Copyright © 2017 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
I have a lot of respect for MS-NBC news host and former Congressional aide Lawrence O’Donnell, but he was dead wrong on December 29 when he hosted his show — a year-in-review episode detailing all the mistakes President Donald Trump had allegedly made throughout 2017 — and read his list, liberally illustrated with clips from previous episodes, under a title reading, “Donald Trump’s Bad Year.”
The title couldn’t have been more wrong. Donald Trump had a great year in 2017. He’s been ridiculed for having said early on in his Presidency that he was doing more in his first year than anyone since Franklin D. Roosevelt took office during the depths of the Great Depression in 1933, but he’s come damned close.
Trump has also been made fun of because it wasn’t until the end of the year that the Republican-dominated Congress passed, and he signed into law, a truly major piece of legislation. But that has hardly ever mattered less. Taking a page from the book of his immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, Trump governed from his first days largely by “executive orders,” simple this-is-the-way-it’s-going-to-be proclamations that he issued in huge leather-bound folders and signed with a huge Sharpie pen — as if, I joked at the time, any lesser writing implement wouldn’t be big enough for his … hands.
Between his steady flood of executive orders, issued with all the pomp and flourish of a Third World military officer having staged a coup d’état and ruling by decree, his wholesale deletions of government regulations, his judicial appointments and the revolutionary reshaping of American fiscal policy, Trump has achieved his goal of a “transformational” Presidency, one which will fundamentally change every American’s relations between him/herself and the U.S. government and ultimately achieve the Republican Party’s long-term goal of ending Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and every other program that taxes the rich to help the not-so-rich.
Even more than George W. Bush, who once complained that his critics have “misunderestimated” him, Donald Trump has been a far more brilliant and savvy manipulator of people and events than he usually gets credit for being. The alleged “chaos” of his administration reflects deliberate policy on his part: a long-time management strategy, which he used as a businessman well before he entered (or even thought of entering) politics, of deliberately setting his employees against each other and promoting the ones who win while firing the ones who lose. (It’s essentially the self-image he projected on his TV show The Apprentice.)
Jonah Goldberg, a Right-wing opinion columnist who was one of the last from his side of the political fence to acknowledge and at least grudgingly support Trump, published a column in the December 26 Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-goldberg-column-20171226-story.html) detailing the achievements of President Trump’s first year in office: “A record number of judicial appointments, including a Supreme Court justice, the defeat of Islamic State, repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate, tax reform and major rollbacks of various regulations, from arctic drilling to Net Neutrality.”
One of the reasons Trump has been so “misunderestimated” has been his low standing in public opinion polls. Generally his “approval” rating in such polls has hovered between 32 and 38 percent, lowest for any American President in the history of scientific polling. But that doesn’t matter as much as a lot of people think it does. One reason, I suspect, is that Trump has a sort of reverse version of the “Bradley effect” going for him. The “Bradley effect” was the alleged unwillingness of Americans to tell survey researchers they weren’t going to vote for an African-American candidate because they had racist prejudices but didn’t want to admit those to people polling them.
It was named after Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who in 1982 ran for Governor of California against Republican George Deukmejian. He was ahead a few points in the last pre-election polls but lost the election by a few points, and the 5- to 10-point difference between those last-minute polls and the actual results became known as the “Bradley effect.” President Obama’s election in November 2008 was largely thought to have ended the “Bradley effect,” but in fact his support dropped off from the last polls to the actual result just as the “Bradley effect” predicted: he was ahead 10 percentage points in the last polls and he won by five. So Obama was harmed by the “Bradley effect” just as previous African-American candidates had been; he was just so far ahead he won anyway.
I think Donald Trump has a reverse “Bradley effect” going for him: a 5- to 10-percent margin among Americans who support Trump precisely because he is so openly racist, sexist and generally bigoted, but are too ashamed to admit that to pollsters. This was one of the main reasons he won the election; not realizing that Trump would always score 5 to 10 points higher than his poll numbers would indicate, Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff and her supporters generally couldn’t imagine they could possibly lose Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania … until they did. So those who are hoping Trump’s Presidency would implode because of his low approval ratings in polls need to look up and face the facts. Trump actually had a 36 percent approval rating on November 7, 2016 — and he won the election with 46 percent of the vote. So it’s reasonable to estimate the hard-core Trump “base” as about 40 percent of the electorate, 10 percent more than his lowest poll ratings.
