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We’ve had a few pieces on the disconnect between the public and the political process.  This essay by Richard D. Wolff looks to answering the question why, despite there being two different political parties in the US, that the overall arc of the US body politic maintains the same general direction.


“In short, “democracy” has been applied to societies whose political/residential sphere was at least formally democratic but whose economic sphere was decidedly not.

The ideological rigidity of most brands of anti-statism across US history served nicely to keep the focus forever on state/public versus individual/private in thinking and acting about social change. Democracy was redefined in practical terms as the liberty of the individual/private from the intrusion of the state/public. The democratic quality of the individual/private enterprise – the central structure of the economy – was exempted from analysis or even from view in terms of its structural incompatibility with democracy. Legalistic equations of capitalist corporations with individual personhood also helped to distract attention away from the undemocratic structure of the corporation. Likewise, the US government’s commitment to a “democratic foreign policy” fostered the reproduction elsewhere of the same undemocratic economic structure that characterized the US.

The right wing of US politics has long understood and responded to social movements for equality and democracy as threats to capitalism. Its leaders built their coalitions by working to mobilize public opinion against those movements as threats to the “American way of life.” It built its ideology on the notion that democracy meant a state kept from intruding on the lives and activities of persons and enterprises rendered as equivalently “individuals.” Equality to them meant equality of opportunity, not outcomes: and then only if opportunity was strictly disconnected from the wealth, income and social position each individual was born into.

The left wing of US politics has always tried hard to sustain the notion that capitalism was not only compatible with egalitarianism and democracy. It would also be strengthened, not threatened, by moving capitalist society closer to equality and democracy. In practical terms it contested against the right wing by insisting that the mass of people – the workers in capitalist enterprises – would become disaffected from and disloyal to capitalism if it indulged its anti-egalitarian and anti-democratic tendencies. Capitalism, it argued and argues, will be strengthened not threatened by less inequality and more democracy.

Both left and right – and their expressions in the leaderships of the Republican and Democratic Parties – live in fear, conscious or otherwise, that the mass of people, the working class, will become disaffected from capitalism. “Populist” is the currently popular epithet that expresses this fear.  Both parties contest for the support of the leaders of capitalism – major shareholders and the corporate boards of directors they select – by offering their alternative strategies for avoiding, controlling, or safely channeling mass disaffection with capitalism.”

Want to know moar, citizen? Check out Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky.


Now that we’re in the era of the 45th republican administration the battles we fight are more basic.  Defending basic rights of people and defending the societal institutions that promote equality in society.  That is where we are now.  But back in the first term of the Obama presidency he had it all, majorities in both houses and what came of it?  Pretty much nothing and in this Q&A interview with Thomas Frank, some of the reasons for the Obama flop are teased out and discussed candidly.


The book is about how the Democratic Party turned its back on working people and now pursues policies that actually increase inequality. What are the policies or ideological commitments in the Democratic Party that make you think this?

The first piece of evidence is what’s happened since the financial crisis. This is the great story of our time. Inequality has actually gotten worse since then, which is a remarkable thing. This is under a Democratic president who we were assured (or warned) was the most liberal or radical president we would ever see.  Yet inequality has gotten worse, and the gains since the financial crisis, since the recovery began, have gone entirely to the top 10 percent of the income distribution.

This is not only because of those evil Republicans, but because Obama played it the way he wanted to. Even when he had a majority in both houses of Congress and could choose whoever he wanted to be in his administration, he consistently made policies that favored the top 10 percent over everybody else. He helped out Wall Street in an enormous way when they were entirely at his mercy.

He could have done anything he wanted with them, in the way that Franklin Roosevelt did in the ’30s. But he chose not to.

Why is that? This is supposed to be the Democratic Party, the party that’s interested in working people, average Americans. Why would they react to a financial crisis in this way? Once you start digging into this story, it goes very deep. You find that there was a transition in the Democratic Party in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s where they convinced themselves that they needed to abandon working people in order to serve a different constituency: a constituency essentially of white-collar professionals.

That’s the most important group in their coalition. That’s who they won over in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. That’s who they serve, and that’s where they draw from. The leaders of the Democratic Party are always from this particular stratum of society.


