Overturning inverted totalitarianism

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Perhaps the most important result so far of the Bernie Sanders insurgency is how starkly it has exposed the truly totalitarian nature of the 21st century American state.


Of course, this is not totalitarianism of the classic Orwellian variety. It is the “inverted totalitarianism” that the late political scientist Sheldon Wolin so brilliantly described in his book, “Democracy, Incorporated.” In a system of inverted totalitarianism, there is no real distinction between state and corporate power. In this system, a carefully “managed democracy,” as Wolin called it, is supervised by a technocratic elite in the general service of corporate interests.


In inverted totalitarianism, the outward forms of democracy continue to exist—enough to keep a deliberately uninformed populace under the illusion that they still live in a democracy—but the actual levers of government are tightly controlled by Wall Street and its associated industries—finance, armaments, energy and media.


What makes this system of totalitarianism “inverted” is that, instead of being ruled by a “strong leader,” like you find in classic 1930s-style fascism—the earlier, more primitive version of the merger of corporate and state power—the system is instead governed by a consensus of corporate interests, with a puppet US president answering to the “phalanx of CEOs” that Bob Woodward once described as immediately surrounding every new American president.


And Bill Clinton, with his brilliant technocratic grasp of policy, and his enthusiastic embrace of so-called “free trade” agreements, and his ruthless commitment to American imperialism, and his welfare and telecommunications and banking “reforms”—all of which served to increase the share of global wealth owned by the 1 percent—proved himself a very effective “manager” of democracy indeed. So he was generously rewarded for his services to the elite with millions in post-presidential speaking fees, and millions more in donations to a foundation that primarily serves as a personal family slush fund, and was welcomed wholeheartedly into the 1 percent—his trailer trash background and habits notwithstanding.


It is therefore a natural development for the global elites who oversee the world’s economic system to hire Bill Clinton’s longtime “partner in power,” with equal confidence in her ability to provide the certainty and stability that capitalism and the financial markets depend on, and with the knowledge that she will do her utmost to protect and maintain the status quo.


Making Hillary president has the added benefit for the ruling elites of making it appear as if the US is moving in a more liberal direction politically. This helps to disguise the tightening grip of transnational capital on the US government, not to mention those of democracies worldwide, and keeps liberals confused.


Meanwhile, a Hillary presidency will guarantee that Americans remain divided, as a Republican Congress—the likely result of a November enthusiasm gap—mine the files of the Clinton Foundation or, who knows, maybe Benghazi, for impeachable offenses, cheered on by those who have hated her with righteous fury ever since she was First Lady. And left and right will square off as enemies, rather than uniting as compatriots with a common foe: a corrupt American government that no longer functions either as a democracy or, in any meaningful sense, a republic. And a corrupt and unjust system will be protected from a united populace.


It is Bernie’s ability to unite Americans that I think has brought the greatest shock to the establishment. They were already alarmed by his ability to spark a movement, and to organize a campaign, and to outflank the media narrative, and to rack up victory after victory, and to beat the establishment’s anointed candidate at her own high-stakes and all-important game—raising money—all of which have been minimized to the greatest extent possible by a well-coordinated and relentlessly on-message corporate/state media.


But because of the authenticity and commonsense nature of his message, it is Bernie’s ability to appeal not only to progressives, but to independents and conservatives, and to unite people in the common cause of cleaning up a corrupt and decadent political system, that seems to have made the establishment realize that his political revolution could actually be a genuine threat.


So in their eyes, it must be stopped.


This serious turn in the establishment attitude is, as usual, most evident in the media. As long ago as 2014, the media has been in the tank for Hillary, as Chris Cuomo openly admitted on CNN. “We couldn’t help her any more than we have,” he said on June 9, 2014. “She’s getting a free ride from the media. We’re the biggest ones promoting her campaign.”


That media pattern of Hillary promotion has been apparent throughout the campaign, but has intensified in the wake of the Wisconsin primary, where Bernie’s 13-point victory vastly outperformed every mainstream prediction, and an uninterrupted Bernie winning streak made the media’s “inevitability” narrative look increasingly silly.


