by Jerilyn Bowen
In a recent interview entitled “Democratic Party Centrism Risks Handing Election to Trump,” as preface to his remarks Noam Chomsky had this to say: I find it psychologically impossible to discuss the 2020 election without emphasizing, as strongly as possible, what is at stake: survival, nothing less. Four more years of Trump may spell the end of much of life on Earth, including organized human society in any recognizable form. Strong words, but not strong enough.
In case you’re wondering, he’s talking about climate catastrophe and the growing danger of a nuclear holocaust.
Our venerable speaker-of-truth-to-power frosts his dark prophecy with this surmise: The Democratic Party, in its apparent determination to kill the left wing, may very well end up ensuring a Trump electoral victory for a second time.
This of course is exactly what we progressives are doing our utmost to prevent. As Chomsky goes on to explicate, in that we’re up against a long brewing state of U.S. affairs in which many factors converge in such a way as to allow a small, unrepresentative portion of the citizenry to determine the outcome of elections, which in turn determines which public policies the rest of us have to live with. Behind the scenes, what Chomsky calls “the donor class”–i.e., the corporate powers and their beneficiaries, the uber wealthy .01% –this unholy consortium of high rolling vested interests pulls the strings disguised by a facade of simulated populism that, with Trump at the helm, has succeeded in suckering in a significant segment of the disenfranchised who want to believe that the blundering blustering blowhard whose bloated orange face daily spews out a litany of lies has been sent from on high to rescue them from the pointy-headed elitists who contrive to murder unborn babies, purloin guns, and generally destroy a way of life they hold dear. Meanwhile, the Republican Party that fronts for the donor class tirelessly exercises every muscle at its command to serve that donor class at the expense of the folks who blindly support Trump(not to mention the rest of us), among other things through legislation such as Mitch McConnell’s 2017 tax ‘reform, a Republican coup that benefits the already filthy rich while draining the public coffers of much needed revenue and upping our national debt to an alarming level that bodes ill for the future.
The problem is that, as Chomsky also points out, there is at present only a semi-alternative to the Republican marketing cartel. Ever since the 1970s, the Democratic Party has been in the business of making deals with the same corporate powers that the Republicans serve and concomitantly abandoning the working people of this country. The resulting injustice of an ever growing economic inequality has shown the former base of the Democratic Party how little they can count on what used to be the party of the people. Many are disillusioned, frightened, and angry. I venture to guess that many of these disaffected former Democrats now constitute the most vociferous among Trump’s notoriously impervious base.
In our two-party winner-take-all system, what we hapless voters face is this: a Democratic Party that has lost its moral compass and moved so far to the right, it could pass for the Republican party of yore; a Republican Party that has shed all semblance of scruple and moderation in favor of a rightwing agenda so extreme, it has gone over the cliff into a shadowy subterranean realm where racism, gynophobia, homophobia, White Nationalism, and proto-fascism intertwine like a writhing nest of snakes free to wreak havoc any way they can so long as the profit makers continue to rake in more than they could ever possibly need or use.
Unfortunately, despite strong challenges from courageous progressives, the Democratic centrists who’ve sold out the party’s genuinely populist mission are still very much in charge of the party and determined to hold onto their positions of power and influence. Moreover, their established modus operandi reinforced by their in-the-know political consultants have them convinced that the way to defeat Trump is to continue to cleave to the middle muddle as vs. standing up for what is right in no uncertain terms and championing the cause of the vast majority of Americans. To achieve their end of preventing outspoken progressives like Bernie Sanders from getting the nomination for president, they go so far as to repeat Republican talking points on, for instance, why Medicare for All is unrealistic and infeasible–and would, horror of horrors, entail taking people’s present health insurance away from them, as if a single payer system would not be supplying everyone with something far preferable.
It seems that the corporate Democrats can’t imagine–or choose not to imagine–that elections can be won without big donor funding, nor that our system could be reformed so as to eliminate the undue influence of private moneyed interests. Evidently, anything that seriously leads in that direction seems to them unrealistic because they themselves have played the game on those terms for so long, they’ve lost sight of other possibilities and find it personally invalidating to even consider a more principled, value-based good faith approach to what they call public service. This, even when most if not all the developed nations of the world enjoy socialist democracies that guarantee their citizens not only universal government-funded healthcare but also a plethora of other programs and policies that provide a secure basis for a decent life, a life that allows them to carry on the human race with dignity and spirit.
Chomsky reminds us that, come our 2020 presidential election less than a year from now, carrying on the human race is itself what we’ll be voting on in this, the most powerful nation on earth. He also foresees that the Democrat most likely to save us from the almost unthinkable consequences of a second Trump presidency is a person who doesn’t talk out of both sides of their mouth or chase polls or pander to billionaires. Contrary to the cautionary tales of both Democratic centrists and their Republican counterparts, more namby pamby neither-here-nor-there Democratic ‘centrism’ would in his opinion be a surefire recipe for another Hillary disaster.
The Republicans and many prominent well-heeled Democrats are already spending millions to set the parameters of public discourse in such a way as to discredit and marginalize trueblue progressive candidates. Republicans and Democratic centrists are as one in their efforts to undermine the credibility of those who dare to tell it like it is and call for transformation, root and branch. In the face of the unprecedented catastrophes that are barreling down the pike, the power brokers in both parties strive to herd us back onto the ‘safe’ path of reality denial and moral compromise.
Let us take a moment here to remember that all movements for real change are at first dissed and dismissed out of hand by those who don’t think outside the box of the current consensus reality. As someone famously remarked (not Gandhi, it seems, even though often attributed to him): First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win. There’s of course a lot that goes on between the attacking phase and the winning, and no particular outcome can be guaranteed. But if no one ever attempted the seemingly impossible, how could anything ever be changed for the better? History is rife with examples of supposedly quixotic undertakings that bore transformative fruit in the end: in our own country the American Revolution, for one (despite its ugly underbelly of genocide and slavery, I hasten to add; these original sins remain a stain for which we have yet to answer in good conscience). A few other American upstart rebellions that have changed our world: the abolitionist movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam antiwar movement, the second wave feminist movement.
So, ye sisters and brothers of the progressive persuasion, let us honor our honorable ancestors and take heart. Let us keep on keeping on in our purpose to reclaim the Democratic Party for the people, let us beam a clear eye on truth, let us pull out the stops to make sure that Chomsky’s prophecy does not come to pass, and, goddess willing, let us get a truehearted change maker into the White House.
Which is to say, let us double down on doing everything we can to turn the rising tide of history toward human ends while there’s still time.
Onward ho and pass the kombucha.
5 December 2019
Referenced in Article
Noam Chomsky: The US Health System Is an “International Scandal”
Interview by C.J. Polychroniou, Truthout
January 12, 2017