Many middle-class progressives I speak with say 2017 was an abominable year. For anti-imperial lefties and anti-intervention libertarians 2017 was also frightening, but for quite different reasons. Meanwhile, mainstream liberals and conservatives are a bunch of whiny pampered elitists, even worse than usual.
Those are the interesting starting positions from which we begin 2018, before the midterm election shit-show revs up for real. It will surely be promoted as a kind of referendum on the Trump presidency, perhaps styled as an inversion of the first midterms of Bill Clinton’s presidency, when he was pummeled by Newt Gingrich’s criminal (in every way) Contract with America.
What do those starting lines look like in practical terms? If a picture tells a thousand words, here are some important images.
There’s obviously racism among white blue collar workers, but it’s equally obvious that the smug elitism of middle-class Democrats and the four decades of neoliberal policies they promoted broke the political and economic systems and helped bring us Donald Trump. Blaming the working class which they played a key role in destroying — NAFTA ring a bell? — is not a good look for the Democratic commentariat class. Also, seriously, did she write this tripe at a Starbucks?
Kristol, a scion of the neocon generation, is the supremely annoying guy who stays at the party way after everyone else has gone home. One could, if a masochist, write a Freudian analysis about Kristol’s absurd ramblings about the political party that disowned him and his catastrophic views of the past few decades, especially his ardent support for the Iraq War and other ill-fated overseas military ventures.
Let’s back up for a moment.
Between 2006 and 2008, the Democratic Party took back control of Congress as a practice run for the Obama ’08 White House campaign. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the entire neocon establishment were totally discredited, and a good chunk of the country would have favored that they face a Nuremberg-style war crimes tribunal owing to their role in the destruction of Iraq and the death or maiming of so many Americans.
But of course, the Democrats, being the Democrats, pissed all that away within a span of several months in order to appease their base of Wall Street donors, who had just, incidentally, driven the entire world economy towards the precipice of an apocalypse unseen in decades.
What then arose was a reaction to this bipartisan betrayal called the Tea Party. This insurgency was a threat to the the GOP leadership, which wanted to have things both ways by catering to the white nationalist elements within the base while marginalizing their candidates.
This worked for a few years until a game show host came along and financed his own presidential campaign, at which point he became leader of the free world and was almost instantaneously besieged by the various internal forces of the American empire colloquially called the Deep State.
And that’s why we find so many Trump voters still quasi-delusional about their president’s benign intentions. But that core of delusional Trump supporters has eroded, and likely will continue to do so in the event of a steep economic downturn. What happens then is anyone’s guess, but is frankly terrifying.
As someone who considers himself on the left but with a profound aversion to the Democratic Party and #TheResistance, it’s a pretty bizarre landscape at the moment. Our Revolution, the latest iteration of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, could very well be defining political discourse in America. But it’s not, mostly because of a lack of leadership and the ineptitude of those who claim the mantle of leadership.
The Green Party, which is technically the largest progressive third party in America, is a mess due to internal personality spats and a massive structural problem that keeps it from being anything more than a confederation of about 50 individual state parties.
The Democratic Socialists of America, the successor of the Eugene Debs-Norman Thomas Socialist Party, was a marginal presence in American politics prior to the Sanders campaign. Its membership has exploded since 2016, but it is going through a longterm identity crisis that has every imaginable issue of debate on the table for discussion. In Providence, where I live, two members of DSA recently ran for a City Council seat and one of them, a Haitian woman, won. That is huge.
At the same time, Michael Harrington and Irving Howe, major co-founders of the DSA, were simply wrong on almost everything — from Vietnam to Zionism to the 1968 New York Teachers Union strike — and their notions of politics were straight out of the Manhattan cocktail party circuit. Hence, the organization is rife with contradictions and its growing pains may or may not be resolved before the 2018 midterms (or even 2020 and beyond).
What does that mean for the future? I’d like to tell you, but at this moment of history, your guess is as good as mine.