A Decades-Long Campaign
In his article, Jonah Goldberg attributes Trump’s successes to the way he’s let the established institutions of the Republican Party largely take over the government, despite his protestations that they are part of the mysterious, shadowy “Establishment” aimed at sabotaging him. “Trump’s success (such as it is) is less attributable to sudden mastery of the issues than staying out of the way of rank-and-file Republican policymakers, activists and bureaucrats,” Goldberg said.
The truth is actually broader than that. Ever since the late 1930’s, there has been a Right-wing movement within the Republican Party that coalesced in the first place around opposition to Franklin Roosevelt’s and the Democrats’ “New Deal” — and, later, their foreign policy. For a quarter-century this tendency battled with the more moderate, centrist “business Republicanism” of the party’s East Coast-based establishment.
Business Republicans wanted to put brakes on the New Deal and the Democrats’ penchant for using the power of the U.S. to determine events throughout the world, but they basically accepted those doctrines. They were willing to sustain at least some investment in social welfare programs like Social Security and Medicare because for people who grew up in the 1930’s the alternative seemed to be economic chaos. They were also willing to tolerate organized labor and to reach out to communities of color, especially since the Democrats, with their base in the “Solid South,” had historically been the party of slavery, segregation, the Ku Klux Klan and organized racism in general.
Business Republicans continued to dominate the party until the mid-1960’s, when a series of events put the hard Right in control first of the Republican Party and, eventually, the entire country. First, a coalition of liberal Northern Democrats and business Republicans passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, thereby flipping the two parties’ historic positions on civil rights for people of color. The Democrats established themselves as the party opposed to racism, while the Republicans moved to capture disillusioned Southern Democrats and working-class Northerners put off by the Democrats’ increasing identification with the African-American cause and also by the counter-cultural movements among young people in the 1960’s.
The Republicans first sought to take advantage of this so-called “white backlash” when they nominated their first hard-Right Presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, in 1964. Goldwater had voted against the Civil Rights Act and thereby gave himself and the Republican Party “cred” among racist and culturally conservative voters disgusted by the Democrats’ alignment with young people and people of color. Though Goldwater lost, he carried five Southern states, spelling the end of the “solid South” for the Democrats and permanently changing the balance of power in American politics from the Democrats to the Republicans.
The next step forward for the hard-Right in the Republican Party was Richard Nixon’s open embrace of Senator Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina) in his 1968 Presidential campaign. Anxious to blunt the threat that racist Alabama Governor George Wallace’s independent Presidential campaign would split the Right-wing vote and allow Democrat Hubert Humphrey to win, Nixon and Thurmond concocted the “Southern strategy” by which the Republicans would take over from the Democrats as the party of cultural conservatism and racism. Between them, Nixon and Wallace won 57 percent of the Presidential vote in 1968 to Humphrey’s 43 percent, indicating that the days of the “New Deal coalition” was over and there was now a permanent Right-wing majority in Presidential politics that would last until the 1990’s.
Nixon won in 1968 and scored a landslide re-election victory with 61 percent of the vote in 1972, and though he ultimately fell from grace after the various stratagems and “dirty tricks” he had pulled to win that sweeping victory, collectively known as “Watergate,” were revealed, the Right-wing majority in American Presidential politics survived him. Democrat Jimmy Carter won in 1976, partly a reaction to Watergate and the disgrace it had heaped on the Republicans, and partly due to his status as the first major-party Presidential candidate who was also an evangelical Christian. Evangelicals who had previously stayed away from politics joined in the Carter campaign and believed he would govern according to their culturally conservative values.
He did not, and the reaction of the evangelical community to what they considered Carter’s “betrayal” helped shape the next step forward for the radical Right in their ultimate takeover of American politics: the successful campaign of Ronald Reagan, the first hard-Right nominee for President actually to win, in 1980. Unlike Carter, whose administration’s pro-choice position on abortion and tentative overtures to Queers (including issuing an executive order banning discrimination against Queers in non-military federal employment that remains in effect) had alienated his fellow evangelicals, Reagan delivered for the so-called “Christian Right” up to a point. In particular, he imposed the infamous “gag rule” barring U.S.-funded non-governmental organizations working abroad from even mentioning abortion as an alternative for pregnant women.
