination, even as they hold to self-serving identity politics in believing that white people (57%) and Christians (62%) are the most oppressed people in the world. It’s worse with those Republicans (27-36%) who, in trusting Fox News, don’t think any minorities at all have anything to complain about, in contrast to whites (58%) and Christians (73%) who are experiencing genocide. On a positive note, there is no religious group that believes whites are more discriminated against than blacks, but white evangelical Protestants (66%) do identify as the most victimized Americans.

It can’t be blamed, however, on whites in general. White identity politics is largely limited to Republicans, Fox News viewers, and certain Christians, especially white evangelicals. But even combined, these people do not form a majority among whites. Most white Americans disagree with this strong racialized worldview. They may not see the prejudice as applying as much to Asians (47%), but most of them do very much think it is undeniable among Hispanics (61%) and blacks (67%), whereas it’s not so much for Christians (38%) and whites (39%).

Victimhood politics holds little merit with the typical white. The same goes across the education spectrum, as both those with and without a college degree agree with other whites, if to varying degrees. As for the majority of minorities, they are maintaing solidarity in agreeing they all experience more prejudice as compared to whites and Christians. The last part stands out considering non-whites have higher religiosity rates than whites, and yet the prejudice they experience is not identified with their religion. That makes sense. No police officer ever killed a black guy because he was Christian and no ICE agent ever deported a Hispanic because they were too religious.

This kind of thing is mostly a non-issue at this point. Besides the standard ultra-right demographics, whites don’t feel threatened by minorities and diversity. It’s a minority of white Americans (40%), including white Americans without a four-year college degree (46%), that thinks that increasing diversity always comes at a cost to whites. As with a third of Americans (34%), only 35% of Independents and 17% of Democrats agree with this assessment of racial politics as a zero-sum game.

How bad is inequality?

Where the real debate is happening is whether racial inequality is tightly linked to economic inequality. Is a historical legacy of institutionalized and systemic racism, specifically slavery and discrimination, contributing to a lack of economic opportunities for blacks in trying to work their way out of the lower class? Americans in the past slightly leaned to answering ‘no’, but are now almost evenly split.

As with other issues, Republicans, Fox News viewers, and white Christians think blacks are whiny snowflakes who need to get over it, the same people who think blacks shouldn’t be allowed to protest and so these concern trolls might start a counter-protest to complain about blacks acting like they are equal to others in demanding to be treated as such. Independents did side more with Republicans in the past (62%, 2015), but have since (46%) moved toward Democrats (20%) with Democrats having likewise moved further left since five years ago (39%). The same shift has been happening with whites overall in following the example of Independents.

Where is the American public heading?

Most Americans are going left on most issues like this while a small minority on the right is often going further right, particularly about identity politics. A polarization is happening but it’s between a growing majority on the left and a shrinking minority on the right that is ever more isolated and radicalized, much of it having to do with who is and who is not caught in the right-wing media bubble. About continuing racial biases and disparities, it’s also polarization within religion with non-white Christians, non-Christians, and the religiously unaffiliated being in opposition to white Christians.

Now for a really divisive set of issues look at affirmative action and reparations. Slim but growing majorities support efforts to remedy racial bias and historical legacies in education and employment. It splits up more as most people would expect with partisans on the two extreme ends and Independents closer to the middle. Also, blacks and Hispanics strongly favor such policies and practices whites are still slightly holding back their support but moving in that direction. Quite likely, in the next decade if trends continue, the demand to help the disadvantaged and disenfranchised will finally become a majority position for whites and a strong majority for the entire American public.

That brings us to another oft racialized issue, that of immigration. Most people think of it as a polarized topic in how it is used as a political football by politicians and gets used in dog whistle politics, but the reality is there is almost unanimous agreement across all of society. Even among Republicans, a large majority views immigrants as hardworking (79%) and as having strong family values (76%), along with a significant number acknowledging that immigrants make an effort to learn English (38%). The positive attitude toward immigrants is stronger among other demographics. Only a tiny minority disagrees.

Generally speaking, Americans don’t see immigrants as a problem. They aren’t perceived as a cause of crime or disease in communities. Although divided in other areas involving immigration issues, there still isn’t an overwhelming majority who are drawn to scapegoat this population. Still, it is true that there is vociferous debate about whether or not immigrants burden local social services and compete for jobs, about which Americans are divided down the middle. As before, it’s only Republicans with a clearly negative view of immigrants. Among Democrats and Independents, it’s some combination of positive and neutral, depending on what is being asked about.

Other than Republicans (57%), specifically those who trust Fox News (67%), few Americans (31%), Independents (28%), or Democrats (15%); and few whites (36%), Hispanics (24%) or Blacks (24%) would agree that “immigrants are invading our country and replacing our cultural and ethnic background.” Only 51% of Republicans who don’t trust Fox News go along with those who do trust it, and that is considering most Republicans who distrust Fox News probably have left the party at this point. It’s as much a media divide as anything else, between Fox News viewers and everyone else.

[To be fair, there are also surprising divides emerging within demographics such as a significant minority of Hispanics having voted for Donald Trump (Natalie Jackson, Religion Divides Hispanic Opinion in the U.S., PRRI report). These intra-demographic divergent vote might have  been larger in the second election. And it might have been partly motivated  by his tough-on-immigration stance.]

It goes on and on. Most Americans, including majorities of Americans in every major demographic mentioned but excluding Republicans and Fox News viewers, oppose building a border wall between the United States and Mexico (57%), oppose passing a law to prevent refugees from entering the country (62%), support immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children (i.e., Dreamers) to gain legal resident status (66%), and support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants (64%).

On the last issue of a pathway to citizenship, Republicans distrusting Fox News and all religious groups also support it, and among opponents of citizenship there are those who would still support permanent residency status (16%). Most Americans, even including most Republicans with the exception of Fox News viewers, along with every religious group, oppose an immigration border policy that separates children from their parents and charges parents as criminals (76%).

What is wrong and what irrelevant?

Let’s wrap this up. Most Americans across most demographics agree that something is wrong in American society and governance, but this has not made them cynical and hopeless. The majority does want the government to do more, as a Fox News poll shows, in such a way that would actually benefit the public good and help everyday Americans.

This includes guaranteeing all Americans access to affordable childcare (83%), guaranteeing all Americans a minimum income (70%), making college tuition-free at public institutions (63%), and a “Medicare for All” plan that would replace private health insurance with government-backed health insurance coverage for all Americans (62%). This is what Americans want and have wanted for a quite a while, much of this public support having developed during earlier administrations.

It’s far from limited to a supposed radical left-wing fringe. Along with Democrats and Independents, Republicans support guaranteeing all Americans access to affordable childcare (95%, 85%, and 71%, respectively) and guaranteeing all Americans a minimum income (88%, 69%, and 52%, respectively). But Republicans are mixed in what they support and what they oppose, and there is that everpresent contrarian thorn in the side of the American public, that of Republicans under the sway of Fox News who always take the opposing position.

Most Americans, other than reactionary right-wingers, have a common vision of the kind of society they want to live in and what they consider important. There is a strong sense that climate change poses a threat that people fear will cause personal harm to themselves, their families, and communities (58%). Other polls show that most Americans want government to do more with stronger environmental regulations and protections. This isn’t abstract culture war bullshit but something in the real world and Americans fully appreciate what this could mean as it gets worse. Democrats and Independents of all races are in agreement.

For many other issues, Americans show strong support. This is seen with a culture war issue like abortion (60%), which is seen as perfectly fine even among most religious groups. Most Americans think it should be legal in all or most cases. Many polls show this, including from Fox News. The same goes for LGBTQ rights. The majority, including among the religious, is on board with allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally (70%) and in enacting laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing (83%).

But thing is these issues are largely moot in the American mind. Few think there is anything to be debated. They are non-issues. Yet somehow they are kept on life support by a corporate media and political elite that trot them out on a regular basis, presumably as a distraction from the issues Americans actually do worry about. As far as the average American is concerned, such issues don’t determine their vote nor much affect their life. So, just shut the fuck up about it. Do what the American people want, quit being authoritarian assholes, and let’s move onto what really matters.

And what might we conclude?

Here is a takeaway point, as shown with this and so many other polls/surveys. Most Americans agree about most things, but this is a silenced and suppressed moral majority. The American people want a repesentative democracy probably for the very reason that obviously it is lacking. Most of what politicians do is severely out of alignment with what most Americans support and value, and political elites seem conveniently oblivious to this self-serving corruption.

See: Larry M. Bartels, Unequal Democracy; Martin Gilens, Affluence and Influence; Martin Gilens & Benjamin I. Page, Democracy in America?; Lawrence R. Jacobs & Benjamin I. Page, Who Influences U.S. Foreign Policy?; Jarron Bowman, Do the Affluent Override Average Americans?; Matt Grossmann & Zuhaib Mahmood, How the Rich Rule in American Foreign Policy; Shawn McGuire & Charles Delahunt, Predicting United States Policy Outcomes with Random Forests; Patrick Flavin, State Campaign Finance Laws and the Equality of Political Representation; etc.

How did it get this way? Consider one other point. There is a single demographic that is consistently far right on every issue and consistently in disagreement with the rest of the population. That demographic is partisan Republicans who are indoctrinated by Fox News (Trumpism After Trump? How Fox News Structures Republican Attitudes, PRRI report) — actually, this demographic crosses over with white evangelicals, the consistent outlier among religious groups. This isn’t like the audiences of other corporate media. The rise of Fox News and right-wing talk radio was an entirely new phenomenon in history. It is an outrage machine that is highly effective in altering opinion, perception, and identity (“The Brainwashing of My Dad”, 2015 documentary).

Yet no matter how large is this audience, Republican viewers of Fox News are a small percentage of the total population, as Fox News has proven with their own polling in showing far left is the American majority. So, why do they have such an outsized influence in how this miniscule minority is treated as equal to the vast majority on the opposite side of public opinion? And why do corporate Democrats accept this framing of false equivalency that silences not only most Americans in general but also most Democrats, Independents, and others? Why do all the corporate media play along with this false narrative that is implemented as social control in disenfranchising the majority?

However we answer that question, just for a moment imagine what the United States would be like without Fox News, without endless outrage and fear-mongering. Imagine if Fox News politics wasn’t the dominant model of propaganda for an oligarchic rule. Imagine all of the corporate media was broken up to the extent that most media was once again locally owned and operated. Imagine if all big money was removed from politics, all legal bribery was made illegal, all corporate lobbyists were frozen out of public decision-making. Imagine if public opinion mattered, if the majority wasn’t silenced and suppressed, if government actually represented the American People. Otherwise, what is the point of all this public polling? If and when we the American public realize we are the majority and far to the left of the elite, then what?

* * *

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Biden’s Conservatism

I wouldn’t necessarily argue about Joe Biden’s campaign promises or anyone else’s campaign promises, not even those of Donald Trump. But what does concern me is the actual political record of each individual. And in the case of Biden on Social Security, it’s a very mixed and not reassuring political history. That shouldn’t be dismissed lightly nor rationalized away with nice-sounding rhetoric. 

That said, what the Democratic Party does during the next administration is not limited to Biden, as there could be other political actors and the public putting pressure the DNC elite. Even if Biden at this point still wanted to cut Social Security, he would have a hard time accomplishing this end, even with bipartisan support, because of the extreme unpopularity of doing so. I’m sure someone would pull him to the side and explain to him that Social Security shouldn’t be touched, but in the past he took pride in ignoring that warning by grabbing hold of that third rail. He could get sneaky about cuts as he did in the past.

His decades of interest and willingness toward cutting Social Security remains a concern, not only Social Security but also Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits, etc — everything will be on the table, he said in the past to emphasize this point. Biden and other corporatist Democrats will have to be watched carefully in the coming years. Fiscal hawks like Biden might go slightly left, if we force them to do so, but that is far from guaranteed. We have almost no way to force him to do anything, other than by threatening with protests, riots, and revolts.

Behind the scenes, the corporatist Democrats will find ways to work with corporatists Republicans, and the corporate media probably won’t report on it or else will spin a narrative to hide the truth. This means we’ll need to watch the alternative media closely to stay informed. That is a depressing thought. I’d rather leaders who would do the right thing on their own without constant threat and scrutiny from the public, but the sad fact is Biden is not such a leader. 

Even so, I understand the hope of leftists that the Biden administration could be pulled left, however naive is this expectation. There is nothing in the recent history of the Democratic Party to cause one to think it’s likely. Let’s take it as an interesting experiment. And I’d love to be proven wrong. As one critc put it, if Biden suddenly becomes the next FDR, I’ll become a Biden Bro cheering him on. But if I’m proven right, will the loyal Democratic partisans ever admit to once again failing? Of course not. It will be lesser evilism again next election leading to ever greater evil each time. That is how we ended up here. 

Think about Biden’s kind of politics. Back in the 1980s, he was sometimes to the right of Ronald Reagan on fiscal issues, such as about cutting Social Security. Biden was one of the strongest supporters of GOP policy during that time, from cutting taxes on the rich to increasing military spending that created our present permanent national debt, not to mention his advocacy of the balanced budget amendment which was code for slashing everything that helped Americans. 

By the way, the permanent debt was created on purpose. It was part of the Starve the Beast Strategy, combined with the Two Santa Claus Theory. Reaganonomics was a continuation of Jimmy Carter’s austerity politics, but the Republicans realized how unpopular it was under the Carter admistration. So, they sought to force austerity and cuts to social programs in an indirect way. The idea was that by creating a massive national debt it would create a financial crisis, but this failed and the debt growing. And no matter how much they cut social programs and taxes on the rich, as also happened under Bill Clinton, there was somehow always more money for big biz subsidies and more war.

Obviously, there is nothing about cutting taxes while increasing spending that is fiscally responsible, but that wasn’t the purpose. They were hoping to dismantle the New Deal and Biden was all on board. As a Reagan conservative, it was Democrats like Biden who ensured Reagan had a conservative majority, even when he didn’t have a Republican majority. Biden remained friendly with Republicans and kept working with them. He supported the far right 1998 Republican budget, at a time when the GOP were well on their way toward ever greater extremism. 

This has continued into recent politics. The Obama/Biden administration for several years kept trying to cut Social Security by ensuring payments wouldn’t keep up with US inflation, but the Tea Partiers in power were too dogmatic to accept the lopsided deal in their favor. And it goes on and on. There are plenty of signs that Biden has not changed his stripes. A 40 year long political record speaks loudly, no matter what rhetoric he has thrown out to gain votes and win the electiion. Don’t be distracted by his words. Look to his actions.

One of Biden’s top campaign advisors is Bruce Reed who is a far right economic conservative. Reed is being made the Head of the Office of Management and Budget, a powerful position. Put this in context. Reed ran the commission that pushed for Social Security cuts, something he has been pushing since the 1990s. This isn’t the only fiscal hawk, along with other kinds of right-wingers (war hawks, corporate lobbyists, anti-environmentlists, etc), that is being brought into the Biden administration. There is Janet Yellen, Antony Blinken, Cedric Richmond, etc.

Putting fiscal hawks and opponents of Social Security into power is probably not what a president does if they genuinely are seeking to protect, strengthen, and expand Social Security. Biden does not appear to be signalling that he will allow himself or his administration to be pushed left — quite the opposite. Why expect someone like Biden to suddenly reverse the course of his political career, no matter what he claims to get votes?

Biden is the spirit of the Clinton Democrats or what used to be called New Democrats, what now is a moderate Republican (the reason he gained support from conservative Republicans like Bill Kristol). He was promoting Third Way politics and triangulation before there was a name for it, before the Clintons were in Washington. This has meant pushing right while punching left. He built his career on demanding fiscal responsibility by cutting benefits to the average person while ensuring big spending continues for wars, corporate subsidies, bank bailouts, etc.

We the public will have to go to heroic efforts in trying to even nudge Biden an inch to the left (at least on economic issues) or simply keep him from going further right, as he likes to do, by working with Republicans to get things done. That is what centrism meant to Biden in the past. He likes to get things done, particularly when the left doesn’t like what he gets done. He has stated in no uncertain terms that he hates the left and prides himself on beating the ‘socialists’, what used to be considered standard liberalism and progressivism.

To be fair, he might throw a few bones to the left on social issues.

* * *

Videos about Social Security (the first few are footage of Biden over the decades):

Joe Biden’s Decades of Trying to Cut Social Security and Medicare
Biden Calls for Cuts to Social SecurityJoe Biden Brags about Trying to Cut Medicare, Social Security, & More while Bernie Defends ThemBiden’s Record on Social Security
Biden Can’t Outrun His Social Security RecordBiden Can’t Stop Lying About His Social Security RecordBernie Relentlessly HAMMERS Biden’s Social Security LiesHuff Post Reporter: Biden’s documented history of trying to cut social securityEven Biden’s Staff DISTRUSTS His Ability To Discuss Social SecurityDavid Sirota: Biden’s Reported Budget Pick Tried To CUT Social SecurityBernie CALLS OUT Joe Biden’s Huge Lies On Social SecurityBiden Lies Lies Lies About His Social Security Record
Joe Biden Would Go After Social SecurityDear Joe Biden’s Older Supporters, He Wants to Cut YOUR Social Security!Did Biden Endorse Cutting Social Security and Medicare? ft. Brandon Sutton (TMBS 91)Joe Biden Keeps Trying to Cut Social SecurityJoe Biden’s Indefensible Record

Also, see these videos and articles about Biden picks for his administration, as an early sign of which direction he will go:

Saagar Enjeti: Biden’s Cabinet Is FULL Of Deficit Hawks, War Lovers and GlobalistsBiden’s Cabinet A Who’s Who Of Corrupt Corporate Lobbyists
Joe Biden Punches Bernie Sanders Square In The Balls With Cabinet Appointments.
Under a Biden Administration Bush-era Neoconservatives Own the Democratic Party. Not the “far left”

It seems Joe Biden wants Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in the Senate, not his Cabinet

Snubbing both Warren and Sanders for moderates won’t please the left-most wing of the party, especially when Biden’s transition team reportedly seems more interested in courting Republicans than progressives. During the NBC interview, Biden said he wasn’t opposed to nominating a Republican who voted for President Donald Trump to his administration, but that political watchers shouldn’t expect that kind of announcement.”

Joe Biden Is Freezing Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Out of His Cabinet

“Though the summer months elicited a flurry of frenzied speculation about an ambitious liberal agenda on the near horizon, one only needed to take a cursory glance at Biden’s Wall Street donors, senior advisers, and public rhetoric to see what the character of his administration would almost certainly be. The appointment of figures from the likes of Uber, Lyft, Amazon, and JPMorgan to his transition team certainly does little to alter the general impression.

“Needless to say, the emerging character of the Democratic administration that will take office next year continues to give lie to the fable of a transformative, FDR-like agenda primary-fatigued liberals were so reassuringly offered throughout the late spring and summer. At this early stage, Biden could be using his transition to set the stage for a bullish one hundred days beginning in January. Instead, he’s surrounding himself with corporate operatives and freezing the Left out of his cabinet.”

Articles and quotes about Social Security cuts:

Social Security and Medicare Are Not Safe With Joe Biden

Did Biden Twice Vote To Tax Social Security While in the Senate?

“What’s True: While serving as a U.S. senator representing Delaware, Joe Biden voted for two pieces of legislation — once in 1983 and once in 1993 — that resulted in taxing some Social Security income of some recipients.

How Corporate Media ‘Factchecked’ Biden’s Calls for Social Security Cuts Into Oblivion

“Whatever clever dodges politicians propose for cutting Social Security, whether through “raising the retirement age,” “chained CPI” or “freezing” spending, it’s important for media outlets to cut through the jargon and inform citizens by accurately labeling what they want to impose on the US’s most successful anti-poverty program: cuts. Otherwise, these “guides” to Social Security debates should be understood by readers as apologies for austerity (Extra!, 5/99).”

Did Joe Biden Just Deny Calling for Social Security Cuts? There are videos of it.

Joe Biden, 1984 (Senate):

“So, when those of my friends in the Democratic and Republican Party say to me, ‘How do you expect me to vote for your proposal? Does it not freeze Social Security COLAs for one year? Are we not saying there will be no cost-of-living increases for one year?’ The answer to that is ‘Yes, that is what I am saying.'”

“Within the next 12 to 18 months this country will face an economic and political crisis of extraordinary proportions if Congress refuses to take decisive action on the deficits that we face.”

Joe Biden, 1995 (Senate):

“When I introduced the budget freeze years ago, the liberals in my party said, “It’s an awful thing you’re doing, Joe. You are… All the programs we care about, you’re freezing them. Money for the blind, the disabled, education…” And so on. And my argument then is the one I make now, which is the strongest, most compelling reason to be for this Bu…this amendment, or an amendment. And that is that, if we don’t do that, all the things I care most about are going to be gone.”

“I mean whatever happened to that old conservative discipline about paying for what you spend?”

“I’m up for re-election this year and I’m going to remind everybody what I did. At home, which is going to cost me politically. I… When I argued if we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well!I meant Medicare and Medicaid! I meant veterans’ benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the government.And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time and I tried it a fourth time.

I introduced the Balanced Budget Amendment in 1984! It got nowhere. I’m one of those Democrats who voted for the Constitutional amendment to balance the budget. I introduced it on four occasions. Four occasions, entire plans to balance the budget, knowing I’m not president, and I’m not the leader. But for illustrative purposes. I tried with Senator Grassley back in the ’80s to freeze all government spending, including Social Security. Including everything.”

Joe Biden, 1988:

I introduced an amendment, notwithstanding my quote liberal credentials, of freezing the federal budget, absolute freeze. I did it for a simple reason: I sat on the Budget Committee for 11 years. And I’d find the same thing occur every time. We’d start off with grandiose ideas of how we’re going to cut the budget. We would never touch entitlements, we would never touch the defense budget, and we couldn’t touch the interest on the debt. Which meant that out of a trillion-dollar budget, that left us only $156 billion And what we would do each year is we would go out and cut out education, food stamps, Head Start, [welfare] payments, on down the line, everything that I cared about got cut, because at the very end, we’d say, ‘Well, we’ve gotta make some cuts.’ And that would be the path of least resistance.”

Joe Biden, 1995:

I am a Democrat that voted for the constitutional amendment to balance the budget. I have introduced on four occasions — four occasions — entire plans to balance a budget. I tried with Senator Grassley back in the 1980s to freeze all government spending, including Social Security, including everything.”

When I introduced my budget freeze proposal years ago, the liberals of my party said, ‘It’s an awful thing you are doing, Joe. All the programs we care about, you are freezing them — money for the blind, the disabled, education and so on. My argument then is one I make now, which is the strongest, most compelling reason to be for this amendment — or an amendment — that if we do not do that, all the things I care most about are going to be gone — gone.”

Joe Biden, 2007 (Meet the Press interview):

Tim Russert: “Senator, we have a deficit. We have Social Security and Medicare looming. The number of people on Social Security and Medicare is now 40 million people. It’s going to be 80 million in 15 years. Would you consider looking at those programs, age of eligibility, cost of living, put it all on the table?

