The Democratic Party’s Campaign to Re-Elect President Trump

Photograph Source: Matt Johnson – CC BY 2.0

Anyone who hoped that the terrible experience of a neofascistic presidency might jolt the Democratic Party media and politics establishment into embracing the basic lesson of the 2016 election – that running a dismal, dollar-drenched centrist well to the right of the citizenry for president just guarantees right-wing control of the United States’ executive branch – is certain to be disappointed.

In the 2020 election cycle as in the last one, the establishment corporate neo-“liberal” Democrats and their many media outlets have alternately disdained, disregarded, and downplayed Bernie Sanders’ progressive-populist neo-New Deal campaign. It has been routine on “liberal” cable news (CNN and MSNBC) and on “P”BS to see the Democratic presidential contest discussed as if Sanders was just another marginal player. When he isn’t largely or (in some cases) completely ignored, the mildly social-democratish Sanders is absurdly discussed as some kind of wildly radical and therefore inherently un-electable leftist because he advances basic liberal-left programs that most Americans unmentionably support – Single Payer health insurance, green jobs programs, re-legalized union organizing, seriously progressive taxation, a doubling of the federal minimum wage, and free public college.

If one follows the lead of nearly every liberal pundit and talking head in U.S. corporate media, Democrats who are serious about defeating the demented and unmentionably fascistic oligarch Donald Trump are supposed to shun Sanders’ campaign against corporate plutocracy and rally behind neoliberal center-right Wall Street tools like Pete Butiggieg and the ridiculous right-wing buffoon, racist, and dementia-victim Joe Biden. Even mildly liberal Elizabeth “capitalist in my bones” Warren is considered “too left-wing” by much of the neo-McCarthyite/-“liberal” media-politics elite – this because she partially aligns herself with Medicare-for-All and says she wants to break up some of the obscenely gargantuan tech monopolies.

Nothing the ludicrous conservative “front-runner” Biden does or says past or present seems to properly disqualify him from serious presidential consideration in the “mainstream” Democratic consent manufactory. The list of things for which Rusty Chain-Brain Joe gets a free pass for is long. It’s down Orwell’s memory hole with: two horrific and laughably poor performances in previous presidential bids (1987-88 and 2007-08) even before his brains started coming out of his ears; plagiarism scandals in law school and during his first presidential run; a long Senate record of supine service to finance capital and corporate America; beating up on the sexual harassment victim Anita Hill during the confirmation of the right-wing Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; voting to authorize George W. Bush to arch-criminally and mass-murderously invade Iraq; calling Barack Obama “clean” and “articulate” in 2007.

In the current election cycle, Biden has repeatedly lost his train of thought and spoken jumbled absurdities on stage.  In response to a question about his extreme commitment to bipartisan alliance with Republicans, he idiotically invaded MSNBC talking head Joy Reid’s space and charged her with wanting “a physical revolution.”

2020 presidential candidate Biden has had to be restrained from inappropriately touching and sniffing women and children. He has justified past collaboration “across the [U.S. Senate] aisle” with racist white segregationist senators from the South (who happened to be Democrats) by saying that one of those senators “never called me boy.”  He has bragged that he would have beaten up Trump “in high school.” He has in all seriousness told a comically bizarre story to Black children about how he once faced down a Black youth named “Corn Pop” with a “rusty chain” in a parking lot outside a Black swimming pool where he once worked as a lifeguard (adding that I like it when kids sit on my lap”).  He advocated phonographs as a solution to Black poverty in a candidate debate.

In response to an elderly Iowa voter’s recent question about the propriety of Hunter Biden’s past position with the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, Uncle Joe called the man (a Warren supporter) “fat” and “too old to vote for me.”

As if his recurrent claims that Single Payer health insurance is too expensive for U.S. government and taxpayers (it is no such thing) and his statement that people who want a Green New Deal to help save livable ecology should vote for somebody other than him haven’t made it sufficiently clear that Biden is a deeply conservative pawn of the corporate and financial establishment, Biden recently told an Iowa town hall that he would consider a Republican as his running mate. “The fact that Joe Biden is still running on a theme of illusory bipartisanship after the last four decades of scorched earth Republican politics — and after the Obama-Biden administration was repeatedly kicked in the teeth by Mitch McConnell’s gang – demonstrates,” Salon founder David Talbot recently commented on “social” media, “to some that Biden is just plain dense. But it’s more than that: Biden represents the across-the-aisle merger of corporate politics in America. There really are issues where Biden can work together with McConnell — like further enriching the billionaire class through tax cuts, government subsidies, global trade deals, etc. Bernie represents the Democratic Party at its New Deal/New Frontier best.  Biden represents the party’s worst, venal instincts.”