As progressive radio host Thom Hartman has noted, most of the post-Wisconsin cable news coverage has concentrated on the Republican race (where Ted Cruz is much farther behind Donald Trump than Bernie is of Hillary). An absurd example of this occurred when Nation reporter John Nichols, a very early advocate for Bernie Sanders, appeared on a panel on CNN the day after Wisconsin, and was only asked about Cruz. The media are continuing a pattern of ignoring Bernie as much as possible. And the headlines about his string of victories are all, “Bernie wins, but math.”


The media has also mostly parroted Clinton campaign misrepresentations of Bernie’s recent interview with the NY Daily News. A Washington Post headline even suggested that, in Hillary’s opinion, Bernie is “unqualified” to be president, spurring a reaction from Bernie that the media also tried to turn in Hillary’s favor. The correspondence between the media metanarrative and Hillary’s rhetoric on breaking up the big banks is exact: they’re in agreement that Bernie doesn’t know what he’s talking about.


The Hillary Clinton campaign and establishment media have virtually merged. Two days after Wisconsin, CNN ran a near-continuous loop of Hillary on the NYC subway, woman of the people, kissing babies and using her Metro card. It looked more like a Clinton campaign commercial than a journalistic report on a candidate who hasn’t held a press conference in weeks.


What has terrified the establishment is the realization that the political revolution that Bernie has openly instigated may in fact be a real revolution; and that Bernie is right when he says that, when millions of us stand together, there is nothing that can’t be done. The establishment knows that millions of us standing together is the only way inverted totalitarianism can be overturned.


And to just about everyone’s surprise, and to the establishment’s utter terror, Bernie turns out to be a guy who can unite millions.

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Fork in the path

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Sometimes when you’re moving along the revolutionary path, you come to a fork, and have to make a choice. The political revolution that Bernie Sanders has ignited seems to be approaching such a decision.


With the near sweep of the latest set of primaries by Hillary Clinton—and despite the fact that Bernie’s late surge of votes again demonstrated defiance of the polls and positive momentum for his campaign—the mass-psychological stage has been set to make a Bernie presidency seem an ever more distant goal.


And given the massive rigging of the US electoral system—from the major-party duopoly to the donor-class primary to the tightly controlled corporate media: the very system Bernie is running against—the chance that Bernie could plant a stone in that Goliath’s forehead was always a miraculous longshot, at best. But the idea that so many average people could still believe in miracles, and choose to fund those miracles with their ever-shrinking wages at 27 bucks a pop—even with plutocracy as firmly in power as it is today—seems to have at least raised an alarm among the plutocrats.


The very quantifiable favoritism that the mainstream media has from the very beginning showered on Hillary and—interestingly enough, in retrospect—Donald Trump, is only the most visible sign of how truly rigged the system is. The media only started paying attention to Bernie when his challenge to the system seemed to become an actual threat—and then only to blast him with negative propaganda (though not so negative as to drive his followers from the Democratic fold) and to weave a hypnotic narrative of children seduced by fantasies of free college and health care, and how the moment would inevitably arrive when it would be time to wake up to the “real” world, eat some neoliberal spinach and vote for Hillary.


Before considering other options the children may have, it’s revealing to examine the ephemeral yarn from which this narrative has been spun.


In the first place, as Bernie’s advisers have repeatedly pointed out (to the often obvious bemusement of “journalists”), the whole primary system is frontloaded to favor Hillary and the Democratic machine, and more than half the delegates are yet to be chosen. And the commentators lined up to parrot the Washington consensus openly admit that razor-thin victories are most important for their “psychological” effect—and that’s an operation they are well-paid to perform.


But taking a step back from the immediate electoral circus, and looking at American democracy as a whole, you see a very sick patient. Although this year is better than most, and there is some real enthusiasm even among Democrats, a small fraction of Americans ever take part in primaries and caucuses. It doesn’t take many votes to make a nominee. The turnout rate so far this year among Democrats has been 11.7% of eligible voters. American democracy, as portrayed so fittingly in our endless reality show-style elections, is primarily a spectator sport.


