The Historic Battle for the Presidency

February 15, 2016


Scalia died yesterday (February 13, 2016). He was a truly evil man. Antonin Scalia was incapable of intellectual integrity as shown in Bush v. Gore. It was clear throughout his career that he took positions that were directed by the result not intellectual or legal analysis. In fact, that is consistent for all conservative legal positions. They attack judicial activism and then become the most activists judges that we have ever seen. They eliminate stare decisis whenever it serves their result. They rely on equal protection when they want to put Bush into the Presidency. They deny equal protection when gutting the Voting Rights Act. There are many more examples.

The death of Antonin Scalia, however, sets the stage for the most important political battle of the last 80 years.

This country is at a cross roads. The Republican Party has moved to the extreme right pandering to every possible form of hatred against Muslims, immigrants, women, and of course African Americans and sexual preference.

I hate to use the word “left community” because it is so vague as a reference and as a community. The community, such as it is, is diverse. In fact, ironically, it is individualized. One cannot even say that it is sectarian because that implies groups of sects instead of individual opinions ranging across the spectrum, from Hilary Clinton to Bernie to criticism of everyone. The latter group uses definitional logic to claim that person is not a socialist or that a vote proves unreliability of the individual and on and on and on.  My most impatience is with the method of thought that proceeds from definition to conclusion: that person is not a Socialist, or not a Marxist, etc, and therefore is wrong. This method of reasoning is next to useless. Either we examine the concrete realities of today’s battles or we fail to provide any leadership. Attacks are easy. They provide no help in terms of the line of march.

Having said that as an introduction, the immediate task is to determine whether we can have any effect on the developing battles that are so important and that impose such a responsibility on every thinking person. I cannot even say who “we” is. I guess I am left with the lame sense that it is anyone reading this exposition. Not only is this country at a cross roads but the next 9 months has historic consequences for the working class. As a result, each of us must provide what intelligence we can bring to this struggle.

It is necessary first to eliminate the viewpoints that represent holdovers from the struggles of the 1960s and 1970s. The position that the two parties are simply different perspectives of bourgeois control is no longer sufficient. For me, it is helpful to have lived through these struggles. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Democratic Party consisted of an amalgam of progressive unions, African American leadership and the reactionary racist South. The Republican Party consisted of industrial capitalists with progressive pockets like New York and California and even in Michigan. By means of slow realignment of forces, the Southern strategy of the Republican Party combined with the RHINO movement (Republican in name only), the Republican Party purged all progressive positions within the party. Republicans developed a strategy of pandering to the most reactionary sections of the working class using wedge issues as attacks: claims that the Democratic Party was soft on crime; opposition to busing; opposition to abortion; opposition to sexual preference especially gay marriage. All of these positions were used to gain power by the Republican Party. At the same time, the Republican Party elite’s agenda was to use the working class votes for the purposes of attacking the working class benefits such as unions, social security, and regulatory system, etc.

The Reagan Administration consolidated the racist South by going to Philadelphia, Mississippi where three Civil Rights workers were murdered and declaring he was for States rights. Ironically, these workers were registering African Americans to vote. That coded position by Reagan was followed up with a campaign to suppress the vote in general.

On the other side, the Democratic Party elite claimed to move to the center as the Republican Party moved further right. That meant the center kept moving further and further to the right. At the same time, the most reactionary section of the bourgeoisie took over the corporate media providing cover for the racist, anti-working class policies of the political establishment.

Finally, the reactionary forces within the corporate establishment moved to take over the courts. The infamous Lewis Powell memo set out the line of march. They created the so called “think tanks” and the federalist society thereby completing domination by the multinational corporations. They then controlled the courts, the media, and ultimately governorships even down to dogcatcher. At this time, there is a clear divide between Republican and Democratic parties. Paul Krugman is correct as stated:

On the substantive divide between the parties: I still encounter people on the left (although never on the right) who claim that there’s no big difference between Republicans and Democrats, or at any rate “establishment” Democrats. But that’s nonsense. Even if you’re disappointed in what President Obama accomplished, he substantially raised taxes on the rich and dramatically expanded the social safety net; significantly tightened financial  regulation; encouraged and oversaw a surge in renewable energy; moved forward on diplomacy with Iran. 

