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Very simply: all of the changes to the DNC platform are meaningless words until they become laws. And most of them can’t become laws because implementing them would run right up against the goals of the TPP/TTIP — “barriers to trade” in neoliberal speak — which the current president and his party leadership actively support. These politicians — whatever gender or color — are bought and sold. (Yes, I agree that both Barack and Michelle give great speeches. Speeches, however, are not policy.) The proof is in their voting records. For them to support secretive, corporate-driven trade negotiations and pretend to be progressive is to render the term “progressive” completely meaningless. WTF is a “pragmatic progressive”?
What I seem to be witnessing is the two parties completing a 100-year process of mutual inversion, or whatever the term may be. For a century, the Democrats were the party of white supremacy and white labor — the party of the white working class. That’s how they sold themselves, essentially, for a century. The Republicans were the party of capitalism and freedom.
If that seems like a strange mix of values to you, well, it is, but I didn’t make it up. And now look at the party leadership today. Of course what they do and what they say are two different things, but how are they positioning themselves in terms of rhetoric?
Trump wants to end taxation for people who earn less than $50,000 a year, close military bases around the world and use the savings in the military budget for domestic purposes. He wants to heavily tax imports in order to keep jobs in the US, and he opposes TPP and other neoliberal trade policies that he accurately says are bad for the US working class. He talks about the working people as if they exist. Every day. He positions himself as critical of the elites with which he is intimately familiar, while also blaming nonwhite people for all the world’s ills in many different forms.
That is to say, in short, he has adopted the kind of rhetoric which was the backbone of the Democratic Party for the century or so before, during and after the US Civil War.
And the Democratic Party establishment? They talk pro-immigrant bullshit while deporting millions, they talk about peace while making war, they talk about civil rights while administering over a nation at war with its black and brown populations, they talk about working families without even mentioning the idea of rent control ever — which is banned statewide in 48 out of 50 states, many of which are usually controlled almost completely by Democrats.
And they talk of prosperity and American “greatness” while supporting neoliberal trade deals that have and will continue to impoverish most Americans even further, along with so many others in the world, as the rich get even richer. They don’t even pretend to oppose the TPP — at least now that Sanders has been defeated and has declared his support for a proven neoliberal war-maker.
Trump is now the Democrat, and Clinton the Republican.
Can a guy who speaks out against empire-building, in favor of protectionist trade policies, and who routinely denigrates people of color get elected president in the US Well, minus the racism and xenophobia, the one candidate on the Democratic ticket who spoke out (at least somewhat convincingly) against empire-building and (much more convincingly) against neoliberalism has just told us to vote for the empire-building neoliberal.
And the one candidate remaining who makes a fairly clear case against “free trade” and empire is the Republican. Is his blatant racism and xenophobia enough to stop him from being elected, when he is seen by many as the only candidate willing to stand up to the banks?
Ask Woodrow Wilson. He served two terms. Oh, but maybe American democracy has evolved since then. If it has, it’s a hard thing to measure objectively. What can be measured is the stratification of wealth, which is greater than it has ever been since the 19th century (just before Wilson got elected), and the only (major party) candidate now talking about what to do about that situation with any easily-understood, concrete proposals that don’t sound like window-dressing is Trump.
I’m so tired of hearing people talk about the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany with every new US election in my lifetime involving a racist Republican (which is all of the elections in my lifetime) that I’m not even going to address that historical parallel, although there are always relevant comparisons to be made with lots of different periods of history. But what I find interesting is the election of the quintessential Democratic president, Woodrow Wilson, in 1913.
Wilson ran for president in the wake of empire-building wars that the US led in Cuba, the Philippines and elsewhere that were very costly in terms of money and lives, during a time when the US was severely stratified economically and was experiencing a massive wave of emigration — both people coming into the US from Europe, and people moving within the US. Reacting to the situation as a typical Democratic politician would at the time, Wilson spoke out against empire-building, capitalist oligarchs, and any nonwhite people wanting any kind of recognition or resolution of their particular negative circumstances.
He got elected, and of course proceeded to decimate the entire working class, white and otherwise, forming the US’s first national police force (called the FBI), employing thugs to burn down union halls across the country, arresting and killing many union organizers. And he sent hundreds of thousands of American workers to their deaths in the “war to end all wars,” which was a very deadly and very successful empire-building exercise that saw the dissolution and western take-over of the vast Ottoman Empire — setting the stage for a century of war and conflict unparalleled in world history.
Back then, if you opposed war, capitalism and racism, you would not have a candidate to vote for. You’d have had to choose between the anti-war and anti-capitalist racist, or the pro-war and pro-capitalist guy who was supposedly more sympathetic to immigrants and people of color.
We know what happened after Wilson got elected. His opponents, people like Theodore Roosevelt, were the ones who had just made war against a lot of different countries a few years earlier. Would the US have stayed out of World War 1 if Roosevelt had won another round instead? Would you have been telling me to vote for Roosevelt back then because he was supposedly less of a racist than Wilson?
I think I’m going to start looking into getting a Hungarian passport. I’m so glad I’m going to be on tour in Europe in September or October. I just wish I were getting out sooner.
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David Rovics is a singer/songwriter based in Portland, Oregon.