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Goodbye to Democrats


Upton Sinclair observed more than a century ago that "the two political parties are two wings of the same bird of prey. The people are allowed to choose between their candidates, and both of them are controlled, and all their nominations are dictated by, the same [money] power." Sensing that Sinclair’s view is no less accurate in the current era than in his, I have made a point of voting for (officially unelectable) third party candidates (from Barry Commoner in 1980 to Jill Stein in 2012) in all but one (2004[1]) of eight U.S. presidential elections in which I have “participated.” I have spent slight energy on major party (or any) electoral politics in my lifetime, tending to see the U.S. elections industry as an elite-fixed marketing operation and a big money/big media exercise in marginalizing and deceiving the citizenry. The politics that have always mattered the most me and to other lefties I’ve known over the years are more about social movement-building beneath and beyond the endless machinations of politicians and their funders and image-makers.

The Wills-Henwood Argument (2008)

That said, I have tended over the years to tell people who ask – and particularly people in the small and shrinking number of contested states (see my first endnote) – that it would probably be better for the White House to be occupied by a Democrat than by a Republican. “Lesser evilism” has not weighed very heavily in my advice, though I think it is dishonest or ignorant not to acknowledge that the intensity of the corporate and social-conservative assault on the U.S. populace is generally less severe under Democratic presidents than it is under Republicans. The bigger part of my argument has nothing to do with "lesser evilist" thinking and everything to do with exposing the corporate and imperial Democrats for what they really are. How are the recurrently Left and progressive-co-opting Democrats best revealed as another wing of the same plutocratic and imperial bird of pretty? Which is better for the development of serious, and lasting political action (grassroots, and non-co-opt-able citizen and workers' activism and organization) beyond the masters' quadrennial electoral extravaganzas—(A) radically regressive Republicans holding nominal power or (B) dismal dollar Democrats sitting atop the symbolic ship of state?

The answer for me has been B. This is based on my observation that the presence of Republicans in the White House encourages liberals and progressives and others to blame everything wrong in America on "those insane evil Republicans." Elite power centers remain free to tamp down popular anger at Washington’s standard service to the rich by bringing corporate neoliberal Democrats back in the names of "hope" and "change"—the keywords of both Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign and Obama's 2008 campaign. Radicals want workers and citizens to grasp that the real problem is not which of the two wings holds political office but the rule of capital and Empire behind the charade that passes for democracy. Having Democrats in office is strategically preferable for the Left because it helps bring that lesson home.

So, at least, I have tended to argue, with the important qualification that voting is really a minor and short-lived matter (it takes about two minutes) compared to the far more important politics of building social movements at the grassroots. The late radical historian Howard Zinn put it very well in an essay on “The Election Madness” that took over the nation and indeed much of the (all-too Obama-mesmerized) left in 2008:

 

“‘I’m talking about a sense of proportion that gets lost in the election madness. Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes – the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth….‘But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice….‘ Let’s remember that even when there is a “better” candidate…that difference will not mean anything unless the power of the people asserts itself in ways that the occupant of the White House will find it dangerous to ignore.”[2]

I wanted Obama to win the 2008 election for what might strike some as a strange reason. I hoped Obama would triumph because I thought there was radical potential in U.S. voters and citizens, especially younger ones, experiencing the nation’s “unelected dictatorship of money” (Edward Herman and David Peterson’s excellent phrase) under a Democratic administration that seemed to offer special promise of progressive change. I wanted Americans (young ones above all) to come into more direct and visible contact with the bipartisan nature of the American imperial and plutocratic business-politics system (wherein “politics, we might say, is the continuation of business by other means”[3]) system and to confront the gap between their expectations of transformation and the harsh reality of persistent top-down corporate, financial and military rule with the "dismal Dems" at the outward helm of government. I wanted them to be subjected to the reality that, to quote the Marxist commentator Doug Henwood nearly four years ago, "everything still pretty much sucks" when Democrats hold the top political offices—that the basic underlying institutional realities of capitalist and imperial rule stay the same. As the antiwar activist, author, and essayist Stan Goff noted in 2009, "I'm glad Obama was elected. Otherwise, people would blame the war on McCain and the Republicans and continue with the delusion that elections can be our salvation." A key historical reference here is John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s presidency and the rise of the New Left in the 1960s. As Henwood concluded at the end of a critical Spring 2008 essay that noted, among other things, Obama’s abject subservience to big capital, Obama’s militarism, and Obama’s denial of the extent of racial inequality in the U.S.:

