There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People
— Umberto Eco
The past week has laid bare all of America’s growing contradictions. The contradictions of mythical American exceptionalism, late-stage gig economy services capitalism with 40 million unemployed, a pandemic that disproportionately affects people of color with little-to-no federal response, an incoming climate crisis already visible but ignored, consolidated financial capital for the 1% while growing misery affects all of the working class. It is a country that cannot, or will not, provide a social safety net to working people nor appropriate equipment to medical personnel during a pandemic, yet will happily mobilize a militarized police to crush any legal right to voice discontent with widespread violence and impunity. Ironically, it will designate anti-fascism as a terrorist ideology.
While both conservative and liberal media hyperventilate about looting, no one has bothered questioning the heavy-handed actions of the police apparatus as perhaps initiating a response by people looting. In fact, many articles coming out in the Spanish press are praising police taking a knee with protestors. Which is absurd, because thirty minutes after these photo ops, they start tear-gassing again.
It is time to embrace the parallels, to be unafraid to speak a clear truth: Whether by design or lack of it, Donald Trump and the Republican Party operate an American state that they have increasingly organized on fascist principles. It is also time to consider what else the fascists may yet do, during an unprecedented pandemic, amid unprecedented unemployment, faced with unprecedented resistance ahead of an unprecedented election. The Republican Party wants to make “antifascist” a category of terrorist; whether or not it actually uses active-duty soldiers to round up this new class of undesirables in the “national emergency,” it has at its disposal every police officer who flies a Punisher or Blue Lives Matter flag above the U.S. flag, every armed vigilante and Oathkeeper and Proud Boy who craves the boogaloo.
America is in a deep crisis, and it has little to do with some people looting some stores. Far from the cries of police reform of more body cams, the people on the streets understand that any posturing by politicians with these ideas are totally insufficient. We have past that long ago. We are seeing this level of uprising precisely because the authorities have ignored this for decades.
We have no opposition party left in the Democratic Party, with its means-tested focus-grouped solutions. And the Republican Party has been wholly capture by Trump and his brand of vacuous machismo. These contradictions necessitate systemic change, and it starts with overthrowing capitalism. Vote for whoever you want in November, but regardless of who ascends to the highest office in the land, our crises go beyond the ballot box. Our decaying empire and its sprawling military will still be there if Joe Biden is president. We will still be left with structural racism and a trigger-happy, violent police force that believes themselves to be an occupying force in American cities, because they live in the suburbs. We will still have concentrated capital for a small group of oligarchs that offer shitty jobs with no medical or social protections. It is time to start understanding that reality and act accordingly.
As the world settles in to its new virus-covered reality, time becomes amorphous. For many, especially city-dwellers, gone are the inessential errands, any whimsical excuse to leave the apartment, or the chance to meet up with friends on a nice day. “Is it Friday today?” Going to bed feels like a relief or a chore, the anchors of our social lives are lifted.
At least I have the woods behind our small village. I head up the road and enter one of the trails with my dog at least twice a day. Many of them are already well-trodden, even before the quarantine and a clearcut patch to give room for the electrical lines serves as a compass when we pretend to be new world explorers.
I often carry my phone to take photos. I was looking down at it this morning, cool but dry, when I saw a big black spot in the middle of the path. My eyes shot up and I saw the backside of a fleeing boar. My clueless unleashed dog didn’t notice and I grabbed him to prevent a futile and possibly dangerous chase. We continued cautiously for a bit looking for any sign that it ran off the path, but none. It was time to head back home, do some exercise downstairs and make some breakfast before my classes.
Once you’ve actually internalized that society doesn’t have to be this way, that none of the exploitation you’ve experienced or witnessed is actually inevitable, that human freedom is achievable, you don’t go back to thinking otherwise. Once you’ve been looked square in the eye and asked which side you’re on, you never take for granted your own neutrality again.
Encapsulated in this paragraph is my political and personal trajectory. I’ve lived in countries with vastly different socioeconomic and developmental levels, worked jobs from washing dishes to teaching primary school, accumulated student and medical debt, and tried to make sense of the world physically and intellectually as best I could. And as most socialists would attest, I cannot unsee the inane hardship and structural barriers with the assertion that that misery for others can change, that we can build something better, something more just. Capitalism is not manifest destiny. I could not simply put my head down, try to live for myself, care only for my family and friends and isolate myself in a village in my corner of Spain without feeling any solidarity whatsoever for everyone, everywhere they may be.