Joe Biden: “The answer is absolutely. […] Social Security’s not the hard one to solve. Medicare, that is the gorilla in the room, and you’ve got to put all of it on the table.

Joe Biden, 2007 (Iowa’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner):

The American people know we have to fix Social Security. They know we can’t grow our way to a solution. They know we’re going to have to make some tough decisions. They’re ready to make those decisions. They’re ready to step up. We have to be ready to straightforwardly tell them what we’re about to do.”

Joe Biden, 2018:

“Paul Ryan was correct when he did the tax code. What’s the first thing he decided we had to go after? Social Security and Medicare. We need to do something about Social Security and Medicare. That’s the only way you can find room to pay for it.”

FACT CHECK: JOE BIDEN HAS ADVOCATED CUTTING SOCIAL SECURITY FOR 40 YEARS

BIDEN’S FIXATION on cutting Social Security dates back to the Reagan era. One of Ronald Reagan’s first major moves as president was to implement a mammoth tax cut, tilted toward the wealthy, and to increase defense spending. Biden, a Delaware senator at the time, supported both moves. The heightened spending and reduced revenue focused public attention on the debt and deficit, giving fuel to a push for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

In the midst of that debate, Biden teamed up with Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley to call for a freeze on federal spending, and insisted on including Social Security in that freeze, even as the Reagan administration fought to protect the program from cuts. It was part of the Democratic approach at the time not just to match Republicans, but to get to their right at times as well, as Biden also did on criminal justice policy. […]

“In 2014, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said at a conservative event that Biden had privately told him he was supporting of raising the retirement age and means-testing Social Security benefits. “I asked the vice president, don’t we have to raise the age? Wouldn’t means-testing and raising the age solve the problem?” Paul recounted, with Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee on stage, adding that Biden said, “Yes in private, but will not say it in public.” Paul hadn’t been paying close enough attention.”

PolitiFact Wrongly Lets Biden Off the Hook: The Truth About Social Security Cuts

In the speech, Biden says, “we need to do something about Social Security and Medicare” and that Social Security “needs adjustments.” Biden did not elaborate on what these “adjustments” were, but a look at his long history on Social Security is telling.
“In the 1980s, Biden sponsored a plan to freeze all federal spending, including Social Security. In the 1990s, Biden was a leading supporter of a balanced budget amendment, a policy that the Center for American Progress and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (two center-left think tanks who are hardly in the tank for Bernie Sanders) agree would be a catastrophe for Social Security.

“More recently, Biden led “grand bargain” negotiations with Republicans during his time as vice president. This “grand bargain” would have given Republicans structural, permanent cuts to Social Security in return for tax increases on the wealthy that would be rolled back as soon as a Republican president got elected to office.

“Time and time again, Biden kept coming back to the negotiating table, insisting that Republicans were dealing in good faith. Ultimately, the grand bargain fell through only because of hardline House Republicans refusing to make even an incredibly lopsided deal. Biden was fully prepared to make a deal that included Social Security cuts, including reducing future cost-of-living increases by implementing a chained CPI.

When Washington politicians talk about Social Security cuts, they almost always use coded language, saying that they want to “change,” “adjust,” or even “save” the program. That’s because cutting Social Security is incredibly unpopular with voters of all political stripes. When corporate-friendly politicians like Biden use those words, they are trying to signal to elite media and billionaire donors that they are “very serious people” who are open to cutting Social Security benefits, without giving away the game to voters.”

Biden’s Advocacy for Social Security Cuts Has Had Real Consequences

Going back to 1984, Biden has expressed interest in deals that would cut Social Security. He proposed freezing Social Security spending and periodically highlighted that desire; he voted for a balanced-budget amendment even after failing to shield Social Security from it; and he demanded that Social Security be “put on the table” during his last presidential run. He associates himself with a crowd known for foregrounding deficit concerns and fully willing to make “tough choices” on earned benefits like Social Security. Bruce Reed, Biden’s vice presidential chief of staff from 2011 to 2013 and a top campaign aide, was executive director of the Bowles-Simpson commission, which pursued deficit reduction and proposed increases in the retirement age.

“As a coup de grace, in 2012 and 2013 then-Vice President Biden helped lead a publicly advocated scheme to reduce future Social Security benefits as part of a “grand bargain” with Republicans. This cut did not reflect any of President Obama’s campaign promises, but it became part of a negotiation while in office—precisely the fear that liberals have with Biden, that he will revert back to dealmaking with Republicans that sells out core Democratic principles.

“Specifically, Obama-Biden sought to swap out the annual cost-of-living adjustment used to calculate benefits with the so-called “chained CPI,” which uses the concept of substitution. If the price of beef spikes, you could purchase lower-cost chicken instead to stay within your budget. This subsequently grows the inflation index more slowly than other government measures.

“Of course, no real substitute exists for the main drivers of elderly people’s budgets, namely housing, medical care, and prescription drugs, all of which typically rise faster than inflation. You can’t really substitute ham for arthritis medication. There’s a specific inflation calculation for the elderly, which takes this cohort’s higher costs into account, but for some reason it’s not used for Social Security benefits.

“The net effect of chained CPI would have been a Social Security benefit cut, which only makes sense if you think seniors get too sweet a deal with their $1,461 a month in average benefits. The average worker retiring at 65 would have seen a $650 reduction in benefits by age 75, and then $1,130 by age 85, according to economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Calling this a “more accurate” calculation of inflation masks the end goal of reducing future benefits (by about $230 billion over a decade, according to 2013 figures) and saving money within the system. […]

Chained CPI only dates back to 2002. It was an obscure concept mostly favored by deficit hawks and conservative ideologues until the Obama administration elevated itThe Obama-Biden proposal gave chained CPI the legitimacy needed for future administrations to implement it. It was not benign, not just a pose to show how extreme Republicans were. It was not just an ephemeral trial balloon in one negotiation in 2013. It has had long-lasting consequences for millions of Americans. And the vice president of the administration that set the trip wire causing chained CPI’s growth should be held accountable for his actions.

Trump is Innocent of the Crime of Liberalism

This is a post I didn’t desire to write but felt compelled to do so. It’s the same topic of another recent post, Trump Family And Elite Corruption. When I shared that other one with a Donald Trump voter, albeit reluctant in their not actually liking Trump, they dismissed the information as underwhelming and unconvincing, even as they admitted to only having barely looked at any of the linked pieces that were shared. So, having confirmed what they already believed without any need to look at any possible information that might disconfirm by bringing doubt, they concluded this was further proof of the liberal bias of media that unfairly attacked Trump. Fake news!

It was amazing how quickly this reasonably intelligent and highly educated person returned to this rhetorical framing of a default narrative. This comes from someone who has otherwise admitted that Trump is corrupt and so that wasn’t even a point of disagreement. Yet the response to Trump being a swamp creature is that the media is liberal, as if the accusation of being liberal is worse than being morally depraved. Sure, Trump is bad, as this person would acknowledge, but… the media is liberal! Hang them! Hang them all! Liberalism is the one unforgiveable sin, against which all else pales in comparison. Trump may be an authoritarian demagogue and narcissistic social dominator, but at least he is not a liberal. This must be that infamous lesser-evil voting I’ve heard so much about it.

Some of the links in that earlier post were just describing the allegations and investigations. Others were detailing the evidence upon which cases were being made. So, I’m not sure which articles this person read or skimmed. But if they actually wanted to know, they would have to do more than a cursory look at a few pieces among many. In covering the specifics, there has been a fair amount of investigatve reporting, such as the CREW report and a Buzzfeed piece, SECRET MONEY: How Trump Made Millions Selling Condos To Unknown Buyers. For even greater detail, a number of book-length exposés have been published: Craig Unger’s House of Trump, House of Putin, David Enrich’s Dark Towers, James D. Zirin’s Plaintiff in Chief, Timothy K. Kuhner Tyranny of Greed, etc. One could easily argue that Donald Trump has been the most corrupt president in American history, certainly the most brazenly and shamelessly corrupt, although the competition is steep.

From the articles originally listed, here is one example that is similar to the Ukranian One allegation that the political right latched onto against Clinton: Behind Trump’s Push for “American Steel” in Pipelines, Another Russian Company with Putin Ties Stands to Benefit. The evidence in both cases is about the same, and yet Clinton got hit much harder in the news media by claims of scandal than did Trump in this case. So, bias obviously can go both directions, depending. Biased media aside, the article shows the commonality across the aisle about what big biz means in this context with Putin having his hands in everything. But I still consider such accusations to be weak, no matter which side asserts them. That isn’t the kind of thing that really interests me, although I think it’s important to demonstrate how the Trump family is not particularly different than the Clinton family.

More damning and dangerous, to my mind, is the everyday corruption of profiteering and legalized bribery (Donald Trump has turned the White House into a bribe factory), which is the kind of thing I found so egregious with the Clintons. Still, in many ways, it’s much more blatant with Trump, as the Clintons at least went to the effort of maintaining formal legality and respectability by filtering money through their foundation. Trump, instead, treats almost everything openly as a business deal to be made, even admitting conflicts of interest and admitting that they influence him. From ‘An Astonishing Rate of Corruption’: Trump Has Amassed 3,000 Conflicts of Interest Since Taking Office (reporting on the CREW report):

  • “55 members of Congress have made 78 visits to Trump’s resort properties.”
  • “Cabinet members have patronized Trump properties and attended events with special interests or wealthy political donors at least 30 times.”
  • “Foreign government-tied entities have held 13 events at Trump properties, and at least 134 foreign officials have visited one of Trump’s properties—violations of U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.”
  • “Special interest groups have sponsored 117 events at Trump properties since he took office.”

Plus, there is the open cronyism that pervaded the Trump administration: “The report details several specific examples of favors given to officials and associates who visit Trump’s properties. Patrons of the president’s private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida have been offered chances to “shadow rule” government agencies, while other members have been nominated to ambassadorships.” Not small stuff, by any means, and all documented. Here is some details from the CREW report itself:

“Late last year, CREW discovered that one of Trump’s companies applied for two trademarks in Argentina for “real estate affairs” and building construction, suggesting that plans for a Trump Tower Buenos Aires might be moving forward. These were the first trademarks that Trump has applied for in the country since his election.A closer look showed that the timing of the applications closely coincided with Trump administration action on tariffs in Argentina. After the trademark opposition period ended, Trump lifted tariffs on steel and aluminum from Argentina and a few other Latin American countries. Soon after the application was granted Trump reinstated the tariffs, defending his actions on Twitter by claiming that Argentina had manipulated their currency.

“Trump’s international conflicts of interest span the globe to Indonesia, where the daughter of one of his business partners has assumed a high ranking role in the Indonesian government, thus directly linking Trump’s business to a foreign government. Angela Tanoesoedibjo was appointed in October to a position which gives her power over tourism in the country. Tanoesoedibjo’s father owns and operates one of Indonesia’s largest real estate conglomerates, MNC Group, which is building two Trump-branded developments in the country. In one meeting between government officials and her father’s Trump-connected company, an official brought up a property MNC Group is developing that will have Trump-branded aspects.”

There are other examples like that. Consider the many business dealings Donald Trump has had with the Saudis, including royal family and including ties to Saudi investors going back decades: “Trump has been paid tens of millions by Saudi investors and its government through a variety of business deals” (Trump said he has ‘no financial interests in Saudi Arabia.’ But his businesses have made millions from the Saudi government, and the crown prince gave his New York City hotel a huge boost.). As president, he made sure the Saudi government got a generous arms deal, including nuclear weapons — a deal, by the way, that was lobbied by a Trump fundraiser. Also, Saudi lobbyist became a Trump appointee. Then there is the massive amount of money that Trump himself ackowledges was given to him — President Trump has a massive conflict of interest on Saudi Arabia:

“Crucially, though, he and his businesses have continued to benefit substantially from Saudi customers, including the government of Saudi Arabia. Press reports have indicated that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has recently paid for rooms and meals at the Trump hotels in Washington and Chicago. In 2017, Saudi lobbyists spent $270,000 to reserve rooms at Trump’s hotel in Washington. The kingdom itself paid $4.5 million in 2001 to purchase a floor of Trump World Tower and continues to pay tens of thousands in annual common charges to Trump businesses for that property (the total of which could be up to $5.7 million since 2001, according to one estimate). In the past year, as bookings fell overall, Trump’s hotels in New York and Chicago reported a significant uptick in bookings from Saudi Arabia. And a major factor in a recent increase in revenue for the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan was that Saudis accompanying the crown prince during a recent visit stayed there, as The Washington Post has reported.

“Trump said at a campaign rally in 2015 about Saudi Arabia: “I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.” What’s notable about that statement is not just the president’s description of his significant business ties to Saudi Arabia but his stark admission that he is inclined to look favorably on those who give him business.”

It’s not just one country that we’re talking about, according to Forbes which isn’t eactly a left-wing rag or communist propaganda (Trump’s Biggest Potential Conflict Of Interest Is Hiding In Plain Sight). A bank majority-owned by the Chinese government was renting space at Trump Tower for more than an estimated 2 million a year. Between domestic and foreign companies, along with payments from foreign governments, Trump has received hundreds of millions of dollars during his presidency — $175 million a year from tenants alone. And the company payments are legally protected as anonymous. Some of his tenants have done business with or been under investigation by the government. The whole situation screams out for the Emoluments Clause (Profiting off the Presidency: Trump’s Violations of the Emoluments Clauses), which was created for this precise reason (Trump faces avalanche of conflict-of-interest troubles):

“No president has ever held a fortune that spans the globe. He has licensed his name to buildings in far-flung countries, including Azerbaijan, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and Turkey. Some are allies, some are ruled by autocratic dictatorships and some are at odds with American interests. Further, he owes hundreds of millions of dollars each to the government-owned Bank of China and the privately owned Deutsche Bank. The Trump Organization has plans to continue to expand the company around the globe during its namesake’s presidential administration.Not only do these foreign holdings, debts and future deals present imminent conflicts of interest for American foreign policy, but they also create an immediate constitutional concern. The U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause states that no government official shall receive favorable payment from a foreign government, foreign government-owned company or foreign official without the consent of Congress. It is, in essence, an anti-bribery clause preventing foreign corruption.”

This isn’t being blown out of proportion. This level of conflicts of interest is unprecedented in the American presidency. It’s not only Trump himself but those he surounds himself with, such as General Michael Flynn and Thomas Barrack who had their own conflicts of interest (skim the first few pages of the following report: Whistleblowers Raise Grave Concerns with Trump Administration’s Efforts to Transfer Sensitive Nuclear Technology to Saudi Arabia, Interim Staff Report Committee on Oversight and Reform U.S. House of Representatives). There is also the extent of corporate cronyism and regulatory capture at a level probably never before seen, at least not at this level of crudeness and shamelessness (Mapping Corruption: Donald Trump’s Executive Branch). Also, reporting on this hasn’t been limited to just a few media sources and plenty of articles detail the examples and evidence, far from being wild conspiracy theories and loose accusations. Here is a small selection and really look at the powerful case being made: 

Exposing Trump’s Deals (Global Witness), A Handy List of Donald Trump’s Biggest Conflicts of Interest (Times), Tracking Trump’s Web of Conflicts (Bloomberg), 100+ Examples Of Donald Trump’s Corruption (Rantt Media), Trump’s Interests vs. America’s, Dubai Edition (The Atlantic), Trump’s global business empire raises concerns about foreign influence (Chicago Tribune), When Dirty Russian-Connected Money Saved Trump’s Ass and His Ensuing Business Disasters Helped Destroy the Global and American Economies (Real Context News), Trump’s Dangerous, Unprecedented, and Unconstitutional Conflicts of Interest – Center for American Progress (The Center for American Progress), 

Saudi Arabia Paid Washington Lobbyist to Book 500 Rooms in Trump’s D.C. Hotel Shortly After 2016 Election (Slate), Trump’s Conflict-of-Interest Problem Didn’t End With the Doral Debacle (Mother Jones), “I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia.” (Politifact), Did we betray the Kurds for Trump Towers? (NJ), Trump Business Deals In Southeast Asia Raise Conflict Of Interest Concerns (NPR), Jared Kushner and the Qatar blockade: Conflict of interest? (Salon), A DONALD TRUMP APPOINTEE — ALSO A SAUDI GOVERNMENT LOBBYIST — IS REASSESSING HIS ROLES (The Center for Public Integrity), Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest (Sunlight Foundaton), 

In some ways, this is worse legalized bribery than seen among the Clinton dynasty. Some of these actions easily could be argued do cross the line of legality, not that they’re likely to ever be prosecuted. Legality aside, they are swampy corruption galore. Among the most corrupt presidents history, Trump has to be one of the top going by the available evidence of what we know so far. It’s not like anyone has ever mistaken him as a good person. He has a long history as a criminally corrupt businessman (Five times law enforcers could have arrested Donald Trump but didn’t), from cheating contractors to tax evasion schemes to bribery (Trump’s Company Paid Bribes to Reduce Property Taxes, Assessors Say), but there is also a dark history of working with organized crime, including multiple incidents of suspected money laundering. It defies credibility to think that he wouldn’t bring this corruption with him into the White House. 

The money laundering accusations and suspicions are among the most worrying. They demonstrate the global connections between plutocracy, political power, and organized crime. The highly unusual financial transactions have implicated Donald Trump many years before he decided to run for president. And it hasn’t only been a concern in the US. Foreign governments and banks have looked into potential money laundering that involved Trump and his family. It doesn’t prove money laundering did happen. But these cases have kept coming up over a long period of time, far from being limited to the reporting of American liberal media. 

The money at stake is not small, as shown by looking to our northern neighbor: “The most recent estimates of the dirty money flowing through the area’s casinos and real estate put the totals in the billions of Canadian dollars (Why Trump should be worried about Vancouver’s new crackdown on money laundering). It’s literally at least a hundred times worse in the United states. “The US Treasury estimates that $300bn is laundered annually in America. This is probably a fraction of the true number. Worse, the US government has no idea who controls the companies that channel the money because America lacks a corporate central registry” (How money laundering is poisoning American democracy). That is the total laundering, not only that of Trump and his cronies. He is just one scummy moral reprobate among many. Among the plutocrats, he is closer to the rule than an exception.

If Trump Is Laundering Russian Money, Here’s How It WorksWhat is Money Laundering and Why Has Donald Trump Been Linked to It?Is Donald Trump’s casino empire linked to money laundering? Past financial crimes may be the president’s biggest problemThe Kleptocrats’ Money-Laundering Middleman Who Did Deals With TrumpA Russian Mobster Built Trump SoHo Into Putin’s Money Laundering RacketThe Trump Family Moves Cash Around Like Money-Laundering Drug CartelsHow the Trumps kept their hands clean while taking criminals’ moneyTrump Taj Mahal Settles Over Anti-Money-Laundering ViolationsMueller Failed to Follow Trump’s Money TrailU.S. House confirms it is conducting “major” money laundering investigation involving President TrumpWhy has Congress stalled on investigating money laundering allegations at Trump properties?Can Trump Organization Executives Be Prosecuted for Money Laundering?Do Trump’s Taxes Show He’s a Failure, a Cheat, or a Criminal?Trump’s Tax Returns Are a Scandal for the President—and for America,

A Trump hotel in Panama reportedly was responsible for laundering millions of dollars in drug moneyTrump’s Panama tower used for money laundering, reports sayTrump’s Luxury Condo: a Congolese State AffairMessy web of Trump ties in Turkish mogul’s money-laundering caseA Kazakh dirty-money suit threatens to reach Trump’s business worldCalls to Probe Trump-Guiliani Money Laundering SchemeTrump OK’d business partner with alleged Iran laundering tiesDeutsche Bank Staff Saw Suspicious Activity in Trump and Kushner AccountsThe journalist who revealed the secrets of Trump’s relationship with Deutsche BankDid Deutsche Bank Sweep Possible Money Laundering By Trump Under The Rug?Deutsche Bank employees say leaders dismissed concerns about suspicious Trump transactionsUS probes Trump money laundering through Irish golf courseFinance Journalist: Trump’s Scotland Resort Isn’t a Golf Business, But a ‘Money Disappearing Business’Did Trump launder money through his Scottish golf clubs? Top official demands investigationTrump wealth order probe urged over Scottish golf resortsScotland inches closer to investigating Trump for money launderingScottish Leader Says Trump Should Face ‘Accountability’ In Turnberry Probe

For certain, these are not isolated cases, as the Trump family going back generations has had a well-documented history of legally and ethically questionable activities. As has been pointed out, Donald Trump originally got his earliest inheritance as part of one of a tax evasion scheme that could have been prosecuted at the time, if New York City had not been so corrupt. Some of the federal, state, and local investigations into Trump are surely false or invalid, maybe some being straight-up partisanship, but it would be naive to dismiss them all in this manner (Tracking 30 Investigations Related to Trump). Even ignoring those, one has to consider all the foreign investigations as well. Scandal, financial and otherwise, has followed Donald Trump his whole life and has plagued the Trump family since before he was born.

A recent example has to do with the notorious Deutsche Bank. “The bank was “laundering money for wealthy Russians and people connected to Putin and the Kremlin in a variety of ways for almost the exact time period that they were doing business with Donald Trump,” Enrich said. “And all of that money through Deutsche Bank was being channeled through the same exact legal entity in the U.S. that was handling the Donald Trump relationship in the U.S. And so there are a lot of coincidences here”” (Why Did Deutsche Bank Keep Lending to Donald Trump?  — “Trump, Inc.” Podcast). This is a well established pattern. After his financial troubles in the 1990s, no US bank would go near him. And ever since, his finaces have been heavily tied in with Russians who were willing to loan him money, invest in his projects, start real-estate partnerships, and purchase of Trump condos  (How Russian Money Helped Save Trump’s Business). 

That happened to be the same period of the rise of Putin’s control of Russia, along with the rise of a Putin-supported oligarchy that had money to throw around. Trump’s branding empire was built on this Russian money. “Of course, Trump’s shady dealings aren’t exclusively with Russians. He’s eclectic that way. He’s made deals with Kazakh money launderers, with corrupt businesses in India and with a shady casino operator hoping to expand his operation in Vietnam. Nor is real estate the only realm where Trump has been involved with potential money laundering. In 2015, federal authorities fined the already-bankrupt Trump Taj Mahal $10 million for violations of anti-money-laundering laws” (Trump’s Dirty Money). Let us say Trump made sure to diversify his portfolio.

The specific case that drew public attention was when “anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank had flagged “suspicious activity” on the accounts of both Donald Trump and Jared Kushner in 2016 and 2017” (DID DEUTSCHE BANK SWEEP POSSIBLE MONEY LAUNDERING BY TRUMP UNDER THE RUG?). It should have been reported to the Amercan authorities, but that bank has had close long-term financial ties with the Trump family and decded to not report it (Deutsche Bank says money-laundering reports not waived for Trump), even though it was part of a pattern. The year before, in 2015, several transactions had been flagged when “money had moved from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals,” according to anti-money-laundering specialist Tammy McFadden who reviewed the information while working there and advised it be sent to the government. Instead, a management team that had close associations with Kushner intervened by bypassing normal procedures and decided to shut down any further inquiry.