There is no party of the working class, or even ones making half-hearted attempts to look like it any more in the United States.  The interests of the great majority of Americans simply have no place, and no voice in the US democratic system.

I hearken back to my country whose political game of hot potato has historically fluctuated between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party – it is the same shit – with the liberals selling out the middle and lower classes at a slightly lower rate than the conservative manage to do every time they are in power.  We have a viable third party in Canada the New Democratic Party – that through the near heroic efforts of leader lost to cancer – could have formed the first avowedly socialist government (we’re pretty social democratic here by default, despite the neoliberal cancer that is US politics) in Canada’s history.

That hope was shot to shit by one of the greatest miscalculations in Canadian political history – the new NDP leader, Tom Mulcair unwisely thought that moving to the political centre was the best course of action riding the late Jack Layton’s orange wave of support.  And in our last election the NDP (the MF NDP) was outflanked by the liberals ON THE LEFT and was, once again relegated to second opposition status in the house of commons (Lib 184, Con 99, NDP 44).

The NDP ignored the boilerplate election strategy that has held true for nearly every Canadian election – run centre left, and govern centre right.  Tom Mulcair ignored this simple nugget of truth and now we have the world’s darling Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party ruling the nation from the centre right and showing more and more contempt for the middle class that so dutifully elected them.

What gives?  In the US Thomas Frank contends it is the Democratic Party’s obsession with the professional class to the exclusion of all others.

What’s the content of the ideology of the professional class and how does it hurt working people? What are their guiding principles?

The first commandment of the professional class is the idea of meritocracy, which allows people to think that those on top are there because they deserve to be. With the professional class, it’s always associated with education. They deserve to be there because they worked really hard and went to a good college and to a good graduate school. They’re high achievers. Democrats are really given to credentialism in a way that Republicans aren’t.

If you look at the last few Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Obama, and Hillary Clinton as well, their lives are a tale of educational achievement. This is what opened up the doors of the world to them. It’s a party of who people who have gotten where they are by dint of educational accomplishment.

This produces a set of related ideas. When the Democrats, the party of the professionals, look at the economic problems of working-class people, they always see an educational problem, because they look at working class people and say, “Those people didn’t do what I did”: go and get advanced degrees, go to the right college, get the high SAT scores and study STEM or whatever.

There’s another interesting part of this ideology: this endless search for consensus. Washington is a city of professionals with advanced degrees, and Democrats look around them there and say, “We’re all intelligent people. We all went to good schools. We know what the problems are and we know what the answers are, and politics just get in the way.”

This is a very typical way of thinking for the professional class: reaching for consensus, because politics is this ugly thing that you don’t really need. You see this in Obama’s endless efforts to negotiate a grand bargain with Republicans because everybody in Washington knows the answers to the problems—we just have to get together, sit down and make an agreement. The same with Obamacare: He spent so many months trying to get Republicans to sign on, even just one or two, so that he could say it was bipartisan. It was an act of consensus. And the Republicans really played him, because they knew that’s what he’d do.

And we all know how well the Obama Care legacy is going today.  The current set of storm trooper Republicans give exactly no fucks about consensus, bipartisanship, or really anything except enriching and enshrining the 1% as the ruling oligarchs of the US.  And the confounding thing is this – people who are getting hit hard voted this republican administration in.  They took the small mined demagogue and made him their hero, unaware or uncaring of his pedigree and his allegiances with basically all of the forces that are directly fucking the populace over.

The last American election is a stinging indictment of the Democratic Party and how utterly disconnected they are with the majority of Americans.

“A lot of progressives that I talk to are pretty familiar with the idea that the Democratic Party is no longer protecting the interests of workers, but it’s pretty common for us to blame it on mainly the power of money in politics. But you start the book in chapter one by arguing there’s actually something much deeper going on. Can you say something about that?

Money in politics is a big part of the story, but social class goes deeper than that. The Democrats have basically made their commitment [to white-collar professionals] already before money and politics became such a big deal. It worked out well for them because of money in politics. So when they chose essentially the top 10 percent of the income distribution as their most important constituents, that is the story of money.

