Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times

Photo by Jamelle Bouie | CC BY 2.0

Beneath the endless madness of the Today in Tangerine Satan (TITS) show, aided and abetted by the Radically Regressive and Reactionary Republicans (the R4 Party), it’s easy to forget that the Inauthentic Opposition Party (IOP, also known as the Democratic Party) installed the malignant presidential apprentice in the White House in the first place. The deplorable, dollar-drenched Democrats (the 4D party) seated moronic mogul Donald Trump in the Oval Office in at least ten key ways:

1. By governing in accord with the wishes of the wealthy Few under the neoliberal, fake-progressive Goldman Sachs-and Citibank-captive Barack Obama. The demoralized and demobilized the majority-progressive working-class base on which the Democrats depended to win the 2016 election.

2. By neglecting their party’s financial and organizational needs beyond holding the presidency. This helped the Republicans wield unchecked power in the states, where critical electoral procedures and practices are set. The related bankrupting of the Democratic Party under Obama is part of why the Democratic National Committee was essentially owned by the noxious neoliberal Hillary Clinton campaign before the first presidential caucus and primary in Iowa and New Hampshire.

3. By continuing the disastrous U.S.-led “Global War on [of] Terror” (replete with disastrous regime change in Libya) across the Middle East and North Africa. This fueled Islamist jihadism and a refugee crisis, both of which the racist Islamophobe and torture advocate Trump easily exploited on the campaign trail.

4. By insulting the nation’s rural and industrial and ex-industrial “heartland,” accusing it of cultural backwardness (“clinging to guns and religion” in Obama’s words) and horrific racism and sexism (“a basket of deplorables,” said Hillary Clinton in the summer of 2016). This was easily exploited by Trump in key battleground states in the 2016 election. As historian Nancy Fraser noted after Trump was elected, the corporate Democrats joined outwardly progressive forces like feminism, antiracism, multiculturalism, and LGBTQ rights to “financial capitalism,” imparting liberal “charisma” and “gloss” to “policies that have devastated manufacturing and what were once middle-class lives.” While trumpeting liberal ideals like diversity and empowerment, the dismal demobilizing dollar Dems “b[ore] …heavy responsibility for the weakening of unions, the decline of real wages, the increasing precarity of work, and the rise of the two-earner family in the place of the defunct family wage.” To make matters worse, the IOP “compounded” the “injury of deindustrialization” with “the insult of progressive moralism,” which rips “heartland” whites as culturally retrograde and yet privileged by the simple fact of the color of their skin. This was rich material for Trump to exploit in ugly white-nationalist ways.

5. By rigging the 2016 Democratic primaries against the genuinely progressive Democrat Bernie Sanders, who would have defeated Trump by running in accord with anti-establishment majority-progressive and left-of-center public opinion. Trump’s fake and reactionary populism would not have withstood the more authentically populist middle- and working-class opposition it got from Sanders. Thanks to the Great Recession and the neoliberal trajectory of the Obama administration, 2016 was an anti-establishment election in which the Democrats should have run a more genuinely anti-establishment candidate like Sanders – not a quintessential corporate, financial, and Washington insider like Hillary. The Clintonites criminally deep-sixed Sanders’ primary campaign in advance and then ran a wooden Wall Street general election candidate who lacked the charisma required (on the models of Bill Clinton in 1992 and Barack Obama in 2008) to cloak neoliberal corporatism (and arch-imperialism) in a convincing progressive veneer.

6. By Obama failing to use his bully pulpit to call out Birther Trump on his vicious racism and to thereby nip the poisonous Trump phenomenon in advance. Obama produced his birth certificate and (in a famous roast at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner) made clever fun of Trump’s clownish reality television career, but the nation’s first technically Black POTUS never exposed Trump as a full-on racist. That was a mistake.

7. By promoting primary candidate Trump, who Clinton strategists wanted to face instead of the establishment Republicans Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in the 2016 election. The Clinton campaign’s desire to promote the “Pied Piper” Trump was mirrored by their friends in corporate cable and network news, where “liberal” producers and reporters gave wildly outsized free media time to Orange Caligula. This helped birth the very Trumpenstein that CNN and MSNBC have been trying to take down for the last fifteen months. That same media downplayed the progressive Sanders phenomenon, giving his overflow rallies scant attention compared to the broadcast windfall heaped on Orange Hulk’s every ghastly Tweet, video, and facial expression.

8. By embracing and advancing neoliberal “small government” and “free market” ideology – an ideology that Trump exploited with his anti-Washington, anti-big government campaign, according to which only a billionaire like him could “drain the swamp.” Captive to that ideology, the wealth- and power-serving Obama presidency helped fuel the working-and middle-class insecurity and anger that Trump was able to misdirect and exploit by scapegoating brown immigrants, Black criminals, Chinese imports, and environmentalists – and by claiming he would “Make America Great Again” and honor its forgotten working-class by restoring U.S. manufacturing.

9. By making monumental unforced errors in the 2016 general election, like getting recorded telling wealthy donors that half of Trump’s supporters were a “basket of deplorables” and failing to set foot in Wisconsin after the Democratic National Convention.

10. By running a sociopathic (see Hillary’s chilling, Halloween-like “We came, we saw, he died” Gadhafi moment here) warmonger for president. Hillary voted as a U.S. Senator for George W. Bush’s arch-criminal invasion of Iraq. She used her position as Secretary of State lead the charge both for a disastrous, mass-murderous regime-change operation in Libya and for the U.S. escalation of colossal human suffering in Syria (and, by the way, to help install a right-wing coup regime in Honduras).

