A Republic Without the Public

Rob Wijnberg from the Correspondent admonishing the news media to stop treating the United States as if it’s a democracy should be required reading:

It would be a major misconception to assume that the downfall of US democracy started in November 2016, when Trump was elected. In fact, it’s the other way around: the first openly kleptocratic president moving into the White House marked the consummation of its decay, not its initial conception.

Born from theft, built on slavery, held together by self-deception, the United States has grown to become the richest poor country in the history of humankind. It is a country that has violence in its DNA, inequality embedded in its genes, and a completely mythical self-image as its national identity.

It’s a country with the world’s highest GDP, where 40 million people live below the poverty line. The only industrialised nation on the planet without universal healthcare, any real social welfare system or decent retirement provisions. The only free nation where 1 in 40 adults are behind bars and which has more guns in circulation than people living within its borders. The only western economy where the richest three inhabitants hold more wealth than the poorest half of the entire population.

There’s so much here but one of our great faults as a nation is the utterly unearned exceptionalism.

  • Iran is a dangerous theocracy ruled by ayatollahs, but one Supreme Court justice’s passing is the difference between democracy and fascism.
  • West African states are corrupt and driven by cults of personality, but when the the president and congress do it, it’s somehow both abnormal but par for the course because, politics.

And on and on.

We aren’t honest to ourselves about our country. Which is why I think journalism like Slate’s If It Happened There series is important, because it highlights how complicit our media is, intentionally or otherwise, in our myth-making.

Left Abroad #3: Podcasting Spanish Politics with Alan McGuire

I talked to British writer, teacher, podcaster, and fellow immigrant to Spain Alan McGuire last week about politics, history, books, and his own podcast Sobremesa.

There’s a dearth of in-depth information in written or podcast form in English about Spanish politics that doesn’t have the same tired tourism angle and I wanted to talk to him about how he came to Spain, his own political trajectory, and why he decided to start his project.

It ran a little long, because Alan and I have quite a bit in common. Thanks to Alan for taking the time to and to you for listening to Left Abroad! Please give us your honest review on Apple Podcasts if you get a chance.

Show Notes

Blueprint for a Barely Functioning United States

With the untimely passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republican hypocrisy regarding SCOTUS confirmations that liberals seem to think will eventually shame the GOP into doing the honorable thing (it won’t), massive unrest over the troika of economic, social, and environmental conditions, the contradictions in American life have become much too obvious for anyone with half a brain to ignore.

I hate to admit it, but there is no Left with any real power. And The American death cult and its financiers faces a weak centrist façade that placates and sloganeers. History will show the DNC to be the party of dangerous (white) moderates. The rest of us simply have no other viable vessel for political expression.

Nobody’s asking me, but this is my blog and we could start demanding some things to make life more livable:

  • Restructure the immigration system and dismantle ICE: Family separation, hysterectomies in immigrant concentration camps, young Americans of color locked up for weeks despite having citizenship, raids in hospitals. Tell me where to stop.
  • Abolish the Senate: An antiquated chamber that is wholly undemocratic. Wyoming and California are not equal. It impedes progress. But look, it was designed that way, a mechanism for the new American aristocracy to keep a lid on the popular classes.
  • Along with the Electoral College: Popular vote.
  • End impunity for the ruling class: Bush and Obama for American war crimes and accessories to Saudi crimes in Yemen. Trump for corruption, along with those senators accused of insider trading before the pandemic. If not in court trials at least a public reckoning. As a two-time Obama voter, it’s hard to deny his epic failures on Guantanamo, the Middle East wars, deportations, and more recently orchestrating the consolidation of centrists during the democratic primaries for Biden and squashing an NBA wildcat strike with a phone call. Sound like an impediment to hope and change? Thanks Obama.
  • Close the racial wealth gap and pay reparations: I’ll defer to Darity and Coates.
  • Green New Deal for planetary survival: Fires, floods, heat waves, droughts, etc. It’s happening and it’s finally not just confined to developing nations in the global south.
  • Legislate Medicare for All: Again, the only industrialized country to not have public healthcare. Pandemic, meet employer-based plans that work tooth and nail to deny coverage.
  • Cancel student debt: Give more economic freedom to the generations crushed by debt. It’ll be in everyone’s interest.
  • Reform the courts: Lifetime appointments are monarchical.
  • Demilitarize/defund the police: Duh. They keep murdering people of color without repercussions. They don’t need tanks, they don’t need heat rays, they need accountability.
  • Take away the assault weapons, at least: This one should have happened already.
  • Promote homesteading and invest in rural communities: The rise of masks, staying home, social distancing and telecommuting have pointed the way. Let’s be pioneers,
  • Reduce the workday: 6 hours at most. Let people live. Or at least be able to help their kids with Zoom school in the immediate future.
  • More municipal/state rights: How do we undermine an imperial presidency? By diminishing the reach of the office, building local power, and affecting change at a smaller, and more manageable, administrative level. We have a federal system. Things like health and LGBT rights must be built in to the whole system, but sustainable energy solutions, how to participate in civic life, and what to grow are all regionally and culturally dependent.

And many others. Stop the wars, stop the fracking, stop the pipelines over indigenous land.

Yes; Republicans, structural barriers inside the our political institutions, the “both sides”-ism of the corporate media, and disinformation on social media are huge hurdles to overcome. You know what is also a hurdle to progress? The Democratic Party. I’m almost 34 years old, and as much as I hoped and dreamed for the DNC to be a progressive party.

No more funding equivocating on economics or norms. One guy demolished all our norms and the economy almost collapsed just because people were staying inside and only buying essentials. We just gave away billions to corporations and dead industries like cruise lines. Planes are flying to nowhere to secure contracts with airports, despite their massive carbon footprint. And the government has left Americans with $1,200 (for some, not even that’s).

Whatever happens in November, we’re at the eleventh hour and it’s high time for radical thinking.