It wasn’t apparent at the time in the ’70s and ’80s when they made that choice. But over the years, it has become clear that that was a smart choice in terms of their ability to raise money. Organized labor, of course, is no slouch in terms of money. They have a lot of clout in dollar terms. However, they contribute and contribute to the Democrats and they almost never get their way—they don’t get, say, the Employee Free Choice Act, or Bill Clinton passes NAFTA. They do have a lot of money, but their money doesn’t count.

All of this happened because of the civil war within the Democratic Party. They fought with each other all the time in the ’70s and the ’80s. One side hadn’t completely captured the party until Bill Clinton came along in the ’90s. That was a moment of victory for them.”

So, I’m thinking third a third party is necessary in the US.  The cynical side of me thinks that there will actually be one in the US.  Not to have a party that represents the people, but as a corrupt puppet of a party meant to siphon off revolutionary zeal and progressive rage to safeguard the oligarch’s corrupt and self-serving ‘democratic’ system that is currently in place.

neo_liberalism  Much has happened in the world in the past few months. Especially since November 8, when the “left” or the “progressives” in the USA and indeed the world have been crapping their pants about some orange skinned person with homunculus like hands winning the seat of most powerful person in the world. While as concerning as this is to me (it really is), what has been more concerning to me has been how the Democratic Party and it’s supporters have been acting even before the election and their actions since. What I mean by that is, what difference does it make if Trump is in power if the alternative to him is no different or perhaps worse in some ways.

Enter Caitlin Johnstone into my radar a few weeks ago. Not only is she saying everything I have been noticing going on with the progressive side of the USA, but she does it with style and a flair that is beyond my writing skills. Her voice needs to be amplified by people who feel that the left has been co-opted by the neo-liberals in a drive to make the choice between neo-liberal and ultra-neo-liberal.

Here are some excerpts of what I love about her:

Caitlin Johnstone on the corporate media:

  “It’s been a trippy last few days, and if you’ve been listening to mainstream media it’s even trippier because everything’s on fire and we’re all about to die. In real life though, the world is still turning, the sun is still shining, and Republicans are just doing a somewhat milder version of the same idiotic dance they’ve always done. We’re essentially getting the same anti-science, anti-environment, pro-billionaire schtick we would’ve gotten had any other Republican won the presidency, minus the wars and predatory trade deals that the neocons love.

  This is hardly the goose-stepping, minority-incinerating dystopian apocalypse that the establishment media was promising us in the event of a Trump win. They’re still trying to paint it as though their alarmist prophecies have come true, but they have not. Sure it’s weird and stupid and kind of uncomfortable, but we are unquestionably living in a safer world than we would have been under a President Clinton. This is important for progressives to notice, because by cranking up the alarmism to eleven and freaking out about literally everything Donald Trump says and does, the neoliberal establishment is setting us up for their next move”

This safer world being talk about is because the No-Fly-Zone in Syria is something Candidate Clinton routinely said she would impose. In debates even.

Caitlin Johnstone on the Democratic Party’s refusal to own up to their betrayal of Sanders and refusal to change:

  “To this day, the elites of the Democratic party are doing everything they can to avoid addressing the DNC’s brazen assault on American democracy the way everyone knows they should. In any sort of functional democratic political system this outrageous scandal would have been met with unequivocal condemnation from the top to the bottom, with the President personally overseeing a complete overhaul of the Committee and all the party’s leaders apologizing profusely to the American people and doing everything they could to make it better, including a complete re-do of the primary under close, stringent oversight. Instead they’re babbling about Russian hackers and trying desperately to get the average American to care about Kremlin operatives more than they care about having to work three jobs to make ends meet in the Walmart economy.”

Caitlin Johnstone on just how awesome Tulsi Gabbard is:

  “Gabbard somehow refrained from unleashing the torrent of shrieking, profanity-laced vitriol I definitely would have blasted him with had I been in her shoes, maintained her composure without batting an eye, and patiently explained why Tapper is stupid and wrong about everything. She swatted aside the limp pundit’s feeble protestations as she finally spoke of her findings in Syria, the people’s unbelievable suffering at the hands of the terrorist insurgents, their confusion as to why the United States is backing terrorist factions, and the fact that she did not meet a single person who believed that there were moderate rebels in Syria. It’s definitely worth a watch; here’s a hyperlink if you missed it the first time.”

