Why I Fear The Democratic Establishment Just As Much As I Fear Trump
This has gotten scary.
This is an unedited republishing of an article that originally appeared on February 24 for See You In 2020.
People's interest in the book 1984 has been more prevalent than ever this year. The reason for this isn't hard to guess; they're correctly getting the sense that with the rise of Trump-or rather the far smarter and scarier figures who rule from behind his throne-our government is set to try to eliminate the pretense of freedom and democracy. The reason I'm participating in this spontaneous movement to read Orwell's warning, though, having finally begun to look at a copy of it, has to do with more than fear of the Trump administration. It also involves my similarly present fear of the Democratic Party establishment.
That's right. I view the neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party as just as dangerous to democracy and independent thought as I do the Trump regime. And the object of my fear isn't as non-threatening as it appears; as the political pendulum thankfully begins to swing away from the interests of Trump and the GOP, neoliberal Democrats are doing everything they can to use this as a means to regain power. And in the meantime, they're able to do a lot of damage by partnering upwith the Trump government to advance their shared goals of economic exploitation, perpetual war, and governmental efforts to fight dissent through mass surveillance, state censorship, and the persecution of whistleblowers.
So in the following paragraphs, I'm going to be providing in depth why I see the Democratic establishment as nearly or just as fascist as the Trump regime. I'll do this by breaking up into three parts the troubling actions that Democratic elites have taken in these last two years.
Part 1: the primaries
It at first seemed like nothing more than a healthy and interesting political game. And indeed, the contest between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton was in many ways a beneficial process, with the Democratic Party, for the first time in a very long while, having the opportunity to question whether it's on a good path. Due to that aspect of the primaries, Rolling Stone wrote: "Hillary and Bernie have waged campaigns full of vision, ideas and promise — and have shown us the best in American politics."
What ultimately turned things dark and nasty, though, was that this contest was not simply a rivalry between the politics of idealism and the politics of compromise. This was much more complex and serious than that polite, mutually pleasing assessment of Bernie vs Hillary; this was a fight between the belief that economic injustice, warmongering, and other atrocities are somehow acceptable if they're perpetrated by one's own party, and the belief that these things are acceptable under no circumstances. While most of Clinton's supporters liked to think otherwise, the contrasts between the two candidates made this fact objectively clear; Clinton's campaign was funded by many of the country's most powerful (and dangerous) corporations and oligarchs, while Sanders' campaign was funded almost entirely by his largely lower-class supporters. Clinton's record was filled with support for "free trade" deals, Wall Street bailouts, and other such crimes of the neoliberal era, while Sanders had none of these past demons to reckon with. Clinton had been instrumental in bringing about many of America's legendary recent foreign policy missteps, while Sanders, despite not having a record that was exactly anti-war, would right now be on his way to ending America's paradigm of perpetual war if he were allowed to become president.
I say "allowed" because so much was at stake in this primary election, and the powers invested in maintaining the status quo had so much potential to influence the contest's outcome, that Sanders was deprived of becoming the nominee in a truly Orwellian affront to democracy. The subtle coup against Sanders, as I like to call it, started with the Democratic National Committee's efforts to deny Sanders useful exposure by arranging a minimal amount of Democratic presidential debates. As the months went by, this proved to be the least of the institutional obstacles that had been put in front of Sanders-and I'm not just talking about the contest's eleven closed primaries and the corporate media's blackout of the Sanders campaign. As I've illustrated, through numerous instances of voter suppression and electoral fraud, Iowa, Nevada, Massachusetts, Missouri, Arizona, New York, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, and California were stolen from Sanders, while his victories in Oklahoma, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Indiana were manipulated to be smaller than they would have been if they were run fairly. It's more than reasonable to say that if all of those tactics had not been employed to sabotage Sanders, he would have come out as the primary's landslide winner.
The truly Orwellian aspect of what happened, however, was not so much the fact that Democratic elites rigged the primaries, but the fact that they denied doing so. The Democratic establishment's main media gofers at The New York Times responded to the cries of fraud from Sanders supporters with the egregiously condescending headline: Bernie Sanders and Rigged Elections: Sometimes You Just Lose. Such efforts to bury the true history of the 2016 Democratic primaries have since then been participated in by many others, even one of Sanders' supporters Bill Maher, who said in his post-California primary episode of Real Time that Clinton had beaten Sanders "fair and square." Sickeningly, the show's audience applauded at this remark.
When I look back on things like that, I can't help thinking of the power that the government had in 1984 to revise the past in any way it wanted. The Party, as it was called, could claim that it had invented the airplane or produce a completely absurd version of history, and no one could disprove its lies because all of the world's books, newspapers, and other means of information were stealthily revised whenever the government found the need to change the public's view of the past. Thanks to this tactic, whenever the Party did a historical revision, the true facts existed only in the minds of those who cared to remember them, and those people were readily denounced and vaporized if they questioned the new narrative. So is the case with the Democratic Party's campaign to pull the wool over the public's eyes as to the rigging of the 2016 primaries, and to denounce anyone who still brings up the true version of what happened as a "sore loser" and a "conspiracy theorist." And usually, of course, these denunciations are followed up by vaporization in the form of censorship imposed upon the offending individual.
