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Reich writes: "I keep hearing that the Democratic party has moved 'left' and that Democratic candidates may be 'too far left.' But in an era of unprecedented concentration of wealth and political power at the top, I can't help wondering what it means to be 'left.'"

Robert Reich. (photo: unknown)
Robert Reich. (photo: unknown)

There Is No 'Right' v 'Left': It Is Trump and the Oligarchs Against the Rest

By Robert Reich, Guardian UK

07 July 19

The president is the puppet master so Americans of all persuasions must look behind him, to where the real danger lies

keep hearing that the Democratic party has moved “left” and that Democratic candidates may be “too far left”.

But in an era of unprecedented concentration of wealth and political power at the top, I can’t help wondering what it means to be “left”.

A half-century ago, when America had a large and growing middle class, those on the “left” sought stronger social safety nets and more public investment in schools, roads and research. Those on the “right” sought greater reliance on the free market.

But as wealth and power have concentrated at the top, everyone else – whether on the old right or the old left – has become disempowered and less secure.

Safety nets have unraveled, public investments have waned and the free market has been taken over by crony capitalism and corporate welfare cheats. Washington and state capitals are overwhelmed by money coming from the super rich, Wall Street and big corporations.

So why do we continue to hear and use the same old “right” and “left” labels?

I suspect it’s because the emerging oligarchy feels safer if Americans are split along the old political battle lines. That way, Americans won’t notice they’re being shafted.

In reality, the biggest divide in America today runs between oligarchy and democracy. When oligarchs fill the coffers of political candidates, they neuter democracy.

The oligarchs know politicians won’t bite the hands that feed them. So as long as they control the money, they can be confident there will be no meaningful response to stagnant pay, climate change, military bloat or the soaring costs of health insurance, pharmaceuticals, college and housing.

There will be no substantial tax increases on the wealthy. There will be no antitrust enforcement to puncture the power of giant corporations. There will be no meaningful regulation of Wall Street’s addiction to gambling with other peoples’ money. There will be no end to corporate subsides. CEO pay will continue to skyrocket. Wall Street hedge fund and private equity managers will continue to make off like bandits.

So long as the oligarchy divides Americans – split off people of color from working-class whites, stoke racial resentments, describe human beings as illegal aliens, launch wars on crime and immigrants, stoke fears of communists and socialists – it doesn’t have to worry that a majority will stop them from looting the nation.

Divide-and-conquer allows the oligarchy free rein. It makes the rest of us puppets, fighting each other on a made-up stage.

Trump is the puppet master.

He has been at it for years, long before he ran for president. He knows how to pit native-born Americans against immigrants, the working class against the poor, whites against blacks and Latinos.

He is well-versed in getting evangelicals and secularists steamed up about abortion, equal marriage rights, out-of-wedlock births, access to contraception, transgender bathrooms.

He knows how to stir up fears of brown-skinned people from “shitholes” streaming across the border to murder and rape, and stoke anger about black athletes who don’t stand for the national anthem.

He’s a master at fueling anxieties about so-called communists, socialists and the left taking over America.

He can make the white working class believe they’ve been losing good jobs and wages because of a cabal of Democrats, “deep state” bureaucrats and Hillary Clinton.

From the start, Trump’s deal with the oligarchy has been simple: he’ll stoke tribalism so most Americans won’t see CEOs getting exorbitant pay while they’re slicing the pay of average workers, so most Americans won’t pay attention to Wall Street demanding short-term results over long-term jobs, won’t notice a boardroom culture that tolerates financial conflicts of interest, insider trading and the outright bribery of public officials through unlimited campaign “donations”.

The only way to overcome the oligarchy and Trump’s divide-and-conquer strategy is for the rest of us to join together and win America back.

That means creating a multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalition of working-class, poor and middle-class Americans who will fight for democracy and oppose oligarchy.

White, black and Latino; union and non-union; evangelical and secular; immigrant and native-born – all focused on ending big money in politics, stopping corporate welfare and crony capitalism, busting up monopolies and stopping voter suppression.

This agenda is neither “right” nor “left”. It is the bedrock for everything else America must do.

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+19 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-07-07 17:31
Reich is correct in that oligarchs find it easier to rule a divided nation. They fabricate divides wherever they can, so that people blame and fight each other. The Limbaugh/Hannit y right blames everything on the AOC/Sanders left. And the left blames everything on the neo-Nazis who march around and do nothing.