On why Obama doesn’t deserve special credit for commuting Chelsey Manning’s sentence:

  “In terms of what’s left of his legacy, all that Obama gets from me is one less thing to hate him for. When I’m going to bed at night, there will be one less thing on my extremely long list of evil things that he has done for me to rage about. He’s still the guy who got Chelsea Manning tortured and nearly killed. He’s still the guy who chose to let her rot in isolation long after the United Nations special rapporteur on torture Juan E. Mendez stated unequivocally that Manning’s treatment was “cruel, inhuman and degrading” and after 295 legal scholars signed a letter declaring that she was being “detained under degrading and inhumane conditions that are illegal and immoral.” He’s still the guy who left her in that hell hole after not one but two suicide attempts. He’s still the guy who promised to protect whistleblowers and have the most transparent administration in history, then went on to prosecute more whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined. The man is evil, and his ceasing to inflict more evil in this one particular area does not change that. He’s probably only doing it to bait Assange out of political asylum anyway.”

And finally Caitlin Johnstone on what I consider to be the actual problem, the neo-liberal takeover of the progressive parties in western democracies:

  “The Democrats had taken a severe beating starting with the neoliberal establishment’s evisceration of Jimmy Carter back in the late seventies and early eighties, but Bill Clinton figured out that you can still rake in big bucks from the donor class and give them everything they want in exchange as long as you pay lip service to the things the political left cares about. Under Slick Willy’s leadership, the so-called New Democrats took on the mantra of “fiscally conservative, socially liberal,” which was another way of saying they don’t care what you do in your bedroom or what color your skin is, as long as you help them crush you to death with the Walmart economy and sell your life blood to Wall Street.”

I hope these paragraphs that I have shared has encouraged you to give Caitlin a visit. She’s currently talking about how to retake the Democratic Party and why it’s important to attack the neo-liberals on the left rather than on the right. I hope you find her as awesome as I do!





Can we draw parallels between the political experience of Du Bois and our present time?  The situation the Du Bois describes can easily be translated into a commentary of what is happening in 2016 – the message is clear – reputable people cannot abandon the political realm despite what the chattering classes say, as it each citizen’s duty to take part in the political process and attempt to make things better not only for themselves, but for the following generations.

Our democracy has been moving further and further away from the participatory citizen model that we like to claim we have.  Interests that do not represent the common people strive to gerrymander our democracy to suit their narrow band of self-aggrandizing goals.

   “Meantime, new thoughts came to the nation:the inevitable period of moral retrogression and political trickery that ever follows in the wake of war overtook us.  So flagrant became the political scandals that reputable men began to leave politics alone, and politics consequently became disreputable.  Men began to pride themselves on having nothing to do with their own government, and to agree tacitly with those who regarded public office as a private perquisite.  In this state of mind it became easy to wink at the suppression of the Negro vote in the South, and to advise self-respecting Negroes to leave politics entirely alone.  The decent and reputable citizens of the North who neglected their own civic duties grew hilarious over the exaggerated importance with which the Negro regarded the franchise. 

     Thus it easily happened that more and more the better class of Negroes followed the advice from abroad and the pressure from home, and took no further interest in politics, leaving to the careless and the venal of their race the exercise of their rights as voters.  The black vote that still remained was not trained and educated, but further debauched by open and unblushing bribery, or force and fraud; until the Negro voter was thoroughly inoculated with the idea that politics was a method of private gain by disreputable means.

    And finally, now, to-day, when we are awakening to the fact that the perpetuity of republican institutions on the continent depends on the purification of the ballot, the civic training of voters, and the raising of voting to the plane of solemn duty which a patriotic citizen neglects to his peril and to the peril of his children’s children, – in this day, when we are striving for a renaissance of civic virtue, what are we going to say to the black voter of the South?  Are we gong to tell him still that politics is a disreputable and useless form of human activity?  Are we going to induce the best class of Negroes to take less and less interest in government, and give up their right to take such an interest, without a protest?  I am not saying a word against all legitimate efforts to purge the ballot of ignorance, pauperism, and crime.  But few have pretended that the present movement for disfranchisement in the South is for such a purpose; it has been plainly and frankly declared in nearly every case that the object of the disfranchising laws is the elimination of the black man from politics.”

