In previous posts I offered several main points to consider about this election:
1 – The corruption of the Republicans / the Elephant in the Living Room
2 – The corruption of the Democratic National Committee
3 – The naïve innocence of liberals and intellectuals
4 – The surprisingly neutral position of the Military-Industrial Complex
5 – Boy psychology: do either of these candidates really want to be President?
This month we have two more issues to ponder: the choice of Kamala Harris for Vice President, and the Democratic convention.
1 – The utter, utter corruption of the Republican Party, from the absolute top to the absolute bottom, is becoming clearer. The media and the public have finally begun to acknowledge that this national crime syndicate / conspiracy cult is capable of doing absolutely anything to retain power. And all but the most radically naïve among us are realizing that racist con men like Steve Bannon and Kris Kobach are the norm, not the exception.
This astonishingly rapid change in awareness has resulted almost entirely from Trumpus’ brazen attempt to destroy the Post Office in a year when voting by mail is a matter of public health. It all happened in less than two weeks:
These revelations come with good and bad news. The Good News is that more and more liberals and progressives are waking up to the massive corruption in the system that Democratic leaders have ignored for the past five Presidential elections (including the Obama victories). To restate what I’ve written before: if not for voter suppression and computer fraud (not to even mention voter apathy) the Democrats would have won all five votes (and both houses of Congress) by massive landslides. We are talking about new openings appearing in the myth of American innocence, and Trumpus doesn’t seem interested in hiding any of it.
But an honest look at our history also shows that such rents have appeared many times before, and that the oligarchs who control both parties have always responded by putting forth candidates such as Obama whose primary duty is to repair those openings and put the public back to sleep. This brings us to the bad news, the growing presence of (and refusal to acknowledge) the various elephants in the living room. As Greg Palast has been warning for years, even if Congress were to completely repair the Post Office scandal, voter suppression – especially having to do with the vote-by-mail process – and computer fraud can still give Trumpus his win.
And so far, public awareness of Post Office scandal has not resulted in any significant repair of the situation. DeJoy is simply refusing to undo any of the massive damage he’s done to the Post Office’s ability to deliver the mail, and there’s little the House can do, with the Senate on a month-long vacation.
According to California representative Ro Khanna, the mail sorting machines that DeJoy ordered removed were primarily in swing states:
N. Carolina: 15
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has dealt yet another blow to the right of ex-felons to vote in Florida, and evidence is emerging of Republican plans to send an illegal army of intimidators to polling places in minority neighborhoods.
Beyond that, it would be foolish not to expect the Republicans to dip into an arsenal of dirty tricks and October surprises that they have cultivated and refined ever since the days of Richard Nixon, up to and including threats of war with Russia, China, Iran, Nicaragua, Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela.
“Does this parcel contain anything liquid, fragile, perishable, or potentially hazardous to the President’s reëlection chances?”
2 – The only slightly less despicable corruption of the DNC: As I wrote in Part One of this series, I hope that Biden will prevail over Trumpus because the stakes are too high to imagine another four years of this madness. However, we have to awake from our innocent fantasies about the progressive intentions of the Democrats. There is absolutely no doubt that the DNC fixed the results of most of their primaries to steal the nomination from Bernie sanders. I offered abundant evidence in Part Three, but if you need more on-the-ground reportage of the process, read Craig Jardula’s article “I Witnessed the Death of Democracy.”
Vote or work for Biden. However, as Russell Dobular writes, we must understand the Democratic leadership as
…a party primarily concerned with raking in big bucks from wealthy donors, while drawing enough superficial distinctions with their opponents to maintain their identity as a separate party…No modern Democrat has ever won without high youth voter turnout, and there’s no way they didn’t understand that crushing the candidate of young voters was going to suppress their vote. Nor has any modern Democrat ever won without a high share of the Latino vote, and yet they chose to publicly and openly conspire against the candidate who was the clear choice of Latino voters…Without coronavirus, Biden was a sure loser and there’s no way the party’s decision makers and strategists didn’t understand that. No, they aren’t that stupid…the battle they’re fighting is only secondarily against the GOP, and primarily against the left wing of their own party…
A mythological perspective acknowledges that when a society is in decline, it elevates the very worst of its people to positions of power and grants them permission to engage in acts of cruelty that in earlier times had been restrained by public shaming, and still earlier, through effective ritual. As my book argues, such patterns inevitably include the literalization of the old myths of the sacrifice of the children.