By the way, investing in property has long been a favored way of laundering money, as well as for legalized bribery when paying above actual value, the latter also being alleged when a Russian oligarch paid $100 in buying a $40 million property from Trump in 2008 during the real estate bust. “According to BuzzFeed News, one-fifth of all Trump-branded condos sold in the U.S. since the 1980s were handled in cash transactions that allowed buyers to use shell companies to obscure their finances and identities — a type of exchange that the Treasury Department considers “an attractive avenue for criminals to launder illegal proceeds while masking their identities”” (Deutsche Bank Flagged Trump and Kushner for Potential Money Laundering: Report). Much of Trump’s money from foreign sources, including Putin-related oligarchs and organized crime, comes through over-priced condos and the rental of space such as in Trump Tower —- Trump’s Russian Laundromat:

“But even without an investigation by Congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president’s debt to Russia. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. “They saved his bacon,” says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration who investigated ties between organized crime and Trump’s developments in the 1980s.

“It’s entirely possible that Trump was never more than a convenient patsy for Russian oligarchs and mobsters, with his casinos and condos providing easy pass-throughs for their illicit riches. At the very least, with his constant need for new infusions of cash and his well-documented troubles with creditors, Trump made an easy “mark” for anyone looking to launder money. But whatever his knowledge about the source of his wealth, the public record makes clear that Trump built his business empire in no small part with a lot of dirty money from a lot of dirty Russians—including the dirtiest and most feared of them all.”

Look at Trump’s financial history these past few decades, as various members of the Trump family have admitted to most of their money coming from Russia (How Russian Money Helped Save Trump’s Business):

“All this history helps put into context some recent developments in the investigations by Mueller and the Southern District of New York, which have focused on supposed Trump collusion or conspiracy with the Russians. It may have seemed odd at first that during the presidential campaign the people in Trump’s orbit—including Trump’s son, daughter, and son-in-law—were contacted by at least 14 Russians, according to information emerging from the federal investigations. Or that in November 2015, according to a sentencing memo published recently, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was approached by a Russian who offered “political synergy” between the Trump campaign and Russia (adding that a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would have “phenomenal” impact “not only in political but in a business dimension as well”).  

“But in fact at least some of these encounters appear to have sprung from business contacts Trump had developed over nearly two decades.

“According to Trump’s former real-estate partner and other sources who are familiar with the internal workings of the Trump Organization, his post-’90s revival may have really begun in the early 2000s with the Bayrock Group, which rented offices two floors down from Trump’s in Trump Tower. Bayrock was run by two investors who would help to change Trump’s trajectory: Tevfik Arif, a Kazakhstan-born former Soviet official who drew on seemingly bottomless sources of money from the former Soviet republic; and Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman who had pleaded guilty in the 1990s to a huge stock-fraud scheme involving the Russian mafia. […]

“By the time he ran for president, Trump had been enmeshed in this mysterious overseas flow of capital—which various investigators believe could have included money launderers from Russia and former Soviet republics who bought up dozens of his condos—for a decade and a half. And Felix Sater was pitching Cohen on a Moscow deal as recently as mid-2016—as Trump was clinching the Republican nomination, according to a sentencing memo recently unveiled by the Mueller probe. […]

“In a 2016 interview with ABC News, Trump did allow that he’d done one Russian deal. “The primary thing I did with Russia, I bought a house in Palm Beach at a bankruptcy,” Trump said. “I bought it for about $40 million. I sold it for $100 million to a Russian.” That 2008 sale of a six-acre Palm Beach estate to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev is also reportedly being reviewed by Mueller’s team. At the time, Trump claimed that he was able to flip the house for such a high price in only four years because of renovations. But so huge was the differential in price—especially since by the time Trump sold the property to Rybolovlev in 2008, real-estate prices were plummeting in the financial crisis—that the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden, has asked for an investigation into the sale.

““That deal delivered so much cash to Trump, it almost has to be seen as a campaign contribution, or the purchase of Donald Trump,” said D’Antonio. Earlier this year the buyer, Rybolovlev, appeared on a U.S. Treasury Department unclassified list of Russian oligarchs, or influential politicians and business professionals who are considered close to Putin.

“Even Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, have admitted that Russians supplied the Trump Organization much of its capital needs.

“In September 2008, at the “Bridging U.S. and Emerging Markets Real Estate” conference in New York, the president’s eldest son, Donald Jr., said: “In terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. Say, in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo, and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” In 2014, his younger brother Eric—also an executive in the Trump Organization—told a well-known sports writer, James Dodson, after the latter asked him where the organization was getting the money to buy up so many golf courses: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” (In 2017, after the Mueller investigation began, Eric Trump denied making the comment.)”

I know how many feel about the Mueller probe, as even some left-wingers like Jimmy Dore have considered it partisan political theater. But there are questions that need to be answered, issues that need to be investigated — there is overwhelming evidence of multiple networks of powerful figures that have access to large sums of money to fund a variety of agendas and organizations (Following the Money: Trump and Russia-Linked Transactions From the Campaign to the Presidential Inauguration – Center for American Progress). And as I keep pointing out, there really was something fishy going on with political insiders, including Trump associate Paul Manafort, working with one of Putin’s many proxies. To be fair, the brother of one of the top DNC insiders was working with Manafort, but I already covered that issue elsewhere.

Also, keep in mind that Manafort had been doing business with Trump in the year before the campaign and had been meddling in Eastern Europe for at least a decade. And like Trump, Manafort has been caught up in financial questions involving the Deutsche Bank. There are also questions that never have been answered: “Trump actively pursued a major real estate deal in Moscow while he was campaigning for president. He worked closely with a career criminal on the Trump SoHo Hotel project before he even ran for president, a development funded in part with lots of murky money from eastern Europe” (Mueller Failed to Follow Trump’s Money Trail). Mueller, for fear of blowback, never pursued this line of investigation, although maybe he should have or else another investigator, but Congress also backed off. 

Those issues are not insignificant, especially in the context of decades of Trump’s ties to Putin along with Russian oligarchs and Russian mafia, the latter two working directly under Putin’s power (Trump’s businesses are full of dirty Russian money. The scandal is that it’s legal.). The Trump family has long been into shady business practices and business partners. In our cycicism, we shouldn’t take that so lightly. It’s not only that this kind of behavior is morally wrong and anti-democratic, whether or not legally prosecutable, but that it has become normalized. It corrupts not only goverment for it, more importantly, corrupts all of American society. And, of course, it’s bipartisan — How money laundering is poisoning American democracy:

“Donald Trump is the public face of a problem that extends into the heart of America’s system. It spans Democrats and Republicans, New York and Washington, the public and private sectors. It is a curse that dare not speak its name in the 2020 election.

“It is easy to guess why Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner, goes light on it. Mr Biden helped to turn Delaware, his home state, into the most popular domicile for anonymously-owned companies. Without those, The Trump Organization would have garnered far fewer of the investors that bought its condominiums. In one of Mr Trump’s towers in Florida, more than 80 per cent of its units are owned by shell companies. The US has 10 times more shell companies than the next 41 jurisdictions combined, according to the World Bank.

“To be sure, unlike Mr Trump’s alleged transgressions, Mr Biden’s are legal. But it is “legal graft” that has seeped into all corners of US politics — and society beyond. Mr Biden has done as much as any US public figure to put such practices on the statute books. […] There used to be a bright red line between America and the world’s kleptocracies. Now they are symbiotically linked.”

Even so, there are some laws already in place to investigate and prosecute many such potential crimes, if there was political will to do so. It’s certainly not for a lack of evidence in justifying further investigation, and we don’t need to prove any specific allegation beforehand since that is the purpose of an investigation. This is quite concerning to see such corruption, to say the least. It was bad enough when he was merely a sleazy businessman, but it’s downrght demoralizing to see it continue thrughout his administration (Donald Trump, Russian Oligarchs, And A Trail Of Money Laundering).

Like the Bushes and Clintons, the Trumps have all been powerful figures in the main parties for many decades. Trump was associating with the likes of Paul Manafort going back to the 1980s. Also, the Trumps and Clintons are longtime cronies and close family friends. The whole Trump clan is swampy and the same is true of many brought in by the administration. Yet like the Clintons there almost always is plausible deniability and teams of lawyers, not that it makes corruption better when it outwardly follows the letter of the law or when it is so well hidden that it can’t be proven illegal or else when those in power have such legal protection that they are for all practical purposes beyond the prosecutory reach of the law — The Self-Dealing Administration:

“In May of 2018, China awarded Mr. Trump’s golden child, Ivanka, seven trademarks for her now-defunct lifestyle brand, right around the same time her father was pledging to save a major Chinese telecommunications company, ZTE, from going belly up. Ivanka’s office said there was no special treatment involved.

“What’s good for the Trump family is, apparently, also good for the family of Ms. Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, and their business interests. In May 2017, Mr. Kushner’s sister played up her brother’s position as senior adviser to the president when pitching some of Kushner Companies’ real estate developments to prospective Chinese investors through a federal program that provides fast-track visas to wealthy foreign investors. The project “means a lot to me and my entire family,” she told them. The company denied any impropriety.

“Also in 2017, both Citigroup and Apollo Global Management, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, made large loans to Kushner Companies after White House meetings between Mr. Kushner and top executives from those firms. The involved parties insisted that the loans had nothing to do with Mr. Kushner’s position — that, in fact, his family’s business had not even come up in the discussions. The $184 million loan from Apollo came through in November. The next month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission dropped an investigation into Apollo. While there was no indication that the two episodes were related, the timing was a tad unseemly. […]

“In politics, as in life, the fish rots from the head. And many members of the administration seem to have embraced the first family’s ethical flexibility. Among the top officials to depart under allegations of self-dealing or other misuse of taxpayer money were the secretary of the interior, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the secretary of health and human services and the secretary of veterans affairs. Impressively, Wilbur Ross remains the commerce secretary, despite reports of multiple sketchy financial dealings.

“Forget Abraham Lincoln’s Team of Rivals. Mr. Trump will be remembered for assembling a world-class Team of Grifters.

“The Trump campaign world presents its own opportunities for self-enrichment. Before being ousted as campaign manager this summer, Brad Parscale had been facing scrutiny both for the campaign’s profligate spending and for the lavish lifestyle he had adopted since joining Team Trump. Following Mr. Parscale’s demotion, the campaign began an audit of spending during his tenure, according to Business Insider. (The campaign has denied that Mr. Parscale is being targeted by the review.)

“Mr. Parscale features prominently in recent allegations that the Trump re-election effort has been violating campaign finance laws. In late July, a nonpartisan watchdog group, the Campaign Legal Center, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing the campaign and a related fund-raising committee of masking $170 million in spending to vendors and Trump family members by funneling the payments through companies run by Mr. Parscale and others formed by the campaign’s lawyers. Among the outlays in question are fat salaries for Eric Trump’s wife, Lara, and Don Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. The campaign has denied any wrongdoing.”

One can take that information as one will. It’s not easy to draw any specific conclusion about it in legal terms. Obviously, Trump is a bad hombre. But did he cross the line into proveable and prosecutable criminality during the past four years? All that can be said for absolutely certain is that, if all of this overwhelming corruption is not illegal, it should be. But put this in context, Trump is not the only politician and plutocrat who should be in prison. Still, justice has to begin somewhere and there is no time like the present. Not that I have any faith that justice will be served. At the very least, it would be satisfying to finally have public acknowledgement of the injustice itself. I’d settle for a truth commission that let the guilty go free if it forced truth to the surface and forced the corruption out of of the government. Punishment of the guilty would simply be a nice added benefit.

Trump Family And Elite Corruption

Here we are, nearing the end of Donald Trump’s administration. He may have only been a one-term president, but he has left quite a wake in his passing through the halls of power (not unlike Merry Brandybuck tossing stones into the lake beneath the western walls of Moria). It might not settle back down very quickly, if it settles down at all. Now the Clinton Democrats, for good or ill, will be back in power. Joe Biden, no stranger to D.C., is Trump’s replacement. He brings much political and personal baggage with him, as the campaign season demonstrated. The focus on his son, Hunter Biden, didn’t cost him the election. But it didn’t help either, considering his weak victory against a weak incumbent (similar to the Fellowship of the Ring escaping the Watcher in the Waters by running into the caves of Moria).

The recent focus on the Hunter Biden scandal re-opened some dark corners from the previous scrutiny into Ukraine, including bringing to light the fact that John Kerry’s stepson, Chris Heinz, was working with Hunter at Burisma — the cronyism is widespread. Most importantly, it brings back to mind the investigations into the bipartisan collusion involving Ukraine and Vladimir Putin (John Podesta, Clinton Democrats, and Ukraine). The topic remains as relevant as ever. But, as expected, the years of scandals and investigations get lost in the shadows as the glare of political theater and media melodrama takes center stage. It’s not clear what more is known now than in previous years. There have been so many scandals and allegations that it’s hard to keep track of them all. If you want a quick summary, there is a decent piece by Joseph W. Kopsick, Evidence of the Trumps’ and Clintons’ Possible Collusion with Russia and Ukraine (Incomplete). However, he doesn’t link to any sources of evidence or quotes. It is a summary of accusations made, not a summary of the arguments for and against the question of the validity of the accusations.

Some accusations are weak and invalid. Consider how Joule Unlimited and Rusnano is used to claim a direct connection, possibly a point of corruption and collusion, between John Podesta and Vladimir Putin. There is much criticism about the perceived lack of compelling evidence (Travis Gettys, Fox News hypes WikiLeaks claims about Clinton’s ties to Russia — just as Trump asks followers to watch). Is it possible? Sure. But is it proven? Not even close. Then again, such a hypothetical link is not implausible, considering we know Podesta’s brother had no problem knowingly working with an organization involving someone backed by Putin. Still, speculation is not enough to justify an accusation. Just because I don’t trust the Clinton Democrats doesn’t mean I trust the slanderous agenda of Fox News and Trump. Outrage for the sake of outrage is not my cup of tea.

Besides the implications of bipartsan collusion are much more compelling and damning. But neither side wants to touch that or even acknowledge it. This is why Democrats want to implicate Trump in the crimes of Paul Manafort. The fact of the matter is Manafort’s main guilt, at least in terms of Ukraine, involved acts prior to his becoming Trump’s campaign manager. Sure, they had some business associations in the past and they ran in the same social circles, at least since the Reagan era. But even Trump should be considered innocent until proven guilty. Anyway, if one wants to paint Trump as a Russian asset or otherwise compromised, it’s not hard to do. He has been in the immediate orbit of those like Vladimir Putin for decades, along with personal connections and business dealings with Russian oligarchs and Russian mafia figures, often tied to Putin. The sale of property far below market prices implicates Trump in money laundering with the Russian mafia.

The potential wrongdoings that could be investigated and prosecuted are numerous. This corruption is an open secret. If you’re interested in the detailed case against Trump, check out Jay McKenzie’s series: Trump, Putin and the mob. Research collection. Part 1: Trump campaign connections.Part 2: #BudapestBridge and the Hungarian connection to TrumpPart 3: Ron Lauder, Bibi Netanyahu and their friends at Breitbart; Part 4: Paul Manafort was the Kremlin’s point man on the Trump campaign; Part 5: Twitter, Russia and Silicon Valley’s “Persian Mafia”; & Part 6: Trump, Felix Sater and their ties to mafia Don Semion Mogilevich. Agree or disagree in the significance of the entanglements of Trump and his minions, one thing that can’t be doubted is the existence of corrupt cronyism, not to mention the geopolitical power and financial profit of their machinations. Nonetheless, that is a far cry from proving Putin got Trump elected. But it sure does corroborate how enmeshed he was with complex webs of unsavory figures.

One might add that Paul Manafort wasn’t a nobody who just showed up on Trump’s doorstep right before his campaign began. They may have not been close friends and Trump may have had a genuine senior citizen moment in his claiming to not have immediately remembered Manafort, but their relations were far from distant or superficial. Their dealings go back to the 1980s when Trump, as with Ronald Reagan, was one of the first clients of Manafort’s firm. Whatever other associations they may have had over the decades, six months before joining Trump’s campaign in March of 2016, here is what was going on: “Felix Sater and Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, work together on a Trump Tower Moscow deal. Donald Trump signs a letter of intent on the deal in October of 2015.” Then three months in as campaign manager, Manafort was at the “meeting held at Trump Tower between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives” (McKenzie, Part 4). One can sense underlying connections.

Keep in mind that Manafort was involved as a foreign agent in Ukraine for at least a decade. He may have been there as early as 2004 during that country’s presidential election (Mustafa Nayem, AMERICAN SPIN-DOCTORS ON YANUKOVYCH’S SERVICE; from ACTION UKRAINE REPORT – AUR – Number 833, U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC)) or, according to another source, even earlier in 2003 (Yulia Tymoshenko and John Does 1 through 50 v. Plaintiffs; United States District Court for the Southern District of New York). Certainly, he was a notorious and powerful Ukranian actor beginning at the latest during 2005.

And by 2006, when living in Trump Tower, Manafort was “hired by Oleg Deripaska and paid $10 million a year to improve Vladimir Putin’s image with the west” and “to lobby directly for Vladimir Putin” (McKenzie). Also, “Paul worked closely with, at least, two Russian intelligence officials in Ukraine — Viktor Medvedchuk and Manafort’s assistant, Konstantin Kilimnik. Manafort worked with Kremlin propaganda there to help elect a pro-Putin candidate, which, we now must admit, is exactly the situation we saw in Donald Trump’s campaign.” Essentially, “Paul Manafort was Putin’s employee for several years.” It’s hard to imagine Trump was clueless of the existence of Manafort and all that he was doing.

Here is McKenzie’s description of the decade spent in service to Putin and his minions, overlapping with the work he began doing with Trump prior to the campaign: “Consider the amount of work Manafort did from 2005 onwards with the men involved in the 2004 election rigging. Also remember that Manafort’s allegiances did not shift. He began work with Oleg Deripaska in 2000–01. He was introduced to Yanukovych by Deripaska. Manafort began to work with Putin directly in 2006, and Paul continued to work for Yanukovych until 2014, when he fled Ukraine and began living in exile in Moscow.” Manafort had a well known reputation for the work he had done there. It was as significant as his reputation in New York City and Washington, D.C.

It wasn’t only that Trump had to know the kind of people he was getting in bed with. He was already in bed with them. When pointing to them being part of the same social circles, this includes Putin himself and numerous Russian oligarchs, the latter only allowed to be in that elite position because they worked for Putin or otherwise served his interests. As a conclusion, McKenzie states that, “Who is the most common and recurring link between Firtash, Mogilevich, Deripaska, and Fred Trump’s former righthand man? Simple, it’s former Trump campaign chairman and Trump Tower resident Paul Manafort.”

Not even Fox News is able to deny the obvious: “Investigating the business ties between Russia and those in President Donald Trump’s orbit is a legitimate exercise. One-time Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was an advisor to the pro-Russian Ukrainian president. Former Trump advisor Carter Page had energy deals involving Russian companies. Former National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn gave a nicely paid speech in Moscow as a private citizen and was less than complete in explaining his conversations with Russian officials. And then there is the simple fact that Attorney General (former senator) Jeff Session, while a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, communicated with the Russian Ambassador” (Peter Schweizer, Trump vs. Clintons’ Russia ties (guess who always got a free pass)).

Of course, Fox News tried to downplay the import with lesser evilism, a tactic also used by DNC-aligned media. But it doesn’t feel overly satisfying to argue about whether Putin, as geopolitical puppet master, has reached further up the asses of the Trump gang or the Clinton gang. A political independent and equal opportunity critic has a hard time making sense of most of it. All that becomes clear is that the halls of power and financing are flooded with devious and sinister actors, and very little of it has to do with partisan politics. One begins to sense what is meant by references to the shadowy deep state.

To suggest that the Russian and related investigations were partisan fake news is total bullshit. The conflict certainly was spun by corporate media for the purposes of corporatist politics, but both sides participated in the staged production because both sides hoped to keep the real issues out of the limelight. Maybe it all comes down to power, as spoken through the language of wealth. Money knows no party lines nor national boundaries. Whether Republicans or Democrats hold the presidency, those benefitting from American business interests always seems to somehow involve profit for Putin-backed companies and Russia oligarchs. This was seen with uranium during the Obama administration (Democrats, Russians, and Uranium). And it was seen with steel during the Trump administration (Steve Horn, Behind Trump’s Push for “American Steel” in Pipelines, Another Russian Company with Putin Ties Stands to Benefit).

For many years, there were those who rightly pointed to the legalized bribery as a means for powerful interests to buy access and benefits. Besides the Uranium One scandal, this also included the Saudis having donated to the Clinton Foundation to ensure they would receive a generous arms deal from Hilary Clinton when she was Secretary of State (Clinton Foundation–State Department controversy). Those involved all operated within the letter of the law and maintained careful divisions to allow for plausible deniability, but any honest observer would admit that it is bribery and corruption. This was the infamous pay-to-play. This subverting of democracy is so normalized as to hardly be scandalous at all, at least to the mind grown cynical.

Donald Trump, in many ways, maybe doesn’t get criticized as harshly as one might expect. Everyone already knew he was a sleazy businessman before he was elected. Well known is his having run businesses into the ground, declared bankruptcy over and over, evaded debt collectors, cheated business partners, refused to pay contractors, and mistreated employees. Then there are outright scams like Trump University. Only his wealth and high-powered lawyers have saved him from the consequences and punishments that he deserves. All of that is on top of a lifetime dwelling in the swampy waters of the elite, from New York City to Washington, D.C. to Moscow and beyond. Surely, his close ties to the political elite in both parties, including the Clintons, helped protect him and his business interests.

Trump and his entre family were born in the swamp and have flourished there. The Trumps, in ever seeking profit, haven’t even pretended to care about democracy, but that is no surprise to their supporters and so outrage is limited. No one, Republican or Democrat, ever expected Trump to be anything other than a slimy swamp creature. In fact, Trump proudly campaigned on being corrupt, arguing that only someone as corrupt as him could fight corruption, as strange as that might sound to a mind not totally demented by the brutal logic of power. With such open corruption, it’s hard to attack Trump’s corruption as a weakness or a failure. It is simply who he is and why a certain kind of person voted for him, not that this minority of supporters exactly gave a public mandate to be wantonly corrupt. Still, it must be admitted that he was, in his own way, honest about his dishonesty.

Besides, it’s not like Trump is an anomaly. This is a family of corruption with a dishonorable legacy that goes back generations. Trump and his siblings, when they were still young, initially inherited money from their father, Fred Trump, as part of various illegal tax evasion schemes. And this continued into the 1990s (David Barstow, Susanne Craig & Russ Buettner, Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father). Their wealth was built on real estate and construction in New York City, but it was initially accumulated by the grandfather, Friedrich Trumpf, who made his first fortune by running an illegal brothel during the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon. It was in New York City, though, that the family more fully got involved in corruption and criminality. That place was infamous for its machine politics that was well oiled with bribery, kickbacks, and graft; cronyism, favoritism, and nepotism.