-W.E.B. Du Bois.  The Souls of Black Folk p.105 – 106.

What is democracy about these days?  Looking to the North American model to the south of Canada, one begins to worry that idea of responsible, accountable government is a sadly antiquated notion.   Bill Moyers and his guests detail what is happening in Washington.  Revolving doors, “dark” money, influence peddling – a veritable laundry list of bad ethical practice is the norm, and the public good is but a memory.

Take the time, gain some insight and arm yourself with the knowledge of what is happening in what was once a great democratic nation.

Just to darken your day a little –


noamchomsky  “The Obama campaign greatly impressed the public relations industry, which named Obama ‘Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008,’ easily beating out Apple computers. A good predictor of the elections a few weeks later. The industry’s regular task is to create uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices, thus undermining markets as they are conceptualized in economic theory, but benefiting the masters of the economy. And it recognizes the benefits of undermining democracy in much the same way, creating uninformed voters who make often irrational choices between the factions of the business party that amass sufficient support from concentrated private capital to enter the electoral arena, then to dominate campaign propaganda.”

Democracy in Action – Look and Learn my sleeping obedient country.

The protests in Quebec are an example to the rest of Canada to what an active citizenry is like and how people can affect change in the political spectrum.  At the time of this writing, 39 days of protest are on record.  Thirty nine days of showing Canadians that people still do have a place Canadian politics.  The real lesson though is that this political space is never given freely, it is earned by the mass momentum  of people demanding and then taking their place in the debate.  This is the very lifeblood of democracy; yet our elites and media however cannot seem to do much more than sneer and dismiss the people of Quebec.   The next level of protest is coming as the Grand Prix is coming to Montreal, and the protesters might squeeze the cash flow of the event.  Action must be taken as the business elites must have their way.

“The prospect of continued protests following this week’s breakdown of talks to end the Quebec student crisis has Premier Jean Charest and Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay worried about the financial impact as Montreal preps for its lucrative Grand Prix race.

Both politicians appealed Friday for “responsibility” on the part of demonstrators, saying protesters should leave Formula One fans alone and not harm stores, hotels and restaurants during the tourist-heavy event next weekend.

Charest accused student groups of “hurting Quebecers” as they take to the streets and expressed concern they would disrupt the Grand Prix, which brings millions of dollars to the province each year.”

     Hurting Quebec business is what he should have said.  An interesting angle as this story would be where the local chamber of commerce political opinion’s are in terms of support of the demonstrators.

“Tremblay [the mayor of Montreal] told journalists he was “very disappointed, very, very, very disappointed” in the collapse of negotiations between students and the province. With the Grand Prix about to rev up and Montreal’s summer-long series of festivals getting into high gear, the mayor called for a smooth running of a “very important season.”

“I appeal to the maturity and sense of responsibility” of protesters to demonstrate without “causing harm to merchants, hotels and restaurateurs,” Tremblay said.

“I’ll do everything I can to ensure these events are a success, but also to ensure the safety of Montrealers.”

The Mayor’s statement could mean so many things.  The doublespeak that has been issuing from the various levels of government has been flowing furiously as of late.  I’m guessing that “safety of Montrealers” means more stringent security measures against the demonstrators.  I hope Mr.Trembley realized the pardoxical nature of political protest – the tighter you clamp down on people the more people see the injustice of the situation and join in, creating even bigger problems for the forces of law and order.  It is happening even now…

“Matthew Larose, a 32-year-old construction foreman, said he’ll probably be going to the big demonstration planned for Saturday afternoon like he has seven of the nighttime marches. He’s against the tuition increases but also against Bill 78.

“If they can do it in Quebec, they can do it everywhere else. It sets a bad precedent for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of everything. They’re going completely against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and it’s disgraceful,” he said.”

Bill 78 is a tipping point, hopefully the political class in Montreal will wake up and start helping, rather than harming their cause.

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