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Bush-Clinton Is Not Inevitable

An ultimate head-to-head contest between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders would illustrate many things, not least of which the idea that only genuine democratic values can combat the overt forces of oligarchy which now dominate politics in the United States. (Illustration: Sarah Eberspacher | Photos courtesy Getty Images, iStock)

A funny thing happened on the way to the oligarch’s quadrennial choice between tweedle-de and tweedle-dum.  Two renegade candidates decided to ignore the script.  One, a right-wing lunatic with a boatload of money; the other a socialist/democrat relying on small contributions, which are pouring in.

As a result, the fat-cat funded ordination of Ms. Clinton and Mr. Bush is in danger of being derailed, and the old scripts are in danger of being tossed aside.  The consequences of this are different for each Party, and the stakes for the country couldn’t be higher.

In a sense, we have an epic contest shaping up right now.  To paraphrase Lincoln, it is a struggle to determine whether “… that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Or, to put it more mundanely, we’re struggling to see whether votes can ever trump money; whether we’ll choose to continue to live in an oligarchy or choose instead, to reclaim the Republic.

Let’s take a look at what’s going on in each party.

Conservatives – Fear and Loathing Trumps Corporate Greed. 

For going on thirty years now, Republicans have been using wedge issues, fear, bigotry, jingoism, and religious zealotry to appeal to the limbic lizard brain in all of us, in an effort to vilify government, glorify the free market and get people to vote against their own interests, while fat cats and plutocrats converted our Republic into an oligarchy.

It’s worked pretty well.  A full-scale assault, including caging voters, radical gerrymandering of districts, outright purchase of the media, and complete neutering of campaign finance laws has changed the terms of the national debate; marginalized and frightened liberals; and given Republicans an outsized roll in state governments, the legislature, and the judiciary.

Ah, but he who lives by the lizard brain, dies by it.  The Party has become an anti-enlightenment caricature that appeals mainly to old white Bubbas – a diminishing breed that is fast losing its grip on power.  And now along comes Trump, speaking with heinous clarity that strips away any veneer of respectability, revealing the dark reptilian evil that has taken over the Party, and the Banksters and Wall Streeters –and all those who used these wedge issues to enrich themselves and screw the Bubbas -- are losing ground in the Party they bought and paid for. 

Now we watch with a fascinated horror as the clown car veers ever further to the right, and the patrician likes of Bush blather ever stupider and more hateful remarks in a last ditch attempt to appeal to the Bubbas.

Hillary Clinton — Yes or No?

Have you noticed that increasingly, people end their questions to Hillary Clinton with a “yes or no, will you? …” 

Incredibly, she and her advisors believe they can play cat-and-mouse with the voters on the issues while they conduct the same-ol’-same-ol’ cynical game of substituting mealy-mouthed mush for substance.

For example, after being pressed with three yes or no questions at town hall meetings – on whether she supported the TPP, whether she supported a ban on extraction of fossil fuels on public lands, and on whether she opposed the XL pipeline – she finally said, this week:  “I do not think it’s appropriate for me to comment on something I had official responsibilities for until it is completed and that I might have official responsibilities for again.”

Huh? In short, she wants us to believe she shouldn’t be answerable for her actions and decisions, and we don’t have a right to know what her thinking was -- and what it will be as President.  

But apparently we should vote for her anyway?  Really?

The voters’ reaction to this used-car salesman approach to campaigning?  A resounding NO as her trustworthiness and favorability ratings plunge.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders is shooting up in the polls by delivering a clear, progressive agenda that is designed to:

  • Help the poor and middle class get their fair share of the American pie;
  • Take effective action on climate change and environmental protection;
  • Preserve and strengthen the social safety net;
  • Reverse the erosion of civil liberties;
  • Move toward single payer health care;
  • Tame Wall Street and Too-Big-to-Fail Banks;
  • End the politics of hate, greed, fear and bigotry; and
  • Overturn Citizens United.

It’s coming as a surprise to many mainstream pundits that a Socialist with a progressive message is doing so well.  But the best-kept secret in politics is that, on an issue-by-issue basis, the American people are well left of center.  A massive investment by conservative billionaires over the past 40 years may have rebranded “liberal” to be some despised political label, but the voter’s have strongly supported the individual positions Sanders is advocating all along.  All it took to reveal their liberalism was someone with the courage and integrity to confront the oligarchs and plutocrats and give them a real choice.

What’s amusing, in a twisted way, is to watch Hillary try to catch some of the progressive headwind, without actually being progressive.  For example, her announcement about tackling climate by putting up half a billion solar panels on rooftops was a cynically designed ploy, announced to head off the palpable skepticism generated by her unwillingness to take a stand on the XL, back off an all-of-the-above energy policy, or commit to reigning in the use of fossil fuels.  But fostering clean energy without also cutting carbon emissions is like trying to eat the sizzle while the steak’s still in the fire.

None of this should be too surprising.  Hillary get's a lot of money from fossil fuel interests.  So positing solutions while she ignores the source of the problem makes sense.  She hopes it will appear responsive to those criticizing her about her lack of a serious climate policy, while leaving her free to do what she wants if elected, and most importantly, to keep getting that money.

Bernie Sanders: Last Chance to Reclaim the Republic? Make no mistake.  The United States is no longer a democratic republic, it is an oligarchy.  Politicians, policies, the media and laws are bought and paid for by corporations and the rich and powerful.  They have become little more than commodities, available for the right price. 

The oligarchy has created the greatest existential threat humanity has ever faced – climate change – and it is once again creating unsustainable economic inequalities which are destroying the fabric of our civil society.  Our nation – and our planet – cannot survive another four years in which the future-blind self-interest of the haves continues to put us on a path of devastation.

The system we now have in place makes changing that extraordinarily difficult. It takes a candidate willing to buck it, but more importantly, it takes an electorate willing to support that candidate.

In Bernie Sanders, we have that candidate.  Will we the people respond?

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John Atcheson

John Atcheson

screen_shot_2017-07-26_at_9.09.47_pm.pngJohn Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, and he has just completed a book on the 2016 elections titled, WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track, available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @john_atcheson

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