The Trump family fit in perfectly well. New York City politics and big biz was enmeshed in Tammany Hall, along with boroughs and municipalities run like fiefdoms, not to mention powerful organized crime that controlled the construction industry. One didn’t become a wealthy businessman, particularly in real estate, in that climate without being a criminal and working with criminals. The evidence points to both Donald and Fred having bought politicians. This behavior became far darker as Donald began working closely with the local mafia, such as laundering money, a practice that he did with foreign organized crime as well. There was also mortgage fraud and much else that ties him to the former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of the closest cronies of the Trump family. This corruption was later joined with that of Jared Kushner’s family by way of marriage to Ivanka Trump.

That decadent culture of open corruption is probably why Trump is so cavalier about his own malbehavior, with a confidence that people like him are above the law because they have deep pockets to buy the legal outcomes they so desire. Such vast moral depravity was normalized for him in childhood when he got his first taste of American-style capitalism. It was only natural for him to continue this behavior once he formally entered politics, although he had been closely tied to the political elite his entire life. As promised, President Trump ran the country like a business and, in his experience, that means corruption by default. He doesn’t know how to run a business honestly, an alien concept to his mind.

Only part way through his term as president, there was documented 2,000 instances identified as “conflicts of interest between his business interests and his duty to the country as president” (Gretchen Frazee, Trump criticizes the Bidens, but his own family’s business raises questions). That happened in less than three years and he was only warming up. He really upped his game in this last year when he knew he was running out of time before the scam would be up and he has ended up adding more than another thousand conflicts of interest (Julia Conley, ‘An Astonishing Rate of Corruption’: Trump Has Amassed 3,000 Conflicts of Interest Since Taking Office). Also, that is only looking at the conflicts of interest, not the hundreds of other forms of corruption such as selling key political positions to private power, as seen with a tidal wave of regulatory capture. Then, on top of that, there are the near endless activities of his own family the he nepotistically inserted into power while they continued to push various family financial interests, often using their political position to ensure backing and funding or else to promote products.

So, why haven’t the Trumps been nailed for their known illegal actions? And why hasn’t Trump been impeached, as impeachment doesn’t even require proving criminality? “THE DEFENSE GOT ONE THING RIGHT at Donald Trump’s Senate trial,” writes Jim Lardner (Mapping Corruption: Donald Trump’s Executive Branch). “The case against him was thin, his team kept saying; and so it was, compared to the enormity of this administration’s other offenses.” It makes one wonder why the DNC and deep state that is portrayed as hating Trump chose such a weak case that would guaranteed he would get away without punishment. There were so many crimes that, if prosecuted, could land Trump and family in prison. The defenders of the Establishment wanted to put on a good show for the viewing public and they wanted to send the clear message to Trump that he needed to back down, but actually destroying one of the highest and most powerful of the ruling elite would set a dangerous precedent.* The weakness of that particular legal case, though, should not be taken as innocence, as Lardner makes clear:

“Set aside the hate-mongering and the stream of conspiracy theories and demagogic bombast. Trump has sowed corruption of a breadth and brazenness unseen in the far-from-innocent annals of our nation’s history. In three years as president, he has transformed the executive branch into a giant favor factory, populated with the agents or willing partners of virtually every special interest. Add up all the routine, daily outrages—the quasi-bribery and quasi-extortion, the private raids on public funds, the handouts to the undeserving, the massive flow of cash, jobs, and freebies back in return—and Trump’s attempt to squeeze a little re-election help out of the fragile government of a desperate Eastern European country does not loom particularly large in the reckoning.

“Adding it all up is a challenge, though. It’s hard to fathom the depths of the kleptocracy when there’s so much happening on the surface to divert us. The corruption most directly in our faces involves the looting and skimming and self-dealing of the president and his family. Our first hotel-owning president has inspired a parade of foreign diplomats and domestic lobbyists to pay tribute with overnight stays that are functionally indistinguishable from bribes. The Secret Service has blown over half a million dollars on golf carts protecting a leader who has spent nearly one out of every three days of his first term at one of his resort properties, which get free advertising on top of the revenue from lodging his guards and retinue. Ivanka Trump snags a valuable set of Chinese trademarks on the same day she dines with Xi Jinping. Kellyanne Conway hawks Ivanka’s products in TV interviews.

“But the personal corruption of the Trumps themselves perversely masks the sliminess perpetrated by literally thousands of presidential appointees, from Cabinet officials to obscure functionaries. Amid all the distractions, it’s hard to focus on the more consequential crookedness and follow out the plotlines of all the sordid stories, and grasp the brutal consequences visited upon countless people. We lunge from scandal to scandal without ever filling in the bigger picture, or taking proper account of all the knaves, thieves, and corporate stooges and their handiwork.”

Trump was never going to drain the swamp, no more than Trump’s cronies in D.C. were going to take down Trump. Here is the difference that is offered to the American public, typically framed as ‘lesser evilism’. The Trumps will punch you in the face and kick you in the balls to get what they want and then walk away with piles of money, whereas the Clintons will put a friendly arm on your shoulder and look you in the eyes as they slip a hand into your back pocket (maybe while starting another war to profit the military-industrial complex, a war that the corporate media won’t report on). Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

With Trump as patriarchal mob boss, the blatant thievery and thuggery is the supposed ‘honesty’ that Trump supporters so adore. This administration’s corruption has become so bold that it defies any need to be hidden, any pretenses of respectability. It might not be long before other politicians follow the example of the Trumps, as the entire elite loses all shame and fear. Then it will be normalized and full-on fascism can begin. This means that the equivalent of Manafort and the Podesta brothers could operate out in the open where eventually not even Federal investigators might be able to touch them.

All of that said, in the end, is Trump’s misbehavior really worse than the decades of conniving that built the American Empire in the first place such that it could be taken over by someone like Trump? The American ruling elite have been undermining democracy and overthrowing democratic governments for more than a century. Are we surprised that democracy here at home has suffered in our being publicly shamed on the international stage by Trump’s buffoonery? When Democrats had the presidency and majority control, did they constrain executive power according to the Constitution, instead of expanding it further? Of course not. We never would have had a Trump presidency without the Clinton dynasty and the Bush dynasty, without the systemic moral rot of administration after administration.

So, here we are. President elect Joe Biden will cobble the pieces back together, smooth over the threatening fractures, make the American Empire respectable again. This will inevitably fail in the long run, as democratic reform can only be delayed for so long before something else forces change. The corruption will continue to get worse, as will the public outrage. Next up might be a truly competent dictator, maybe sooner than some expect. Then Democrats will speak nostalgically of the Trump era when things weren’t so bad.

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* Then again, some argue that, once the Trump family is out of power, they could become less protected from a deep state that may perceive them as having gone too far and so potentially could use them to set an example to keep the rest of the oligarchy in line. And the other oligarchs might not feel forgiving toward the Trumps in having threatened the Establishment with dangerous political games. Even the most horrific of crimes can be tolerated, as long as they are in defense of power itself. Trump’s presidency, instead, has left that system of power in shambles and that harms the interests and agendas of many people who otherwise would be extremely tolerant of the shenanigans of someone like Donald Trump. This plutocratic family might find it’s luck has run out.

“Trump is more vulnerable to prosecution,” Jon Schwarz explains, “than other presidents because he’s engaged in so many potential nontraditional presidential crimes. With the invasion of Iraq, George W. Bush committed what the Nuremberg trials referred to as “the supreme international crime” of initiating a war of aggression. But there was never any chance that he’d be punished for this, because the entire U.S. power structure agrees that American presidents have the right to do it. Same for conducting thousands of drone strikes or torturing people around the globe. By contrast, Trump has engaged in many comparatively small, shabby, possible criminal activities outside of his presidential duties” (Losing Could Expose Trump To Prosecution For Any Number of Crimes).

This probably won’t happen. But it could. No president has ever attacked the deep state before, even if it was merely political theater. The deep state doesn’t like to be forced out into the open through involvement in partisan fights and campaign rhetoric. Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon who will shrink away into the shadows after being ousted from power. And in finding his entire family having gained the status of pariah, Trump’s antics as an attention whore could get worse. Various actors in the Establishment might decide that it will need to fully and finally put the uncouth Trump clan back into its place. If the Trumps fight back, they might just make it worse and force empty threats to become real prosecutions. They’d be wise to tread lightly until events cool back down. Those in power would prefer that Trump simply concede power and just go away.

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As the main target of hatred for nearly the entire political right, along with more than a few on the political left, there has been decades of criticism, analysis, and investigations about the Clintons and their cronies; not to mention the endless conspiracy theories. But now the Trump dynasty is in the spotlight. For those interested, there has been an unsurprising increase of investigating reporting on the details of depravity for this scandalous family:

Fox News: Americans are the ‘Left-Wing’ Enemy Threatening America

According to a Fox News poll, the majority of Americans have become radicalized extremists, Marxist commies, and fellow travelers! They might also be postmodern moral relativists or even eco-terrorists, but at the very least they are woke snowflakes pushing political correctness and reverse racism. They probably hate God and liberty too. Worse still, one might suspect more than a few of them are antifa, probably lacking an appreciation that a fascist police state is what made America great and will make it great again.

Fox News Voter Analysis – 2020 Presidential Election
In partnership with Associated Press
Based on surveys by NORC at the University of Chicago
29,000 people, all fifty states, October 26 and November 3

  • 60% believe government should do more
  • 72% concerned about “climate change”
  • 70% favor increased government spending on green and renewable energy
  • 78% see racism as serious issue in U.S. society
  • 73% see racism as serious issue in policing
  • 77% think criminal system needs reform: complete overhaul (22%), major changes (46%), or minor changes (29%)
  • 72% agree “illegal immigrants” should have pathway to citizenship
  • 60% believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases
  • 71% support the pro-choice Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade
  • 3% said abortion most important issue facing country
  • 51% want to leave as is or expand Affordable Care Act / Obamacare
  • 72% want “government-run healthcare plan” as Medicare for all
  • 55% think gun laws need to be more strict

Going by this and other data, we are forced to conclude that the average American is far to the ‘left’ of not only the GOP elite but also the DNC elite. The DNC elite is more concerned with punching ‘left’ and punching down in order to keep democratic activists, community organizers, and populist leaders out of power than to win elections and give Americans what they want. Most Americans, for example, stated support for same sex marriage years before it was backed by Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, the supposed leaders of ‘liberalism’. The DNC elite will only follow behind long after issues have become safe and even then maybe not.

We the People will have to lead ourselves in the march toward political reform, legal justice, civil rights, economic freedom, democratic self-governance, and social progress. But, first, the American public will need to have a populist awakening to the harsh reality that they are the silenced majority and that the corrupt one-party state has become radicalized toward the opposite extreme of corporatocracy, soft fascism (increasingly not-so-soft), and inverted totalitarianism. With polls like this, the suppression and silencing of the American public hopefully won’t last much longer, if and when a populist identity emerges.

The culture wars, in particular, are in decline. It’s not only same sex marriage. Abortion is non-issue for most Americans based on broad support for women’s right. Even for white Evangelicals, abortion is no longer a top issue. And young Evangelicals are increasingly identifying with the ‘progressive’ label, cutting across ideological and partisan divides. “Generally speaking, however, evangelicals ranked traditionally progressive or Democratic causes as more important than traditionally conservative or Republican ones. […] Almost 60-percent said they favored a more progressive evangelical agenda focused more on protecting the environment, tackling HIV/AIDs, and alleviating poverty and less on abortion and homosexuality” (Beliefnet Poll: Evangelicals Still Conservative, But Defy Issue Stereotypes; also see Who Are the American Religious?).

The narrative of civil rights, freedom of choice, and compassionate concern has defeated the narrative of patriarchal paternalism, theocratic control, and moralizing superiority. Few Americans perceive abortion as ‘killing babies’. The culture wars were a carryover from the Cold War era where social issues were used as a blunt instrument of punishment and oppression, such as the McCarthyist fear-mongering of the Lavender Scare where openly gay people had their careers ended and lives destroyed.

But now more than half the population has no memory of the Cold War ideological wars and weren’t bottle-fed on Cold War propaganda. The rhetoric has lost its potency, even for many older Americans, as we move further along in this new century with shifting priorities, concerns, and fears; along with the return of economic populism and old school progressivism. Commie paranoia holds little purchase for the ordinary person when facing concrete threats to life and livelihood such as climate change with droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, and historic windstorms, combined with a pandemic. The once powerful redbaiting may still get airtime on right-wing media, but fewer and fewer Americans are swayed by it, as instead large and growing numbers of demographics embrace the ‘socialist’ label. When you keep calling widely and wildly popular policies ‘socialist’, all that is accomplished is getting more Americans to identify accordingly.

Give citizens no other choice than between failed ‘capitalist’ healthcare ruled by a corporatist oligopoly and popular ‘socialist’ healthcare run by the government, most will take socialism gladly and with open arms (In fact, “Every single swing-seat House Democrat who endorsed #MedicareForAll won re-election or is on track to win re-election. Every. Single. One,” tweeted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; also see: Kenny Stancil, As Centrist House Democrats Attack Medicare for All, Fox News Poll Shows 72% of Voters Want ‘Government-Run Healthcare Plan’). It’s the same basic reason that, when given a narrowly constrained option of either abortion bans or freedom of choice, Americans generally find the latter far more attractive. These forced choices of black-and-white frames were effective in the past as a divide-and-conquer tactic, but over time the rhetoric loses its manipulative force. Americans stop reacting in the way intended, especially as public trust is lost toward the elite pushing this rhetoric. If an ever worsening corrupt plutocracy doesn’t want us — we the People — to have a functioning social democracy and free society, that is all the more reason it becomes attractive.

This is exacerbated as economic issues come to the fore. It’s one thing to give up freedom and self-governance as the price paid for economic comfort and security, as was the deal the plutocrats offered during World War II and heading into the Cold War when public good and shared sacrifice was held up as a societal ideal with a common enemy that was perceived as threatening the “American Way of Life”. But political oppression combined with economic oppression is all take without any gain for us commoners. All boats have not been floating and that harsh reality is getting harder to ignore. The American Dream may require people to be asleep, and the American people may have been fine with remaining asleep during economic good times, but now it’s become a nightmare. This has unsurprisingly led to populist outrage.

Social conservatism used as a political football only works when people are economically comfortable in a society with a middle class that is large, growing, and stable as based on a prosperous society where most of the population gets cheap housing, subsidized higher education, declining inequality, high employment, lifetime job security, affordable healthcare, great employment benefits, and generous pensions. For older Americans, that was the world they grew up in. Even inner city minorites, prior to deindustrialization in the 1960s, were lifted up by decades of good factory jobs that created a minority middle class in communities with low-crime and, because of progressive taxation that heavily taxed the rich, reasonably well-funded public schools.

Look at the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. He didn’t campaign on culture war or even redbaiting. He promised to bring back jobs, protect the American economy, stop undocumented immigration (that is used by by big biz to drive down wages, bust unions, and weaken the bargaining power of workers), and spend millions to rebuild the national infrastructure. This was not merely economic populism. Following Steve Bannon’s wise/conniving advice, Trump invoked the old school progressivism of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. As the Democrats abandoned and betrayed the working class, Republicans like Ronald Reagan and Trump found it easy to pick off the very voters in communities that once were labor union strongholds.

The American public didn’t go ‘right’ in being drawn toward populism. No, it was the Democratic Party that embraced class war, if hidden behind identity politics (in turning toward plutocratic elitism, big biz socialism, and soft fascism with corporate deregulation, banking deregulation, media deregulation, racist crime bill, mass incarceration, privatized prisons, etc). On economic issues in particular, Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden are more blatantly and effectively corporatocratic than Donald Trump. Consider Social Security. Trump reassured his supporters that he would never touch it, would never cut it or try to privatize it. Biden, on the other hand, has threatened for decades that he wants to defund Social Security. Some voters have stated that they chose Trump specifically because they feared Biden would take away their Social Security. It gets hard to distinguish between supposedly progressive fiscal liberals and reactionary fiscal conservatives.

Also, a surprising number of minorities voted for Trump; in fact, a larger number this election than last. Even with Trump’s ugly racism, these minorities saw Trump as a viable option in challenging the corporatist oligarchy that has become identified with the Clinton Democrats as the defenders of the status quo. That is a hard-hitting rebuke. Biden barely won an election against the least popular incumbent in U.S. history during a combined economic and pandemic crisis. The DNC elite has zero public mandate. If the corporate stranglehold didn’t keep third parties silenced in the ‘mainstream’ media and shut out of the political debates, a third party candidate might have easily won this election or the last. But that won’t be allowed to happen. We the People, we the liberal and progressive public, we the true moral majority will have to force change from the bottom up.

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The 2020 Election as a Triumph for Democracy? Hold the Hosannas
Even high voter turnouts mask the reality of that “affluent authoritarianism” that now governs America.

by Sam Pizzigati

Gilens and Page, for instance, locate real influence over public policy within the ranks of the most affluent 10 percent, but suggest that opinions in this top tenth most probably reflect attitudes within the ranks of the top 1 or 2 percent.

McGuire and Delahunt go further. Their research moves our focus from what our richest have on their minds to what they’re doing with what they have in their wallets. They see “the transfer of large amounts of money to policy makers from the wealthiest sources focused intensely on particular policies” as the “lodestar variable” for understanding how our policy makers make policy.

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Videos and articles about this Fox News Voter Analysis:

Fox News reporting on its own poll:

Related posts from this blog:

In other news from recent voting results… This election wasn’t exactly a strong win for the Democratic Party, as they won’t have control outside of the presidency. So, they certainly didn’t gain a crushing victory they could have portrayed as representing a public mandate. But the political left more generally made progress, particularly at the local level.

Increased Diversity In Politics:

Sen. Kamala Harris is officially the first woman, first Black person, and first South Asian American person to be elected vice president of the United States.” (Li Zhou, Kamala Harris makes history as the first woman to become vice president)

“A new group of Black progressives has officially been elected to Congress. […] Even before the general election on November 3, four progressives in Democratic districts were all but assured spots in the US House of Representatives: Cori Bush from Missouri along with Jones, Jamaal Bowman, and Ritchie Torres — all who will represent districts in New York City. Rev. Raphael Warnock of Georgia is also advancing to a January runoff for one of the state’s US Senate seats.” (Ella Nilsen, A new generation of Black progressives has been elected to Congress)

“In an incredible turnout of pro-equality voters, Americans across the country elected at least eight out transgender people to office during yesterday’s election.” (Human Riights Campaign, Meet the Transgender Americans Who Won on Election Day)

“Fourteen of the 35 gay, bisexual and transgender candidates who ran for office in Texas during the midterms claimed victory Tuesday night — a 40 percent success rate in deep-red Texas — and national and state activists say they’re confident this election cycle carved a path for a future “rainbow wave” in Texas. The historic number of Texas candidates who ran for offices from governordown to city council positions joined a record-shattering rank of more than 400 LGBTQ individuals on national midterm ballots this year.” (Hannah Wiley, In Texas, the “rainbow wave” outpaces the blue one)

“There will be a record number of women in the next U.S. Congress when it convenes on Jan. 3, 2021. That’s a tabulation from the Center for American Women and Politics. At least 131 women will serve in 117th Congress, with another 25 races featuring women still too close to call as of early Friday morning. CAWP says 100 of the women elected so far are Democrats and 31 are Republicans. In the House, at least 106 women will serve (83 Democrat and 23 Republican), beating the previous record of 102 in 2019. That includes 43 women of color, all but one of whom are Democrat. On the Senate side, at least 24 women will be part of the next Congress. It could be 25 if Sen. Kelly Loeffler wins her Jan. 5 runoff election in Georgia. […] Republicans will have 13 freshman House members who are women, a record for that party, with nine races yet to call. Fourteen undecided House races are featuring Democratic women. Eight have already been elected to next year’s freshman class.” (Travis Pittman, Record number of women elected to Congress)

Americans Contemplating The Possibility Of Functioning Democracy:

“Alaska and Massachusetts both have major voting reforms on the ballot this year, including whether to use ranked-choice voting in future elections. […] Missouri voters have a chance to make changes to their state’s elections as well, with Amendment 3, which would limit campaign contributions to state Senate candidates and prohibit state lawmakers and their staff from accepting gifts from lobbyists.” (Live results: Ballot initiatives on democracy reform)

Social Democracy And Democratic Socialism Is On The Rise:

“But demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ism, pop­u­lar­ized by near-pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Bernie Sanders (I‑Vt.), had a much bet­ter night. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Social­ists of Amer­i­ca (DSA), an orga­ni­za­tion that boasts near­ly 80,000 mem­bers nation­wide, endorsed 29 can­di­dates and 11 bal­lot ini­tia­tives, win­ning 20 and 8 respec­tive­ly. There are now demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ist cau­cus­es in 15 state­hous­es, includ­ing Mon­tana. […]

“Plen­ty of pro­gres­sive can­di­dates also lost, but most can­di­dates nation­al­ly endorsed by DSA sailed through. And while it’s true that many of them had tough pri­ma­ry bat­tles and less dif­fi­cult elec­tions on Tues­day, they still won as DSA mem­bers. All four mem­bers of ​“The Squad” — a pro­gres­sive bloc in Con­gress that includes Demo­c­ra­t­ic Reps. Rashi­da Tlaib (Mich.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ayan­na Press­ley (Mass.) — were reelect­ed to the House. (Tlaib and Oca­sio-Cortez are DSA mem­bers and endorsed by the orga­ni­za­tion.) Pro­gres­sives also added two more DSA-endorsed mem­bers to their squad: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep.-elect Jamaal Bow­man in New York, and Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep.-elect Cori Bush, the first ever Black Con­gress­woman in Missouri.

“Now, thanks to DSA mem­bers across the coun­try, there is a social­ist in Austin City Coun­cil and in both the Rhode Island and Mon­tana State Hous­es. In Penn­syl­va­nia, there are three social­ists who are almost cer­tain­ly head­ed to the leg­is­la­ture in Har­ris­burg. Social­ists in Boul­der, Col­orado worked along­side the ACLU to win a bal­lot mea­sure that guar­an­tees no evic­tion with­out rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and DSA mem­bers part­nered with the labor unions AFSCME and SEIU to pass Preschool for All in Mult­nom­ah Coun­ty, Ore­gon. And in both Flori­da and Port­land, Maine, bal­lot ini­tia­tives for a $15 min­i­mum wage passed. 

“While it’s clear that most DSA vic­to­ries have been in big cities or more lib­er­al states thus far, it’s impor­tant that we don’t dis­count the incred­i­ble orga­niz­ing hap­pen­ing in the South and in rur­al areas. (Mar­qui­ta Brad­shaw ran a DSA-backed cam­paign for Sen­ate in Ten­nessee but lost; Kim Roney, endorsed by her DSA chap­ter, won a seat on the Asheville City Council.)

