Sunday, January 15, 2017

Goodbye, American neoliberalism. A new era is here Cornel West

Trump’s election was enabled by the policies that overlooked the plight of our most vulnerable citizens. We gird ourselves for a frightening future

‘What is to be done? First we must try to tell the truth.’
Thursday 17 November 2016 06.00 EST Last modified on Saturday 19 November 2016 15.06 EST

The neoliberal era in the United States ended with a neofascist bang. The political triumph of Donald Trump shattered the establishments in the Democratic and Republican parties – both wedded to the rule of Big Money and to the reign of meretricious politicians.

The Bush and Clinton dynasties were destroyed by the media-saturated lure of the pseudo-populist billionaire with narcissist sensibilities and ugly, fascist proclivities. The monumental election of Trump was a desperate and xenophobic cry of human hearts for a way out from under the devastation of a disintegrating neoliberal order – a nostalgic return to an imaginary past of greatness.

White working- and middle-class fellow citizens – out of anger and anguish – rejected the economic neglect of neoliberal policies and the self-righteous arrogance of elites. Yet these same citizens also supported a candidate who appeared to blame their social misery on minorities, and who alienated Mexican immigrants, Muslims, black people, Jews, gay people, women and China in the process.

This lethal fusion of economic insecurity and cultural scapegoating brought neoliberalism to its knees. In short, the abysmal failure of the Democratic party to speak to the arrested mobility and escalating poverty of working people unleashed a hate-filled populism and protectionism that threaten to tear apart the fragile fiber of what is left of US democracy. And since the most explosive fault lines in present-day America are first and foremost racial, then gender, homophobic, ethnic and religious, we gird ourselves for a frightening future.

What is to be done? First we must try to tell the truth and a condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak. For 40 years, neoliberals lived in a world of denial and indifference to the suffering of poor and working people and obsessed with the spectacle of success. Second we must bear witness to justice. We must ground our truth-telling in a willingness to suffer and sacrifice as we resist domination. Third we must remember courageous exemplars like Martin Luther King Jr, who provide moral and spiritual inspiration as we build multiracial alliances to combat poverty and xenophobia, Wall Street crimes and war crimes, global warming and police abuse – and to protect precious rights and liberties.

Feminists misunderstood the presidential election from day one
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The age of Obama was the last gasp of neoliberalism. Despite some progressive words and symbolic gestures, Obama chose to ignore Wall Street crimes, reject bailouts for homeowners, oversee growing inequality and facilitate war crimes like US drones killing innocent civilians abroad.

Rightwing attacks on Obama – and Trump-inspired racist hatred of him – have made it nearly impossible to hear the progressive critiques of Obama. The president has been reluctant to target black suffering – be it in overcrowded prisons, decrepit schools or declining workplaces. Yet, despite that, we get celebrations of the neoliberal status quo couched in racial symbolism and personal legacy. Meanwhile, poor and working class citizens of all colors have continued to suffer in relative silence.

In this sense, Trump’s election was enabled by the neoliberal policies of the Clintons and Obama that overlooked the plight of our most vulnerable citizens. The progressive populism of Bernie Sanders nearly toppled the establishment of the Democratic party but Clinton and Obama came to the rescue to preserve the status quo. And I do believe Sanders would have beat Trump to avert this neofascist outcome!

Click and elect: how fake news helped Donald Trump win a real election
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In this bleak moment, we must inspire each other driven by a democratic soulcraft of integrity, courage, empathy and a mature sense of history – even as it seems our democracy is slipping away.

We must not turn away from the forgotten people of US foreign policy – such as Palestinians under Israeli occupation, Yemen’s civilians killed by US-sponsored Saudi troops or Africans subject to expanding US military presence.

As one whose great family and people survived and thrived through slavery, Jim Crow and lynching, Trump’s neofascist rhetoric and predictable authoritarian reign is just another ugly moment that calls forth the best of who we are and what we can do.

For us in these times, to even have hope is too abstract, too detached, too spectatorial. Instead we must be a hope, a participant and a force for good as we face this catastrophe.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Why the Fear-mongering? Only One Democratic State is Possible in Palestine and Israel

From Palestine Chronicle


By Ramzy Baroud

(Original Link)

Long before December 28, when Secretary of State, John Kerry took the podium at the Dean Acheson Auditorium in Washington DC to pontificate on the uncertain future of the two-state solution and the need to save Israel from itself, the subject of a Palestinian state has been paramount.
In fact, unlike common belief, the push to establish a Palestinian and a Jewish state side-by-side goes back years before the passing of United Nations Resolution 181 in November 1947. That infamous resolution had called for the partitioning of Palestine into three entities: a Jewish state, a Palestinian state and an international regime to govern Jerusalem.
A more thorough reading of history can pinpoint multiple references to the Palestinian (or Arab state) between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
The idea of two states is western par excellence. No Palestinian party or leader had ever thought that partitioning the holy land was ever an option. Then, such an idea seemed preposterous, partly because, as Ilan Pappe's 'Ethnic Cleaning of Palestine' shows, "almost all of the cultivated land in Palestine was held by the indigenous population (while) only 5.8% percent was in Jewish ownership in 1947."
An earlier, but equally important reference to a Palestinian state was made in the Peel Commission, a British commission of inquiry, led by Lord Peel that was sent to Palestine to investigate the reasons behind the popular strike, uprising and later armed rebellion that began in 1936 and lasted for nearly three years.
The "underlying causes of the disturbances" were two, resolved the commission: Palestinian desire for independence, and the "hatred and fear of the establishment of the Jewish national home." The latter was promised by the British government to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland in 1917 which became known as the 'Balfour Declaration.'
The Peel Commission recommended the partition of Palestine into a Jewish state and a Palestinian state, which would be incorporated into Transjordan, with enclaves reserved for the British Mandate government.
In the time between that recommendation eighty years ago, and Kerry's warning that the two-state solution is "in serious jeopardy," little has been done in terms of practical steps to establish a Palestinian state. Worse, the US has used its veto power in the UN repeatedly to impede the establishment of a Palestinian state, as well as utilizing its political and economic might to intimidate others from recognizing (although symbolically) a Palestinian state. It has further played a key role in funding illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem - all of which rendered the existence of a Palestinian state virtually impossible.
The issue now is: why does the West continue to use the two-state solution as their political parameter for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while, at the same time ensuring that their own prescription for conflict resolution is never to become a reality?
The answer, partly, lies in the fact the two-state solution was never devised for implementation to begin with. Like the 'peace process' and other pretenses, it aimed to promote among Palestinians and Arabs the idea that there is a goal worth striving for, despite being unattainable.
But even that goal was itself conditioned on a set of demands that were unrealistic to begin with. Historically, Palestinians had to renounce violence (their armed resistance to Israel's military occupation), consent to various UN resolutions (even if Israel still reject those resolutions), accept Israel's 'right' to exist as a Jewish state, and so on. That yet-to-be-established Palestinian state was also meant to be demilitarized, divided between the West Bank and Gaza, and excluding most of Occupied East Jerusalem.
Many new 'creative' solutions were also offered to alleviate any Israeli fears that the nonexistent Palestinian state, in case of its establishment, never pose a threat to Israel. At times, discussions were afoot about a confederation between Palestine and Jordan, and other times, as in the most recent proposal by the head of Jewish Home Party, Israeli Minister Naftali Bennett, making Gaza a state of its own and annexing to Israel 60 percent of the West Bank.
And when Israel's allies, frustrated by the rise of the rightwing in Israel and the obstinacy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, insist that time is running out for a two-state solution, they express their worries in the form of tough love. Israel's settlement activity is "increasingly cementing an irreversible one-state reality," said Kerry in his major policy speech last month.
Such a reality would force Israel to either compromise on the Jewish identity of the state (as if having religious/ethnic identities of a modern democratic state is a common precondition) or having to contend with being an Apartheid state (as if such reality doesn't exist anyway.)
Kerry warned Israel that it will eventually be left with the option of placing Palestinians "under a permanent military occupation that deprives them of the most basic freedoms," thus paving the ground for a "separate and unequal" scenario.
Yet while warnings that a two-state solution possibility is disintegrating, few bothered to try to understand the reality from a Palestinian perspective.
For Palestinians, the debate on Israel having to choose between being democratic and Jewish is ludicrous. For them, Israel's democracy applies fully to its Jewish citizens and no one else, while Palestinians have subsisted for decades behind walls, fences, prisons and besieged enclaves, like the Gaza Strip.
And with two separate laws, rules and realities applying to two separate groups in the same land, Kerry's 'separate but unequal' Apartheid scenario had taken place the moment Israel was established in 1948.
Fed up by the illusions of their own failed leadership, according to a recent poll, two thirds of Palestinians now agree that a two-state solution is not possible. And that margin keeps on growing as fast as the massive illegal settlement enterprise dotting the Occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.
This is not an argument against the two-state solution; for the latter merely existed as a ruse to pacify Palestinians, buy time and demarcate the conflict with a mirage-like political horizon. If the US was indeed keen on a two-state solution, it would have fought vehemently to make it a reality, decades ago.
To say that the two-state solution is now dead is to subscribe to the illusion that it was once alive and possible.
That said, it behooves everyone to understand that co-existence in a one democratic state is not a dark scenario that spells doom for the region.
It is time to abandon unattainable illusions and focus all energies to foster co-existence, based on equality and justice for all.
Indeed, there can be one state between the river and the sea, and that is a democratic state for all of its people, regardless of their ethnicity or religious beliefs.
- Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include "Searching Jenin", "The Second Palestinian Intifada" and his latest "My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story". His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

Failing To Confront Trump’s Bigotry Is a Moral Stain on Simon Wiesenthal Center — and American Jews

from The Forward

In the decades to come, historians of American Jewry will ask how a community that keenly remembers its own experience with state bigotry produced institutions that excused the most nakedly bigoted major party presidential nominee in modern American history.

