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Democrats, How Do I Hate Thee?

Photograph Source: Sharon Hahn Darlin – CC BY 2.0

How do I hate thee? Counting the ways would be a fool’s errand; there are too many ways.

They have to do with your hypocrisy, cowardice, and servility. Circumstances change, but these traits have been constant themes in Democratic Party politics seemingly from time immemorial.

They have become particularly salient since the late seventies, when the party began to make neoliberal ideology its watchword, effectively shedding its left flank. Although Bill and Hillary were late on the scene, I call the phenomenon the party’s Clintonite turn. They were the ones who consummated the deal.

Since deeply entrenched institutional arrangements militate against third parties, the “love it or leave it” option” is basically a non-starter for anyone aspiring to create an authentic, non-marginalized Left opposition, much less actually to empower one. For now and the foreseeable future, it is the Democratic Party or zilch.

Our best hope therefore is that that genuine progressives already in place, and others that will be elected next year, will succeed in transforming that god-awful party from within.

This lays an enormous responsibility upon the shoulders of the “squad,” that gang of four women “of color” that Donald Trump and House and Senate Republicans want to send back to from where they came. They don’t mean, for example in AOC’s case, the Bronx.

Having come to Washington thanks to the anti-Trump surge in the 2018 midterm elections, the squad could well become the vanguard of changes ahead.

With the possible exceptions of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, the candidates for the Democratic nomination for president are useless for that, though some of them seem more than capable of playing useful roles in their present positions or in future progressive governments.

Republican kakistocrats and Trump want the squad gone – “kakistocracy” means rule of the worst; I apologize for the redundancy. The Democratic Party leadership and mainstream aren’t too thrilled with them either.

Their problem with them is that they realize that the squad has the courage, intelligence, and charisma to launch a genuine resistance, not just to Trump and his minions, but to corporate Democrats as well.

However, there is no guarantee that even they can be counted on always to do the right thing.

Already one of them, Ayanna Pressley, disgraced herself by voting for an AIPAC and CUFI, Christians United for Israel, backed anti-BDS resolution, supposedly for the sake of her Jewish constituents in Massachusetts whom, she says, mostly favor a “two-state solution” to what we might call the Palestine Question.

At least she made an effort to justify herself. Too bad for her efforts, though, that, by colonizing so much of the land Israel conquered in 1967, successive Israeli governments have made a two state solution impossible. Thus Pressley’s position on BDS defies justification.

Nevertheless, what she did was not so awful that she could not still redeem herself, especially if her idea was only to live to fight another day. However that may be, there is every reason still to trust AOC, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar. Pressley took the bloom off the rose. In doing so, she has no doubt made the party’s leadership happy. May their happiness be short-lived!

The sad fact is, though, that, with only rare exceptions, Democrats turn into invertebrates when issues pertaining to Palestine arise. Pressley was merely following suit.

This is shameful but, at this point, the “progressive on all but Palestine” phenomenon is so widespread, and so little challenged in mainstream political circles, that, of all the reasons to hate the Democratic Party, that one, the one that led Pressley astray, ranks low on my list.

“Russiagate,” as it used to be called, ranks very high. Because it makes the Democrats’ hypocrisy, pusillanimity, and servility readily apparent, and because it could lead to the end of life on earth “as we know it,” I will focus on it.

Until quite recently, Russiagate was Topic A for the party’s corporate media flacks. Then suddenly, G-Man Mueller’s much anticipated report turned out to be a dud, not so much because of its content – he provided reasons sufficient for impeaching the bastard twenty times over – but because Trump and his minions were able to spin it into a mendacious, Trump exonerating narrative. With Mueller’s implicit acquiescence, Trump’s de facto personal lawyer, Attorney General William Barr, along with other public relations operatives in Trump’s ambit, saw to that.

Thus Democrats who had spent months building Mueller up into the country’s savior got what they deserved. Even if they hadn’t been played, what did they expect from an unrepentant, pro-Vietnam War marine, a prosecutor, and a pillar of the FBI establishment! It serves them right.

