“Please Step Away from the Socialism”:  The Red Scare Dems at MSNBC

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

I find Donald Trump reprehensible as a human being, but a socialist candidate is more dangerous to this company, country, as far as the strength and well-being of the country, than Donald Trump.  I would vote for Donald Trump, a despicable human being…I will be so distraught to the point that that could even come out of my mouth, if we have a socialist [Democratic presidential candidate or president] because that will take our country so down, and we are not Denmark.  I love Denmark, but that’s not who we are. And if you love who we are and all the great things that still have to have binders put on the side. Please step away from the socialism.

– Donny Deutsch, advertising executive, “branding and marketing expert,” and regular MSNBC commentator

One of the many amusing things one hears on the American right is the charge that MSNBC is a “far” and radical “leftist” network.

Right, and the North American Meat Institute is a vegan advocacy group.

I’ve watched more of MSNBC than any actual leftist should in recent months.  If there’s anything good to result from this bad habit it is that I am thoroughly inoculated against the notion that the network is anywhere close to my side of things.

One day last week while making dinner, I had MSNBC on in the background. The network’s egomaniacal Ted Baxter-like anchor Chris Matthews had just finished discussing the late breaking news that Donald Trump is a liar. After a long break for drug commercials and some reflections on Ivanka Trump’s security clearance, the Kennedy family super-fan Matthews (who regularly uses his cable news perch to hawk his silly books on the unmatched eminence of the Kennedys) turned to the greatness of capitalism, or “the market.”

Matthews was concerned about the popularity of socialism among Democratic voters, young ones especially. How, Matthews wanted to know, do American socialism fans think they get all the good things they enjoy in America? They get them from “the market, from capitalism,” Matthews said. When one of his panelists, Howard Fineman, interjected to note that “a lot of Millennials feel screwed over by the marketplace,” Matthews shut him down.  Mathews screwed up his face and scoffed about the childish idiocy of mere feelings.

Chris Matthews is about as leftist as the commercials MSNBC runs for BDO Global, a consulting firm that help multinational corporations and investors skirt regulations and avoid taxes. He’s aboutas leftist as morning MSNBC anchor Stephanie “Wall Street is my Favorite Place” Ruhle, a former leading global derivatives seller and hedge fund marketer who feigns concern for the working-class while inhabiting a $7.5 million townhouse on the Upper East Side.

Then there’s David Gura. The longtime business journalist and former N“P”R “Marketplace” host has a Sunday morning MSNBC roundtable show called “Up with David Gura.”  It’s a real downer if you are on the actual Left.

Last Sunday, Gura had a nicely race-and gender-balanced team of commentators on to express their belief that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is an anti-Semitic trope-monger (a ludicrous smear) and to announce their faith in the unsurpassable excellence of capitalism. Socialism is not the way to go, panel and host agreed. Gura smiled while his one white-male guest proclaimed that “we’re all capitalists” because we all bathe in the bourgeois system’s benevolent bounty even if we don’t own capital. We’ll have to share that news with the 78% of U.S. workers who live from paycheck to paycheck.

Gura’s Up with Capitalism segment was sparked by something that had taken place earlier in the week on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show. MSDNC’s weekday early AM co-host “Morning Joe” Scarborough had interviewed the Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper, a former Colorado governor and a wealthy brewery owner who raised eyebrows when he failed to answer affirmatively after Scarborough asked him if he was “a capitalist.” Scarborough subsequently used his “radical leftist” network to claim that “the Democratic Party is in crisis” because of its Bernie Sanders- and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-driven “socialism.” As Scarborough explained:

“Trump is going to devour every one of these [Democratic] candidates if they can’t say they support capitalism… Yes, capitalism has to be reformed from time to time to work for all Americans. But, my God, if you’re afraid to say you are a capitalistin America, I’m just gonna tell you, people on the left Tweeting today may not like it, but let me let you in on a little secret, that is a crisis for your party.  You’re gonna lose in 2020.  I mean just pull up the stakes on the tent and pack her up. The party’s over.”

As Moan’n Joe Scarecrow shared this urgent red distress signal, warning, MSNBC “expert” guest and “Branding & Marketing Expert” Donny Deutsch – nodded and shook his head in dire approval. A silver-spooned advertising executive with a net worth over $200 million, the MSNBC commentator Deutsch weighed in on a split screen:

“[The Democrats are] gonna lose in a landslide [unless they grant proper fealty to capitalism].  Joe, I’m gonna take it one step further, because this is how dangerous socialism is. I find Donald Trump reprehensible as a human being, but a socialist candidate is more dangerous to this company, country, as far as the strength and well-being of the country, than Donald Trump.  I would vote for Donald Trump, a despicable human being…I will be so distraught to the point that that could even come out of my mouth, if we have a socialist…because that will take our country so down, and we are not Denmark.  I love Denmark, but that’s not who we are. And if you love who we are and all the great things that still have to have binders put on the side. Please step away from the socialism.”

How perfect and yet preposterous was that? As I’ve been saying for years, the dismal dollar-drenched corporate Democrats prefer losing to the right, even a creeping fascist white-nationalist right, over losing to the left, even the mildly progressive social-democratic left, in their own party!

The “liberal” Deutsch, who has likened Trump voters to Nazis, actually voiced readiness to vote for the orange fascist Trump over anyone who tries to make America more like Denmark.

Deutsch actually asked Democratic voters “step away from the socialism.”  And, for some frosting on the plutocratic cake, Donny had to correct himself from calling “our country” a “company”!