They will ask why the crowd at the policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee gave Donald Trump a standing ovation just three months after he proposed banning Muslim immigration to the United States. They will ask why the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations criticized neither that ban nor Trump’s racist attack on a Mexican-American judge.

And they will reserve a special mention for the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Marvin Hier. Despite running what is ostensibly a human rights organization, Hier ignored or downplayed Trump’s attacks on vulnerable minorities throughout the campaign.

And last week, Trump rewarded him by asking him to offer an inaugural prayer.


To grasp how dramatically the Wiesenthal Center failed the moral test that Trump posed, compare its behavior over the past 18 months to that of the Anti-Defamation League. In their respective stated missions, the two organizations are similar. The ADL “fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.” The Wiesenthal Center “confronts anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, promotes human rights and dignity, stands with Israel, defends the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaches the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations.”


But when it comes to Trump, the two organizations have interpreted those missions in very different ways. In December 2015, when Trump proposed a religious test for immigration to the United States, the ADL called it “unacceptable and antithetical to American values.” And it drew a parallel between the persecution of Jews and of Muslims, noting “In the Jewish community, we know all too well what can happen when a particular religious group is singled out for stereotyping and scapegoating.” The Wiesenthal Center criticized the ban. too, but in quite different terms. “Lumping all Muslims in the crosshairs of the Terrorism crisis only hurts the legitimate campaign against Islamist Fundamentalism and demeans law abiding American citizens,” Hier and his deputy, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, declared. “Such a policy would only serve to strengthen [Islamic State group] recruitment around the world.”

For the Wiesenthal Center, in other words, the real problem with banning Muslims was not moral but tactical. It undermines the “war on terror.” That’s like saying the real problem with denying African Americans civil rights was that it undermined America’s image during the Cold War.

In March, Hier told the New York Jewish Week, : “If I were an adviser to the Trump campaign, I would tell him to immediately go before the cameras and repudiate David Duke, Farrakhan and Le Pen. When the anti-Semites are circling the wagons, if I were Trump I would say I don’t need their support and don’t want it.”


But when Trump became the Republican nominee, the Wiesenthal Center fell conspicuously silent. Last July, when Trump retweeted a Jewish star surrounded by dollar signs, the ADL’s national director and CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said, “It is outrageous to think that the candidate is sourcing material from some of the worst elements in our society.” The Wiesenthal Center said nothing.

Marvin Hier
Why Rabbi Marvin Hier Giving His Blessing to Trump’s Inauguration Is a Good Thing
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When the Trump campaign, in its closing ad, featured three prominent Jews — George Soros, Lloyd Blankfein and Janet Yellen — alongside images of dollar bills and menacing language about “global special interests,” the ADL warned that “the images and rhetoric in this ad touch on subjects that anti-Semites have used for ages.” The Wiesenthal Center again said nothing.

When Trump won the election, American Jewry’s two largest anti-discrimination groups again reacted in strikingly different ways. In a clear reference to Trump’s attacks on Muslims, Mexican immigrants, journalists and others, the ADL noted,, “Democracy encompasses the full collection of our laws, our norms and institutions that enshrine and protect our freedoms… America remains a land of economic opportunity and personal freedom for all people regardless of their gender, race, class, faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation or political preference.” The Wiesenthal Center, by contrast, congratulated Trump for supporting Israel. and “commend[ed] Mr. Trump’s commitment which he made last night to strive to be the President of all Americans, including those who voted against him.” The implication was that, from a human rights perspective, Trump’s victory offered nothing to worry about.

The contrast continued when Trump chose former Breitbart executive chair Steve Bannon as his senior adviser. The ADL opposed the appointment, noting, “It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ — a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists — is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house.’” Hier, by contrast, remarked: “It’s definitely a controversial appointment. We’ll have to wait and see.” But given that “the president’s daughter converted to Orthodox Judaism,” he noted, “I do not believe that [Bannon’s] going to be, you know — can’t wait until I get to my office so I can spout some more anti-Semitism.”

In an interview, Cooper told me that he had been influenced by meeting Breitbart’s Jewish editor, Joel Pollak, who vigorously defended Bannon against anti-Semitism charges. What Cooper couldn’t adequately explain was why the Wiesenthal Center overlooked Breitbart’s far more blatant Islamophobia, as expressed in headlines like “Man Bites Dog: Muslim Is Nice to Non-Muslim”

Finally, as 2016 drew to a close, the ADL and the Wiesenthal Center each published lists of the top 10 “Manifestations of Anti-Semitism” (ADL) or “Global anti-Semitic/anti-Israel Incidents” (Wiesenthal Center) of the year. The ADL’s top four — harassment of Jewish journalists, post-election anti-Semitic incidents, neo-Nazi symbols on Twitter and the rise of the “alt-right” — all involved Trump’s supporters. The Wiesenthal Center’s list, by contrast, included only one Trump-related entry. (Cooper explained the difference, in part, as a function of the Wiesenthal Center’s more global focus). But even in the one entry it did devote to Trump’s supporters, the Wiesenthal Center claimed that Trump’s “ campaign denounced the hate-filled attacks” on Jewish journalists who had criticized him, which isn’t exactly true.

During an almost hour-long conversation, I found Cooper both charming and utterly sincere in his belief that he and Hier are fulfilling the Wiesenthal Center’s mandate to defend human rights. Unfortunately, I think the evidence suggests the opposite. Scott Goldstein, who once developed exhibits for the Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, came closer to the truth this past spring when he denounced “the silence of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in the face of the bigotry and intolerance sweeping our nation.”

What explains that silence? Some have pointed to donations from the Kushner family. And to the fact that the chairman of the Wiesenthal Center’s board of directors, Larry Mizel, raised money for Trump during the campaign.

But in a deeper sense, these affiliations are not the cause of the Wiesenthal Center’s moral failure — they are its product. The only reason the Wiesenthal Center attracted the support of Mizel and the Kushner family is that, for years, it has refused to defend the human rights of millions of West Bank Palestinians who lack basic rights under Israeli control. It’s hardly surprising that a rabbi who builds a “Museum of Tolerance” on the site of a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem is less than vigilant about the rights of Muslims in the United States. http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/a-special-place-in-hell/visit-jerusalem-s-new-museum-of-tolerance-feel-your-blood-boil.premium-1.434968

Hier didn’t start overlooking bigotry when Trump launched his presidential campaign; he and his organization have been doing so for a long time.

His presence at Trump’s inauguration will illustrate the way the American Jewish establishment’s refusal to defend human rights in Israel has eroded its capacity to defend human rights in the United States.

“Injustice anywhere,” Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “is a threat to justice everywhere.” On Friday, January 20, when Hier prays to God on Donald Trump’s behalf, he will teach us that lesson anew.

Peter Beinart is senior columnist and contributing editor at the Forward.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Glenn Greenwald: Democrats Eager to Blame "Everybody But Themselves" for Collapse of Their Party



Glenn Greenwald
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and one of the founding editors of The Intercept.

Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept
As Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies at a Senate hearing on Russian cyberthreats ahead of a highly classified briefing today with President-elect Donald Trump, we speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has faced an onslaught of criticism for questioning the premise of Russian hacking of the U.S. election. "Because Democrats are so desperate to put the blame on everybody but themselves for the complete collapse of their party, they’re particularly furious at anybody who vocally challenges this narrative," Greenwald says. "And since I’ve been one of the people most vocally doing so, the smear campaign has been like none that I have ever encountered. I have been accused of being a member of the alt-right, of being an admirer of Breitbart, of being supportive of Donald Trump, of helping him get elected and, of course, of being a Kremlin operative."

