The Game is Rigged

Photograph Source: Office of Public Affairs – CC BY 2.0

Let’s not beat around the bush. The game is rigged. The fix is in.

I’m not just talking about the neofascistic Donald Trump, the Republican Party, the Republican-controlled United States Senate and the fake-impeachment trial that body just concluded. I’m talking about their neoliberal enablers, the Democrats too.

Certain Depressing Things Explained

The deeply conservative corporate and imperialist Democratic Party politics and media complex is determined to deny the progressive neo-New Deal Democrat Bernie Sanders the presidential nomination.

So what if Sanders is the Democratic presidential candidate most likely to organize the working- and lower-class the corporate Democrats – the nation’s Inauthentic Opposition Party of Fake Resistance (IOPFR)– have been betraying demobilizing for decades?

So what if this makes Sanders the most electable candidate against an incumbent president and a party that pose existential fascistic and ecocidal threats to what’s left of democracy, the republic, and life itself?

So what if Sanders’ key policy proposals, including Single Payer health insurance (health care as a human right) and a Green New Deal (to put millions to work trying to roll back the soulless capitalist destruction of livable ecology) are urgently required for the common good and human survival?

So what if Sanders’ proposals are conservative in relation to the savage scale of the inequality and environmental destruction neoliberal class rule has been inflicting for several decades on Americans and livable ecology?

So what if nearly half (47%) of Sanders supporters will not commit to voting for the Democratic presidential candidate in November if it isn’t Bernie, making it likely that any other candidate is likely to usher in the tragedy of a second Trump term?

The Democratic establishment is determined to stop Sanders at all costs. As I’ve been saying for years, the corporate Democrats prefer to lose to the ever more viciously right-wing Republicans and the demented fascist oligarch Trump than to the moderately left wing of their own party.

This is why the establishment Democrats and their many media allies (at the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico, The Hill, CNN, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, and elsewhere) have issued repeated dire warnings over the supposed “radical Leftism” and “extremism” of the mildly social-democratic Sanders.

It’s why Democratic Party-affiliated funders and media opened the campaign season by touting the clownish center-right dementia victim Joe Biden as their “front-runner.”

It’s why those funders and media shifted to the slimy Wall Street plaything Pete Butiggieg after Biden re-exposed himself and pseudo-liberal Kamala Harris proved unable to stand strong in the “pragmatic” center-right Clinton-Obama-Tony Blair-Emanuel Macron lane.

It’s why the establishment “liberal” media harps constantly on Sanders’ supposed un-electability even as polls show him solidly beating Trump.

It’s why former Barack Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, former global derivatives trader and right-wing MSDNC (I mean MSNBC) host Stephanie (class-) Ruhle, and the noxious neoconservative pundit Bill Kristol recently joined forces on MSNBC to viciously denounce Sanders as “the worst candidate” to run against Trump.

It’s why the Democratic National Committee is working to reinstate the authoritarian veto power of unelected establishment “superdelegates” on the first ballot of the Democratic National Convention – a move clearly driven by establishment fears that Sanders could accumulate enough delegates to sweep to a first ballot victory under current rules.

It’s the reason for the Elizabeth Warren-CNN hit job in the last Iowa Democratic presidential debate – the one where Warren and the cable network conspired to falsely smear Sanders as a sexist.

It’s why MSDNC and CNN went into overdrive trying to portray Sanders’ campaign as “divisive” after Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib responded to Hillary Clinton’s malicious personal attacks on Sanders with an ill-timed reaction MSDNC blew up into “the boo heard around the world.”

It’s why MSDNC and CNN have played along with Hillary Clinton’s despicable and false claim thar Sanders didn’t work hard to help Mrs. Clinton’s (horrific and depressing) campaign during the 2016 general election.

It’s why the Democratic Party has changed its presidential debate qualification rules so that mega-billionaire and center-right Republocrat Mike Bloomberg can ascend to the top candidate stage on a magic carpet of money after skipping the campaign process in the early caucus and primary states.

It’s why the insufferable MSDNC bully Chris Matthews (the Ted Baxter of cable news) lost what little composure he has when Sanders’ campaign co-chair Nina Turner accurately called Bloomberg “an oligarch” (more on this amusing and revealing episode below).

