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Clueless in the Face of Crisis: Democrats Continue to Flounder

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Donald Trump’s victory — and Hillary Clinton’s defeat – has a bright side.  The neoliberal policies and practices of the post-Cold War era were exposed as bankrupt.  During the last half-century, but especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, U.S. domestic and foreign policies remained relatively consistent – and, increasingly over time, stuck.

Under Bill Clinton’s “New Democrats” and subsequent presidents, economic prosperity was guaranteed through global hegemony.  The working class was abandoned for up-market tech hipsters and con-man bankers.  The growth of capitalism was secured through U.S. intervention, overt and covert, everywhere and anywhere profit demanded.  Globalizing capitalism disrupts this hegemony.

Trump’s presidency is a testament to the deepening disillusionment gripping the nation.  Much has been written about the travails of the white working class and poor people of all ethnic or national identities.  Discontent is mounting in terms of popular demonstrations and protests as well as increasing incidents of racially- and religiously-motivated criminal attacks.

Panic is also being experienced by the 1 percent.  The build-up of the military budget and a renewal of the culture wars are sure signs of growing fears.  It is also reflected in Trump’s team — all opportunists — and the legislature they are backing, basically get-rich scams and tax-cut for those once known as the “ruling class.”  Is the stock market’s record highs a signal of a bubble that will surely burst?

Trump changed the game of establishment politics and now is president.  The Democrats are floundering, unsure of how to face the demands of a trying historical test.

The Democrats, overseen by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Wall Street’s inside man, have no clue as to what to do.  The social order is in crisis, undercut by the restructuring of global capitalism, and he lacks the vision to see what’s going on, let alone do anything to address it.  Equally challenging, he seems to be losing party discipline, with Wall Street Democrats in panic.

Most revealing, today the Democrats follow — do not lead! — the popular insurgency spreading the country. The push for political change is coming from different directions.

Trump’s election and the virtual collapse of Clinton’s New Democrats provides the American left with an unprecedented opportunity to contest political power.  The Tea Party, a Koch-backed rightwing insurgent, captured the Republican Party in the wake of Obama’s 2008 electoral victory.

Indivisibility seems a replay, but from the left.  It is helping to facilitate “groups taking indivisible action.”  Originally developed by Democrats to mirror Tea Party organizing policies, it is designed to promote local activities preparing for the next Congressional elections.  The group claims that “more than 4,500 local groups have signed up to resist the Trump agenda in nearly every congressional district in the country.”

The post-Inauguration Women’s March and the rage over the executive order banning Muslims illuminate the restiveness shared by many socially-minded Americans as well as their willingness to mobilize for action.  These activists are using the implied “democratizing” power of digital media – the Internet, social media, websites, emails, instant messaging and good-old phone trees — to organize people throughout the country through grassroots campaigns that are bringing out a growing number of Americans in popular actions.

Support for the ACLU and Native Americans at Standing Rock is growing.  Grab Your Wallet, started by Shannon Coulter, has targeted the Trump brand and seems to have contributed to Nordstrom’s decision to drop Ivanka Trump’s product line.  In January, the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United launched the Sanctuary Restaurant project; it notes, “hundreds of restaurant owners, consumers, and workers have joined the movement.”

Another dimension of the push is centered on national politics; it is represented by Sanders-inspired activists seeking to take control of – or, at least, gain more influence in — the Democratic Party was well as those promoting a third party, weather Green, Working Families or Socialist Worker.

On March 8th, the Democratic Party hosted an online meet-up led by the tag-team dynamic duo of Thomas Perez (ex-Sec. of Labor Secretary), backed by the Clinton-Obama “reformist” branch; and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), representing the Sanders or “progressive” wing of the party.

The Sanders campaign has spawned two groups to further his message – Our Revolution and Brand New Congress.  Both seem to be more conventional, inside the Belt Way, centrally-organized groups.  The Progressive reports that, “On the eve of its launch, eight of fifteen [Our Revolution] staffers walked out, protesting the leadership of [Jeff] Weaver, who they say prioritizes raising money from big donors and using television advertising over ground-level organizing.”

Brand New Congress is a political action committee (PAC) that backs a comprehensive “progressive” platform and seeks to run 400-plus candidates in 2018.  Corbin Trent, one of the group’s six “core team” members, says it will require “one of the largest grassroots campaigns in the history of American politics.”  It plans to announce its first 50 candidates in March and a second 50 in May; it insists that it won’t challenge candidates that support its platform.  As of yearend 2016, it had raised $250,000 and is seeking nearly a half-billion dollars — ‘“about double’” Bernie’s stunning $227 million”—to pull off its ambitious goal.

Nationwide insurgent protests are challenging not simply Trump’s policies (and his Congressional Republican handmaidens), but the compromised Democrats.  Mass mobilizations and innumerable local demonstrations are giving way to organizing that could shake-up the bankrupt electoral system.

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David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.

CounterPunch Magazine

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