By PAUL STREET
Blaming Russia Is Irresistible to the Democrats
Posted on Dec 22, 2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Did the probably Russian “Guccifer 2.0” and Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks obtain and advance embarrassing hacked emails and other documents showing the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee’s underhanded machinations against Bernie Sanders, including corrupt dealings with the corporate media? Sure.
Did this happen on orders from the Kremlin? None of the Times-citing liberals who have spoken or written as if that is the case know it to be conclusively true. The proof has not been given, and they seem to have an almost childish faith in the notion that the CIA must know more than it can publicly say.
Did these leaks cause Clinton to lose to Trump? The top folks advancing the Democratic Party hacking narrative don’t have the gall to make that full assertion. Clinton, other top Democrats and the Times editorial board seem content to leave it as a suggestion for lesser Democrats—including Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman—to run wild with. I have spoken with many less-well-placed Democrats eager to do precisely that. But the most that Clinton’s campaign chief and top target of the leaks, John Podesta, can say for sure is that Russian interference “distorted the election.”
What Great Democracy?
I am struck by six telling aspects of the liberal and Democratic Russia hacking narrative. First, there’s its rapidly disseminated pervasiveness alongside a dearth of proof. It’s eerily reminiscent of the Donald Rumsfeld argument that “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
Second, there’s liberals’ curious embrace of the CIA as a great organ of truth. So what if the CIA is one of the leading (if not the leading) institutional agents of systematic political deception, with a long history of falsifying intelligence to suit political purposes?
Third, there’s the hypocritical chutzpah of being outraged at outside interference in American elections when the U.S. and its CIA have long subverted elections and otherwise meddled in the political processes of other “sovereign” nations around the world, which Uncle Sam and his intelligence agencies continue to do. As secretary of state, Clinton herself helped subvert democratic election results in Honduras in 2009.
Fourth, there’s the real or pretend cluelessness on why Russian intelligence agencies would have wanted to encourage the defeat of Clinton. It wasn’t just because Putin had some strange personal “beef with Hillary.” The real historical meat of the matter is that candidate Clinton was a militantly anti-Russian New Cold War warrior and dedicated NATO-expansionist who promised to instigate dangerous conflicts with Moscow over Syria, Ukraine, internal Russian affairs and Eastern Europe more broadly.
Fifth, there’s the avoidance of any serious engagement with—or (as goes almost without saying) guilt about—the dreadful stuff that Hillary and Bill Clinton and the DNC did to candidate Bernie Sanders, the Democrats’ best chance to defeat Trump. It’s as if we’re all supposed to forget that terrible story, which might be considered a way in which establishment Democrats rigged the election for Trump. Clinton Democrats don’t deny or question the accuracy of what the WikiLeaks/Guccifer 2.0 document dumps showed on this score. But they seem to want us to wipe it from our memories in the name of outrage against Russia and its nefarious attack on the supposed grand “integrity of our elections” in what is supposedly the world’s greatest “democracy.”
Last but not least, there’s the brazen falsehood of the widespread belief that the U.S. is a “great democracy” in the first place, to be subverted by Russia (or anyone else). Over the past three-plus decades, leading academic researchers Martin Gilens (Princeton) and Benjamin Page (Northwestern), both establishment, liberal political scientists, have concluded, the U.S. political system has functioned as “an oligarchy,” ruled by the few wealthy elites and their corporations. Examining data from more than 1,800 different policy initiatives in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Gilens and Page found that wealthy and well-connected elites consistently steer the direction of the country, regardless and against the will of the U.S. majority and irrespective of which major party holds the White House and/or Congress. “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy,” Gilens and Page write, “while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” As Gilens explained to the liberal online journal Talking Points Memo two years ago, “ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States.”
Such is the harsh reality of “really existing capitalist democracy” in the U.S., what Noam Chomsky has called “RECD”—“pronounced ‘wrecked’ by accident.”
The Inauthentic Opposition
The late Princeton political theorist Sheldon Wolin considered U.S.-style RECD a form of “corporate-managed fake-democracy” and “inverted totalitarianism.” He called it “democracy incorporated.” It’s a “democracy” in which the only two officially viable and corporate-captive political organizations, the Democratic and Republican parties, both stand well to the right of majority progressive-populist public opinion. The right-wing leadership of these two corporate and militarist parties skews the game against those in their party who would campaign and perhaps govern in accord with that public opinion.