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: President-elect Donald Trump is slated to meet with U.S. intelligence chiefs today for a highly classified briefing on the alleged Russian cyber-attack of the 2017 election—a claim Trump disputes. Thursday night, Trump tweeted, quote, "The Democratic National Committee would not allow the FBI to study or see its computer info after it was supposedly hacked by Russia...... So how and why are they so sure about hacking if they never even requested an examination of the computer servers? What is going on?" Trump tweeted.

President Obama received the same briefing on Thursday, along with a 50-page classified intelligence document that reportedly says U.S. spy agencies intercepted Russian communications in which top Russian officials were congratulating each other on Donald Trump’s presidential win. The New York Times wrote of Trump’s meeting today with the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and others, quote, "In effect, they will be telling the president-elect that the spy agencies believe he won with an assist from [President] Vladimir V. Putin of Russia," unquote. An unclassified version of the report is expected to be released to the public next week.

This comes as Clapper appeared Thursday before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on foreign cyberthreats and said the intelligence community is resolute in its findings that Russians hacked the U.S. election. Arizona Republican Senator John McCain asked Clapper whether the alleged hacking would constitute an act of war.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Really, what we’re talking about is, if they were—if they succeeded in changing the results of an election, which none of us believe they were, that that would have to constitute an attack on the United States of America because of the effects, if they had succeeded. Would you agree with that?
JAMES CLAPPER: First, we cannot say—they did not change any vote tallies or anything of that sort. And we have no—
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Yeah, I’m just talking about—yeah.
JAMES CLAPPER: We have no way of gauging the impact that—certainly, the intelligence community can’t gauge the impact it had on choices the electorate made. There’s no way for us to gauge that. Whether or not that constitutes an act of war, I think, is a very heavy policy call that I don’t believe the intelligence community should make. But it certainly would carry, in my view, great gravity.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s national intelligence head James Clapper being questioned by Senator John McCain.

Well, on Thursday, Democracy Now!'s Nermeen Shaikh and I spoke with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, one of the founding editors of The Intercept. His latest piece is headlined "WashPost Is Richly Rewarded for False News About Russia Threat While Public Is Deceived." This is Part 2 of our conversation. I asked Glenn Greenwald about this article, the onslaught of criticism he's received for questioning the premise of Russian hacking of the election and how this compares to criticism he’s received in the past. Greenwald recently wrote, quote, "[I]n my 10-plus years of writing about politics on an endless number of polarizing issues—including the Snowden reporting—nothing remotely compares to the smear campaign that has been launched as a result of the work I’ve done questioning and challenging claims about Russian hacking and the threat posed by that country generally." I asked him to talk further about this.

GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, so I’ve done some, you know, pretty controversial and polarizing reporting in the past decade when I’ve been writing about politics. And when you do that, you obviously get attacked in lots of different ways. It’s not just me; it’s everybody who engages. It’s just sort of the rough and tumble of politics and journalism. But I really haven’t experienced anything even remotely like the smear campaign that has been launched by Democrats in this really coordinated way ever since I began just expressing skepticism about the prevailing narrative over Russia and its role that it allegedly played in the election and, in particular, in helping to defeat Hillary Clinton. I mean, not even the reporting I did based on the Edward Snowden archive, which was extremely controversial in multiple countries around the world, not even that compared to the attacks now.
And the reason is very, very obvious, which is that it has become exceptionally important to Democratic partisans to believe that the reason they lost this election is not because they chose a candidate who was corrupt and who was extremely disliked and who symbolized all of the worst failings of the Democratic Party. It’s extremely important to them not to face what is really a systemic collapse on the part of the Democratic Party as a political force in the United States, in the House, in the Senate, in state houses and governorships all over the country. And so, in order not to face any of that and have to confront their own failings, they instead want to focus everything on Vladimir Putin and Russia and insist that the reason they lost was because this big, bad dictator interfered in the election. And anyone who challenges or anyone who questions that instantly becomes not just their enemy, but now, according to their framework, someone who’s actually unpatriotic, that if you question the evidence, the sufficiency of the evidence to support this theory, that somehow your loyalties are suspect, that you’re not just a critic of the Democratic Party, you’re actually a stooge of or an agent of the Kremlin.
And obviously we’ve seen this rhetoric for decades during the Cold War, although back then it was the far right using it against Democrats for wanting to have better relations with Russia. We saw it in 2002, when people who questioned the sufficiency of the evidence about Saddam’s WMDs were accused of being apologists for Saddam or agents of Iraq. We’ve seen it repeatedly through the war on terror. Whenever anyone questions the policies of the U.S. government, you get accused of being pro-terrorist or on the side of al-Qaeda. These are the kinds of bullying smear tactics that have become very common.
But because Democrats are so desperate to put the blame on everybody but themselves for the complete collapse of their party, they’re particularly furious at anybody who vocally challenges this narrative. And since I’ve been one of the people most vocally doing so, the smear campaign has been like none that I have ever encountered. I have been accused of being a member of the alt-right, of being an admirer of Breitbart, of being supportive of Donald Trump, of helping him get elected and, of course, of being a Kremlin operative. And it’s just this constant flow, not from fringe accounts online, but from the Democratic operatives and pundits with the greatest influence. In fact, Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, went on Twitter three weeks ago and said, "I think it would be really interesting to find out whether The Intercept is receiving money from Russia or Iran"—something that he obviously has zero evidence or basis for suggesting, but this is what the Democratic Party has become.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, you mentioned Breitbart News, Glenn Greenwald. One of the pieces of evidence that people cite for your alleged sympathy with Breitbart is a part of an interview that you gave recently to Lee Stranahan last month in which you said, "Breitbart is actually a fascinating case. And I do think right-wing media has had a lot more success in pioneering ways to challenge establishment authority [than] left-wing media has." You went on to say that it’s, quote, "very impressive in terms of the impact they’ve been able to have." That is, Breitbart media has been able to have. And now, of course, the head of Breitbart media has been named by Trump as his chief strategist. So, could you respond to that and explain what you meant?
GLENN GREENWALD: Sure. That Breitbart has had a huge impact on American politics is something that no honest person could possibly dispute. Their traffic alone has quadrupled, or even more, just in the past six to nine months. They became the go-to place for the part of the Republican Party that ended up dominant, that ended up electing—nominating and then electing a candidate who the entire political establishment thought had no chance of ever winning. They gave voice to a huge part of the Republican Party that had been completely and systematically excluded from all of the Republican mainstream venues, like National Review and Weekly Standard. The impact that they have had is immense. And to deny that is just delusional.
But even worse is to suggest that acknowledging the impact that they have somehow makes you an admirer of them. In that very same interview, I told them directly to their face that the content that they’re producing is repellent. That was the word I used. I said that I have all kinds of terrible things to say about Breitbart reporters and about Breitbart’s content. All of the work I’ve done over the past decade—the sort of primary issue on which I’ve worked has been a defense of the civil liberties of Muslims—is completely antithetical to everything that Breitbart believes in. So, to take a comment that I made which is observably and undeniably true, which is that the impact that they’ve had on the political process is extraordinary and impressive, and convert that into me saying that I somehow like Breitbart or am a sympathizer with Breitbart or an admirer or supporter of Breitbart is just dishonesty in the extreme. And it’s obvious for anybody minimally literate that that’s the case.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald. When we come back, he talks about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s claim that the Obama administration is implicating Russia in the leaks to delegitimize Trump, and many other issues. Stay with us.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Why Trump Really Won: It’s Not Just Race, Gender and Class

Jonathan Michael Feldman
November 23, 2016

We need a reconstructive politics that would link opposition to the far-right to a nationally embedded Green New Deal, sustainable reindustrialization, new budget priorities to cut military expenditures and fund job creation and integration, and the development of economic democracy.

It would be nice to think that Trump’s victory is simply about class revenge mixed with racist and patriarchal support systems. Yet, our story begins in 1972 when a powerful anti-war movement propelled George McGovern into the Democratic presidential nomination. At that point, a division of labor between the Democratic Party and a social movement created an organic Left basis for pushing that party to the Left. McGovern’s anti-militarism was constrained by Cold War liberalism linking many politicians and trade unions to the permanent war economy. His defeat led to the rise of the “super-delegates” and rules making it very hard for insurgent campaigns to ever gain control of the party again.

The McGovern loss was followed with various realignments within the Democratic Party tied to the extension of the professional managerial class and gradual abandonment of working class issues. These trends were first noted in the mid-1980s by Thomas Byrne Edsall in his book, The New Politics of Inequality. A prescient text which foreshadowed similar latter treatments by William Greider (Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy published in 1993), Chris Hedges (The Death of the Liberal Class, published in 2010), and most recently Thomas Frank (Listen Liberal: Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People, published this year).

While the warning bells were sounded long ago, matched in part by various campaigns like those of Jessie Jackson, Ralph Nader and Bernie Sanders, none of these campaigns garnered sufficient support from party elites or could make it past their organizational filtering systems. One reason is that the Democratic Party establishment is firmly aligned with business patronage, bourgeois feminism, what used to be called “the Black bourgeoisie,” and corporate environmentalism. Three key systems accumulate and reproduce establishment power, creating obstacles for the Left opposition.