And why is that? Because the system is rigged, and everybody knows it, so why should they pay attention? Even most people who bother to vote in the US would be considered “low-information voters” in most other modern democracies.


It’s not their fault. The people of the United States have been betrayed by the leaders and institutions in whom they have been taught to place their trust. The corporate counter-revolution against what the establishment considered the democratic “excesses” of the 1960s and ‘70s is complete.


A few appeals to the “reptile brain”—and both Trump’s and Hillary’s campaigns are, in their own ways, based in fear—and any residual 2016 insurgencies can be safely quarantined. To the establishment mind, as establishment mouthpieces have been trying to convince the public since before the first vote was cast, this campaign is over.


And by their metrics, it probably is.


As someone who has put my faith in Bernie’s integrity and in his tempered and realistic assessment of the American political landscape—which is why, of course, he ran as a Democrat—I have to assume that he knew there was a probability that he might face this moment, and the political revolution he instigated would face a choice that he has said he’s already decided on. He will support the Democratic nominee for president.


If Bernie wants his army of insurgents to follow him on that path—even as he rightly continues to hold out hope for a dramatic shift in the prevailing electoral tides that will ultimately give him the nomination—he has a responsibility to his loyal supporters to start explaining exactly why and how voting for an establishment candidate is also the path to political revolution.


Because revolution—the critical imperative of this corrupt era—is all many of us signed up for.

Posted in Politics

Weimar America 2016

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Here in the waning days of American empire, we can now watch the left and right engage in actual physical clashes on TV—a phenomenon unseen in the US in decades, at least in presidential contests. The alarming resemblance of current events in the US to the last days of the Weimar Republic in Germany—just before Adolph Hitler rose to power, when brown-shirt fascists fought leftist activists in the streets—is disturbingly evident.


Of course history never repeats itself exactly. But historical patterns do recur, and human types do cluster in familiar categories. And the similarity between the US in the 21st century and Weimar Germany extends beyond the mob violence taking place at Donald Trump rallies in the past few days, and has been noted before.


In a 2012 essay in Salon, “Weimar America,” Robert Cruikshank outlines four ways America was already repeating the patterns of the Weimar Republic:


  • Austerity programs. “Cuts to wages, benefits and public programs” in Weimar Germany, and which the US has been witnessing since the 1970s, both in government and in the private sector. This has given rise to much of the voter anger that has brought “insurgents” like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders to the fore in the 2016 election;


  • Attacks on democracy, which Cruikshank attributes in 1932 Germany to a dysfunctional government forcing an unpopular chancellor to rule by executive order (sound familiar?), and counter-reaction from big business and the fascist right, obstructing any progressive legislation. In the US today, the government is “owned” by the banks, as Senator Dick Durbin once frankly admitted; Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United favor corporations over people; and the more business-friendly GOP has launched multiple efforts at every level of government to restrict voting by the poor, elderly, minorities and others who would be more likely to favor the common good over private property.


  • Enabling of extremists. “Well before Hitler was made chancellor in 1933,” Cruikshank writes, “leading conservatives and business leaders had concluded that their interests would be better served by something other than the democratic system established in 1919. During the 1920s, they actively supported parties that promoted anti-democratic ideologies…Nazis were just one of many extremist groups they supported.” If the Koch brothers, who financed the rise of the Tea Party, and other billionaire conspirators in the overthrow of American democracy exposed in Jane Mayer’s new book, “Dark Money,” come to mind, it’s a natural inference.


  • Right wing and corporate dominance of the media. US media in the 21st century are far more concentrated in corporate hands than German media of the 1930s, and they have interlocking boards of directors with the financial, energy and defense industries. They are the final arbiters of what is allowed to be viewed in the mainstream, and what banished to provincial information ghettoes where it can be safely contained. If the media didn’t want Donald Trump to be a phenomenon, he wouldn’t have received as much attention as he has.


