The decision by Democrats sitting on the House Judiciary Committee to approve Articles of Impeachment that will be affirmed in a full vote of the House of Representatives just handed Donald Trump a probable victory in the 2020 election barring a sudden economic downturn, the eruption of an unlikely war, or yet another revolt by a discontented electorate. The Democrats know that conviction in the Republican controlled Senate is impossible. Why pursue a dead end agenda? From all appearances, the strategy seems to involve an attempt to discredit Trump and increase the chances of defeating the orange tinted billionaire in next year’s November election. If that’s the calculation, the Democrats are grossly misguided as Trump is America’s second Teflon President, the invariably cheerful Ronald Reagan being the first. Nothing sticks. Reagan beat Iran Contra-gate. Trump beat Russia-gate and will most certainly emerge unscathed from the Ukraine-gate impeachment proceedings in the eyes of his supporters thus lending credence to the fiction that he is fighting the swamp.
As for the popularity of Reagan and Trump, both opportunistic politicians had a simple persistently optimistic ‘Make America Great Again’ feel good message that played well amongst the disenchanted masses. Reagan won office amidst the economic stagflation and malaise of the Carter years. Trump won the White House after the prolonged recession of the Bush and Obama eras. The extended economic slump that propelled Trump to victory occurred as a direct result of the financialization of America and the subprime meltdown. It should be well understood that Wall Street’s speculative frenzy was financed by the deindustrialization of the United States, a global flight of capital that cast millions of American workers on the scrap heap of various rustbelt cities. Both Reagan and Trump used rightwing populist rhetoric to win their respective elections only to serve the interests of the corporate plutocracy as exemplified by the enormous tax cuts both gave to the upper class and the corporations they own.
So why don’t the Democrats fight Trump politically and contest his far right policies of upward wealth transfer; deregulation and privatization of the economy; slashing of food stamp benefits; environmental destruction; unending war; unqualified support for apartheid Israel, the Saudi monarchy and the Egyptian dictatorship; and the imposition of deadly economic sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela?
Because they agree with the substance of these policy orientations that’s why. The Democrats pose no serious alternative to the Republicans on matters of economic and geopolitical significance, the anti-corporatist noises being made by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren notwithstanding. Stripped of all pretenses, both parties advance an imperialist agenda that protects the process of global capital accumulation in America’s corporate neo-liberal empire. Not a dime’s worth of difference on that score between the two rival gangs that former independent Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura once insightfully referred to as Democrips and Rebloodlicans.
The difference between the two parties in foreign policy is fundamentally tactical and stylistic, not strategic or substantive. In the realm of international relations both parties genuflect before the alter of international law and national sovereignty in word while violating their essence in deed by supporting the peculiar notion of ‘American exceptionalism’.
Diplomatically, both political regimes employ a negotiating strategy that conceals the clenched fist of mafia-like demands within a velvet glove of duplicitous dialogue. They make offers that cannot be refused. The price of refusal is regime change. For example, sequential coup d’etats were engineered by the CIA in Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, Indonesia 1965, Chile 1973, Haiti 1991, Honduras 2009 and Bolivia 2019.
Militarily, the Republicans favor unilateralism, the Democrats prefer multilateralism; the Republicans utilize pre-emptive invasions, the Democrats employ humanitarian and responsibility to protect (R2P) interventionist rationalizations. Both parties backed the overarching strategic paradigms for global hegemony after World War II, namely the ‘War on Communism’ and the more resent ‘War on Terrorism’. Serial U.S. military interventions occurred in Korea 1950, Vietnam 1965, Dominican Republic 1965, Lebanon 1982, Panama 1983, Iraq 1991, Somalia 1993, Yugoslavia 1994, Afghanistan 2001 and Iraq 2003. These interventions were led by Democratic and Republican presidents alike.
The foregoing lists documenting covert and overt interventions are partial, the criminal pattern is evident.
Domestically, the Republicans pose as the party of individualism and self-reliance. They serve the American plutocracy by hiding behind the pretense of support for personal freedom and individual rights against a corrupt government and media. The Republicans appeal to religious fundamentalists who oppose abortion, separation of church and state, and LGBT rights; second amendment literalists who oppose gun-regulation; free market fundamentalists who hate taxation of the rich, corporate regulation, trade unions, immigration; big government (meaning welfare for the poor); and unrestrained militarists. They are openly the party of wealth, war and bigotry.
To court favor with their domestic voting base, Democrats have adopted the veil of identity politics to disguise their support for the American plutocracy. They support greater social rights for women, the LGBT community, immigrants, racial minorities and some modicum of a diminished welfare state for the poor. But the Democrats are caught in a web of contradictions because of their support for the plutocratic minority and its predacious wars. They claim to support American workers but signed the NAFTA trade deal that destroyed millions of jobs in the heartland. They pretend to support main street but deregulated the financial industry by removing Glass Steagall and continuing the Bush bailout of Wall street. They opposed Trump’s ban on Muslim immigrants but supported the invasion and bombing of the very countries that Muslim’s fled. They support refugee status for Central American immigrants but engineered a coup d’etat of the Honduran socialist President Zelaya in 2009 causing a flood of migrants from a newly installed neo-liberal regime that deeply impoverished country. They support LGBT rights but are closely allied to Saudi Arabia, a country that executes its gay subjects giving a new and hideous meaning to the heterosexual dictatorship once so aptly described by Christopher Isherwood.
No small wonder the majority of Americans view Washington as a fetid swamp inhabited by creatures that need to be flushed down the drain of history. Electoral politics will never accomplish this ameliorative task because of the deep divisions that animate a political terrain in freedom’s land that has been systematically fractured over the past several decades by both political parties on behalf of the wealthy few at the expense of an increasingly despairing many. A revolutionary politics is needed to initiate the monumental project of progressive social transformation. But that brand of radical political ideology is sadly missing amongst the ranks of Trump lovers and Trump haters in the age of personality politics.
In the end, it may be useful to recall that ‘America has only one political party, the party of private property consisting of two right wings’, as the iconoclastic writer Gore Vidal never tired of asserting. Only when the property party and its benefactors are directly confronted can genuine social change occur.
Donald Monaco is a political analyst who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He received his Master’s Degree in Education from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1979 and was radicalized by the Vietnam War. He writes from an anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist perspective. His recent book is titled, The Politics of Terrorism