I am less enamored than Talbot with the New Deal and especially with the New Frontier (and with the Democratic Party and electoral politics in general), that’s a good take on Biden’s oligarchic essence.

Despite the blackout and smearing of Sanders by the “liberal” media, the New York Times and Politico have recently felt compelled to publish major stories conceding that Sanders could win the Democratic nomination.  Bernie’s base, it turns out, is remarkably steadfast and dedicated, strongly allegiant to his progressive-populist rhetoric and agenda.  The Times’ piece is titled: “Why Bernie Sanders Is Tough to Beat.” Politico’s report is titled “Democratic Insiders: Bernie Could Win the Nomination.”

Sanders’ staffers and volunteers are certainly burnishing these reports on their clipboards in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. But the aim of these articles is not to give Sanders more momentum. As Norman Solomon observes, the real goal it to alert conservative Democrats, funders, and media about the urgent need to escalate their attacks on Sanders:

“…the shift in media narratives about the Bernie campaign’s chances will surely boost the decibels of alarm bells in elite circles where dousing the fires of progressive populism is a top priority…For corporate Democrats and their profuse media allies, the approach of disparaging and minimizing Bernie Sanders in 2019 didn’t work. In 2020, the next step will be to trash him with a vast array of full-bore attacks.

Along the way, the corporate media will occasionally give voice to some Sanders defenders and supporters. A few establishment Democrats will decide to make nice with him early in the year. But the overwhelming bulk of Sanders media coverage — synced up with the likes of such prominent corporate flunkies as Rahm Emanuel and Neera Tanden as well as Wall Street Democrats accustomed to ruling the roost in the party — will range from condescending to savage.

When the Bernie campaign wasn’t being ignored by corporate media during 2019, innuendos and mud often flew in his direction. But we ain’t seen nothing yet.

With so much at stake — including the presidency and the top leadership of the Democratic Party — no holds will be barred. For the forces of corporate greed and the military-industrial complex, it’ll be all-out propaganda war on the Bernie campaign.”

So what if the progressive-populist Sanders is the Democrats’ best shot to mobilize the poor and working-class constituencies who need to be rallied if the faux-populist neofascist Trump is going to be defeated next November?  As I have noted on numerous prior occasions here and elsewhere, the dismal, dollar-drenched Democrats and their many media allies are not primarily about winning elections, much less about social justice, democracy, and environmental sanity.  They are primarily about serving wealthy sponsors and entering the corporate and financial oligarchy.  They and their elite backers would rather lose to the right, even to an apocalyptic and neofascist right, than lose to the left, even a mildly progressive left, in their own party.  They are going to pull out all the stops they can to try to out the reactionary and demented clown Joe Biden, with perhaps a Republican – how about de facto McCain-Romney Republicans like Pete Butiggieg or Amy Klobuchar?  – as his running mate atop the neoliberal campaign to re-elect Trump.

Not that Trump would leave peacefully if Sanders or perhaps even if Biden bested him in the nation’s anti-democratic Electoral College.  As the conservative American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman Ornstein recently observed, Trump will “do anything” to stay in office. “Suspension of the election, negation of the results, declaration of martial law are not simply fanciful, alarmist, or crazy things to contemplate.  Members of Congress, governors and state legislators, leaders in civil society, lawyers, law enforcement figures and the military need to be thinking about how they might respond.”

The senior Trump administration official “Anonymous” concurs.  He cites a big “worry for our republic…what may happen if Trump is removed from office – by impeachment or a narrow defeat in the ballot box…Trump will not exit quietly – or easily.  It is why at many turns he suggests ‘coups’ are afoot and a ‘civil war’ is in the offing.  He is already seeding the narrative for his followers – a narrative that could end tragically.”

We can drop our “inverted totalitarian” obsession with (and depression by) savagely time-staggered big money-media-major party-candidate-centered electoral extravaganzas and take to the streets (like masses people fighting corrupt and tyrannical regimes around the world these days) now, while it might prevent a U.S. version of bona fide fascism, or one year from now,  when it may be too late.

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