The first system consists of various Democratic Party politicians, and associated funders, who act as political entrepreneurs for identity politics, political fragmentation and the militarist “democracy promotion” business. EMILY’s List which will even back female politicians tied to the war machine is a key network for this kind of activity as was Congressional Black Caucus PAC which picked Clinton over Sanders. In contrast, grassroots women’s groups like Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) backs a comprehensive anti-militarist agenda.

The second system consists of a series of non-profit organizations like NOW, corporate-sponsored environmental groups and various non-profit organizations which cut deals with members of Congress and foundations to reproduce a certain brand of highly atomized, piecemeal politics. In some cases, there is turnover between the non-profits and the government, resembling the iron triangle relations linking military firms, the Pentagon and Congress. For example, when labor unions cooperate with environmental groups sometimes the latter become the voice of corporate rationality in addressing climate change. One pattern is that a staffer works for a Congressperson financed by various corporate interests. The staffer trades in their network ties to (or former work with) the Congressperson to gain employment at the non-profit. When speaking for the “environmentalist” interest, the staffer actually helps reproduce the corporate interest. When NOW endorsed Hillary Clinton, they did not simply endorse a woman, but also a leader of the military industrial complex.

The third system is ideological and even infects various parts of the Left. We can see this in how organizing ideas based on class and economic realities became subverted by newer approaches simply tied to identity. The Neoliberals have used gender, race, and identity politics as vehicles to legitimating their militarist and neoliberal policies. Fragmentation is Neoliberalism’s glue. The price of voting against the sexism and racism of Trump and his equivalents has been an endorsement of the Neoliberal, militarist agenda. Sanders was able to abandon the worst elements of identity politics without Trump’s baggage, and thus was demonized by the Clinton Neoliberals. A similar fate met his predecessors. Even Trump’s critiques of bankers and elites (in his effective closing advertisement) was recoded as the reincarnation of anti-Semitic tropes, i.e. the Neoliberals will use accusations of anti-Semitism as a way to black list deconstructions of class and elites.

Basically a segment of the Left, centered in the academy and think tanks, has been coopted by the Neoliberals and constrains Left movements as Vivek Chibber, Adolph Reed and others have argued. The recent presidential campaign illustrates how this works. The dominant paradigm among various segments of the journalistic and academic elite was that Donald Trump (like many Brexit voters) represented xenophobic right-wing nationalism, with support linked to racism and a white identity crisis. In contrast, Hillary Clinton was cast as someone who both embraced and benefited from diversity and cosmopolitan virtues. Clinton rhetorically aligned herself with what was cast as the generally progressive direction of the Obama Administration.

I will now scrutinize two examples of this kind of superficial identity framing promulgated by academics and journalists. One is an interview which Judith Butler recently conducted with Zeit on line on October 28th. The other is an article by Amada Taub, “Behind 2016’s Turmoil, a Crisis of White Identity,” published in The New York Times on November 1. Both interventions displace economic factors and a sin of omission related to how such factors inflate the far-right.

Taub explains that Brexit and Trump’s nomination, together with right-wing nationalism in Norway, Hungary, Austria and Greece are byproducts of “white anxiety.” The white majority has often conflated “national and racial identity,” and now white people feel that their identity is under threat. Working class whites not only “enjoyed the privileged status based on race,” but also “the fruits of broad economic growth.” As Western manufacturing and industry decline, however, this limits opportunities for new generations in communities affected by this decline. For Taub, the problem is that deindustrialization “creates an identity vacuum to be filled.”

Judith Butler, a leading philosopher, echoed these each sentiments. In an interview with Zeit on line this October, she explained: “I think that there are forms of right-wing populism that we are seeing now that object to laws that were securing equality between men and women, laws against racism, laws that permit migration and even affirm an ethnically and religiously heterogeneous population.” The goal of “reactionary populists” is “to restore an earlier state of society, driven by nostalgia or a perceived loss of privilege.” The right populists “want to take down state power for the loss of their former world.” Taking a page from Hannah Arendt, Butler deconstructed the nation: “As long as one functions within the notion of the nation-state, one is basically asking for a specific nationality to represent the state and for the state to represent that nationality.” Butler’s solution is pluralism as well as racial and ethnic heterogeneity.

Yet, are diversity and plurality sufficient? In the essay “Reflections on Little Rock,” Arendt wrote that equality could not “equalize natural, physical characteristics.” To the extent that equality is even reached, it may trigger resentment based on difference: “the more equal people have become in every respect, and the more equality permeates the whole texture of society, the more will differences be resented, the more conspicuous will those become who are visibly and by nature unlike the others.” Butler says some right-wingers feel “excluded” as when “their privilege has been lost,” with privilege tied to “their white presumption.” These losses refer to “a former world in which white privilege could be assumed.” This privilege, I assume refers to a hierarchy which whites had over others, an ability to exclude. Butler admonishes such people who are losing privilege that “it is their job to adjust, to accept their loss and to embrace a larger, more democratic and heterogeneous world.” In fact, Arendt wrote that “it is therefore quite possible that the achievement of social, economic and educational equality” for African Americans “may sharpen the color problem in this country instead of assuaging it.

The problem is not that the journalists and academics can’t see economic (and potentially class) factors at work behind the rise of the far right and Donald Trump. Rather, they go out of their way to downplay them. Moreover, they prefer intellectual dualisms in which persons aligning themselves with racist politicians can only be defined in this way. So, when it comes to gender, race and (sometimes) class, intersectionality reigns. But, the racist dimension of the far-right is often taken to be the most significant—if not the only significant—factor. Nevertheless, even racists can have class interests (as can Trump voters more generally).

Yet, while whites may resent Obama’s status as president or Brexit voters dislike mass immigration, the current story is not simply one of race, but also one of class and economics. Furthermore, Obama’s presidency has been associated with stagnating or worsening conditions for African Americans. Reflecting on race relations in the 1960s, at the height of the civil rights movement in the U.S. South, Arendt wrote, while the “difference between North and South,” was “still marked,” it was “bound to disappear with the growing industrialization of Southern states,” even if African Americans stood out in North and South “because of their ‘visibility.’”

Given the potential ameliorating effects of industrialization in the South which Arendt addressed, what do we make of the current wave of deindustrialization in this region? Trump won all five core states in the deep South during the Republican primaries: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. The percentage decline of manufacturing jobs lost in each of these states during the WTO-NAFTA period (1994-2015) ranged from a low of 19.7% in Louisiana to a high of 40.7% in Louisiana. Trump beat Clinton in all of these states.

In the North, we see similarities. Let us explore the differences in electoral outcomes among ten key states in the industrial belt stretching from Minnesota down to Iowa in the West and into New York and Pennsylvania in the East. Trump lost only four of these states: Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Generally speaking, aside from Ohio which was won by native son John Kasich, Trump won six out of the seven states in this group experiencing the greatest loss in manufacturing jobs during the NAFTA-WTO period (1994-2015). Here are the percentage losses in manufacturing jobs in the states Trump lost: Ohio (-30.3 percent), Wisconsin (-11.6 percent), Minnesota (-10.6 percent), and Iowa (-3 percent). In contrast the manufacturing job losses in the states Trump won were on average far greater: in New York (-45.4 percent), Pennsylvania (45.4 percent), Illinois (-32.8 percent), Missouri (-27.5 percent), Michigan (-26.3 percent), and Indiana (-16.2 percent). Against Clinton, Trump won Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Indiana. By losing New York, he lost to Clinton’s home state.

Taub and Butler both emphasize the psychological reaction to economic trauma in explaining the far-right’s rise and also tend to demonize Trump and far-right voters by failing to appreciate the potential economic motivations leading to their support. This move, centered on a kind of post-modern reading of the far-right, is problematic for several reasons.

First, accepting pluralism will hardly solve the far-right’s rise when pluralism is limited by a politics of scarcity, i.e. as economic conditions worsen, ethnic minorities, immigrants and non-whites will be scapegoated. While diversity policies may limit racism, in and of themselves they are unlikely to be effective in an era when economic conditions deteriorate. Many whites have lost more than their ability to exclude non-whites. This March Noah Smith wrote an essay explaining that “Trump has a Point About American Decline,” in Bloomberg News. Noah wrote: “the economic well-being of the average American – defined as median household income – has fallen since the turn of the century.” I don’t think diversity and multiculturalism are sufficient to trump Trump’s appeal with many of his supporters to “Make America Great Again!”

