10 Good Things that Happened this Year in US Politics
As we end 2016, with many Americans still in shock over the elections results, it's easy to overlook all the good things that happened in the US politically. So, as we prepare for 4 years of open resistance of the majority of the population against an elected administration, here are a few things we can be thankful for...
1. Bernie Sanders
The meteoric rise of the Bernie Sanders campaign during the early part of this year was both stunning and important. In just a few months, Sanders went from less than 5% support to a near dead-heat with the favored and massively-funded favorite of the DNC; regularly filling stadiums of 10,000 or 20,000 people, galvanizing a massive volunteer force and setting records for public campaign contributions. Whether the systemic voting irregularities and potential fraud in primaries from Iowa to California and backroom dealing with the DNC and major media actually cost him the election we may never know, but the Sanders' candidacy marked the moment when the anti-corporate movement went mainstream. The Occupy message, which the corporate media had so successfully obfuscated and squelched, was now being articulated in a way that could no longer be ignored and the public response was so overwhelming that the media had to predictably resort to personal smears (he's a 74-year-old Jewish Socialist...), naysaying (he's untested, he'll never win, he won't be able to get any of his policies enacted...), and demonization of his followers (as misogynistic, racist, chair-throwing "Bernie Bros"). But the real significance of the Sanders phenomenon still stands: The anti-corporate movement has come of age. Gone are the days of Seattle, or even Occupy, when it could be dismissed as a fringe phenomenon. The great political struggle of our time is defining itself as the struggle of the People against the new tyranny of corporate political power, and 2016 is the year the genie could no longer be put back in the bottle.
2. The Collapse of the Corporate Duopoly
Both major US parties have for decades been progressively overcome by corporate money and direct political control, to the point where a false political "center" has been created that is no longer aligned with either party base. 2016 was the year that system began to visibly unravel. The stunning failure of the RNC to push its own agenda down its rank-and-file members' throats amounted to a full-scale revolt. The anointed favorite, Jeb, barely got out of the gate, and the desperate deployment of Romney to stop voters from enabling a candidate who was not a party insider was a comic display of cluelessness. Of course, the DNC, mired in its own systemic cronyism, elitist myopia and beholdenness to corporate money and power, refused to see the writing on the wall and aggressively put to sleep their own voter revolt only to lose to the revolt that had been successful. 2016 marked the moment when both parties were unmasked as tools of corporate power to the point where they could no longer win elections.
3. Intersectionality and the Convergence of Social Movements
A trend has been developing for several years toward increasing displays of solidarity among different liberation struggles and efforts to form a united front around basic principles, such as anti-colonialism and human and civil rights, and 2016 was the year that it finally came into its own. Black Lives Matter and Flint, BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel) and Idle No More (and later, Standing Rock) all began visibly supporting and cooperating with one another amid a general Zeitgeist of convergence. (To give a personal example, I was at Standing Rock with an activist from Flint and passed on some some contacts to a famous Palestinian author-activist who went there several days later.) This ability to de-ghettoize these particular struggles and focus on the deep common principles - and adversaries - uniting them will be critical to the effectiveness of popular resistance going forward.
Whatever you may think about them, Wikileaks provided a major service to American voters this year by exposing the deep systemic corruption of our political elites. In an age when whistleblowing has been criminalized and even conflated with terrorism, we need to recognize the efforts of those who risk everything to bring us the truth that governments want hidden from us. Many of the things we only suspected during the primaries about the DNC's true actions and motives were confirmed by the various Wikileaks releases, and this will be important in holding them accountable - or finding an alternative to them - going forward.
5. The Rise of Alternative News
It's fitting that Democracy Now! celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, as 2016 was truly a watershed year for independent journalism. During the campaign, outlets like DN!, TYT, TRNN and the many online alternative journals that have been burgeoning for the past few years seemed to experience a notable surge in popular interest. Chris Hedges and Abby Martin started new shows. The political elite and mainstream media's attempts to co-opt, challenge and discredit alternative news - including the buying out of several once-reliable sources by major DNC donors, the creation of new partisan outlets, and a veritable campaign to brand all non-corporate journalism "Fake News" - was merely a confirmation of the inroads being made and the fact that "Mainstream Media" was experiencing a loss of popular support analogous to that of the mainstream parties.
6. Standing Rock
The emergence of the #NoDAPL struggle at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation captured the hearts of millions of people across the country and around the world. The struggle marked the convergence of Indigenous Rights, Environmental Justice and the battle against the Corporate State. The fact that it's Indigenous-led and mobilized positive and universal imagery ("Water is Life"; "Defend the Sacred") is also important to defining broad popular struggle going forward. The encampment itself has reached a population of some 20,000 people at peak moments and surpasses Occupy in size, organization and infrastructure. The involvement of nearly 200 Native American tribes, several thousand Veterans, and a number of highly visible celebrities and political figures almost certainly kept the camp from being violently crushed in favor of a strategy of inventing a false win to demobilize the movement. Time will tell what happens at Standing Rock itself, but this movement has already upped the standard for popular resistance.
Trump may have won the election, but the election also proved the limited nature of his support. He only won - with an historically-low 26% of registered voters - because he was running against an extremely unpopular candidate who literally personified the State as surrogate for corporate rule. While part of his appeal was undoubtedly to true racists, bigots, supremacists and xenophobes, it would be a mistake to see his election only in these terms. He was in many ways the Right's answer to Bernie Sanders: a self-proclaimed revolt against a political elite that was not only hurting women, immigrants, Muslims and People of Color, but also the White Working Class. There were two-time Obama voters who voted Trump and would-be Sanders voters who voted Trump. The fact is that the US population is far to the Left of its formal political spectrum. A majority of Americans support gun control and believe in climate change, Gay marriage and legalization of marijuana are sweeping the country. Our population is more ethnically and culturally diverse than ever and more accepting of difference of all kinds. English will soon be our second language. The kind of "Trump supporter" that Liberals were fear-mongered with in this election are less than 20% of the population. We may be the Roman Empire but we're not Nazi Germany. If we want to block a second Trump term, we just have to stop the DNC from running more corporate shills like Schumer and Pelosi.
9. The Mobilization of the Liberal Class
The Trump victory stunned millions of people who had been contented with political action that consisted of voting once every two years and reading the New York Times. Their party failed them spectacularly and they are aware that they will need to fight this administration every step of the way. The US slide toward fascism over the past 8 years has been completely ignored. Indefinite detention, drone wars and the war on whistleblowers didn't galvanize much resistance because people felt comfortable with the occupant of the White House. All that's about to change. With three Goldman Sachs people on his Cabinet and Exxon-Mobile running State, the anti-corporate fight and the anti-Trump fight are about to become one.
10. Trump's Betrayal of his Base
With the Left in open revolt against him and key Republican allies (Christie, Guilani, Bolton, Romney...) already under the bus, Trump is also wasting no time in betraying those who voted for him. This opens the possibility for a united front against the sitting Administration the likes of which we've never seen.
So buckle up! It's going to be one hell of a year. And Merry Christmas!