Bernie Sanders was the moonshot candidate; the millennial left’s Lorax to speak on our behalf, since we hold no power of our own, despite some of our comrades pushing 40 years of age. In most industrialized societies, the reforms we were demanding would be common sense. But common sense does not square with American financial capitalism: the CEOs are too powerful, the parties too tied to form and not function, the president a sociopathic liar, his “democratic” challenger hardly a democrat and continuously on the wrong side of history, and the working class even more expendable than previously imagined.
In the end, I felt a lightness. I was buoyed by the momentum, assumed too earnestly that the ruling class would allow themselves to be overrun by Bernie’s nascent coalition of social movements, young people, communities of color, marginalized folks, and working people. That they would not fight back and punch us back down was us being foolish. And they landed their knockout by manufacturing the unlikely comeback of a compromised Joe Biden. If you feel this assessment is incorrect, that “democracy spoke” in the form of the primary, I would love to hear it.
“The real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development” — Albert Einstein
We are living in the late Anthropocene. We have 17 million Americans out of work in just the last three weeks, with no real plan to help them in this crisis. The president gaslights the world every day with lies, his administration either gives PPE to private companies to auction off, pitting states against each other in a bizarre bidding war, or it steals ventilators from poorer Caribbean nations.
I have trouble believing we have the time necessary to build power electorally when a second and perhaps third wave of COVID-19 is expected. In the next decade, if drastic climate action isn’t taken, we will see those climate tipping points the IPCC report from last year warned us about. Even in the unlikely event of a Joe Biden victory, he will do very little on climate. His campaign has prioritized a return to some mythical normalcy, ignoring the fact that the Obama administration built the cages in deportation centers, bombed Muslim countries, supported death squads in Honduras, expanded the empire, etc. He has made it clear he has ‘no empathy’ for millennials.
In the daily outrages and political battles mixed in with the ups-and-downs of our own personal lives, the machinery of capitalism continues to extract and consolidate capital for the very few.
There are bright spots, however. People are waking up to their individual and collective power. We have seen the unintended reductions in carbon emissions when half the world must stay at home. No longer can the pundit and media class ask us incredulously, “How will you pay for it?” when we demand moderate social democratic reforms. We see the inhumanity of Jeff Bezos firing a striking worker who dared to ask that their Amazon warehouse be disinfected when workers tested positive. We will see a massive bump in member in organizations like Democratic Socialists of America. The political, economic, and social impossible is nothing but an illusion.
The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters. — Antonio Gramsci
With newfound power, our enemies will become more brazen. As the US struggles to get a handle on COVID-19 and the president throws daily tantrums to reporters, we continue to witness a decaying empire gasping for last breath. They will try to distract us with a return to normalcy, a new iPhone or an endorsement from the “cool” former president. Perhaps they will enact fascism-lite policies such as monitoring cellphone tracking in exchange for freedom to leave the house. Whatever comes, many we will be wiser than just a year ago.
So tomorrow, I’ll wake up, return to the monte with my dog. I’ll exercise, make breakfast, work, read as much as possible, try to write to no one more frequently, and find others like me to connect with. And I’ll do it the next day. And the next. Maybe something can come out of it. Thanks for reading.
A thing I’ve noticed on Twitter, besides the obvious Bernie Bro myth and especially after the Super and Mini Tuesdays, is the disgust by some liberals when those on the socialist left say they will withhold their vote for Biden in the future. I’d like to unpack this a bit. To be very clear, I don’t know what I will do if Joe Biden is the democratic nominee. I’m not saying yes to voting, and I’m not saying no. What I want to do is try to explain why some on the left need to withhold their vote come November.
For the last few months, from afar in my corner of Galicia, I’ve watched with resignation as the American media and the DNC elites have manipulated public opinion against Bernie Sanders, while scaring everyday voters into believing Joe Biden is the one to take on Donald Trump.
I will call out my own biases before I get into everything. The nation, now more than ever with the omnipresent coronavirus and its lethality, needs:
Universal healthcare in the form of Medicare for All, guaranteeing free-at-the-point-of-service to anyone and everyone residing in the United States. This is even more obvious with the pandemic. There is nothing radical about universal healthcare and would only align us with most major industrialized countries.
