So that's that. As of today, 2016 will officially be a race between the two most despised presidential nominees in American history. One is a consistently neoliberal and militaristic moderate conservative approved by Charles Koch and Dick Cheney that claims to be the best choice for the country's self-appointed liberal party, and the other is, well...you know enough about him.
The circumstances that made this possible are appropriately bizarre; one of these candidates won through manipulation of the electoral system like has never been seen before and outright defiance of the law, and the other one won legitimately, but through arguably even more unethical means.
But moving beyond the limited scope of presidential politics in the US, things aren't looking good. The climate continues to move towards catastrophic instability, with the majority of people in control of the government of the country that needs to address the problem most either adamant that it isn't an issue at all or convinced that it isn't too important an issue.
After a period of roughly forty years of tax reductions for the wealthy, free trade deals, nearly perpetual military efforts, and cutting of aid for the lower classes on the part of both parties, the legacy of the last Democratic Socialist Americans elected in 1932 has been effectively demolished. Even with the Affordable Care Act, 33 million Americans are living without health care. Any limits to the amount of influence the super-wealthy can have on the electoral system through campaign contributions are now irrelevant. Six major corporations control 90% of the media that Americans are exposed too. As of this month, income inequality in America has reached a point never before seen in the history of the country, with the top 0.1% owning as much wealth as the bottom 90% combined. And worldwide, the top 0.1% own as much as the bottom 50% of the population, up from 40% ten years ago.
And aside from all that, there are things happening which uncomfortably resemble the state of the world in 1932; starting five years ago with President Assad's overly aggressive response to the Arab Spring uprisings, Syria's civil war, along with the war in Iraq caused by the rise of ISIS, 65 million people have been displaced worldwide. That's more refugees than at any point in history.
The way societies in North America and Europe are reacting to the influx of desperate people is equally disturbing, with millions of white, mainly poor or working class individuals in many countries accepting the nationalistic, xenophobic manipulations from Trump and others as a way out of their non-immigrant related problems. And whether such a degenerate brand of politics will come out on top this November in spite of the American electorate's increasingly remote resemblance of colonial times very much remains to be seen; Hillary Clinton has forever lost the respect and potential support of millions of voters, not just former Bernie Sanders supporters, who were appalled by the massive suppression of votes during the primaries and her legal invincibility. She needs those voters, and they're not going to help her when Trump starts to surpass her in important swing states and maybe even in national polls.
And meanwhile in the economy, there are strong signs that a recession is coming sometime this year. The confirmation of imminent disaster may have come on June 23, when Britain voted to leave the EU; the size of the eventual ramifications aren't clear, but the decision will very soon result in many investors around the world looking to their governments for financial support as the economy weakens. It was predicted on June 24 by Chris Hedges that this will lead to the Democratic Party being hurt in November. As it was in 2008, says Hedges, Republicans in the senate will reject any bailout of Wall Street because it's against the ideals of the free market, while the Democrats will ignore the objections of both the populists and the capitalists and help push for such an entitlement.
When this happened eight years ago, Obama's victory was all but guaranteed with his support for the bailout in September 2008 because of the awkward and incoherent way John McCain had objected to it during It's proposal on the senate floor. Should history repeat itself with another financial collapse, the exact opposite will occur this year. “The Democratic Party, by rescuing Wall Street,” wrote Hedges in his piece in Truthdig.com, “will be unmasked as the handmaidens of the financial elite.”
As 1932 more or less repeats itself, with the rise of reactionary politics and maybe even outright fascism in many parts of the world, economic catastrophe, and an environmental crisis to make the Dust Bowl seem minuscule, there will not be another FDR to become president and help fix things in the years to come. The state of our electoral and legal systems have changed too much since then, and we're just not going to get salvation that easily.
And so you all, of course, immediately know the reaction appropriate: laughter.