It’s why the New York Times has been running deceptive commentaries warning falsely about the supposed “radical extremism,” “fiscal irresponsibility,” “rudeness” and “nonviability” of Sanders and his backers.

It’s why the California Democratic Party’s centrist managers are doing their best to make it difficult for independents to vote for Sanders, the state’s leading presidential candidate.

It’s probably why the Des Moines Register Star (which endorsed Elizabeth “Capitalist in my Bones” Warren) strangely decided not to release its usual “gold standard” Iowa poll of the state’s first-in-the-national caucus-goers prior to the big (and shockingly wrecked) event last Monday.

It’s why the Times, CNN, and MSNBC (the last outfit is broadcast media’s ground-zero for fake-progressive Wall Street centrism ) tout Butiggieg as the winner of Iowa’s spoiled caucus even though Sanders won the same number of state delegates and triumphed decisively in the popular vote (please see and disseminate Fairness and Accuracy in Media’s reflection on “How Corporate Media Makes Pete Look Like He’s Winning”).

It’s why CNN anchors smirkingly opine that Sanders “under-performed” and “failed to meet expectations” even after he won the Caucus.

Iowa Black-Apped

And it’s likely why the Iowa Caucus got app-f*#^ed, with the contest’s results rendered unavailable to the public for days. The deadly Shadow app’s “failure” and the mind-boggling dysfunction and confusion of the error-ridden count that followed (so extreme that we’ll probably never know the real numbers) robbed Sanders of a momentum-building election night victory speech – and gave Trump another reason to gloat about the pathetic nature of the Democratic Party.

It turns out that the Shadow app that crashed the Iowa Caucus and threw Sanders’ Iowa victory down the media memory hole was less than politically neutral. Hardly known for leftist conspiracy theorizing, USA Today offered some chilling reflections the morning after:

‘What’s this about Shadow and where did the app come from? The app was created by a company called Shadow Inc., and issued by Jimmy Hickey of Shadow Inc., metadata of the program that the Des Moines Register analyzed Tuesday showsA LinkedIn profile for James Hickey lists him as COO of Shadow and an engineering manager for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Two other former Clinton campaign workers, former Gerard Niemira and Krista Davis, co-founded ShadowThe New York Times has reported that ACRONYM – a Democratic nonprofit founded in 2017 “to educate, inspire, register, and mobilize voters,” according to its website – supported Shadow. Its founder and CEO is Tara McGowan, a former journalist and digital producer with President Obama’s 2012 presidential campaignThe Los Angeles Times reported….Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price, who also worked as Clinton’s 2016 Iowa political director, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday about the relationship between the party and Shadow, which it paid $63,184 for website development and travel expenses…’

It gets worse. According to the Los Angeles Times, in an article titled “Tech Firm Started by Clinton Campaign Veterans Linked to Iowa Caucus Debacle”: “Among Shadow’s clients is Pete Buttegieg’s presidential campaign, which paid $42,500 to the firm in July 2019 for ‘software rights and subscriptions,’ according to disclosures to the FEC.”

So, Shadow, Inc. got money from Wall Street Pete (from the financial sector via Butiggieg, that is), a former consultant with the infamously dark and globalist McKinsey Company and a onetime U.S. Navy Intelligence Officer.

Further feeding the sense of the Iowa Caucus Debacle as a CIA/military intelligence Black Op, Butiggieg proclaimed himself the Iowa victor with zero precincts reporting last Monday night! How Juan Guaido was that?

It worked. The fact that Sanders won Iowa was turned into a public non-fact. The confusion bought Mayor Pete a couple of days to take some undeserved victory laps across the “liberal” media, boosting him in New Hampshire.

The Democrats Did “More to Undermine Faith in Our Elections than Russia Ever Could”

No talking head has captured the evil of it all more effectively and bitingly than The Hill’s Krystal Ball yesterday morning. Her comments merit transcription and lengthy quotation:

“Let [this sink in]: Twitter is doing a better, more accurate job of tabulating the results than the Democratic Party. What else might be wrong through incompetence, malice, or a combination of both, God only knows. But as if that’s not enough, after Pete claimed a fake victory thanks to the complicity of the Iowa Democratic Party and the media, it turns out that, surprise, surprise, they saved the best precincts for Bernie Sanders to be counted and included last, because of course they did. I’m sure it was all just a coincidence, though, guys. And meanwhile, a new tracking poll shows that Pete’s fake win in Iowa has given him a big boost in New Hampshire, lifting him 9 points in 3 days.”