The visible decay of American politics is the ultimate parallel to Weimar. The fact that two of the most unpopular politicians in America are the front runners in the 2016 presidential race tells you everything you need to know about the final breakdown of republican government in the modern cradle of Western democracy. We are in the terrifying position that, at this point, we are in uncharted waters, and virtually anything can happen.


Unfortunately, except for Bernie sweeping both the primaries and the general election, few other prospects for the near future offer much comfort (and even a Bernie victory terrifies the commie-hunters). If either of the current front runners ends up winning in November, America faces at least four years of grief.


If Trump can arouse enough of America’s latent authoritarian impulses to attain the triumph of his personal will, we face a rollercoaster of dangerously narcissistic whims and international embarrassments, and at worst, a natural alliance between a Mussolini-wanna-be and an already conservative and bellicose military and security establishment who have been waiting all their lives for a commander-in-chief who will “take off the gloves.” The problem now is that violence and disruption raise the “fear” factor in American society, and events of that nature ultimately favor Trump. Authoritarianism feeds on fear.


A Hillary Clinton victory may not be much better for America. Her long history of support for and encouragement of intervention and regime overthrow abroad explain why she is a favorite of the military and their defense contractor friends. And her easy laughter about Qadafi’s particularly brutal death in Libya goes a long way to explain why the public hasn’t embraced the warm-hearted portrait of Hillary that her friends go to such lengths to paint. But the most horrifying prospect of another Clinton presidency is the dreary, endless and inevitable congressional investigation of virtually every facet of her term as Secretary of State and its relation to the Clinton Foundation. And we can only hope that the First Gentleman behaves himself, or it will be a real zoo.


Ironically, one other prospect may be the most terrifying of all. And that is, no matter who wins the presidential race—Hillary, Trump, or even Bernie—things will pretty much go on the same way they have, and the status quo will be protected. And this momentary surge of bloody-minded excitement about what is really just an elaborate puppet show—staged to dazzle the rubes with the illusion of democracy—will be just another in a never-ending series of breaking news events presented to give the masses yet another reason to go to work and pay their taxes and live in perpetual debt to their corporate masters, because that’s what really keeps America great.


What if fascism has already won?

Posted in Politics

As Maine goes…


“As Maine goes, so goes the nation,” is an old saying about American presidential politics that gained currency in the 19th century, when Maine was a bellwether state in several elections. It fell out of favor after 1936, when Maine and Vermont were the only states carried by Alf Landon in FDR’s landslide win that year. After the ensuing quip, “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont,” went viral, 1930s-style, the original saying was eventually consigned to the historical dustbin. But “As Maine goes, so goes Michigan,” might revive its popularity.


The 2016 Maine Democratic caucuses took place this past Sunday. The turnout shattered records, and may have also shattered any hope of repeating Maine’s experiment in choosing presidential candidates by caucus.


Even though—as in other states this year—the caucus process favored my candidate, Bernie Sanders, by the end of the day, with Bernie having won the town by almost three to one and the crowd mostly cleared out, I was nevertheless ready to hop on the bipartisan bandwagon that was already gathering steam across the state, and replace the caucus with a state primary.


At that point—having just finished counting the Bernie ballots the crowd had turned in (I was one of the Bernie caucus captains)—I didn’t even know about the half-mile long waiting line in Portland, or the four-hour wait people had to endure in the cold just to get in there.


But even though it was my first caucus, having moved to Maine just before the 2012 election, I had seen enough—of how easily numbers could overwhelm the process even in my small town, and how much more intensive organizing is required for a caucus than for a primary. Also, the stated reason for having a caucus rather than a primary—to use the town hall-style meetings to build local party organizations—isn’t really being met. Very few people checked off the boxes on their forms to indicate their willingness to serve on the town or county Democratic committees. And these are the people who are active and concerned enough to show up for a caucus every four years, already a small percentage of the citizenry.


The party needs a different way to organize voters. If abandoning the caucus forces them to pursue that path, so much the better.