Second, there is a materialist basis of support for racism that can’t be reduced to racism per se. Butler builds a lot of her arguments about white and far-right identity trauma on references to Hannah Arendt. Yet, Arendt argued that victimhood had some basis in larger material realities. In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt wrote: “Totalitarian politics—far from being simply antisemitic or racist or imperialist or communist—use and abuse their own ideological and political elements until the basis of factual reality, from which the ideologies originally derived their strength and their propaganda value—the reality of class struggle, for instance, or the interest conflicts between Jews and their neighbors—have all but disappeared.” Just as Jacques Ellul argued in his classic study, Propaganda, ideology is based on a combination of truth and lies. Simply deconstructing the lies and ignoring the truths cannot explain the far-right’s power.

Third, Butler tends to use the discursive, ideological and psychological factors behind racism to displace the materialist factors. Butler does acknowledge that some right-wing persons blame “the migrants for taking their position,” but they fail to identity the roots of their problems in “an expanding precarity that cuts across economic class, though the very rich continue to profit.” Correctly, she argues that migrants become scapegoats as some right-wingers fail to analyze the “fiscal and financial policies” which jeopardize many persons. Yet, she also is quick to devalue any class explanation. She says persons laying “claim to white privilege…may claim that they are ‘excluded’ by migrants, but they actually worry about losing their privilege.” Yet, if whites worry about losing their jobs or their security, calling a job or such security a privilege would be patently absurd. My point is not to give a pass to racists and national security paranoids, but rather examine how racist politics overlaps with class politics and economic factors. Economic decline promotes security paranoia as well. Moreover, we might focus on how class and economics each propel what is nominally coded as racist. If the two intermingle, then someone who is a racist might act out of the subjective reflection of their changed economic status, not simply out of their lost “race” privileges.

Fourth, the displacement of the material and objectification of the far-right other is a way for academics and journalists to valorize their own professional interests. By casting the subjective reaction to objective material developments as their primary focus, Taub and Butler repeat a practice common to the human relations school of management, i.e. psychological reactions to industrial life (rather than changes in industrial realities) are of pre-eminent importance. In 1947, in an essay for Commentary, Daniel Bell offered a critique of this school of thinking, explaining that industrial psychologists (rooted in universities) were useful for industries’ seeking compliance. Today, many industrial workers conflicted about globalization’s impact on their communities are “acting out,” voting for Trump and Brexit, as a way to make the system pay. Yet, their reactions are reduced to psychic phenomena or the politics of these psychic reactions. Why? In Bell’s era psychologizing workers’ attitudes best suited academics’ “professional interests.” As he explained, such persons “the professors in general have an ideology geared to the need.” As academic scientists, “they are concerned with ‘what is’ and are not inclined to involve themselves in questions of moral values or larger social issues.”

Finally, the demonization of Trump voters and the far-right amounted to a kind of problematic application of the idea of “collective responsibility.” An essay by Arendt on that topic declared, given what Hitler’s regime did to the Jews, “the cry ‘We are all guilty’” first sounded “very noble and tempting” but “has actually only served to exculpate to a considerable degree those who actually were guilty.” Thus, “where all are guilty, nobody is.” While Trump and far-right voters are responsible for helping elect those whom they support, it is reasonable to explore the institutional roots of racism in deindustrialization, globalization and a faulty educational system. Castigating right-wing voters while glossing over institutional failures will prove fruitless in the long-run, particularly if far-right candidates win (as almost happened in Austria with the narrow defeat of Norbert Hoffer, candidate for the Freedom Party).

Some might object that Taub and Butler correctly offer a moral critique of the racism of white identity politics, yet the “what is” they take for granted is the current regime of deindustrialization and globalization. Neither explains when discussing Trump’s rise how to alter deindustrialization. Instead, both offer explanations that prioritize the non-economic explanations or delink economic explanations from right-wing politics. In contrast, a reconstructive politics would link opposition to the far-right to a nationally embedded Green New Deal, sustainable reindustrialization, new budget priorities to cut military expenditures and fund job creation and integration, and the development of economic democracy. This agenda of economic reconstruction (tied to Left Nationalism) and creation of new materialist possibilities stands in direct opposition to post-modern deconstructions of psychologies or the assumption that deflated white privileges automatically translates into citizen “privileges” tied to employment, security or even sustainability.

In the early 1980s books on reconstructive alternative emerged by leading Left intellectuals concerned with industrial policy, manufacturing and progressive alternatives. Among these books were Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison’s The Deindustrialization of the America: Plant Closings, Community Abandonment and the Dismantling of Basic Industry (1982), Seymour Melman’s Profit without Production (1983), and Robert Reich’s The Next American Frontier (1983). These books found some support among populists like Fred Harris who ran for president in 1972 and 1976 (the first campaign supported “economic democracy”). Such alternative ideas, readily available to Democrats and the Left, lost favor to identity politics and piecemeal reformism. Now that politics is in crisis. Trump won 67 percent of whites without a college degree, 42 percent of the women’s vote and even 29 percent of the Latino vote. Alternative political organizing strategies are needed for the Left to advance beyond the false choice of Right Cosmopolitanism and Right Nationalism.

Jonathan Feldman is Associate Professor at the Department of Economic History at Stockholm University. He can be reached on twitter @globalteachin. This essay builds in part on discussions with Mark Luccarelli, Steven Colatrella, John Rynn and Brian D’Agostino. Thank you to the author for submitting this to Portside.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Reason for Israel’s Hysterical Response to the UN Security Council Resolution

Netanyahu takes pride in killing the two-state solution—but he doesn’t want to be blamed for it, because he knows the only acceptable alternative is equality for all in a single state.

By Yousef Munayyer Twitter DECEMBER 28, 2016

Since last week, we have seen a unique sequence of events, some unprecedented and others less so, that have brought the Palestine-Israel issue back to the fore. Last Friday, the United States abstained at the United Nations Security Council on Resolution 2334, thereby allowing it to pass when the 14 other members of the council voted for it.

The language of the resolution as it relates to settlements was nothing really new. The UN—and the whole world, with the exception of the Israeli right wing—has understood that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the territory Israel occupied in 1967, and thus that civilian settlements are illegal. In fact, even the Israeli legal counsel understood this in 1967. The Israelis thought that if they could colonize the West Bank under the guise of the military, they could argue that it didn’t put them in violation of the convention’s statute against transfer of civilian populations. This is why they initially called them “paramilitary settlements,” which were set up through a division of the military. Once it became clear that the world would not press them on this, they dropped the disguise and openly violated international law by building, financing, and subsidizing scores of settlements, which would grow to include hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers.

What is unique in the language of Resolution 2334 is the utter desperation it reflects concerning the prospects of a two-state solution to the conflict. That solution itself had not even made it into a Security Council resolution until the George W. Bush era. Now, at the end of his successor’s tenure, this resolution states plainly that such a solution is on the verge of death due to Israeli settlements.

The upcoming funeral of the two-state solution may account for the passion behind Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks in a speech today, in which he criticized the settlements and said Washington cannot allow a two-state solution “to be destroyed before our eyes,” arguing that there is “no viable alternative.” This was an attempt to get out ahead of the blame game in the history books. Kerry made clear that if the Israelis want to kill peace with settlements, that is their choice. Indeed, it is a choice they have already made.

The two-state solution is dead. I don’t think it is possible, and I doubt most honest observers do either.
I believe the two-state solution is dead. I don’t think it is possible, and I doubt most honest observers do either. Nearly two-thirds of Palestinians in the occupied territories—the highest numbers ever recorded on this question—also believe that because of Israeli settlement expansion it is no longer possible. But the world has pretended that it is still alive, in part because it is not prepared to confront the fact of its death. This pretense has helped shield Israeli colonization: As long as there is hope for a two-state solution, there is less reason to press Israel on settlements, since at least most of them would have to be removed to create a viable Palestinian state. This pretense regarding the settlements’ “temporary” status has allowed Israel to entrench the occupation ever more deeply. But the theater surrounding the two-state solution required actors who were willing to play their parts. The Obama administration did so for its eight years, but the incoming Trump administration is entirely off-script.

Everything we have seen from Trump suggests that he will fully embrace the Israeli hard right. Those voices were the most jubilant over Trump’s victory—so much so, in fact, that the Trump team actually had to ask them to take it down a notch. This past summer, Trump’s campaign introduced the most anti-Palestinian language ever to enter into a US national party platform, and Trump’s appointment as ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, supports Israeli settlements—not just rhetorically but financially. Friedman has actually helped funnel millions of dollars through an organization he heads to an Israeli settlement deep in the West Bank.

It looks like Trump is going to drop the pretense of US opposition to Israel’s apartheid policies.
The next president of the United States isn’t going to pretend anymore. Instead of doing what peace advocates have long called for—putting America’s money where its mouth is by ending US support for Israel as long as it contravenes US policy and well-established international law—it looks like Trump is going to put America’s mouth where its money has been by dropping the pretense of opposition to Israel’s apartheid policies.