Any Republican would undo all of that, and move sharply in the opposite direction. If anything, the consensus among the presidential candidates seems to be that George W. Bush didn’t cut taxes on the rich nearly enough, and should have made more use of torture. 

When we talk about partisanship, then, we’re not talking about arbitrary teams, we’re talking about a deep divide on values and policy. How can anyone not be “partisan” in the sense of preferring one of these visions? NYT, 02/15/16, P.A19 (Emphasis added)

We must also eliminate the unstated belief but deeply held assumption that if things get worse, revolution will occur. While the successful revolutions in the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, South Africa, and Cuba were in the context of tremendous oppression, it does not follow either logically, historically, or factually that oppression would inevitably cause these revolutions. On the contrary, one could point just as easily to many parts of the world where capitalist oppression is unspeakably horrible without a successful revolutionary movement. Ultimately, every movement needs skilled leadership, dedicated cadre and let’s face it, it’s a lot of luck.

That leadership involves important strategic tactical decisions as to when and how to fight, assisting in demands for reforms that can resonate with millions of people. While the above is sketchy and capable of much more detail, the above analysis sets the basis for progressive support of Bernie Sanders. Sometime ago I outlined why his campaign was so important, providing a voice for the discussion of socialism. But, the death of Scalia and the success of Bernie Sanders’ campaign changes the battle lines in important ways.

With Scalia’s death, the strangle hold of the reactionary forces on the courts, on the corporate media, and for that matter on the consciousness of the Working Class has changed.  Trumps bombastic use of hatred has exposed the hypocrisy of the Evangelical right wing. Large numbers accept Trumps three (3) divorces and four (4) bankruptcies as long as he spouts hatred.

Now that Sanders has successfully challenged the ruling elite within the Democratic Party, his ability to win the Presidency combined with the death of Scalia means that there is a very real opportunity to change the trajectory of this country.

The one seminal issue is the concentration of wealth. The question is whether the concentration of wealth is the single issue around which all other issues revolve. That appears to be the dividing line between Bernie and Hillary. I agree with Bernie. The solution of every problem first faces resources for resolution.

We must eliminate the concept that a rising tide lifts all boats. This is the excuse used by the Ruling Class for the last 60 years. It is not true and has not been true for all of those 60 years.

Factually, the concentration of wealth sets priorities politically and economically. The Koch brothers are the perfect example. Not only have they purchased a cadre of climate deniers, they have permeated every facet of American culture. Their program is not only anti-working class as expressed as anti-government; it is also racist in intent and implementation. It is the Koch brothers along with other rich people of their ilk that support ALEC, the legislative arm of the right wing. ALEC is infamous for stand your ground legislation. They have formulated anti-women legislation and opposed sexual preference. At every level and in every way they implement the right wing agenda legislatively.

And this is not by accident. It has to be. The rich are preserving not only their economic position, but also their ideological position justifying their entitlement.

The disagreement between Bernie and Hillary about the importance of the concentration of wealth is not only a dividing line, it determines their different positions. On February 8, 2015, the New York Times carried an article headlined “Economic Plan is a Quandry for Clinton in 2016”. In describing her attempt to address the concentration of wealth, it stated:

Behind many of these proposals is a philosophy, endorsed by Mrs. Clinton’s closest economic advisers and often referred to as inclusive capitalism, that contends that a majority of Americans do not want to punish the rich; they just want to feel that they, too, have a chance to succeed. It also calls for corporations to put less emphasis on short term profits that increase shareholder value and to invest more in employees, the environment and communities.