“Enough critique; the dialectic demands something constructive to induce some forward motion. There's no doubt that Obamalust does embody some phantasmic longing for a better world -more peaceful, egalitarian, and humane. He'll deliver little of that – but there's evidence of some admirable popular desires behind the crush. And they will inevitably be disappointed…There's great political potential in popular disillusionment with Democrats. The phenomenon was first diagnosed by Garry Wills in Nixon Agonistes. As Wills explained it, throughout the 1950s, left-liberals intellectuals thought that the national malaise was the fault of Eisenhower, and a Democrat would cure it. Well, they got JFK and everything still pretty much sucked, which is what gave rise to the rebellions of the 1960s….The sense of malaise and alienation is probably stronger now than it was 50 years ago, and includes a lot more of the working class, whom Stanley Greenberg's focus groups find to be really pissed off about the cost of living and the way the rich are lording it over the rest of us…Never did the possibility of disappointment offer so much hope. That's not what the candidate means by that word, but history can be a great ironist.”[4]

Personally ambitious Corporate- and Empire-captive Democrats like Barack Obama (or Hillary Clinton or John F. Kerry or Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter) are better able to pose as a progressive alternative when they are out of office. They are more effectively exposed as no such thing when they hold office after having raised and/or coasted into “power” on popular expectations they are unable and unwilling to satisfy.

The Obama Bubble Pops

Is there any evidence for thinking that Henwood’s dark, dialectical hope for Obama had strategic acumen? Some. The remarkable left-led and populist Occupy Movement of the Fall and early winter of 2011 clearly in part off youthful disillusionment with Obama and the Democrats—a bursting of a political "hope" bubble that followed two years after the bursting of the real estate and financial bubble to fuel disenchantment with the underlying profits system. For a significant number of young Occupiers and Occupy supporters, it seems, Wall Street Obama was a great object lesson in the wisdom of something that the great American radical historian Howard Zinn once wrote: "the really critical thing isn't who's sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in—in the streets, in the cafeterias, in the halls of government, in the factories. Who is protesting, who is occupying offices and demonstrating—those are the things that determine what happens."[5]

“If there were a Republican president,” Michelle Goldberg writes in a recent essay on the rising number of young intellectuals who are exploring and embracing Marxism, “they might see hope in electing a Democrat. But Barack Obama already won, and it didn’t help.” As one such intellectual, Bhaskar Sunkara (editor of the popular left zine Jacobin), told Goldberg, “If you win something and you are disappointed with the results, in a way that’s more politicizing than just losing and losing and losing over again.”[6]

 

A Generation Confronts Horrendous Economic Failure and More Under U.S. Capitalism 

Still, there should be no doubt about the real and leading force behind Occupy and the uptick in left sentiments among young intellectuals. Like the broader left-progressive tilt of the Millennial generation more broadly (a December 2011 Pew survey discovered that 49 percent of young Americans aged 18 to 29 viewed the term “socialism” favorably compared to 46 percent who reacted negatively to the term), these developments are rooted in the epic neoliberal capitalist meltdown called The Great Recession. “After the financial crisis,” Goldberg notes, “ ‘you didn’t need to be Karl Marx to see that people were getting kicked out of their homes’….And privileged young people—particularly the kind of who are inclined to read and write essays about political theory—haven’t just been spectators to immiseration. Graduating with student debt loads that make them feel like indentured servants, they’ve had a far harder time than their predecessors finding decent jobs in academia, publishing, or even that old standby law and are thus denied the bourgeois emollients that have helped past generations of college radicals reconcile themselves to the status quo.”[7] 

Writing about what he calls “the rise of the new New Left,” liberal commentator Peter Beinart notes that Americans “coming of age in the 21st century” have confronted “a genuine historical disruption. Compared to their Reagan-Clinton generation elders, Millennials are entering adulthood in an America where government provides much less economic security. And their economic experience in this newly deregulated America has been horrendous,” scarred by a viciously “downward slide” in wages and benefits and collapsing rewards for ever more absurdly expensive educations. To make matter worse, “Millennials have come of age at a time when the government safety net is far more threadbare for the young than for the middle-aged and old….younger Americans are less likely than their elders to qualify for unemployment insurance, food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or the Earned Income Tax Credit. (Not to mention Medicare and Social Security.).”[8] 