“And while the Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty is loath to give DSA any encour­age­ment, DSA mem­ber Tlaib may have helped to secure Biden’s vic­to­ry in Michi­gan by help­ing to mas­sive­ly increase vot­er turnout from 2016.” (Mindy Isser, What Democrats Should Learn From the Spate of Socialist Wins on Election Day)

Puerto Ricans Demand Decolonization:

“Puerto Ricans have again voted in favor of making their island home a US state and they’re hoping that, this time around, their decision will carry actual weight. Puerto Rico, which has been a US territory for 122 years and is the world’s oldest colony, has held five previous non-binding referendums on the issue. In 2012 and 2017, the island’s 3 million citizens overwhelmingly backed statehood, but Congress never took further action to admit Puerto Rico into the union.” (Nicole Narea, Puerto Ricans have voted in favor of statehood. Now it’s up to Congress.)

Revocation Of Memorializing Historical Racism:

“Mississippians have voted in favor of the ballot initiative Measure 3 and will replace their controversial state flag with a new one, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press. The new flag, named the “In God We Trust” flag, will put to rest a decades-long debate over the flag that the state used for 126 years, which features a Confederate emblem. The new design was commissioned and approved by the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag, set up by the state legislature after the body voted to do away with the old flag. It prominently features a magnolia flower — the state flower — encircled by 20 white stars, a nod to Mississippi’s status as the 20th state to join the US. A larger yellow star sits directly above the flower to represent the Choctaw origins of the state, and all the icons sit on a dark blue and red striped background.” (Fabiola Cineas, Mississippi says goodbye to Confederate emblem and adopts a new state flag)

Rejection Of War On Drugs Across Country:

“In every state where a ballot measure asked Americans to reconsider the drug war, voters sided with reformers. In ArizonaMontanaNew Jersey, and South Dakota, voters legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. In Mississippi and South Dakota (separate from the full legalization measure), voters legalized medical marijuana. In Oregon, voters decriminalized — but not legalized — all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Also in Oregon, voters legalized the use of psilocybin, a psychedelic drug found in magic mushrooms, for supervised therapeutic uses. In Washington, DC, voters in effect decriminalized psychedelic plants, following the lead of several other cities.” (German Lopez, Election Day was a major rejection of the war on drugs)

Police Reform – Downsizing Police, Defunding Police And Funding Alternatives:

“Los Angeles voters have approved Measure J, also known as “Reimagine LA County,” which requires that 10 percent of the city’s unrestricted general funds — estimated between $360 million and $900 million per year — be invested in social services and alternatives to incarceration, not prisons and policing.” (Roger Karma, Los Angeles voters just delivered a huge win for the defund the police movement)

“San Francisco voters have decided to do away with a longtime police staffing law that required the police department to maintain at least 1,971 full-time officers on its force, with their approval of Proposition E, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Now, the strength of the city’s police force will be governed by a police commission tasked with regularly evaluating police staffing levels.” (Fabiola Cineas, San Francisco hasn’t defunded its police force yet — but just voted to make it smaller)

Healthcare Reform Remains A Winner:

“Highlighting an interesting—and to many, instructive—electoral trend that others have spotted in the days since 2020 voting ended earlier this week, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Saturday—just as jubilation spread nationwide among Democrats and progressives upon news that Joe Biden will be the next U.S. President—pointed out that every single congressional member this year who ran for reelection while supporting Medicare for All won (or was on their way to winning) their respective race.” (Jon Queally, ‘Every. Single. One.’: Ocasio-Cortez Notes Every Democrat Who Backed Medicare for All Won Reelection in 2020)

Abortion Restriction Voted Down:

“Colorado voters just rejected a measure that would have banned abortion in the state after 22 weeks’ gestation, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press. […] Abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy are rare, with nearly 99 percent of abortions happening before 22 weeks’ gestation. But a small percentage of patients seek abortion later in pregnancy, sometimes because of severe fetal abnormalities that can only be diagnosed at that time. Proposition 115 did not have an exception for such abnormalities, or for rape, incest, or the health of the pregnant person, allowing abortion only if it was “immediately required to save the life of a pregnant woman.” That could mean providers would have to wait until a patient was actually dying to terminate a pregnancy” (Anna North, Colorado voters reject 22-week ban on abortion)

First State In The South Passes $15 Minimum Wage:

“In the 2020 election, Florida voted 60-40 in favor of Amendment 2, a ballot measure to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 by September 30, 2026, even as it also voted to keep President Donald Trump in office. […] “Across the board, it is not necessarily a left or right issue. Voters across the aisle actually know that it is impossible in Florida and around the country [to] actually survive on $8.56 and what the current minimum wage is,” Allynn Umel, national organizing director of the Fight for $15, a group that advocates for a $15 minimum wage and a union, said on a call with reporters Wednesday.” (Emily Stewart, The lesson Democrats should take from Florida’s $15 minimum wage vote)

Universal Preschool And Teachers Pay Raised:

“Advocates of universal preschool just scored a key local victory, with Multnomah County, Oregon — which includes the city of Portland — approving a ballot measure supporters called Preschool for All, according to OregonLive and Portland Monthly. The initiative, also known as Measure 26-214, will provide tuition-free preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds whose parents want it, while also raising the pay of preschool teachers. The county will pay for the program with a tax on high-income residents.” (Anna North, What this Oregon county’s “preschool for all” victory means for child care in America)

Renewable Energy Goals In Nevada State Constitution:

“As was widely expected, Nevada voters approved Question 6 on the ballot, which amends the state constitution to mandate that the Nevada’s electricity providers shift to at least 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press.” (David Roberts, Nevada voters seal renewable energy goals in their state constitution)

Corporate-Ruled MSM & DNC Is Left-Wing, Says Corporatist Right-Wingers

The warmongering big biz establishment media is what the right-wing ruling elites repeatedly call left-wing, in their accusation of a supposedly ‘liberal’ bias (What Does Liberal Bias Mean?) and related to perceptions of censorship, silencing, and political correctness (Framing Free Speech; & Right-Wing Political Correctness, Censorship, and Silencing). To be fair, there might be a basic sense in which entertainment media, if not news media, can sometimes express a long-established cultural liberalism. This is to the degree that the majority of the viewing public is socially liberal and so that is what sells, considering there has been a major strain of liberalism in American society going back centuries (Conservatives Watching Liberal Media. That still leaves the question open about what exactly is this ‘liberalism’, to the degree it can be found in the center of the establishment ‘mainstream’ (The Shallows of the Mainstream Mind).

Consider the pervasive and systematic racial bias that has been shown in news reporting on crime and poverty (Katherine Sims, The Role of News Media & Racial Perceptions of Crime; Cale G., The Media and Government’s Biased Response to Muhammad Youssef vs. Dylann Roof; Jenée Desmond-Harris, These 2 sets of pictures are everything you need to know about race, crime, and media bias; Nick Wing, When The Media Treat White Suspects And Killers Better Than Black Victims; Elizabeth Sun, The Dangerous Racialization of Crime in U.S. News Media; John Wihbey, Racial bias and news media reporting: New research trends; The Opportunity Agenda, Media Representations and Impact on the Lives of Black Men and Boys; Trina T. Creighton et al, Coverage of Black versus White Males in Local Television News Lead Stories; Wikipedia, Racial bias in criminal news in the United States; et cetera; one could include a thousand other articles, studies, and summary reports). Even the local media in this liberal college town has been shown fall into such default racism (Robert E. Gutsche, Jr., A Transplanted Chicago: Race, Place and the Press in Iowa City; The Old WASP Dream Falters). Is that the infamous ‘liberal’ bias one hears so much about?

One might argue that liberalism is the paradigm of modernity and that conservatism is simply a reactionary variation on liberal ideology. That said, the corporate media is just as happy to push reactionary right-wing crime dramas, murder mysteries, and cop shows that promote a hardcore vision of law-and-order; along with noirish films, hyper-patriotic war movies, moralistic superhero flicks, and popular entertainment like The Dark Knight series. Anyway, conventional liberalism has never been left-wing. Liberals have often been the most vicious attack dogs set against the political left in their defense of the conservative status quo, as seen during the Cold War when liberals joined in the McCarthyist witch hunts of commies, fellow travelers, and sexual deviants. Labels of liberal and conservative sometimes are ways of making relative distinctions within the reactionary mind, in an age that has been overshadowed by all things reactionary.

The accusation of liberal media bias is similar to the right-wing claim that the corporatist DNC, in serving the interests of plutocratic big biz, is somehow simultaneously communist, Marxist, Nazi, fascist, and antifa; elitist, anarchistic, ideologically dogmatic, morally relativist, and nihilistic; or whatever rhetoric is convenient at the moment. But the supposed left-wing media and political elite offers little pushback against this ideologically-confused narrative, often repeating some variation of it themselves. In fact, one sometimes hears supposedly liberal journalists discussing the supposedly liberal bias of a supposedly liberal media, another example of the reactionary dynamic at play.

But if liberal ideologues actually controlled the mainstream media, the last place one would expect to hear such accusations is in the mainstream media (Bias About Bias). Generally speaking, people don’t accuse themselves of being ideologically biased when they genuinely believe in an ideology as right and true, as fair and accurate, as moral and worthy. “It’s not as if those on the political right are lacking media to support their worldview and confirm their biases. […] The only reason they think the rest of media is biased is because the political right media that dominates keeps repeating this and, as the old propaganda trick goes, anything repeated enough to a large enough audience will be treated as if it were fact” (Corporate Bias of ‘Mainstream’ Media). What little pseudo-debate is involved happens within the corporate system itself with all sides of the same elite opinion being widely broadcast and funded by corporate advertising (e.g., Ross Douthat, The Missing Right-of-Center Media, The New York Times). Gets one thinking about the actual ideological bias that is motivating it all.

A false duality is created within a narrow range of elite-enforced opinion. This is the political spectrum as political SNAFU. Pick your side among the two predetermined choices within the same corporate power structure. In the shadow of this obfuscation, the ideal of democracy gets called mobocracy while the reality of a banana republic gets called democracy (Will Democracy’s Myths Doom Liberty?, James Bovard; an analysis that identifies the problem but, sadly, falls into the trap of false rhetoric). And, of course, the American people are to blame for everything that goes wrong. This is what is argued by the anti-majoritarian elite who wish to undermine democracy, and so we the people probably should trust what they tell us to believe. I’m sure they have our best interests in mind. But don’t worry. The psuedo-left often goes along with this caricature, as the gatekeepers mark the boundaries of allowable thought: this far left and no further. That is to say not very far left at all.

One of the leading news sources on this presumed political left is the Washington Post. It has the official slogan, “Democracy dies in darkness,” which implies the newspaper’s purpose is represent and defend democracy, although others suggest it is more of a threat and a promise. The WaPo is owned by Jeff Bezos, one of the wealthiest and most powerful plutocrats in the world and a strange person to be a communist, who got his wealth through crony capitalism and his grandfather’s Pentagon connections while building his business model on highly profitable contracts with not only the Pentagon but also the CIA (Plutocratic Mirage of Self-Made Billionaires). By the way, don’t be confused by two corporate plutocrats, Bezos and Donald Trump, having a battle of egos in fighting over who controls the profit system; that doesn’t make one of them a communist by any stretch of the imagination.

In WaPo articles, unnamed CIA sources are regularly used — sadly, not a new situation (Good Reason The New Pentagon Papers Movie Was About “The Post,” NOT The New York Times). Also, the newspaper hires right-wing hacks whose apparent job it is to punch left and attack left-wingers, including left-wing journalists working in the independent press and alternative media (Why Journalism Sucks In America!). When candidates use left-wing rhetoric, such as Bernie Sanders, they are bashed mercilessly while third party left-wingers are ignored and dismissed in the hope that American voters won’t realize there is more than two parties. Now that is some sneaky liberal bias, in hiding it behind actions that appear to undiscerning minds as if they were right-wing.

The aforementioned Sanders, in calling himself a socialist, plays the role of a sheepdog to weaken any left-wing challenge and once again he has driven votes to the corporatist oligarchy to ensure the plutocracy remains in power. Similarly, Noam Chomsky, after having spent a lifetime proving beyond all doubt that the Democrats are as deceptive and dangerous as the Republicans, repeatedly throws his weight behind each new corporatist Clinton Democrat. Those corrupt Clinton Democrats are led by the Clinton dynasty, old cronies and close family friends with the Trumps, and yet we are told they’ll save us from Trump’s rule. Such behavior by self-proclaimed left-wingers confirms the false belief that soft fascism is actually communism or even genuine progressivism.

One might come to cynical conclusions. The disconnection between words and deeds, as demonstrated by Sanders and Chomsky, could be taken as indicating a consciously planned deception of the American people. But one can, instead, choose a more generous and forgiving interpretation. Maybe such influential figures are as dissociated from reality as the rest of the American public. They took are ignorant and confused in having been taken in by manipulative rhetorical frames. When Sanders speaks of ‘socialism’, does he even know what that word means? One might start to have doubts. What if these possibly unintentional purveyors of propaganda are the first and most prized targets of indoctrination? Some have suggested that this is the case (Hillsdale’s Imprimis: Neocon Propaganda). Maybe they really believe what they say, discordant as it is with what they do. But, of course, that makes them all the more dangerous to our freedom. Here is a brilliant take on it by C. J. Hopkins (Why Ridiculous Official Propaganda Still Works):

“The primary aim of official propaganda is to generate an “official narrative” that can be mindlessly repeated by the ruling classes and those who support and identify with them. This official narrative does not have to make sense, or to stand up to any sort of serious scrutiny. Its factualness is not the point. The point is to draw a Maginot line, a defensive ideological boundary, between “the truth” as defined by the ruling classes and any other “truth” that contradicts their narrative. […]

“In short, official propaganda is not designed to deceive the public (no more than the speeches in an actor’s script are intended to deceive the actor who speaks them). It is designed to be absorbed and repeated, no matter how implausible or preposterous it might be. Actually, it is often most effective when those who are forced to robotically repeat it know that it is utter nonsense, as the humiliation of having to do so cements their allegiance to the ruling classes (this phenomenon being a standard feature of the classic Stockholm Syndrome model, and authoritarian conditioning generally).”

It’s all controlled opposition as part of a propaganda machine that pushes division and outrage, and it’s highly effective: “The failure of corporate media is as much or more ommission than it is commission. Various media figures attacking each other about their supposed biases is yet more distraction. Arguing over biases is a safe and managed debate, each side playing the role of controlled opposition for the other. But what is it that both sides avoid? What is disallowed by the propaganda model of media? What is not being spoken and represented? What is missing?” (Funhouse Mirrors of Corporate Media). One thing that is clearly missing is the perspective of labor unions and the working class. In the early life of the still living older generations, newspapers typically had a labor section as newspapers still have a business section, but that has since been eliminated. The labor section would have been the one place in the mainstream media where left-wing voices might have been regularly heard.

Managed debate replaced what was once actual thriving public debate in this country. There is no surprise that the American public, left and right, is so confused about what any of these political labels mean since only one side of the old left-right debate is being heard. That is the whole purpose, to spread disinfo and division, to provoke cynicism and reaction. It’s unclear, at this point, if any of these words mean anything at all. Left and right of what? Of the ruling class? Of the center of power on Wall Street and in Washington, D.C.? Well, the political elites of both parties are to the right of the American public on major issues, in particular economic issues but also many social issues (US Demographics & Increasing Progressivism; American People Keep Going Further Left). With an illiberal, authoritarian ruling elite that defines the terms, controls the narrative, and frames the debate, Orwellian doublespeak has replaced reality itself in the minds of most people.

Yet the left-wing is forever the scapegoat. One might wish the left-wing was the threat it’s claimed to be. But the political left is neutered and hobbled. We haven’t seen an organized left in the United States for more than a half century, not since the FBI’s COINTELPRO successfully targeted and destroyed leftist organizing. It’s not clear what a left-wing could possibly mean under these oppressive conditions of mass brainwashing and indoctrination. Does a ‘left’ exist at all these days? The propagandists have won that battle and we may be forced to abandon the entire left vs. right paradigm. Any potential future challenge to authoritarianism, one suspects, will need to define itself according to entirely new ideological terms, frames, and understandings.

This is not something that can be solved through teaching the American public about American history in order to shed light on collective amnesia. It’s not a lack of information or a lack of access. All of this can easily be understood by anyone who goes looking for it and gives it a half second of thought. No, the failure is not necessarily of knowledge and education. What we are missing is a sense of moral vision and radical imagination, the gut-level groking of other possibilities, even if they can’t yet be articulated. What matters is not how words are manipulated but the sense of fear, anxiety, anger, and outrage behind it all. The public is frustrated and ready for something else entirely, but they need leaders and visionaries to speak to this truth they know in their own direct experience, that the way things are is fundamentally wrong and intolerable.

The fog of rhetoric and propaganda, the veil of lies only has to be lifted for a moment. Once the public glimpses behind the charade, it will be harder and harder to lull most Americans back to sleep again. No matter how effective the games of power, manipulation, and deception, it won’t last forever… but it might last longer than some of us would prefer. The ruling elite will play it for all its worth for as long as they can. Still, take comfort in knowing we might be entering an age of revelation, of awakening. We are long past the stale left-right battles of the Cold War and now are heading into unknown territory. After the political left is assassinated and buried, after we mourn the loss, may something new be born.

* * *

So, how did we get to this point? The left-right paradigm began in the French National Assembly, originally having to do with choice of seating indicating one’s political position in relation to the king, for and against revolution. Then it took on other meaning during the revolution with the formation of the Legislative Assembly. It’s true that the left was represented by extremists, but those that gained power were radical more in the reactionary sense. Advocates of democracy like Thomas Paine, the most radical of radicals in that era (the equivalent of many American left-wingers in the Cold War), actually sat on the right side.

Even back then, there was some confusion built into these labels. Nonetheless, a basic ideological division did take form over the following generations and many came to see it as applying more widely. The political spectrum was adopted in other Western countries, as it captured a central schism in the modern West that developed after the destruction and dismantling of the ancien regime. Over the past couple of centuries, there has been much agreement that it expressed something meaningful about the political systems that have emerged, largely corresponding to views on class identity and class war but also related to general attitudes of open or closed, inclusionary or exclusionary.

Is this still true and meaningful? Rick Wilson is a major political figure, former Republican, and now opponent of Trump. He states that political power in Washington D.C., including the aligned corporate media, is not partisan but transpartisan (Why Republicans Still Support Trump, a talk with Cenk Uygur, another former Republican; also see Journalism of, by and for the Elite by Reed Richardson). It isn’t Democrats vs Republicans, left vs right. The real divide is insiders vs outsiders, which is to say the rulers and the ruled, the elite and the masses, the plutocracy and the precariat. Wilson is saying this as someone who not long ago was an insider of the establishment he has come to criticize. He was an insider who has become an outsider because he revealed the workings of the system. He broke the rule of secrecy.

The original valence of meaning was shaped by a metaphor about political positions. Left and right indicate a relationship that is visuospatial. It’s maybe unsurprising that such a framing took hold in concert with widescale literacy. In the West, we read from left to right. The Enlightenment and early modernity also brought us the obsession with lenses, further emphasizing the importance of a visual culture that was replacing the older oral culture. It was vision through observation that, in science, has revealed truth. Seeing is believing or rather knowing. The duality of left and right also resonated with Cartesian dualism, spirit and matter, mind and body; basically, a distinction between what can and cannot be seen.

Maybe this metaphor is breaking down. There has been the rise of media technology: radio, telephone, television, cable, internet, and smartphones. The one commonality of all these technologies is audio. It’s true that the visual has increased as well, but there is a particular emphasis on sound: “All media has increased, as unmediated experience has gone on a rapid decline” (The Great Weirding of New Media). Think of how in the 21st century that, even when we are otherwise occupied, we almost always have audio playing. We have radios and news running in the background. We have voices pumped directly into our brains in the form of podcasts and audiobooks. And we fall asleep to Netflix movies, Hulu shows, and Youtube videos streaming as our eyes close.

Sound, with or without visual accompaniment, is an ever present reality — most of it as voices that sing, speak, report, narrate, explain, opinionate, argue, dialogue, and debate. As such, a visuouspatial metaphor may no longer have the compelling potency it once possessed. We now exist in cacophany of voices. What once was experienced as totalizing visions, as encompassing worldviews has splintered into an endless multitude of voices. It is an immersive aural space that surrounds us and penetrates our skulls (Battle of Voices of Authorization in the World and in Ourselves). Dozens of voices permeate our personal space, our mindspace. They become internalized and we identify with them. They speak to us, a constant input of spoken words.

If the visuospatial metaphor of left and right is no longer the dominant frame and paradigm, then what might be the aurospatial metaphor replacing it? How will we reorient ourselves in our identities and alignments? And how will we differentiate according to what new distinctions? What voices of authorization will speak to us, shape our thoughts, and compel us to action? And how will these voices be heard and perceived? What is the change from primary to secondary oral culture? With new media technology, what might be the new message or rather messages spoken and heard? What will become of our mediated identities? Will we collectively and communally experience the return of the bundled and porous mind? Or will some entirely unforeseen mentality emerge?

* * *

Other related posts:

Dominant Culture Denies Its Dominance
Black and White and Re(a)d All Over
NPR: Liberal Bias?
The Establishement: NPR, Obama, Corporatism, Parties
Man vs Nature, Man vs Man: NPR, Parking Ramps, etc
Otto Reich’s Legacy of White Propaganda
A Culture of Propaganda
Wirthlin Effect & Symbolic Conservatism
Political Elites Disconnected From General Public
US Demographics & Increasing Progressivism
American People Keep Going Further Left
Sea Change of Public Opinion: Libertarianism, Progressivism & Socialism
Most Oppose Cutting Social Security (data)
Environmentalist Majority
Warmongering Politicians & Progressive Public
Gun Violence & Regulation (Data, Analysis, Rhetoric)
The Court of Public Opinion: Part 1 & Part 2
Poll Answers, Stated Beliefs, Ideological Labels

Whose Original Intent?

The political right talks of constitutional originalism, often in claiming the United States is a republic, not a democracy. It’s obvious bullshit, of course. No one who knows history can take seriously most originalist arguments. As with political correctness, radical right-wingers like to project their own historical revisionism onto their opponents. This is the fake nostalgia that is a defining feature of the reactionary mind, built as it is on historical amnesia, public ignorance, and invented traditions; and made possible through underfunded (mis-)education and failed journalism.

