Democrat Blue or Republican Red? It’s a simple binary choice, presented in various forms at various times, for the consideration of every adult in America.
Democrat Blue or Republican Red? Appropriated post-FDR by rival factions of corporate and lineage big capital, to ring-fence key voter demographics. It’s a false dichotomy, designed to divide and rule the American people, so entrenched power can exploit the many and reward the few without regulation or restriction.
Democrat Blue or Republican Red? Complex infrastructure, hierarchies of power, extensive secondary and tertiary organizations, ever-changing networks of politicians (and staff) jockeying for power and influence.
Democrat Blue or Republican Red? The debate rages endlessly across every type of media – print hard-copy, online, audio, televisual – and such is the intensity, eight out of ten Democrat Blues and a similar number of Republican Red spend their political lives locked together in tribal battle, diametrically opposing one another, without knowing what either party is doing on their behalf. Laws get made by those we elect. These laws change the reality of our day-to-day lives. Yet under 10% of the electorate know (or try to know) what’s being done in their name. It is seldom being done on their behalf.
America is a democracy with universal adult suffrage. This is fundamental. In a free democracy we give every citizen one vote and all votes are of equal value. Equality of vote’s worth is essential. Voter wealth can’t be a factor.*
There are no qualifications needed to vote. The billionaire, the professor, the astronaut, the gold-medal winning athlete: all mark the ballot with a single vote worth no more and no less than the bankrupt, the farmer, the 7-11 clerk and the motel housekeeper with only a few words of English.
* We may fall short of this ideal, in real elections, but the standard must remain undegraded.
Democrat Blue or Republican Red?
Bottom line, in 2020, we have a polarizing political choice.
On the one hand, centrists: profit-based corporate feudalism i.e. the status quo crony-capitalism, with Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, etc.
On the other, progressives: social democrats, libertarian socialists, apologist neoliberals: degrees of regulating capital and socioeconomic safety net, i.e. disruption to power dynamics, with Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang, etc.
The candidates are a mix of elderly Baby Boomers, tough love American dreamers and CIA cat’s paws. For Bernie Sanders (78) and Joe Biden (77), this is a last chance saloon for top office. Sanders is the only candidate with the progressive honesty to force a change to the long-standing American paradigm. For Sanders, the stated aim is to pull America back from the brink by restoring government by principles of social democracy; of the people, for the people, by the people. For the others, the manifesto is less extreme.
“We have had years of Trump craziness. We just want a break from Republican neofascist excess.” – center-left voters in the Midwest.
“We want to rewind back to Obama.” – black voters in the South, Midwest and Rust Belt.
“Bernie Sanders is an honest man. We have faith in his sincerity. But his policies are extreme. He would disrupt the American economy. His socialism would cause more harm than good.” – centrist voters across all regions.
“America can’t afford programs like ‘healthcare for all’ or ‘free college education’. Fiscal conservatism is tough love, but necessary. Big government progressives like Bernie don’t understand the economics of running a country.” – GOP-seeded talking points of floating voters nationwide.
It is important to understand how the American Dream, coming out of World War Two, got hijacked by the billionaires and corporations of the late 1940s and early 1950s. President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew it. Hence he tried to publish his Second Bill of Rights. Truman knew it. As did Eisenhower. Both retiring Presidents warned in stark terms what was happening.
John F. Kennedy, in 1961, was the first post-War President to challenge the entrenched paradigm of crony capitalists and corporate power. They killed him before he could challenge it. JFK’s brother Robert, Dr Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, all three assassinated in the space of a few years in the 1960s.
The establishment had grown bold, cold and practical as its hired guns used murder and violence to stamp out the rising popularity of liberal, socialist, civil rights, humanitarian, anti-corporate movements. Its significant success came in the early 1970s, installing
The paradigm of American power that we live under today was shocked into existence, starting with JFK’s murder in 1963. Traditional centrist Vice President Lyndon B Johnson took the place of the progressive JFK and, by the end of Johnson’s first term, he had changed what it meant to be an American Democrat. His successor, Richard Nixon, was the establishment darling—a shameless apologist for 1960s corporate crony-capitalism. He was the antithesis of Roosevelt-Eisenhower-Kennedy, but a continuity from LBJ.
Both Nixon (Republican) and LBJ (Democrat) were backed by a grand coalition of wealth. Nixon could be seen as an establishment overreach but LBJ did the greater damage to American politics. His subordination to entrenched big capital – consolidated from the exceptional profits of war and the unparalleled post-war economic growth – split the Democratic Party internally, setting up the centrist progressive dichotomy we know today.
LBJ brought ‘moderate’ Democrats in line with the fiscal policy of Nixon-Republicans and behind closed doors, they made a historical compact with the mega-corporations, media and the military industrial complex. They shut the American public out of this postmodern New Deal.
Executive and legislature became tools of business, for its own enrichment. Its role shifted to handling the smooth flow of corporate profit, unshackling banking regulation, a foreign policy designed to serve the interests of business and capitalize on America’s military strength.