Climate action in the form of A Green New Deal. This is a no-brainer. Anyone who squawks about how we will pay for it is either engaging in a bad-faith argument, does not understand the consequences are already being seen and experienced around the world and even in poorer communities than their own, or does not value human life and a thriving biosphere for future generations. Or they’re billionaires who will blast off to Mars or somewhere else before it gets really dire.
The further democratization and progression of American social, civic, and political life. Here is my catch-all for making the country more equitable to all, in the form of stronger unions, better wages, more police accountability, tuition-free college, cancelling student debt, dismantling the carceral state, abolishing ICE, etc.
Many people believe Trump is an existential threat to the world. Words like fascist, white supremacist, or nationalist are used. I use them. In a sense, I believe all are valid and true. Closing the border to vulnerable immigrants, whose own countries were destabilized by our own government (some from the Obama administration) is odious. Given the impending climate catastrophe, there will be even more refugees and the world needs to move beyond the conventional paradigm of the nation state to accommodate these issues.
But I will call out bullshit when I see it. Joe Biden will not return us to normal. If he even wins the nomination at all (the political and nepotistic baggage of Hunter Biden and his post at a Ukrainian firm has more implications than Hilary Clinton’s emails), his obvious cognitive decline in the last four years is a huge liability. His continued contempt for the working class and millennials is antagonistic. Plus, back to normal is actually pretty terrible for many people. Largely, white democratic moderates were thrilled during the eight years of the Obama regime. I was one of them for many years. I voted for him twice. But politics was de-emphasized for many who saw him as a decent man. Let’s remember Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, the bombing of a handful of Muslim countries,
If you’re reading this, you might have found this through Micro.blog or Twitter. There is a large concentration of white moderate technologists on those sites. Perhaps you consider yourself on the left. Perhaps you think we’re out of our minds. Well, maybe. But here it is: there is no normal anymore. We are facing a choice that has global ramifications for better or worse. We cannot go back to centrism or rely on elites to dictate what is politically possible. The future is unwritten and remains in our hands.
This is not a post villifying the electorate for turning on Bernie Sanders. I get we’re all shell-shocked from four years of Trump. But I have seen, again from afar and from interactions with friends and family back home, how utterly manufactured this democratic primary process has been. Matrix fans might call it the red pill. But reading Marx, understanding our historical antecedents, and marinating in independent left media gives more perspective than the neutral horse-race mentality of the bought, billionaire-funded mainstream media.
So if you’re still reading, thank you. If you’re asking us in good faith why some would ever abstain and not “Vote Blue no matter who”, hopefully I can add another voice to that. Let me walk you through why the socialist left feels so dispossessed of any real power, and why a possible demonstration of our collective leverage might be to withhold our vote in strategic situations. Again, I am not trying to advocate this particular thought. I don’t know what I will do. Harm reduction voting might need to take place as well. There’s still a lot of primary to go, and everything is very much on unstable ground in these times.
Democratic Elite Consolidation before and after South Carolina
With the Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada primaries, there was already something strange going on. They scrapped the last major poll of the Des Moines Register before the caucus, apparently due to a complaint from the Buttigieg campaign. Some reporters who had seen results said Bernie was in first with his largest lead. That is not insignificant.
Then there is the night of the Iowa caucus. Pete Buttigieg declared himself the winner without any of votes being counted. Some, not me, will explain this away by saying the Buttigieg campaign had favorable internal data. Okay, but if it was so good, why not wait? Regimes in other countries have been toppled for less. Bolivia comes to mind. And it was wrong anyways. Bernie Sanders, in both the first caucus vote and the re-alignment, received more of the popular vote than Pete.
So why did he do this? Media narrative, I assume. Iowa is not a delegate-rich state nor is it representative of the democratic demographics of the country at-large, so the narrative driven by the media is super important going forward into the New Hampshire primary. For people paying attention, earned media is huge for momentum in these early states. In a crowded primary race, it was important.
How about the Iowa app, created to facilitate precinct captains and the Iowa Democrats to count votes and do strange (I’d argue unnecessary) delegate math? It was created by the mysterious tech startup Shadow and their think thank ACRONYM. I won’t get into the details about this. More ink has been spilled elsewhere and I’ll link to some at the bottom of each section. Regardless, ACRONYM’s founder Tara McGowan’s husband worked for the Buttigieg campaign in Iowa. Conflict of interest? Yes. Also, linked to the app/think tank are the Pod Save America crew. Google it. They waved it off with some phony outrage on the episode after Iowa. But my question, since the beginning, is this: Will anyone be truly held accountable? America basically caught the Iowa Democrats fixing or manufacturing results.
