‘Lesser-evil’ politics from Trump to Sanders

By JEFF MACKLER

That the leading Republican Party presidential candidate, multi-billionaire Donald Trump, is a full-blown reactionary caricature of a capitalist politician is now the common parlance of most major media outlets. Even the relatively conservative Washington Post featured a Dec. 1 Dana Milibank column entitled, “Donald Trump Racist Bigot.”

Milibank, reflecting the general unease at Trump’s virulently racist, misogynist, and xenophobic outbursts, wrote: “Let’s not mince words: Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist. … There is a great imperative not to be silent in the face of demagoguery. Trump in this campaign has gone after African Americans, immigrants, Latinos, Asians, women, Muslims and now the disabled…

“It might be possible to explain away any one of Trump’s outrages as a mistake or a misunderstanding. But at some point you’re not merely saying things that could be construed as bigoted: You are a bigot.

“It has been more than a quarter century since Trump took out ads in New York newspapers calling for the death penalty for “criminals of every age” after five black and Latino teens were implicated in the Central Park jogger case. The young men, convicted and imprisoned, were later cleared by DNA evidence and the confession of a serial rapist—and Trump called their wrongful-conviction settlement a ‘disgrace.’”

“Since then,” Milibank continued, “Trump led the ‘birther’ movement challenging President Obama’s standing as a natural-born American; used various vulgar expressions to refer to women; spoke of Mexico sending rapists and other criminals across the border; called for rounding up and deporting 11 million illegal immigrants; had high-profile spats with prominent Latino journalists and news outlets; mocked Asian accents; let stand a charge made in his presence that Obama is a Muslim and that Muslims are a ‘problem’ in America; embraced the notion of forcing Muslims to register in a database; falsely claimed thousands of Muslims celebrated the 9/11 attacks in New Jersey; tweeted bogus statistics asserting that most killings of whites are done by blacks; approved of the roughing up of a black demonstrator at one of his events; and publicly mocked the [physical] movements of New York Times (and former Washington Post) journalist Serge Kovaleski, who has a chronic condition limiting mobility.”

What is perhaps a bit different in today’s virtually year-round election hyperbole is the fact that virtually every one of the dozen or so Republican presidential contenders have remained all but silent as Trump daily spews out his noxious diatribes. Indeed, until quite recently, most of the corporate media relished covering Trump’s every anti-social rant, fearful perhaps that failure to do so might lose them critical media ratings.

Trump himself has repeatedly affirmed that any coverage, especially free media coverage—and to date he has by far had the lion’s share of the latter—could only work to his advantage.

On Nov. 8, Trump delighted in the opportunity to appear on the popular “Saturday Night Live” television show, where wacked-out comedian Larry David, who plays the part of an obnoxious liberal racist on his “Curb Your Enthusiasm” show, took up DeportRacism.com’s offer of a $5000 prize to publicly heckle Trump and call him a racist. David, who has yet to collect his winnings, did just that—with Trump’s explicit and prior, if not enthusiastic, agreement. In capitalist America today, a real live, laughing, racist billionaire is a profitable talent to broadcast!

Meanwhile, the front-running Trump has a dozen Republican challengers, including the second in the polls—retired surgeon, Christian fundamentalist, and climate and evolution denier Ben Carson. All afford Trump virtually free rein in his fear and hate-mongering campaign, with a few occasionally and cautiously seizing the opportunity to one-up this racist bigot in order to better capture an ever greater portion of the Republican Party’s alienated, largely middle-class, Tea Party-enthusiast voter base.

No doubt Trump’s rants find fertile soil in a small layer of the overall electorate, but even less in the general population, some half of which increasingly does not bother to vote.

But Trump’s backwater histrionics are not new to the increasingly polarized and crisis-ridden world capitalist scene. Overtly far-right, if not neo-fascist, views are similarly expressed in France, England, and across Europe. In the former two nations such right-wing parties have, for the first time in nearly a century, outpolled the traditional capitalist stalwart parties of the status quo.

