A Revolution A Website and Anger Could Be an Omen

There is a streaming website called LiveNewsCloud.tv that has been around for quite some time( in a couple of different formats). And has lately become quite a microcosm of the prevailing state of the politically non-conservative mind in the U.S. You see, LiveNewsCloud has almost all available cable news live feeds from the U.S. and still more from around the globe. But by far the most consistently visited individual channel is the one with a good ole, old-time-ish chat room connected to the U.S. cable network with the smallest U.S. audience…MSNBC. Yes, that’s right, MSNBC. And it gets far and away the highest traffic. All others combined don’t come close.trump

Most discussions used to center around what is taking place on MSNBC, which for a time (actually it seems to have peaked during the run up to the election of Barack Obama) tried to be the only network in the wildly exaggerated “liberal media” that actually provided progressive viewpoints on broadcast or cable news.

This label endured despite the outrageously conservatively biased and self-aggrandizing Morning Joe program which has been the bully pulpit of Joe Scarborough (the 6-year Congressman from Florida who resigned in a harried manner after a young female intern of the Congressman was found dead in his office) and his table of yes-men and woman (Mika Brzezinski—daughter of former LBJ and Jimmy Carter political strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski—and who is the absolute epitome of social elitism who failed as a serious journalist and is now relegated to pretending to be the egomaniacal Scarborough’s liberal foil in order to maintain any form of “relevance”, and of course, money).

MSNBC’s short-lived run at relevance was primarily built upon unequaled coverage of President Barack Obama’s run up to, and first couple of years of, his soon-to-be-concluded historical presidency that conservatives have literally and figuratively tried to erase from the history of the United States. Since then, however, as the excitement gave way to Republican obstructionism and the drudgery of every day mechanations of governing this very large and polarized country, MSNBC has struggled, especially after ComCast bought GE’s ownership of NBCUniversal in February 2013 for $16.7bn. Comcast has steadily winnowed and mismanaged every vestige of MSNBC’s viability, much less progressive political viewpoints, except for the best political reporter on U.S. television, Rachel Maddow, along with the steady Lawrence O’Donnell, who air back to back in the latter two prime-time hours.

But the conversations that take place most of the day and night in LNC’s MSNBC chat room were still primarily progressive, more intellectual, and, until recently, mostly civil.

The 2007 election process was viewed in this setting as pro-Obama most of the time, but the same troubles that are plaguing the GOP are enveloping the Democratic Party, but since they aren’t covered by the media like the firebrands and hate-filled seat fillers on the conservative side, the average frustrated American just doesn’t hear about it. But in the LiveNewsCloud MSNBC chat room, one can see just as much division and acrimony involving the Hillary Clinton vs Bernie Sanders, as on the GOP side of politics.

In the presidential primaries Donald Trump’s chauvinistic nationalism and loutish antics have been the foremost spectacle. The Democratic contest has been as always, one of more reason, courtesy, and substance by comparison. But the Republican Party is pretty much falling to pieces with the fading control by the neocon branch of the party that has been the beneficiary of the Reagan Coalition but it is crumbling before our eyes having determined it is more important to obstruct your political opponent and destroy millions of American’s lives than to govern for the good of all Americans.

But it is the surprising movement behind Bernie Sanders, the socialist Senator from Vermont, that may signal a leftward shift — ultimately more consequential — in US politics. But this kind of change never comes easily and if this movement is serious, they had better know what is coming and have the stamina and stomach for it.

The most striking fact about Bernie Sanders’ support is that, although at 74 he is one of the oldest candidates ever to run for President, he has the youngest supporters. In the Iowa caucuses, he won an estimated 84 per cent of the vote of those aged 18 to 29, compared with Hillary Clinton’s 14 per cent, even though she came out just ahead overall. In New Hampshire Bernie Sanders won the youth vote by a similar ratio. These are unprecedented margins. In 2008 Barack Obama was the choice of young voters, but by nothing like those proportions.

What are these young Democratic voters saying with their curious vogue for “Old Man” Sanders? Many different things, of course, and all legitimate: that corporate money has corrupted politics; that they are unimpressed with the symbolic prospect of finally electing the first woman president; that their university debt burden is too heavy; that they do not believe Hillary Clinton is quite honest; and that they find Bernie Sanders authentic and sincere.

But more than any of these particular messages, millennial supporters of Bernie Sanders are expressing a philosophical shift. Rather than the pragmatic urgency of the older Democrats, who are looking at the chance to swing the Supreme Court back to some degree of sanity after the passing of Antonin Scalia, they are saying they reject the current configuration of liberal capitalism as a system capable of producing a decent society. And for the record, I agree. Few of Bernie Sanders’ voters are true socialists in the sense of subscribing to a Marxian economic framework prescribing state ownership of industry, redistribution of wealth and a planned economy. It’s patterned like all of our allies’ democratic socialism used in the Scandinavian countries, Canada, the Eurozone, Australia…basically every free country but the U.S. We like our pre-1824 weird and illogical system of measurements and damn everyone elses use of the metric system. And while they’re at it, they’d better learn English because we say so. But the term “socialist”does not alarm them as it did their parents.

