What Are They Good For?

What’s the point of having two political parties that both represent corporations and the wealthy? 

My first post at Camelotkidd was entitled TINA,“There is no Alternative,” proclaimed by Margaret Thatcher about the superiority of neoliberal capitalism. This phrase, uttered with such smug assurance always pissed me off. I wasn’t very old or sophisticated but I knew it was bullshit. I mean fuck! There are lots of alternatives. We’re talking about economics, which concerns people, who have been known to do things differently.

In the 1980’s Ronald Reagan introduced neoliberalism to the world. This economic system of unfettered markets was supposed to lead to freedom, prosperity and economic growth through deregulation, privatization and globalization. Since then there’s been a parallel media campaign informing us just how wonderful our market based life is, while at the same time insisting at the top of their lungs that there is no alternative to neoliberalism, and no alternative is needed.

Looking around at our world it’s clear that this promise has only been achieved for the very wealthy 1% and the corporations they control.

What Reagan and Thatcher did that was worse than their policies, which were horrible, was to move the opposition party rightward as well. Look at the Labor party in Britain and the Democratic party here. They become neoliberal and moved rightward, aping their conservative rivals. Even conservative pundit George Will grasped this essential shift in party dynamics saying–“This represents a transfer of wealth from labor to capital unprecedented in Americans history…If a Democrat can’t make something of that, what are Democrats for.”

The reality of two corporate parties means that vast segments of the American population have become effectively disenfranchised, with little or no say in critical economic and foreign policies. We’ve now had 30 years of these policies carried out by Republicans and Democrats, with the practical effect of the US becoming an oligarchy, with a fig leaf of democracy. And, even this small bit of democracy is under assault.

“I’m talking about the myriad ways that the super-rich control the political process — and in controlling the political process, both make themselves richer and give themselves even more control over the political process. Purging voter rolls. Cutting polling place hours. Cutting back on early voting — especially in poor districts. Voter ID laws. Roadblocks to voter registration — noticeably aimed at people likely to vote progressive. Questionable-at-best voter fraud detection software, which — by some wild coincidence — tends to flag names that are common among minorities. Eliminating Election Day registration. Restricting voter registration drives. Gerrymandering — creating voting districts with the purpose of skewing elections in your favor.”

About this disenfranchisement. The salient point in all this is the fact that the so-called party of the people–the Democrats–are seemingly cool with the loss of their traditional supporters. I wonder why that is?  Maybe, it’s because the Democrats increasingly are funded by the same corporate and financial interests as are Republicans. The policies that both parties have recently embraced give a clue to their priorities. Here’s an example: Since the Wall-Street crash both parties have embraced fiscal conservatism because that’s what the rich people and corporations who fund their campaigns want.

Unfortunately, for us, here’s what you get with fiscal conservatism.

“The reality of fiscal conservatism in the United States is not cautious, evidence-based attention to which government programs do and don’t work. If that were ever true in some misty nostalgic past, it hasn’t been true for a long, long time. The reality of fiscal conservatism in the United States means slashing government programs, even when they’ve been shown to work. The reality means decimating government regulations, even when they’ve been shown to improve people’s lives. The reality means cutting the safety net to ribbons, and letting big businesses do pretty much whatever they want.” 

Here’s one of my favorite writers–Ian Welsh–making some basic organizational points about opposition parties. Ian says that to win from the left don’t offer up Republican-lite. Offer a real alternative to neo-liberalism.

“Therefore your job, as a left-winger, right-winger, or whatever, is to keep control of that party. This takes precedence over winning the most immediate election.  Winning by becoming a lite version of the other ideology does not serve you. Having the second (or every) party be neo-liberal is not in the interests of anyone but neo-liberals.”

Going forward, progressives either need to take over the Democratic party, or kill it and form a political party that offers an alternative to neoliberalism.

Update: Bernie Sanders is running for President as an avowed socialist, but the language he’s using is how Democrats used to speak.

“Sanders’ language is important here. You’ll note that he does not actually use the term “redistribution” of wealth. That’s because the term “redistribution” implies that the status quo, in which wealth is stacked at the top, is the natural order of things. The status quo is simply one of various possible distributions of wealth as determined by the current set of laws governing the country. Prior to Reagan, there was a different set of policies that led to a different distribution of wealth — strong labor rights, higher, more prohibitive marginal tax rates on the very wealthy, and so forth. As Sanders says, it’s not about “redistributing” wealth — it’s about recalibrating the distribution to one that was better. His challenge in appealing to voters will be decades of free-market agitprop that’s conditioned lower- and middle-income people to believe that policy directly challenging the super-wealthy’s right to be super-wealthy would mark the end of human civilization, and the death of God.”


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