And what a disgusting episode that long anticipated Mueller hearing was with Democrats unctuously thanking the man “for his service” — to what? certainly not to anything real progressives wouldn’t abhor — while Republicans, gave free rein to their inner Stalinist, turning the poor man into an un-person , despite his decades of loyal service.

In the purge trials of the mid-thirties, and then in the period between the end of the Second World War and Stalin’s death, Stalin’s prosecutors made “enemies of the people” out of the Bolsheviks who actually made the Revolution. I couldn’t help thinking of them, during the Mueller hearing, while watching the pathetic John Ratcliffe audition for Dan Coats’ job as Director of National Intelligence.

No one speaks of Russiagate anymore; the word has fallen into almost complete disuse. Trump can thank William Barr’s spin doctoring skills for that. Nevertheless, the basic idea survives; Democrats and their media flacks won’t let it die.

CNN and MSNBC have even put hordes of “national security” experts, former prosecutors, and superannuated military and intelligence agents on their payrolls to keep stoking the flames. They are preparing Russiagate G2.

***

To avoid likely misunderstandings, there are some fairly obvious points that I should make explicit. Among them, that, in my view, Republicans are worse than Democrats by many orders of magnitude; that the Nazis and other hard-core fascists of the interwar years were, for the most part, worse than today’s Republicans; that Israel is not the only, nor even the worst, malefactor in the region; and that Russia is no prize, and Vladimir Putin no saint.

I would add too that, while I dread the prospect, I would vote for a “moderate” Democrat, even one as ridiculous as Joe Biden, if it would help rid the body politic of Donald Trump, and that I would urge others to do the same, notwithstanding the vital importance of going after not just Trump and Trumpians, but also the conditions for their possibility.

My case against the “moderates” is that they think that the way to rid the world of Trump and Trumpism is just the opposite; they think that, for the sake of “electability,” Democrats should retain or restore the world that made Trump possible. I think they are dead wrong on that; that the bold, not the wimpy, shall inherit the earth.

Finally, I would say that while Democratic Party unity is likely to do more good than harm in 2020, it is, in my view, justifiable only at a tactical level.

If and when opportunities arise to establish a non-marginal, genuinely left alternative to the duopoly parties, that opportunity should be seized, even if there is no realistic chance of winning over a plurality of the electorate, much less a majority in the Electoral College.

Securing a united front against Trumpism or any other fascistic, anti-liberal democratic threat would of course take precedence over this longer-term strategic goal, but not much else should.

I believe, by the way, that there was an opportunity to take such a leap forward in the year 2000, before 9/11 and therefore before the Bush-Cheney war on terror – and, concomitantly, on civil liberties – back in the salad days when Al Gore and George W. Bush were the duopoly’s Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dumber.

Then, the liberals chickened out. Part of the problem was that they didn’t hate Bill Clinton – and therefore his Vice President – enough, not nearly to the extent that the “conservatives” did.

I thought that there was an even better chance in 2016, once it became clear to everyone this side of Chelsea that the system was rigged against Bernie Sanders and for the benefit of Chelsea’s mom.

I thought that the party could be split – moderates and blue dogs on one side, genuine leftists on the other – without putting Trump in the Oval Office. I thought that, running against Trump, even Clinton couldn’t lose.

We now know that, in fact, she couldn’t win. Had that been generally understood before the election, splitting the Democratic Party would have had no downside. But, of course, this could not have been known in advance; even in retrospect it remains hard to believe.

Sanders was faulted for supporting Clinton once it became clear that the nomination process was rigged against him. That still leaves a bad taste. Nevertheless, in retrospect, it turn out that he was right.

Had he led his supporters into, say, the Green Party, or decided to launch an independent campaign, he would have been blamed for Trump a hundred times more viciously than Ralph Nader was, and sometimes still is, blamed for our second worst president in modern times, Bush 43.

Let us hope that whenever the next opportunity to break free from the duopoly’s hold arises again, the options will be clearer and less risky.

Meanwhile, the thing to do is to take the path of least resistance by doing all we can to change the party radically from within, as the squad (with or without Ayanna Pressley) is trying to do.

The path of least resistance was Obama’s way. It didn’t exactly work out well with him, but he came onto the scene already compromised by what Sanders calls “the donor class.” Not so the four Congresswomen Trump would have go back to “where they came from.”

