The old rules of politics no longer apply. The only language understood by Donald Trump and his coterie of con artists, billionaires, generals, misfits and Christian fascists—and a Democratic Party that has sold us out—is fear.
By Chris Hedges Truthdig August 12, 2019
Calling out Trump’s lies and racism does not matter. Calling out his nepotism and corruption does not matter. Calling out the criminality of his administration does not matter. Calling out its incompetence and idiocy does not matter. Calling out the abject subservience of the ruling elites to corporate power does not matter. Trump and his Democratic Party opponents are immune to moral suasion. The more we engage in this empty kabuki theater with its predictable outlandish outbursts, usually from Trump, and predictable outraged responses, usually from Democrats, the more certain are government paralysis and corporate tyranny. The drivel and invective that passes for political discourse is a giant hamster wheel that goes nowhere. It masks the root causes of our political and economic decline and fractures the population into warring camps that increasingly communicate through violence, which is why the United States has suffered mass shootings with three or more fatalities more than 30 times this year.
We will save ourselves only by pitting power against power. And since our two major political parties slavishly serve corporate power, and have few substantial differences on nearly all major issues from imperialism to unfettered capitalism, we must start from scratch. The political personalities, including those on the left such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Ilhan Omar and Elizabeth Warren, are distractions. They have no power within the Democratic Party, as Nancy Pelosi often reminds us. They serve to reduce politics to personal feuds, the currency of the vast reality show perpetrated for profit by corporate media. The daily back and forth by these personalities diverts our attention from the rapid consolidation of wealth and power by the ruling elites, the degradation of the ecosystem into a toxic wasteland and the eradication of basic freedoms and rights. The American political system is not salvageable. It will be overthrown in a mass uprising—a version of which we saw recently in Puerto Rico—or vast swaths of the globe will become uninhabitable and the rich will feed like ghouls off the mounting human misery. These are the two stark options. And we have very little time left.
The Democrats, if they had a functioning political party and were not owned and managed by corporations, could easily displace Trump and demolish the Republican Party in electoral landslide after landslide. From poll after poll, as Charles Derber points out in his book “Welcome to the Revolution,” we know what the majority of Americans want. A whooping 82% think wealthy people have too much power and influence in Washington, with 70% singling out large businesses as having too much power. Nearly 80% support stronger rules and enforcement of regulations on the financial industry. Nearly half of Americans think economic inequality is “very big,” and 34% concede it is “moderately big.” Almost 60% of registered voters and 51% of registered Republicans favor raising to $18,000 from $14,820 the maximum amount that workers can make and still be eligible for the earned income tax credit. A staggering 96% of Americans, including 96% of Republicans, believe money in politics is to blame for the dysfunction of the American system. Close to 80% believe wealthy Americans should pay higher taxes. Nearly 60% favor raising the federal minimum wage requirement to $12 an hour. Sixty-one percent, including 42% of Republicans, approve of labor unions. Sixty percent of Americans think “[i]t is the federal government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare,” and 60% of registered voters favor “expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American.” Nearly 60% favor free early-childhood education, and 76% are “very concerned” about climate disruption. Eighty-four percent support requiring background checks for all gun buyers. Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
The greatest traitors in America are not Trump and his neofascist minions shouting “Lock her up” or “Send her home,” but a decadent, morally bankrupt, self-identified liberal elite consumed by greed.
A genuine populism and New Deal socialism are the only hope of thwarting the rise of neofascist movements. This, however, will never be permitted by the Democratic Party hierarchy, led by figures such as Pelosi, Joe Biden and Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who are acutely aware they would instantly lose their power without the prop of hundreds of millions of corporate dollars. They, and their corporate sponsors, will block all reform even if it means another four years of Trump and the extinguishing of democracy. The only thing they have to sell us is fear—fear of Trump and the Russians. While Trump sells the fear of immigrants, Muslims, people of color and those he brands as socialists. This is a toxic diet.
The greatest traitors in America are not Trump and his neofascist minions shouting “Lock her up” or “Send her home,” but a decadent, morally bankrupt, self-identified liberal elite consumed by greed. They orchestrated the social inequality that permits Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to control more wealth than the bottom 50% of the American population. They pay lip service to the climate crisis but have not done anything to halt the sixth great mass extinction. The fossil fuel industry, under the Democrats and Republicans, continues to pump carbon emissions into the atmosphere. The polar ice caps disappear. The sea levels rise. The deforestation expands. The clogging of the oceans with floating islands of plastic that poisons our food chain is unchecked. No one among the ruling elites has any intention of restraining a bloated, out-of-control military that consumes half of all discretionary spending while half the country lives in poverty or near poverty, the federal deficit looks set to exceed $1 trillion by the end of this fiscal year and the nation’s infrastructure disintegrates.
All meaningful resistance takes place outside the formal political structures. The 10-day protest in April in London led by Extinction Rebellion—which saw 1,130 people arrested as crowds repeatedly shut down major parts of the city in demonstrating against the failure of the ruling elites to confront the climate catastrophe—is what we must emulate. Extinction Rebellion has called for a strike by workers around the world in October, a strike in which thousands of arrests are anticipated.
We have exceeded the 350 parts per million of atmospheric CO2that climate scientists said was the level at which we still might have thwarted societal collapse. Last July was the hottest in recorded history. We are currently at 415 ppm of CO2, with enough heat in the system to ensure 450 ppm of CO2 within a decade. A temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-Industrial Age measurement guarantees catastrophic climate disruptions.
