August 22, 2018

Inchoate Anger Is the Animating Force in Politics

“There is a world out there where we the people control government; where we send men and women of good will to office who support what the majority wants.” (Photo: Peoples World/flickr/cc)

Republicans have both created and exploited this anger. Democrats have run from it. Both have fed it.

By John Atcheson / 08.21.2018

We’ve known for a decade now, that people are fed up with Washington and with politics. We’ve known that they consider politicians to be little more than lackeys to the uber-rich and corporations; and we’ve known that the facts bear them out when we look at the legislation they pass.

Republicans have both created and exploited this anger; Democrats have run from it, but both have fed it. The Republican’s genius has been to direct that anger at government – the only force capable of addressing the injustices being heaped upon average Americans.

Democrats had an easy answer to the blame the government game – specifically that the only solution to bad government is good government; that the only antidote to a nation of, by and for the oligarchy is a government of, by and for the people. And while they channeled progressive rhetoric around election time, they embraced neoliberal policies when they were in power, and stood for nothing more than “they’re worse than us,” when they weren’t, all while holding out their hand for handouts from corporations and the ultra-rich.

This is all you need to know to understand why Democrats went from a majority party for most of the second half of the 20th Century, to a shrinking minority party in the 21st.

Well, you might need to know one other thing: why they refused to advocate for an effective government capable of restraining the growing economic and political power of the ultra-rich and corporations.

In a word: money. Starting under Bill Clinton, they embraced the third-way-DLC corporate sell out in order to get campaign contributions from the people they used to regulate and constrain.

In 2018, Republicans in general and Trump in particular have made the grotesque racism and greed that dominates their party stunningly obvious. It could be a turning point in 21st Century politics – a moment when the Democrats lead an effort to return power to the people, but it looks like the Party’s neoliberal establishment would rather retain their hold on the party than win elections.

So it’s up to the people to take over the party. Often when you write a sentence like that, commenters will respond with justifiable cynicism, saying government has always been in the pocket of the rich and that the people don’t have a chance in hell of taking over the political process.  And if all you’ve ever seen is 21st politics, then that’s a reasonable conclusion.

But those of us who are of a certain age know that it is possible.  We’ve seen a time when government constrained the rich, corporations and oligopolies; when it imposed policies assuring an equitable distribution of wealth; when even Republican administrations invested in public infrastructure and advocated environmental policies; when government strengthened social security; adopted Medicare and Medicaid; worked to limit the power of money in politics and elections (remember McCain-Feingold?); and advocated laws assuring racial and gender justice.

It was a concerted and organized assault on government and the very concept of governance that changed that, and that assault was funded by billions of dollars from ultra-rich right wingers and corporations.

But the oligarchy’s coup resulted in an obscene disparity in wealth; the complete erosion of democracy; the counter-factual rejection of science and reason; and the acceptance of xenophobia and racial prejudice, and in doing so, woke up a sleeping giant – the American people.

There is a world out there where we the people control government; where we send men and women of good will to office who support what the majority wants; where they pass legislation authorizing single payer health care, a living minimum wage, affordable education, tax policies that are fair and equitable, a rational budget with a reasonable defense expenditure, an end to endless wars, protection of our environment and our climate, and racial and gender justice.

To claim that world, we need only show up in primaries and in the general election and choose people who advocate those things.

And here’s a hint – most incumbents don’t.  Check out govtrackusa, a non-partisan organization, to see if your current Congress member, governor, mayor or council member supports these things.  If they don’t, boot them out and put someone in who does.

For the first time in a long time, Americans actually have that choice.

Originally published by Common Dreams under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.