“The liberal class’ embrace of right-wing policies, its subservience to markets, bailouts for the rich and the crushing austerity for the poor and working classes has led to a legitimate rage among American workers. And in these moments of unfettered capitalism that human beings, as well as the natural world, become nothing more than commodities to be exploited until exhaustion or collapse.”
The Anti-Social Socialist on Mar 29, 2020
The Failure of Liberalism
“Liberalism provided me with an intellectual satisfaction that I never found in fundamentalism. I became so enamored with the insights of liberalism that I almost fell into the trap of accepting uncritically everything it encompassed.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
In the former Yugoslavia, before Karadizic, Milosevic or Tudman, and in Weimar Germany, before Hitler, there were systemic breakdowns that resulted in the working class being pushed to the fringes of society.
The masses were forsaken by the liberal elites who abandoned their principles in a scramble to retain power and privilege. By doing so, they no longer allowed the majority to address their grievances within the confines of the established political order. As a result, the working class turned to right-wing, charismatic demagogues who, instead of confronting the cause of the collapse, scapegoated the weak and disenfranchised while promising moral renewal and a return to glory.
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges writes:
“In a traditional democracy, the liberal class functions as a safety valve. It makes piecemeal and incremental reform possible. It offers hope for a change and proposes gradual steps toward greater equality.”
This safety valve however was shut off in 1992 with the election of Bill Clinton. Clinton was the prototype for a new kind of liberal. He famously claimed “The Era of Big Government is over” and immediately moved to the political center in what he referred to as “triangulation”. And while he continued to speak in the “feel your pain” language of traditional liberalism, he, and the New Democrats, began to serve corporate interests.
Rather than oppose the power of money in politics, Bill Clinton embraced it, giving the working class nowhere to turn. All of his major achievements were republican policies, NAFTA which outsourced manufacturing jobs and drove down wages for workers while increasing profits for corporations, the Omnibus Crime Bill which criminalized Black life and lead to the explosion of private, for-profit prisons.
Welfare Reform which shredded the nation’s social safety net, the Telecommunications Act which consolidated media power reducing the 20 companies that controlled the news to 5, and the repeal of Glass-Steagall which deregulated Wall St. leading directly to the 2008 crash and giving birth to the contemporary far-right.
These policies accelerated the transfer of wealth to the 1%. Not understanding what was happening, a betrayed white working class began to scapegoat people of color, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, the LBGTQ communities and other marginalized groups which caused liberals to busy themselves with political correctness, identity politics and boutique activism. In doing so, they abandoned the working class, fully embraced the free market doctrine of Reaganomics and thus turned democrats into republicans, which pushed the Republican Party so far to the right that it has, as conservative political scientist Norman Orstein, American Enterprise Institute says:
“[The Republican Party has] become an insurgent outlier in American politics — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
To put the far-right shift in perspective; under Eisenhower the top marginal tax rate was 92%. Bernie Sanders’ proposed a top marginal tax rate of 54%. That’s how far right the economy has gone. That a moderate republican from the 1950’s was far to the Left of a Democratic-Socialist today. In his book Listen, Liberal! Author Thomas Frank writes:
“When the Left party in a system severs its bonds to working people—when it dedicates itself to the concerns of a particular slice of high-achieving affluent people—issues of work and income inequality will inevitably fade from its list of concerns.”
The liberal class’ embrace of right-wing policies, its subservience to markets, bailouts for the rich and the crushing austerity for the poor and working classes has led to a legitimate rage among American workers. And in these moments of unfettered capitalism that human beings, as well as the natural world, become nothing more than commodities to be exploited until exhaustion or collapse.
The U.S. population could not make heads or tales of what was happening to them because the liberal media, which is supposed to check those in power, decided to serve them. The liberal class never addressed the root causes of poverty and injustice in the capitalist system because they benefit so greatly from it. That failure added to the rage and irrationality of the working class’s inevitable response. Political dissident Noam Chomsky writes:
“I don’t bother writing about Fox News. It is too easy. What I talk about are the liberal intellectuals, the ones who portray themselves and perceive themselves as challenging power, as courageous, as standing up for truth and justice. They are basically the guardians of the faith. They set the limits. They tell us how far we can go. They say, ‘Look how courageous I am.’ But do not go one millimeter beyond that. At least for the educated sectors, they are the most dangerous in supporting power.”
A betrayed working class who looked, as they historically did, to the liberal establishment for answers and relief, found only ridicule, judgement, lecturing and platitudes from the well-educated technocrats causing them to look to anyone to provide answers, no matter how buffoonish. As George Orwell wrote:
“It is futile to be anti-fascist while attempting to preserve capitalism. Fascism, after all, is only a development of capitalism.”
And Vladimir Lenin who said, “Fascism is capitalism in decay.”
Liberals prefer the mask of civility and soft, Ivy League language when eroding civil liberties and expanding the surveillance state, crushing descent; using the military to force markets on the developing world and profiting from the poverty that their capitalist system creates. They hate Trump because he has shattered the comforting illusions of their horribly corrupt system has laid bare its internal rot for all to see.
Removing Trump will not address the underlying issues that cleared the path for his rise. Electing another polished, educated spokesman to defend a system that causes so much unnecessary and widespread suffering will only result in more Trumps to be vomited up. We cannot fight the symptom by nominating the disease.
Malcolm X reminded us in the 1960’s, “You cannot have capitalism without racism.”
So before the racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, nationalism and all other injustices that the bourgeoisie rightfully despise can be addressed, liberals must denounce and dismantle the capitalist system they so gleefully serve. As Chris Hedges wrote:
“We have to grasp, as Marx and Adam Smith did, that corporations are not concerned with the common good. They exploit, pollute, impoverish, repress, kill and lie to make money. They throw poor families out of homes, let the uninsured die, wage useless wars to make profits, poison and pollute the ecosystem, slash social assistance programs, gut public education, trash the global economy, plunder the U.S. Treasury and crush all popular movements that seek justice for working men and women.”
Thanks for watching. Democracy starts with you!
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