Regardless of whether it has me denounced and vaporized, I'm continuing to the next phase of this report on the Owerllianism of the modern Democratic Party.
Part 2: the general election
After the "Democratic" primaries ended, and things moved on to the "Democratic" convention, a great deal of new Orwellian actions by the Democratic establishment appeared at one time. Foremost among them the emergence of the party's modern-day McCarthyite campaign.
In the wake of the not-so-shocking revelation on July 22 by Wikileaks that the DNC had actively conspired to bring down Bernie Sanders, the first thing many Democrats did was to jump to the at-the-time murky and still very much uncertain conclusion that Putin's hackers gave Wikileaks the emails. This move, as Current Affairs' Nathan Robinson wrote on July 27, clearly had an ulterior motive: "It should be noted, first, that all of these figures are supporters of the Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton, and that the hack of the DNC emails proved deeply embarrassing for the Clinton campaign. The shift from discussing the emails themselves to discussing who leaked them is tremendously helpful in taking negative attention away from the DNC and Clinton. As one BuzzFeed writer put it, 'Now Russia is the story.'"
When reading that, I can't help thinking of the tactics that the Party used in 1984 to distract the public from its evils by re-directing attention towards hatred for whatever nation the fictional country of Oceania is currently at war with.
As we would learn later, this was just the beginning of the Democratic establishment's new Cold War. But in the meantime, the Democratic convention in Philadelphia was filled with its share of Orwellian aspects. There was the display of clearly ant-semitic Bernie Sanders t-shirts at the convention, as pictured above and as documented on Reddit, near posters that made Hillary Clinton look like a North Korean dictator. There were efforts from the evidently anti-Sanders organizers of the convention to put the thumb down on Bernie by giving his delegates a deliberately unpleasant experience, having after a certain point used any excuse they could find to throw out people with anti-war signs, anti-TPP signs, and anyone else who seemed to oppose the party's status quo. Speaking of which, perhaps the most disturbing part of the convention were the fascist cries of "USA! USA" in response to general John Allen's militaristic DNC speech. All of these incidents display a grotesque culture within the Democratic Party's establishment of autocracy, conformity, and barely-veiled contempt for outsiders, and they foreshadowed well the things that this Big Brother-esque entity would do next.
The time between the convention and the election was filled with a series of intense efforts from the Democratic elite to crush progressive dissent. Namely the demonization of the Green Party, and the demonization of anyone who generally criticized Hillary Clinton in a way that was deemed to be related to Russia. The former propaganda campaign was explained in August by Counterpunch's Margaret Kimberly as follows: "The screeds have become more and more extreme and defy the run of the mill rationales that progressives use to justify remaining within Democratic Party lines. Holding one’s nose and voting for the 'lesser evil' democrat is passé. So is fear of Republican judicial appointments. Concern for abortion rights doesn’t cut it anymore. Liberals are no longer going through the motions of criticizing the Democrat. Instead they openly show love for Hillary Clinton and disdainfully pile on Stein and Baraka with fury. The blog Wonkette called Jill Stein 'cunty' and 'a mendacious nihilist piece of shit.' The site Very Smart Brothas declared that a vote for Stein was akin to putting it in the trash. They also threw in a dig at Cornel West because he dared to criticize Barack Obama. The Huffington Post chose to deride Green Party convention delegates because they ate at McDonald’s. Gawker tried to link Ajamu Baraka to holocaust denial. His unassailable human rights credentials didn’t mean much when the media decided to go into attack mode."
That's some hard-core hostility towards those who dared to question the Democratic Party, reminiscent of the events put together by the Party in 1984 that consisted of getting a crowd of people together and having them express two minutes of pure, wild hatred towards the enemies of the status quo. So was in other ways the case with the McCarthyism exercised so frequently by establishment Democrats throughout those months.
In her recent article looking back on the rampant Russia-related scapegoating of establishment Democrats throughout the general election, particularly that of Rachel Maddow, Caitlin Johnstone writes: "There’s no public figure who’s been such a virulently Russophobic nutcase and so relentlessly aggressive in their attacks upon third parties as one Rachel Anne Maddow. The photo in question [of Jill Stein sitting at a table years ago with Russian leaders], of course, was taken long before Americans were being told every single day by every talking head on TV that the Russian president was someone they’re supposed to hate and fear. It was taken in 2015 when Stein took a trip to Moscow to attend an event at which Putin spoke, during which, as the phenomenal Glenn Greenwald reported last year, she made a video in which she 'criticized Russia for diverting scarce resources into military spending while its people suffered.' This somehow got twisted into an act of treason in which Americans were duped into imagining that Russia was a nation they'd considered an enemy back in 2015 in an incredible feat of revisionist Orwellian doublethink."
