Wednesday, November 26, 2014

OUR ONLY REAL WAY FORWARD

Although many believe that political power in the US is wielded by the Republicans and Democrats, a far more accurate statement is that the real power brokers are the American people on the one hand, and the monied class on the other. Since they stand in opposition to one another, only one of these power blocks is in control at a time. Throughout our history as a country that control has regularly changed hands.

Our so-called two party system is commonly viewed as a representation of the two power centers. According to the mythology, Democrats represent the "working man", while Republicans represent the wealthy. In reality, Democrats and Republicans are merely wings of one Economic Royalist party rather than being truly distinct political parties with consistently different serious ideologies and a sincere interest in serving the whole of the country. William Greider, writing in The Nation magazine recently put it this way: "The Republicans are a wholly owned subsidiary of the business-finance machine, the Democrats are rented".

The loss of the middle class, the stagnation of income growth since the 1970s for the 99% and the absence of upward mobility during that same period provides hard evidence that the "working man" has had no serious political party representation in Washington for four decades. This despite 18 years with a Democrat in the White House during that period.

Economic Royalist is a term first used by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and recently resurrected by Thom Hartmann in his book "The Crash of 2016". It refers to America's plutocracy, the ultra-wealthy in finance and industry who place personal greed above the good of the nation and turn away from the wreckage. We also know them as the 1%.

The Royalists are puppeteers, working behind the curtain controlling the economic and political life of our country. We are all familiar with the practice of buying politicians. For the Royalists, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Their vast wealth and resources enable them to extend their reach into all of the moving parts of society where they can find benefit for their agenda through intervention. Thus, local school boards, city councils and state houses are prime targets for placement of their "ringers". Think tanks that they fund publish scholarly sounding propaganda that promotes the Royalist's policies to government decision-makers. Front groups with populist names are created to appeal to the general public. However, the work of these groups and the messages they convey serve the Royalists, not the community.

Since the Royalists donate heavily to Democrats and Republicans alike and since the similarities between the parties far overshadow their differences, it is not unreasonable to assert that they really are the same party. In recent history, and in recognition that the two parties are in bed together, there have been calls for a third political party. A viable third party in American politics is beyond the recollection of most Americans alive today but one did exist in the 20th Century with a measurable amount of success.

The Socialist Party of America was formed in 1901. By 1918 the Party had won 1,200 political offices across the country at all levels, including the US congress. Eugene V. Debs and Norman Thomas were two of its best known presidential candidates. Propelled in large measure by socialist minded European immigrants, the SPA was a visible part of our political landscape through the 1930's and beyond. FDR's New Deal programs were a factor in the decline of the SPA since they addressed a number of socialist policy demands.

In recent decades the Green Party and the Libertarian Party have fielded candidates and won offices but neither has achieved the impact of the SPA. The times are different. Those immigrants, who were steeped in European left politics are gone. Socialism has been made into a dirty word and no other competing political/economic sensibility has coalesced to achieve the requisite critical mass. Even if one had gotten to that point, it is doubtful that such a party would be permitted onto the playing field.

The two nominal parties, the Republicans and Democrats, have no interest in sharing the field with others, thus so tightly control that field that the chance of new entries gaining a foothold is slim to none. Those who righteously criticize the two party system but then go on to claim that America's salvation lies in the creation of a third party are failing to recognize that significant social change only gets done here via mass grass roots movements. They also naively believe that, somehow, our system of winner-take-all elections, which is a major obstacle to the success of any third party, can be overcome.

During times of Economic Royalist rule--which include: the period from the election of Ronald Reagan until today; following WWI until the Great Depression; most of the second half of the 19th Century and roughly the last two decades of the 18th Century--politicians are relatively useless to the country due to their being dominated by the Royalists. However, when the Royalists are in retreat parties and politicians are far more receptive to the demands of the general public and its mass movements..It should be carefully noted that Royalist rule includes periods of Democratic incumbency in the White House.

While each election cycle brings major theatrics from both parties, it is important to ask: precisely what contributions to the advancement of the American people and their democracy have these parties made? When we consider the 20th and 21st Centuries, the frank answer is "none". Every major progressive change during this period was the direct result of mass popular movements, acting as the vanguard, forcing reluctant politicians (Democrats, since historically they have been the more liberal party) to do the right thing. Thus, FDR and his Party established the Social Security Program, jobs programs and favorable labor laws in response to the demands of a vast mobilization of workers. Later mass movements led to the passage of the Civic Rights Act, brought an end to the Vietnam war and forced LBJ to enact Medicare, Medicaid and additional anti-poverty programs. The Women's and Gay Rights Movements likewise brought about further progressive changes.

The takeaway is that reliance on parties and politicians has never been a reliable way for us to move our interests forward. The playing field is seriously tilted in favor of the Economic Royalists. The politicians are in their pocket now, more than ever following Citizens United. Tough as it may be, self-reliance is our only effective tool. We must learn to use it again and always.

4 comments:

Casey at the Bat said...

Great read. Informative.

I wonder if you could be challenged to write on the evils of assumption, such as "all conservatives are homophobic" or "all liberals favor free mass immigration". I suspect that you have smart opinions on the matter and I'd be interested in reading them.

I am neither red or blue. Like many Americans, I am a healthy shade of purple.

Max Mastellone said...

Thank you Casey. I will consider that.

George Dean said...

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Max Mastellone said...

Thanks George. I appreciate your kind words.