The Republicans also had problems with their caucuses the day before, which were, again, overwhelmed by the turnout. In some towns, they ended up turning the caucus into a quasi-primary, letting people just cast their ballots and leave, because there wasn’t enough room to accommodate all the bodies swarming into the caucus locations. That happened in my county, York, which didn’t surprise me. I’d thought there would be problems when I first heard that there would only be one place to caucus for the whole county. But that thought apparently didn’t occur to the organizers.


I feel like a traitor to democracy by supporting Maine’s move to a presidential primary—especially because the caucus system seems to leave the door more open to insurgents like Bernie, and to their obviously more energized partisans. But as the Michigan primary two days after Maine’s caucus showed, there is still room in the primary system for an insurgent to break through, with the right message and a solid grassroots organization. (And of course, a highly flawed opponent.)


I didn’t personally see any commentary about the impact of trade issues on Bernie’s lopsided victory in Maine (or in Kansas and Minnesota, his other caucus wins last weekend). But trade has been important to Maine since its founding, and international trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) threaten important state industries like lobster fishing and shoe manufacturing. There’s no doubt trade played a role in the caucus results.


The Maine House of Delegates unanimously adopted a resolution several years ago stating its opposition to giving the president “fast track” trade promotion authority—which finally squeaked through Congress last fall, in spite of largely Democratic opposition to Obama’s TPP maneuvers. It’s also important to note in that regard that, in that controversial vote, Maine was the only state whose entire congressional delegation—one Democrat, one independent, and two Republicans—voted against fast track.


“Free trade” is not an easy sell in Maine.


So Maine’s vote on Sunday, with its undercurrent of backlash against Obama’s trade policies (and his abandonment of his 2008 campaign promise to “fix NAFTA”) and against Hillary’s too-cute-by-half flirtations with those same policies, can be viewed as a foreshadowing of what happened in Michigan two days later, with its very certain emphasis on trade. And it may also foreshadow the rise to prominence of the trade issue in the upcoming Rust Belt primaries, and in other coastal states like Maine, where international trade features largely in their economies.


In which case, and with any luck, maybe we can resurrect “As Maine goes, so goes the nation,” after all. And that would be a good thing.

Posted in Politics

The revolutionary path

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The broad appeal of Bernie Sanders’ message of wealth inequality and corresponding corruption of the US political system can be seen in the fact that Hillary Clinton plagiarizes him so regularly. At this point, it would hardly be surprising if her next announcement is that she’s converting to Judaism. But Hillary, unlike Bernie, is no revolutionary. And that’s a problem for everyone.


In the first place, she is, in her person, the quintessence of exactly what Bernie is running against. She’s the Marie Antoinette of the 21st century American oligarchy, stepping up to her term-limited husband’s throne to render her own well-rewarded service to the global elite. She’s been thoroughly vetted by the powers that be—for whom a few constitutional or international illegalities are no impediment to exercising their will. The one percent has secured the global media control necessary to maintain the constant propaganda hum critical to the stability of the New World Order and its Praetorian Guard, the US military-industrial complex.


And to closely guard their influence on the US political system.


It shouldn’t be forgotten how the Clintons rose to power. From white trash roots in the swamps of Arkansas Blue Dog Democratic politics and service to the mega-wealthy, with Hillary on the board of Walmart and in the Rose Law Firm, the Clintons’ path to the White House was also greased by Bill’s cooperation with the intelligence community and the Nicaraguan contra resupply effort in Mena, Arkansas; and by the close sponsorship of DC doyen Pamela Harriman, the widow of Averell Harriman—Prescott Bush’s business partner in dealings with Nazi Germany, and fraternity brother in the secret society Skull and Bones. The Clintons’ chumminess with global elites like Henry Kissinger and the Bushes, junior and senior, is no accident.


If Hillary comes to power, there won’t be any war crimes trials. And as Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, has noted, Hillary is probably the most hawkish candidate in the presidential race, of either party. She will be very good for the defense industry, and guaranteed by her past “experience” to swell the profits of US arms exporters, who already lead the world in supplying the weapons that keep global conflict churning and investors rich.


This presents a problem for Bernie supporters who—whether they are progressive party loyalists in the Democratic base, or independent political agnostics drawn by Bernie’s anti-establishment message—are here for the political revolution.


