You can learn a lot about the American power structure by how unconventional presidential candidates are treated. Unconventional candidates for the US presidency offer a litmus test for establishment thinking, and the economics and foreign policy red lines that shall not be crossed.
The NY Times hit piece on Robert F. Kennedy is a good example. After all, the first thing they want you to know is that Kennedy is an “anti-vaccine activist”.
However, Kennedy, in his speech announcing his run, raised a whole host of questions about US domestic and foreign policies, that went way beyond questioning how big-Pharma has a lock on public health, questions that put him squarely in the sights of the establishment that’s represented by the Times. “I’m talking about issues that I think most Americans and probably most Democrats are concerned about: the systematic gutting of the middle class; the elevation of corporations — particularly polluting corporations; and, from the financial industry to the military-industrial complex, the corrupt merger of state and corporate power. Through wars, bank bailouts and lockdowns, we’ve been systematically hollowing out the American middle class, and printing money to make billionaires richer.”
Since 2016, we’ve had a front row seat to the treatment of presidential candidates who raised substantial economic and foreign policy issues during a campaign, as did Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
Bernie Sanders and his crowds, in city after city, month after month, reached critical mass in both 2016 and 2020. That size and persistence almost powered him to the nomination twice. It took the combined effort of many elites to keep him from being elected. The demise of the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign marked the end of any meaningful push toward economic justice in the US. Ever since then all political oxygen has gone into ramping up culture war hostilities that won’t do a thing to create a broad-based prosperity.
Trump’s campaign caught elites by surprise as well, but because he ran as a Republican with the promise of historic tax breaks and right-wing Supreme Court justices, his campaign was allowed to proceed with the expectation of a humiliating drubbing by Hillary Clinton. Once elected, as evidenced by Russia-gate, Trump was met with a ferocious response since any deviation from empire-centric policies or actions that potentially threatening the agenda are either corrected or marginalized away from mainstream attention.
What was always good for a laugh is that many of the neocons, after setting the Middle-East on fire, became domestic “liberals” on trans rights, on gays, on abortion, as a response to Trump’s icky “populism”. During his four years in office we saw the wholesale rehabilitation of the most discredited neocon propagandists of the war on terror. After Trump called the Iraq war a “big fat mistake” in the 2016 Republican presidential debate, the neocons rebranded themselves as the ‘moderate’ voice against the danger of a Trump presidency.
And liberals returned the favor. Joy Reid, maybe one of the most grating personalities on MSNBC, was positively glowing with praise of her new neocon allies: “One of the most amazing outcomes of the Trump administration is the number of neo-conservatives that are now my friends and I am aligned with. I found myself agreeing on a panel with Bill Kristol. I agree more with Jennifer Rubin, David Frum, and Max Boot than I do with some people on the far left. I am shocked at the way that Donald Trump has brought people together.”
Unfortunately, all of this is emblematic of the profoundly diseased civilization that we are living in, one where our heart strings are pulled in the most obnoxious ways imaginable to get us to support capitalism, empire and oligarchy, where we are manipulated into espousing values systems which benefit powerful sociopaths under the cover of noble-sounding causes.
Hopefully the RFK campaign will breathe oxygen into issues that are rarely discussed but that’s not only why his candidacy is important. The main reason to pay attention to an unconventional candidate’s campaign is to highlight the elite attacks and manipulations that take place and to help people understand that the game is rigged. Only the most trustworthy empire managers get anywhere near the presidency, because the stewardship of a globe-spanning empire is too important to be left in the hands of the voters. (See Obama’s Hope and Change hustle for illumination of this truism). There’s a couple reasons for this. For starters, there’s the US empire and the costs borne by average Americans to maintain it, especially when the US empire disproportionately benefits the 1%.
Then, there’s those neoliberal economic policies. Since the late 1970s, American politics have been dominated by a strand of fiscal conservatism that views taxes as evil and the state as a quasi-illegitimate body that skims from the wealth ordinary citizens earn. There are many problems with this argument, but it’s especially difficult to take seriously given that its proponents always seem to exclude military spending from the equation. Considering how little scrutiny such spending receives, and considering that it continues to increase regardless of who’s in power, ordinary Americans are effectively being forced to subsidize a bloated military bureaucracy to the tune of hundreds of billions every year — all while having zero say in the matter.
The end result is a toxic mix of neoliberalism economic and neoconservative foreign policies. And in a neoliberal plutocracy, the most venal depraved moronic scum float to the top. In addition, end-stage empires often act irrationally. Both conditions explain current US predicament.
RFK Jr’s candidacy is a real, very rare bit of very good news, where a brave man has decided to sacrifice so much by trying to make things better in this country. Unfortunately he’s working within the Democratic Party structure right now. And they will have all the knives out to get him. Still, I’m betting that they’re going to have a hard time containing Kennedy’s message because so many people are sick of all the damn lies that they’ve been telling all these years.