Trump is the American reflection of overtly racist and neo-fascist ideology— if not a conscious experiment with it. His racist rants in some instances have encouraged the use of violent physical attacks by his disaffected followers, who find his scapegoating of the oppressed to their liking.

Democratic Party charade

On the Democratic Party side of capitalism’s electoral charade, this ruling-class party’s lead candidates take the opposite tack, portraying themselves as the font of progressive values.

In their first nationally televised debate, all five of the original Democratic Party contenders, led by “socialist” Bernie Sanders and matched by Hillary Clinton, enthusiastically decried the “casino capitalism” of Wall Street.

Their purported vision of the future society is one in which the U.S. “returns” to the moral values of its much fantasized “small business” and “hard-working little man” roots, where prosperity awaits all who conscientiously put in the effort. References to America’s slave-labor and robber-baron origins are absent in this scenario.

Given President Obama’s significantly declining poll ratings, none of the present Democratic Party contenders sought his overt political support. “Mums the word” with regard to Obama’s record of leading the nation in implementing each and every corporate assault against unions, workers, and the poor. None chose to identify with Obama’s unprecedented corporate largess in the form of multi-trillion-dollar bailouts to the richest sectors of the U.S. ruling class.

Rhetoric aside, Sanders’ Democratic Party voting record stands at 98 percent, while Hillary Clinton’s financial support from corporate America’s giants, as with Obama before her and Bill Clinton earlier, topped all contributions to her Republican opponents.

We might add that former Secretary of State Clinton backed to the hilt every imperialist war effort of the Obama administration from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya to today’s U.S. war efforts in Syria. Obama’s countless covert and drone wars abroad murdered millions while stuffing the coffers of the military-industrial complex at home. But virtually no comment from Bernie or Hillary!

Meanwhile, Obama’s hard-working “legacy” promoters struggle today to posture the president as a keen environmental advocate, an ally of immigrant communities, a champion of health care for all, a friend of the working class, a champion of democratic rights, and a man who is reluctant to send more troops to fight in the interests of U.S. imperialism.

Obama has become the media-promoted rational champion of climate science, currently partaking in the UN-sponsored Paris talks as the chief “defender” of the earth against the ravages of global warming. Yet, Obama’s administration holds the modern-day record for increasing the use of fossil fuels, opening the floodgates to corporate off-shore drilling, and maintaining the obnoxiously high government tax breaks for the leading Big Oil polluters.

Obama’s recent squelching of the infamous Keystone XL pipeline provided his administration a momentary fig leaf of credibility that immediately vanishes when contrasted to the massive increase of environmentally destructive pipeline complexes in place or under construction across the country.

Obama, the “Great Deporter,” with a record two million immigrants brutally forced out of the country to his credit, gifted $13 trillion in bailouts over the past seven years to the corporate elite. He presided over the wholesale shredding of civil liberties (as so ably exposed by the Snowden revelations). His signature “affordable” health care legislation gifted $3 trillion over the next 10 years to the private and largely monopolized insurance, hospital, and pharmaceutical industries—as opposed to a single-payer alternative that would have saved $1 trillion in government expenditures over the same period.

A Dec. 5 New York Times article entitled, “Jobs Report Seen as Strong Enough for Fed Action” [to raise interest rates on today’s nearly zero-rate “loans” to corporate America] nevertheless revealed some bitter truths about the Obama administration’s seven-year record.

“At 62.5 percent,” The Times notes, “the proportion of Americans in the labor force remains near mid-decade lows. The jobless rate for African-Americans rose by 0.2 percentage points in November to 9.4 percent, which is more than twice the 4.3 percent for white Americans.”

“Moreover, The Times adds, “the economy is still 2.8 million jobs short of where it would have to be to match pre-recession employment levels while also absorbing new entrants into the workforce. … Even if the current trend continues, that so-called ‘jobs gap’ will not be closed until mid-2017.”