In truth the oligarchs control both the republican and democratic parties. They don't care who controls the white house or congress. Both parties will serve their interests.

But the oligarchs don't like Trump. Caitlin Johnson has the best recent analysis of this:

"the establishment doesn’t hate Trump because he opposes them; he doesn’t oppose existing power structures in any meaningful way at all. The reason the heads of those power structures despise Trump is solely because he sucks at narrative management and puts an ugly face on the ugly things that America’s permanent government is constantly doing. He’s bad at managing their assets."

The title of this article is "Kamala Harris Is An Oligarch’s Wet Dream." Harris has raised more money from the oligarchs of the Hamptons than anyone. She's just hired the law firm Perkins Coie (of Fusion GPS fame) to represent her campaign. They work for Ukrainian oligarchs and launderered oligarch money into the Clinton campaign. They will do the same for Harris. Do you think Mueller will care?

The US is an oligarchy. It is also a military dictatorship. There are democratic movements but they are weak.
+18 # chapdrum 2019-07-07 17:52
As The Doors put it back in 1968, "...they got the guns, but we got the numbers..."
The more things change...
+2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-07-08 09:56
chap -- yeah, but their guns outnumber our numbers. I wish what Jim Morrison were still true. It was in 1968 but now I don't think so.
+1 # chapdrum 2019-07-08 12:17
Technically, the numbers of people outnumber the guns, but point taken. Will Don be able to enlist enough police to mow us down? Probably. Might be harder sell with the military, though. Just so fascinating.
+10 # chapdrum 2019-07-07 21:13
This is not entirely logical, as
Trump and the oligarchs are of the right-wing. All of them. As much as we'd like to do away with the divisiveness of right vs. left, there's one side, and not another, that is causing multiple crises.
+1 # Salus Populi 2019-07-08 12:50
True; but the "left" -- that is, so-called "liberals" like Maddow & co. -- have, by exalting the likes of Brennan and "our" "intelligence" services, and drinking the Russiagate kool-aid, have in practice done yeoman service for the oligarchy in support of the neo-cons.

As a result, the Democratic Party, with a very few exceptions, has been much more imperialistic and war-mongering than the Republicans. It has even gotten to the point that Rachel Maddow recently, on the air, chastised the openly fascistic war criminal John Bolton for being too wussy when it came to overthrowing the fairly elected government of Venezuela, more or less accusing him of being "all talk and no action."

Cementing an alliance against Trump should not be the same thing as allying with out-and-out Nazis.

(Those who know history should look at the German left's alliance with the far right in the early thirties, in the mistaken belief that once the centrists had been liquidated, the German people would have no choice except to embrace the left, and they [the left] could get rid of the Nazis and take over.)

What the Dems should be doing is pulling together an alliance, as Reich suggests, and putting out a program of leftist proposals that polls show are supported by the overwhelming majority of U.S. voters: free higher education, abolishing student debt, single payer health care, infrastructure expenditures, extreme cutbacks to the bloated military, making peace a priority, etc.
0 # chapdrum 2019-07-10 12:16
Share your disapproval re Brennan, Clapper, et al.
+2 # trimegestus 2019-07-10 12:45
Recent history shows that Salus Populi is correct.

"... the Democratic Party, with a very few exceptions, has been much more imperialistic and war-mongering than the Republicans."

In the 2004 presidential election, the base in both the Democratic and Republican parties had rejected the Iraq war. By 2008 the Republican base was overwhelmingly opposed to the Bush/Cheney Iraq war.

However, even in 2008, the majority of Congressional Democrats refused to oppose the war, nor did they initiate impeachment hearings for George Bush.

In Ohio the reactionary Democratic Party machine collaborated with state Republicans to eliminate the U.S. House district represented by anti-war Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

One question for Salus Populi: please name a book that explains the collaboration of "the left" and the Nazi Party in 1930s Germany. I never read anything about that story.
0 # Salus Populi 2019-07-20 08:57
I overstated the situation with the word "alliance"; although in the succeeding period of the so-called "popular front," Stalin ordered the KPD to include not only the social democrats and centrists, but the bourgeois and capitalists and other openly right-wing, anti-worker formations as well.