Original intent, really? Whose original intent? This oppressive and paternalistic elitism certainly wasn’t the original intent of the Sons of Liberty, the common revolutionaries, and the Anti-Federalist leaders inspired by the Spirit of ’76; not necessarily or entirely representative of the likes of:

Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen, Thomas Young, Levi Preston, St. George Tucker, Benjamin Edes, James Otis Jr., Joseph Warren, John Lamb, William Mackay, Alexander McDougall, Benjamin Rush, William Molineux, Isaac Sears, Haym Solomon, James Swan, Charles Thomson, Marinus Willett, Oliver Wolcott, Benjamin Church, Benjamin Kent, James Swan, Isaiah Thomas, Joseph Allicocke, Timothy Bigelow, John Brown, John Crane, Hercules Mulligan, Samuel Adams, Benedict Arnold, Patrick Henry, John Hancock, Joh, Mathew Phripp, Charles Wilson Peale, William Paca, Samuel Chase, Thomas Chase, Steven Cleverly, Joseph Field, George Trott, Henry Welles, John Scollay, John Rowe, William Phillips, Gabriel Johonnot, John Gill, Solomon Davis, William Cooper, Thomas Crafts, William Ellery, William Williams, Ebenezer Mackintosh, Henry Base, John Dickinson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Wilson, and many others.

Also, don’t forget women who were radical and righteous, rebellious and revolutionary, or else simply vocal and opinionated, but sometimes directly involved in the revolutionary war and sometimes taking up arms on the battlefield (Margaret Cochran Corbin, Mary Ludwig Hays, Deborah Sampson/Samson, etc), while others worked as militia, scouts, spies, message carriers, and took action in other ways (Prudence Cummings Wright, Catherine Moore Barry, Patience Wright, Lydia Darragh, Sibyl Ludington, Nanye’hi/Nancy Ward, Sarah “Sally” Townsend, Anna Strong, Agent 355, etc).

And consider certain members of the Daughters of Liberty such as Sarah Bradlee Fulton, Deborah Sampson Gannett, and Elizabeth Nichols Dyar. There also was Annis Boudinot Stockton, a published poet and the only female member of the secretive American Whig Society, and the mother of Julia Stockton Rush and so mother-in-law to the radical Benjamin Rush. She held that the human soul knew no gender. Phillis Wheatley was likewise a poet at the time but, as a slave, far less privileged than the wealthy Stockton. Having written a poem about George Washington in the hope of influencing him to live up to revolutionary ideals, Wheatley had the opportunity to read it to him in person and it was also republished by Thomas Paine.

Then there is Mercy Otis Warren, brother of James Otis and husband of James Warren (both major political figures) and a visitor of George Washington’s military headquarters, who was a more full-throated radical and feminist writer, not to mention an Anti-Federalist and supporter of the French Revolution: “Her analyses of war, her concern for the Native American, and her warnings against an established military and aristocracy based on wealth” (Judith B. Markowitz, “Radical and Feminist: Mercy Otis Warren and the Historiographers”). Another feminist was Judith Sargeant Murray who believed there was no difference in the intellectual abilities of men and women, that girls should get an education equal to that given to boys. Similarly, the feminist playwright Susanna Rowson wrote on education as well, along with having written the first geography textbook, and the most popular best-selling American novel until Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published more than a half century later.

Men, women, and individuals of other groups — the point isn’t that it is known exactly what position each of these people would’ve had about every major issue, but one thing that is clear is the disagreement was loud and contentious. The fighting of the revolution, the founding of the country, and the framing of the founding documents was borne out of a clash of diverse views and motivations. Not even all rich, white males of the landed aristocracy and other colonial elites were socially conservative and anti-democratic. We should be talking about original intents, not original intent.

There was always heated debate over American values and principles going back to the colonial era, the debate having been particularly heated in the constitutional convention and having continued ever after — a large reason why the party system developed right from the beginning based on the never resolved conflict between Federalists (pseudo-Federalists) and Anti-Federalists (real Federalists), among other schisms. Opposition to unrepresentative elite rule in London (not to mention unelected elite rule in the British East India Company) was the whole motivation for the American Revolution, something that bothered the colonial elites as much as anyone else. Among the Signers of the (second) Constitution, many were signing under dissent and only with the promise of an Anti-Federalist Bill of Rights that expressed alternate and opposing original intents. The final document was a hodgepodge of clashing and conflicting original intents stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster.

As for the original intent of the pseudo-Federalist framers who won the war of rhetoric and seized power through the coup of an unconstitutional constitutional convention, they exceeded and betrayed their public mandate as the unanimously-passed Articles of Confederation required a unanimity to change it, a requirement that was not met in initially passing the new constitution. Why does the original intent of only one minority faction count? What about the original intent of everyone else? Why don’t we instead heed the original intent of the actual founding documents, the far more democratic Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation? Or what about the original intent of the radical and rabblerousing tract Common Sense without which, John Adams argued, there would have been no successful revolution and hence no United States?

As for the United States Constitution, technically the second constitution, the original intent of the right-wing framers who took control of the constitutional convention was reactionary and counter-revolutionary. To that extent, present-day right-wingers are partly correct that the original intent of this narrow group of framers does conform to the authoritarian and social Darwinian aspirations of the present GOP. The fact of the matter is that the country was founded on slavery, plutocracy, violent oppression, and class war. Think about the continuing conflict of Shays’ Rebellion that led this particular elite to push for a constitutional convention.

At the time, there was no majority that agreed upon a lone original intent that was spelled out and isolated from all larger social, political, and historical context — and probably few, if any, had any expectation that there could or should be one original intent to rule them all. As such, what about the original intent behind the influences to the second constitution, such as the division of power in the Iroquois Confederacy or the anti-imperial republicanism of the Basque? And following the pre-revolutionary uprising against the British East India Company, what about the original intent of mistrust that so many founders and framers had toward the corrupting force of large corporate and banking interests, as they articulated in new laws restricting their power?

Original intent was never a specific set of claims conceived of and agreed upon by a consensus of unified leadership but a larger debate that extended and developed over time, shifting within American public debate and public opinion. If you could have asked a thousand Americans before, during, and after the American Revolution what was their original intent, they likely would have given you a thousand answers. The very idea of an original intent would have been contested, maybe dismissed and ridiculed by no small number of early Americans.

Many slaves, some having fought in the Continental Army, believed that revolution promised them the freedom espoused in the Declaration of Independence and, based on that original intent, many would continue to revolt long after the white man’s revolution ended, continuing after the last class war uprisings like the Whiskey Rebellion were put down. In the case of Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, a slave in Massachusetts, she used access to legal representation to win her freedom in court. Other slaves, in taking seriously the ideals of the American Revolution, took freedom into their own hands and sought the direct path of escape. And we can’t forget how the living memory of the revolutionary era inspired many decades of slave revolts in the lead up to the American Civil War, what some call the Second American Revolution. Maybe the original intent took a while to more fully gain traction.

The promise of revolutionary rhetoric also incited feminist fervor, as Abigail Adams warned John Adams in telling him, “Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.” Still in the revolutionary era, there was the widely read and influential feminist texts by Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). That is a text, by the way, that Annis Boudinot Stockton would read and comment upon, combining criticism and praise.

Considering all of these Americans who made possible the creation of a new country, what about the original intent of those who continued to be oppressed, victimized, and silenced? In ignoring the original intent of the majority of citizens, revolutionaries, and Anti-Federalists (true Federalists); poor white men, women, blacks, and Native Americans; et cetera; and instead in exclusively (exclusionarily) prioritizing the original intent of one authoritarian and imperialistic segment of the plutocracy, today’s Republicans and other varieties of the radical right-wing fringe should, on principle, be openly and honestly advocating for slavery, aristocracy, plutocracy, paternalism, and imperialism while fighting against the basic democratic rights of most of their own supporters and followers, not to mention seeking to end the tyranny of their corporate funders and cronies.

Upon the passing of the second constitution, blacks and most minorities couldn’t vote or run for office. Neither could women or most white men who were poor and landless. Then again, corporations — not conflated with private business ownership at the time — also were left quite powerless in the post-revolutionary period or at least severely limited in scope as being legally limited to organizations that served the public good for short periods (building a bridge, establishing a hospital, etc). This was according to the original intent of one generation having no right to impose upon later generations, which is to say each generation was assumed by many to have their own separate original intents and, in the case of Thomas Jefferson, each generation was expected to have their own new constitutions.

By the way, there is nothing more contrary and alien to constitutional original intent than corporate personhood. Some of the worst founders may have been authoritarian and despotic, but one thing few of them could’ve been accused of was being corporatists. As horrific as was slave-based capitalism, it was not corporate capitalism. Such authoritarian oppression was much more personal and paternalistic, quite unlike the cold and distant corporatocratic political order that has since come to rule our society. Corporations were never intended to be treated as persons with civil rights. Heck, in early America, many actual humans weren’t treated as having legal personhood. The definition of legal personhood had severely limited application in the bad ol’ days, and that has everything to do with why democracy has always struggled to take hold in American society.

In fact, in the immediate aftermath of the constitutional coup, Americans had less voting rights than they had under the British Empire. Only about 3% of the population were represented in this supposedly representative republic that Republicans idealize. Many democratic reforms, including abolition of slavery, ironically happened more quickly in the British Empire than in the former American colonies. It required many generations of Americans fighting for their rights in opposition to an oppressive original intent that we have managed to get to the point of having the pretense of a half-assed democracy, if in reality it’s a banana republic.

Right now, Republicans are seeking to push originalist Amy Coney Barrett into the supreme court, and yet under the original intent of the misogynistic and patriarchal framers no woman would be allowed to vote, much less allowed to be nominated to the supreme court. If Barret is an originalist, she should immediately decline her appointment, step down from power, retire from her professional career, and become a housewife. The political right is being extremely selective about which original intents they praise and which they conveniently ignore or obfuscate. That is to say the entire originalist argument is disingenuous; i.e., bullshit.

The right-wing demagogues and corporatocratic social dominators are being blatantly dishonest in their seeking to seize power and maintain the status quo of a caste system of vast disparities. If they were honest about their intentions of authoritarian elitism and police state oppression, even most conservatives and Republicans wouldn’t support them. Without lies and deception, they could never win any election, no matter how much they control and manipulate our political system and electoral process through the anti-majoritarian constitution, senate, supreme court, gerrymandering, voter purges, dark money, lobbyists, revolving door politics, regulatory capture, etc. A genuine public debate and fair political contest over the legitimacy of such elite rule would end in defeat, if it wasn’t hidden behind false rhetoric of culture wars and stale Cold War propaganda.

Most Americans would not in full understanding agree to authoritarianism that operated out in the open, but that is the whole point of the anti-majoritarian agenda. It doesn’t require majority support and, in fact, must avoid it at all costs. There is no silent majority of Americans who are authoritarian followers demanding to be further silenced by an anti-majoritarian elite. The actual silenced majority is kept ignorant, cynical, and disenfranchised in order to prevent them from realizing the power they possess through their sheer numbers, the power through which they could claim their own freedom of self-governance, the original intent that inspired the revolutionary generation.

Whose original intent? Why should we care about, much less submit to, the desires and demands of our oppressors? Quo warranto. By what right? Besides, what power do the dead have over the freedom of the living? Or rather, what legitimacy does the present generation of self-proclaimed ruling class have to speak on behalf of a past generation of self-proclaimed ruling class, in their moving corpses about like grotesque puppets? Who has the audacity to declare the original intent of those no longer around to speak for themselves? And how can such presumptions take away our right and responsibility to decide for ourselves as a people, to organize and govern as we see fit?

A constitution, as Anti-Federalists and Quakers understood, is the living agreement of a people. There is only one question we must ask ourselves and only we can answer it. What is our intent? What are the hopes that inspire us and the aspirations that drive us, the ideals that sustain us and the visions that guide us? What are we willing to fight and die for as past generations did? We aren’t limited to the intents of our predecessors, but we might learn from their example in how they refused the intents of others over them. To put it in stark terms, do we intend to be enslaved or free?

* * *

The Tyranny of the Minority, from Iowa Caucus to Electoral College
Corey Robin

Even with their acceptance of slavery and a highly restricted franchise, many of the Framers were uneasy about the notion that some people’s votes might count more than others. When one group of delegates proposed that each state, regardless of the size of its population, should have an equal vote in Congress, James Madison denounced the plan as “confessedly unjust,” comparing it to the scheme of “vicious representation in Great Britain.” State-based apportionment, claimed Pennsylvania’s James Wilson, would only reproduce the inequality of Britain’s rotten boroughs, where a nearly depopulated Old Sarum—described at the time as sixty acres without a home—had two representatives in Parliament, while London, with 750,000 to one million residents, had four.

Madison and Wilson lost that debate; the United States Senate is the result. Within a year of the ratification of the Constitution, the 50,000 free residents of Delaware, the least populous state in the nation, had the same number of senators as the 455,000 free residents of Virginia, the most populous state. That makes for a ratio of power of nine to one. Today, according to a recent report by the Roosevelt Institute, that ratio has expanded to sixty-seven to one. Wyoming’s 583,000 residents enjoy as much power in the Senate as the nearly 40 million residents of California. (In the Electoral College, the power ratio is four to one.)

Eighteen percent of the American population—on average, whiter and older than the rest of the population—can elect a majority of the Senate. If those senators are not united in their opposition to a piece of legislation, the filibuster enables an even smaller group of them, representing 10 percent of the population, to block it. Should legislation supported by a vast majority of the American people somehow make it past these hurdles, the Supreme Court, selected by a president representing a minority of the population and approved by senators representing an even smaller minority, can overturn it.

The problem of minority rule, in other words, isn’t Trumpian or temporary; it’s bipartisan and enduring. It cannot be overcome by getting rid of the filibuster or racist gerrymanders—neither of which have any basis in the Constitution—though both of these reforms would help. It’s not an isolated embarrassment of “our democracy,” restricted to newly problematic outliers like the Electoral College and the Iowa caucuses. Minority rule is a keystone of the constitutional order—and arguably, given the constitutional provision that “no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate,” not eliminable, at least not without a huge social upheaval.

Democratic Realism

We are defined by our opposition, in many ways. And a society is determined by the frame of opposition, the boundaries of allowable thought — such as right and left (or equivalent frame). This is how power has operated in the United States. In recent generations, this frame of the “political spectrum” has intentionally been kept extremely narrow. Sadly, it is precisely the supposed political left that has kept pushing right, such as the Clinton Democrats supporting the military-industrial complex, corporate deregulation, racist tough-on-crime laws, privatization of prisons, etc; not to mention supposed radical leftists like Noam Chomsky acting as sheepdogs for the one-party corporatist state.

In the past, right-wing reactionaries have often been successful by controlling the terms of debate, from co-opting language and redefining it (consider how libertarianism originated as part of the left-wing workers movement and how human biodiversity was conceived as a criticism of race realism) to the CIA in the Cold War funding moderate leftists (postmodernists, Soviet critics, etc) as part of a strategy to drown out radical leftists. This is how the most devious propaganda works, not primarily or entirely by silencing enemies of the state — although that happens as well — but through social control by means of thought control and public perception management. One might note that such propaganda has been implemented no matter which faction of plutocracy, Democrat or Republican, was in power.

This is how authoritarians create an oppressive society while hiding much of its overt violence behind a system of rhetoric. That is while the corporate media assists in not fully reporting on all of the poor and brown people killed abroad and imprisoned at home. Plus, there is systematic suppression of public awareness, public knowledge, and public debate about how immense is the slow violence of lead toxicity, poverty, inequality, segregation, disenfranchisement, etc). The propagandistic framing of thought control cripples the public mind and so paralyzes the body politic.

As such, any freedom-lover would not hope for an authoritarian left-wing to replace the present authoritarian right-wing. But we must become more savvy about authoritarianism. We Americans and other populations around the world have to become sophisticated in our intellectual defenses against rhetoric and propaganda. And we have to develop a counter-strategy to regain control of public fora in order to protect and ensure genuine public debate defined by a genuinely democratic public as an informed, engaged, and empowered citizenry. This would require a program of public education to teach what is authoritarianism, specifically how it operates and takes over societies, and also what relationship it has to the reactionary mind.

Before we get to that point, we need to free our minds from how the enforcement of authoritarian rhetoric becomes internalized as an ideological realism that is experienced as apathetic cynicism, as helpless and hopeless fatalism. So, let’s have a thought experiment and not limit ourselves to what the powers that be claim is possible. We could imagine a society where the right-wing and conservative opposition is represented by some combination of social democrats, progressives, bourgeois liberals, communitarians, and such. This far right and no further! There might be influential thought leaders acting as gatekeepers who would guard the ideological boundaries or else public shaming to maintain social norms in order keep out fascists, imperialists, and other outright authoritarians — ideological positions that would be considered immoral, dangerous, and taboo in respectable society.

Meanwhile, democratic socialists, municipal socialists, community organizers, environmentalists, civil rights advocates, and reformist groups would hold the position of moderate centrism. And on the other side of the equation, powerful social, economic and political forces of anarcho-syndicalism, radical liberationism, international labor movements, etc would constantly push the Overton window further and further to the the far left. This would allow the potential for center-left alliances to form strong political blocs.

This must require a strong culture of trust and a well developed system of democracy, not only democracy in politics but also in economics and as a holistic worldview that would be felt and practiced in everyday life. Democracy could never be part of the public debate for it would have to be the entire frame of public debate. Democracy is about the demos, the people, the public. Public debate, by definition, is and can only be democratic debate. Anything and everything could be tolerated, as long as it isn’t anti-democratic, which is why authoritarianism would be excluded by default. The public must develop a gut-level sense of what it means to live not only in a democratic society but as part of a democratic culture.

That would create immense breathing room for genuine, meaningful, and effective public debate that would be supported by a populist-driven political will with majority opinion situated to the left of what goes for the ‘left’ in the present ideological hegemony of the United States. That is our fantasy world, if not exactly a utopian vision. We could imagine many scenarios much more revolutionary and inspiring, but what we describe wouldn’t be a bad start. At the very least, it would be a more interesting and less depressing society to live in.

Rather than a political left always weakened and on the defense, often oppressed and brutalized and almost always demoralized, it would be an entire culture that had taken the broad ‘left’ as the full spectrum of ideological possibilities to be considered. As the revolutionary era led to the social construction of a post-feudal liberalism and conservatism, a 21st century revolution of the mind would imagine into existence a post-neo-feudal democratic left and democratic right. Democracy would be taken as an unquestioned and unquestionable given, based on the assumption of it representing the best of all possible worlds. In place of capitalist realism and fascist realism or even communist realism, we would have democratic realism.

* * *

This post was inspired by a strong left-wing critique of the failures of social democracy in Western countries (see below). The author, Stephen Gowans, is a foreign policy analyst with several books in print. In his recent article, he argued that social democracy has been, in practice, fundamentally conservative in how capitalist societies and their political systems are designed or shaped by elites and so serve elite interests. We don’t know what to think of Gowans’ own political proclivities of old school leftism, but he makes a good point that we find compelling.

The bogeymen of communists, both in the Soviet Union and in the West, kept capitalist power in line and so curtailed fascism and other authoritarian tendencies. If not for the ideological threat of the Soviets as a global superpower, there likely would have been no leverage for radical leftists in the West to force political and economic elites to comply with the reforms they demanded. Similarly, it was the Soviet attack on the American oppression of blacks that gave the civil rights movement the ability to influence an otherwise unsympathetic government ruled by rich whites who benefited from their continued oppression.

Social democrats often are given the credit for these reforms, but the actual social and political force came from radical left-wingers. This is not unlike why Teddy Roosevelt openly argued that conservative and pro-capitalist progressives should listen to the grievances of socialists and communists so as to co-opt them. In offering their own solutions, such leaders on the political right could steal the thunder of left-wing rhetoric and moral force. So, Roosevelt could throw out some significant reforms to reign in big biz at home while simultaneously promoting am American imperialism that defended and expanded the interests of big biz abroad. He only offered any reforms at all because left-wingers were a real threat that needed to be neutralized.

So, once the external pressure of a threatening geopolitical opponent was gone, those very same elites could safely reverse the reforms they had previously been forced to allow, in fear of the alternative of a left-wing uprising. The object of their fear was eliminated and so the elites could once again show their true face of authoritarianism. What we added to this line of thought was, if social democrats have acted like conservatives under these conditions, then we should more accurately treat them as an ideology on the political right. In that case, what follows from this is then how to define the political center and political left.

Here is another thought, to extend the speculation about how our enemies shape us and hence the importance of carefully picking our enemies, which then defines our frame of reference. We are in another period of geopolitical contest that already is or is quickly becoming a second cold war, but this time the perceived enemy or rather enemies are no longer on the political left. What the ruling elites in the West offer up as a scapegoat for our anxieties are now all far right, if in a rather mixed up fasnion: Islamic Jihadists, Iranian theocrats, Russian oligarchs, Chinese fascists, and a North Korean dictator. In response to these right-wing threats, the Western authoritarians have pushed further right. This is different than in the past when, in facing down left-wing threats, the powerful interests of the time felt they had to relent in letting themselves be pulled left.

Apparently, according to this established dynamic of ideological forces, to make real our crazy fantasy of ideological realignment toward the political left what we need is a new left-wing bogeyman outside of the Western sphere, as a supposed threat to Western civilization. Better yet, make the perceived opposing left-wing ideology non-democratic or anti-democratic so that by being in knee-jerk opposition to it mainstream media and political figures in the West would be forced to be polarized in the other direction by adopting democratic rhetoric and democratic reforms. Sheer genius!

Social Democracy, Soviet Socialism and the Bottom 99 Percent
(text below is from link)

Many left-leaning US citizens are envious of countries that have strong social democratic parties, but their envy is based mainly on romantic illusions, not reality. Western Europe and Canada may be represented by mass parties at the Socialist International, but the subtitle of Lipset and Marks’ book, Why Socialism Failed in the United States, is just as applicable to these places as it is to the United States. For socialism—in the sense of a gradual accumulation of reforms secured through parliamentary means eventually leading to a radical transformation of capitalist society–not only failed in the United States, it failed too in the regions of the world that have long had a strong social democratic presence. Even a bourgeois socialism, a project to reform (though not transcend) capitalism, has failed.

This essay explores the reasons for this failure by examining three pressures that shape the agendas of social democratic parties (by which I mean parties that go by the name Socialist, Social Democrat, Labour, NDP, and so on.) These are pressures to:

• Broaden the party’s appeal.
• Avoid going to war with capital.
• Keep the media onside.

These pressures are an unavoidable part of contesting elections within capitalist democracies, and apply as strongly to parties dominated by business interests as they do to parties that claim to represent the interests of the working class, labour, or these days, ‘average’ people or ‘working families’. The behaviour and agenda of any party that is trapped within the skein of capitalist democracy and places great emphasis on electoral success—as social democratic parties do–is necessarily structured and constrained by the capitalist context. As such, while social democratic parties may self-consciously aim to represent the bottom 99 percent of society, they serve–whether intending to or not—the top one percent.

