Saturday, July 13, 2019

Humpty Dumpty and American Politics

Humpty Dumpty and American Politics
Peter Schultz

“Trump is the direct and predictable product of the progressive failure to have forged an effective opposition to corrupt plutocracy by the time of that strategic moment when popular trust has been lost in the plutocratic “center.” Lack of a unifying progressive strategy meant that volatile and highly manipulable proto-totalitarian element would look elsewhere. As Slavoj Zizek, Trouble in Paradise (2014) 115, posits: “The rise of Fascism is not only the Left’s failure, but also proof that there was a revolutionary potential, a dissatisfaction, which the Left was not able to mobilize.” Proto-totalitarian Trumpism is what arises when progressives are unable to unite strategically.

“The Plutocracy and its propagandists take a keen and well-financed interest in prolonging this division among progressives. They now back Biden, or Trump. Recent reliable polling shows Biden 30% – Sanders 19% – Warren 15%. This current data shows that supporters of the two progressives, if united, would defeat the plutocracy‘s status quo candidate. As the progressive choice between Sanders and Warren lingers through the summer of 2019 in a mere contest of subjective tastes it will aggravate yet another in a series of historical failures by progressives to unite strategically and competently at a time when the stakes are now the highest. Continued progressive failure to act strategically for decisively wresting control of the Democratic Party from its corrupt plutocratic establishment will only move the country further in the direction of totalitarianism. Sanders failed at this task in 2016 though progressives provided him resources and support to do the job. Yet another progressive failure to organize strategically behind a competent progressive in the 2020 primaries could be terminal. The likes of WaPo will not do it for them. The necessary exercise of their own strategic judgment in this choice needed to prevail in 2020 will be a useful exercise of an unexercised muscle by progressives. To elect a strategist progressives must master the strategy.”

There is something bothersome about this analysis, which is taken from the article whose link is above that argues for Elizabeth Warren in preference to Bernie Sanders. I am not so much concerned with this issue as I am with other issues the article raises. To get on with it. 

It is said that Trump’s success is the result of “the progressive failure to forge an effective opposition to corrupt plutocracy….” There was a “lack of a unifying progressive strategy” and this despite that there was “proof that there was a revolutionary potential, a dissatisfaction, which the Left was not able to mobilize.” So “Trumpism …. arises when progressives are unable to unite strategically.” 

Let me focus on this idea of there being a “corrupt plutocracy,” which is a phrase Warren uses repeatedly in her rhetoric and campaign materials and which goes unchallenged here. There is something about this phrase that is, I submit, quite misleading because that phrase, “corrupt plutocracy,” makes it seem that these people are merely self-serving types who have been bought off by Wall St. et. al. They are not defined by, they do not embrace any political/economic principles like corporate capitalism or American interventionism. Once exposed then they should and would be defeated, if only the progressives would stick together. There is no legitimacy to their politics. Hence, progressive unity is or should be enough to defeat them.

But insofar as what is called a corrupt plutocracy is something other, is in fact a political movement that embraces corporate capitalism and American imperialism, and then progressive unity is not enough to defeat them. Rather, what is needed to defeat them is an alternative political movement, one that rejects corporate capitalism and American interventionism/imperialism. 

So when Warren speaks repeatedly of this “corrupt plutocracy” she is not doing what is most important, that is, offering an alternative politics to the politics of this “plutocracy.” And if in fact she does not reject corporate capitalism and American interventionism, whatever she proposes, no matter how “systemic” she claims the proposals to be, will not undermine, subvert the politics of the reigning plutocracy. It is necessary to start by rejecting the prevailing political principles in order to subvert them. So when Warren labels herself as, proudly, a “capitalist,” she is denying her commitment to a genuine political alternative. 

The results of such a politics is evident from the Obama presidency, which is described accurately as follows:

“For Warren this issue of the corrupt plutocracy is not just a majoritarian favorite adopted to boost a political campaign. Obama campaigned as one “tired of business as usual in Washington” who would “overcome all the big money and influence” there and get the “lobbyists … [who] dominate our government … system in Washington” and their “undue influence” out of ”our way.” But he woke up president not so “tired of business as usual in Washington” after all. Refreshed by record-setting campaign cash from the Wall Street plutocracy he did the opposite of what many thought to be his central campaign promise. Roger D. Hodge, Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism (2010) (Obama “the best friend Wall Street could hope for”).”

The problem here is that Obama, like Warren now, attributed “business as usual in D.C.” to the influence of “all the big money….[and] lobbyists [who] dominate our government…system in Washington.” But the problem was not just big money and lobbyists. Rather, the problem was – and is - the well-established commitment to corporate capitalism and American imperialism. Obama did not end up serving “the Wall Street plutocracy” because of “record-setting cash” but rather because he was in favor of corporate capitalism and American imperialism. As his record as president illustrates, he was a corporate capitalist and American imperialist. So when push came to shove, he went with his politics, as all human beings do. Insofar as Warren is a corporate capitalist and imperialist/interventionist, she too will end up like Obama, supporting the status quo because that is what she believes in. 

“Draining the swamp” or confronting “a corrupt plutocracy” are nice sounding phrases, but misleading. The “swamp” and the “corrupt plutocracy” are the results our corporate capitalism and our imperialism. To do away with them, we need an alternative kind of politics, say a politics of justice, human rights, and popular government. So long as the reigning political order goes unchallenged just so long will it continue. As was noticed a very long time ago in a nursery rhyme: 

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

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