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Member since: Wed Aug 19, 2015, 04:47 AM
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You all get that Democrats get massive "donations" from corporations, right?

A conversation I was having in this thread yesterday prompted me to wonder how many other people are under the impression that Democratic candidates for president only get small donations from 'mom and pop', while Republicans get huge donations from evil entities like the Koch Brothers.

Let's look at a list of the top contributors to the leading presidential candidates the last time there wasn't an incumbent in the race:

Click on this link: http://www.opensecrets.org/PRES08/contrib.php?cid=N00009638

Click on this link: http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?cycle=2008&cid=n00006424

Notice how much overlap there is with 3 of the top 7 donors being the same for each candidate. Obama, of course, got much more on account of him being a heavy favorite to win. But those corporations like to hedge their bets, because you never know what might happen. Why do you think a Goldman Sachs employee became Treasury Secretary? Presidents are beholden to those who "donate"/bribe.

If you understand all that and figure it is what it is, fine. But if you don't get that, as the poster I was conversing with didn't seem to get, I think it's important that you recognize the extent to which our political system is corrupt. It does no good to live in a fantasy world in which the "good" guys get donations from Bobby's piggy bank, while the "bad" guys get bribes from evil corporations.

We have:

-a revolving door between regulatory agencies and those who need regulating

-a revolving door between public office and Big Banks/Pharma/Ag/weapons manufacturers/et al.

-the US's history of supporting ruthless dictators who are anti-democratic in the name of "stability"

-for profit prisons, for profit health "care"

-military spending that eats up 54% of discretionary spending

And so on and so forth. It's state-sanctioned insanity.

The Leftist Critique and What I Suggest Doing If You're a Lefty

Let me start off by saying I'm not looking to discuss whether or not someone should support the nominee regardless (lesser evil voting, as some call it) or what some call pragmatism, or whether voting for a Green is a wasted vote. That's a separate discussion for a different thread, and I've heard reasonable arguments on all sides. So, please don't venture into those topics. Now, let me get to the point of this thread...

There seems to be a gross misunderstanding (or, frankly, ignorance) of the leftist critique of modern mainstream Democrats (which, by the way, is not Hillary-specific). Over the years, both major political parties have moved to the right...so much so that former Republican presidents are -- in many ways -- to the left of modern mainstream Democrats. It isn't even necessarily that the politicians themselves have moved to the right. It's a systemic thing that arguably has its origins in The Powell Memo (an early 1970s document that pushed for much greater involvement from corporations and multinationals).

Labels are a force to be reckoned with. I suspect it has something to do with our tribal nature. A loved one of mine provides a good example. He was a strong supporter of Eisenhower. Do today's Republicans resemble Eisenhower Republicans? Not really. So, has that loved one ceased being a Republican? No, not at all. He simply followed the party in its move further and further to the right (and now that party has gone completely off the rails). Many people go where the label takes them, never even noticing (or caring) that the label doesn't represent the same values/policies that it once did. That's true for both of the major party labels.

So, what is the dominant ideology of today? It's widely known as neoliberalism (or economic liberalism). You can read an in-depth analysis of neoliberalism here. Or a condensed version here. It's actually the dominant ideology of both parties, but one party tends to be more hawkish (neoconservatives especially) and holds horrifying, inhumane positions on social issues. Reagan and Thatcher were very much neoliberals, which is when that ideology really got off the ground (if you're so inclined, you can read A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey).

While it's true, of course, that Hillary Clinton is not Bill Clinton, the reason people bring up the many horrific policies from the 1990s Clinton Administration (NAFTA, crime bill, welfare bill, DOMA, etc., etc., etc.) is because those are indicative of why lefties are so frustrated with modern Democrats (and Hillary's record suggests she is another right wing Democrat, even if there are a few other Democrats who are even further to the right). Perhaps some of you have taken the Political Compass test. Well, here's a look at where various political candidates fall on the political compass, based on record and stated positions: https://www.politicalcompass.org/uselection2008. And here again: https://www.politicalcompass.org/uselection2012. In other words, we have a right wing party battling a far right wing party. I once heard Dennis Kucinich described as a "European Centrist." Kucinich, of course, was painted as a fringe leftist here in the US. The Republican Party is going to paint just about any Democrat running for president as a radical leftist or extreme liberal. We know they'll do that regardless of the facts, which is why some argue the Democratic Party might as well nominate a genuine progressive (since the opposition will make the "radical leftist" claim either way). But, of course, the Democratic Party establishment is dominated by neoliberalism. Again, it's systemic. It's why Sanders recently said, "And now let me tell you something that no other candidate for president will tell you. And that is no matter who is elected to be president, that person will not be able to address the enormous problems facing the working families of our country. They will not be able to suceed becuase the power of corporate America, the power of Wall Street, the power of campaign donors is so great that no president alone can stand up to them. That is the truth. People may be uncomfortable about hearing it, but that is the reality. And that is why what this campaign is about is saying loudly and clearly: It is not just about electing Bernie Sanders for president, it is about creating a grassroots political movement in this country."

