By Thomas Frank
The Guardian (7/27/18)
The other day I noticed, with something of a shock, that Brett Kavanaugh, the supreme court nominee, is almost exactly the same age as me. I have always scoffed at those of my generation who cynically hitched their star to the conservative movement but now, as I take my leave from this space, it occurs to me that maybe they played the game right after all.
I started out in journalism in the orange-fingered sunset of the Reagan era. The rise of the right, I felt back then, was the most consequential development of my lifetime, and understanding it was where I came to focus my energies.
What came to fascinate me was the paradox of the thing. Republicans had successfully inverted their historical brand-image as the party of the highborn, remaking themselves as plain-talking pals of the forgotten people who had so spurned them during the Great Depression. Republicanism’s payload, however, was the same as it had been in 1932. And just look at what conservatism proceeded to do to those average people once they welcomed it into their lives.
The Democrats, however, remain a mystery. We watch them hesitate at crucial moments, betray the movements that support them, and even try to suppress the leaders and ideas that generate any kind of populist electricity.
But understanding the perversity of rightwing populism only brought me to another mystery: the continuing failure of liberals to defeat this thing, even as its freakishness and destructiveness became apparent to everyone. My brain twirls to think that rightwing populism is still running strong in 2018 – that it’s even worse now than it was in 1988 – that the invective and the journalism and the TV shows and all the mournful books about the decline of the middle class have amounted, basically, to nothing.
We had the perfect opportunity to reverse course in 2008, after a deregulatory catastrophe sent the billionaires shrieking for handouts and ruined middle America as collateral damage. That was the perfect moment for liberals to reclaim their Rooseveltian heritage by governing forcefully on behalf of ordinary people, by warring against over-powerful corporations, by demonstrating the power of the state to build a just and humane society. But they didn’t do it.
I know the excuses: those Republicans were so clever, they wouldn’t vote for Obama’s proposals, etc. But from the long-term perspective, what really mattered was the absence of Democratic will. …
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )
Who Represents Us When Both Our Political Parties Only Represent Corporations & War?
By David Korten
Yes! Magazine (7/23/18)
We the people of the United States find ourselves in a political crisis and resurgent tribalism that pits left against right, hard-left against moderate-left, and extreme-right against everyone else. The result is a political impasse that leaves us unable to address our own needs domestically and has stripped us of credibility globally.
The crisis has a simple explanation, and it didn’t start with the current occupant of the Oval Office. Irrespective of where we fall on the political spectrum, a great many of us don’t trust our own political system. Nor should we: It represents power that is captive to interests quite at odds with our own.
The political establishment’s sellout to corporate interests is reflected in every aspect of policy from military, to health care, to financial regulation, to education, the environment and much else. And the sellout is not exclusive to the Republican Party.
Two recent news stories brought this home to me in a way that might help us find common cause across the political spectrum.
The first story was about a meeting of the World Health Organization. Ecuador introduced a resolution calling on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and to restrict promotion of food products found to have deleterious effects on young children. Now what could be more unassailable than that?
Breastfeeding is a wholly natural process and scientific studies confirm that breast milk is the best food source for infants. While most all the national representatives rallied behind the initiative, the United States’ representatives stood firmly in opposition. They even threatened Ecuador with trade sanctions and a cutback in military aid.
Their stance surely did not represent the interests or preferences of the American people. The U.S. representatives left those present with no doubt that they were representing the interest of transnational corporations that sell infant formula.
Within days of the breastfeeding incident, President Trump was attacking the U.S.’s NATO allies in Europe for spending too little on their militaries. At first mention his argument seemed reasonable. Surely our allies should pay their fair share for our common defense.
But then a deeper reality hit home for me. Collapsing environmental and social systems are the greatest current threat to U.S. and world security. The more of Earth’s resources we use preparing for and conducting wars, the less we attend to the needs of our own people and the greater a burden humanity bears. That means we deprive more people of a means of living, more places on Earth become rendered uninhabitable, and a greater the number of people are forced to flee their homes as desperate refugees, or are turned in fear and hatred to terrorism against real and imagined enemies.
The biggest share of U.S. military expenditure goes to preparing for war with another world power—specifically, Russia or China. Russia may tamper with our elections and China is beating our socks off as a global economic competitor, but both have much to lose and nothing to gain from starting a 20th century-style conventional war with the United States that would be fought with 21st century weapons. They are aware such a war would have devastating consequences for all—worst of all if it involved nuclear weapons.
Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia has not threatened us and our interests nearly so much as we have threatened Russia’s interests. We’ve integrated former members of the Soviet Union into NATO right up to the borders of Russia. China’s economic expansion is simply following the U.S. example, but doing so far more competently.
Our military, however, has not been idle. We have wasted many lives and caused much damage to people, infrastructure, and nature pursuing pointless wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Our drone strikes inflict further pain and terror on helpless innocents in more countries than we know.
Our problem is not that we and our allies are spending too little on war, but that we are spending far too much. …