Despite the numerous irregularities of all that went down, Troy Price, the former head of the Iowa Democrats said the party would not re-evaluate the false delegate math. As of today, Sanders has over 2,000 more votes, 1 less state delegate equivalents, and oddly, 2 actual delegates less than Buttigieg. That’s a head scratcher.
You can say all these things are unfortunate circumstances or you can it for what is is; an attempt to rig the Iowa caucus in favor of someone who toes the Democratic Party line more than Bernie Sanders. It’s not a tinfoil hat scenario. It’s Occam’s Razor.
The democratic endorsements pushed Joe Biden into the spotlight.
Pete Buttigieg came in 2nd in both Iowa and New Hampshire and 3rd in Nevada. But after South Carolina, he drops out and the next day throws his support behind Biden. This is the guy who said Joe Biden was not right for the times and that a new generation needed to take up the mantle.
Beto O’Rourke called Joe Biden a return to the past. Suddenly, at exactly the necessary time (you know, when Bernie Sanders was looking to run away with the contest), Beto endorses Biden. Hmm.
Amy Klobuchar endorses Joe Biden.
Kamala Harris, who called Joe Biden out in an earlier debate on his racist, segregationist opposition to school busing, endorses him as well.
Biden was practically written off before the South Carolina primary. Conventional wisdom was that Biden just loses primaries. He has for all the previous presidential primaries. Obama picked him to assuage white voters for his own run in 2008. It was strategic.
And here’s a thing that annoys me to no end. Like Hilary, Biden is a manufactured avatar of a ‘good politician’. Collectively, we whitewash the horrible shit they have done as politicians. You know who hasn’t engaged in support of toppling the Honduran government or opposed busing or wrote the crime bill that has left countless black boys and men behind bars so much so that our prison population exceeds China’s? Bernie Sanders. Enough said.
Joe Biden has baggage. His brother, his son, himself. These are all liabilities that will absolutely be weaponized by Trump. Indeed, he’s already started. Can we just side-step this whole mess and vote for the policies who most of the democratic electorate agree with (minus the DNC)?
I decided to cut this short and not bother with links. You can find all of this easily. I might take this down at some point. But here it is. I would love to hear any comments or criticisms in the comments.
The president is a creation of TV and a voracious consumer of it, but his tastes are limited and specific. He likes cable news in general, and news about himself best of all. He became a star in reality TV, which relies on condensing human experience into catchphrases and simple, broad symbols, and he applied its lessons on the campaign trail by rendering the idea of security as a great big wall.
He has never, however, seemed to be much of a follower of scripted TV dramas, which at their best draw out life’s complexities.
Remember when we had a likable president? Those were the days, right? I voted for Obama, twice. And there were many things that the populace and media glossed over during his presidency. However, I never got the feeling the executive branch didn’t have a handle on things. Now, we have something else entirely. These last two years have been very strange.
Politics, right? Lots of people want to ignore it all. It’s exhausting. As we spent a few days in Galicia recently, the importance or pointlessness of politics came up in conversation. I vacillate between these points of view. Some days, I feel like ignoring it all, like many people do. If we paid less attention to these big egos who so desperately seek attention, wouldn’t things change?
Other days, I get a sense that the only real way to solve these big problems is through politics. It’s the twenty-first century and our industrialized society has left us with the responsibility of uniting to save our planet than at any other point of human history. I’m thinking an Independence Day scenario, where instead of aliens it’s CO2 emissions.
But if I internalize the second stance today, I need to throw my voice into the ether. Can we not elect another Barack Obama?
If the Democratic Party ever wants to actually wield national power, instead of simply enacting change through easily repealable executive orders, then it has to win governorships, congressional seats, statehouses, and more all over the country.
We can’t just elect a young, telegenic American. There needs to be a reawakening to ideology and big ideas like a Green New Deal, Medicaid for All, and free tuition. Kate Aronoff’s article in the Intercept on what a Green New Deal would be like really encapsulates this vision.
So, Bernie? Honestly, I don’t know. He’s older, but there aren’t many potential Democratic candidates that are so single-mindedly focused on economic issues concerning the country.
The United States can sink or swim after the rampant corruption of the Trump presidency. Let’s get ourselves ready for the future.