***

To hear them tell it on MSNBC and nearly everywhere else where the Democratic Party’s narratives are fabricated and disseminated, pesky Russians attacked the United States in the months leading up to the 2016 election.

According to Robert Mueller, straight shooter extraordinaire and Great White Hope, they are hard at it again. No matter that their ostensibly secret skullduggery has been exposed; 2016, was just a dry run for 2020, and Congress is powerless in the face of Russia’s nefarious schemes.

Indeed, under the protection of Trump and Moscow Mitch (McConnell), it is now full steam ahead for them. Those Russians have become so emboldened that they meddle right before our eyes.

Thus America, they tell us, is in the throes of an unprecedented assault. No one, not even Rachel Maddow, has yet suggested that when the tanks clear out and the bombing subsides, skeptics like me should step outside to see the Cossacks watering their horses on the banks of the Potomac. That could still happen, however; corporate America’s perfervid warmongers are that out of control.

If this way of putting the point seems a tad over the top, it is only because cyber wars aren’t as visible as shooting wars; they can sometimes even be invisible. They are also, almost always, kinder and gentler. Nevertheless, thanks to Trump’s treachery, the United States is at war. Thus spoke MSNBC.

Rest assured, though, that for the next year and a half, we will still have Trump to kick around. When impeachment is the issue, as it is now and as it was when she was Speaker before in 2006, Nancy Pelosi is the very Queen of Quiescence. If her caucus and the base they misrepresent are restless, she will talk up a storm. But she will see to it that talk is all there is; that nothing substantive changes.

The gist of the talk, this time around, it is that “they” – the Russians, the Iranians, the Chinese, perhaps also other unfavored nations and non-state actors – want to undermine our democracy.

This is George W’s contention that “they” – Al-Qaeda or perhaps militant Islamists generally – ran planes into the Pentagon and World Trade Center because “they hate our democracy” all over again. Great minds think alike.

What democracy? The question is particularly pertinent where Russiagate is concerned because democracy is not just about elections. But even if we focus only on that, the problem still arises because being confident about the accuracy of vote counts is only part of the story.

For elections to be free and fair, there must be some semblance of equal political influence. Our “founders” made sure that there would not be much of that at the inter-state level; they accorded citizens of small states far more influence over legislation at the national level than citizens of big states.

Then by depicting political corruption as Constitutionally protected free speech, our jurists have seen to it that money, not collective deliberation and debate, determines electoral outcomes.

Thus our elections can be and often are bought, and our legislators bought and paid for.

And yet, we are told, that all is fine except that Russians and others can hack into our voting systems, and place posts on social media platforms like Facebook.

I used to think that while these are indeed major problems, that Russians weren’t the perpetrators; that Republicans in charge of voting systems at the state level are the ones with a lot to answer for. They do indeed, as much as ever, but now it seems that there is also reliable evidence of invidious postings in social media for which Russians connected to oligarchs and the Kremlin are at fault.

Indeed, it is now claimed that voting systems in all fifty states have been compromised. G-men are the ones making the charge, but maybe they are right. We can no longer count on their mendacity as confidently as before.

But whatever happened to proportionality? Democrats do speak out against GOP voter suppression – how could they not when it is Democratic votes that get suppressed? But it is Russian hacking that gets their blood boiling.

It is the same with any and all other efforts to affect electoral outcomes in non-democratic ways, provided that the perpetrators are Americans. Nine times out of ten, it is Republicans that are gaming the system or outright violating its rules. Democrats just wring their hands and take it.

How do I hate thee indeed!

The fact is that we Americans don’t need Russians to undermine our democracy or, for that matter, to raise questions about the legitimacy of the outcomes of our elections. We are quite capable of doing all that and more by ourselves.

We do it with panache; indeed, when it comes to hypocrisy, nobody does it better.

Republicans are more imbecilic, more corrupt, and more vile; they are past masters of all the Trumpian virtues. But when it comes to hypocrisy, they don’t hold a candle to the Democrats.