Reagan was more concerned with delivering on the economic agenda of the hard Right than the evangelical social agenda. He put through two huge tax cuts in his first two years in office that, contrary to the optimistic predictions of so-called “supply-side economists” that they would actually increase government revenue by stimulating economic activity, in fact tanked the economy and led to a recession in 1982. He also followed a policy Adolf Hitler called Gleischhaltung — one of those indigestible compound words Germans love to create that doesn’t have a good English equivalent, though I’ve seen it rendered as “rectification” — which means blunting the effect of government agencies charged to do something you don’t like by appointing people to run those agencies who fundamentally disbelieve in their missions.
Reagan’s most flagrant and notorious example of Gleischhaltung was appointing a woman named Anne M. Gorsuch to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) despite — or, rather, because of — her opposition to governmental attempts to protect the environment. The way the American radical Right is tight-knit not only ideologically but personally through generations is illustrated by the fact that one of Donald Trump’s most spectacular first-year triumphs was to get Gorsuch’s son Neil onto the U.S. Supreme Court for life.
Trump, of course, has used Gleischhaltung even more systematically than Reagan. As his EPA head he appointed Scott Pruitt, who in his previous life as attorney general of Oklahoma repeatedly sued to have the EPA declared unconstitutional and whose attitude towards the environment makes Anne Gorsuch look like a charter member of the Sierra Club by comparison. To run the Interior Department he picked Ryan Zinke, who’s apparently never looked at a wilderness area he hasn’t wanted to see drilled or mined. To run the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) Trump chose Mick Mulvaney, a former Republican Congressmember on record as saying the CFPB should be abolished.
With appointments like that, Trump doesn’t need to get the Republican Congress to pass legislation. All he has to do is put hard-Right people in charge of various agencies and tell them to dismantle as many regulations as possible so he and other 0.01-percenters can have a free hand to manipulate government in order to make themselves even richer. He also has had an advantage in that in 1994 the Republican Party finally broke the 42-year Democratic monopoly on control of the House of Representatives, and the House has been Republican for all but four years ever since.
The Hard-Right’s Master Plan
The American hard-Right has spent the last several decades pursuing a meticulous and carefully strategized master plan that has relied on the huge financial resources of a handful of mega-rich donors and the construction of an alternative set of media that keep voters in line by pumping out hard-Right propaganda masquerading as “objective” news. President Reagan took the first step in creating the American hard-Right’s media arm when in 1987 he and his Gleischhaltung appointees at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) abolished the Fairness Doctrine, which had required broadcasters to represent multiple political points of view in their programming.
Without the Fairness Doctrine in the way, owners of radio stations were able to program hard-Right propaganda from talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Mark Levin and Roger Hedgecock 24/7. Within a few years virtually the entire AM radio band was dominated by hard-Right talk-show hosts, spewing out a daily propaganda line meticulously set out for them by weekly meetings organized by hard-Right activist Grover Norquist. In 1996, nine years after the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, multinational media owner Rupert Murdoch and long-time Republican campaign operative Roger Ailes brought the talk-radio sensibility to cable TV by launching Fox News. With their constant demonzation of the “liberal media,” talk radio and Fox News prepped their audiences to believe anything they heard from them and discount any news or information from sources that weren’t part of the hard-Right network.
The first step in the hard Right’s takeover of the U.S. media was Reagan’s abolition of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. The second step was the establishment of Fox News in 1996. The third and fourth steps are taking place right now. Earlier this year, Ajit Pai, Trump’s appointee to head the FCC, pushed through a rule change to abolish so-called “Net Neutrality,” the legal obligation of Internet service providers (ISP’s) to treat all data equally and not arbitrarily censor some Web sites or slow them down to discourage people from using them.
Most of the coverage of the end of “Net Neutrality” has been centered around the ability it will give major ISP’s like AT&T, Comcast and Spectrum to make money by pushing consumers to content Web sites they own or control, by making sure those sites get transmitted rapidly and without glitches while sites they don’t own are slower and glitchy. But there’s a more insidious danger to the end of “Net Neutrality”: the degree to which it allows ISP’s the ability to censor the Internet by barring their customers from accessing Web sites whose political content they don’t agree with.
