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Guests at Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's election night rally watch the big screen television at the Jacob Javits Center glass enclosed lobby in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (Photo: AP/Matt Rourke)

Burning Down the House: On Democracy and the Post-Trump Democrats

Thomas S. Harrington

On November 8th, a puerile con-man named Donald Trump turned widespread economic desperation and the civic ignorance quite purposefully engendered by the US media system over the last three decades into a four-year lease on the White House. 

Were the US the pragmatic, “can-do” nation adduced in the homilies its representatives regularly issue to the rest of the world, this turn of events would be perceived, and treated as, an invitation to engage in serious reflection. This would especially be the case within the leadership class of the Democratic Party. 

But, of course that thoughtful and rational country, so near and dear to the hearts of leftish Europeans raised on movies like All the President’s Men, has not existed for some time now. Nor has the Democratic Party of FDR and LBJ which, for all of the latter’s personal flaws, actually cared about improving the lives of society’s most vulnerable and downtrodden members.

In its stead we have a Democratic Party of calculating operators who long ago sold their soul to the combined forces of Wall Street, the arms industry and the Israel lobby, and then endeavored to cover this subterfuge over with the oily mask of identity politics.

This gambit has worked for them far longer than it should have. Indeed, many of the party’s voters are still quite far from admitting the salient reality of their leaders’ rank corruption, preferring—not without enormous media support—to concoct self-serving explanations for their erstwhile inability to actually improve the health and welfare of the vast majority of the population, or bring an end to the country’s endless wars of imperial aggression. I’m talking about fictional narratives like the one about the progressive and peace-loving African-American president whose earnest efforts were blocked at every turn by obstreperous Republican bullies. 

That empirically observable reality does not even remotely support the idea that Obama pushed bold and paradigm-changing policy initiatives, does not seem to matter to these self-described “liberals”, nor to the reporters from Europe’s “quality” dallies who so assiduously echo their laments.

But surely the events of early November have caused the leadership of the party and its many media apologists to finally take a good, long look in the mirror. Right?

In fact, not only have they not done so, but they have doubled down on their tactic of genuflecting before the powerful on one hand, and creating self-serving narratives to cover their perfidy on the other. Mere days after their stunning defeat at the polls, they named the well-known Wall Street shakedown artist and self-proclaimed “Guardian of Israel”, Chuck Schumer as their new leader in the Senate. But more importantly, they began an enormous effort, abetted by unsubstantiated and frankly slanderous reporting by the Washington Post, to blame their embarrassing defeat on that most enduring and versatile of sinister placeholders: the Russian government.

Might Putin’s government have attempted to, in some way, sway the election away from the woman whose State Department—as Victoria Nuland’s famous intercepted phone call to Geoffrey Pyatt makes crystal clear—masterminded the pro-Western coup in Ukraine, and toward a man who was on record as wanting to pursue respectful relations with Russia?  It’s certainly possible. 

But the larger question is this. Since when have governments, especially relatively powerful ones with some means at their disposal, NOT tried to influence foreign elections in ways that they hope will further their long-term interests?

We need only go back a few months to see the spectacle of Obama lecturing Britons on the need to vote “No” on Brexit, or a few months before that, to see Netanyahu brazenly telling the 500+ attendees at a joint session of the US Congress (a convocation once reserved for true heroes and friends of the nation, but made possible in this case by the legalized bribery of the Israel lobby) how they needed to proceed in the formulation of US policy toward Iran.  And are we to believe that the NSA recorded every call and text on Angela Merkel’s cell phone (and those of numerous other world leaders) in order to better understand their preferences in take-out food?

And these are examples of the relatively non-violent methods employed by the US in foreign electoral matters. When these fail, they move on to less subtle means, like pumping millions of dollars into Christian Democrat coffers in Italy over the four decades following World War II, or simply ignoring the results of the 2006 Palestinian elections, or banding together with the French to do something quite similar in Algeria in 1992, or clandestinely supporting Al-Sisi’s murderous coup of the legally elected Egyptian government in 2013. 

And when these “moderate” tactics for overseas political control fail, there’s always to option, at least for the US, of smashing a country to bits to install a “friendly” government, as occurred recently in Iraq and Libya.

But perhaps even more disturbing than the breathtaking hypocrisy of the Democrat’s current campaign of whining, is their willingness to further undermine confidence in the country’s already battered political and social institutions in order to pursue the narrowly partisan and vanity-driven goal of exonerating themselves for any responsibility for last month’s ignominious, and highly consequential, defeat. 

Yes, the “liberal” establishment is clearly losing its grip on power. And, sadly, they seem to have no compunctions about setting the country’s most essential democratic institutions—a free press and the promise of cleanly-run elections—on fire as part of their desperate campaign to save face and slow, if only for an historical minute, their extremely well-deserved loss of social power.  

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Thomas S. Harrington

Thomas S. Harrington

Thomas S. Harrington is professor of Hispanic Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and the author of Public Intellectuals and Nation Building in the Iberian Peninsula, 1900–1925: The Alchemy of Identity (Bucknell University Press, 2014).

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