So how is it, then, that egalitarian reforms have been developed in capitalist democracies if not through the efforts of social democratic parties? It’s true that social democrats pose as the champions of these programs, and it’s also true that conservatives are understood to be their enemies, yet conservatives have played a significant role in pioneering them, and social democrats, as much as right-wing parties, have been at the forefront of efforts to weaken and dismantle them. Contrary to the mythology of social democratic parties, the architects of what measures exist in capitalist democracies for economic security and social welfare haven’t been social democrats uniquely or even principally, but often conservatives seeking to calm working class stirrings and secure the allegiance to capitalism of the bottom 99 percent of society against the counter-example (when it existed) of the Soviet Union. […]

Egalitarian reforms, however, have been achieved over the years in Western capitalist societies, despite these obstacles, and this reality would seem to call my argument into question. Yet the number and nature of the reforms have fallen short of the original ambitions of social democracy, and in recent decades, have been abridged, weakened and sometimes cancelled altogether, often by social democratic governments themselves. […]

The point, however, isn’t to explore the reasons for the Soviet Union’s demise, but to show that while it existed, the USSR provided a successful counter-example to capitalism. The ideological struggle of the capitalist democracies against the Soviet Union entailed the provision of robust social welfare programs and the translation of productivity gains into a monotonically rising standard of living. Once the ideological struggle came to an end with the closing of the Cold War, it was no longer necessary to impart these advantages to the working classes of North America, Western Europe and Japan. Despite rising productivity, growth in household incomes was capped, and social welfare measures were systematically scaled back.

Social democracy did nothing to reverse or arrest these trends. It was irrelevant. When strong social welfare measures and rising incomes were needed by the top one percent to undercut working class restlessness and the Soviet Union’s counter-example, these advantages were conferred on the bottom 99 percent by both social democratic and conservative governments. When these sops were no longer needed, both conservative and social democratic governments enacted measures to take them back. […]

Since capitalist forces would use the high-profile and visible platform of their mass media to vilify and discredit any party that openly espoused socialism or strongly promoted uncompromisingly progressive policies, social democratic parties willingly accept the capitalist straitjacket, embracing middle-of-the-road, pro-capitalist policies, while shunting their vestigial socialist ambitions to the side or abandoning them altogether. They planted themselves firmly on the left boundary of the possible, the possible being defined by conservative forces.

Conclusion

When social democratic parties espoused socialism as an objective, even if a very distant one, the socialism they espoused was to be achieved with the permission of capital on capital’s terms–an obvious impossibility. It is perhaps in recognizing this impossibility that most social democratic parties long ago abandoned socialism, if not in their formal programs, then certainly in their deeds. That social democratic parties should have shifted from democratic socialist ambitions to the acceptance of capitalism and the championing of reforms within it, and then finally to the dismantling of the reforms, is an inevitable outcome of the pressures cited above.

But the outcome is ultimately traceable to what history surely reveals to be a bankrupt strategy: trying to arrive at socialism, or at least, at a set of robust measures congenial to the interests of the bottom 99 percent, within the hostile framework of a system that is dominated by the top one percent. The best that has been accomplished, and its accomplishment cannot be attributed to social democratic parliamentary activism, is a set of revocable reforms that were conceded under the threat, even if unlikely, of revolution and in response to capitalism’s need to compete ideologically with the Soviet Union. These reforms are today being revoked, by conservative and social democratic governments alike. The reality is that social democracy, which had set out to reform capitalism on behalf of the bottom 99 percent, was reformed by it, and acts now to keep the top one percent happy in return for every now and then championing mild ameliorative measures that conservative forces would concede anyway under pressure.

Mental Pandemic and Ideological Lockdown

“Don’t let anyone arguing to “reopen the economy” get away with “we have to let people work to stay alive.” That’s a rhetorical trick aimed at suckering you into accepting their toxic worldview. The real question is this: how did the richest nation in the world get into a mess like this in the first place?”
~Sam Smith, How Many Dollars Is a Life Worth (and Why Did We Choose This)?

If you’re familiar with low-carbohydrate diet debate, you’d know one of the big names is Ivor Cummins, AKA the Fat Emperor. He isn’t a health professional but a chemical engineer by training. For some reason, several engineers and others in technological fields have become major figures in the alternative health community, especially diet and nutrition along with fasting, sometimes in terms of what is called biohacking. They have the skill set to dig into complex data and analyze systems in a way most doctors aren’t able to do. Cummins runs a health podcast, is active on social media, and has a large following. His popularity is well deserved.

He has been on our radar the past couple of years, but recently, along with Dr. Paul Saladino, he has been at the center of contentious debate about COVID-19 and lockdowns. Besides seeing his active Tweeting, we were reminded of him with some commentary by Chuck Pezeshki, another thoughtful guy we respect (see his post, The Curious Case of the Fat Emperor — or How Not Understanding How to Merge Knowledge is Creating a Culture War). Here is Pezeshki’s description of Cummins: “What is most interesting is that he was not only a systems integrator — someone who floats between the different disciplines churning out various subsystems for complex products. He was a “systems system integrator” — where he was in charge of a team of systems integrators. The first-level integration positions are relatively common. Boeing has a whole employment line dedicated to Liaison Engineering, which they pronounce “Lie – a -zon”. The second tier up — not common at all.” So, not an average bloke, by any means.

We agree with Cummins in sharing his views on the importance of diet and metabolic health. Right from the beginning, we had the suspicion that COVID-19 might never have reached pandemic levels if not for the fact that the majority of people in the industrialized world now have metabolic syndrome — in the US, 88% of the population has some combination of major metabolic issues: obesity, diabetes, pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease, liver disease, etc. These conditions are prominently listed as comorbidities of COVID-19, as metabolic health is inseparable from immune system health. Also, we’re in line with his anti-authoritarian attitude. Like Cummins, on principle, we’re certainly not for top-heavy policy measures like lockdowns, unless there is good justification. Yet early on, there was strong justification as a response to emergency conditions and many, including Cummins, initially supported lockdown.

Since then, he has become a strident opponent and, even as his heart seems in the right place, we find his present approach to be grating. He has become ideologically polarized and has fallen into antagonistic behavior, including dismissive name-calling. This doesn’t encourage meaningful public debate. We’re trying to resist being pulled into this polarized mentality in looking at the situation as dispassionately as possible, especially since we have no desire to dismiss Cummins who we otherwise agree with. We’re not even sure we exactly disagree about lockdowns either, as we feel undecided on the issue with a more wait-and-see attitude in anticipating a possible worst second wave if caution is thrown to the wind with a simultaneous ending of lockdown, social distancing, and mask-wearing as is quite likely in the United States. The public attitude tends toward either it’s the Plague or it’s nothing, either everything must be shut down or there should no restrictions at all.

Cummins strength is also his weakness. As an engineer, his focus is on data, not on the messy lived experience of humans. In his recent Tweeting, he is constantly demanding data, but it feels like he is overlooking fundamental issues. Even if there was good enough data available, we only have data for what is measured, not for what is not measured. About lockdowns, the confounding factors in comparing countries are too numerous and there are no controls. But to his engineering mind, data is data and the details of human life that aren’t measured or can’t be measured simply are irrelevant. Engineering is a hard science. But how societies operate as complex systems — that are living and breathing, that have billions of moving parts — can’t be understood the same way as technical systems to be managed in a corporate setting, as is Cummins’ professional expertise. He appears to have no knowledge of sociology, anthropology, psychology, cultural studies, philosophy, history, etc; that is to say he has no larger context in which to place his demands for ‘data’.

The dietitian/nutritionist Adele Hite hit the nail on the head in a response she gave in another Twitter thread: “You know data is never *just* data, right? It comes from somewhere, is collected, displayed & interpreted via some methods & assumptions & not others. […] Take a few science studies courses? maybe some science history? or just read some Bruno Latour & get back to me. It’s not nihilism to recognize that there is no such thing as a “view from nowhere” (the context of her comment, I presume, is here working on a PhD in communication, rhetoric, and digital media that, as she says on her official website’s About page, taught her “to ask questions I couldn’t have even articulated before”). She also points out the importance of listening to scientists and other experts in the specific fields they were educated and trained in, as expertise is not necessarily transferable as demonstrated by the smart idiot effect that disproportionately affects the well-educated.

According to his standard bio found around the web, Cummins “has since spent over 25 years in corporate technical leadership and management positions and was shortlisted in 2015 as one of the top 6 of 500 applicants for “Irish Chartered Engineer of the Year”.” That means he is a guy who was shaped by the corporate world and was highly successful in climbing the corporate career ladder. He then went on to become an entrepreneur as a podcaster, blogger, author, and public speaker. That is to say he is a high-achieving capitalist within the businesses of others and his own business, not to mention an individual having benefited from the status quo of opportunities, privileges and advantages afforded to him. The sticking point with lockdowns is that they don’t fit into the ruling capitalist ideology or at least not its rhetoric, although oligopolistic big biz like Amazon and Walmart does great under lockdown.

Our own biases swing in a different direction. We’ve had working class jobs our entire lives and presently we’re unionized public employees. Opposite of someone like Cummins, we don’t see capitalism as the great salvation of humanity nor do we blame lockdowns for economic decline and failure that preceded the pandemic for generations. All that has changed is that the moral rot and psychopathic depravity of our society has been exposed. That brings us to our main point of contention, that of a typically unquestioned capitalist realism that has been forced to the surface of public awareness with pandemic lockdown, as previously touched upon with the issue of what David Graeber calls bullshit jobs (Bullshit Jobs and Essential Workers).

Though lacking a strong view on lockdowns, we do have a strong view of those with strong views on lockdowns. It is hard to ignore the fact that those who are most vocal about reopening the economy are those whose lives are least at risk, those not working in service jobs (Their Liberty and Your Death). One might note that Cummin’s precise demographic profile (a younger, healthier, wealthier, white Westerner) is the complete opposite of the demographics hardest hit by COVID-19 and problems in general (the elderly, the sick, the poor, and minorities); though to his credit, he has spoken about the importance of protecting vulnerable populations, even if his understanding of vulnerability in our kind of society is ideologically and demographically constrained.

Here is the point. You won’t hear many working poor people, especially disadvantaged minorities, demanding to have the right to risk their lives and their family’s lives to work poverty wages, few benefits, and no affordable healthcare to ensure the capitalist ruling elite maintain their high levels of profits. Imagine how frustrating and disheartening it must be to be poor and/or minority as you listen to wealthy white people who are healthy and have great healthcare discuss lockdowns versus reopenings when the infection and mortality rates in your community is several times worse than in the rest of the country (Jared Dewese, Black people are dying from coronavirus — air pollution is one of the main culprits; Jeffrey Ostler, Disease Has Never Been Just Disease for Native Americans).

Think about this: “black people are more than 3.5 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people, and Latino people are nearly twice as likely to die of the virus as white people” (Bill Hathaway, New analysis quantifies risk of COVID-19 to racial, ethnic minorities); now increase that death rate several times higher when comparing poor minorities to wealthier whites, high inequality locations to low inequality locations, et cetera. And it’s even worse for other minorities: “In Arizona, the Indigenous mortality rate is more than five times the rate for all other groups, while in New Mexico, the rate exceeds seven times all other groups” (APM Research Lab, THE COLOR OF CORONAVIRUS: COVID-19 DEATHS BY RACE AND ETHNICITY IN THE U.S.). For those important people on the corporate media or the thought leaders on social media, COVID-19 for their own communities really might not be any worse than the common flu. Meanwhile, for disadvantaged populations, COVID-19 could be described as nothing other than a pandemic in the fullest sense. Yet the fate of these disadvantaged is being decided by the very people disconnected from the reality of those who will be most harmed.

Let’s put this in context of a specific example — in the District of Columbia where so many powerful people, mostly whites, live in determining public policy, blacks are only 44% of the population but 80% of the COVID-19 deaths. Many states show immense disparities: “In Kansas, Black residents are 7 times more likely to die than White residents. In Wisconsin and Washington D.C., the rate among Blacks is 6 times as high as it is for Whites, while in Michigan and Missouri, it is 5 times greater. In Arkansas, Illinois, New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee, Blacks are 3 times more likely to die of the virus than Whites. In many states, the virus is also killing Black residents several multiples more often than Asian and Latino residents” (APM Research Lab).

It’s not only that minorities are more likely to die from COVID-19 but more likely to get infected with SARS-CoV-2 in the first place and so this is another multiplier effect as measured in the total death count. This is exaggerated to an even greater extent with poor brown people in some developing countries where COVID-19 is also killing large numbers of the young (Terrence McCoy & Heloísa Traiano, In the developing world, the coronavirus is killing far more young people; Louise Genot, In Brazil, COVID-19 hitting young people harder). COVID-19 may be a disease of the elderly and sick among well-off white Westerners, but to other demographics the entire population is vulnerable. Furthermore, mostly ignored in Western data are poor whites and rural whites or even middle aged whites — all of which, in the United States, have shown increasing mortality rates in recent years. There is no data, as far as we know, with a demographic breakdown of deaths within racial categories. Then there is the issue of pollution, in how it increases vulnerability and maybe in how it could help spread the virus itself by riding on air pollution particles, and of course pollution is concentrated where poverty is found — keep in mind that pollution alone, without pandemic, is linked to 40% of deaths worldwide (Socialized Medicine & Externalized Costs; & An Invisible Debt Made Visible); combine that with COVID-19, pollution is then linked to 80% of deaths (Damian Carrington, Air pollution may be ‘key contributor’ to Covid-19 deaths – study). [For more resources on the inequities of COVID-19, see ending section of this post.]

By the way, we appreciated that Chuck Pezeshki did touch upon this kind of issue, if only briefly: “The problem is that because COVID-19 is truly novel, ringing that bell, while it may daylight the various ills of society, it also at the same time obscures responsibility for all the various ills society has manifested on all its various members. I have a whole essay, almost written, on the meatpacking plant fiasco, which is really more of a damning indictment of how we treat people at the bottom of the economic ladder than the COVID-19 crisis. For those that want the short version — we keep them trapped in low wage positions with no geographic mobility, with undocumented status, and poor education so they have no choice but to continue their jobs. COVID-19 is just an afterthought.” It’s too bad such understanding hasn’t been included to a greater extent in public debate and news reporting.

This is a situation about which everyone, of course, has an opinion; still, not all opinions come with equal weight of personal experience and implications. Being forced to potentially risk your health and maybe life while on the frontlines of a pandemic creates a different perspective. We are more fortunate than most in having a decent job with good pay and benefits. But similar to so many other working class folk with multigenerational households, if we get infected in our working with the public, we could become a disease vector for others, including maybe bringing the novel coronavirus home to family such as our elderly parents with compromised immune systems. The working poor forced to work out of desperation have no choice to isolate their vulnerable loved ones in distant vacation homes or highly priced and protected long-term care centers.

Meanwhile, some of the well-off white Westerners dominating public debate are acting cavalier in downplaying the concerns of the vulnerable or downplaying how large a number of people are in that vulnerable space. We’ve even seen Ivor Cummins, an otherwise nice guy, mocking people for not embracing reopenings as if they were being irrational and cowardly — with no acknowledgement of the vast disparities of disadvantaged populations. Imagine trying to have a public debate about government policy in a city or state where the poor and minorities are two to seven times more likely to die. Does anyone honestly think the poor and minorities would be heard and their lives considered equally important? Of course, not. No one is that stupid or naive. Now consider that the disparities of wealth, pollution, sickness, and death is even greater at the national level and still greater yet in international comparisons. At the local level, the poor and minorities might hope to get heard, but they are as if invisible or non-existent within the public debate beyond the local.

Still, that isn’t to say we’re arguing for a permanent lockdown even as we do think the lockdown, if only for lack of needed leadership and preparedness, was probably necessary when the crisis began — from the DataInforms Twitter account: “Not saying it’s the right action if you’ve planned for a Pandemic. Saying it’s the inevitable action to minimize risk, when you haven’t planned for a Pandemic. By not paying attention to 2003 outbreak we brought this on ourselves.” Besides being politically paralyzed with corrupt and incompetent leadership, we Americans are an unhealthy population that is ripe for infectious diseases; and one could easily argue that a public health crisis has been developing for centuries, in particularly these past generations (Dr. Catherine Shanahan On Dietary Epigenetics and Mutations, Health From Generation To Generation, Dietary Health Across Generations, Moral Panic and Physical Degeneration, Malnourished Americans, & The Agricultural Mind). The terrain theory of infection proposes that it is the biological conditions of health that primarily determine the chances of infection and hence, in a situation like this, determine how bad it will get as a public health crisis. As we earlier noted, the 1918 flu also began mildly before becoming fully pandemic later in the year with a second wave (Then the second wave of infections hit…), not that I’m arguing about the probability of such an outcome since our present knowledge about pandemics in the modern industrialized world, the West in particular, is only slightly better than full ignorance (Kevin Kavanagh, Viewpoint: COVID-19 Modeling: Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics).

All of this puts us in an odd position. We simultaneously agree and disagree with Cummins and many others who support his view. Our main irritation is how the entire ‘debate’ gets framed, in terms of cartoonish portrayal of libertarianism versus authoritarianism. The frame ends up dominating and shutting down any genuine discussion. We noticed this in how, for all the vociferous opinionating about lockdowns, there is still no agreement even about what is a lockdown. When confronted about this, Cummins has repeatedly refused to define his terms, the most basic first step in attempting to analyze the data, in that one has to know what kind of data one needs in knowing what one is hoping to compare. The haziness of his language and the slipperiness of his rhetoric is remarkable considering engineers like him are usually praised for their precision and held up as exemplars in the alternative health community.

We weren’t the only ones to make this observation — Gorgi Kosev asked, “Did you reply to the people who asked to specify what counts as lockdown vs what counts as distancing?” Cummins responded to many other Tweets in that thread but he did not answer this question and appears to not be interested in such a dialogue. To be fair, I did come across one of his Tweets buried deep in another thread, in response to an inquiry by Gregory Travis, where he vaguely clarified what he meant but still did not operationalize his definition in a way that would help us categorize and measure accordingly. When asked for a specific list of what he considered to be lockdowns and not, he would not specify. In attempting to get at what is the issue at debate, Philippa Antell asked him, “Are you comparing lockdown Vs non lockdown ( in which case define those in detail)? Or sensible Vs non sensible lock down rules (again define)?” Cummins did not further respond. A point we and others made to him is that there has been a wide spectrum of government policies — Toshi Clark said that, “This whole thing seems predicated on making a distinction between distancing and lockdown policies. It’s not a binary thing”; and someone simply named Ed said that, “I think one of the problems Ivor is it doesn’t have to be black and white but shades of grey. Lockdown is a terrible term that is unhelpful as there has never been a full lockdown and no measure of each mitigation.”

Such comments were the opportunity to begin debate, rather than in the way Cummins took them as the end of debate. I get that he is probably frustrated, but he is avoiding the very heart of the issue while continuing to demand ‘data’ as if facts could exist separately from any frame of analysis and interpretation. I’m sure he isn’t actually that naive and so, even if his frustration is understandable, it’s unfortunate he won’t get down to the nitty gritty. As such, others understandably feel frustrated with him as well. One of the main points of frustration, as shown above, is clear and yet remains unresolved. In our own Tweeting activity responding to Cummins, we noted that, “It feels like he is trying to force debate into a polarized black/white frame that turns it into a political football, a symbolic proxy for something else entirely.” At this point, it’s no longer really about the data for it has become an ideological battle verging on a full-on culture war, and one of the first victims is the mental flexibility to shift frames as the polarized opponents become ever more locked into their defensive positions — a lockdown of the mind, as it could be described.

Let’s consider a concrete example to show how the ideological lines get drawn in the ideological mind, as opposed to how fuzzy are those lines in reality. In one of his few responses to my seeking to engage, Cummins shared an earlier Twitter thread of his where he compared the ‘social distancing’ of Sweden and the ‘lockdown’ of New Jersey; a bad comparison on multiple levels. Yet when asked what is a lockdown, he still never offered a definition and, even more interesting, he decidedly emphasized that his priority was not the data itself but his principles, values, and beliefs. He was asked point blank that, “Since I showed that there effectively was no implemented and enforced stay at home full lockdown in even some of the worst hit places like NYC, what are we talking about in terms of a lockdown? What is the real issue of debate?” And his answer was, “Civil Liberties and our future freedoms. Principles. And the Scientific Method being respected.” Those principles seem fine, at least in theory assuming they are part of a genuinely free society that sadly is also theoretical at present. The problem comes with his conflating all of science with his libertarian beliefs taken as ideological realism. His libertarian conviction seems to be both his starting assumption and his ending conclusion. It’s not that the facts don’t matter to him, that he is merely posturing, but it is obvious that the data has become secondary in how the debate is being so narrowly constrained as to predetermine what evidence is being sought and which questions allowed or acknowledged.

Our interest was genuine, in seeking to clarify terms and promote discussion. That is why we pointed to the actual details in how it played out in actual implementation. In New York City, there was a supposed full lockdown with a stay at home order, but that didn’t stop New Yorkers from crowding in public places (Stephen Nessen, More New Yorkers Are Crowding Onto Buses And Subways Despite Stay-At-Home Order) since it’s not like there is a Chinese-style authoritarian government to enforce a Wuhan-style lockdown. That is the problem of comparisons. In terms of effective actions taken, the Swedish example involved more restrictions than did what happened in New Jersey and New York City. That is because the Swedish, in their conformist culture of trust, enforced severe restrictions upon themselves without government order and for all practical purposes the Swedish had implemented a greater lockdown than anything seen in the United States. Unless a police officer or soldier is pointing a gun at their head, many Americans will continue on without wearing masks or social distancing. This is a cultural, not a political, difference.

It is bizarre to see libertarian-minded individuals using the example of the anti-libertarian Swedish society as evidence in defense of greater libertarianism in societies that are completely different from Sweden. These are the same people who would normally criticize what they’d deem an oppressive Scandinavian social democracy under non-pandemic conditions, but all of a sudden Sweden is the best country in the world. If we think the Swedish are so awesome, then let’s imitate their success by having the highest rate of individuals living alone in the world as promoted by government policy, a population that does social distancing by default, a cultural willingness to sacrifice self-interest for the common good, a strong social safety net paid for with high taxes on the rich, and socialist universal healthcare for all (Nordic Theory of Love and Individualism). Once we implement all of those perfect conditions of public preparedness for public health crises in promoting the public good, then and only then can we have a rational and meaningful debate about lockdowns and social distancing.

Otherwise, the critics are being disingenuous or oblivious about the real issues. Such confusion is easy to fall into during an anxiety-inducing crisis as we all struggle to see clearly what is at stake. Cummins is highly intelligent well informed and, most important, he means well. But maybe he has lost his bearings in being pulled into ideological polarization, which is a common malady in Western society even at the best of times — one might call it an ideological pandemic. No one is immune to such ideological mind viruses, which is all the more reason to be highly aware of the risk of memetic contagion and so handle the material with the proper intellectual protective gear, rather than assuming it’s only those other people who are mindless ideologues ignoring the cold hard facts. Obsessing over data can create yet another blindness, specifically when it leads one to seeking the data that confirms what one is looking for. The reality of diverse data, conflicting data, and missing data is far more murky, and the mud really gets stirred up when we are floundering amidst unstated assumptions and undefined terms.

