What Kind of Country Do We Want?

What Kind of Country Do We Want?

    Americans have a big choice to make this November.  We’re going to decide what kind of country we want to live in, and we have some pretty stark options.  At this point it looks like Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton for the Democrats, and Donald Trump or Ted Cruz for the Republicans.  Right now it’s March Madness, the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, and it’s down to the Final Four, and similarly we can think of this as the semi-finals in another kind of madness.  The corporate media likes the horse race metaphor, so let’s do a veterinary examination of these thoroughbreds.
    Bernie Sanders has seemingly come out of nowhere (Vermont, actually), and has been a member of Congress for thirty years.  Astonishingly, there are still lots of people who haven’t heard much about him.  That’s no surprise, since he’s been virtually ignored by the media because he’s an outsider.  That is to say he’s not a member of their club.  He keeps talking about climate change, trade, and wealth inequality, and those aren’t messages the media wants out there.  Look at their sponsors — Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Business.  Those sponsors don’t want to hear those messages either, and they especially don’t want viewers to hear them.
    The basic narrative is that he’s unelectable.  He’s the only candidate from either party who has higher favorable ratings than unfavorable, but he’s the one who is unelectable.  Oh, his policies are so much pie in the sky, and unrealistic.  What’s unrealistic about making billionaires and giant corporations pay their fair share of taxes?  What is unrealistic about joining the other developed nations in making basic health care a human right?  And as for equivocating “socialism” with communism, it’s a bogus argument.  Bernie has always identified himself as a democratic socialist, and if you think that’s the same as socialism, then you’re probably too ignorant to be reading this piece.  Unlike all the other candidates, Bernie has shunned big money and refuses to take contributions from special interests.  His average contribution is in the mid-twenty dollar range, but he has millions of donors.  But he’s the one who’s unelectable.
    Mrs. Clinton is the most complex of the candidates.  She has an early history of being very progressive.  Upon graduation from law school the first thing she did was to work for the Childrens Fund, but after that went to work for the Rose Law firm, and represented Monsanto.  So right away we have opposing perspectives, a characteristic that runs all through her political life.  As Senator from New York, she had one of the most progressive voting records.  As Secretary of State she was a major supporter of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, saying it would be “the gold standard” for such agreements.  Now she opposes it.  She’s very hawkish, and was all for intervention in Libya, the latest failed state U.S. foreign policy has created.
    Hillary is the ultimate insider.  The Clintons have been active in the political scene for a few decades, and they have lots of powerful connections.  She is the very epitome of The Establishment, or status quo.  And she is utterly a corporatist.  She isn’t known as Wall Street’s favorite Democrat for nothing.  She gave three speeches for Goldman-Sachs, for a total of $675,000.  When asked why so much during one of the debates, she said:  “That’s what they offered.”  Some of her major contributors are the payday loan industry, a couple private prison organizations, and Monsanto.  Lately, she’s pinched most of Bernie’s policies and now passes herself off as progressive.  Maybe she is.  As for the first woman President, I think a person’s ideas are more important than their gender.  I’ll give her this, though.  After twenty-five years of being constantly pounded by the GOP hate machine, she’s tougher than a $2 steak.
    Turning to the dark side, we have the choice of a boorish, narcissistic billionaire with a talent for bringing out the very worst in people, or a religious fanatic.  I’ll begin with the boor.  Donald J. Trump has been the wild card in the race.  No one took him seriously when he first announced in June.  Since then, the Republican Party has become apoplectic.  He’s not a real Republican, he doesn’t espouse party values.  Well, let’s run some data through the conservativomiter to see how he stacks up.  Hates women, check.  Hates immigrants, check.  Hates all Muslims, check.  White supremacist/racist, check.  Appeals to the very worst of human nature to garner votes, check.  He sounds exactly like a Republican to me.  Although he praised Planned Parenthood, which is heresy to the Right.  What’s making them crazy is that he’s speaking the truth about conservatives, in plain English, yet.  Where the GOP has always been racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic, but in coded language, Trump just puts it out there — (Mexican) immigrants are murderers and rapists, we need to keep Muslims out of America, Bernie Sanders is “our communist friend,” and so on.  He isn’t very popular with black folks, either.  