Any fair-minded analysis of the race so far, with Bernie at about the same point Obama was in 2008, would conclude that corporate media predictions of Hillary’s “inevitable” nomination are both further illustration of psychological operations by the power elite, and ridiculously premature.


Granted, the polling at this point favors Hillary. But Bernie has confounded the pollsters throughout the campaign, and has significant advantages that the Obama ’08 campaign lacked—namely, a Justice Department grant of immunity to the guy who set up Hillary’s email server; a history of disastrous US foreign policy under Hillary’s watch at the State Department; and a record of very cozy correspondences between foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s decisions as Secretary of State. This is in addition to Hillary’s Wall Street donations, which Obama couldn’t really talk about—for obvious reasons.


But if, in fact, Hillary does become the Democratic nominee, it leaves Bernie’s grassroots insurgency in a fairly complicated strategic dilemma. If Hillary is the most immediate and visible target of their political revolution, why would they ever support her in November? In fact, there is already a movement to switch allegiance to Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, or to write in Bernie’s name even if he loses the nomination. Polling indicates that about 20 percent of Democrats will not vote for Hillary, under any circumstances.


How this complicates things is that it brings the Bernie rebellion face to face with the existential question, “What is the nature and scope of our political revolution?”


If the present incarnation of the progressive movement—inaugurated among farmers and populists over a century ago in reaction to an earlier era of corporate greed—still has social justice as its ultimate goal, surely a Republican presidency, which would cement corporate power and an ultra-conservative US Supreme Court in place for at least a generation, would represent a step backward for that long-term revolution. And symbolically, at the very least, a female president would represent a step forward.


On the other hand, if the Bernie insurgency is, as he describes it, a campaign to “transform” the entire American political system—from one that has evolved to its present form of craven service to billionaire campaign contributors, into one that serves justice, insures tranquility and promotes the general welfare of the people, as the Framers originally intended—then a vote for Hillary is a vote that legitimizes that very system of political and economic oppression.


And what loyalty can there be to a party that has done literally everything in its power to deny the righteous aspirations of its own “grassroots activists”? If recent history demonstrates anything, it’s that the opposition flourishes when the other party is in power, and a Republican administration would serve the purposes of revolution better than another Democratic corporatist.


The imperial Democratic machine ignores this truth at its peril.

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Bernie the Realist

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Throughout the 2016 presidential race, Bernie Sanders has displayed a cunning ability to shape the narrative—whether on the issues, where Hillary Clinton has tried to become his X-chromosome clone; or in some of the “artful smears” that have come from Hillary and her surrogates—which he has been able to neutralize or, in some cases, use to his advantage. He can do this because he is, in his very nature, a realist.


This realism was on display in the wake of his loss in the South Carolina primary. If there had been any chance of beating the polling spread there, the turnout may have been higher. But no one knows better than those idealistic young troops on the ground how the battle is going, and what people are telling them in phone calls and door-to-door interviews. And what the rest of us also learned, as the primary results came in, was that the fix was in, and that the rigged system that Bernie is always talking about had clicked into high gear in South Carolina, and the Democratic machine had spoken.


What is usually left out of the media narrative—which, as expected, is ramping up the Hillary “inevitability” bandwagon after South Carolina—is the truly historic nature of Bernie’s outsider candidacy. In modern Democratic political history, liberal challenges to establishment candidates have always come from within the party—Gene McCarthy, George McGovern, Jesse Jackson, etc.—but in Bernie’s case, he’s a barbarian storming the castle, at the head of a previously-unregistered horde. And it’s the same dynamic that plays out on a national level: no matter how much internal squabbling there is, if there’s a foreign invasion, the citizens rally.


This would especially be the case with African Americans in the Democratic party. You have to put yourself in their shoes. The great transformation in American politics that turned the former Confederacy from solid Democrat to solid Republican, and lost the South to the GOP for generations, was made on their behalf. They know they owe a great debt to the party that gave them their full voting rights and their first black president, and that continues to help defend their gerrymandered island-states surrounded by hostile sons of the Confederacy. The Democratic party is their only source of real political power. And for over thirty years, the Clintons have been entwined with the Democratic party.


