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What Da F#%k Ever Happened to the Left?

Early on during the Reagan presidency a liberal acquaintance noted that all of the questions had been moved to the right. What did that mean?

First, there was the firing of air traffic controllers that for all intents and purposes marked the beginning of the complete demise of unions. This attack against unions, along with later trade agreements, murdered the working class and part of the middle class in the U.S. Then there was the rebranding of the Vietnam War into a “noble cause.” What followed were the massive tax cuts for the wealthy that continue on as the most egregious reverse kind of welfare agenda. And then, as if the march to the right wasn’t enough for some, there was the ascendancy of the fundamentalist religious right, the attacks against the environment (remember “trees pollute”), and the beginning of the destruction of public schooling whose necessary end was the know nothing  caricature, Betsy DeVos. It was like an unending far-right laundry list that came about because of economic malaise and as a reaction to the hostage situation in Iran.

Reagan’s kowtowing to religious fundamentalists can be seen in the religious right’s base in the Trump administration. His support of religious fundamentalists in Afghanistan had predictable results. It’s a pity that Reagan’s fascination with astrology couldn’t have given the left a head’s up about a Trump administration, but the message was there if the tea leaves were properly read and interpreted. It was sort of an eerie handwriting on the wall.

So, leftists, and even some liberals, were out in the cold, not being able to catch their breaths, sort of like being punched in the stomach full force and not seeing it coming: We still have not be able to catch our collective breath.

Ass-grabber George H.W. Bush moved Reagan’s low-intensity warfare to all-out warfare in the first war in Iraq. Remember the “turkey shoot” from the air of fleeing Iraqi soldiers on their way out of Kuwait? Remember Panama?At least we now know that the elder Bush was schooled in English literature.

Then there was Bill Clinton, another of the Vietnam-era cohort, who made neoliberalism what it is today. Some have called him the first black president. I can almost hear W.E.B. Du Bois laughing out loud about that one! Clinton, another famous personage who had not broken a sweat during the Vietnam War, opened the floodgates of mass incarceration of people of color and grew the prison-industrial complex. He ended welfare-as-we-know-it in a capitalist economy that was outsourcing itself and leaving wage growth and job opportunities behind. And the end of Glass-Steagall was a bald-face betrayal of the moderate New Deal. Nothing was sacred to these folks!

And George W. Bush, Mr. Mission Accomplished, who is now lauded in hurricane relief efforts. Remember Katrina and the assault on civil liberties, and the intelligence failures of 9/11, and the endless wars and torture that arose from that calamity!  Pete Seeger sang that “We elect them again and again.” Some voters, or those whose votes haven’t been suppressed, certainly do.

Barack Obama proved that you can fool lots of people lots of the time. He and his sycophants in Congress, elected on a platform of “hope and change,” allowed masses of people to go down faster than the Titanic in the economic debacle of 2007-2008 that made home ownership and home equity in the U.S. a bad joke for many. Their wink and nod to the military-industrial-financial complex almost certainly had to point the way and coronation of the neofascist Trump.

Those on the left who knew which way the wind blew could not have been too surprised when the neo-Nazis and neofascists finally got to the top of the heap in Washington, D.C. and in state capitols around the nation. The right had been working diligently on it since religious fundamentalists gained traction during the administration of the bumbling Great Communicator. They had even taken over seemingly innocuous positions on school boards across the country.

Now, not only leftists, but the entire planet face mass annihilation because naysayers like the Tea Party and Trump and some of his supporters want to tank the entire show.

Caitlin Johnstone writes in “Why Does The Left Attack Itself” Generations Of Government Psyops,” Greanville Post, October 26, 2017) that CounterPunch is an elitist white boy’s club, addressing one of the many disagreements and infighting that often crop up on the left:

Meanwhile the boy’s club at the acclaimed lefty outlet CounterPunch, who published eight articles about me in July, is now trying to turn their publication into even more of an elitist sausage fest than it already was by going after their own writer Diana Johnstone (no relation).

As a long-time member of the political left, it doesn’t look or feel like I belong to anything remotely resembling an “elitist sausage fest.” The left isn’t going anywhere if it can’t get organized and fight back while it conducts a political food fight. Part of the left’s history is a proven record of snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.

I’m more concerned right now that the left is still dealing with a Democratic Party (which is probably long past any possible redemption) that couldn’t give a damn about progressive issues and politics and ran a neoliberal candidate like Hillary Clinton the last time around and that the power of elite wealth still holds the reins of that party.

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Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

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