Another Dec. 5 New York Times article, “Lawmakers Near Deal on Billions in Tax Cuts,” notes that the upcoming bipartisan tax-cut legislation, in almost all cases written behind the scenes and negotiated secretly by the technocrat specialists of the corporate elite, amounts to nothing less than a five-year duration transfer of $840 billion from us to them—from tax-paying working people to the tax-avoiding richest portion of the one percent that really rules America.

A general shift to the right

Today’s political/electoral drama, almost always devoid of the crooked corporate machinations that lead to tax cuts and other perks for the super-wealthy, can best be summarized: “The Republicans talk the talk: the Democrats walk the walk.”

The silky and “progressive”-sounding Democratic Party election-time jargon is no accident or fluke. It is consciously designed to pose this wing of the ruling class as the “civilized” representatives of an egalitarian society that respects, if not cherishes, democratic and human rights and economic fairness.

Similarly, the Republicans’ election posturing as a racist nut-case party of almost deranged hate-mongers, climate deniers, and war hawks is not without its own logic. The extreme verbal political divergence between Democrats and Republicans lays the foundation for capitalism’s well-honed election-time lesser-evil scenario, wherein alienated voters who would more than likely abandon the two-party shell game—a 60 percent majority favor a new third party, according to a recent Gallup poll—feel compelled to once again allow themselves to partake in “choosing” capitalism’s preferred horse in the race.

The seeming Republican Party scapegoating mania combines well with a generalized disgust with “establishment” politics, and it allows Democrats to move ever further to the right. Few doubt that President Obama and his Democratic Party political, social, and economic policies are far to the right of the most “evil” Republican propositions of yesteryear.

This generalized shift to the right of ruling-class politics, and the associated feigned public disputes, never fail to reach resolution in the hidden congressional and corporate corridors, where “compromise” solutions, always at the expense of the vast majority, are routinely arrived at.

The chaotic and crisis-ridden capitalist system itself—in a crisis virtually equal in magnitude to that of the Great Depression of 1929—best accounts for today’s public partisan discord. Different wings of the ruling elite are today at odds with regard to how much, how fast, and with what means—mass repression or “friendly” persuasion—to most effectively advance their common corporate interests.

Sanders pledges to support any Democrat

It is in this context, where massive disillusionment with and alienation from “traditional” capitalist parties and politics has reached new heights, that one can also understand the rise of long-time registered “independent,” now “socialist,” Bernie Sanders, as well as the racist social dissident, Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders is now an official Democrat, having pledged in advance to support whoever of his party competitors emerges from the upcoming election primary contests as the winner. In some recent polls in the early primary states, like New Hampshire and Iowa, Sanders’ ranking appears to be in the political ballpark—that is, he could win.

It was perhaps some 50-60 years ago, when I first encountered the “lesser evil” dichotomy at work—Kennedy vs. Nixon and Johnson (LBJ) vs. Barry Goldwater—that I half seriously predicted that the time would come when the ruling-class elite, when it believed it was necessary to head off a likely working-class move toward a break with the capitalist two-party duopoly, would run a “socialist” for president, under the Democratic Party imprimatur, of course.

That day has arrived, with “Bernie” filling the bill almost perfectly as today’s central sheepherder of the unwary back into the Democratic Party fold.

Sanders’ service record on capitalism’s behalf falls well within the boundaries of ruling-class politics. He supported the Obama administration’s wars in Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen—although he, like most other liberals who feigned opposition to the Iraq War, including Obama, now claim that this war was a ”mistake.” The Saddam Hussein government after all, they have been compelled to admit, never had “weapons of mass destruction.” The U.S. slaughter of 1.5 million Iraqis, we are told with a straight face, was a mistake!

“Socialist” Sanders gave his assent to countless trillion-dollar military appropriations bills, including all congressional measures that supported Israel in its genocidal drive to eliminate any Palestinian presence in their historic homeland.