Few thinkers have written about the deeply conservative essence of the Democratic Party more perceptively than Wolin. Near the end of the George W. Bush presidency, Wolin, in his book “Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitariansim,” captured the shady, dollar-drenched nothingness of the “dismal Dems” (journalist Doug Henwood’s phrase) in the neoliberal era:
The Democrats’ politics might be described as inauthentic opposition in the era of Superpower. Having fended off its reformist elements and disclaimed the label of liberal, it is trapped by new rules of the game which dictate that a party exists to win elections rather than to promote a vision of the good society. … Should Democrats somehow be elected, corporate sponsors make it politically impossible for the new officeholders to alter significantly the direction of society. At best Democrats might repair some of the damage done to environmental safeguards or to Medicare without substantially reversing the drift rightwards. By fostering an illusion among the powerless classes that the party can make their interests a priority, it pacifies and thereby defines the style of an opposition party in an inverted totalitarian system. … While the Republican Party is ever vigilant about the care and feeding of its zealots, the Democratic Party is equally concerned to discourage its democrats. … The timidity of a Democratic Party mesmerized by centrist precepts points to the crucial fact that for the poor, minorities, the working class, anticorporatists there is no opposition party working on their behalf. … By ignoring dissent and assuming that the dissenters have no alternative, the party serves an important … stabilizing function and in effect marginalizes any possible threat to the corporate allies of the Republicans.
Wolin’s dark reflections seem more than a little prophetic eight years later. Yes, milquetoast center Democrats were “somehow elected” in 2006 (the House) and 2008 (Barack Obama in the White House and a slight new Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate). George W. Bush’s fiasco in Iraq and the onset of the financial crisis saw to that.
Hillary and the Corporate Elite
(Original Dateline May 17, 2016)
“Mainstream” U.S. media is struck by the “strange bedfellows” phenomenon whereby a number of right wing foreign policy neoconservatives and top business elites – including at least one of the notorious hard right-wing Koch brothers – are lining up with Democrat Hillary Clinton against the Republican Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential race. But what’s so strange about it? Trump is off the elite capitalist and imperial leash. He channels some nasty things that have long been part of the Republican Party playbook: frustrated white nationalism, racism, nativism, and male chauvinism.
At the same time, however, he often sounds remarkably populist in ways that white working class voters appreciate. He has been critical of things that elite Republicans (and elite corporate Democrats) hold dear, including corporate globalization, “free trade’ (investor rights) deals, global capital mobility, cheap labor immigration. He questions imperialist adventures like the invasion of Iraq, the bombing of Libya, the destabilization of Syria, and the provocation of Russia. He’s a largely self-funded lone wolf and wild card who cannot be counted to reliably make policy in accord with the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire. And he’s seizing the nomination of a political organization that may have ceased to be a functioning national political party.
One Democrat at a top Wall Street firm even told Politico that Hillary’s politically unavoidable populist rhetoric “is a Rorschach test for how politically sophisticated [rich] people are…If someone is upset by this it’s because they have no idea how populist the mood of the country still is.” It’s nothing new. In his bitter and acerbic book on and against the Clintons, No One Left to Lie To (2000), the still left Christopher Hitchens usefully described “the essence of American politics” as “the manipulation of populism by elitism.”
Things are different with Hillary. She’s a tried and true operative on behalf of both the nation’s capitalist and imperialist ruling class who sits atop the United States’ only remaining fully effective national and major party – the Democrats. She’s a deeply conservative right-winger on both the domestic and the foreign policy fronts, consistent with the rightward drift of the Democratic Party (and the entire U.S. party system) – a drift that she and her husband helped trail-blaze back in the 1970s and 1980s.
In 1964, when Mrs. Clinton was 18, she worked for the arch-conservative Republican Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign. Asked about that high school episode on National Public Radio (NPR) in 1996, then First Lady Hillary said “That’s right. And I feel like my political beliefs are rooted in the conservatism that I was raised with. I don’t recognize this new brand of Republicanism that is afoot now, which I consider to be very reactionary, not conservative in many respects. I am very proud that I was a Goldwater girl.”
It was a telling reflection. The First Lady acknowledged that her ideological world view was still rooted in conservatism of her family of origin. Her problem with the reactionary Republicanism afoot in the U.S. during the middle 1990s was that it was “not conservative in many respects.” She spoke the language not of a liberal Democrat but of a moderate Republican in the mode of Dwight Eisenhower or Richard Nixon.
The language was a perfect match for Hillary and Bill Clinton’s politico-ideological history and trajectory. After graduating from the venerable ruling class training ground Yale Law School, the Clintons went to Bill’s home state of Arkansas. There they helped “lay…the groundwork for what would eventually hit the national stage as the New Democrat movement, which took institutional form as the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC)” (Doug Henwood). The essence of the DLC was dismal, dollar-drenched “neoliberal” abandonment of the Democratic Party’s last lingering commitments to labor unions, social justice, civil rights, racial equality, the poor, and environmental protection and abject service to the “competitive” bottom-line concerns of Big Business.
