We knew this was coming.
We knew this unraveling would happen. The Donald might have (finally!) gone too far. America’s favorite demented clown seems to be on the road to complete self-immolation and irrelevance. The latest presidential debate (aptly termed a drunken brawl by the online community) consolidated the popular perception that this current election is, in a best-case scenario, a joke. So let us begin by bidding a festive farewell, adieu, and good night to our very own Pig Prince.
Trump and the GOP certainly look done for. Conservatives are running for the hills and deserting Trump with hitherto-unseenhaste as Trump’s campaign continues to deflate. As a radical I can’t help but celebrate the implosion of that nauseating pile of horse shit that insists on calling itself a political party. But as insane as it might seem to bring up, one question must still be asked: will this ongoing public evisceration of Donald Trump be enough to prevent him from winning? I don’t know. Regardless of the mediatic blowouts and the “debates” this circus is far from over.
What is clear is that the Republicans will not be the only casualties in our current Schadenfreude-fueled deconstruction of America’s pseudo-democracy. In one of those delicious ironies that the universe seems to be so fond of it looks as if the Democratic Party is just as doomed.
It’s all about generational liquidity.
First, voters grow old and die. All political organizations require an organic growth of its base, and at this moment neither party has that. The worst one off is the Democratic Party due to the DNC’s spiteful treatment and willful alienation of its young voters. In the greatest of ironies, a win for the Democrats now, either by a small or large margin, will more than likely break their backs four years down the road. Millennials and whatever calls itself the “Left” today will have no choice but to look elsewhere as the Democratic Party proudly becomes the new Right-wing party. That might be the price they are forced to pay for a victory in 2016. Selling your soul to the Devil has never been considered to be a sound business arrangement, after all.
Second, the stage is set for what remains of the Democrats to splinter: the DNC and the party’s up-and-coming young voters live in completely opposite realities. I’m not referring to voters belonging to my demographic: professional thirty-something adults. Most of those folks are died-in-the-wool liberals who only utilize “leftist” talk to differentiate their growing moderate stances from Republicans, barely camouflaging their class and race privilege. I’m referring instead to the Black Lives Matter generation, those who, for example, made “socialism” the most Googled word of 2015. Those who actually believed that a “political revolution” was possible yet need to realize that relying on the ballot box is not, and never has been, the answer towards achieving emancipation.
The most important political realization that any nascent Left must agree on is that capitalism needs to be directly engaged in the United States like it hasn’t been in nearly a century. It must be confronted, attacked, and always be put on the defensive. Proposing a sudden maturation of political culture beyond the infantilizing false pragmatism of the “lesser of two evils” argument is vital; otherwise there can be no talk of democratization. What shape will this take? That question must remain unanswered for a while, but I can at least offer some advice.
Three steps must be taken for this political maturation to occur:
Step one: This country’s youth must be radicalized. As apathetic as I am with regards to representative democracy I do believe that it behooves this country to recognize that the time has arrived to embrace a socialist, Labour-like party emboldened by the goodwill brought about by Bernie Sanders’s candidacy. Why Labour-like? I am of course referring to the British Labour Party that Jeremy Corbyn is struggling to bring back in-line to a socialist ethos while dispensing with the Blair-era neoliberal abandonment of the working classes.
Embracing an openly socialistic or at least social-democratic political party brings class back into public discussion and makes it much more difficult for the status quo to remain unquestioned. Building such a political movement is not a panacea, but no one thing ever is. This better happen sooner rather than later; once Hillary Clinton’s pro-Wall Street agenda and interminable wars become a reality it is very likely that the youth vote and progressives, the traditional “Left” flank of the Democratic Party, will desert it in droves and leave it to bleed out or stagnate in its own conservatism.
Let us be clear about the place of labor within the scope of organized politics in the United States: not a single organized political party in this country has the well being of the working class in mind. The Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the Libertarian Party all subscribe to the ruling capitalist class. They are neoliberal and capitalistic. Both mainstream parties are war-mongering, expansionist and built on white supremacy and white feminism, not emancipatory projects. The Green Party has been better than the rest, and is certainly friendlier to the environment, but questions remain regarding its position on claims that border on fringe science.