The present debate isn’t really about public response to infectious disease. If it was only about that, we could be more fully on board with Cummins since, in terms of health data, we are in his camp. The other component to the ideological conflict is a failure of public trust in countries like the United states, as opposed to the success of public trust elsewhere. In terms of economics and health, the Swedish had comparably similar results as their Nordic neighbors who followed different government policies, which further demonstrates it’s more about culture than anything else. Lockdowns did cut the number of lives lost in those countries, but the greatest protection appears to have been cultural, which is to say how the population behaves under various government policies. Scandinavians have a culture of trust. The United States does not. I can’t speak for other countries that fared less well such as Italy and Spain, although hard-hit Brazil obviously has some public trust issues. Social distancing without any closures and restrictions probably works great in almost any strong culture of trust, whereas a lack of full lockdown could be a catastrophe where public trust is deficient. That would be a more interesting and meaningful debate.

What is it about American and British society, in particular, that soft issues of society and culture are reduced and rationalized away or dismissed and diminished by putting everything into a frame of economics and politics? It used to be that religion in the form of the Christian church was used as the frame to explain everything. But now capitalist realism, both in economics and politics, is the dominant religion. Notice most of the opponents of lockdowns are doing so in defense of capitalism (liberty), not in defense of democracy (freedom). It’s posing a particular kind of politics in opposition to a particular kind of economics. The idea of a genuinely free society is not in the frame, not part of the debate.

This is part of an old ideological conflict in the Western mind. It erupted more fully when the neoliberals took power, as signaled by former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s declaration that, “there’s no such thing as society.” Karl Polanyi theorized about the rise of a market culture where everything came to be understood through an economic lens. Even politics has been made an extension of capitalist realism. This is more broadly part of a mindset obsessed with numbers. Everything can be measured. Everything can have a price put on it. Not only was religion demoted but all ‘soft’ approaches to understanding humanity and society. This is how we can have a debate in comparing different cultures while few people even bother to mention culture itself, as if culture either does not matter or does not exist. We have no shared frame to understand the deeper crisis we are suffering, of which the perception of pandemic threat and political malaise is merely a symptom.

The sense of conflict we’re experiencing in this pandemic isn’t fundamentally about an infectious virus and governmental response to it. It’s about how many societies, United States most of all, have suffered a crisis in loss of public trust based on destruction of traditional community, authority, self-sacrifice, etc. Libertarianism is inseparable from this cultural failure and simply further exacerbates it. In opposing authoritarianism, libertarianism becomes psychologically and socially dependent on authoritarianism, in the way drug rehab centers are dependent on influx of drug addicts (think of Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly). What gets lost is radical envisioning of a society free of ideological addiction of divisive polarization that is used for propagandistic social control. Control the public mind with frame of libertarianism versus authoritarianism and the ruling elite can guarantee freedom is suppressed.

We must understand difference between Latin ‘liberty’ and Germanic ‘freedom’. The former originated from the legal status of not being a slave in slave society; whereas the latter as etymologically related to ‘friend’ originally meant being a member of a free society, as being among friends who would put common good over individual interest. Philip K. Dick liked to say that, “The Empire never ended,” in seeing the Roman Empire as fundamentally identical to our own. Well, the Norman Conquest never ended either. Romanized Norman thought and language still rules our public mind and society, economics and politics. That is the sad part. Even the word freedom has become another way to invoke the liberty worldview of a slave society. This is taken as the unquestioned given of capitalist realism. Negative freedom (Latin liberty) almost entirely replaces positive freedom (Germanic freedom). Another difference between Latin is that it was more abstract than German. So liberty as negative freedom is much more of an ideological abstraction. One can have freedom in theory even while being oppressed in lived reality. Liberty ideology can justify lack of freedom.

Interestingly, this brings us back to an important point that Chuck Pezeshki made in his post where he was looking upon Ivor Cummins with more support and sympathy. One of the reasons,” suggested Pezeshki, “I fervently believe our current society in the U.S. is collapsing is the loss of noblesse oblige — the idea that those of us that are better off in some definable way should help those who are less fortunate. I view my role as a full professor as one where I am supposed to think about complex and complicated things for the common good, just like a rich person is supposed to build housing developments for the poor.” Basically, we agree, even if we take a meandering path and throw out a bunch of side commentary along the way. Noblesse oblige, one might note, was a carryover from feudalism. Like the Commons, it was intentionally destroyed in creating our modern world. We have yet to come to terms with the fallout from that mass annihilation of the public good. There has been nothing to replace what was trampled upon and thrown away.

Such loose human realities can neither be counted in profit nor measured in data. Yet they determine what happens in our society, maybe even determining whether an infectious disease is a momentary inconvenience or turns into a deadly pandemic, determining whether it kills high numbers of the vulnerable or not. The terrain in which a virus can gain purchase is not only biological but environmental and economic, political and cultural. We need to talk not only about physical health for a public health crisis is about the health of the entire society and in this age of interconnectivity with mass trade, mass transportation and mass travel that increasingly includes the larger global society. It’s not only about your own health but the health of everyone else as well, the least among us most of all.

* * *

The Coronavirus Class Divide: Space and Privacy
by Jason DeParle

Harvard Researchers Find ‘Inequality On Top Of Inequality’ In COVID-19 Deaths
by James Doubek

No Wealth, Poor Health: COVID-19 Has Exposed the Depth of Inequality For Marginalized Communities
by Shelly M. Wagers

Poverty, Tuberculosis, COVID-19 and the Luxury of Health
by Amy Catania

How The Crisis Is Making Racial Inequality Worse
by Greg Rosalsky

Social distancing in Black and white neighborhoods in Detroit: A data-driven look at vulnerable communities
by Makada Henry-Nickie & John Hudak

Poor New York City Neighborhoods Seeing Deaths From Covid at More Than Twice the Rate of Affluent Areas
by Julia Conley

COVID-19 outbreak exposes generations-old racial and economic divide in New York City
The Bronx is home to 1.5 million New Yorkers, many of them essential workers.
by Juju Chang, Emily Taguchi, Jake Lefferman, Deborah Kim, & Allie Yang

Divergent death tolls in New York’s Rockaways show Covid-19’s uneven reach
by Sally Goldenberg & Michelle Bocanegra

Density, poverty keep L.A. struggling against virus
by Brian Melley

In Mississippi, families of COVID-19 victims say poverty and race determine survival
by Candace Smith, Knez Walker, Fatima Curry, Armando Garcia, Cho Park & Anthony Rivas

Poor Health, Poverty and the Challenges of COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean
by Samuel Berlinski, Jessica Gagete-Miranda, & Marcos Vera-Hernández

India COVID-19: The killer virus is still poverty
by C.P. Surendran

Iran COVID-19 Crisis: Poor People Are Victims of Regime’s Criminal Policy of Forcing People Back to Work
by Sedighe Shahrokhi

‘We’re expendable’: black Americans pay the price as states lift lockdowns
by Kenya Evelyn

How air pollution exacerbates Covid-19
by Isabelle Gerretsen

Air pollution has made the COVID-19 pandemic worse
by Ula Chrobak

Air Pollution May Make COVID-19 Symptoms Worse
by Alex Fox

Are you more likely to die of covid-19 if you live in a polluted area?
by Adam Vaughan

COVID-19 severity and air pollution: exploring the connection
from Healthcare In Europe

Can COVID-19 Spread Through Air Pollution?
from Environmental Technology

Air Pollution Is Found to Be Associated with Vulnerability to COVID-19
by Shuting Pomerleau

Exposure to air pollution and COVID-19 mortality in the United States: A nationwide cross-sectional study
by Xiao Wu, Rachel C. Nethery, Benjamin M. Sabath, Danielle Braun, & Francesca Dominici

Black people are dying from coronavirus — air pollution is one of the main culprits
by Jared Dewese

One reason why coronavirus is hitting black Americans the hardest
by Ranjani Chakraborty

Covid-19 Flares Up in America’s Polluted ‘Sacrifice Zones’
by Sidney Fussell

Study shows how air pollution makes COVID-19 mortality worse for marginalized populations
from News Medical Life Sciences

Air pollution, racial disparities, and COVID-19 mortality
by Eric B. Brandt, Andrew F. Beck, & Tesfaye B. Mersha

Air Pollution and COVID-19 are worsening existing health inequalities
from European Public Health Alliance

In the Shadows of America’s Smokestacks, Virus Is One More Deadly Risk
by Hiroko Tabuchi

‘I’m Scared’: Study Links Cancer Alley Air Pollution to Higher Death Rates From Covid-19
by Yessenia Funes

The Health Emergency That’s Coming to West Louisville
by John Hans Gilderbloom & Gregory D. Squires

COVID-19, pollution and race: new health concerns for Nicetown
by Nydia Han and Heather Grubola

Philadelphia’s coronavirus numbers show stark racial and income disparities
by Yun Choi

Many cities around the globe saw cleaner air after being shut down for COVID-19. But not Chicago.
by Michael Hawthorne

Pollution rollbacks show a ‘callous disregard’ for communities hard hit by COVID-19
by Justine Calma

COVID-19 Is Not a Reasonable Excuse for Continued Pollution
by Janet McCabe

COVID-19 Cannot Be An Excuse For More Toxic Air
by Amy Hall

How Trump’s EPA Is Making Covid-19 More Deadly
by Michael R. Bloomberg and Gina McCarthy

Dirty air, weak enforcement hurt Arizona during COVID-19
by Sandy Bahr

From Progressive Jewish Minority to Neocon Jewish Elite

Sean Last has an essay, Jewish Influence on American Politics, that is quite lengthy and heavy on the data. I say that with admiration, as I love it when someone goes to such immense effort in making an evidence-based argument. The data alone collected in one place is an achievement, no matter what one thinks of the analysis and conclusion. Let’s use this as an opportunity to explore the social and political history of the liberal faith.

Last’s argument is that Jewish Americans have become one of the most influential minorities, by way of a Jewish elite that formed because of favorable circumstances. That would be hard to argue against, although the interesting part is explaining why it happened. It probably helped that their identity was conflated with a global narrative of Nazi persecution, the United States defeat of the Nazis and rise of the Israeli state. It helped that the Israeli state, by way of Zionism, allowed Israel to become the single most important ally of the most dominant global superpower in all of world history. Most minorities, in the Western world, don’t receive anywhere near the same level of automatic familiarity and sympathy across the political spectrum and within mainstream thought, not to mention within the halls of power.

We have a conundrum. It is precisely right-wing politics that has allowed the rise of the Jewish elite. Zionism came to power in concert with neoconservatism, as most of the original neoconservatives were Jews. But there is a complex development. Many of these early Jewish neocons began their political careers as New Deal Progressives. They didn’t lose faith in Progressivism, as neither did Ronald Reagan when he switched parties, but they came to believe that Progressivism could only be implemented, enacted and enforced through military might and violence, through authoritarian laws and measures, and in practice this meant supporting the United States as a global military empire with Israel as one of its battering rams. American greatness would be Israeli greatness and there was a moral vision in this, inspired by a response to Nazi War crimes — never again, was the rallying cry. This wasn’t cynical realpolitik, at least not initially. Many American Jews were extremely idealistic in the post-war period in looking to Israel to demonstrate to the world a different kind of society, as seen in the kibbutz movement.

Even to this day, Jews maintain a reputation of being liberal (Daniel Greenberg, Jewish Partisanship and Ideology Unchanged Despite Political Controversies). “In terms of ideology, 44% of American Jews are liberal, much higher than the overall 25% among the total population, making Jews the most liberal of any major religious group we identify” (Ron Faucheux, Lunchtime Politics: New Polling Puts Biden First – America’s Jewish Voters; interestingly, this is from the D.C.-based PR firm Qorvis with Saudi Arabia as their principal client and with ties to Donald Trump), although probably no where near as liberal as Unitarian Universalists and maybe not as liberal as Quakers. The crux of Last’s argument is that Jews pushed American politics left. Well, they may have in certain ways. This is not in conflict with their pushing American politics far right in other ways. This requires an understanding of liberalism, in the United States and around the world. From the revolutionary era on, liberalism has always had a dark reactionary undercurrent.

This is far from limited to Jews, of course. Even the great historical and symbolic enemy of the Jews, the Nazis, came to power through liberals who feared the left-wing more than the right-wing. We must understand that liberalism is not the same as leftism, since the two often can be polar opposites. It’s easy to forget that the Nazis too were progressive for their time. It was the Nazi use of progressive rhetoric that appealed to the liberal persuasion. In light of this, note that many American neocons are socially liberal and can even be economically liberal, as neoconservatism is essentially a modernization of old school Whiggish progressivism that envisioned saving undesirable populations through some combination of genocide, forced assimilation, and eugenics. It was part of a grand and idealistic civilizing project and this old vision still inspires a certain kind of mind that isn’t easily categorized as left or right, even as it is very much ‘liberal’. This is why it’s useful to hold up Jews as an exemplar of American liberalism, so as to understand the broader tendency of liberalism itself.

The supposed liberalism of American Jews is not so straightforward in that liberalism in general follows strange paths. Some would argue that American Jews aren’t the liberal stronghold they are portrayed as or else that we need to think more carefully about what is liberalism. Yossie Hollander looks beyond the typical Jewish demographics and makes a counter-argument that American Jews more broadly aren’t necessarily liberal, much less leftist (Contrary to popular belief, most US Jews support Trump). Looking beyond the old Jewish populations, he sees an exclusion in the polls of other American Jews: Israeli Americans, ultra-Orthodox, first and second generation immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and internal immigrants to the Southwest Belt. Hollander sees Zionism as trumping all else:

“As we can see, most of the polls actually survey less than 50% of the Jewish population that is located in the old Jewish centers and who are largely democratic voters. If we consider all four populations described above where the percentage of support for Trump is high, it is likely that most Jews actually voted for Trump. Adding that to the fact that many voters are afraid to admit that they voted for Trump (especially to their Democrat friends), the obvious conclusion is that the real situation on the ground is the opposite of the common media theme about Hilary. Actually – most Jews voted for Trump. I cannot predict what will happen in 2020, but this trend is likely to continue and may even be strengthened, especially if the Democratic Party chooses an anti-Israeli candidate.”

More evidence would be needed to make a case for a pro-Trump majority among American Jews. It doesn’t sound plausible, but it might be possible if one specifically focuses on potential voters who are of the older generations. Anti-Zionism is strongest among young American Jews. Even if we accept that most Jewish voters do vote Democratic and that most Jewish non-voters lean Democratic, it doesn’t necessarily indicate their politics. “There is a common misconception that American Jews are very much on the left of the political spectrum, and it’s not really true,” Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin, of Yeshiva University said (Jon Levine, Why Jewish voters are turning on Bernie Sanders). “The Democratic Party’s most reliable voters are also some of their most moderate voters.”

Then again, it could be asserted that American Jews really are much further to the left. Joel Rubin, who was the Jewish outreach director of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, “insists that Sanders represents the interests of the majority of American Jews, not just on Israel but on a wide variety of issues. “American Jews support civil liberties at home, oppose gun violence, support women’s equality, oppose putting kids in cages, and are actively leading efforts to combat climate change and income equality,” he says. Indeed, a 2019 poll shows that healthcare and gun violence are top issues for Jewish voters, while Israel comes in at the bottom. But when it comes to Israel, Sanders, like most American Jews, supports a negotiated two-state solution. “Poll after poll shows that American Jews want the U.S. to be engaged in making peace abroad and pursuing social justice at home – positions aggressively embraced by Bernie Sanders,” Rubin says” (Mairav Zonszein, Sanders and the Jewish Vote).

Here is the rub, as explained in the same above piece: “That has not stopped AIPAC or the Democratic Majority for Israel—a year-old Super PAC with ties to AIPAC—from going after Sanders, And as his chances of becoming the nominee appear to be rapidly increasing, so too are the attacks. DMFI, whose mission is to apparently keep the Democratic Party hawkish on Israel, spent $800,000 in attack ads in Iowa questioning Sanders’s electability, all without mentioning Israel once. They are already running ads in Nevada, which is significant because it presents one of the only times that a Democratic Super-PAC is throwing its weight against a Democratic candidate. It is also noteworthy considering that Sanders remains a firm supporter of a negotiated two-state solution, which is no different than the policies DMFI and other American Jewish organizations claim to support. The only difference is Sanders’s willingness to actually force Israel to get there.”

The elite that styles itself as liberal are often out of alignment with the average person — they are far to right of most Jews, most Democrats, and most Americans in general. That complicates Sean Last’s argument that it was a Jewish elite who helped push American politics further to the left. When one looks at the actual positions of Bernie Sanders’ campaign platform and voting history, it is not politically left-wing. In fact, one would have to honestly admit that Sanders is rather moderate and centrist. This is shown in decades of public polling that demonstrates the American public is to the left of the elite of both parties and moving further left over time (US Demographics & Increasing Progressivism). So, it’s not only a Jewish elite that is out of touch with the general public for the same pattern is seen across the elite in general (Political Elites Disconnected From General Public). What makes the focus on Jewish Americans so important is that they represent the supposedly most liberal component of a supposedly liberal elite.

That leads us to the hardest question. Why do American Jews and other Americans vote against their interests? That is to ask the reason for why most people are so easily manipulated by the elite. How is it the elite so dominate politics, control media, and manipulate the narrative? Well, they do so in the way elites always have, though wealth and ownership, power and cronyism. But how long can this disconnect last, specifically among American Jews. Zionism was the one strong link that kept Jews in the neocon fold, forced them to accept what they otherwise would not. Yet most American Jews, like Sanders, support a two-state solution. This majority has been silenced. Younger Jews, however, are more vocal in their anti-Zionism (Batya Ungar-Sargon, Young Jews Are Actually Winning The Generational War Over Israel). Being anti-Zionists isn’t necessarily to be anti-Israeli and being pro-Israel isn’t necessarily to be anti-Palestine, distinctions that most younger Jews in the US are able and willing to make.

Yet, as young American Jews swing left, the older American Jewish elite becomes more entrenched in an increasingly conservative attitude. As a backlash, the powerful interests that have dominated Jewish thought will become ever more reactionary and right-wing. The very forces that created a progressive force out of the Jewish experience will further force that progressivism into the neocon form. Will the new generation resist the old guard that has come to represent all of Judaism on the public stage? That is yet to be seen. Some, in still holding up the progressive ideal, don’t see hope in the rise of neoconservatism these past decades. The Jewish self-appointed leadership is certainly not moving left.

If as Sean Last argues it was ethnocentrism of American Jews as an oppressed minority that pushed them left, it is now ethnocentrism among an established elite that pushes them further right. A progressive movement among American Jews may have at one time gained victories on certain social issues and gained them a reputation of liberalism. But the neocons took the battlefield and won the war. It’s yet to be seen if, among American Jews, the tide will turn in a new era of ideological conflict and struggle in defining what Judaism means as a social identity and political force. It’s uncertain what will become of liberalism far beyond this one demographic. Will liberalism continue on the path down reactionary right-wing complicity? Or will liberals come to terms with their moral failures and regain the radical vision that once inspired so many Americans, minorities and otherwise?

* * *

My Jewish Problem C’ted: My Tribe Is No Longer a Progressive Political Force
by Observer Staff

When I was a kid, Jews were firmly on the left. They were outsiders in American culture—my dad faced antisemitic discrimination in his professional life (science)—and Jews were associated in the 60s with the civil-rights movement and the antiwar movement. And the great leap forward of the meritocracy, of which Jews were the prime beneficiaries (then), meant sharing the wealth of a progressive Jewish tradition, of valuing education and knowledge (as Yuri Slezkine has written) with the rest of society.

In my generation, the prominent Jewish presence in American life is no longer progressive. The meritocracy generated wealth and status, and wealth and status will make any group more conservative. Look around at the political landscape, and Jews can be seen very prominently in very conservative posts. In Commentary (a magazine my liberal Democrat family used to get, it was against the Vietnam War), Gabriel Schoenfeld has argued that the New York Times should be prosecuted for its publication of the illegal wiretap story. The New York Sun, a rightwing pro-Israel newspaper, argued in 2003 that people like myself who demonstrated against the war were guilty of treason. The Sun is funded by Bruce Kovner, the chairman of the American Enterprise Institute, which gave more brains to this administration, Bush once crowed, than anyone (he probably regrets it now!), and by Roger Hertog, who nearly wept at a Manhattan Institute gala a year ago when he described the pro-Israel roots of his thinking. Manhattan Institute brags about turning “ideas into influence.” It has done so.

It is not just the rightwing extremists. This is my point. Kovner gives money to Schumer, a good liberal Democrat who is a leading supporter of the Iraq War. Alan Dershowitz calls himself a Kennedy liberal, even as he justifies torture in the war on terror. Dershowitz’s argument is echoed by Sam Harris, in The End of Faith, an anti-Islam book that NPR finds potable (as the neocons’ ideas are not, for NPR). Joseph Lieberman symbolizes the Jewish establishment, and he is Bush’s lieutenant on Iraq. There are 14 Jewish congressmen from New York and California (as I count them in the Almanac of American Politics). Twelve of them supported the Iraq war in 2002. Including good old Vietnam doves like Henry Waxman and Howard Berman of Los Angeles. As did that other converted dove of the Jewish intelligentsia: The New Yorker magazine.

The argument is made that Jews still vote Democratic, and don’t support the Iraq war, in polls. Walt and Mearsheimer say so in their famous (realist) paper. Bush may have gotten 100 percent of the neocon vote, but only 24 percent of the Jewish vote. We’re liberals.

I would argue that while mainstream Jews are very liberal on abortion and school prayer and Hollywood sex and violence—social issues—they have allowed neocons to represent them—that is to say, Jewish public opinion is a conservative force in foreign policy. Ask erstwhile liberals Waxman (who represents Hollywood) and Lieberman, and watch from whom Ned Lamont’s insurgent antiwar candidacy against Lieberman in Connecticut draws its strength. The antiwar movement is so far a populist movement. Not very Jewish. Though, yes, Hilda Silverman and Dan Ellsberg are there.

I’m not saying the progressive Jewish tradition is dead. But we no longer characterize the force of the Jewish presence in American life. When I demonstrated against the war in the treasonous cold in February 2003, my favorite speaker was Tony Kushner, who’s a lot more Jewish than I am. Kushner is one of the exceptions that proves the rule. There are many of us, including California Congressman Bob Filner, a freedom rider in the 60s who led opposition to the war. But we are the outliers. I’m sure that there are evangelical Christians who depart from the mainstream evangelical Christian view that gays shouldn’t get married. But they’re not working the polls in Ohio. The body of Jewish opinion now licenses the neocons politically. The press routinely characterizes the evangelical Christians as rightwing; and I think the press should characterize the Jewish presence as centrist.

Why? One thing Kushner understands is that being a progressive in American life, and opposing the war, both these things necessitate a separation from Israel—a slight separation, inasmuch as he’s merely calling for a more evenhanded U.S. policy in the Middle East. The bulk of American Jewry cannot take that step. And so they have been swept to the right.