Thus, campaigning for and organizing mass forces to demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. troops from every nation on earth is not within the Sanders campaign’s calculated political territory. He knows full well that any real socialist would view U.S. imperialism’s wars everywhere as nothing less than the extension and embodiment of U.S. ruling-class policies at home.

Sanders has indeed disappointed some of his liberal and even “socialist” supporters today due to his perceived “weakness” on foreign-policy issues and his failure to unequivocally challenge and condemn the ever-increasing brutality and police murder of unarmed Blacks. When confronted with a Black Lives Matter representative who jumped onto the stage demanding to know where Sanders stood on America’s deepening racist attacks, the “political revolutionary” was speechless and quickly exited, leaving the audience stunned. When he was soon afterward advised that his well-crafted liberal image had to include a modicum of support to Black rights, he meekly assented, but only to the point of not significantly interfering with Clinton’s prior turf “claim” to the Black vote.

Sanders has also made clear that he is not the kind of socialist that seeks the social ownership of the nation’s wealth and the establishment of a revolutionary state that once and for all places society’s means of production and wealth in the hands of and under the democratic control of those who produce it, in the framework of a government of the working class and its allies. Sanders’ “socialism,” he insists, includes respect for private property—operating, perhaps, in a bit more humanely manner.

In short, Sanders, like his “socialist” counterparts in France or in the Scandinavian countries, seeks a “kinder gentler capitalism.” The fact that he seeks to emulate Europe’s historically bankrupt social-democratic capitalist model while these nations are engaged in supporting all of NATO’s wars and imposing the same, if not worse, austerity measures against their respective working masses is not unexpected.

In these troubled times “Bernie,” in fact, perfectly fills capitalism’s needs for legitimacy. His chatter about the need for a “political revolution” in the U.S. is subordinate to his quarter-century service as Vermont’s leading elected official—unchallenged by the Democratic Party. His current assignment, for which he will undoubtedly be richly rewarded down the line, is to corral working-class discontent back into the capitalist framework and, when the Peter Pan fairy dust has cleared, to back Hillary Clinton.

Santa is in exile!

There is no Santa Claus on Wall Street, dear friends—neither in the form of Bernie and Hillary nor charitable gift-giving billionaires like Gates and Zuckerberg. Indeed, the real Santa likely abandoned his North Pole abode at the first signs of Industrial Revolution capitalist-caused global warming.

That once pristine ice-capped area, increasingly barren today, is the domain of happy Obama’s helpers, including the Chevron Corporation, which seeks to mine the exposed earth for the very fossil fuels whose continued use spells doom for all human kind. The real Santa likely moved his helpers to cities around the world to join the fight to restore his homeland and ours, and to return to the people of the earth the opportunity to collectively build a joyous world, free from those who would irrationally destroy it in the pursuit of profit.

Another Christmastime hero, a young Jewish rebel who lived a bit more than 2000 years ago, may have left us with some insightful words to ponder. “Drive the money changers from the temple,” he exhorted. Not a bad holiday admonition! Indeed, the socialist movement of the early 19th century did include followers of Jesus, who believed that socialism was the modern-day expression of the teachings of the Lord.

Today’s Marxist revolutionaries base themselves on a qualitatively grounded or materialist understanding of the roots of capitalist society’s countless horrors. As the gap narrows between workers’ mounting hatred of the dread consequences of capitalist exploitation and oppression and their reluctance to enter the fray to challenge it in all its fundamentals, we will see countless millions of new and clear-sighted fighters break with all of capitalism’s ruling-class-based institutions of coercion and control.

That day is not far over the horizon. Today, the conscious organization of a deeply-rooted mass revolutionary socialist party—aimed at ending capitalist rule forever and bringing forth a new world dedicated to advancing the finest yearnings for freedom, justice, and equality—is Socialist Action’s reason for being. Join us!