There should be a prize for anyone who can think of an election since World War II, where the outcome was likely not to accord with the interests of the American ruling class, in which the United States did not meddle; and an even bigger prize for anyone who can think of a moment, either before or after the Soviet Union imploded, in which the United States did not do all that it could to insinuate itself into the affairs of Russia and the other former Soviet republics, and, even now, with the Warsaw Pact finished and NATO in its place, with Russia’s former “satellite” nations.

Clearly, the military industrial complex never quite gave up on the Cold War, even after the Soviet Union was gone. It was a cash cow for them and for American capitalism generally. Moreover, it gave our military a worthy enemy.

In the old days, the Cold War could be construed as a clash of political economic systems, capitalism versus communism. It was to some extent, though one has to wonder whether, in the future, historians will see it in quite that light.

More likely, they will see the original Cold War and the one we are now in as more alike than not – because what made it necessary after World War II was what is making it necessary again now: the economic and political need for a moral, or at least not too lethal, equivalent of a bona fide shooting war.

In any case, what we have now is plainly not a clash of political economic systems but an inter-capitalist rivalry of the kind that structured relations between European states before World War I and American-Japanese relations before Pearl Harbor.

The problem, though, is that Russia really is not much of a capitalist rival. Measured by GDP, its economy is smaller than, among others, Italy’s, Canada’s, and South Korea’s.

But Democrats, looking to excuse their failures in 2016 and also to energize themselves by reanimating long dormant Cold War animosities don’t care.

And, as it happened, because the United States and NATO, spurred on by Clintonite neocons and liberal imperialists, meddled a bit too far, essentially fomenting a civil war in Ukraine, they all but forced Russia to provide them with a pretext for further vilifying Russia and its leader.

And so, we are told: the evil Putin wants to destroy our “democracy.” Don’t ask why; he just does – it’s his nature. Of course, were Democrats less base and servile, they would be telling precisely the opposite story: that what Russia wants if for our “democracy” to stop destroying them.

But never mind: Russia cannot be forgiven for not remaining as abject as it was in the Yeltsin years, when, with American assistance, its elites forsook Communism for an especially vicious and cruel, kleptocratically inflected, form of capitalism.

Because they finally had had enough of that, and, to Washington’s displeasure, set about to restore the well-being of ordinary Russians, their ninety-nine percent, and to boost their country’s self-respect, they can be forgiven nothing; while, as if to illustrate the meaning of hypocrisy, the Israelis, whose behavior in the world is a whole lot worse, can get away with just about anything at all.

Surely, it might occur to a MSNBC or CNN pundit, or to a columnist in our “quality press,” to ask why it is that, if meddling in our elections is such a no no, Israel gets carte blanche to meddle all it wants in almost every facet of our political life?

Because it benefits from the inordinate influence exercised by well-organized and well-funded Zionist and Evangelical lobbies, it hardly even needs to meddle in the ways that Russia supposedly does.

No one in corporate media dares call those lobbies or the people who work in them agents of a foreign government, though that is plainly what they are. Their job is to keep Congress and the White House under control and on a short leash. They don’t always succeed, but they do more often than not.

Trump has been a godsend for them. He gives them what they want; they don’t even have to ask.

At the risk of sounding too much like Hillary Clinton, it would be fair to see them as part of “a vast rightwing conspiracy.”

The Jewish Zionist lobby has moved far to the right in recent decades, as modern secular Jews are increasingly losing interest in Israel as a focal point around which to forge a political identity. There are many reasons why this is happening.

Chief among them is the inevitability of assimilation into the cultural mainstream as historical memories of persecution fade, and as genuine anti-Semitism, as distinct from anti-Zionism, all but disappears.

This is why, for dedicated Zionists, if Trump did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.

Now that it is well established, cultural Zionism could survive without anti-Semitism; the modern Hebrew language and its literature could flourish, and “the holy land” could remain a point of spiritual reference for those for whom such things matter.

But, without anti-Semitism, support for a political movement centered around a Jewish state would likely wither away for want of a sufficient reason for being. Hence a need for Trump or someone like him to overturn the rocks under which “good people” – there are “good people on both sides,” after all – who had been keeping out of sight, could crawl out chanting “Jews will not replace us.”