The difference? The GOP is consistently, uncompromisingly evil and for a long time has had no one in leadership with any ethical standards whatsoever. This absolutely includes the “Never Trumpers” who spoke at the Democratic Convention this week, such as the war criminal Collin Powell. Throughout their careers these people have consistently supported the worst of the Republican agenda. They simply think that Trumpus is “bad for the brand.”As for the Democrats, their leadership, for their own nefarious reasons, stilltolerate vestiges of idealism among their activists.
3 – Liberal innocence: This is not the first American election that is likely to be sabotaged. Liberals who may be shocked by the growing evidence of Trump’s willingness to do so are, once again, revealing their innocent belief in an our peculiarly unique form of exceptionalism, that “it can’t happen here,” or at least that it hasn’t happened yet.
I pointed this out last month, and it continues. Academics, at least liberal academics, seem to prefer to live in some kind of neo-Platonic world of ideal archetypes and pure science, especially Political Science and Economics, that give no credence to human imperfection. Every day, articles such as this one appear: “Polls Favor Biden: Is It Different This Time?” Like its predecessors in 2016 and this year, it does not mention voter suppression, computer fraud or even the Post Office scandal. Neither does it make any attempt to explain the critical difference between exit polls and official results.
4 – The Military-Industrial Complex: Here are several more articles that support my argument that the generals and the arms merchants have little concern for who wins in November.
5 – Kamala Harris: There’s plenty of writing (and evidence) of her position as a moderate among Democrats, and there’s no need to repeat any of it here or show a photo of her hugging it up with the war criminal Netanyahu. Instead, I’m going to ignore my normal cynicism and quote Michael Moore:
Biden could’ve swung right (Susan Rice), but he swung left. Kamala is one of the most progressive Senators in the US Senate and will…be the most progressive Vice President in the history of the United States. She is and remains one of the first co-sponsors of Bernie’s Medicare for All bill. In fact, go down the list — she checks nearly every box on Bernie’s platform: Living Wage, Choice, LGBTQ+ equality, peace, child care, etc.
It says a lot about Biden that after she rightly confronted him about race in that first debate that he held no grudge, no animosity. In fact, he might say it gave him pause and a chance to consider how his friendship with segregationist Senators might have been hurtful to people of color and that, even at this age, he can change, he can do better. As progressives, isn’t that at the core of what we stand for? Isn’t that the change we are fighting for? Our belief that America can do better and that our fellow Americans will join us in this movement for a more just and equitable society? Kamala Harris is one more step in that direction.
I’ve met her a few times and I can tell you (and you know I won’t BS you on this because I pretty much despise all politicians), she’s sincere, she has heart, she’s on our side. No, she’s not you or me. But we’re not on the ballot. WE are the movement, which in the long run is what is going to get us what we need. We keep building that movement, we will succeed. And one of our missions in 2020 is to crush Trump, reclaim the Senate and bring down the system of greed, racism, misogyny and white male privilege that gave us Trump — because that, my friends, is what has thrown us into the mad, dark hole we’re in…Black America once again saving us and forcing us to be what we say we are but never were.
May it be so!
The Democratic Convention: Virtual liberals. The body language of Chuck Shumer and others seemed to express discomfort and insincerity as they addressed video cameras rather than actual people. But this exemplified the fact that – despite the constant presence of women and people of color – the corporate Democrats clearly see the party’s base as their primary enemy, and the GOP as secondary. The Republicans won’t look so fake in their convention, because (minus the ubiquitous con-men) many of them are committed racists, misogynists and self-perceived victims of those same POC. Their anger is real, if utterly privileged.
The virtual liberals were long on rhetoric, short on specific policy. Most criticism of Trump was about his incompetent mismanagement of the pandemic, not about his foreign, economic, environmental or tax policies. This was a clear and uneasy reminder that if it were not for the pandemic and the resultant economic crisis, Biden and his corporate lobbyists would not be leading in the polls. David Moore writes:
For a political party whose platform calls for “sustainable economic growth, which will create good-paying jobs and raise wages,” the Democratic National Committee has appointed a lot of lobbyists for major corporations that oppose wage growth to its top committees. Over one-third of the DNC’s Executive Committee and nearly two-thirds of the Rules and Bylaws Committee are registered as corporate lobbyists, work as corporate consultants, or have backgrounds in furthering corporate influence in politics.
A parade of pro-Biden Republicans: John Kasich, Meg Whitman, Susan Molinari, Colin Powell, Christine Todd Whitman and others (including the ghost of the warmonger John McCain, who had voted with Trumpus 83% of the time) agreed that Trumpus is no good (shocking!), as if there are any undecided voters out there this year who might be impressed. Indeed, four of the 13 main speakers at the 1996 GOP convention spoke. WTF? William Rivers Pitt reminds us that
…establishment Democrats still believe that if they act more like Republicans, Republicans will stop being mean to them. It is the long tragedy of the age…I don’t need to hear from four Republicans who stood by and let Trump happen to their party and then the world tell me how bad things are right now. The monster got out of their goddamn lab, and people like them want to paper over the hole in the wall. Maybe nobody will notice where he came from? Maybe not. Kasich standing at the white-gravel crossroads as he spoke was every inch the shallow, sophomoric symbolism of the modern conservative who is trying to wash off the blood.