Bernie is calling for a revolution. Obviously, he cannot make a revolution, only a conscious working class can accomplish a revolution. Embedded in that call, however, is the rejection of the Clinton position that “the majority of Americans do not want to punish the rich.” In fact, the same article stated:

Whether Mrs. Clinton’s approach will be enough to satisfy the unease over growing economic disparity is unclear. In a Gallup poll conducted last month, 67 percent of Americans said they were dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are distributed in the United States. 

The left must become relevant to this discussion. It cannot be done by looking around for the perfect candidate, Bernie has given us a national voice. We can use it intelligently or remain irrelevant to the discussion. The choice is obvious.

The concentration of wealth affects every issue. The examples are rampant but time is limited. For instance, many take the position that racism is independent of income. I have opposed that position in the paper “The Intersection of Race and Class and its effect on the movement”. But the actual effect of that position is exposed by Michelle Alexander in her article “Why Hillary doesn’t deserve the Black vote”. She outlines the moves of the Clintons who have mastered the art of mixed cultural messages.  As she explained:

  • President Clinton oversaw the largest increase in Federal and State prison inmates of any President in history.
  • He escalated the war on drugs.
  • He supported the 100-1 sentence disparity for crack vs. powdered cocaine.
  • He supported 3 strikes you’re out in 1994 and passed a $30 billion dollar support of the police which resulted in the militarization of the police.
  • He passed a $16 billion dollar state prison grant.
  • When Clinton left office, the US had the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

And Clinton promoted the concept that Black children could be considered super predators with no conscious and no empathy. I recommend a careful study of Michelle’s article. Her book is the sole reason mass incarceration is a part of the American lexicon.

The only disagreement I have with Michelle’s analysis is the statement that the Democratic Party is not capable of being saved. Obviously, we have only 2 choices: take over the Democratic Party or create a viable Third Party. A viable Third Party can only be created by a successful battle within the Democratic Party to increase the contradictions within the party. We cannot wish into existence a viable Third Party. That requires a support of Bernie’s run for the presidency.

The Green Party is neither viable nor capable of being saved. It is losing cadre precisely because it has chosen to be irrelevant to the fight for power.

With Scalia’s death, the strangle hold of the reactionary forces on the courts, on the corporate media, and on the consciousness of the working class is weakening. The Republican Party has already announced that it will block a nomination by President Obama. That exposes the political position of both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party elite.

Only 2 candidates have generated enthusiasm for the fight – Trump with hatred and meanness and Bernie with an attack on the ruling elite. It is not difficult to see why Bernie’s campaign is so crucial to this struggle.

I predict that if Bernie gets the nomination and it is clear he will win, the Republican Party will accept Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court. That is why this battle is so important. That is why this election is the most important election in the last 80 years.

Also, as a result of this paper, I want to comment on the problems that we face in terms of this struggle. This paper is exactly what I said it was: sketchy. There is much more that can be said. We do not have a think tank that can produce long, detailed analysis of the progression of the struggle over the last 50 years.

I am a lifetime member of Jacobin magazine. I wanted to make sure that they survive. So I gave what I could. However, the academic Marxists lack a perspective of strategy and tactics forged in the process of actual struggles in the trenches.

On the other hand, those people such as myself who have been fighting in the trenches for the last 50 years, do not have the time to provide the scholarly work that is necessary to undergird the analysis which is just been provided.

However, we fight with what we have and the support of Bernie’s campaign has become a crucial project to protect the working class against the onslaught of fascism. Revolutionaries must recognize and accept the fact that we can only win when we make alliances with those who have perspectives fundamentally different than ours. If we had a “think tank” of seasoned Revolutionaries, obviously we would have much more power. At that point, we could create alliances. At this time, we have to accept alliances with those people and those operatives who are moving forward and having success with perspectives that do not fundamentally agree with ours. And, there is no doubt Bernie’s campaign calling for a revolution is an opportunity to discuss the kind of change that is necessary and the way in which the rich control our country.


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