One week into the current act of American Presidential Puppet Theater, it’s clear Trump has memorized his best campaign lines, and is bringing them into policy in short order. And what’s the response from Democrats? They clearly have forgotten their part, as they waffle between voting for Trump’s nominees and taking a hard-line oppositional stance. According to a report from Politico,
What began as a high-minded discussion about how to position the Democratic Party against President Donald Trump appears to be nearing its conclusion. The bulk of the party has settled on a scorched-earth, not-now-not-ever model of opposition.
In legislative proposals, campaign promises, donor pitches and even in some Senate hearings, Democrats have opted for a hard-line, give-no-quarter posture, a reflection of a seething party base that will have it no other way.
But, if history is a guide, look for Democrats to disappoint in their one-time role as the party of the people.
Can’t get no protection
One of the more perverse bits of consumer-driven capitalism is our relationship with automobiles. Clever marketing has smartly created the automobile as the physical extension of our internal id. Where we may feel small inside, that’s all remedied by the wheels we drive. But it gets worse as it gets more perverse.
According to the latest statistics, 2015 resulted in the greatest increase in automobile fatalities in fifty years, as “38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads in 2015, and roughly 4.4 million sustained injuries that resulted in medical consultations,” which gets at the persistent question banging around my head: what is it about driving automobiles that allows for the release of pent up anger and aggression, often resulting in injury and death? An essay, “Psychology on the Road,” published on the website for the Association of Psychological Science states,
Indiana University psychologist, Raymond Novaco, would argue that a person’s car is used as an instrument of dominance, symbolizing power, and that the road then becomes an arena for competition and control. So remember: that driver in the Hummer who just cut you off is probably diminutive in other areas.
Combine that notion with the sense of powerlessness and frustration felt by many Americans disenfranchised by forty years of neoliberal economics, and the automobile becomes a potent instrument of terror. As pedestrians in our coastal Florida community, local roads are terrorized by, most often men, some likely with tiny hands, externalizing their ids in six-figure, European race cars, certainly not designed to mosey on local roads with pedestrians looking to cross safely from one side to the other.
After one too many near-death episodes simply walking to the beach or Trader Joe’s, I visited the local police looking for assistance, thinking that’s where a citizen goes for protection against danger in their midst. “The same thing happens to me on the street,” said the police captain, assuring me that he too is a victim of his department’s incompetence or simple unwillingness to crack down on the local raceway. We could rightly extend the discussion to the damage the internal combustion engine causes to the environment and to human health, and the difficulty there continues to be replacing such an inefficient and polluting technology. Where’s a citizen to go for protection?
Like the local police captain, the modern Democratic Party has been unable to protect everyday citizens from malfeasance of capitalists, and their employees in the Republican party, as had been the Democratic Party’s positioning from the New Deal Era, up through the 70s, despite the claptrap they barf up every few years for votes. In a recent essay in the Washington Post, Matt Stoller expands,
Democrats have long believed that theirs is the party of the people. Therefore, when Trump co-opts populist language, such as saying he represents the “forgotten” man, it seems absurd — and it is. After all, that’s what Democrats do, right? Thus, many Democrats have assumed that Trump’s appeal can only be explained by personal bigotry — and it’s also true that Trump trafficks in racist and nativist rhetoric. But the reality is that the Democratic Party has been slipping away from the working class for some time, and Obama’s presidency hastened rather than reversed that departure. Republicans, hardly worker-friendly themselves, simply capitalized on it.
There’s history here: In the 1970s, a wave of young liberals, Bill Clinton among them, destroyed the populist Democratic Party they had inherited from the New Dealers of the 1930s. The contours of this ideological fight were complex, but the gist was: Before the ’70s, Democrats were suspicious of big business. They used anti-monopoly policies to fight oligarchy and financial manipulation. Creating competition in open markets, breaking up concentrations of private power, and protecting labor and farmer rights were understood as the essence of ensuring that our commercial society was democratic and protected from big money.
Bill Clinton’s generation, however, believed that concentration of financial power could be virtuous, as long as that power was in the hands of experts.
And we see where that’s taken us. Precisely to our recently departed president, under whom the greatest transfer of wealth in history to the top 1% in our society has occurred. No wonder voters threw the bums out, and not only at the presidential level. As has been well noted, Democrats across the country, from national offices on down, are in their worst position since the Civil War. Yet party faithful are reticent to take that long, reflective look in the mirror and see what’s painfully obvious. No, they keep the same power-addicted party elites in power, intent on keeping their neoliberal game rolling along, only to find awakened outrage for a president and policies from across the political divide.
“Once there was a way, to get back homeward,” Beatle Paul warned winding up the suite on side two of Abbey Road. Yet Democratic Party faithful have been slumbering to the malfeasance of their own party for so long, there’s no homeward to turn towards. Still, we’re pressured by wealthy, entertainment elites to find resistance to Trump in the corrupted arms of the Democratic Party. Hey, if I was protecting hundreds of millions of George Washingtons, I’d stick with the Democrats, too. But for the rest of us regular people who they count on to keep adorned in wealth and celebrity, their call is hollow.
“We are the new American resistance.”
– Bruce Springsteen, January 22, 2017 pic.twitter.com/HOFEUv4gev
— Bruce Springsteen (@springsteen) January 22, 2017
It sounds sweet, Bruce, but you’ll need to detach from your quadrennial role as sheep herder for the Democratic Party before this writer is jumping on board your train. Your people need to wake up to the two-party, never-ending nightmare.
The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore
In between the start and finish of this column, Trump’s so-called Muslim Ban took effect, and the backlash was immediate, intense and impactful by citizen resisters. What’s important to point here here, however, is that Trump’s movements are simply accelerations of what happened under Obama.
This from a sitting, Democrat US Senator, honest enough to call out Obama’s maleficent drone-infested presidency, seeding Trump’s racist ban.
We bomb your country, creating a humanitarian nightmare, then lock you inside. That’s a horror movie, not a foreign policy.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 25, 2017
And this from my friend, Margaret Kimberly, a writer grounded enough to discern reality from fear-based propaganda.
There wouldn’t be any Syrian refugees if Obama and Clinton hadn’t destroyed that country in their regime change effort.
— Margaret Kimberley (@freedomrideblog) January 28, 2017
What makes Trump’s plan to keep potential evildoers out of the country by banning Muslim citizens and refugees from the seven nation list he inherited from Obama, is that there’s no ban on emigres from Saudi Arabia, where most of the 9-11 hijackers hailed from. But when policies are simply handed off from one administration to the other, adjusting only color and language to appease party base, it’s essential for protesting liberals to acknowledge the two-act puppet theater parading as our politics. But the tide may be turning, if ever so slowly.
When a pro-Democratic Party publication like Slate runs a piece titled “What the Hell Is Wrong With Senate Democrats?,” the trance may be wearing off. Still, the pull to look to Democrats for rescue from Trump the Horrible will be tempting. But doing so will only assure a continuation of the same puppet theater, where the sun hasn’t appeared for a very long time.
Emptiness is the place you’re in
Nothing to lose, but no more to win
The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore
–Bob Crewe / Bob Gaudio