What happened?

The “vacuous to repressive neoliberal” (left political scientist Adolph Reed, Jr’s dead-on January 1996 description of the future first Black president) Obama happened.

The “lying neoliberal warmonger” (Reed’s dead-on summer 2016 description of the woman many of us thought was a lock to become the nation’s first female president) Hillary Clinton happened.

The dreadful Democrats and the corporate media oligopoly happened.

Since Trump’s historic election, Obama and Hillary have given us revealing reminders of why the Awful One sits in the Oval Office. The former Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) champion and newly wealthy first Black ex-president Obama has been spotted cavorting on yachts with billionaires. He’s been gleefully cashing in on his eight years of silver-tongued service to the global capitalist elite. This sordid, oligarchic victory lap is richly consistent with the left critique of Obama as a willing agent of the New Gilded Age.

Hillary (who was forced against her globalist instincts to pretend to oppose the TPP in 2016) recently went to India to double down on her “progressive neoliberal” contempt for stupid middle America by saying this:

“If you look at the map of the United States, there’s all that red in the middle where Trump won. I win the coasts. But what the map doesn’t show you is that I won the places that represent two-thirds of America’s gross domestic product (GDP). So I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward” (emphasis added).

That was Hillary Goldman Sachs-Council on Foreign Relations Clinton saying “fuck you very much” to working- and middle-class people in Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Indiana, and West Virginia. It was a raised middle finger from a super-wealthy arch-global-corporatist to all the supposedly pessimistic, slow-witted. retrograde losers stuck between those glorious enclaves (led by Wall Street, Yale, and Harvard on the East coast and Silicon Valley and Hollywood on the West coast) of human progress and variety (and GDP!) on the imperial shorelines.

Wow. Call it “Deplorables II.: The Wall Street Witch Strikes Again!” Trump is not the only U.S. political figure with an impulse-control problem that poses difficulties for major party operatives. Senate Minority Leader Dick Durbin had to go on television to say that Hillary was “wrong” to write off most of the nation as a festering cesspool of pathetic, ass-backwards, lottery-playing, opioid-addicted white-trash has-beens.

It’s hard for the Inauthentic Opposition Party to pose as an authentic opposition party when its’ last big-money presidential candidate goes off-fake-progressive script with an openly elitist rant like that!

Meanwhile, under the cover of RussiaGate, the Neoliberal Democrats seem content to continue tilting to the center, purging Sanders-style Democrats from the party’s leadership and citing the party’s special election victories (Doug Jones and Conor Lamb) against deeply flawed and Trump-backed Republicans (Roy Moore and Rick Saccone) in two bright-red voting districts (the state of Alabama and a fading Western Pennsylvania Congressional canton) as proof that tepid neoliberal centrism is still the winning way to go, even after HRC’s stunning defeat. Tweaked and done right, the D4 party’s permanently Podestatized political class hopes, the centrist tack can draw new turnout strength from the lived awfulness of an actual Trump presidency as opposed to just the supposedly small (wrong) threat of “Pied Piper” Trump becoming president in 2016.

Along the way, the IOP’s candidate roster is now loaded with an extraordinary number of contenders with U.S. military and intelligence backgrounds, consistent with the Congressional Democrats continuing to vote for giving massive “defense” (empire) and surveillance-state taxpayer outlays to a president they consider (accurately enough) unbalanced and dangerous. The trick, they think, is to run Navy SEALS, GOTW vets, and CIA interrogators. No more little Yuppie punks like John Osoff punks: it’s time to run red-blooded men and women of imperial conquest like Conor Lamb.  (“Ossoff claimed to have made videos for the State Department and the spooks… not the same though,” writes Bruce Dix`on). It’s to militaristically man-up.

At the current level of abject absurdity created in no small by the imperial Dems, supposedly left-wing U.S.-Americans now consider the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to be a great popular champion. That’s right, the FBI, longstanding and ongoing enemy of popular organization and protest for social justice, democracy, civil rights, peace, and environmental sanity.  The FBI that carried out COINTELPRO, hounded Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., infiltrated the Black Power, Native American, and anti-war movements, the one that surveils Black Lives Matter and anti-pipeline activists.

Maybe instead of running silly old Joe Biden (who recently proclaimed that he would have kicked Trump’s ass in high school – that’s telling-em, Joe-boy!), the Democrats should run Michael Avenatti and Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) in 2020. (Avenatti and Daniels could run against the R4 and 4D parties as the leaders of the 36DD Party).

These may finally be the folks who have really figured out how to screw Donald Trump in a reality television political culture. They are the Authentic Opposition now, inauthentically speaking. They’re beating David Dennison at his own sordid game.

Rachel Maddow’s RussiaGate timelines and charts are nothing compared to Stormy Daniels’ lascivious revelations in this Huxleyan state.

A final observation on a more serious note. Please observe the habitual “mainstream” media references to the Tangerine Satan (and to right-wing neo-fascist parties in Europe) as “populist.” This is meant, I think, to smear the real and left-leaning thing that is actual economic and political populism.

Yes, some smart left thinkers will remind you that the left has no monopoly on populism – that there’s reactionary white nationalist populism and there’s progressive left working-class populism. I get that. Point taken. But don’t look for that distinction to be made in the “mainstream” media. They just say “populism.” They don’t differential between reactionary populism and egalitarian populism. That’s on purpose and it’s cynical as Hell.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).