There are going to be "a few bad apples," so to speak in every camp. But the criticism of Hillary and -- more importantly -- modern mainstream Democrats as a whole that is coming from supporters of people like Sanders and Warren (and Jill Stein) is rooted in a genuinely progressive, compassionate position. It's important to acknowledge that many people with strong progressive credentials, including strong proponents of civil rights (such as the late, great Howard Zinn and Cornell West), are/were very critical of modern mainstream Democrats. Because policy positions and values should take precedence over party labels.

All that said, lefties (notice that I don't refer to "The Left" have to take responsibility. As Bernard Chazelle wrote in this article years ago, "America has lefties but no left." Lefties haven't laid the groundwork for someone like Sanders (or Kucinich before him) to become POTUS. Every 4 (or 8) years lefties (at least those who don't just vote Green) get excited about the most leftish Democrat in the race. However, it's clear that not nearly enough work has gone into establishing a climate that is ripe for such a candidate to be viable. You attend a rally, you post on a message board how great you think the candidate is, you get yourself so worked up that you actually think the (relatively) radical candidate can win...newsflash, the groundwork hasn't been laid. You can't just will the environment into being; you have to create it. And accept that it will likely take a long time. This lack of a persistent effort to create an organized Left, combined with impatience (expecting monumental and instantaneous change without the hard work and necessary disruptions of the social order), means Dems must settle for establishment neoliberals when it comes to the federal level.

Julio Huato, in this article, wrote, "I believe that the greatest promise lies, not in national struggles (where, IMO, one way or another, we'll be operating within the strictures imposed by the system), but in smaller scale local battles. Let's go local. Let's work seriously to take over PTAs, unions, municipal governments -- entities charged with managing resources for specific public purposes, even if those resources are meager and shrinking. Let's go after them. If we think we can change the system within our lifetimes, then this certainly will feel like small change. What I envision is taking over a town and turning it around. To the extent possible, converting that town into a small, democratically managed, proto-socialist island. Let's show the world and ourselves how the left can help people manage (and manage well) their public affairs at a local level. Let's go wherever the fruit hangs lowest. That is the kind of work that, sooner than we think, will ripen things at the national level."

In the meantime, national politics is not going to be a vehicle for systemic change. Personally, I think expecting Sanders to win is almost as ridiculous as thinking Trump will be the Republican nominee. Does that mean you're obligated to vote for the Dem nominee? No. But if you want better, guess what? You're going to have to work for it. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Not just when the next election cycle rolls around.

I suggest getting involved in local projects of interest to you. Some examples might include volunteering with civil rights organizations, anti-bullying programs, union organizing, democratic schools or unschooling, co-ops, running for or working in public office, etc. *Note: I'm not talking about mere personal transformation (Gandhi never said "be the change" or promoting new age nonsense that has become popular with lefties. Nor am I suggesting the creation of new organizations. I'm talking about organizing, joining with others to help bring about an environment in which neoliberals and neoconservatives aren't the only options at the national level. Simply expressing opposition to lesser evil voting won't accomplish much.

If you want an organized Left or an environment that can foster a progressive national politics, lefties are going to have to create it from the local outward. And accept that it will take a very long time given our starting position. As opposed to waiting every 4 or 8 years in hopes that this will be the year progressive so-and-so gets elected. Now, some reading this post may already be very active at the local level and I commend you (I sure as heck need to do more myself), but it's quite evident that more needs to be done, that "America has lefties but no left."

I've gone on long enough, so I'll close with this: Depending on your age, you may not see large-scale systemic change in your lifetime. And that can be demoralizing, I know. It's also not easy--you have a job, you have a family, you don't want to do even more work in your spare time. But you have to find a way, because you aren't going to will systemic change into being. You have to help lay the groundwork and - in order to get over the frustration with slow progress - take comfort in planting seeds in the collective consciousness.
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