The Clintons helped launch the New (neoliberal corporatist) Democrat juggernaut by assaulting Arkansas’ teacher unions (Hillary led the attack) and refusing to back the repeal of the state’s anti-union “right to work” law – this while Hillary began working for the Rose Law firm, which “represented the moneyed interests of Arkansas” (Henwood). When the Arkansas-based community-organizing group ACORN passed a ballot measure lowering electrical rates residential users and raising them for commercial businesses in Little Rock, Rose deployed Hillary to shoot down the new rate schedule as an unconstitutional “taking of property.” Hillary joined the board of directors at the low wage retail giant Wal-Mart.
During the Clintons’ time in the White House, Bill advanced the neoliberal agenda beneath fake-progressive cover, in ways that no Republican president could have pulled off. Channeling Ronald Reagan by declaring that “the era of big government is over,” Clinton collaborated with the right wing Congress of his time to end poor families’ entitlement to basic minimal family cash assistance. Hillary backed this vicious welfare “reform” (elimination), which has proved disastrous for millions of disadvantaged Americans. Mr. Clinton earned the gratitude of Wall Street and corporate America by passing the arch-global-corporatist North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), by repealing the Glass-Steagall Act (which had mandated a necessary separation between commercial deposit and investment banking), and by de-regulating the burgeoning super-risky and high-stakes financial derivatives sector. Hillary took the lead role in the White House’s efforts to pass a corporate-friendly version of “health reform.” Along with the big insurance companies the Clintons deceptively railed against, the “co-presidents” decided from the start to exclude the popular health care alternative – single payer – from the national health care “discussion.” (Barack Obama would do the same thing in 2009.)
The Clinton White House’s hostility to “big government” did not extend to the United States’ giant and globally unmatched mass incarceration state or to its vast global military empire. Clinton’s 1994 crime bill helped expand the chilling expansion of the nation’s mostly Black and Latino prison population. Clinton kept the nation’s “defense” (Empire) budget (a giant welfare program for high-tech military corporations) at Cold War levels despite the disappearance of the United States’ Cold War rival the Soviet Union.
Mrs. Clinton’s service to the rich and powerful has continued into the current millennium. As a U.S. Senator, she did the bidding of the financial industry by voting for a bill designed to make it more difficult for consumers to use bankruptcy laws to get out from crushing debt. As Secretary of State (2009-2012), she repeatedly voiced strong support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a secretive, richly corporatist 12-nation Pacific “free trade” (investor rights) agreement that promises to badly undermine wages, job security, environmental protections, and popular governance at home and abroad. In Australia in November of 2012, she said that “TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements for open free, transparent, [and]fair trade…”
Bernie Sanders supporters like to claim that they’ve been moving the eventual Democratic nominee Hillary “to the left.” But nobody actually moves a dyed-in-the wool Goldman Sachs-neoliberal-top-of-the Ivy League-Council of Foreign Relations Eisenhower Democrat like Hillary or Bill Clinton or Barack Obama to the left. All that might shift somewhat to the portside is such politicians’ purposively deceptive campaign rhetoric. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce knows this very well. A top Chamber lobbyist calmly observed last January that Mrs. Clinton will be on board with the unpopular TPP after the 2016 election. The Chamber understands that she has no choice right now but to pose as an opponent of the measure as part of her unavoidable election year job of impersonating someone who cares about the working class majority.
Nobody grasps the Machiavellian nature of her campaign rhetoric better than Hillary’s Wall Street funders. A report in the widely read insider online Washington political journal Politico last year was titled “Hillary’s Wall Street Backers: ‘We Get It.’” As Politico explained, “Populist rhetoric, many [of those backers] say, is good politics – but doesn’t portend an assault on the rich…It’s ‘just politics,’ said one major Democratic donor on Wall Street…many of the financial-sector donors supporting her …say they’ve been expecting [such rhetoric] all along.” One Democrat at a top Wall Street firm even told Politico that Hillary’s politically unavoidable populist rhetoric “is a Rorschach test for how politically sophisticated [rich] people are…If someone is upset by this it’s because they have no idea how populist the mood of the country still is.”
It’s nothing new. In his bitter and acerbic book on and against the Clintons, No One Left to Lie To (2000), the still left Christopher Hitchens usefully described “the essence of American politics” as “the manipulation of populism by elitism.” It’s a story that goes back as far as the 1820s but nobody has perfected the game more insidiously and effectively in the neoliberal era than the Clinton machine.
Partisan liberal Democrats don’t like to hear it, but, there’s nothing all that surprising about the Koch brothers turning to Hillary over Trump. It’s not at all difficult to believe that Bill Clinton will succeed in his recently reported efforts to court support from other Republican billionaires. It’s not at all surprising that Wall Street and corporate America prefer the good friend they know.
In a subsequent essay, I will show why there’s nothing all that strange or surprising about the support Hillary is getting from foreign policy neoconservatives.
This essay originally appeared on teleSur English.
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