Reflecting more broadly on the broad devastation wrought on Americans of all ages by no longer triumphant U.S. capitalism in the early 21st century, progressive economist Gar Alperovitz finds it unsurprising that many younger Americans have turned left in the Bush 43-Obama 44 years. The shift makes perfect sense given the interrelated massive economic failures, harsh inequality, cold austerity, environmental catastrophe, and plutocratic authoritarianism imposed by the profits system and the fading capacity of liberal and progressive politics and institutions to mitigate the profit system’s deadly impact on society, popular governance, and livable ecology:

 

“As economic failure continues to create massive social and economic pain and a stalemated Washington dickers, search for some alternative to the current ‘system’ is likely to continue to grow. It is clearly time to get serious about a different vision of the future….Classically, the central idea undergirding various forms of socialism….is democratic ownership of “the means of production,” or “capital,” or, more simply, “productive wealth”….the core idea is simple and straightforward: Those who own wealth – and the corporations who control it – have far more power to control any system than those who don’t.” 

“In a nation in which 400 people own more wealth than the bottom 180 million together, the point should be obvious. What is new in our time in history is that the traditional compromise position – namely progressive, or social democratic or liberal politics – has lost its capacity to offset such power even in the modest (compared, for instance to many European states) ways the American welfare state once represented. Indeed, the emerging direction is to cut back previous gains in many areas – not to sustain or enlarge them. Even Social Security is now on the table for cuts….Union membership has steadily decreased from roughly 35 percent of the workforce in 1954, to 11,3 percent now – a more 6.6 percent in the private sector.” 

“Along with the decay, and give or take an exception here and there, major trends in income and wealth, in civil liberties, in ecological devastation….,in poverty and many other important indicators have been ‘going South’ for several decades.”[9]


 

The Delaying and Repressive Power of “Hope” 

Reflecting on Occupy Wall Street’s emergence and the support OWS received from labor union members in and around New York City in early October of 2011, Charles Jenkins, director of organizing for NYC Transit Workers Local 100 had an interesting comment “This,” Jenkins said, “is three years late. The Fortune 500, the banks, and the auto companies have all been taken care of. But people are still suffering and need jobs.” 

With all due respect to the “dialectical” Wills-Henwood-Sunkara-(and, yes, Street) argument (for favoring Democrats in high elected office) sketched above, Obama and the broader hegemony of major party candidate-centered politics seem to have delayed popular rebellion at least as much as it may have fueled it.  The Nobel Prize-winning liberal economist Joseph E. Stiglitz has written about what produced the Occupy rebellion and why that rebellion only came three long years after the onset of the Great Recession:

 “That the young would rise up against the dictatorships of Tunisia and Egypt was understandable. The youth were tired of aging, sclerotic leaders who protected their own interests at the expense of the rest of society. They had no opportunity to call for change through democratic processes. But electoral democracy had also failed badly in Western democracies. U.S. president Barack Obama had promised ‘change you can believe in,’ but he subsequently delivered economic policies that, to many Americans, seemed like more of the same….Years after the breaking of the bubble, it became clear that our political system had failed. ..It was only then that protestors turned to the streets…..”[10]

“The strength of faith in democratic processes, however, is remarkable. One interpretation for why it took so long for the Occupy Wall Street protests to emerge was that many hoped that the political process would ‘work’ to rein in the financial sector and redress the country’s economic problems. It was only when it was evident that they did not that protests became widespread. The strong voter turnout in 2008 (the highest since 1968) reflects the power of hope.”[12]


“Hope” of a certain, electoral and major party, candidate-centered kind, that is – a naïve hope, to say the least, given the longstanding subversion of “democratic processes” by abject plutocracy in New Gilded Age America. (A shining demonstration example of such naïveté was given in Wisconsin months before the Occupy rising: the all-too unchallenged way that labor officials and other Democratic elites dismantled the rank and file Wisconsin struggle as a social movement, turning the significant popular protest unleashed in early 2011 into a predictably unsuccessful electoral effort to recall Teapublican governor Scott Walker and replace him in the governor’s office with an uninspiring centrist Democrat [Tommy Barrett]. Sadly protesters pretty much followed their liberal “leaders” into electoral oblivion.)[12]