In a letter released hours before Biden’s acceptance speech, over 70 senior officials endorsed him. This illustrious group included former CIA Director Michael Hayden and life-long war criminal John Negroponte.
The mainstream media was just so unanimously happy to praise Biden’s “centrist Coalition” for “steering clear of progressive demands.”
The astonishing, highly visible decision to make Latinx Democrats nearly invisible: All this was going on while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was allowed one minute to speak (she took a minute and a half), and former candidate Julián Castro, who had given a keynote address during the 2012 convention, whose 2020 platform had called for reform of the police before it was fashionable, was – inexplicably – not asked to speak at all, even though the other major candidates did speak.
Indeed, Latinx Democrats (four, and one was the actress Eva Longoria) received the same number of prime-time slots as Republicans, despite the fact that Latinx voters will be second only to white voters as the largest eligible voting bloc in the country. This was so irrational, insulting and utterly amateurish as to fit into a long-term pattern, Biden’s history of self-sabotage (see below). Given his excellent speech, this is troubling.
Other Shenanigans in the virtual smoke-filled rooms: On Tuesday, the day after Bernie Sanders spoke in favor of Biden, the DNC finalized the party platform, quietly removing an amendment calling for an end to federal subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. It was a longstanding demand of climate activists that both Biden and Kamala Harris had claimed to support. (Two weeks before, the platform committee had blocked Medicare for All, as well as a proposal calling for the legalization of marijuana.)
That same day, the Biden campaign disavowed Palestinian American activist Linda Sarsour, attacking her over her support for the BDS movement, after she appeared at the Muslim Delegates and Allies Assembly side event to the Convention. Taking yet another position well to the right of many young party activists, the platform strongly condemned BDS without criticizing Israel’s brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine. Insiders claimed that Biden, after heavy pressure from pro-Israel groups, had personally intervened to make sure the word “occupation” was omitted from the platform, even as the Israelis bombed Gaza for the eleventh straight night.
On the final day of the convention, Nancy Pelosi further alienated progressives. She ignored her policy of backing incumbent House Democrats against primary challengers and endorsed Joe Kennedy III over the more progressive incumbent, Ed Markey. Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats, said, “This move reeks of hypocrisy. The party is setting one standard for progressives and one entirely different standard for the establishment.” But this is the age (may it be so) of unexpected consequences. According to one report, Pelosi’s endorsement of Kennedy resulted in $100,000 in donations for Kennedy, and $300,000 for Markey, from 9,000 separate contributors.
Boy Psychology: Does either candidate really want to win? Now we move from political commentary to psychology, from “Trump vs. Biden” to “Trumpus vs. Hide’n Biden.”
As I wrote in Part Six of this series, our 400-year mythology of American Innocence has conjured up one man who embodies the very worst of our possibilities but who is, literally, us; and the other who models for us all the futile attempt to hide the truth from ourselves; each of them so invested in his persona and so unwilling to consider introspection that he can barely censor himself. One is crying, Stop me before I drive this red sports car into my wall! The other is driving another sports car, with his foot on the emergency brake, wondering why he can’t get where he wants to go.
Trumpus: In 2016 his greatest support came from veterans and retired white people (see my essay on the “greatest generation”), who had defeated Fascism (how ironic), taken advantage of the G.I. Bill, built post-war America and eventually voted for a series of Republican presidents who proceeded to withhold those same benefits from their own grandchildren. This is a prime example of how we literalize the old myths of the killing of the children.
Earlier this month, he horrified these folks by admitting that if he is re-elected, he will permanently de-fund Social Security and Medicare. The news was so shocking that even Forbes, that bastion of free-market capitalism (it literally calls itself a “capitalist tool”), lamented “Trump’s dangerous attack on America’s safety net.”
This news was quickly followed by testimonies that his sabotage of the postal service was already slowing down delivery of vital medicines. Veterans Affairs uses USPS to fill about 80% of veteran prescriptions. The Independent reported:
Nearly 1 in 5 Americans said they received medications through the mail last week…Of those, a quarter said they experienced some delay or lack of delivery. Although only 5 per cent of the nation’s retail prescriptions were delivered to consumers by mail last year, the Postal Service handled perhaps half of the volume, some 100 million prescriptions…But use of mail order for prescriptions rose by 20 per cent when the US outbreaks spread in March, compared with the previous year, as people stockpiled medications during lockdown.