I won’t pretend to fully understand the meaning of the convoluted phrase “all the great things that still have to have binders put on the side.”  It seems mean that capitalism has some down-sides, but these are minor and therefore belong in separate files, apart from serious discussion.

How’s that for hard-core radical leftismover at MSNBC (short for “More Sneering Neoliberal Bourgeois Crap”?). Order your bourgeois moral and ideological binders – and or blinders– now. Ask for the double-D (for Donny Deutsch) model.

MSNBC is the corporate Democrats’ progressive-neoliberal network every bit as much as FOX News is the Republicans’ white-national state television station. That’s why many of us on the (and I suppose the right) often call it MSDNC Perhaps we should call the Democrats the Six D party: the dismal, dollar-drenched Donny Deutsch Dems.

One of the funny things about Scarborough’s Sanders-scare is that “reform[ing] capitalism” is pretty much what the “socialist” Bernie Sanders is trying to do. Bernie, for better or worse, is a neo-New Dealer.  He’s a very pale reflection of his purported hero Eugene Debs. Sanders wants to smooth over U.S. capitalism’s worst rough edges with progressive-populist reforms like Medicare for All, seriously progressive taxation, major financial regulation, a significantly increased minimum wage, and green jobs programs.

The Vermont senator is not calling for workers’ control, public ownership of the means of production, or the nationalization of America’s leading arch-parasitic financial institutions. He has yet to join serious radicals in calling for the dismantlement of the gigantic Pentagon System, which eats up more than half of U.S. federal discretionary spending and accounts for 40 percent of the world’s military expenditure. How he expects to pay for Scandinavian-style social democracy without joining actual leftists in calling for the end of the U.S. war machine – itself a giant public subsidy to high-tech corporations like Raytheon, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin – is anybody’s guess.

“We are not Denmark,” says Donny Deutsch. Too bad for us!  Denmark is the happiest nation on the planet,thanks to the strong social safety net and the egalitarian ethos that pervades its society and politics.  The United States, by contrast, is a pervasively miserable, insecure, soulless, commercialized, victim-blaming, violent, divided, and unequal nation where:

+ The top thousandth (the 0.1 percent, not just the 1 Percent) possesses more wealth than the bottom U.S. 90 percent and three absurdly rich U.S.-Americans – Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett – possess more wealth between them than the bottom half of the country.

+ The nation’s 540 billionaires enjoy lives of unimaginable opulence while 15 million children – 21% of all U.S. children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold, a measurement that has been shown to be drastically below the minimally adequate family budgets families require to meet basic expenses.

+ “Government policy,” as two leading political scientists have demonstrated, “reflects the wishes of those with money, not the wishes of the millions of ordinary citizens who turn out every two years to choose among the preapproved, money-vetted candidates for federal office.”

+ Economic power is so concentrated you can count on one hand and one finger the multi-trillion-dollar financial institutions that control the nation’s economic and political life: Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley.

+  a third of workers make less than $12 an hour ($24,960 a year assuming full-time work) and 42% get less than $15 ($31,200 a year) and  7 million people are three months or more behind on their par payments.

+ Six corporations – Comcast, FOX, Disney, Viacom, CBS, and AT&T – together own more than half of U.S. print, film and electronic media while three Internet giants Google, Facebook, and Amazon rule online communication and shopping.

+ Black median household wealth is equal to 8 cents on the white median household wealth dollar.

+ One in every 10 Black men is in prison or jail on any given day and 1 in 3 Black adult males are saddled with the permanent crippling mark of a felony record.

+ 30,000-40,000 people die from gun violence each year.

+ life expectancy ranks 12th among the 12 wealthiest industrialized countries even though the U.S. has the most expensive health care system in the world

+ 58% of the population is obese.

+ Expensive but very unequally funded schools deliver terrible outcomes.

+ Depression, anxiety, and drug abuse rates rank in the top three among the world’s nations.

All of this is emblematic and symptomatic of the 500-year old class-rule system known as capitalism, recently and accurately called “irredeemable” by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). It comes courtesy of Joe Scarborough, Donny Deutsch, David Gura, and Chris Matthews’ beloved social order, a system based on private ownership and control of the means of production, finance and distribution.  It’s a  system that has always been and continues to be characterized by the systematic extraction of surplus value from working people and recurrent tendencies towards the concentration of wealth and hence power.

And guess what? Everything listed above isn’t even the worst outcome of holy capitalism. The profits system’s most horrific consequence, intimately related to all its other ones, is the generation of an epic environmental catastrophe that has emerged as the single biggest issue of our or any time. (Which doesn’t stop MSNBC from giving it massively less attention than the network grants to the endless Russia Gate story).

It’s not for nothing that 57% of U.S. Democrats now prefer “socialism” to “capitalism.” Millions of Americans, younger adults especially, know very well that irredeemable (thank you AOC) capitalism lay at the ugly class-ruled taproot of the existential nightmare that American and indeed planetary life has become for so many.  That’s something for MSNBC hosts and “experts” not to reflect upon as they fake-knowingly instruct young people and the Democratic base to get on board with the supposedly sacred but frankly democracy-disabling and eco-exterminist profits system. You can bet that the percentage of Americans who prefer socialism to capitalism is more like two-thirds when it comes to Millennial Democrats.  Young people would right to look at the poisoned and unjust world being handed off to them by de facto corporate spokespersons and real or wannabe oligarchs like Chris Matthews, Donny Deutsch, Joe Scarborough, and to say, “up yours, capitalist shitheads.”

Help Street keep writing here.

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