When Occupy emerged and sparked hundreds of copycat encampments around the nation, moreover, the Obama administration moved to infiltrate, repress and dismantle the neo-populist movement in a coordinated federal campaign that assisted predominantly Democratic mayors and city council in crushing the rebellion.[13] This hardly prevented the corporatist Obama and his handlers from appropriating Occupy’s rhetoric for mendacious, fake-progressive use against the Republican presidential campaign of Mitt “Mr. 1%” Romney. The arch-plutocratic GOP standard-bearer (who famously proclaimed nearly half the county welfare-dependent loafers) played perfect foil for the Democrats’ standard election-year effort to pose as populists defending the common man against the wealthy Few.[14]


Absurdly Persistent Republican Power in the “Frozen Republic”


Of course, winning the White House (and in 2008 the Congress) hardly snatched away the dollar Democrats’ ability to blame everything wrong in the country on “those crazy Republicans.”[15] That MSNBC-enhanced weapon for deflecting attention away from their cringing, Wall Street-captive neoliberalism and imperial militarism, has remained alive and well, thanks in no small part to Republicans’ control of the U.S. Supreme Court, the House of Representatives, and the majority of the nation’s state governments – this along with the mass media’s four-year fascination with the purported “grassroots movement” called "the Tea Party” (itself a media creation to no small extent[16]). The 2012 presidential election naturally provided another great quadrennial opportunity for Democrats to recharge their fake-populist partisan batteries with dire warnings of a total Teapublican takeover in Washington.


Of course, “the crazy party” (liberal standard-bearer Paul Krugman’s term for the GOP) does in fact retain remarkable power over U.S. policy, in curious defiance of the Republicans’ remarkably low popularity (a recent ABC-Washington Post survey finds that a record-setting 63 percent of Americans hold an unfavorable impression of the Republican Party[17]). The Republicans’ persistent power over and against public opinion is rooted to no small extent in the U.S. Constitution and in gerrymandering. When they set up a government with powers strictly divided between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, the 18th century U.S. founders never anticipated the formation of competing political parties in the republic (not a democracy, the founders’ ultimate nightmare) they created. They also failed to foresee the dark partisan arts and science of the gerrymander, whereby elected officials choose their voters through the creative draining of district lines, in a cold reversal of the democratic ideal (voters choosing their elected officials[18]), and voter suppression. Thus they could not imagine the current spectacle of Washington “gridlock,” wherein the rightmost (and least nationally popular) of Sinclair’s wings might control both the presidentially appointed serve-for-life high court (thanks to Republican victories in a national elections in 1980, 1988, 1992, and 2000 – the latter with no small help from the high court itself) and the “popularly elected” House (thanks in no small part to partisan gerrymandering and voter suppression) while the not-so leftmost (and more nationally popular) of Sinclair’s holds another branch of Congress (the Senate, elected on a statewide basis and thus not susceptible to gerrymander) and the presidency. Under a more genuinely democratic and efficient parliamentary and multiparty system (one that would ideally include proportional representation for various parties in the legislative branch), the most nationally popular party would periodically receive a mandate to form a national coalition government across executive and legislative branches in the interest of making coherent policy in reasonable accord with the wishes of an actually sovereign majority populace. There is no such democratic logic to the “frozen republic” (Daniel Lazarre’s term[19]) that passes for the shining example of popular governance the U.S. today.


Nobody loves the resulting freeze and gridlock more than the corporate and financial elite, by the way. Constitutional paralysis leaves the “1 percent” free to pursue the ever-expanding upward concentration of wealth and power without fear that national government and politics can achieve the coherence and unity to effectively channel majority sentiments on behalf of democracy, justice, and environmental sustainability.


“Dialing for the Same Commercial Campaign Dollars”


Still, the Democrats are not without significant blame for the persistent potency of the widely hated GOP. The radical Republicans feed richly on the dollar Democrats’ depressing, demobilizing conservatism, rooted in the harsh fact that the latter party is no less beholden than the former to Big Business. As Ralph Nader recently noted in an article bearing the apt title “The Democrats Can’t Defend the County From the Retrograde GOP”:


“The polls…show, convincingly, that people blame the stubborn Republicans more than the Democrats for the adverse effects of the [October 2013 federal government shutdown and debt-ceiling crisis] on workers, public health, safety, consumer spending, recreational parks and government corporate contracts….[But] there is another story about how all this gridlock came to be, fronted by the question: ‘Why didn’t the Democrats landslide the cruelest, most ignorant, big-business-indentured Republican Party in its history during the 2010 and 2012 Congressional elections?’ ”