How can the rest of the world, including the Europeans and the Palestinians, go on with the charade if the United States, the country that is supposed to be leading negotiations, won’t play along anymore? It’s simple: They can’t. This means the Trump era will finally provide the death certificate for the two-state solution. When that happens, UNSC 2334 will be seen as the autopsy. That is what those Israeli leaders who are responding to it with hysteria are most afraid of. They are not afraid of killing the two-state solution—they increasingly take pride in that. But they are afraid of being held responsible for its death, because they know that in the 21st century, the only acceptable alternative to it is equality for all in a single state.

The Israeli response has been a scorched-earth campaign, threatening retaliation of all kinds and in all directions. Most important, however, has been the direct Israeli attack against President Obama. The outgoing US president is being treated by Israeli officials as uniquely anti-Israel despite the fact that he has given more military aid to Israel than any president before him, and despite the fact that until last week, he had not permitted a single resolution critical of Israel through the Security Council, even as predecessors allowed many, with Ronald Reagan alone allowing 21. Reagan even found a way to support condemnations of the Israeli siege and bombardment of Beirut in the 1980s, while Obama was silent in the Security Council as Israel killed 551 children in its 2014 attack on the long-besieged Gaza Strip.

The truth is that many in Israel never trusted President Obama because of who he is. Barack Hussein Obama, whose middle name is often emphasized in the side conversations and chat forums of this narrative, is seen as someone incapable of understanding the story of Israel. While Netanyahu won’t say it directly, the echo chambers of the Israeli right, both in Israel and the United States, have trafficked in the narrative that Obama is betraying Israel and the Jewish people.

The reactions we are seeing from the Israeli right reflect a worldview that is anti-multicultural and anti-equality.
We heard this during the hyperventilation over Obama’s statement that the 1967 lines should be the basis of a two-state solution, which happens to be long-standing US policy. His observation was greeted with hysteria by Israeli leaders, some of whom call those lines “Auschwitz borders,” adopting a phrase that Israeli diplomat Abba Eban popularized in the late 1960s, in arguing against withdrawing from the newly conquered territories. We heard this when people like Elie Wiesel were taking out ads in major metropolitan newspapers attacking Washington’s nuclear diplomacy with Iran, portraying it as appeasing annihilationism. Netanyahu has routinely characterized Obama’s diplomacy with Iran in two frames: that of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of the Nazis at Munich, and that of the biblical story of Esther. Today, we are hearing from Netanyahu about how outrageous it is for Obama to support a resolution that says occupied East Jerusalem is occupied, even as Israeli settlers are lighting Hanukkah candles there.

These narratives are the product of a trend that has grown since the end of the Cold War. As the “evil empire” disappeared, Israel worried that so too would its utility to the United States, which had developed because of Cold War geopolitics. We began to hear of a new global bipolarity, famously promoted by Bernard Lewis, between the Judeo-Christian West and Islam. After 9/11, this approach accelerated, and right-wing Israeli voices found great utility in it. Immediately after 9/11 Netanyahu said that “it’s very good” before saying “well, not very good,” but that it would “strengthen the bond between our two peoples.”

Since 9/11, “Judeo-Christian” and Muslim have become increasingly racialized categories, often propelled by right-wing voices that have placed Israel at the forefront of the battle with Islam and sought to distract from any criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians by pushing a “with us or against us” worldview. What we are witnessing today are allegations of race-traitorism against Barack Hussein Obama (there’s that name again).

It should come as no surprise, then, that the Israelis are boldly aligning with President-elect Trump, whose political career was launched through the birtherist slur that the first black president, who had a funny-sounding name, really wasn’t one of us.

Netanyahu is Donald Trump’s reflection. The reactions we are seeing from the Israeli right today, which are not only the official voices in Israel but increasingly dominate the pro-Israel establishment in the United States, reflect the doubling down on a view of the world that is anti-multicultural and anti-equality. They are the desperate, last throes of a bankrupt vision that may buy its adherents a few years in power but which has undoubtedly lost the future.


YOUSEF MUNAYYER TWITTER Yousef Munayyer is executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, the nation’s largest coalition advocating for Palestinian rights, and a policy analyst with the Arab Center in Washington, DC.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Bad Narratives Going Forward in the Age of Trump

DECEMBER 23, 2016

From Counterpunch
by PAUL STREET


The Twitter-addicted right-wing uber-asshole and authoritarian megalomaniac Donald Trump and his team of racist, arch-plutocratic, and eco-cidal vultures are about to set up shop alongside a right-wing Congress and a soon-to-be right-wing majority Supreme Court in Washington D.C. So what if the Republican Party is a widely hated institution, viewed with disapproval by nearly two-thirds of the U.S. populace?

Fourteen Narratives to Reject

As we struggle to build and expand popular resistance in this new era, here are fourteen narratives for left progressives (and others) to avoid about how this happened and what we must now do:

1 “The Green Party spoiled things for Hillary and elected Trump.” This story line is false. The numbers don’t remotely support it. If one makes the very bad assumption that all the voters who selected Jill Stein would have gone for Hillary if Stein had not been on the ballot, then Stein made the difference in Michigan and Wisconsin. But that flawed calculation doesn’t explain Trump’s triumph in Pennsylvania, Ohio, or Florida, all bigger battleground states Mrs. Clinton lost. Stein came in at one percent, nationally.

2 “Hillary was defeated by a big ugly racist, sexist, and nativist white working class ‘rustbelt rebellion’ that catapulted Trump into power.” Nope. The purported great white-Trumpenproletatian uprising has been badly oversold. Trump got pretty much the Republican presidential candidate’s usual voting share of non-college educated whites and whites making less than 50K a year while the Democratic candidate lost working class voters both white and non-white. As the left political scientist Anthony DiMaggio recently noted on Counterpunch, “The real story of the 2016 election is not that Trump won over working class America, so much as Clinton and the Democrats lost it…’Trump did not really flip white working-class voters in the Rust Belt. Mostly, Democrats lost them.’ Per data pulled from various exit polls, Slate reports that the decline of Democratic voters among the working class in 2016 (compared to 2012) was far larger than the increase in Republican voters during those two elections. Of those earning less than $50,000 a year, the decline in Democratic voting from 2012 to 2016 was 3.5 times greater than the rise in Republican voting.”

3 “Vladimir Putin’s Russian hackers did it.” There’s no real smoking-gun proof on Putin’s involvement. The notion that possibly Russia-initiated document dumps to WikiLeaks illustrating the Democratic National Committee(DNC)’s rigging of the primaries against Bernie Sanders cost Hillary the general election is a big reach, to say the least. The Russian hacking charge seems designed in part to help the DNC and the neoliberal Democratic Party elite more broadly avoid responsibility for blowing the election. The Democrats went with a wooden, Wall Street-captive, and corruption-tainted candidate and campaign that couldn’t mobilize enough working- and lower-class voters defeat the noxious and highly unpopular Trump. The “Moscow Stole It” narrative is a fancy version of “My Dog Ate My Homework” for a dismal dollar-drenched Democratic Party that abandoned the working class and the causes of peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability a long time ago.

4 “The Electoral College screwed Hillary.” Yes, Hillary won the popular vote by nearly three million ballots. The Electoral College (EC) is an absurd violation of the core democratic principle of “one person, one vote.” It is a purposefully undemocratic institutional overhang from the aristo-republican Founding Fathers and their holy Constitution, which was explicitly designed to keep the Founders’ ultimate nightmare – democracy – at bay. It works to Republicans’ advantage because it over-represents disproportionately white and rural states with small populations. But the Clintons and the DNC knew all about the EC, of course, going into the campaign. It’s nothing new, after all. The 2016 presidential election is the fifth one in American history given by the EC to a candidate who lost the popular vote. The Democrats made no efforts – Constitutional or otherwise – to challenge the Monty Python-esque EC after it (with some help from Florida Governor Jeb Bush, viciously racist and systematic voter suppression, and a Republican Supreme Court) handed the presidency to the open moron George W. Bush in 2000-2001. And Hillary still had no business losing key Electoral College states like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania to Trump, who is heading into the White House with the lowest approval rating of any incoming president.

5 “Comey did it.” Of all the excuses the Democrats advance for why Trump’s victory wasn’t their fault, the chilling James Comey fiasco and the problem of Republican-led racist voter suppression (Greg Palast’s recurrent topic) in contested states are the most credible ones. But there’s no precise way to measure the impact of FBI Director Comey’s creepy political intervention ten days out from the election. The Comey card should not be seen as grounds to pardon Hillary and the Democrats for the dismally uninspiring and centrist campaign they ran.

6 “The Democrats’ 2016 humiliation will show them that they have no choice but to make themselves over as a progressive champion of all working people against the wealthy Few.” Don’t hold your breath. The Democratic Party’s recently installed new U.S. Senate Minority Leader isn’t a liberal or progressive Democrat like Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), or even Sherrod Brown (D-OH). It’s the neoliberal Wall Street Democrat Charles Schumer (D-NY). The House Minority Leader continues to be the big money San Francisco pro-war corporate Democrat Nancy Pelosi, idiotically endorsed by the supine AFL-CIO over the pro-union heartland progressive Democrat Tim Ryan (D-OH).