Some seven decades after the Nazi Judeocide, it was becoming harder year-by-year to use Nazism to “prove” that anti-Semitism would always be with us – that it is an inexorable and potentially lethal fact of the human condition. The idea that only a Jewish state could protect against it had come to seem even more far-fetched inasmuch as, for many years, the only Jews killed for being Jewish were either in Israel or, like the Olympic athletes in Munich, connected to it.

Then as memories, mostly fabricated, of the virtues of Israel’s Herrenvolk democracy — its democracy for Jews but not so much for its Palestinian citizens, and not at all, for Palestinians living in exile or under Israeli occupation — of its generous and collectivist ethos, fade, and as Jewish Israeli civil society coarsens under the strain of occupation and the temptations of capitalist consumerism, the Zionist project, which would replace the God of Judaism, a dead God outside orthodox circles, with the idol of an ethnocratic nation state, was becoming increasingly difficult to sustain.

The obviousness of Israel’s deleterious effects on Middle Eastern and world politics hasn’t helped either, and neither has mounting revulsion at Israel’s illegal occupation of the occupied territories and the Gaza strip.

Rightwing Zionists like Sheldon Adelson and others of his ilk are still at it, of course; they want to make Israel great again. When they need to, which they seldom do, they can buy support in Congress and the White House. But they can hardly revive the enthusiasms of younger Americans, especially, to their horror, Jewish Americans, for whom Israel is now more of an embarrassment than a refuge. Mainstream Democrats will be among the last to know.

And so, they will keep on cutting Israel slack. If Putin deserves all the calumny Democrats can muster, which he pretty much does, Netanyahu deserves more. But he won’t be getting any of that from them.

Neither will he get any of it from Trump, not so much out of Trump’s fondness for his daughter’s in-laws or his own for former real estate cronies, but because he knows that to keep his con going, he needs the support of godly folk willing, even eager, to forgive his trespasses, in return for troglodyte judges and slavish pandering to their other benighted concerns.

Recall Trump’s rant against the squad. They are first of all “unpatriotic” for not wanting “to make America great again.” But worse, or just as bad, they are not Zionists. Two of them especially, Tlaib and Oman, have been openly critical of the Israeli state. No doubt, Trump could care less, but he has a base to please and, for some of them, bad thoughts about Israel are downright un-American.

Trump and Republicans, following his lead, don’t put Israel and the United States on the same pedestal for the benefit of Jewish voters. All but the truly rich and heinous among them vote Democratic, and there aren’t that many of them anyway.

They do it mainly to please benighted “dispensationists,” evangelical Protestants, interested in Israel not to keep Jews safe from anti-Semites, but in order to fulfill what they take to be Biblical prophesies of an imminent “end time” in which Jews who do not accept Christ will spend an eternity in hell.

Whatever else we may think about them, at least the first generations of Jewish Zionists had too much self-respect to indulge such idiocy. However, since the late seventies, as the Israeli Right took over from the Labor governments that had superintended Israeli politics for the state’s first three decades, self-respect has gone missing.

There are distressingly many Christian Zionists; they are a force to be reckoned with. Israeli governments, not just Netanyahu’s, and many ordinary Israelis too, have therefore been more than happy to welcome them on board. Anything for the cause.

Thus the word to Israel is meddle on, full steam ahead.

This is hypocrisy on stilts, and it is a dangerous business. It risks drawing the United States into a war with Iran, Israel’s existential threat du jour. In comparison with what an Iran war might bring, the Cheney-Bush-Obama Iraq and Afghanistan wars would seem almost trivial.

And because Israel is now more of a friend than a foe to Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies, their hypocrisy could also make America complicit in Saudi war crimes in Yemen and throughout the region.

Nevertheless, this is all kosher in the Democratic view, while the more benign efforts of Russians and others to hack into our voting systems and their deceitful screeds on social media sites are an abomination for which the Russians must be punished, no matter the cost.

They want to destroy our democracy, after all, and we can’t have that!

Democrats, on the whole, are smarter than Republicans, but they are more base and servile, more pusillanimous, and a whole lot more hypocritical. Republicans are worse, of course. One could gaze upon them and despair for the human race, even before Trump made them worse still. But Democrats! What’s not to hate?

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ANDREW LEVINE is the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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