That's right, laugh at it all. Laugh at the media manipulation. Laugh at the DNC's deliberate limitations of the number of debates. Laugh at the voter fraud, voter exclusion, and refusal to count exit polls. Laugh at the contempt so many Democratic leaders have expressed for Bernie Sanders and his ideas. Laugh at the disregard for the law FBI director James Comey displayed in his dismissal of Hillary Clinton's obvious criminal activity. Laugh at every defender of the unjust system of the two pro-war, neoliberal parties, because what you've seen for the past year or so (or maybe decades farther back,) has been a big joke.
It was a joke whose punchline goes as follows: the fate of a country is not determined by what any kind of conventional wisdom imposed by the political and economic establishment says about how a certain person has “lost that election,” or how an idea “isn't realistic,” or how millions of people who are seeing the ruling class destroy their democracy and their planet should simply “fall in line” and allow the old paradigm of inequality, lack of accountability, and endless excuses to continue.
What happened in these past five-and-a-half months can most simply be described as a group of people, after being given a lot of money and power and other toys for adults, were confronted by the population that gave them these toys about their abuse of them. We tried to take their toys away, but they of course refused, and now it's time for them to face the consequences.
Inadvertently, through the last several decades, as the banks, the corporations and the politicians have carried on with their little game, the device that they use to control the world has grown weak. And it's about to get a lot weaker.
To bring up an almost obligatory subject when talking about American political revolutions, let us think back to the election of 2000. After eight years of a Democratic president that was called by Michael Moore “the best Republican president we've ever had,” politics had grown disturbingly tribal; despite all the evidence that Ralph Nader was vastly superior to Al Gore on progressive issues, most liberals saw him as an enemy, a benefit to Bush, a disturber of the peace, and even an extremist. Not everybody thought this, but the party's corporate masters very explicitly did, falsely accusing Nader of costing them the election and shutting him out of the audience of one of the presidential debates despite him having a ticket to it.
And they could do so from a comfortable perch, too; their pseudo-progressive party was currently enjoying the membership of 33% of the electorate, with 29% of the rest political Independents and 28% Republicans. With support like that, it was easy to marginalize those who genuinely wanted to fix the system with a smug “we're Democrats, and we don't care what some radicals think, because we're the only alternative to the very worst option.”
There's no telling where this could have lead if Gore had been allowed to succeed Clinton as the “liberal” representing a neoliberal party, but we know where Bush took us; aside from the historic debt, massive violence, and undermining of the constitution, the following years brought some new hope. By 2007, Democratic membership was still at 33%, but many Republicans had left their party, and Independents were at 34%. The incredibly destructive conservative administration had also driven the Democratic Party to the left, with the centrists among it no longer able to criticize liberalism from the right (at least not explicitly.)
But then something interesting happened; after all the Obama fervor died down (the electorate was 35% Democratic in 2008, with only 31% of it Independent), and the reality of he and the rest of the Democratic leadership's resistance to change was made apparent, Independents again edged them out in 2009, with 35% to their 34%.
And here's where it gets scary, Hillary and friends; since then, the gap has only been growing larger. When the Democrats failed to pass universal health care in 2010 despite having the majority in congress, their membership compared to Independents became 33% to 36%. When the Obama administration proposed cutting social security in 2011, that gap was at 32% to 37%. When Obama was was re-elected in 2012 still without having ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that gap had not changed from the year before. When Obama wanted to prosecute the defender of the constitution Edward Snowden and listened to his militaristic Secretary of State's advice to start a disastrous series of attacks on Libya in 2013, that gap was at 32% to 38%. When Republicans took firm control of the senate in 2014 because the alternative option had discouraged so many liberals who would have otherwise participated, that gap was at 32% to 39%. In 2015, when the president embraced a free trade agreement that, should it pass, will be more destructive than NAFTA, that gap was at 30.4% to 40.1%. And this year, when Democrats have created a platform that's halfway as conservative as that of the Republican's, oversaw a primary election arguably more offensive to Democracy than Bush v. Gore, and nominated a proven criminal for president, that gap is at 29% to 43%.