Yes, the Bernie Sanders-affiliated Congressman Keith Ellison [D-MN] is considered a top contender for the chairmanship of the DNC. But don’t be surprised if that falls through. He’s getting bashed for past association with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and for making some “anti-Israel” comments as a law student in the 1980s. Ellison’s ascendancy to the job of party chairman could cost the Democrats big money. CNN recently quoted one of party’s biggest donors, Haim Saban, as saying that Ellison is “clearly an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel person.”

It gets worse. Last Monday morning on CNN, Daily Beast columnist Patricia Murphy reported on interviews she’d recently conducted with Democrats around the country. She found “no soul-searching” or critical self-reflection among the Hillary voters with whom she spoke. To the contrary, some Democrats even told her that “we won” because Mrs. Clinton did better than Trump in the popular vote – as if the EC is an irrelevant technicality. Murphy also reported that the Democrats she spoke with seem ridiculously content to simply write off a huge part of the U.S. electorate – the white working class – as a mass of appallingly racist and sexist brutes (“deplorables”):

“What I am astounded by talking to Democrats about what happened in the election, there is no consensus among Democrats about why they lost, or even whether they really lost. So it’s going to be very difficult for them to come up with a cohesive plan about how to move forward. I talked to Democrats and some of them will go back to saying, hey, we won the popular vote, we really did win. You know, it’s just a technicality that we didn’t win the White House. So when you have that kind of an attitude going forward, there are not — there’s very little soul searching, very little effort to look inside and say, what do we need to say and do differently in order to get more people to win? In particular, I mean, they’re writing off a large portion of the electorate as a group of people they don’t even want.”

Soul-searching? Nah, it’s more fun to blame others – the Greens, Comey, Russia, and the big mythical racist-sexist-nativist “rebellion” of the “deplorable” white working class – than it is to take an honest look at one’s own failings.

7 “Trump’s election is an antiwar victory.” Come on. Yes, the Russia-hating NATO-expansionist warmonger Hillary “Queen of Chaos” Clinton seemed recklessly Hell-bent on a dangerous confrontation with Moscow – a confrontation that candidate Trump clearly wanted not to have. And yes, we do have some breathing space on the score for the next few months. Still, Trump’s campaign reeked with hyper-masculinist white-nationalist and anti-Muslim militarism. The coming “militarization of the West Wing” is quite pronounced. Trump has said profoundly dangerous things about the use and spread of nuclear weapons. His “defense” appointments and his rhetoric and Tweets (seriously?) point to coming dangerous conflicts with China and Iran, both key Russia allies. Don’t rule out conflict with Russia and the cooling of Trump’s hot bro-mance with Putin down the road. Anyone who thinks Trump’s ascendancy heralds a new American era of pacifist isolationism – a retreat from imperial war as a central tool of U.S. “statecraft” – is engaged in some very seriously delusional thinking.

8 “The corporate and financial establishment hates Trump and will undermine him.” There may be some truth in this assertion but it should be treated with extreme skepticism. Hillary was their first choice, but Wall Street is playing make-up with Trump. Top financial services trade groups like the American Bankers Association have run to help Trump fill top financial regulatory positions in the next White House. The Financial Services Roundtable is raising $4 million to help Trump “pay for the transition process.” After Trump defeated Mrs. Clinton, the former harsh Trump critic and current Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein praised the victor as “market friendly and asset friendly.” A Wall Street Journal three weeks ago was titled “Wall Street and Trump Make Up Quickly.” It matter-of-factly noted that “After largely opposing his 2016 presidential campaign, financial service executives are making fast friends with President-elect Trump… Wall Street,” the newspaper reports, “could wind up being a big winner under Mr. Trump, despite his broadsides against big banks during the campaign.”

The accommodation makes perfect sense. Janus-faced finance capital runs like water to the powers that be at the end of the day. The elite financial sector is looking forward to significant regressive corporate and personal tax cuts and financial deregulation with Republicans in charge of both the White House and Congress in coming years. The stocks of Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have been on a great run ever since the election. And Trump has given current and former Goldman Sachs elites and other top finance-capitalists (including coming Commerce Secretary and noted billionaire Wilbur Ross) numerous key economic policy positions in his coming administration. Every month, CNN reports, President Trump will consult with a group of top U.S. business executives convened by Steven Schwartzman, CEO of the infamous “alternative investment” firm the Blackstone Group. The group includes a “who’s who” of current and former Fortune 25 CEOs, featuring (so far) GM’s Mary Barra, JP Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, GE’s former CEO Jack Welch, Disney’s Bob Iger, and Walmart’s Doug McMillon. The “populist” Trump is certainly doing his best to seduce the financial chieftains he sometimes railed against on the campaign trail.

It isn’t just the financial elite he’s making up with. A New York Times report nine days ago related how Trump reached out to Silicon Valley captains:

“The meeting between President-elect Donald Trump and the nations tech elite was hyped as something out ‘The Apprentice’: The new boss tells his minions to shape up. It turned out to be a charm offensive, a kind of ‘Dancing with the Silicon Valley Stars.’”

‘This is a truly amazing group of people,’ the president-elect said on Wednesday in a 25th-floor conference room at Trump Tower in Manhattan. The gathering included Jeff Bezos of amazon; Elon Musk of Telsa; Timothy D. Cook of Apple; Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook; and Satray Nadella of Microsof, among others. ‘I’m here to help you folks do well,’ Mr. Trump said.”

“He kept going in that vein. ‘There’s nobody like you in the world,’ he enthused. ‘In the world!’ There’s nobody like the people in this room.’ Anything that government ‘can do to help this along,’ he made clear, ‘we’re going to be here for you.’”

“And that was just in the first few minutes. The candidate who warned during the presidential campaign that Amazon was going to have antitrust problems, that Apple needed to build its iPhones in the United States instead of China, was nowhere to be seen…on the way out, Safra Catz, the co-chief of Oracle who attended the meeting, gave a thumbs-up.” (NYT, 12/14/2016).

Smart move by Trump. Silicon Valley stands alongside Wall Street and the military-industrial complex (MIC) as the three most powerful Big Business components of the state-capitalist Deep State that runs the nation beneath and beyond the marionette theater of electoral politics. As Mike Lofgren notes in his indispensable new book The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government (Penguin, 2016), “the Valley has far outstripped traditional smokestack industries as a generator or wealth and has generated individual fortunes that easily rival those of Wall Street. Its research and development operations are vital to the operation of the Deep State – not only for its globe-spanning surveillance technology, but for the avionics, sensors, and guidance systems of every plane, ship, tank, missile, and drone that the military buys.”

Could Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and/or the MIC end up undermining Trump before it’s all over? Certainly. But there’s a honeymoon of sorts of underway right now and it would be foolish now to invest one’s hopes for the destruction of the Trump nightmare in the corporate and financial elite.

9 “Trump doesn’t really mean all the nasty stuff he said to get elected. He will govern differently than how he ran for office.” Well, candidate Trump certainly didn’t really mean it when he claimed to be a populist champion of the American working class in its struggle with Wall Street and other corporate-globalist evil-doers. Just look at his arch-plutocratic transition team and cabinet-in-formation. Trump’s populism was fake, of course. But Trump’s quasi-fascism probably isn’t and it would be foolish indeed to normalize what’s happened. Expect the administration’s racist and nativist scapegoating to accelerate in rough proportion to Trump’s service to the wealthy Few. The more he makes policy in the interest of his super-opulent upper-class comrades, after all, the more Trump is going to have to try to distract and divide the working-class majority with ugly racist and nationalist finger-pointing.

10 “All the people and others who have protested the Trump victory and ascendancy are silly sore losers manipulated by George Soros and MoveOn.” Yes, the left needs to watch out for elite liberal/neoliberal and Democratic Party-affiliated agents (for me that includes Sanders’ “Our Revolution”) working to control and manipulate anti-Trump resistance. Absolutely. But the reflexive denunciation of all anti-Trump protesters as childish agents of the Democratic establishment takes pseudo-radical cynicism to a new low. Folks don’t need to be prodded by slimy actors like Soros and MoveOn to find some very good and obvious reasons to march against incoming Trump administration.

