“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.”
— Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’
“Let’s not get carried away.”
— Nancy Pelosi on being asked about Alexandria Casio-Cortez
Multiple narratives are colliding. In a country as large as America it makes sense. The collision of divergent narratives exposes the Orwellian power of the establishment machine. The Establishment Machine is an amalgam of multiple power structures. It insists there is one narrative – a mile wide and an inch deep. These include but are not limited to, Wall Street, and the one party machine which is comprised of the conservative wing of Wall Street (the republicans) and the liberal wing (the democrats), the establishment media, the lobbyists, the lawyers, the imperial adventurism of the Military Industrial Complex, and of course the whore house that is Capitol Hill.
There is no denying that the uneasy and corrupt coalition between the two wings of the Wall Street Party – the Clintonian liberalism and the Wall Street wing of the republicans – resulted in the destruction of the working class and what was left of the middle class. The Wall Street Party talked out of both sides of its mouth – the polite side of the conservatives spoke about family values while offering coded support for the Klan and the fascists. The liberal wing of the Wall Street Party spoke about being a friend to the middle class while offering coded support for the union busting pirates moving jobs overseas.
But, and this is crucial, Bill Clinton was elected with a minority of the popular vote. Ross Perot, the beta version of Trump, won 19% of the vote. It is easy to define Clinton as only a triangulating soulless party hack but that requires buying the establishment media narrative. The establishment media controlled the narrative of the 90s and was a tool of the Wall Street Party. To contradict the media was to lose the election. In an era before smartphones and a nascent internet, to tell the truth was to be Walter Mondale.
It is hard to remember now but the police beating of Rodney King was essentially the beginning of the personal technology revolution. The beating was filmed by someone with a hand-held camcorder. Today when essentially everyone has a phone and that makes everyone essentially their own television news station, the recording of the cops beating Rodney King was first. None of which absolves the Clintons from throwing Black Americans to the wolves in order to win the election. That in turn does not absolve corporatists and the foot soldiers of the right who created and maintain a system of apartheid which left the democrats with two choices – lose and be noble, or win ugly.
Castigating the Clintons for winning ugly elides the brutal truth of the Reaganite counter revolution. The Reaganites and later the Bush-Cheney junta, were as inherently fascistic as Trump but it was the fascism of Wall Street with the nativist cadres contained. Trump turned that coalition on its head but it is the same coalition except under Trump the Klan and the nativist fascists are out in front.
Which brings us to the present. The Wall Street Party has created a political version of the 2008 crash. Trump is to politics as the crash of Lehman Brothers was to Wall Street. A self destructive gotterdammerung that is both suicidal and homicidal. Trumpism with assistance from the FBI, the Russians, the democrats, the media, and the collapsed economic gulag, won the election but not the popular vote. Trump is the titular head of a violent minority cadre. The Clintons were the titular heads of a majority that had no soul.
The destruction of the working class, the forced ghettoization of minorities (based on color, class and sex and sexual orientation) has created a new political class. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the public face of that demographic reality. But the machine has not vanished.
In a previous post we mentioned that Springsteen’s line, “I got debts no honest man can pay” may very well be the title of America’s social reality for the last several decades. But that title has a bipolar nature. On the one hand it represents and speaks to the soul of those for whom capitalism has been a con and as a result they turn towards Bernie Sanders and the faith that a true political and social alternative to capitalism can be manifested. But then there are the others for whom those debts are the fuel for rage towards illusions. Jews shall not replace us is tattooed on their souls.
The Old South, the violent anti-union thugs, the silent majority that supported the fascism of Nixon, did not ever go away; they just stopped appearing on television except for establishment rhetorical target practice.* This is the smug hollow triumphalism that surrounded Obama. “We” elected a Black man, therefore all is forgiven, forgotten and let’s think about tomorrow. Even Obama himself, per his court-assistant, Ben Rhodes, seems surprised that tribalism still exists in America. Perhaps, Obama muses, I was ten years too soon. Maureen Dowd, who fell out of James Joyce’s back pocket, was right when she intoned from the dull dead pages of the New York Times, that what was revealed in that statement was nothing less than Obama’s messianic self regard. When the truth is he left the party in disarray with no fundraising, no successors and no chance to win. He knew the Russians were involved but he chose to be cautious. No doubt he would say the Clintons didn’t want his help and he would be right but let’s not forget that he didn’t do himself or the party any favors when after a gossamer 18 months in the senate he sat on Teddy Kennedy’s lap and said you can be my political daddy.
We cannot make the mistake and assume that this fetid machine with its contradictions and blood feuds is going to be swept away by Ocasio-Cortez. We cannot make the mistake of assuming it won’t be as clearly a tide is rising and one district in one corner of New York is not an anomaly though it is not the totality of the nation.
Casio-Cortez is young, telegenic, charismatic, and shrewd enough to stay on message – which means, jobs, healthcare, jobs, healthcare, jobs and there’s no need to mention Trump by name.
For now. Walking the streets of New York for votes is one thing. National politics is that but it is also the machine. That means either genuine opposition backed by the threat of civil disobedience or it means ugly compromise. The ugly truth of Blairism is that the revolutionary spine of the Labor Party was torn out with the change to the party platform. Under Blair Labor abandoned its commitment to revolution and the abolition of capitalism and instead embraced the liberal wing of Wall Street-ism. This is part of what’s waiting for Ocasio-Cortez.
Ocasio-Cortez has in the wake of her stunning win been very careful to stay on message. She has been right to do so and has indicated that her goal is the creation of a Left wing caucaus that can force the neoliberals of the Pelosi wing to compromise and support the Left agenda. This includes, single payer healthcare, free college (which is not free but paid for by the equitable distribution of taxes) and a commitment to rolling back the draconian neo-fascist power of the post 9/11 Orwellian police state.
It is no accident that she is a woman, and Latina. These are demographic truths that cannot and should not be ignored. She is a millennial candidate. She is a feminist without having to say she is a feminist. She is Latina and the “Browning of America” is a fact inherent in her reality but also in the reality of Trump’s bigotry as a response to her truth.
Thus, Ocasio-Cortez has won – an opportunity to walk on the razor’s edge. On one side are the soulless Wall Street liberals. On the other the soulless Wall Street conservatives. In front of her are the fascists.
To the millions who did not vote, out of indifference, as well as to those who voted with a smug assurance that victory was to be purchased off the shelf, you may have believed that you could be uninterested in history, but make no mistake, history has not lost interest in you. History knocked on the door yesterday. It has Brown skin, it’s female, and its young. History is also a fat white bastard full of fear and rage and crippled by insecurities. The better angels may or may not heed our call.
If the line is busy, then get off your ass and go find them.
The Times won’t change without your help.
*Which is not to say right wing goons like New Gingrich weren’t front and center but it is to say that Gingrich was given a fresh coat of paint by the corporate media which refused to describe him as a reactionary and a neo-fascist. It is no accident that Gingrich’s brief years of triumph occurred in the era before smartphones and the ubiquity of the internet as agents of potential disruption to corporate media.*
*This, in turn is not to forget or dismiss the fact that this is being written on a slave manufactured, government sanctioned tracking device.