Already AT&T has been caught restricting its users’ access to Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice sites, and the CEO of Comcast once called his users’ Internet connections “my pipes” and said he didn’t see why he should have to allow political content he disagree with to be transmitted over “my pipes.” Without Net Neutrality, ISP’s have essentially attained the legal status of “publishers” under the First Amendment, with the full legal right to decide what political points of view their customers can access and which they can’t. And since virtually all ISP’s are owned and run by people with hard-Right politics, it doesn’t take two guesses to figure out how they intend to use that power.
Hard-Right multibillionaires are also increasing their investments in so-called “legacy media.” A group bankrolled by Charles and David Koch, multibillionaire brothers whose family made their money in fossil fuels and who have used a good chunk of their fortune to advance the political fortunes of the hard Right, has just concluded a deal to buy Time magazine from the Time Warner conglomerate. Another group of hard-Rightists associated with the management of the hard-Right Libertarian Orange County Register recently bought the alternative newspaper L.A. Weekly and promptly fired the entire editorial staff, obviously intending to replace the progressives who used to work there with people who can be trusted to toe the hard-Right media line.
The hard Right’s long-term plan is to make sure they monopolize the U.S. media so no political or social points of view opposed to or critical of theirs get expressed in mainstream communications channels. The hope is that Americans will automatically adopt hard-Right politics since their media will no longer allow them to be aware that other points of view exist. The hard Right can leave the First Amendment guarantee of “freedom of the press” technically in place because they will have achieved censorship, not by government action, but by private economic power. As the late A. J. Liebling said, “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one” — and the hard Right is using its money and its clout to make sure no other Americans get to own one.
The hard Right’s master plan extended to far more than using the media to win total support of a hard core of about 40 percent of the population (which they have achieved). Their multibillionaire backers also funded a wide array of think tanks like the Hoover Foundation, the American Heritage Institute and Americans for Prosperity to determine just what policies government should enact to fulfill their goal of making the rich richer, making everyone else poorer and abolishing all programs aimed at taxing the rich to help the not-so-rich. One of the key organizations in this network is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), in which hard-Right organizers and corporate funders sit together and actually write the laws which will fulfill their policy goals, then hand them over to sympathetic legislators at both the federal and state level to get passed into law.
Another key organization is the Federalist Society, which identifies up-and-coming hard-Right law students and gives them a leg up in their careers. The ultimate goal of the Federalist Society is to get their protégés appointed to be judges in both federal and state courts, so that any attempts to stop hard-Right legislation or policies in the courts will fail because the judges will be committed members of the hard Right and will rule on these cases on ideological grounds. Jonah Goldberg noted that Trump had essentially “outsourced” his judicial appointments to the Federalist Society — as did the last previous Republican President, George W. Bush — and the importance of the Federalist Society’s success at “working the ref” and making sure supposedly “objective” judges are actually hard-Right activists who rule ideologically cannot be overestimated.
That’s one reason why Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) made it one of his major priorities, once the Republicans regained control of the U.S. Senate in 2014, to hold up not only President Obama’s last attempt at a U.S. Supreme Court appointment but virtually all his appointments of federal judges. McConnell deliberately set out to make sure that if a Republican replaced Obama he would have at least 100 vacancies on the federal courts to fill with lifetime appointments — and Trump has followed suit. While Trump has been notoriously slow in appointing officials to the rest of government, he’s speeded through the judicial process, getting 90 new judges on the bench in his first year — three times as many as Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama got through in their first years. The goal is that even if the Republicans lose control of the executive and legislative branches, they’ll have “packed” the judiciary so well that anything the Democrats try to do in the political branches will be thrown out as unconstitutional.
Taxation as Class War
The most recent success of the hard-Right’s long-term ideological project to achieve permanent control of American politics and skew public policy in their direction is, of course, the tax bill recently passed by the U.S. Congress on strict party-line votes and signed into law by President Trump. The tax law increases the U.S. budget deficit by up to $1.5 trillion in order to give huge tax cuts to corporations and wealthy individuals and their families. It sabotages the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so-called “Obamacare,” by repealing the “individual mandate” that everyone in the U.S. had to have health insurance or pay a penalty tax, which will likely mean a drastic increase in the cost of health insurance for every American who has it, whether they got it from their employers, through an ACA “exchange” or some other way.