11 “Resistance to Trump is illegitimate on the part of people who failed to adequately protest the neoliberal and imperialist Barack Obama presidency.” Yes, it is depressing that many U.S. citizens can’t seem to get it together to fight back when the White House is held by a smooth-talking teleprompter-ized Democrat like Bill Clinton, Obama, or (as I and most left analysts expected) Hillary Clinton. It’s sad and irritating that it seems to take a brutish white male Republican in the White House for a lot of Americans to protest and resist Deep State policies that are in fact richly bipartisan. But, okay, it’s a fact. Work with the opportunity afforded by the new public enemy number one – the coming appalling Trump administration – to build a new popular resistance movement that cannot be hijacked by movement-killing Democratic Party electoralists and opportunists and the deadly election cycle. Connect with people on issues and do your best to show them why such a movement is worthwhile

12 “Noam Chomsky and other left intellectuals and activists who called (again) for Lesser Evil Voting [LEV] were shills for Hillary Clinton.” There is a recurrent debate on the U.S. left about whether progressives should vote for Democratic Party candidates as the “lesser evil.” I’m on the anti-LEV side of that debate for reasons I won’t rehearse here. But it’s a difference about strategy and tactics, not underlying world-view. It’s unfair to call fellow leftists “shills” for Hillary when they referred to Mrs. Clinton as a “lying neoliberal warmonger” (Adolph Reed, Jr.), a “right-wing fanatic” (Arun Gupta), and, well, evil. (I used to make the left-LEV argument myself and was no less of a radical when I did than I am now. My position changed on tactical and strategic grounds.) Demonizing folks who come (often for some defensible if ultimately flawed reasons) to the LEV position (I know some very smart and radical folks who do) is also dysfunctional going forward. As Chomsky himself has long argued, the question of how to vote (or not) for five minutes in the one-every-four-years candidate circus is a secondary matter compared to much more important and urgent politics of movement-building beneath and beyond the nation’s populace-marginalizing and mass-marketed quadrennial electoral extravaganzas. Do we really want sniping over the question of what was the best lane to be in on the bourgeois-electoral highway to get in the way of acknowledging the many things you agree with, say, Chomsky or Reed or Gupta about? In the way of forming an anti-Trump resistance? In the way of building great people’s movements beyond the election cycle – movements that should include in their list of demands a call for radical electoral reforms what would allow progressives to back candidates aligned with their values without fear that doing so might help the rightmost of the major capitalist parties prevail? I think not. At the same time, many on the other side of the quadrennial intra-leftist voting debate also need to stand down from snotty sniping over what was the best way to respond to the terrible “choices” on offer in the U.S. presidential voting booth. Both sides might want to think of this endless and ugly debate as yet another form of top-down divide-and-conquer.

13 “The 2016 Election Shows the Futility of Any and All Identity Politics. Serious Progressives Must Reject Any and All Such Politics in Favor of Class Politics.” Nonsense. Yes, the Left is committed to the bottom-up political struggle of the (multiracial-multiethnic-multi-religious [partly irreligious] and multi-gendered) working class against the capitalist wealthy Few. But we cannot and must not simply abandon the particular realities of: female experience and oppression: Black experience and oppression; Latino experience and oppression; Muslim experience and oppression; gay experience and oppression, and so on. Such class-reductionist denialism leads nowhere morally or politically.

What needs to be rejected is the sickening kind of bourgeois identitarianism that candidate Hillary advanced. As Conor Lynch noted on Salon last month, “The Clinton campaign tried to make this election all about Trump’s hatefulness (‘Love Trumps Hate’) and his ‘basket of deplorables,’ while offering no real vision of progressive and populist change. And when those on the left raised legitimate concerns about Clinton’s uninspiring message or her political baggage during and after the primaries, they were ridiculously labeled sexist or racist ‘bros’ by establishment figures (even though some of Clinton’s harshest progressive critics were in fact women and people of color ).”

Earlier in the year, Daniel Denvir insightfully described the Clinton’s strategy as “peak neoliberalism, where a distorted version of identity politics is used to defend an oligarchy and a national security state, celebrating diversity in the management of exploitation and warfare.”

The left at its best has always understood identity differently – in ways that are opposed to both ruling class divide-and-conquer (ala Hillary Clinton and Herr Trump) and to class reductionism (ala some of Bernie Sanders’ supporters). As the “unrepentant Marxist” Louis Proyect recently reflected on Counterpunch:

“While the idea of uniting workers on the basis of their class interests and transcending ethnic, gender and other differences has enormous appeal at first blush, there are no easy ways to implement such an approach given the capitalist system’s innate tendency to create divisions in the working class in order to maintain its grip over the class as a whole…My own experience goes back to the 1960s when the Trotskyist movement was still rooted in American realities. Party leaders conceived of the coming American revolution as a kind of united front of different struggles that would come together on a basis of shared class interests. If that is a concession to ‘identity politics,’ I plead guilty…A socialist movement that disavows particular Black demands and those of other sectors of the population acting on their own interests on the basis of gender, sexual preference, etc. will inevitably lack the universality it needs to triumph over a unified capitalist class. To state it in dialectical terms, denying the existence of contradictions and refusing to resolve them will only lead to deeper contradictions.” (emphasis added)

That strikes me as brilliantly stated – and emblematic of the sort of intelligent, reality- and history-based Marxism for which no repentance is due. Working class left “identity politics” is very different from what Denvir calls “neoliberal identity politics.”

14 “Trump’s election shows that U.S. politics and society is completely hopeless and pathetic. It’s time to retreat into personal concerns.” That’s your option, of course, but it will only make things worse. The Chicago-based anti-racist writer and activist Jamie Kalven rightly worries about the “danger…that people will become demoralized and retreat into denial, that they will seek refuge amid the pleasures and fulfillments of private life. That would give carte blanche to power…That is certainly tempting at a time like this,” Kalven adds: “to live one’s life in the wholly private realm, enjoying the company of friends, good food and drink, the pleasures of music and literature, and so on. Privileged sectors of our society are already heavily skewed that way. It’s a real danger at a time like this. If we withdraw from public engagement now, we aid and abet that which we deplore.” (The Chicago Reader, December 8, 2016,emphasis added). The threat to become an “expatriate” (which I am hearing again and again online) is a particularly pouty and privileged version of the same dysfunctional syndrome. Becoming an √©migr√© – either internal (retreating into private life) or external and literal (leaving the county if you can) – will fix nothing. (And, by the way, you can’t really escape the American Empire on this planet.)

Two Narratives to Handle with Extreme Care

Here are two narratives not to be rejected so much as to be handled with extreme care.

1 “There are great popular movement-building and system-challenging silver linings – from a dialectical and radical perspective – in Trump’s victory.” I do not simply reject this “accelerationist” storyline. To the contrary, I recently specified what some of those “silver linings” might be. Kalven is right, I think, when he says that “this is a moment of great opportunity – and also peril. The election of Trump certainly increases peril, but it may also increase the clarity we need to be effective…one door closes, another door opens.” But the “silver lining” trope should come with two key qualifications. Caveat number one is that none of the movement opportunities afforded by Trump’s coming presidency (and by the discrediting of a dismal dollar-drenched Democratic Party that proved itself too corrupt, unimaginative, corporatized, dull and conservative to defeat Trump) are going to show themselves in real history without dedicated and difficult day-to-day rank and file activism connected to radical-reformist and revolutionary vision – real progressive policy ideas and societal alternatives. The second caveat is that Trump’s election is a grave threat to vast swaths of humanity at home and abroad and indeed to life itself. It is indeed a great black cloud. If you are or seem happy that a vicious racist and sexist bastard like Donald Trump is moving in the White House, then God help you, comrade. “It’s important now.” Kalven adds, “to take time to absorb what’s happened and to grieve…I’m looking for a word besides catastrophe.” The word fits.

2 “The left must overcome single-issue obsessions.” I agree with that statement to a very significant degree. How could I not after decades of witnessing progressives fighting on numerous separate causes that cry out for consolidation and common struggle in a many-sided anti-capitalist movement? The left is way too scattered, issue- and other-wise. But it’s not true that none of the left’s issues stand out above all others. We need to be candid and forthright about the primacy of the environmental question. The capitalogenic climate change-driven threat of ecosystem collapse by the end of the current century is now “the biggest issue of our or any time” (John Sanbonmatsu). As Noam Chomsky has argued, nothing that we care about on the left is going to matter all that much if environmental catastrophe isn’t averted soon by serious efforts to – among other things but first and foremost – keep fossil fuels in the ground and shift to renewable energy. Who wants to more equitably share out the pieces of a poisoned pie? What good is it to turn the world upside down and “inherit” (take) it from the ruling classes if the planet has been poisoned beyond safe habitation?

Of all the dreadful things about the coming Trump administration, the one that strikes me as most horrific and most urgently in need of dedicated popular opposition is Trump’s arch-petro-capitalist commitment to the Greenhouse Gassing-to-death of life on Earth. The opposition already has a North America movement vanguard, so to speak: the remarkable multi-tribal struggle of Native Americans and others who came together beneath and beyond the election cycle to confront Energy Transfer Partners’ planet-cooking Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in Standing Rock. Expect Trump to target the North Dakota pipeline fighters and water-/climate-protectors as “economic terrorists.” Prepare to defend those environmental heroes as the leading symbols and agents of the Resistance we need to build and expand if humanity is going any shot at a decent future.