The main answer is that “Democrats are dialing for the same commercial campaign dollars, which beyond the baggage of quid pro quo money, detours the Party away from concentrating on their constituents’ needs.” Thus, there has been no real Democratic Party movement either on behalf of measures that are supported not just by the party’s “moribund” (Nader’s term) Progressive Caucus but also by the working class American majority: “upping the federal minimum wage, controlling corporate crime, reducing corporate welfare giveaways, reasserting full Medicare for all, diminishing a militaristic foreign policy and other policies…….So,” Nader notes, “when election time comes around, voters do not know what the Democrats stand for other than to save Social Security and Medicare from the Republicans.”[20]


For what is worth (quite little in a national “left” intellectual culture dominated by MSDNC/[MSNBC, the editorial pages of the New York Times, and multi-millionaire Democratic Party apologist Katrina vanden Heuvel), this is precisely what I warned about in my officially marginalized 2008 book Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics: a Democratic party and president that would fail to meaningfully fight for progressive goals and to take on either the corporate elites or the ever more radically regressive Republican Party, leaving much of the progressive base wondering why it should support Democrats and making it easier for the FOX News right (later to significantly overlap with the “the Tea Party”) to tap and misdirect popular anger in a harshly reactionary direction. The Democrats’ dull and dreary performance in accord with Wall Street’s wishes and even with possession of both houses of Congress as well as the presidency in 2009 and 2010 was no small factor behind the Republicans’ historic victories in the Congressional mid-term and state gubernatorial and legislative election of 2010 [21] – a right-wing triumph that was critical to subsequent Republican gerrymandering (electoral redistricting takes place at the state level) and (highly racist and nativist) voter suppression successes.


The More Effective Evil?


How committed are the administration Democrats even to “sav[ing] Social Security and Medicare”? The “liberal” Obama White House remains determined to negotiate cuts to Social Security benefits, Medicare and other so-called entitlement programs. Obama’s budget blueprint, released last April, proposes slowing the growth of Social Security spending by advancing a “new measure of inflation” – the “chained CPI,” a fancy method for cutting seniors’ cost-of-living adjustments. The president has also “called for squeezing $370 billion from Medicare by raising some fees and premiums as well as making cuts to providers,” the Wall Street Journal reports.[22] Adding in proposed cuts of $187 billion to Medicaid, left sociologist and commentator James Petras estimates that the “Grand Bargain” offered by the center-right Obama to his erstwhile opposition in the far right GOP in the summer of 2011 “will cause American workers to lose over $1.19 trillion dollars over the next 10 years, leading to a sharp decline in life expectancy, access to health care, living standards and quality of life.”[23]


All of which raises the question: are the Democrats really even the “lesser evil” anymore? Demonstrating a sinister determination to repress internal dissent and advance the corporate, neoliberal, and imperial agendas in ways that seem more sophisticated and smart than those of the Republicans, the Democrats are remarkably effective when it comes to inducing liberals and progressives to acquiesce before the endless crimes of American empire and inequality. Imagine how much louder the official U.S. “left” (liberal and “progressive Democrats”) would have protested Edward Snowden’s surveillance revelations had they been made under a President McCain or a President Romney (a similar point could be made on drone warfare and numerous other points). In this and other ways (including the cloaking of the nation’s savagely persistent and deeply rooted societal racism), Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, has arguably been a more effective evil in the White House than his Republicans opponents would have been.


The Balance of Forces


Would if have been better for the “crazy” Tea Party Caucus[24] to have prevailed over Big Business Democrats and Republicans in the latest debt-ceiling fiasco? Petras argues provocatively that:


The principle and immediate beneficiaries of increasing the debt ceiling are the wealthy, bond-holders and the medium and long-term beneficiaries are the military-intelligence-empire-builders who can continue to secure over $700 billion in annual budget allocations….. Given the harsh terms, which accompany the Grand Bargain to raise the debt ceiling, it would be better if no agreement were reached. The financial elite is counting on the Grand Bargain to leverage their debt collection over the lives and welfare of hundreds of millions of Americans. It would be better to shake the pillars and pull down this Temple of Mammon (the Samson Solution) making them pay a price!”

“The ‘shock and awe’ induced by default would shake the very foundations of the financial pillage of the US Treasury and the taxpayers; default would seriously undermine the financial basis for imperial wars, spying, torture and death squads. The entire empire building project would crumble.” 