In fact, the generational divide on democratic socialism moderately reflects the Clinton-Sanders split. In polls, people over 55 remain mildly negative about it, primarily because they simply do not realize that most of the free world uses it quite successfully and profitably, including the mighty National Football League. Those under 30, however, are now more likely to favor socialism over capitalism. This is not surprising given what they have seen in their lifetimes. The poor showing made by capitalism since 2008, along with the disappearance of any Communist threat, has made socially conscious, label-averse, diversity-amenable, college educated and college-cost induced, indebted young people question the assumption that our corrupt and hypocritical brand of capitalism is the only supportable economic system that is viable for America.

The one point of commonality between angry Americans on left and right is a sense of outrage surrounding the 2007 financial collapse and its aftermath with not a single prosecution of the Wall Street perpetrators (with which I emphatically agree and have written about at length) who were the cause of many of these same young people’s parents loss of financial security, as well as their own.

The right’s immediate anger was expressed by the Tea Party, which originally objected because bailouts violated free-market principles. But they were eventually absorbed into the politically savvy right-wing conservatives. The left’s reaction was Occupy Wall Street, which focused on Washington’s failure to break up the banks or punish those res­ponsible for the crisis, but ultimately faded and disappeared due to lack of organization and staying power. Bernie Sanders seeks to take that dormant movement’s anger about the plutocracy from the streets to the ballot box. Its resonant message is that the rich have too much and get away with too much because the system is rigged to favor the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

If Occupy Wall Street points to one pillar of Sanders’ support, Black Lives Matter points to another. Here, the issue is not so much the failure of capitalism as the sorry performance of liberalism (Democrats) in the U.S., which has not moved to sufficiently challenge gross racial disparities in the drug war or mass incarceration. Police killings of unarmed African-American men demonstrate how little the criminal justice system could change even under an African-American president. Sanders, whose political success may depend more than anything else on his ability to pull African-American voters away from Hillary Clinton, gets this. His latest television commercial features Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after being placed in a chokehold by New York City police officers and her talking about her commitment to racial justice.

Obama ran on change within the system. Bernie Sanders is running on a critique of a system that has been unable to produce sufficient change on these and other issues less materially-focused, more survival-oriented, people care about — including global warming and economic inequality. By supporting Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton, younger people are dissociating themselves from the “free market means to progressive ends” worldview of the Democrats since the 1990s. They are ex­pressing dissatisfaction with a model of social betterment that has produced disappointing results.

However, to conclude that the Sanders phenomenon represents the resurrection of an older tradition of US socialism/activism is probably too simplistic. Most of his followers do not share his sense of connection to the civil rights movement. To them, the crotchety old guy who has been angry at the American privileged class his whole life is simply the best messenger to express their own anger toward it.

Reducing it to a proper roux, Bernie Sanders’ followers are not so much embracing a pragmatic alternative as they are rejecting a known set of evils. For this reason, the argument that he is unelectable, and that if elected would be even more hamstrung than President Obama has been, carries little weight with his supporters. The pragmatism of his policies — and the probability of ever enacting them — doesn’t even appear to be a consideration.

Their message is: we are pissed off. Heed us or lose our support. Or in a more cynical view, give us our way or we’ll hold our breath and scream at the checkout stand.

For the record, here is how I see this horrible election cycle; and I’ll only address the Democrats because in my heart and mind, I sincerely believe that if a Republican wins the White House I think our economy is doomed because the Republican candidates simply don’t care if the poor and middle class suffer in order to appease their financial supporters.

First Hillary Clinton:

Former first lady. Former senator. Former secretary of state.

It’s a remarkable resume for someone who is widely despised and even more widely distrusted. Between liberals who consider her a sellout to the Wall Street crowd and conservatives who consider her evil incarnate, the core of voters who truly like Clinton is perilously small.

I don’t agree with the argument that she’s not qualified. I don’t agree with the argument that she’s not intelligent. And from a policy standpoint, I agree with some of what she supports.

But she is tragically divisive, and that should matter. Yes, Republicans will try to destroy any Democratic presidential nominee — they would find a way to demonize a fluffy kitten if it was the candidate. But still, it would be nice to have a presidential hopeful whose baseline with people from the other side of the aisle wasn’t: She should be in prison.

And Bernie Sanders:

Bernie. I’ve just about had it with your supporters.

Typing those words dooms me to an abundance of online scorn from Sanders’ fiery supporters, who strike with the tact and ferocity of Trump fans (just like the Ron Paul supporters of his last presidential run)at anyone who dares speak non-support of their hero. But this kind of vitriol just doesn’t convince anyone to vote for their candidate—quite the opposite. There’s enthusiastic and there’s annoying, rude and condescending. They don’t see the difference through the fog of their anger.