“What is truly criminal to me, though, is this: the people who gave Bernie Sanders this hard-fought and well-deserved win are people like this: immigrant workers at a pork-processing plant, who had to fight to even be able to cast their ballots in a caucus that conflicted with their work schedule. They were the very first to vote and among the last to be counted. For four days, their voice and their vote were completely erased, as were the Latinos who participated in satellite caucuses and went overwhelmingly for Bernie Sanders. It is absolutely outrageous.”

Do you remember the endless, three-year rant at RussiaGate and over how a foreign power spending a million or two over a month on lousy, ungrammatical Facebook ads inside a billion dollar election was the biggest threat to our constitutional republic and was material to Hillary’s loss in 2016? Let’s be completely clear here. The Democratic Party in Iowa has done more to undermine faith in our elections than Russia ever could. Period. But don’t expect a Democratic House to hold months-long hearings into the Iowa Caucus debacle. Don’t expect any degree of self-reflection on the part of the party bosses and consultant grifters who deserve to be fired en masse. Instead, the same folks who think they should be able to take the nomination from Bernie with their Superdelegates, the same folks who tweak the process so it suits them, the same folks who are now leaking out partial wrong results in a mockery of manipulation masquerading as transparency…these people will continue to run the Democratic Party in Iowa and elsewhere until and unless an anti-establishment candidate like Bernie throws them all out. ….”

“… Single moms arranged babysitters to participate in this caucus. Nurses gave up shifts, lost 12 hours of pay to participate in this caucus. People rolled in with their wheelchairs. They weren’t with their kids or doing their college homework…Volunteers donated hundreds of thousands of hours of time. Banging on doors, hosting house parties, managing selfie lines, and all for what? So that all that time, all that energy could be turned into a giant joke that makes everyone who participated in the process feel like a fool….”

“People that we invite into this process are made a sacred promise that this activity s meaningful and necessary. And then to watch such manifest incompetence, cronyism, obfuscation, and selective disclosure in what is supposed to be the most critical election of our lifetime makes a joke out of democracy and spread cynicism like the Coranavirus of the civic soul…This whole democracy looks like a Potemkin Village farce where the GOP and Democratic Party insiders seem to almost laugh at the rubes who take this whole thing as serious and sacred.”

I’ve never had the same degree of faith n U.S. electoral politics that Ms. Ball (who would likely and wrongly consider me a victim and purveyor of cynicism) seems to have had in the past, but that is an extremely powerful denunciation of what happened to Sanders and his backers – and the democratic ideal – in Iowa this week.

(At least we know for certain that voters are ready to pull the rusty chain on Joe Pool Chain Biden. Too bad for the companies who were gearing up to mass produce record players for the poor in response to Joe “Record Players for the Poor” Biden’s promise of Vinyl New Deal.)

This is Who the Democrats Are

Butiggieg knows he’s never going to be president. “Alfred E. Neuman’s” role is to muddle public perceptions, screwing Warren and Sanders in the early states to help set up “Mini-Mike” Bloomberg (I am borrowing Trump’s frankly clever nicknames for these right-wing candidate), who is Wall Street’s next Great Stop Sanders Hope in the wake of “Sleepy Joe’s” predictable (and widely predicted) collapse.

MSDNC is cable news central for the IOPFR’s Campaign to Stop Sanders and Re-Elect the Neofascist Trump with Yet Another Centrist Neoliberal Creep. Two days ago, the network’s “Morning Joe” hosts used the very Iowa fiasco that their on-the-ground ideological comrades created to promote Bloomberg and Super Tuesday as the alternatives to “radical” Bernie and the early caucus and primaries. The “progressive” Kissingerian network (I’ve heard MSNBC hosts praise the blood-drenched war criminal Henry Kissinger on numerous occasions) didn’t try hide its corporatist agenda to any serious degree.

“Democrats,” a popular Internet meme featuring pictures of Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi runs, “are afraid that American voters are going to interfere in the 2020 election.”