The loyalty that African Americans returned to the party in South Carolina, however wrongheaded politically, is exemplary. That was the nut that Bernie couldn’t crack there, no matter how real his civil rights record, no matter how icy past conditions between black leaders like Representative James Clyburn and the Clintons. The black community made what was in their eyes a realistic decision. And in the end, Bernie made a realistic assessment of the situation there, and changed his strategy accordingly.


The irony is the unreality of the whole narrative. Of course the results in South Carolina have meaning for the Democratic delegate race, and the media-projected math at this point favors Hillary. But as Bernie noted in his post-concession speech in Minnesota, this is just the beginning of the actual voting.


And as the media should know by now, if the 2016 race has demonstrated anything so far, it’s that anything can happen. Plus, in the general election, who wins Democratic primaries anywhere in the South is (with some exceptions) meaningless, because given GOP turnout numbers so far, there’s no reason to think the South will be anything but solid Republican in November. Realistically, Hillary’s “landslide” is just another momentary media carnival show. Another establishment psychological operation.


After careful consideration, Bernie decided to run in the Democratic primary, rather than mount an independent campaign, because he is a realist. He knows the American system of electing people to federal office is unfairly rigged in favor of the two corrupt major parties, who largely serve the same financial and corporate interests. He made a realistic decision—even knowing from long experience in the institutions of government how difficult it would be to penetrate the Democratic machine. But being a realist, he took what is ultimately the easier political path to the presidency, and in the process exposed exactly how rigged, corrupt and interwoven our system of electing puppets to dance for our CEO masters really is.


Bernie also takes a more realistic view of the political landscape than Hillary, the media, or Democratic party loyalists. He knows, in the first place, that Hillary will never attract the libertarian independents or “Sanders Republicans” (not to mention the truly revolutionary among his supporters) that will be necessary to carry crucial swing states in the general election. He also knows that African American voters will undoubtedly vote Democratic in the general election, no matter who the nominee is, and that differences in Bernie-or-Hillary enthusiasm rates will be negligible.


Bernie is also aware that—as always with the Clintons—another shoe may drop at any moment, at any time. It may be the Clinton Foundation, or a federal subpoena, or a high-profile re-emergence of one of Bill’s “narcissistic loony tunes” to remind the public of precisely how unprincipled—and unfeminist—Hillary can be when it suits her political convenience. And although Bernie is too decent to mention it, there’s the whole cavalcade of Arkansas follies that will be, without question, resurrected in the general election, if not earlier, by the Karl Rove gang. If any of these embarrassments were to break out big, the “inevitability” bubble would burst. A paradigm shift in the electorate is hardly questionable, especially in a year of anti-establishment politics. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not being realistic.


Given the long animosity between the Clintons and the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” the absurd proposition that Hillary is any more likely to get her program through a Republican-dominated Congress than Bernie is delusional, at best. And the fact that this is a pillar of her “electability” pitch is laughable, a castle built on sand, and another prime example of an establishment psyop and media fix, intended solely to dampen any appeal to traditional Democratic aspirations, and to blur any lingering boomer memories of free college and truly progressive taxes from an earlier, more compassionate, more egalitarian age.


Bernie’s record of executive and legislative accomplishment is more genuine than Hillary’s. And even in her area of supposed strength—her foreign policy experience—Bernie has a record of being more consistently right in his judgment and in his votes. His big-picture assessment of the history and missteps in American foreign policy has proven far more realistic than the neocon interventionism that Hillary has championed, from Iraq to Libya to Ukraine to Syria. The close scrutiny that Republicans will give this fall to her major role in creating chaos and disaster in the Middle East—and there is no person singly more responsible for the tragedy in Syria today than the former Secretary of State—make her actual chances of reaching the White House in January an illusion.


Despite what happened in South Carolina, in any realistic perspective, the better Democratic candidate—and the better potential president—is Bernie.