Trickle down prosperity and long-term social stability had been part of the government’s mandate. Post-LBJ, fair wealth distribution became a matter of propaganda, not policy.
Blind faith in, and then commitment to, market-based decision took control of the Democratic Party of Roosevelt and Kennedy. The era of perpetual economic growth had begun.
LBJ was the prototype centrist or – as it’s called today – the progenitor of neoliberals and moderate centre-left politicians. Bill and Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Jimmy Carter, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bloomberg are all cut from the LBJ cloth. Tony Blair in the UK, Angela Merkel in Germany, Emmanuel Macron in France and a succession of Japanese Prime Ministers are also part of this political class.
The essential argument of sincere centrists and moderates is that, on the whole, capitalism works.
The moderate capitalists – until recently interchangeable with neoliberals – have lost faith in forcibly imposing socialism. They believe, on balance, that free markets and an infrastructure of corporate feudalism ensure the complex macroeconomics of stability, incentive, prosperity and competitive meritocracy work together, to allow Americans to be both free (to succeed or fail) and, because of the Constitution’s protection of individual rights, live out a version of be all you can be that properly rewards hard work, talent and potential.
While profit-based corporate feudalism has worked well (for many) since the 1950s, it’s also clear this model is becoming more extreme in its demands, eroding any pretence of trickle-down economics. It’s working for a smaller and smaller proportion of the Americans people each decade. Most economists agree that perpetual growth is unsustainable and, eventually, all roads lead to conflict or crash as system buckles and society has to pay. One way or another.
The 2008 Financial Crisis was a jolt out of complacency felt from top to bottom of society and in every state of the union. It might have been a wake-up call but short-term fiscal solutions allowed adaptive big capital hegemony to reassert ownership of the mechanisms of control faster than politicians could find the consensus needed to impose punishments, safeguards and restrictions to protect their autonomy.
Obama wasted a rare opportunity to regulate the financial corporate aristocracy – public support was with him – and instead the pace of organised transfer of wealth up the social ladder sped up. The richest got richer faster as the most powerful, best represented corporate capitalists consolidated their grip on federal, state and large city government.
Now, in 2020, the wealthiest 1% of America dominates the remaining 99%. Billionaire corporations ride roughshod over regulations and their influence over government policy is almost absolute. The relentless drive for growth and profit in the competitive global economy has inevitably put pressure on the American middle class, less prosperous, smaller than fifty years ago and a use-and-abuse business orthodoxy exposes and exploits every opportunity.
The lives of average working Americans have been growing markedly more difficult since the turn of the Millennium. Tens of millions toil without healthcare or job security, living paycheck to paycheck. This is the first generation since the Civil War where, despite all the technological and medical advances, the child’s expected lifespan is lower than that of the parents.
The LBJ-Biden moderates advocate soft pressure as the only safe, credible way to change the country for the better, and thus improve living standards for the nation. Their argument seeks to avoid sweeping reform, calling instead for practical cooperation that respects existing power structures while also carrying fair-minded Americans into a stable, forward-thinking consensus.
The gentle progress approach, in the moderate’s eyes, minimizes risk of disruption – which can cause economic hardship, especially for the most vulnerable – while trying to curb Republican and Trump excesses without breaking the continuity of 70 years of corporate capitalism that’s served America well.
The Sanders progressive movement identifies as the true FDR successor. At its heart are the clauses and principles of Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights. This seminal piece of legislation was supposed to be the next-stage of modern America, the end-game of the New Deal. It was the natural reward for an American people justifiably full of self-confidence on the back of defeating Hitler’s Germany and Hirohito’s Japan.
It’s worth going over this oft-overlooked period of American history – 1944 to 1960 – because the establishment has taken pains to whitewash it from the public’s collective memory.
Franklin D. Roosevelt had all today’s progressive policies covered in the Second Bill of Rights but big capital resisted it, foreshadowing the silent banking revolution in 2008/9, mid-1940s corporate power exerted itself, to take the Second Bill of Rights from the American people.
Power dynamics changed in favour of the 1%. Evidence of the bill buried, FDR state of the union footage deleted, politicians got bought and given strict instructions. The legacy of FDR was sidelined indefinitely.
The new government for the corporations by the politicians pioneered new tactics of control. The world had changed. Mass media covered the country in a vast net of instant communications potential. The noiseless corporate coup d’état weaponized exaggerated threat from Stalin’s Soviet Union, played up fears of nuclear holocaust, manufacturing Cold War paranoia about the “Red Menace” and the impending thread of Communist takeover. Events and truth became servants of political expediency.
As then, so today. These strategies are nothing new to a 21st-century observer. The aim of any group wanting to exploit another is, at first, to conceal their actions from public scrutiny. Hence the tactics used in the late 1940s and 1950s developed to include keeping the American public distracted, misdirected and docile at the ballot box.