“We’re looking at the collapse of the world’s agriculture systems,” Roger Hallam, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, told me when we spoke in London. “Long before the sea level rises, we’re going to have a world economic collapse because we’re not going to be able to feed ourselves. That’s what’s shitting everyone. That’s why people are in a panic. In the U.N., in academia, in the elites, they’re looking at this. They’re pulling their hair out. We have this repressed media space so it’s not obvious to everyone. I think this is the role of Extinction Rebellion—to break through that repression. Once you break through it, people will say, yeah. The whole thing is beyond bad.”
“We need to insulate all housing stock,” he said. “We need to turn over the economy so that it’s completely electrified. We need to have all the energy coming from renewables. We need a social transformation, so the rich are taxed and pay their fair share. We need to organize communities around quality of life so that people can learn to adapt to these changes, these traumatic changes. This is a matter of physics. It’s not a matter of political opinion. These changes are coming. It’s far too late for massive increases in temperature not to happen. What we’re looking at now is whether we’re going to go extinct or not. I know that sounds like science fiction, but it’s true. We need to look at the figures. It’s like going to the doctor. This is cancer. You don’t like it, that’s fine, but it’s not going to stop you from dying. The only option is do you want to accept that this is the situation? Or don’t you? If you don’t, you’re going to die. If you do, there is a chance. But you’re going to have to get a move on it.”
“We’re saying this to everyone in society, not just to progressives,” he said. “Wake up! At the end of the day, we’ve all got kids. We’ve all got young people we know. If we have any empathy or responsibility for the young generation, it’s all hands on deck. The most civilized way of dealing with the situation is to come together as a country, as a world, in citizen assemblies, and allow the ordinary people of the world to decide what to do. After all, it’s their lives.”
By stepping outside the system, including in our voting patterns, we begin to make the ruling elites afraid. Change comes from pressure. But if we are not willingly to become outcasts, that pressure will never happen. It was not the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, for example, led by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, that first proposed the Green New Deal. It was articulated 12 years ago by the Green Party, which called for massive job and public works programs to transition our energy infrastructure to renewable energy. The deal was promoted by Howie Hawkins when he ran for the governorship in New York in 2014 and by Jill Stein during her 2016 presidential run.
The proposal for a Green New Deal by the Green Party has a fundamental difference from what is touted by progressive Democrats. It does not argue that structural change and a transition to renewable energy will come by making alliances with corporate power. Instead, it insists that we bring about a transformational change in our economy by crushing corporate power and establishing a socialist system.
“The Democrats don’t have real solutions,” Hawkins, who is seeking the Green Party nomination for the presidency, told me in New York. “Trump is a racist scapegoater. He is a freeloading leech who doesn’t pay his own employees, contracts, taxes. He lies to the people. He needs to go. But if you replace him with a Democrat, they’re not going to enact ‘Medicare for All.’ They’re not going to do a Green New Deal. They are backing Trump, who now wants a war for oil in Venezuela, while the planet is burning from burning oil. It’s madness.”
“The historic role of third parties in this country is to raise issues that major parties won’t take up,” he went on. “Like the Liberty Party and the question of slavery. They were the abolitionists when the Whigs and the Democrats didn’t want to touch the issue. We can go for 150 years of history and show how that’s the case.”
“We are not going to get to 100 percent clean energy if Exxon gets to reinvest its earnings in more oil exploration extraction and sales,” he said. “The Koch brothers and all their interests in the oil industry, those should be publicly owned. We take the earnings, because we’ll use fossil fuels during the transition, and reinvest it in renewable. That’s the socialist solution. You can get some socialist programs, like Social Security or Medicare for All, which Bernie Sanders champions, but as long as the capitalist oligarchy has power based on their concentrated ownership of the economy, which translates into political power, they can roll it back.”
“When I talk about a Green New Deal, I’m talking about an economic bill of rights like [Franklin] Roosevelt called for at the end of his 1944 State of the Union address,” Hawkins said. “A job. Income. Health care. Housing. Education. The civil rights picked that up with the  March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, with the Freedom Budget, and the  Poor People’s Campaign. But we still don’t have it. The other part is 100 percent clean energy by 2030. We have to reorganize all sectors [of the economy]—agriculture, manufacturing, the military, transportation—toward sustainability. Or we’ll never get to 100 percent clean energy.”
Switch off the electronic images. Ignore the media burlesque. The endless political shows, which turn presidential campaigns into mind-numbing, two-year-long marathons, are entertainment. Do not trust anyone in power. We will save ourselves by building mass movements to overthrow corporate power. I am not certain we will succeed. But I am certain that if we fail, we are doomed.
Chris Hedges Columnist. Chris Hedges is a Truthdig columnist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a New York Times best-selling author, a professor in the college degree program offered to New Jersey state prisoners by Rutgers…
Mr. Fish Cartoonist. Mr. Fish, also known as Dwayne Booth, is a cartoonist who primarily creates for Truthdig.com and Harpers.com. Mr. Fish’s work has also appeared nationally in The Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice, Vanity…
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Excerpt: We will save ourselves only by pitting power against power. We will save ourselves by building mass movements to overthrow corporate power.