Thank you. Exactly right.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The Democratic Party isn’t about social justice, democracy, and/or environmental sanity. It isn’t even primarily about winning elections. “History’s second most enthusiastic capitalist party” (as former Nixon strategist Kevin Phillips once accurately described the Democrats) is about serving “elite” corporate and financial sponsors above all, and those sponsors prefer a second fascistic Trump term to a mildly progressive first Sanders one.

Oligarchs “Take Advantage of a Broken and Dysfunctional System”

In an amusing and telling episode on MSNBC prior to the Caucus, Nina Turner told Chris Matthews that voters worry about “the oligarchs” who buy American elections. “Do you think Mike Bloomberg is an oligarch?!” an outraged Matthews asked. “He is,” Turner retorted. “He skipped Iowa. Iowans should be insulted. Buying his way into this race, period. The DNC changed the rules. They didn’t change it for Senator Harris. They didn’t change it for Senator Booker. They didn’t change it for Secretary Castro.”

Thank you. Exactly right.

Matthews then incredulously asked Turner is she really believed Bloomberg purchased his way into the presidential debates – as if there is the slightest hint of a scintilla of an iota of a sliver of a wisp of a rumor of a scent of doubt about.

After Matthews finished idiotically interrogating Turner, MSDNC anchor Brian Williams turned to MSDNC pundit Jason Johnson. Johnson also disapproved of Ms. Turner’s description of the oligarch Bloomberg as an oligarch.

“Oligarchy, in our particular terminology,” Johnson intoned, “makes you think of a rich person who got their money off of oil in Russia, who is taking advantage of a broken and dysfunctional system.”

You can’t make shit like that up! No, Jason Johnson: imperialist, Russophobic, and American Exceptionalist doctrine and bad reporting make you think that way. Merriam-Webster defines “oligarchy” as: “government by the few; a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.” There’s an abundance of solid academic research showing that the United States today fits the definition very well. Here are four for Johnson to start with: Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens, Democracy in America? What Has Gone Wrong and What we Can Do About It (University of Chicago, 2018), Ron Formisano, American Oligarchy: The Permanent Political Class (University of Illinois, 2017); Jeffrey Winters, Oligarchy (Cambridge University Press, 2011, with the United States as a leading case study); Paul Street, They Rule: They 1% v. Democracy (Routledge, 2014).

Concerned about rich people “taking advantage of a broken and dysfunctional system”? Look no further than the world’s self-proclaimed “greatest democracy”! No other “democracy” in the so-called developed world remotely matches the United States of Dark Money when it comes to giving big donors unregulated power in their national electoral processes. Along with other and related characteristics of its election and party system — winner-take-all contests with no proportional representation, rampant partisan gerrymandering of election districts, voter registration problems, corporate media bias and the “federalist” decentralization and partisan control of U.S. election process — this plutocratic campaign finance free-for-all is why the Electoral Integrity Project (a research undertaking funded by the Australian Research Council with a team of researchers based at the University of Sydney and Harvard University) ranks the democratic election integrity of U.S. elections below that of all 19 North and Western European democracies and also below that of 10 other nations in the Americas (Costa Rica, Uruguay, Canada, Chile, Brazil, Jamaica, Grenada, Argentina, Barbados and Peru), 10 nations in Central and Eastern Europe, 9 Asian-Pacific countries, 2 countries in the Middle East (Israel and Tunisia) and 6 African nations. The U.S. ranks dead last among “Western democracies.”

Don’t take it from a radical eco-Marxist like me. As the distinguished liberal political scientists Page (Northwestern) and Gilens (Princeton) showed in their expertly researched 2017 book mentioned above:

“the best evidence indicates that the wishes of ordinary Americans actually have had little or no impact on the making of federal government policy.  Wealthy individuals and organized interest groups – especially business corporations – have had much more political clout.  When they are taken into account, it becomes apparent that the general public has been virtually powerless… Majorities of Americans favor…programs to help provide jobs, increase wages, help the unemployed, provide universal medical insurance, ensure decent retirement pensions, and pay for such programs with progressive taxes.  Most Americans also want to cut ‘corporate welfare.’ Yet the wealthy, business groups, and structural gridlock have mostly blocked such new policies [and programs] (emphasis added).”