Meanwhile, the ideals of the Founding Fathers were surgically altered to create a legitimacy for the profit-first monopoly on power of big corporations. In place of the Second Bill of Rights, lineage-capital invented the military industrial complex, one of the largest economic ecosystems in the history of the world. It was a stroke of economic genius, becoming a multipurpose exemplar of the new feudal-corporate America.
Most progressives, libertarians and free market centrists accept the urgent need for an American course correction. Government has become subsumed by the crony-capitalist class, subordinated to a trifecta monopoly of entrenched power, perpetual globalized growth, and a conditioned wage-slave electorate. It locks average Americans in service to a perpetual wealth redistribution, up the financial food chain to the so-called one percent.
Whatever one’s personal politics, breaking the nepotism of big capital and big corporate interests is the significant challenge of our time. Every other reform, from tackling poverty to climate change to foreign wars, requires government liberated from cronyism. Authority must be subject to the will of an informed free electorate.
Bernie Sanders and to an extent the Democratic Party’s progressive policy points are the 21st-century revival of the Second Bill of Rights. This is a “New Deal” legislation that foresaw the current unequal polarization of ‘the people’ and ‘the money’ from the very start.
Advocating a revival of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights isn’t radical or new. It is an attempt to put right the last 70 years, to solve a self-destructive national timeline of unchecked systemic corruption.
Universal healthcare, free education, civil rights and racial equality, jobs, housing, a pension when old and childcare for the young: these were to become enshrined in law, for every American, in 1944/5 but for FDR dying in office before he could make the Second Bill of Rights public.
Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama quote Roosevelt on the campaign trail, and the simple provisions of the lost Second Bill of Rights have become one of the main planks of modern progressive politics.
Whether you agree with the Biden/LBJ centrist model for government moderation or support the Sanders/FDR progressive movement for deep-rooted change, it’s worth being realistic about the long-term challenge: forcing an unwilling corporate-feudal aristocracy to give up power to de facto social democracy is a big ask; and an enormous risk.
Entrenched capital forces will fight tooth and nail, mobilizing a pantheon of interest groups who’ve gotten richer and more powerful by exploiting the current model of unregulated pursuit of profit.
It’ll take an idealistic, uncompromising voter majority, educated in available facts and connected to a shared American history free of bullshit, to back honest candidates, determined and strong enough to force systemic change without giving in to establishment pressure.
Temptation to sell out, to surrender principles or else drown in the Washington DC swamp, is a perpetual challenge to every public servant with power – direct, indirect, potential, peripheral – over civic, state or federal money.
Winning the majority–let’s assume the progressive candidate is trustworthy and capable–will be an uphill battle. Election victory would be the start of a root-and-branch political war against the ruthless hydra of 20th century big business crony-capitalism.
It will need a victory in that war of attrition, to restore the American dream. Every significant smaller battle, including dozens of elections from 1960 onward, is a failed fight against corporate-sponsored legislation. As of today, let’s call a spade a spade: the aristocracy of big capital, entrenched power is winning the war.
Republican right-wing and religious evangelicals, Democratic Party centrists and moderates, Libertarian idealists and spoilers; each is co-opted, as and when conditions demand, to draw support from genuine progressive candidates commanding a majority. Voters are pliable. The forces at work against them are expert.
But who knows? Perhaps, unlike every earlier administration, one day the soft moderation approach will be enough to make America great again. It seems to be the only ‘change’ they can persuade the American public to support.
The wealthy don’t want a society that’s fair for all, if it intrudes on big capital profit.
But who knows? Perhaps this time, unlike all previous times, the soft consensus approach of moderate centrism will be enough to coerce power away from the corporate aristocracy and into the service of an average citizen. Maybe a Joe Biden or a Donald Trump will make America great again after all. History says not, however.
As we look back on the half century of past elections, it is mostly wins for reactionary, conservative, moderates and centrist candidates. Since the millennium there have been a handful of progressive victories but, Sanders and a scattering of representatives aside, no major position of power has been entrusted to a candidate advocating genuine change since JFK in 1961.
Democratic primaries and then, in November 2020, the Presidential, Congressional and widespread civic elections, are the coming opportunities for progressive Democrat course correction or – for believers in the corporate feudal model, whether it pays lip service to reactionary conservatism or consensus inclusion – Republican or moderate Democrat continuity.
Let’s not be fooled by the false dichotomy of Reds and Blues, however.
Choice exists but the Democrat Republican tribal colors are a misdirection. The reality is a contest between continuing a 70+ year timeline divergence that has become “the establishment” under which many prospered, versus a progressive ideal, a return to the American Dream exemplified in the New Deal. Equality of opportunity, FDR’s Second Bill of Rights, true to the vision of the Founding Fathers, but potentially disruptive to deep-rooted power structures.
Change will follow, whichever faction wins, for the better or the worse, but for which demographic?
 Entitlement may seem like injustice, to the poor, but to the entitled it is a natural order – or good fortune that’s nobody’s fault – or admitting the unequal power dynamic, entitlement excuses your concentration of money and power as an exception, good thing you’re enlightened.