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The Political Insights of MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch

MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch is a Wall Street advertising executive and political commentator who can, I think, be relied upon to honestly convey the true thoughts of the Democratic National Committee.

Three of his comments this year stand out.

(1) First, he declared (February 20 on “Morning Joe”) that he was “absolutely panicked” that Bernie Sanders was “running away with the nomination.” He declared that Sanders could never win the election versus Trump because “Americans will never vote for a socialist.”

As a paid “expert,” he asserted this on MSNBC as an empirical fact. He even intimated that he himself would vote for Trump over Sanders, causing host Joe Scarborough to raise his eyebrows briefly, then nod matter of factly.

(Recall how Sanders in fact swept the early primaries as Americans embraced a “socialist,” but was defeated badly on Super Tuesday after the DNC arranged for the other candidates to back Joe Biden, who’d been in fourth place.)

(2) After rejoicing at Joe Biden’s emergence as the Democratic nominee, Deutsch counseled the party to keep him in his basement using the Coronovirus as the excuse, minimizing his appearances. On May 13 Deutsch actually said on MSNBC, “I think the less [we see] of Joe, the better!” You get it? The idea is, he’ll get elected as the non-Trump without having to say or do anything. And he might well blow it if let out of the barn to talk.

(3) Deutsch has stated (Aug. 13) that one-third of the U.S. population is “racist” and that this racist population is Trump’s hard base.

(Polls do in fact show that about 33% support Trump’s “handling of racial issues.” I think it’s reasonable to conclude these people are racists, and of course they’re just part of the problem. But this figure, combined with a similar figure for those who think Trump has handled the coronovirus well, suggests that there is a hard core that combines white nationalism and general ignorance of science based on religious brainwashing. This is the hard core of Trump’s broader support base. His general approval rate has been 40-43% nationally all this year. These statistics are actually quite terrifying, especially in their consistency over time.)

In sum: the Democrats needed to satisfy Wall Street by choosing a centrist candidate, who will be marketed as the only alternative to Trump, who for his part can rely on an automatic 33% of votes (from racists).

My question for Deutsch would be this: Having actively attacked Sanders as un-electable, and having rejoiced in the selection of the most Establishment candidate imaginable, aware of his public performance problems, and having noted that the despised Trump has a real hard-core base of about 1/3 of the population, where do you find Biden’s comparable base?

***

Many if not most Trump supporters see themselves as part of a movement of resistance to liberals, political correctness, socialism, communism, anarchists, agitators, baby killers, people who hate God, etc. Especially when combined with religious idiocy, their passion is a mighty force. They will turn out on election day.

The Sanders campaign was also a movement. It generated passion, and caused countless mostly young volunteers to go door to door with genuine enthusiasm. There was no other campaign in the race to compete with it. Deutsch, panicking about “socialism,” wanted to defeat it. Well, okay, boss; that happened, so now the masses must choose Trump or Biden. But there is no Biden movement, much less a Trump-like cult.

About 60% of the people despise Trump. That does not mean they will vote for Biden.

A recent Pew poll showed that only 33% of likely Biden voters view their vote as an expression of support for him, as opposed to 67% who view it as vote against Trump. (In contrast 76% of Trump voters say they’ll vote proactively for him.) The expression “hold my nose” keeps coming up. It is a question of lesser-evil voting for a candidate who’s being sold not on the basis of his record, which is all too embarrassing, but on the basis of “decency.” He’s the other candidate, the decent one, the compassionate one—the antithesis to the hateful, cruel Trump. Our ticket back to Obama-era normalcy.

That’s not 33% of the electorate but only the figure from people saying they will probably vote for Biden. In other words, Biden support is super-soft. Meanwhile the Democratic National Convention seemed consciously designed to alienate former Sanders supporters. There was nothing progressive about it at all! THAT charade was supposed to rally the troops?

The talk by Meghan McCain, celebrating her dad’s close friendship with Joe Biden? Sen. John McCain would have started World War III over Georgia in 2008. He was the worst imaginable war hawk and war criminal. Why emphasize Biden-McCain friendship? And why include Colin Powell among the speakers? Is he some sort of hero because he was the first black Secretary of State to lie to the United Nations to justify a criminal war? The convention was a bipartisan circus, almost as insulting to the intelligence as the Republican one.

The Democrats have shifted their attack on Trump from accusations of complicity with Russia (which was always a hoax, and very reactionary, stoking the new Cold War) to his incompetence in responding to the coronovirus and his deployment of federal forces in response to Black Lives Matter protests. They have had to support BLM (while Trump attacks the group as “terrorists”), because the movement is diverse and powerful and a potential source of votes. In that sense BLM (as much as the Sanders campaign) has pushed the party to the left, if only rhetorically. (It’s quite amazing, the things recently coming out of the mouths of suddenly radicalized mainstream anchors.)

But the Democrats are asking BLM activists to vote for a police-union advocate and Crime Law author and one-time opponent of school busing, and his running mate, a former prosecutor.

The Republican convention has meanwhile been a terrifying display of white nationalism, crude religious pandering, and some presentations one can truly call fascistic. Quite possibly many of those watching (although perhaps the viewers are few) are so terrified by the prospect of these idiots getting another four years that they will indeed turn out for Biden.

