On the eve of the 2016 election, it is time to take stock of our situation and our prospects. First, we must dispense with the notion that either of the monied candidates is on our side. They are not, nor is the plutocratic class that the next president will front. We are on our own now, and we will be on our own after the polls close.
Corporate interests have long since monopolized real power in this country, closing their grip with 2010’s Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, and, since September of 2001, perfecting the performance of government as a black box in which public monies are funneled into corporate coffers, as a military wing of Wall Street enforcing the will of American imperialism, and as a domestic police and surveillance apparatus for keeping an increasingly restive population in line. All but abandoned has been the U.S. government’s traditional function of easing the most egregious effects of capitalism on individuals and communities. Welfare programs; labor, environmental and bank regulation, all have withered in the last two decades. Meanwhile, the government has perpetrated a massive theft of citizens’ tax dollars for the purposes of bailing out the major banks and of prosecuting open-ended, devastating wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East. This, as the country’s roads, railroads, water systems, cities and schools deteriorate, and public outcry is met with the mantra that there is no money.
The traditional American political system, the two-party monopoly of big business and the military-security state, is dying. As protracted economic and social crises go unaddressed by government and given no serious treatment by either candidate for the presidency, the American people are losing faith in the process that produces its leaders. A recent New York Times/CBS poll documents just how disgusted voters are with the 2016 election campaign. The poll finds that more than 80 percent of voters say that “the campaign has left them repulsed rather than excited.” The Times rightly points out that “the rising toxicity threatens the ultimate victor.” What the Times does not say, however, is that the poll reveals not simply disgust over the two candidates’ mudslinging campaigns but over the whole corporate-controlled system that leaves them disenfranchised.
As voters experience their crisis of faith, the ruling class casts about for tokens of legitimacy. Nowhere is this more evident, of course, than in the media. With Donald Trump blustering that should he lose the election it would be the result of a rigged system, the corporate media has been working overtime to laugh away his claims and to praise to the heavens the electoral system of the world’s greatest democracy. Here, as in his appeal to the more backward elements of the working class, Trump inadvertently speaks a truth. Just as he has made political hay of the economic suffering of ordinary people, Trump plays upon their distrust of a political system that has left them out in the cold.
Most ominously, Trump’s hints that he may not acknowledge a Clinton victory in the election threaten to encourage an active far-right-wing movement outliving his candidacy and galvanized by a rejection of official U.S. politics. It is not too much to say that an organized continuation of Trump’s policy proposals—and perhaps more precisely, his attitudes—would amount to a neo-fascist movement on a scale unprecedented in the U.S. It would be the crashing of the wave that began to rise with the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan in 1979.
This movement may claim the Republican Party as its own, or it may form a viable new party, but the two-party system we have known is disappearing. With the support of Republican politicians, of conservative pundits and newspapers, and of right-wing retired generals, Hillary Clinton embodies the collapse of the GOP into the Democratic Party. In their own hard shift to the right, which began with the ascendancy of the Democratic Leadership Council and the presidency of Bill Clinton, the Democrats announced themselves the new handmaidens of the corporate and banking elite, usurping much of the political territory once securely held by the Republicans. Meanwhile, the Republican Party reached rightward to increasingly unsavory elements. For the consumption of the electorate, the Democratic Party has elevated identity politics—representing in divisive ways issues of race and gender—into the place it once reserved for workers’ issues. In this context it is worth noting that the Democratic Obama administration has been bombing women of color for all of its eight years. Far from representing a progressive future, a Clinton administration promises only an escalation of military activity, and Hillary Clinton has made it clear that she views Russia, a nuclear power, as an enemy. The Republican establishment would be in lock-step with Clinton’s war-mongering. A third world war has never looked so likely.
On Wednesday morning, whether there is a clear winner in the election or whether we find ourselves confronted with a protracted challenge to the results, we will nevertheless inhabit a transformed political landscape. A landscape still with Democrats and Republicans but shaped by a new duality. For years, the ruling class has been preparing for major wars abroad and for civil disturbances at home. Should Clinton win the election, as seems likely, this military and policing infrastructure will remain in the hands of the Democratic/Republican faction of the owning class. Meanwhile, a new faction—nationalist in outlook, militarist and authoritarian in character—will clamor at the gates. Should Trump win, the military-security state will be in the hands of this new faction, these American fascists.
The wealthy oligarchs of the U.S. are divided and confused, mired in an economic crisis to which there is no solution. Both the Democrat/Republican faction—whom we may now call the Liberals—and the Fascists will seek to do with Cruise missiles and aircraft carriers what they cannot accomplish with the dollar, namely to establish American economic hegemony worldwide. The Liberals, though, will largely stick to familiar ways of talking to and treating the American people. But when the next, inevitable economic crash hits, or when world war is at hand, the Fascists—likely fronted by a more intelligent and persuasive demagogue than Trump—will attempt to look like saviors. And so they may seem to the oligarchs.
For now, we say farewell to the universe of Democrats and Republicans. The age of Liberals and Fascists is upon us. And where, we must ask with urgency, is there a party of the people?
Photo source: donaldjtrump.com