The Table is Tilted: Beyond the Cynical Brilliance of George Carlin

It was nice of the professors to quantify and document what working-class Americans have always known: money talks, bullshit walks. My old Finish socialist Aunt Mary (a high school graduate who worked for decades as a department store clerk in downtown Elgin, Illinois) understood Page and Gilens’ point very well. In the famous words of George Carlin:

“There’s a reason education sucks and it’s the same reason that it will never, ever, ever be fixed. It’s never going to get any better, don’t look for it, be happy with what you’ve got. Because the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the REAL owners, now. The real owners, the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions — forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land, they own and control the corporations; they’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the State houses, the City Halls; they’ve got the judges in their back pockets, and they own all the big media companies so they control just about all the news and information you get to hear.”

“They gotcha by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying — lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want — they want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that, that doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests. That’s right. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they’re getting f***ed by the system that threw them overboard 30 f***ing years ago. They don’t want that.”

“You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork, and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime, and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. …All day long, beating you over the in their media telling you what to believe — what to think — and what to buy. The table is tilted, folks. The game is rigged. And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care.”

“…They don’t give a fuck about you, they don’t…They don’t care about you – at all. At all, At all. At all. At all. And nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care … that’s what the owners count on, the fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue d**k that’s being jammed up their assholes every day. Because the owners of this country know the truth — it’s called the American Dream … ‘cuz you have to be asleep to believe it.”

The problem with Carlin’s brilliant rant is of course it’s extreme, well, cynicism. Millions upon millions of Americans do notice and do care. They aren’t asleep. They are capable of critical thinking. They very much want to un-rig the game, level the table, and change the system – make a people’s democratic revolution and save humanity. I run into and talk to and try to energize and learn and get energy from these people regularly. They haven’t surrendered to the American authoritarian-sexist-racist-nativist-nationalist-fascist nightmare yet.

I share with many of these people a basic underlying spiritual sense that giving up and letting the owners – our financial and political owners, yes – win is irrational and indeed morally corrupt. Let’s say the chances of collapsing the nation’s un-elected and interrelated dictatorships of money, empire, white-supremacism, and patriarchy are just 3 or 2 or even 1 in 10 (I think the real odds may be much higher). Why bring them down to zero by giving in to fatalism – to “it’s never going to change?” It makes no sense to give up: you lose nothing by believing in the possibility of democratic transformation and revolutionary change; you lose everything by not believing. Try some radical existentialism!

Tactical Support

Should people caucus and vote for Bernie in the rigged Democratic Party nomination process? Sure, for three reasons. First, there’s a(n admittedly slim) chance Sanders could prevail and lead the enactment of changes that would make a very positive difference in peoples’ lives and capacity to fight back against American Oligarchy, which is now taking significant steps towards openly authoritarian rule.

Second, doing some work with the Sanders campaign puts you in contact with masses of people who are changing all the time (like all phenomena), people-in-process who are capable of engaging on the critical topics of how and why we must move beyond the rigged games and systems that capture and depress our energies and how and why we must begin to organize for a real revolution.

Third, even if he doesn’t win, it’s good to make the screwing over of Sanders as transparent and instructive as possible. This could help motivate millions of Americans to break in revolutionary fashion from a “broken and dysfunctional [American] system” of class rule. It could help spark millions to join a people’s movement that works beneath and beyond the rigged elections cycle and system to heroically reclaim the commons and save humanity.

There’s a lot of good and potentially radical energy out there. It needs to go somewhere positive once the “coffin of class consciousness” (in the words of the radical historian Alan Dawley) that is the American ballot box fails to deliver yes…yet once again. The capitalists hardly restrict their political pressure to the electoral process – just wait to see what happens if Sanders (somewhat miraculously) makes it into the White House. We must and can develop an anti-capitalist (and now anti-fascist) politics that fights back in ways that transcend those savagely time-staggered moments when our owners permit us to make marks next to the names of politicians who can generally be trusted to put their own interests above ours and those of the common good.

“Except for the rare few,” Howard Zinn once wrote, “our representatives are politicians, and will surrender their integrity, claiming to be ‘realistic.’ We are not politicians, but citizens. We have no office to hold on to, only our consciences, which insist on telling the truth.”

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