“True, in the short-run, the workers and middle class would also suffer from a default. But the discredit of the ruling political parties, the political elite and Wall Street, could lead to a new political alignment, which would fund social programs by, in David Stockman’s phrase, “soaking the rich” – raising corporate taxes by 50%, imposing a financial transaction tax of 5%, uncapping the social security tax and collecting taxes on overseas US multi-nationals’ profits. Additional billions would be saved by ending imperial wars, closing bases and canceling military contracts. Tax reform, imperial dismantlement and increased domestic investment in productive activity would generate domestic growth leading to a budget surplus, extending MEDICARE to all Americans, reducing the age of retirement to 62 and providing a living wage for all workers!”[24A] 

There should be no doubting Petras on who benefits from Uncle Sam’s giant national debt and Obama’s “grand bargain” (really a Great Betrayal): America’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money, empire, and eco-cide. Still, I wish I could share Petras’ faith that default would produce a progressive/left political realignment. Given the balance of class forces informed by the pathetic state of organization on the left (due in no small part to progressives’ overlong attachment to the Democratic Party), the crisis that would be produced by default seems more likely to deepen the drift toward a type of police state fascism in the U.S. today. 

Clearly, though, I’ve made my frankly weak, shrugging “dialectical” argument for others (in contested states) to vote Democratic (I can never actually do it myself) for the last time. There’s a kernel or two of truth in the Henwood thesis, whose shining moment came in September and October of 2011 in Zucotti Park. But the broader reality sketched here suggests that the best thing for a leftist is to steer even more completely clear than I have to date of major parties and their campaigns and candidates and to focus on building the social movement force for the kind of real systemic change – the “radical reconstruction of society itself” that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. identified as “the real issue to be faced”[25] beyond “superficial” matters in 1968 – that no ranking Democrat or Republican is ever going to endorse. I’ll leave to others forever now the question of how to best respond to the narrow electoral choices on offer in the quadrennial electoral extravaganzas staged for and by the 1 Percent. None of it means a progressive damn in the absence of real and powerful grassroots social movements capable of winning real social change from below. 

Paul Street (paul.street99@gmail.com) is the author of numerous books, including Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (2004), Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis (2007), and They Rule: The 1 v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014).

 

1. The first and last time I ever voted in a contested state – one where there was any reasonably prior doubt which of the two major party presidential candidates would prevail. 

2. Howard Zinn, “Election Madness,” The Progressive (March 2008). 

3. Roger Hodge, The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism (New York: Harper, 2010), 8 

4. Doug Henwood, “Would You like Change With That?” Left Business Observer, No. 117 (March 2008), quoted approvingly (and elaborated upon) in Paul Street, Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2008), 204 -5. The term “dismal Dems” belongs to Henwood. 

5. Paul Street, “Dorothy and the Occupiers vs. The Wizard of Ozbama and the Power Behind the Curtain,” ZNet (November 5, 2011), http://www.zcomm.org/dorothy-and-the-occupiers-vs-the-wizard-of-ozbama-and-the-power-behind-the-curtain-by-paul-street.html; “The Legacy of Howard Zinn,” Socialist Worker, November 2, 2010, athttp://socialistworker.org/blog/critical-reading/2010/11/02/legacy-howard-zinn

6.  Michelle Goldberg, “Crash Prompts Young Intellectuals to Revisit Marxism,” Tablet Magazine (October 14, 2013), http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/148162/young-intellectuals-find-marx?all=1

7. Goldberg, “Crash Prompts.” 

8 Peter Beinart, “The Rise of the New New Left,” Daily Beast (September 12, 2013), http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/12/the-rise-of-the-new-new-left.html 

9. Gar Alperovitz, “The Question of Socialism Is About to Open Up in These United States,” Truthout, April 12, 2013. It helps “socialism’s” favorability rating that we are now more than two decades past the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellite regimes and the end of the Cold War. This makes it more difficult for the U.S. capitalist elite and its supporters to automatically identify the democratic and egalitarian project of socialism – workers’ control and “people over profits” – with the arch-authoritarian state-capitalist and/or bureaucratic-collectivist nightmare of Stalinist Russia, the Soviet bloc, and the so-called People’s Republic of China.

10. .Joseph E. Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality (New York: W.W. Norton, 2012), x, xix.

11. Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality, 345, n.4. 

12. Paul Street, “North American Report;” Paul Street, “Wisconsin Lessons,” ZNet (June 8, 2011),http://www.zcomm.org/wisconsin-lessons-by-paul-street.html  

13. Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, FBI Documents Reveal Secret Nationwide Occupy Monitoring, (December 22, 2012), www.jusiceoneline.org/commentary/fbi-files-ows.html?; Naomi Wolf, “Revealed : How the FBI Coordinated the Crackdown on Occupy,” The Guardian (December 29, 2012),

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/29/fbi-coordinated-crackdown-occupy; “The FBI vs. Occupy: Secret Docs Reveal ‘Counterterrorism’ Monitoring of OWS from Its Earliest Days,” Democracy Now! (air date December 27, 2012) at www.democracynow.org/2012/12/27/the_fbi_vs_occupy_secret_docs

 David Lindorff, “Police State Tactics Point to a Coordinated National Program to Try and Unoccupy Wall Street and Other Cities,” This Can’t Be Happening (November 15, 2011) at http://thiscantbehappening.net/node/900; Andy Kroll, “Mayors and Cops Traded Strategies for Dealing with Occupy Protestors,” Mother Jones (November 16, 2011), read at http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/11/occupy-protest-coordinate-crackdown-wall-street; Nigel Duara, “Mayors, Police Chiefs Talk Strategy on Protests,” Associated Press (November 15, 2011), read at http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2011/11/15/mayors_police_chiefs_talk_strategy_on_protests/; 

14. Paul Street, “The 1% and the 47%,” ZNet (September 23, 2012), http://www.zcomm.org/the-1-and-the-47-by-paul-street.html; Paul Street, “The Plutocrats Keep Their Shirts,” Z Magazine (January 2013), http://www.zcomm.org/the-plutocrats-keep-their-shirts-by-paul-street.htm 

15. The great liberal standard-bearer Paul Krugman takes particular delight in calling the GOP “crazy.” See Paul Krugman, “The Crazy Party,” New York Times, September 19, 2013; “Rebels Without a Clue,” New York Times, Sept. 30, 2013. 

16. Paul Street and Anthony DiMaggio, Crashing the Tea Party: Mass Media and the Campaign to Remake American Politics (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2011); Anthony DiMaggio, The Rise of the Tea Party: Political Discontent and Corporate Media in the Age of Obama (New York: Monthly Review, 2011). 

17. “Oct. 2013 Post-ABC Poll,” Washington Post, October 25, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/page/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2013/10/22/National-Politics/Polling/release_272.xml 

18. Steven Hill, Fixing Elections: The Failure of America’s Winner Take All Politics (New York: Routledge, 2002), xii, 82, 89, 99, 105, 116, 228, 236, 292, 319, 322, 325. 

19. Daniel Lazarre, Frozen Republic How the Constitution is Paralyzing Democracy (Manner Books, 1997). 

20. Ralph Nader, “The Democrats Can’t Defend the Country From the Retrograde GOP,” Common Dreams (October 18, 2013), http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/10/18-8. 

21. See Street, Barack Obama and the Future, 47-49, 58, 200-2. For subsequent elaboration and observations, see Paul Street and Anthony DiMaggio, Crashing The Tea Party: Mass Media and the Campaign to Remake American Politics (Paradigm, 2011), viii-x. 144-158. 

22. Peter Nicholas and Colleen McCain Nelson, “Budget Discord Simmers On Left,” Wall Street Journal, October 21, 2013, A1, A4. 

23. James Petras, “Empire-Building, the Debt Ceiling, the Budget Deficit, and the Samson Solution,” Dissident Voice (October 17, 2013), http://dissidentvoice.org/2013/10/empire-building-the-debt-ceiling-the-budget-deficit-and-the-samson-solution/ 

24. For an interesting, at once regionally and historically informed understanding of the reactionary rationality behind “the Tea Party’s” alleged insanity, see Michael Lind, “Tea Party Radicalism is Misunderstood: Meet the ‘Newest Right,’” Salon, October 6, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/10/06/tea_party_radicalism_is_misunderstood_meet_the_newest_right/ 

24A. Petras. “Empire-Building.” 

25. See Martin Luther King Jr., “A Testament of Hope” (1968), reproduced in Martin Luther King, Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. by James M. Washington (San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, 1991), 315. 

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