We can certainly assume that a large percentage of the people impacted by this insane decision are seniors who had previously supported Trumpus and every Republican before him. Why alienate them? WTF is going on? Trumpus, more than anyone, is certainly aware of the investigations and prosecutions that will begin if he loses the election – and his treasured presidential immunity. I can see only three possibilities. One is that he is so confident of cheating his way to victory in November that he thinks he can continue to pursue the Koch brothers’ crusade to privatize the Post Office. The second is that he could leverage an electoral loss through his well-known accusations that it could only happen as a result of Democratic mail fraud. Speculations abound. The third is that he is quite deliberately (if unconsciously) sabotaging his own future.
They need that money in order to have the Post Office work, so it can take all of these millions of ballots. If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting. – Trumpus
For years, the mainstream media had made little of his scandals (see my essay, Normalizing Trump) But now, writes Amanda Marcotte, his cheating is finally news:
Even the fact that Trump confessed on live TV to the conspiracy was no guarantee that the story wouldn’t sink beneath the waves. On the contrary, Trump often uses confessions to make scandals disappear, relying on people’s assumption that his criminality and corruption can’t be that big a deal if he’s so open about it…. (but this time) when Trump confessed on Fox Business to slow-walking post office funding so that he could steal the election, there wasn’t the usual parsing over whether or not he actually said the thing he clearly said…Now that his corruption is threatening their ability not just to vote but to receive all the things ordinary people get by mail, there’s good reason to believe it will finally come back to bite him.
May it be so. May he get exactly what he is asking for. All this was amplified when agents of the Postal Service (more irony!) arrested Steve Bannon for mail fraud…And what about Biden?
Hide’n Biden: “Would he, or wouldn’t he was the question on everyone’s mind, wondering if Joe would stumble in his delivery, ending his presidential bid before it even started,” wrote Scott Ritter. Given that Biden was reading from a teleprompter, many supporters were certainly gratified that he didn’t vomit up any of his characteristic gaffes. (What an astonishing low bar!) But he – that is, his brand – performed well. He actually seemed to want to be President, and for all the right reasons. But, asks Ritter,
For every policy that Biden claims he will improve on, the question must be asked why had he not acted on it in his previous life as a senior senator or as vice president of the United States?
Non-gaffes aside, my question of whether he might be subverting his stated intentions hinges on basic political questions. Is he willing to represent the needs and aspirations of his constituents? Beyond their disgust with Trumpus, can he motivate enough people to stand in long, socially-distanced lines for hours, with Republican thugs harassing them at polling stations far from their homes, in potentially bad weather, on a work day (if they have work) to actually vote, knowing that their votes may well not be counted? Or venture into the stinking morass of mail-in voting?
Is he willing to say what they want to hear? More practically: are his handlers willing to gamble that he can win, despite the massive voter suppression and computer fraud that are certain to occur, without offering anything substantive to the young, the POC and the progressives who make up his actual base? I have my doubts.
As I mentioned above, his (or the DNC’s) exclusion of Julián Castro from the speakers list and their insulting limit of one minute’s time AOC – the two best-known and respected non-entertainer Latinx figures in the country – is absolutely inexplicable.
These decisions will most certainly come back to haunt him.
Biden’s fanatical devotion to Israel has alienated hundreds of actual activists, the kind of people who might have been counted upon to motivate thousands of others to get out into the streets and work for him, and to stand in voting lines to counter the right-wing bullies.
Ralph Nader summarizes what the convention did not address:
The gross distortion of the federal budget with over 50% of operating expenditures going to the Pentagon, the bloated military contractors, and the pursuit of a boomeranging, draining Empire. Speakers could have felt secure by quoting President Eisenhower’s farewell warnings regarding the military-industrial complex…
There was much talk of expanding social safety net programs, but little or no discussion about how to pay for these vital programs…no demand, other than a passing reference in Biden’s speech, to repeal the $2 trillion Trump tax cut for the super-wealthy…no demand to cut enormous corporate welfare payouts…no push for a financial sales tax on Wall Street trading…It would have been easy and popular to call for more law and order and adequate enforcement budgets to catch corporate crooks…
One would think that the unconstitutional, illegal, mass surveillance by federal agencies, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, would be worth a shout out…What about telling people about changes the Democrats want to make in the country’s foreign policy? What about the role of monopolistic corporations escaping taxes by using overseas tax havens, fomenting trouble, and exploiting indigenous people in foreign lands? Wouldn’t you think Convention speakers would report the crimes, misdeeds, and corporate takeovers of our government’s agencies and departments by Trump’s big-business henchmen? Look at EPA, OSHA, the CFPB, and the Departments of Interior, Labor, Agriculture, and other health/safety regulatory agencies and the life-saving and economic protections Trump and his cronies have shut down…
But even Nader misses the elephant in this particular living room. In this time of pandemic, with twenty-seven million people having lost their employer-provided medical insurance, with expensive Covid tests, long hospital stays and permanent heart damage to many of the survivors, his refusal to endorse Medicare for All – and his well-publicized statement that he’d veto it if Congress passed it – is the clear winner, or, we might say, loser.