During the Third period, when the Nazis were ascending to pride of place in Germany, Thalmann, the head of the KPD, and his comrades in the leadership rather insisted that the social democrats of the SPD, mislabeled as "social fascists," were the main enemy, and were worse than the Nazis, precluding the development of a united front that might have crushed the Nazis before they could take command of the State.

Here are the URLs of two good analyses and narratives of the folly, both from the UK: "https://tinyur e-fell2019-7-20 " [which contains a link in the footnotes to the Trotsky piece cited in the accompanying Socialist Review citation]; and "http://sociali /378/lessons-of -defeat".
+7 # BetaTheta 2019-07-07 22:50
How true, and how obvious to anyone with eyes to see and ears to listen.
+11 # bcoomber 2019-07-07 23:30
This piece actually describes our current situation and suggests the only answer I can imagine. We, all of us, must cooperate in this single goal: getting rid of Trump. This does not require we abandon our other political or cultural aims and desires. It only requires us to unite around this one imperative goal; get rid of Trump as soon as possible.
+14 # futhark 2019-07-08 01:30
On my long drive home yesterday I caught the TED Radio Hour program on the "Seven Deadly Sins", with one speaker commenting on each. Perhaps the most compelling was that of venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, who warned his fellow billionaires in no uncertain terms that the wealth disparity in our society is dangerous to their long term security. His talk is titled "Beware, fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming." It is worth hearing, especially for those who use their great wealth as a weapon to protect the privileges they enjoy over others.
+13 # Texas Aggie 2019-07-08 05:57
If you have read Howard Zinn's history book on America, you will see that this has been the strategy since the very beginning of the settlement of the country when the wealthy pitted the indentured servants against the slaves to prevent the two groups from upsetting the apple cart.
+3 # 1dfnslblty 2019-07-08 07:48
We know "... the only way... " ; we need specifics!
Militarism, assault weapons and violent amusements preclude large protests, so what does coälition building looked like? How does " ... joining together ... " happen given the prior hindrances to protest?
+10 # Kootenay Coyote 2019-07-08 08:28
from a Canadian point of view, Democrats have moved slightly closer to the centre from a moderate Right position.
0 # Suzanne Taylor 2019-07-08 11:35
Say the word "oligarch" and you get this great piece from Capital Institute:
0 # PABLO DIABLO 2019-07-08 13:05
What does this article say about the USA that elected Trump? Where was Reich when he was in power and this was going on? How have the Rich successfully blamed the Poor for our problems???
Now, can we get back to REAL problems, like Rich people paying teen age girls for blow jobs.
0 # Mountain Man 2019-07-09 13:43
You know that Hillary actually got three million more votes. just not enough for the antiquated Electoral College. The DNC tilted the playing field in favor Hillary becoming the candidate.

Many commentators pointed out the baggage that Hillary carries. Many stated that they could not vote for either Trump or Hillary. Those of us who couldn't vote for her in 2008, when she had less baggage, why would we vote for her in 2016 with more than twice the baggage.

Trump won because millions of us didn't vote fo either one! Some voted for Jill
Stein, others voted Libertarian, a few Bernie supporters - "if we can't vote for
Bernie, then screw you. we're votin' for Trump." Most of us just didn't vote for
president that year.

This is why Hillary didn't get enough of a majority of votes to win, Not the main mass media theme that "it was all because of white blue-collar workers' employment anxiety that they voted for Trump." Oh yes, the media focus must be always be on the feelings & doings of white men.
+6 # hkatzman 2019-07-09 10:23
"..those on the “left” sought stronger social safety nets and more public investment in schools, roads and research. Those on the “right” sought greater reliance on the free market."

"...the free market has been taken over by crony capitalism..."

Dear Prof. Reich,

The "free market" has NOT been taken over by crony capitalism, the unregulated free market LEADS crony capitalism.

Any player of the game Monopoly knows that as soon as one player becomes identifiable more wealthy, then it becomes very difficult to counter their amassing of even greater wealth.

In a political world, it is one vote/one voter (rhetorically ignoring voter suppression for the moment). In the market, one dollar-one vote. The market reflects the interests of those with the most dollars. In an equitable world, this is less noticeable, but in a world of inequality, this is vital. Government is the vehicle by which the greater Public mitigates the "free market" to ensure equability.

Regulation is how the public, through government, ensures those with power play by the same rules and respect the rights of the majority. Inequality is the natural outcome of Reaganomics and the American "right."

However, I would wholeheartedly agree with Prof. Reich's solutions.

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