With the election season in the US once again in full swing and the country more divided, polarized and angrier than ever, the geopolitical and economic tremors are sure to be felt way beyond American shores. Just before his death, the renowned former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker outlined a sinister turn he feels the US has taken. He says, “nihilistic forces are dismantling policies to protect our air, water and climate, and they seek to discredit the pillars of our democracy, voting rights and fair elections, the rule of law, free press, the separation of powers, the belief in science and the concept of truth itself.”
Renegade Inc host Ross Ashcroft travelled to the Big Apple to discuss more about the sinister turn the US is taking with New York based writer and activist for peace and justice issues, Margaret Kimberley.
Distracting the people
With inequality in America at stratospheric levels, the notion that the country continues to be the leader of the free world, sounds increasingly hollow. But it’s not just America where the social injustice rot has set in. The disenchantment people feel with liberal democracy in general is borne out of real life struggles and the inability of society to meet basic human needs.
Focusing on the US, Kimberley says:
“We’re told that things like a higher minimum wage and a better (non-profit) healthcare system can’t be addressed and we’re not told about the violence that our country inflicts upon the rest of the world. Instead, we have a system which gets people to talk about things that aren’t important”.
Other ostensibly well-meaning issues (eg. abortion/gay rights, impeachment hearings etc) are deliberately stoked, says Kimberley, to create a distraction from the notion that the state has a social responsibility to address more fundamental needs that include issues around human rights. This process has happened to the extent that the public no longer know how to make demands of their government. “We’ve been told the only thing we can do is vote”, says Kimberley.
An excess of democracy
The US ruling class strategy to pacify and depoliticize the masses, particularly the young, is related to the concern about the development of what the Trilateral Commission in their first report described as an “excess of democracy” and a “general challenge to existing systems of authority.” The rise in popularity of Bernie Sanders is regarded by the establishment as a challenge to their authority and therefore he will be pilloried during the election campaign for promulgating humane policies such as universal Medicare and raising the minimum wage.
By contrast, Barack Obama was an adept tactician in service to power, while Hillary Clinton couldn’t convincingly lie.
“She’s a terrible politician. Obama’s record, which was sketchy, was something she could not run on because she didn’t have his skills – the very basic things of running a campaign she did not do”, says Kimberley.
Arguably, the most critical of Clinton’s errors were her complacency and misjudgments. She wrongly assumed, for example, that the billions of dollars in free advertising the corporate media afforded to the Trump campaign was a good thing because she thought if people saw him, he’d be less popular. But the reverse turned out to have been the case. Kimberley says that Clinton actually played a key role in promoting Trump, whose appeal to many people was his overt racism. Also, with Obama gone, a large constituency of potential Democratic Party voters went with him.
Challenging US hegemony
With democracy in retreat and the Far Right in the ascendancy indicative of the Trump presidency, many people both inside and outside America are pinning their hopes on Bernie Sanders to challenge the neoliberal socioeconomic consensus. But the activist casts her net more broadly.
“We all have a responsibility to challenge US economic and military hegemony. I think the US should be seen as the aggressor around the world. The United States is the military and financial power. And countries just give in to this power”, says Kimberley.
The writer adds that the dominant narratives which promote aggressive US domestic and foreign policy are overseen by a consolidated media comprised of just six corporations who propagandize on behalf of big money donors. This is a system that, by definition, is anti-democratic – an oligarchy – and has been structurally configured that way. It is very difficult to heal the wounds of a divided country when the system limits the boundaries of what is intellectually and politically permissible.
US exceptionalism-triumphalist propaganda and the notion that the rest of the world is dispensable, is drummed into American’s from an early age. With the collapse of the Soviet Union these ideas and the notion that capitalism is good and socialism bad became the predominant view in academia and elsewhere as exemplified, for example, by the discredited The End Of History thesis. “You keep feeding people stuff. And the end result is, is what we have, that there are millions of people who will speak against something that could help them”, says Kimberley.
The activist argues that it’s only through mass movements against issues that directly impact on people can this situation be rectified. However, new movements for change won’t come quick enough for Kimberley, who believes that Trump will be re-elected, while on the Democratic Party side, the activist claims that Sanders’ nomination will be stolen from him. For Kimberley, the current system should be reconfigured. “I’m not sure what it will take for people to reach a level of desperation where there’s the mass movement that we need. But I think we’re getting there”, she says.