Step two: bring back unions in a big way and politicize the Hell out of them. The most important political fronts against capitalist exploitation have historically and globally been labor movements. The obsessive cult of capitalism, the myth of the American Dream, the Prosperity Gospel and the anchor of the “Protestant Work Ethic” all have cladded in near-impenetrable armor the traditional exploitative labor relations in the United States.
Economic and political elites have always made bank from human exploitation. None of this is news to anyone, even if it has been whitewashed from history textbooks. This electoral cycle has clearly demonstrated yet again how depoliticized the American labor movement is; vision-less and the prey of corporate sold-outs like the AFL-CIO. Unions are under-represented and criminalized by neoliberal practices while also being artificially segregated by race in order to guarantee the suppression of a working-class consciousness.
For years “union” has been a dirty word, a pejorative and an obstacle to “progress” and “efficiency”. This virulent anti-unionism has resulted in dangerous deregulation practices, loss of benefits and jobs, and further privatization of essential services such as education. Talk to any sane parent or teacher about their experiences with charter schools and I assure you that you’ll receive an earful. This is why the politicization of unions and labor movements is vital to democratization. Rosa Luxemburg famously said that the working classes in every country could only learn to fight in the course of their struggles, and this remains as true now as it was then.
So, with the disenfranchised youth and labor movements we have two steps necessary to combating the post-Trump/Clinton systemic fatigue.
The third step towards securing socialism’s beachhead in mainstream politics is to encourage the formation of a true socialist and democratic Left that recognizes that lasting political power is to be found and mobilized from below. Radical unions such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and young activists open to socialism are part of this puzzle, but there are more pieces left to assemble. Class and race must be reconciled, brought together with militant feminisms, queer communities and gender identities and made driving forces against capitalist white hegemony. Native American and First Nation resistance and direct action against capitalist exploitation and governmental repression, together with the Black Lives Matter struggle, point towards the need for combined efforts. True intersectionality here is vital. Liberalism has historically hijacked movements of social justice and liberation to their detriment. To be effective these must radicalize and mobilize.
Finally, the lure of and focus towards the ballot box must be abolished. Voting is not the defining characteristic of democracy. Popular participation and engagement are, and have been painfully absent as of late. They are the true spirit of the commons. Voting is but one tool in a large bag of tricks. Part of the genius of thinkers like Murray Bookchin was to recognize that a true change in political systems must come from an organized resistance at the local level. The Kurds have moved towards a more democratic system of non-representational, direct democracy founded on these principles that should be taken seriously.
For this political realignment to work it is imperative that independents, progressives and radicals finally realize that liberals do not have their best interests in mind, and that liberalism and capitalism inevitably go hand in hand. Such is the historical nature of the beast. Liberals are not leftists, never have been, and never will be. It must be made clear that liberalism is not, and never has been, a real path towards economic and political emancipation or social justice. That can only be achieved through direct democracy and socialism, plain and simple.
Let me conclude with this: I understand fear. I understand why the “lesser of two evils” argument has become so overwhelming. I grew up with it back home in Puerto Rico, and that cycle led to the island’s grim present under PROMESA’s undemocratic junta. I implore you to at least be honest about why you support your candidate. If a Trump presidency is what you crave then you might be a bigot, or you could very well be one of those disenfranchised workers that the Democratic Party has abandoned. Rage and confusion, combined with a lack of a clear political vocabulary is toxic. But if a Clinton presidency does not bother you just a little bit then you’re really a conservative or a moderate. Own it. Embrace the fact that your candidate is now Glenn Beck’s candidate. Just don’t call yourself a progressive. Don’t shield your privilege with false rhetoric.
If it does bother you then do what you feel you must do, but be cognizant that her victory means an uphill struggle for the Left in every way imaginable, a Left that must reinvent itself in order to survive. Accept that here will likely be many strikes, marches, wars, and recessions due to deregulation. Be aware that this election is being fought between reactionary forces serving white privilege and white feminism, and that these are antagonistic forces positioned against the rest of us. Realize that this is class war and that race, gender and queerness are all linked together. See all of these things as both sources of concern and optimism, for in these uncertain times the truly realist position attainable is one of utopic revolt.