Deutsch did not include in his analysis the idea that opposition to Trump could be mobilized around the fear of fascism.

***

There are surely 33% of the people who see themselves as anti-racist who could challenge the Trump racist base. But will they vote for the author of the Crime Bill and a former prosecutor? How to generate some positive support for Biden?

One possibility is to focus on the prospect of a looming fascist police state. This would require a shift in Democratic policy; so far the Democrats have attacked Trump for his alleged ties with Russia, or withholding of arms to Ukraine, or his inaction on the coronovirus. It’s only because of the sudden revival of Black Lives Matter, mass demonstrations and Trump’s dispatch of federal forces to repress them, and his fascistic rhetoric about law and order, that this issue has entered the race.

If lackluster Biden (with his history of supporting police unions) can be depicted as the “antifa” candidate versus the fascist one, and the election depicted as an urgent choice between martial law and a return to normalcy, perhaps enough people would mobilize to defeat the “fascist.” That’s a bit different from Deutsch’s “anybody but Trump strategy.” It would draw on specific fears of unprecedented mass police repression.

Whether or not Trump is a fascist technically, or the Republican party is really a fascist party, is not as important as the potential of the anti-fascist cause and argument to mobilize people to vote for Biden. It would draw in antifa groups, possibly, and some BLM forces; it might be enough to win over more Democratic Socialists to vote. But I can’t see the Biden campaign asking the people “Do you want a police state?” It is rather left forces who see Biden as the lesser evil who will do that.

***

These might include the Revolutionary Communist Part,USA that has called Donald Trump a fascist since his first day in office and framed its opposition to him through the Refuse Fascism organization and slogan. It has recent;y dropped its 45-year-old practice of boycotting bourgeois elections and urged its supporters to vote for Biden this year, specifically to do that (refuse fascism). I disagree with the group’s analysis but see its potential utility in getting Biden elected.

All during the 1980s, while its chairman Bob Avakian was leading his party from France, the RCP argued that World War III between the two imperialist superpowers, the U.S. and USSR, was inevitable due to the laws of capitalist competition—unless prevented by revolution in the U.S. Then the USSR collapsed along with its bloc, more or less peacefully. Afterwards, with the threat of World War III receding, the RCP focused in the 1990s on a different urgent threat: “Christian fascism.” This, like the above-mentioned inevitable U.S.-Soviet war, was inevitable if not prevented by revolution.

In fact the Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Obama administrations did not bring Christian fascists to power. The Christian right has declined and the Christian population drops by about one percent a year. Young people are more irreligious than ever before, and more politically progressive; more embrace than reject “socialism.” Avakian’s thesis about imminent fascism was as questionable as his confident prediction of world war in the eighties.

Still, Trump won the 2016 election with strong Evangelical support. So Avakian’s prophecy seemed validated in a way when Christian fascism finally arrived—in the form of Donald Trump. Now Trump must be overthrown, by voting for Biden. The curious might wonder how the chairman arrived at his current position after writing “To those Black People Who Are Voting for Joe Biden,” posted on the “Bob Avakian Institute” site earlier this year.

“Congratulations. You are supporting someone [Joe Biden] who started his campaign for president by bragging about his history of finding common ground with white supremacist southern segregationists and saying this was proof he could ‘bring the country together!’… Putting an end to this [system] can never be done by getting behind someone like Joe Biden, who for a long time has been a big-time representative and functionary of this criminal system and now wants to become the criminal-in-chief.”

TO THOSE BLACK PEOPLE WHO ARE VOTING FOR JOE BIDEN

Makes you wonder what happened.)

***

In any case, the fact is, Trump is sending federal forces into cities all over the country to “preserve law and order.” He’s talking and acting like a fascist; a Philadelphia district attorney calls him a “wannabe fascist.” There is longstanding legal institutional architecture for him to proclaim a state of emergency and martial law. (This pertains to Biden too, of course.) He is a grotesque, scary human being. To bring the “F” word into the campaign makes sense. I see that the mainstream media is increasing talking about it.

So back to the bourgeois analyst Deutsch, who railed against Sanders, and was relieved at the Biden choice although urging that he remain under wraps; Deutsch who observes that Trump can count on the votes of the 1/3 racist population. He would surely want his candidate to stress his “moderation in all things,” his opposition to socialist ideas like single-payer health insurance, his opposition to police defunding, his support for “our allies” around the world.

But would he want Biden to say: “Look, I’m the anti-fascist candidate. I stand between you and fascism in this country! It’s me or an authoritarian police state”?

My guess is that Deutsch would oppose that—as sounding much too radical. If that’s the case to be made, it will have to made on Biden’s behalf by radical proponents who have up to now eschewed “lesser evil” politics. They may have to save the Democrats from their choice to dump Sanders (which—to repeat—Deutsch had urged), hoping among other things that the (non-fascist) Biden won’t do something too fascist himself right after election.

Something like pulling Ukraine—a country important to the Bidens, in which real, live, Nazi-loving fascists hold high posts—into Joe’s beloved expanding NATO.

Surely attention to foreign affairs will affect your vote, if you plan to vote?

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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