The fake Democratic campaign to blame the Russians, for which the stories above are just a sample, served as yet another foreshadowing to what this terrifying cabal of "liberal" fascists would do post-election.
Part 3: November 9 to the present
When one really thinks about it, it becomes reasonable to construe that a Hillary Clinton victory would have spelled a similarly Orwellian future to the one spelled by a Trump victory. If Clinton were president right now, I believe the United States would be quickly inching towards a new Cold War with Russia that could easily turn hot, while anyone who disagrees with the president's course of action would be frequently labeled a Kremlin puppet. None of this is to say, though, that Clinton's allies haven't done their best to bring about that scenario regardless of Trump's victory.
Establishment Democrats wasted no time in blaming all the convenient scapegoats for their spectacular 2016 failure. As also reported last year by Glenn Greenwald, Democratic elites pushed all the responsibility for their loss onto hypothetical Russian hackers, third party voters, and even Bernie Sanders. And they then, naturally, proceeded to use their flimsy evidence against the former scapegoat as an excuse to go on with the new Cold War idea for as long as they still had control over the White House. In the last months of Obama's term, he capitalized on the Russia narrative to expand the Deep State's power, push sanctions on Russia, and, most Orwellianly of all, essentially establish his own Ministry of Truth.
No matter that the latter action gave Trump even more power as soon as he took office. By the calculations of the establishment Democrats and the Deep State, it seems, allowing Trump to have their tools was worth the risk, as he certainly won't dismantle those tools, and giving him access to them is a small price to pay for them being able to resume power in 2020 with all the assets they put together for themselves in 2016. At that point, assuming all has gone well for them, their long-planned war against Russia will be able to finally commence. And in the meantime, they're doing a great job at consolidating and expanding the base of people who would potentially support this project.
Once again, Orewellianism is deeply present in the recent actions of establishment Democrats. With the help of the "liberal" echo chamber that Democratic elites began to lay the goundwork for nearly a decade ago, Rachel Maddow and the other gofers for this masked brand of fascism have been constructing a powerful and resilient political machine. They're attempting (thankfully so far with little success) to have their useful gofer David Brock create a "Brietbart for the Left" which expands on the Thought Police-esque army of pro-Clinton internet trolls that Brock set up during the 2016 election. They're using their staggering amount of influence over public discourse in America to get the relatively small but substantial facet of the population that still supports them to denounce and vaporize (in this case through purely social means) anyone who stands up to the Democratic establishment. And they're continuing to try to revise the public's view of history, namely by pushing the narrative that the the Democratic Party's status quo shouldn't change because it's already a mechanism for helping the lower classes. (For instance, Democratic apologist David Greenberg wrote in December after listing a laughable series of easily refuted lies and exaggerations about how the Democratic Party has consistently stood up for the 99% that "The calls for Democrats to become more 'populist' seem to amount to a matter of tone — marshaling an emotionally satisfying us-against-them rhetoric that blasts banks, big business and the 1%.")
The truth of the matter, as most Americans have thankfully by now found out, is that the Democratic Party in its current form is not an ally but a dissent-crushing, cruel cabal that's been a reliable tool of the oligarchy since the Carter administration. And in many ways, it's even more useful to the oligarchy than the Republican Party is, because it's capable of masking its corporatist and power-serving agenda behind a nauseatingly hypocritical veil of populist-sounding rhetoric about how its leaders are "fighting for us." So naturally, it's very much capable of employing fascist tactics like the ones documented in the event of a brewing public rebellion against it. And as just such an anti-Democratic establishment movement has emerged throughout these last two years, the Democratic establishment has responded in a predictable way. As HA Goodman wrote in 2015, George Orwell would not have voted for Hillary Clinton, and he no doubt wouldn't have approved of what Clinton and those who share her political brand have done since then.
The good news is that as wasn't the case with the Party in 1984, the Democratic Party establishment hasn't been able to make it so that its opponents have almost no opportunities to mobilize. Without asking the approval of David Greenberg, Bernie Sanders and his vast coalition have ignited a movement post-election to overwhelm the neoliberal Democrats, and they're so far for the most part successful, with Berniecrats having taken over numerous state and local aspects of the Democratic Party. Will this ultimately lead to a transformation of the entire party? That's no guarantee, given how Debbie Wasserman Schultz clone Tom Perez is about to be undemocratically appointed by Democratic insiders to the DNC chairmanship. But no amount of the Democratic establishment's tactics can change the fact that it's trying to do something that can't be done, which is to endlessly elevate a state of oppression within society. History has shown that revolt among the public is inevitable in the event of a state-perpetrated consolidation of power, especially one which involves increased economic inequality, and the Democratic establishment is experiencing just such a revolt.
For now, though, I remain scared.
Update: we don't have to worry about them starting a war with Russia four years from now anymore, because they've been able to assimilate Trump into their neocon agenda as U.S.-Russia tensions continue to mount.