Chaos and candidates shout over each other, calling each other names while the moderator is completely sidelined and reduced to begging the contestants “gentleman, please”. If Hollywood had produced a film about a presidential election and they’d had scenes like those from last night’s Republican debate, thoughtful critics would have panned it as being “over-the-top” and “completely not credible”. As a column in the Wall St. Journal put it the next day, “Ancient Romans would find the drama of American primary elections eerily familiar.” So, perhaps might Germans of the 1930s (although fascism is not about to seize power in the US.)
“This man’s a choke artist. And this man’s a liar” – Donald Trump’s line referring first to Marco Rubio and then to Ted Cruz about summed up the debate.
It was simultaneously hilarious and frightening… frightening when one realizes that one of these men might become the next president with a friendly congress and judicial system and a press that is completely supine. Frightening when one realizes what they’re after:
- Massive deregulation that will create havoc with the environment, making Flint, MI just a byline, making federal parks and wilderness areas just one more arena for private investment and profit-making, and accelerating the disaster of global climate change/climate disruption.
- Mass attacks on millions of immigrant workers and their families.
- Increased police racism and repression.
- Further attacks on women’s rights.
- Increasingly aggressive foreign policy, one that would make the foreign policy of George Bush pale by comparison.
- Most of all, further increase in the mood of hysteria, hatred, undefined anger, general violence and racism and a general cheapening of human life.
Democrats an Alternative?
It’s almost enough to make one turn to the Democrats. Almost.
Until one thinks about their contribution to this general mood through their war-like propaganda too – a role that one tends to forget because of the caricature that is the Republican Party.
We should remember the few brief periods when the general political dialog was referred in recent years: The first was during Occupy movement; the second was at the height of the protests against racist police killings, especially that of the murder of Michael Brown. In other words, it was the movement in the streets and communities that reversed the political direction of US society, not a political campaign from above. The Democrats and their supporters always try to demobilize this movement by luring it into the courts and the government bureaucracies and electing more Democrats. (And, yes, that includes Bernie Sanders’ “political revolution”.)
That doesn’t mean that the movement can or should try to escape electoral politics. It shouldn’t, because it can’t. But it will have to run its own candidates outside of and opposed to the Republicrat paradigm, starting most likely at the local level. Among other things, doing this will help the movement define its political goals, broaden and define what it stands for.
Special consideration should be given to the role of the unions and their leadership. This leadership represents the employers in the work place and the Democratic Party politically. Any movement from below will have to include a struggle of the rank and file inside the unions to transform those unions. This means organizing rank and file caucuses to oppose the leadership and their stranglehold.
And meanwhile, it’s necessary to build the movement in the streets, communities and work places to stand up to the corporate onslaught.