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writing for godot

The Trump Victory, Our Moribund Democracy, And Some Advice

Written by Michael Potash   
Monday, 14 November 2016 05:12

According to the story (though likely apocryphal); at the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin: “Well, Doctor, what have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin’s response: “A republic – if you can keep it”. A ‘Republic’, meaning governance through representation - distinct from a popular democracy which the founding fathers were dead set against. I know; that’s not what they taught you in school. Nevertheless; the founding fathers were wealthy proto-capitalists who understood an essential truth: Capitalism cannot abide Democracy and will undermine a system which allows the governed to make the rules. This is the conflict that has been with us throughout our history - the American Eagle struggling to reconcile a left wing of Democracy and a right wing of Capitalism.

And sadly, over the last 40 years, the democratic wing atrophied while the capitalistic wing swelled out of proportion. Unable to fly, the eagle can be seen limping about in an awkward state of unbalance and seemingly terminal decay. For many Americans, the promise of Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness had taken on the feel of a cruel hoax. This was existentially true for a working class continually betrayed by politicians who begged their vote but returned little redemption. Used and discarded like so much human refuse, this wide swath became hostile to a system which they rightfully concluded rewarded somebody else at their expense. Eventually a political climate, which in the past produced figures like Adolph Hitler and Radovan Karadzic, begat for the people an avatar to smite the evildoers and return them to their former glory. That avatar turned out to be Donald Trump.

Empires tend to run a particular course. And, despite claims of ‘American Exceptionalism’, we are not spared the destructive forces of our own imperialism. The pattern is familiar. As empires expand, their borders grow. those borders have to be defended militarily. The costs of that defense are borne by the populus through taxation and blood. Eventually, costs become overwhelming as revenue extracted from the social structure hollows out a functioning society. Once the odor of decay becomes apparent, the oligarchs retreat to their gated palaces. Sensing impending collapse, they raid the treasury before circumstances preclude doing so. The banking fiasco of 2008 was an illustrative moment and marked the greatest transfer of wealth in human history – an event, by the way, which gave birth to the Tea Party.

According to a Gallup Poll conducted that year, some 60 percent of Americans opposed the bank bailouts. They wanted the perpetrators prosecuted for fraud. They wanted the banks broken up so that the excuse of ‘Too Big to Fail’ could never be used again. They wanted mortgage relief so that they could keep their homes. They wanted a modicum of justice. There would be none of it. And, while the government quickly figured out a scheme to rescue the criminals at taxpayer expense, it would never come up with a rational response to mitigate the carnage visited upon taxpayers by those same criminals.

According to those watching the Dow Jones, we’ve made solid recovery, the recession is over. Yet the unemployment rate, officially at about 5 percent, is in reality at least double. More than 2.2 million people in our prisons aren’t counted. Anyone who works 1 hour per week isn’t counted. Anyone who has given up looking for work isn’t counted. 47 million Americans live in poverty including 20 percent of our children. One American in six doesn’t have enough food. Somewhere between 30 million and 45 million US citizens have no health care. Over a half-million of us are homeless - including over 200, 000 children. Then, there’s debilitating college debt. We could go on.

And, while the oligarchy opposes any expenditure to mitigate the suffering, they themselves have been engaging in a successful tax boycott for years. The IRS believes that US companies and individuals are holding some $5 trillion dollars in off-shore accounts. A US Senate subcommittee report indicates that tax havens deprive the coffers of some $100 billion every year. They oppose a small transaction tax for stock traders which would provide needed revenue while mitigating the unfair advantages of high-speed computer trading. The carried interest loophole is unjust as is the Capital Gains tax rate. Donald Trump was right about one thing – and it got him a lot of votes: “The system is rigged.”. Now, we’ve had our Brexit. Tens of millions of Americans who were talked about (but never talked with) reacted with the only weapon they had – their vote. The hangover will begin in earnest on January 20th.

President-Elect Trump has told us that his cabinet will be composed of such luminaries as Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie, John McCain, Sarah Palin, John Bolton, Steve Bannon, and Myron Ebell. Ebell is a top contender to head the EPA. He is currently the director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute – a wing of Koch Industries. He’s the logical choice for a president-elect who declared that Climate Change is nothing but a Chinese hoax. Both houses of Congress are held by Republicans. Denying anthropogenic climate change is an article of faith for the GOP. Now that all the pieces are in place, we can rest assured that irreparable damage to the planet will not be left to chance. Mr. Trump has just appointed Steve Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counselor. Bannon is a virulent racist and misogynist and espouses insane conspiracy theories. He has openly equated Planned Parenthood with The Holocaust. Perhaps we are living in end-times.

Since the November Nakba, I have listened to some brilliant people explain how the election results comport well with our history. Whenever social upheaval has pulled the country to the left; it was followed by a countervailing movement to the right. A candidate endorsed by the KKK following the election of America’s first Black president is only the latest example. Fair enough. But, there continues to be a monotonic decay of the middle-class for which there appears no end in sight. The Neoliberal agenda, which gained traction under Reagan/Thatcher, continues to excoriate the fabric of American society unabated. No matter how destructive these policies have been, the response of both parties has been to double down. And, while the Republican Party is less adroit than the Democrat at masking its venality, in 2016, running the very symbol of a failed system against the bomb-throwing Donald Trump was just a bad idea. What would have happened had the Democrats backed Bernie Sanders? All we know is that he had the zeitgeist, Hillary did not.

Having relinquished all fiduciary responsibility for the bottom 99 percent, both major political parties have abrogated any legitimate right to govern. Are either redeemable? I don’t know. I do know that the only real winners of the election were multi-national corporations and billionaires – as usual. The polluters and plutocracy will do very well; the Precariat and the planet? – Not so much. Most of us had low expectations for both candidates. The question was who would be less of a detriment. Some choice.

Both parties have plenty of people to advise them. If they need more advice; here’s mine: Read the writing on the wall. The country is increasingly younger, Browner, and more progressive. Be our champions. There will always be a large, wage-earning, not-college-educated middle class. Respect them - don’t abandon them. The key word is ‘Justice’. Taxation is the price of civilization. For forty years, you’ve told us that taxation is bad in order to justify tax cuts for the super-rich. That has to stop. Their tax breaks are killing us – literally. Think about tomorrow – your children and grandchildren. The planet is dying. Do something to stop that. Universal health care, Social Security, free college tuition, art & music, clean air and water. Add to that no nukes and an end to the carceral state. And by God; stop abusing the military. Stop the bombing, stop the drones, and stop spying on us. Those are for starters. The party that embraces that platform is the winner. Business as usual = death.

Mike Potash is on staff at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . your social media marketing partner


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+3 # barkingcarpet 2016-11-16 09:48
Pretty well spot on, and most do not want to know, or to change our own habits.

Nature will likely kick our butts soon enough, regardless of our ignorant/apathe tic/consuming abdication of sanity

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