It’s almost reality, the presidential matchup the corporate media has been salivating for, Trump versus Clinton. The major commercial networks will use the public airwaves, for which they pay nothing, to earn buckets of cash carrying Trump and Clinton campaign ads, and the inevitable debates. It will be great for the corporate bottom line, wonderful fodder for the pundit class, and downright terrible for the nation. This is where we are. The oligarchy is alive and still in control.
Despair is an easy option. Watching the Republican Party reap the reward it has sowed for years alleviates some, but not anywhere close to all, my despair. The party strategists and bigwigs have blown the dog whistle for decades and what finally came home to them is the atavistic Donald Trump. Bummer.
What bothers me is the other party, the Democrats, the one that is supposed to be all-inclusive, champion of working people and the environment, women, equality and social justice. We know this isn’t the case any longer. As Thomas Frank points out in his new book, Listen, Liberal, the Democrats have been sprinting away from their traditional constituencies since the early 1970’s. As a result, the Party apparatus was hijacked by the Clintons and others of their ilk, so called New Democrats (Barack Obama included, which explains his energetic support of the Trans Pacific Partnership secret trade agreement) who embrace a savage neoliberal agenda that has devastated the middle class.
Our democracy is weak, the game rigged to produce preordained results. This is nothing new in American history -- we’ve traveled this rutted sideroad before. The wealthy and powerful always do everything they possibly can to limit direct democracy simply because they can’t control it. They talk about the “will of the people” and all that blather, but what they really mean is the will of their kind of people. So, we see arcane nominating rules and outright efforts to deny people their right to cast a ballot; we see how potential third parties are ignored and marginalized by the media, prevented from participating in debates and candidate forums.
The political duopoly serves its masters and makes serfs and slaves of the rest of us. As Robert McChesney and John Nichols note in their book, People Get Ready, “Unemployment, inequality, and poverty are best understood not, in the end, as economic problems, but instead as political problems. They require political solutions.” McChesney and Nichols go on to say that the level of corruption in contemporary American politics -- the blatant buying of politicians from both parties -- would make Gilded Age icons blush. The wealthy have never had it so good; 40-plus years of propaganda and scheming and manipulation has put them in the catbird seat.
But cracks are appearing in the foundation of this deeply entrenched oligarchy. The economic pain has become so widespread and pervasive that people are once again receptive to New Deal-style solutions. Bernie Sanders never had a prayer of winning the Democratic nomination -- the whole Party edifice was arrayed against him -- but he has succeeded in dragging bedrock middle class issues like income inequality back into the light. And when movements like Black Lives Matter, the Fight for $15, climate justice, humane immigration reform and voting rights, to name a few, coalesce with the understanding that their separate struggles are in reality one overarching struggle, the cracks will become fissures.
It has happened before. It will happen again. The People know the current arrangement is not only inequitable but unsustainable. Hell, the oligarchs themselves know this is true, which is why they are so desperate to delay the day of reckoning.
Tick, tock, torches and pitchforks.