And that almost doesn't compare to what's happened to the Republicans. The last time they even had the majority in electoral membership was in 1995, with 31% to the Democrat's 30%. And the year in which they've more or less since been in decline is an interesting one: 2003. Republican popularity had been rising, though never exceeding that of the Democrats or Independents, since 2000. The number of Democrats had also drastically fell since 2001, with the implementation of a vast pro-Bush Administration propaganda campaign post-9/11 undoubtedly playing a role. With the help of a compliant corporate media and largely pro-war Democratic leadership, the GOP had started the invasion of Iraq with more than seventy percent of public support, and their other policies went nearly unchallenged by the left.
But most of the country was not really behind them. As of that year, 57% of Americans supported a woman's right to choose. 73% wanted mandatory background checks on those seeking to purchase guns. Half believed that gay and lesbian couples should receive the same benefits as heterosexual couples. Eight in ten of them wanted universal health care. 62% wanted nonviolent drug offenders to be rehabilitated, instead of sent to prison. 72% thought that the problems in corporate America were due to greed, instead of “the consequences of a free market.” And perhaps most importantly, 83% of them agreed with the goals of the environmental movement.
The consequences of these ideological inconsistencies began to materialize the year after, when Democratic membership rose to 33% and Republican membership fell to 29%. How Bush was then re-elected is anybody's guess. Then in 2005, when the Republican-run government took two days longer than necessary to start rescuing the victims of Katrina, those numbers remained the same. When the Bush Administration considered the use of nuclear weapons on Iran in 2006, the gap went to Republicans 28% and Democrats 33%. When a worldwide financial meltdown started in 2007 because of the failure of Republicans to regulate Wall Street, that gap was 25% to 33% (though thanks in part to Wall Street having originally been deregulated by Bill Clinton, independents were at 34%).
And their slight rise since then to 26% is of little comfort to them. As of this year, 54% of Americans support taxing the wealthy to aid the poor. 63% are in favor of a $15 minimum wage. 86% want mandatory police body cameras. 76% are against sending conventional ground troops to fight ISIS. Well over half want to replace Obamacare with a single-payer system. The overwhelming majority of Americans, including Republicans, are against Citizens United. And majority support for the goals of the environmental movement is clear, even among Republicans themselves.
Stepping back from the media's portrayals of a thriving electoral system, it's not looking good at all for both parties. 55% of Americans have an unfavorable view of Hillary Clinton, while 7 in 10 dislike Donald Trump. Only 68% of Republicans have a favorable view of their party, and going by the most recent estimates, 50% of Americans disapprove of the Democratic Party. Twenty-one percent of voters from both parties are backing neither of their nominees, and that number is sure to grow. (13% would prefer a giant meteor hitting the earth to both of them-at least it would be honest in its intentions.) When comparing the combined votes the two nominees (officially) received in the primaries to the 219 million eligible voters in America, they were only picked by 15.7% of those capable of voicing an opinion.
And finally, on a somewhat related note, only 29% of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction.
These are the numbers and facts you should be paying attention to. Not biased polls about Hillary's support reported in a way that makes it seem as if the left is submissive as ever to the will of the corporate DNC. Not claims that progressives who oppose the Democratic party are mainly just privileged young people (which is a group that's becoming increasingly rare). Not smug assertions from representatives of the established party system that our objections are irrelevant because Bernie Sanders supposedly lost. The buildup has been long, but the two parties have reached a point where their support, their common agenda, and their reasons for self-justification are doomed.
Devin Reynolds, someone who very much recognizes this fact, summed up the reason for this in a June 20 Medium.com article:
“The divide between the top 1% and the top 10% makes our political system look competitive, and there are legitimate diverging interests between those two classes. That said, in practice, our two political parties split the vote for the working class, then both ignore it in favor of their primary constituencies. The simple reality of this dynamic is that the majority of the population’s interests go unrepresented. While Republican members of the working class are exploited by their low-information status into voting for policies that benefit the top 1%, the Democratic members of this group allow themselves to be browbeaten into supporting policies that largely benefit the top 10% based on the dubious supposition that those policies are “better than Republican policies.” With one half of the working class deceived into voting Republican and the other half treated like it has no choice but to vote Democrat, 90% of the population has its interests treated like an afterthought. Bernie’s entire campaign was an attempt to change that.”