His rallies are chock full of white people.  Any blacks who show up are considered to be protesters with Black Lives Matter.  Even Trump’s black supporters, and there are a few, are regarded with suspicion and hostility.  I don’t see him getting many votes from black people (In 2012 he actually said:  “I love the blacks!”).  The blacks.  He won’t get the Muslim vote either, nor the pigs, slobs, or bimbos (women).  How can he be so far ahead?  If you’re asking yourself that question, you’ve forgotten just how appallingly ignorant Americans have become.  Trump doesn’t want to be President of the United States, he wants to be CEO of America, and you can’t run a country like a business.  Oh, sorry about that, nothing personal, it’s just business.  We have more than enough of that already.
    Finally we have Sen. Ted Cruz, who has the answer to the question of why Republicans who hate government keep running for political office.  Just let God do it!  Ted belongs to a fringe Pentecostal cult, Dominionists, who believe the End is at hand.  His father Rafael is a fire-breathing preacher of the New Beginnings megachurch, in Irving, TX.  And on Aug. 26th, 2012, he had his son Ted anointed to be one of God’s Kings, who would have dominion over all aspects of society, education, government, and economics.  They have some loopy prophecy based on Proverbs 13:22, “and the wealth of the wicked is stored for the righteous.”  Who are the righteous?  The Gentiles, meaning non-Jewish people.  The King is to preside over an “end-times re-distribution of wealth.”  Is this a reference to the Jewish banker conspiracy?  Well, Ted doesn’t talk about any of that.  What he does talk about is scary enough.
    Gay marriage is a socialist plot to destroy the family.  Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.  Climate change isn’t science, it’s religion.  He wants to repeal Obamacare (who doesn’t?) and abolish the IRS, replacing it with a flat tax.  He also wants to repeal job-killing regulations, meaning the EPA, USDA, OSHA, FDA, would all go away, so predatory capitalism can trample all over us.  One of his sound-bites is less government, more freedom.  Notice how often these people use the words ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty,’ like some kind of Tourette’s.  You could say homeless people are free; free from employment, free from responsibility, free of a home.  I love the irony that in order to defeat Trump, the Republican Party will back the one guy they all absolutely loathe.  Seriously, no one likes this guy.  There’s been a joke going around — Why do people take an instant dislike to Ted Cruz?  It saves time.
    Bernie may be the last hope for this country, but his chances are evaporating like morning fog in the sunlight.  His ideas are what most Americans say they want, but that doesn’t matter.  What most Americans want is like background noise in the political arena.  You can look up the Princeton study by Gilens & Page in 2014.  They studied 1800 policy initiatives from 1981-2002, finding that legislatively, they get what they want nearly half the time.  For the bottom 90th percentile, it’s about .3%.  Because the truth is that we don’t choose what kind of country we want, the white power structure does.  All these campaigns, the election, the Congress, Democrats, Republicans, and all of it is just smoke and mirrors, a shadow play.  Democracy as we used to know it is on life-support; we now live in a plutocracy, rule by the wealthy.  So Americans can either accept this “new normal” (psychologists call it learned helplessness), or we can resist.  Any people will eventually resist oppression, and the growth of movements like the Tea Party, the Occupy Movement, and Black Lives Matter are a healthy sign.  And coming soon to a city near you, Democracy Spring.  Look for it.
    But let’s say I’m wrong (it’s happened before).  Let’s say we do still get to elect our leaders, that it’s not all a sham.  Then we come back to the question of what kind of country we want.  Do we want an America seething with hatred and bigotry, or one where we’re all part of something that really can be great again?  Judging by recent results, it looks like the choice will be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.  Under Hillary I think we can expect a continuation of the corporate state, with a few cosmetic bromides for the masses. I’m actually tempted to vote for Trump, because I think he’s what this country deserves.
    During the Great Depression of the 1930s — which affected the global economy as well — America chose FDR.  As we know, Germany went in an entirely different direction, the same direction Trump is taking us.  And we seem to be mindlessly shuffling along with him, like in one of those zombie movies.  They’re euphemistically called low-information voters, but they’re dumb-asses, and they seem to be multiplying faster than the rest of us.  So good luck, America, you’re going to need it.
   Democracy is the theory that common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.                                                                                               — H.L. Mencken

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