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The Bern Insurgency


Following Hillary’s narrow win in the Nevada caucuses last Saturday, the mainstream media couldn’t wait to return to their preferred “inevitability” narrative in the 2016 Democratic presidential contest.


Since their early predictions in the Republican race have thus far proven so comically wrong, perhaps they see a Hillary candidacy as the only way to rescue their dignity. And despite the ridiculous protestations of her supporters that her female gender automatically makes her “anti-establishment”—an over-simplistic reading of the nature of patriarchy—there’s no doubt that Hillary, especially if Trump ends up as the GOP nominee, is the establishment—and thus media—favorite. The financial elites who funded her and Bill’s rapid rise from “poverty” after they left the White House are looking for a return on their investment.


Once the chair of the Democratic National Committee essentially admitted that the party’s system is rigged to stamp down “grassroots” insurgencies like the Bernie phenomenon, it dispelled any remaining doubts that the national Democratic establishment would not be a neutral arbiter. The DNC is all in, as lock-step endorsements and numerous irregularities in the first two caucus states seem to indicate.


And it’s important to remember what today’s Democratic establishment represents: the political/corporate partnership brought into being by “New Democrats” and the former Democratic Leadership Council, to remove traces of “left populism” in the party and find “market-based solutions” to replace traditional Democratic worker-based policies. It’s noteworthy, symbolically at least, that when the DLC closed shop in 2011, the Clinton Foundation purchased its historical records.


For a quick confirmation of Hillary’s status as the establishment candidate, all you have to do is take a look at their lists of lifetime top ten funders, with Hillary’s dominated by banks and Bernie’s by labor (some may argue, with a certain legitimacy, that unions are also establishment, but that’s a pretty archaic view). A wider perspective comes in a recent Salon article by former Alaska senator Mike Gravel, who knows something about tilting against windmills, as well as how the system works:


“Having tied with Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses, and winning overwhelmingly in New Hampshire, Bernie is now going to face an incredible assault by the Wall Street clique, which controls the American and global economies; by the Democratic Party establishment, beholden to Wall Street money; by mainstream media, largely owned by six Wall Street corporations and defenders of the status quo; and by Hillary and Bill Clinton, who cater to Wall Street’s interests.”


That assault began immediately following the New Hampshire primary, in the form of subdued media coverage of the historic nature of the result—Bernie got the most votes ever in a New Hampshire primary, and was the first Jew to ever win a US presidential primary—and an immediate pivot to making projections about the more favorable Clinton terrain in Nevada and South Carolina.


After ramping up the “expectations game” in Nevada (a trap Bernie seemed to fall into, in a rare slip into overconfidence on the eve of the caucus), the media smugly turned Bernie’s narrow loss there into a national rout (despite the fact that he was the underdog in Nevada, and recent polls that show Bernie closing the gap, tied or leading Hillary nationally) and dismissed the rest of the primary season as a Clinton mop-up operation. After Super Tuesday, it’s over. Of course, this is just magical thinking, conjured out of their own fanciful illusions and the “Washington consensus.”


Among the many ugly revelations about our corrupt political and economic system that Bernie’s candidacy has exposed, the true nature of American mainstream media as the psychological operations arm of the “power elite” who govern both major political parties, is one of the most valuable. The biggest cheer from the crowd that Bernie got the night of his New Hampshire primary victory was when he pointed at the bank of cameras at the back of the auditorium and said that, in addition to “establishment politics” and “establishment economics,” his campaign was also going after “establishment media.” That must have scared somebody.


What makes the Bernie Sanders campaign a real insurgency is that he is doing something unprecedented in modern American politics. He is an unabashed and independent progressive populist who is entirely funded by average voters, and who can therefore tell the truth about the rot and decay at the heart of our national politics. And although the establishment has done everything in its power to diminish his candidacy, the truth of his message has struck such a chord in people’s hearts that the subterranean growth of his support continues, and scales of illusion fall from the public’s eyes despite every effort to contain the phenomenon.


This is what makes Bernie’s campaign for president, in the largest sense, a genuine political revolution. And in the eyes of the establishment, it also makes Bernie a very dangerous man.

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