Bernie, most of your young acolytes fall into this category, though not all, of course. But they are hurting your chances. Trust me. I’m hard pressed to like a candidate but not vote for him/her due to the type of supporter they inspire, but they’re getting there. I didn’t like Ron Paul fanatics with their me, me, me views and ignorance of gold standard economics, and I don’t like the way yours carry your message with anger, condescension, and assumptions that others see a different way to the same goal are traitors or stupid.

Instead of expressing cogent ways you could win, they attack Hillary and and anyone who supports her, no matter their reasons. For the party of empathy and intellectuals, these people do not interact well with people…they attack those who are not even their enemy.  Alienating them is just plain stupid and they should either convince them or leave them be; not berate them. Of all people you should know better.

I like Sanders’ focus on income inequality in this country, and I would love to see many of his ideas come to fruition — free college, health care for everyone, equitably shared burden of the mess we’re in. But the question of how that would all be acomplished is legitimate. The answer is long and complicated and involves selflessness on the part of people not accustomed to it. It’s a long-term plan. But Americans are addicted to convenience, and swift, personalized results. According to history, your ardent enthusiasts will fade into the background with every bureaucratic-induced failure and every year of their increasingly complicated lives.Pardon we who see immediate extinction if all Democrats don’t unite and vote for whichever candidate wins and don’t view this as the optimal moment in history for an all-or-nothing gamble.

Most of what Sanders promises requires a wide-ranging political revolution — including a complete ideological shift in Congress — that is a virtual impossibility. Would I like it to happen? Hell yes, for the most part. And I can respect those who say that you can’t achieve change without trying, even if you fail at first.

But failure at this moment in history means:

  • A probable Trump, or worse, presidency.
  • The rolling back of almost everything President Barack Obama has accomplished beginning with health insurance, and the demise of social security and medicare.
  • And at least one and possibly several arch-conservative Supreme Court justices stacking the highest court in the country for decades to come.
  • And, it’s worth repeating, a probable, untenable, disasterous Trump, or worse, presidency.

This generation simply can’t grasp that it has never had to:

  • Worry about being drafted into the military for a war in which their peers were unwillingly forced into military service to be killed by the tens of thousands for some mythical “Domino Theory” of communism that was as much bullshit as the WMDs of Iraq.
  • Witness just how close a Republican administration (President Nixon — Joseph McCarthy’s right-hand man and Vice President Spiro Agnew –who pleaded no contest to a charge of federal income tax evasion in exchange for the dropping of charges of political corruption) came to using one branch of the military over another to protect a defiant and repeatedly proven corrupt White House from Americans screaming for their resignations or impeacment.
  • Witness the National Guard advance on a University campus and murder unarmed, peaceful protesters or the State and local police spraying a womens’ dormitory at a Black university in Mississippi with automatic rifle fire and shotguns, killing 2 students and severely injuring 14 more with impunity.
  • And has never seen the horrifying reality of a nuclear game of chicken, a sitting President, his Attorney General and America’s greatest Civil Rights leader all assassinated within a 5-year period.

And this same group of entusiastic people thinks that this is a time that needs a revolution and is as bad as it can get under Republicans running all three branches of the federal government and the majority of state and local governments. I would be thrilled if their enthusiasm would have translated into midterm election turnouts that would’ve made a tremendous difference in the Obama administration…but it didn’t and now we have an emergency and they don’t acknowledge that.

No less than the country’s economic viability and Democrats’ ideology’s imminent demise is at stake if a Republican is elected President. But timing is important and I don’t see the acknowledgement. Revolution is messy and I frankly don’t see the physical nor mental will or experience to sustain it once it starts and suffers a setback. I see anger and the inability to fight the long, smart battle in an age of immediate gratification and selfies.

But the Revolution is real. The website (LNC) is a micrcosm of that reality and its mildest form of what could be harbinger or maybe an omen, but its peanuts to what’s taking place in GOPlandia. And if you actually take time to look back and see what similar American-style “revolutions” have yielded, be they military or ideological, the outcomes are NOT predictable and often quite traumatic, with no take-backs.

But as a first-hand witness to all of the historical references mentioned above, I have to ask that well-meaning liberals, progressives, or whatever your preferred label may be, pleae take my word for one thing. It’s in your best interest as well as all you stand for to be cognizant of the reality of friendly fire.

Remember from whom the most imminent danger comes. Republicans. It’s Donald Trump, or any one else with an (R) beside their name. They have one common goal and they fight very dirty to achieve it…the complete political destruction of the Democrats and all that they stand for.

And the Democrats’ current firewall between that Trump train (or any other clown in the car) and the White House with a stacked conservative Supreme Court is a candidate who many, rightly or wrongly, don’t fully trust or a socialist whose largest base of voters are, rightly or wrongly, not known for their determination to view the long game, but have a history of relatively short spurts of admirably furious but unsustained effort at all levels of government elections.

My sense is that if all Democrats don’t turn out for this election first, so that we have another chance to rectify the abject foolhardiness of not recognizing the importance of midterm elections, no matter who the Democratic candidate might be, we will have many more and much worse results than anything we have experienced in this country in a very very long time.

Harvey A. Gold