When you're talking in terms of nine out of ten Americans being left out of the interests of the political system, and of that minority acting like the system should be accepted as normal, it's only a matter of time before the majority takes it's power back.
As Democratic elites dismissed us as young white “Bernie bros,” and booed our candidate for saying that his goal is not to win elections but to transform the country, and claimed that our ideas for making this as sane and just a society as the rest of the developed world were based on fantasy, these same old obnoxious attacks were quietly but surely losing their validity, assuming they had any to begin with.
The national sentiment has changed. It's changed in the direction of rationalism, it's changed in the direction of self-interest, and it's changed in the direction of common sense. No longer do most Americans believe that poverty is caused by laziness, or that endless war is the consequence of perpetual security threats, or that environmental problems should simply be ignored. And perhaps even more importantly, no longer do we believe that any politician should be excused for working against the interests of the people because of the title of the party they're affiliated with, or that dishonesty and corruption should be accepted because that's “the only way to survive in politics,” or that any given person, no matter how powerful, should not face the consequences if they commit a crime.
Come to think of it, we never even really believed these things at all.
All the real statistics support one fact, which is that we are headed for a profound transformation as a nation and even as a civilization. And I'm not just talking about protests, petitions and other types of activism, which have always been occurring, if not on the scale that we're seeing today, but real, lasting change within our government.
Sometime very soon, maybe even at the next opportunity, Americans are going to go to the polling places and make a statement to the same people that worked to suppress their votes in the Democratic primaries this year: no, we do not think that the current economic system is acceptable. Yes, we do believe health care, food and housing are the right of all people, not just a group of the wealthiest citizens. No, we are not satisfied with what the two parties have had to offer in terms of real change. To put it succinctly, enough is enough.
If you heard a loud voice with a Brooklyn accent at some point during that last paragraph, it proves that Bernie did not go away at all when he conceded, and that he never will.
So we have the support, we have the historical advantage, and we have the moral high ground to pull off the rise of a genuinely populist third party that actually wins elections, but will the system allow for us to do so? That is unfortunately worth considering, seeing what the oligarchy has done to the first real threat to them in a long time during these past few months.
The answer to that is both no and yes. The powers that run the the way our democracy functions-therefore not making it a democracy at all-will try to stop us at every turn. But the future of American politics will be a whole new game, one where we'll be free to run candidates and promote our agenda within parties that are not controlled by the billionaires. As soon as we unite the millions of voters not enamored with the dying establishment behind a third party with a serious chance to win elections, most of the battle will be won, and undemocratic obstacles like the Electoral College will have quite a lot to worry about should they decide to deny us a victory outright. As long as democracy is even more or less intact, we will be able to win.
And in fact, we've already started to. Several genuinely progressive politicians across the country have won their primaries because of Bernie Sanders' efforts, and while we may not see much change from this election cycle, it will without a doubt be very different the next time around; there's no telling how far these new types of leaders will get in the elections of 2018, or 2020 for that matter. And I'm certainly not the only one who will be helping them along the way.
As for the present situation, I personally see the Green Party's candidate Jill Stein as the best option, but whatever you choose to do is no concern of mine and ultimately won't matter too much. The media wants you to ignore it, but a change has occurred in this country that Bernie's concession in New Hampshire only made even more sure to have influence on the future.
But above all, keep in mind that I am not talking about some kind of fun little club that disappointed former Bernie Sanders supporters will put together so that we can meet with like-minded people. Yes, I am ideologically very progressive and supported Bernie for as long as there was any hope for him to win, but if this movement were only for people like me, we would slowly fade into irrelevance. This will be a movement for every American to be apart of who is concerned about the massive inequalities, injustices, and threats to our planet that absolutely must be addressed. This movement's base will be made up of every person who cares about the needs of the many, and not the wants of the few. A new party for the people does exist; it's just waiting to find an organization to help advance it's great power. To repeat a line from a different revolution, both ironically speaking and not, yes we can.
No, the revolution was never meant to be easy. But as of now, it will only get easier.