Leon Trotsky (www.biography.com).
by Steve Timmer
Mar 27, 2017, 9:30 AM

“Fascism is the result of the failure of the left to provide an alternative”

Update 4/7/17: Readers here know that I am an admirer of writer Thomas Frank. He just finished a long and international book tour that ended in his home town, Kansas City. I am sure it was kind of a valedictory presentation for him. Here’s a video of his appearance at the Kansas City Public Library; it is very good. The whole thing will take an hour and half to watch, but it is worth the investment of time. The last third or so are questions from the audience, which are, as always, the most interesting part. (I commend the whole video to you, but if you only have time for the most brilliant seven minutes, cue the video up to the 1 hour 25 minute mark.)

– o O o –

That’s Leon Trotsky. The hed quote is also the last line in a fascinating piece by Michael Hudson at Naked Capitalism.  I really hope you will read it. The quote puts me in mind of Donald Trump’s remark to a black audience during the campaign, “What have you got to lose?” Well, a lot, actually, as we’re learning, but that line, and ones like it, had an obvious appeal in the election to a lot of traditional Democratic voters — in enough places to make a difference.

I am not going to quote the article much, because I really do want people to read it, but consider this:

U.S. presidential elections no longer are much about policy. Like Obama before him, Trump campaigned as a rasa tabla, a vehicle for everyone to project their hopes and fancies. What has all but disappeared is the past century’s idea of politics as a struggle between labor and capital, democracy vs. oligarchy.

Who would have expected even half a century ago that American politics would become so post-modern that the idea of class conflict has all but disappeared. Classical economic discourse has been drowned out by their junk economics.

There is a covert economic program, to be sure, and it is bipartisan. It is to make elections about just which celebrities will introduce neoliberal economic policies with the most convincing patter talk. That is the essence of rasa tabla politics.

The Democrats think that by being the Slightly Less Evil to Workers™ party and sitting back and letting Trump be Trump, we’ll be good. Just one more quote from the Hudson article:

Although the Democrats’ Lesser Evil argument lost to the Republicans in 2016, the neoliberals in control of the DNC found the absence of a progressive economic program to [be] less threatening to their interests than the critique of Wall Street and neocon interventionism coming from the Sanders camp. So the Democrat will continue to pose as the Lesser Evil party not really in terms of policy, but simply ad hominum. They will merely repeat Hillary’s campaign stance: They are not Trump. Their parades and street demonstrations since his inauguration have not come out for any economic policy [which is absolutely true, ed.].

On Friday, February 10, the party’s Democratic Policy group held a retreat for its members in Baltimore. Third Way “centrists” (Republicans running as Democrats) dominated, with Hillary operatives in charge. The conclusion was that no party policy was needed at all. “President Trump is a better recruitment tool for us than a ‘central campaign issue,’ said Washington Rep. Denny Heck, who is leading recruitment for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).”

If the Democrats believe this, they are truly too stupid to live.

Bernie Sanders’ progressive economic message cut across all of the constituencies in the identity politics-heavy Democratic Party. Except one: the donor class. A complete coincidence, I am sure.

If you were a Sanders supporter, attracted to his economic message, you were charged off as a Bernie Bro and insufficiently sympathetic to African Americans, women, or somebody else. I was called a Bernie Bro virtually the day the term was coined by, I believe, David Brock. The air was pungent with claims of racism and misogyny by the Clinton campaign against Sanders supporters. A local labor leader and Clinton supporter told me that economics “wasn’t the most important issue.”

And it didn’t even seem to help to quote Paul Wellstone, “We all do better when we all do better.” Or Keith Ellison’s, “Everybody counts; everybody matters.”

I suspect that both Paul and Keith mean (or regrettably meant, in Paul’s case) to include white working class people. My peeps. Where I came from. And to whom I pledge my allegiance. But it doesn’t mean I don’t care about African-Americans, Hispanics, women, immigrants, or anybody else. It offends me, frankly, when people make that charge, even by implication.

I would love to have a conversation with Paul Wellstone right now about the state of the Democratic Party. I will probably try to channel him here at some point.

Michael Hudson writes that Bernie Sanders is trying to turn the Democratic Party back into a progressive institution, but that he will ultimately fail. Based on all of the criticism of Bernie, both pre- and post-election, I am afraid that Hudson is right.

The Clinton-dominated Democrats are like the Restoration Bourbons who, according to Tallyrand, had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

Note: You know, people write in. Sometimes they call me to task for the grammar or usage of something I quoted. Such as Hudson’s use of the term rasa tabla, rather than the more conventional form tabula rasa. A tabula rasa is a blank slate. In addition to saying in English “the candidate is a blank slate,” you could also say “the candidate presents a slate blank,” just as a stylistic variation.

I am not a Latin scholar, and perhaps Hudson has violated some hidebound Latin rule. Frankly, I don’t care, and I chose not to get all pedantic and semantic about it.

Update 3/30:

I refer in the story to Keith “Everybody Counts; Everybody Matters” Ellison. Here’s Keith’s recent interview with Vanity Fair. This quote is included in it:

The truth is, white working people need civil rights and inclusion, and people of color need economic inclusion. At the end of the day, white people want to be treated with respect and fairness, just as people of color have been fighting for for centuries. To imply that people of color don’t have economic concerns is crazy. What we have to do is build solidarity. We have to show people, whether they’re in Southern Appalachia or Detroit, Michigan, or Flint, that they may have come over on different ships, but they’re on the same boat now.

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