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Taking a Bullet

Progressives must seize the moment or suffer the consequences

(Photo: Steve Marcus/Greenpeace)

There goes my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.
- Mahatma Ghandi

Pundits seem shocked by Trump’s victory.  They shouldn’t have been. As I said here, here, here and as I’ve been saying for years, America is a left of center country, and Democrats have been ignoring it at their peril.

The good news is, Trump didn’t win – the Democrats lost. Seventy-six per cent of Americans wanted change.  Trump offered it; the Democrats offered their usual roll of status quo tools of the Oligarchy.

The bottom line is, a lot of the people – particularly white working class males -- who supported Trump did so because they’d been abandoned by the Democratic Party. If Democrats can stop being sock puppets for the Oligarchy, then they can win a sizable number of these folks back.

If the Democrats fail to do that, then our country runs the risk of being permanently torn asunder by the hate and fear unleashed by Trump.

Sadly, that will require all of us to keep engaged in this political toboggan ride to hell when what we’d all like to do is turn our heads; avert our gaze; go back to our TVs and video games and pretend that we’re not a nation in which one Party is motivated by hate, fear, envy, greed, jingoism and racism; while the other is in thrall to the Oligarchy.

Our challenge now is to make Democrats a progressive Party.  And if there’s one thing this election should tell us it’s that a rhetorical flourish from some centrist poser pretending to be a progressive isn’t going to cut it.

One of the great mysteries of this entire political process has been the willingness of progressives to deny the reality of Ms. Clinton’s positions and to count her as one of their own.

She wasn’t, and here’s a quick summary of why.

She embraces a neocon foreign policy that’s nearly indistinguishable from the disastrous Bush/Cheney folly. Her “tough on terrorism” stance – something that’s actually created more terrorists -- risks embroiling us in an endless and expensive war that’s doomed to fail.

She insists on seeing Russia and China through the lens of the neocons – a dangerous and discredited view that has little basis in fact – and benefits no one but Defense Contractors.

The emails released by Wikileaks reveal her obvious duplicity on big banks and Wall Street.

For example, Clinton essentially apologized to Wall Street for Congress’s attempt to regulate the big banks, and claimed that Dodd-Frank – a bill that was too weak to make a real difference and is getting watered down even further as it is translated into regulations – was necessary only for “political reasons.”  As if Wall Street’s central role in the worst recession since the Great Depression weren’t reason enough to regulate. They also reveal that Ms. Clinton believes there’s a need for a public position on these kinds of issues that is different than her privately held one.

What we see here is political calculation, completely devoid of any progressive values.

Her position on climate change poses an existential threat to civilization and the global ecosystem.  And it’s about as cynical and deceptive a political stance as we’re likely to see in a long time.

Surviving the Trump Era

Yes, Trump is a lunatic, who denies reality.  But Clinton’s position on the issue was a classic example of the slick politician who tries to be all things to all people.

OK, she embraced renewable energy and acknowledged the science behind climate change, and she backed Obama’s Clean Energy Plan.

But it’s one thing to back efficiency and renewables; quite another to do what needs to be done to avoid catastrophic climate change.

For example, she steadfastly refused to ban fracking; she would not endorse a carbon tax; she would not put an immediate end to allowing exploration for new fossil fuel resources on public lands, at a time when we have to leave 80% of the fossil fuels we’ve already found in the ground to have even a glimmer of a chance to avoid a full-on global catastrophe. In fact, her surrogates vehemently fought inclusion of any climate policies and positions that would overtly cut the use of fossil fuels in the Democratic Party Platform.

Paying lip service to the use of renewable energy without adopting policies to immediately cut carbon emissions is tantamount to putting a spot of duct tape on a broken airplane wing, while you’re flying at 30,000 feet. It’s like trying to jump the Grand Canyon in a series of ten-foot leaps. It’s like jumping off a cliff and trying to knit a parachute on the way down.  It’s like … well, you get the idea. It’s just plain stupid, and we’re stupid for accepting it.

Climate change is an existential threat to civilization and to the ecological life support systems we evolved in; it is far too dangerous to allow pay-to-play politicians to push half measures as solutions; and if we want better than a 66% chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change, then the clock starts NOW for starting immediate and comprehensive efforts to get off fossil fuels, not 20 years from now as the IPCC scenarios suggest, and as Clinton’s policies would do. 

When the people lead, leaders follow. There are two responses for a real progressive to this election.  One is despair. We were offered a contest between representatives of the Oligarchy on the one hand, and a misanthropic, narcissistic hate monger on the other, so this would be understandable.

The other is hope.

A critical mass of “we, the people,” have figured out that the two party duopoly doesn’t serve us, and thanks to Sanders, we have a platform we can build upon to fix the broken system. Our task is to stay engaged; to hold those elected accountable for their actions; to ignore the elite establishment media’s pathetic pandering to the uber-rich and corporations.

We have two years to expose Trump for what he is – a blow-hard who uses hate and fear to divide us; a man who is espousing tax and other policies that benefit the uber-rich while masquerading as a man of the people.

We have two years to recapture the Democratic Party from the elites and the Oligarchs.  If we can’t do that, then we need to create a third party.

The only basis for hope lies in what actions we take.  If we lead, the leaders will follow.

John Atcheson

John Atcheson

John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, and a book on our fractured political landscape entitled, WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track, both available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @john_atcheson

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