Look, eighty-freaking-seven percent of Democrats want Medicare for All. That’s as close as you can get to unanimous in politics (topped only by the 91% of the public who support the USPS). Sixty-nine percent of all voters! Biden brags about working across the aisle with Republicans. Well, forty-six percent of them want it! Do I have to put this in all-caps?
Of course Biden is utterly beholden to the insurance companies and Big Pharma. But to not jump on the MFA bandwagon, to not acknowledge which way the wind is blowing, is pure idiocy – or pure sabotage. What’s shocking is that he refuses to do the obvious political move: endorse MFA, campaign on it, distinguish himself from Trumpus on it, get a massive boost in the polls from it, get elected on it, and then quietly bury it in some committee for years.
Every president has done this with certain issues. Johnson ran on peace and gave us Viet Nam. Nixon had a “secret plan to end the war” and invaded Cambodia. Reagan promised small government and left the largest deficits in history. George W. Bush promised to be a fiscal conservative and left massive deficits. Trump promised to drain the swamp, etc, etc.
There are very few instances in American history when the prevailing winds are so clear. To not at least pretend to favor MFA is pissing in the wind. Pure self-sabotage. But at this point, we have no choice but to reframe this. Psychological speculations aside, Biden has a political history of knowing those winds, and would be willing, we hope, to be pushed. Back in March, Charles Pierce wrote that Biden has always been a loyal party man who went along with its turn to the right in the 1990s. And…
…how sincere do you believe Joe Biden is in his newfound adoption of positions that would have been unthinkable 20 years — or 20 months — before[?]…If he thinks that’s where the party’s headed, he will go along. His history proves that he will, and that he likely will do it with gusto.
Biden reads the winds. If it continues to blow leftward, he may decide to blow with them. May it be so.
But he cannot wait until after the election. Otherwise, as I wrote earlier, we have to acknowledge that not giving a hundred million people reason to think that their votes might matter represents a profound contempt for democracy, a barely disguised wish for self-destruction, and a stolen election.
From this perspective, it’s a race to the bottom, with neither man really wanting the prize. The problem for us, for the environment, for the future, is that Trumpus doesn’t need to do anything proactive to win. The Republican Party already has an army of con-men and thugs, and its plans are already in place. Even if, in some alternate universe, Trumpus were to come to awareness of his own psychological dynamics, there’s little he could do to prevent being re-elected short of abdicating, and prospects of jailtime certainly mitigate against that.
Biden, on the other hand, must act. He must stop hide’n and face the fact that even his double-digit lead in the polls is nowhere large enough to overcome the massive disenfranchisement, bullying and computer fraud that is already in place. It’s in place because it was used four years ago and several times before that. Greg Palast argues that mail-in voting has already been a disaster in America:
Twenty-two percent of all mail-in votes never get counted. And that was under Barack Obama, when they were promoting mail-in voting. What is going to happen with Trump and the Republicans?
One in 10 people who ask for absentee ballots do not get them. One in 10 people who do get their ballots and send them back have their ballots rejected, thrown out and not counted… (But) very little of this has to do with the post office. The biggest reason why people don’t get their ballots is that they are not registered voters…Seventeen million people have been purged during the last few years…The real theft of the 2020 presidential election is not the lack of mailboxes that will stop people from mailing in their ballots or getting them. It’s not the lack of sorting machines. It is a lack of commitment to counting ballots by both parties.
Biden has to act, and he’s not used to acting. The polls are meaningless. I’m sorry to say this, but I think his only chance to win is to embrace Medicare For All whole-heartedly. Without that, literally tens of millions of liberal-leaning people will not bother voting, and he is going to need every one of them.
We really are in one of the most bizarre moments in the history of democracy. In such times, as Michael Meade says, anything worth saying is worth exaggerating. We are holding our noses to vote for a candidate who has nothing but contempt for our values, and we may well be wanting him to succeed more than he does.