The tax bill also encourages state and local government to slash their social budgets. By drastically scaling back the ability of middle-class people to reduce their federal tax liabilities by deducting the taxes they pay to state and local governments, the bill will make it politically tougher for even the most liberal “blue” states like California, New York and Massachusetts to maintain their states’ current levels of social services. They’ll be able to do that only by raising their own taxes to economically and politically unsustainable levels. The goal — and some Republican Congressmembers were quite honest about this — is to end the so-called “subsidy” of more generous states by less generous ones and to force down the level of social insurance in places like California to the level of places like Mississippi.
The tight discipline and unity with which the Republicans in both houses pushed through the tax bill shows just how wrong the pundits who keep talking about a “civil war in the Republican Party” are. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who had received nationwide plaudits from progressives, liberals and moderates for their votes against the bill to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act, voted for the tax bill. (Murkowski’s vote was essentially “purchased” by slipping in a provision allowing oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge — thereby putting another piece of bad public policy in the bill.)
Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), who’d been hailed by the liberal punditocracy for some vague remarks about how President Trump had not yet shown the maturity and judgment to be an effective leader, voted against the tax bill on its first go-round in the Senate — he said he didn’t want to be a party to any increases in the budget deficit. But he voted for it on final passage after language was inserted directly benefiting major investors in real estate like Senator Corker and President Trump. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), who’d been praised for writing a book called Conscience of a Conservative that attacked Trump, voted for the bill. So did his Arizona colleague, John McCain, who missed the final vote because his terminal brain cancer had flared up, but voted for it on the first go-round despite the fact that the process used to put together the bill made a mockery of McCain’s call for the Senate to resume “regular order.”
The tax bill passed with a vote of 51 to 48 in the U.S. Senate. All the votes for it were from Republicans; all those against it were from Democrats. My friends in the “alt-Left,” the increasingly out-of-touch moralists or just plain crazies who still insist there is “no difference” between the two major parties, please take note. As I pointed out in my last commentary, the tax bill is a Right-wing revolutionary act whose intent is not merely to give huge tax breaks to the rich at the expense of everybody else and the country’s long-term economic health — though it is certainly that. It’s also a weapon in the current Republican Party’s drive to impose a hard-Right Libertarian ideology on the U.S. and wipe out all government programs that help people who aren’t part of the 1 percent.
As House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) — a thoroughgoing Libertarian who reportedly gives copies of Ayn Rand’s Libertarian manifesto, Atlas Shrugged, to his new staff hires to tell them what he wants from them — said almost as soon as the tax bill was passed, the next step was going to be “entitlement reform.” That’s Republican-speak for deep cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The Republicans in Congress intend to pay for the $1.5 trillion their tax cut for the rich will cost by gutting these vital social insurance programs, in line with their Libertarian ideology that says the government has no business ensuring that people will have a retirement income or access to health care.
It’s true that President Trump promised during his campaign that he wouldn’t cut Social Security and Medicare, but this is Donald Trump we’re talking about, a man who regards words as weapons to achieve what he wants and simply doesn’t care about whether what comes out of his mouth is true or not, as long as it advances his agenda. If you believed Trump would protect Social Security and Medicare against the people in his party who want to destroy them, you probably also believed you could become a multimillionare real-estate tycoon just by attending Trump University.
One MS-NBC promo spot features one of their anchors asking just what the Republican Party’s plan for America is. It’s to return the U.S. to what it was in the 1880’s — the decade Ayn Rand named as the one in which she thought America was truly “great” — in which corporations and their owners openly bought political influence (and in some cases, most notoriously California Senator Leland Stanford, the Donald Trump of the 19th century, directly bought political office) and used it to make their already huge fortunes even bigger.
In the 1880’s labor unions were illegal, white Americans reneged on the promise of racial equality that had been made during Reconstruction and imposed segregation on African-Americans, women were essentially the property of their families until they got married and their husbands afterwards, cities actually pointed with pride as to how polluted their air was, and the distribution of wealth and income in the U.S. became more unequal than ever before or since in our history … until now. That is the decade when Trump and the Republicans believe America was “great,” and to which they want to return to “make America great again.”
Only One Way to Stop It: Vote for Democrats!
And as I’ve pointed out in these pages before, there’s only one way to stop the Republican agenda of economic Libertarianism and social conservatism — the party’s peculiar but nonetheless enduring consensus that the true role of government isn’t protecting people against corporate greed or ensuring that people have a right to survive, but micromanaging their sex lives — and that is to vote for every Democrat on every ballot in every election in 2018, 2020 and in between. Despite its many failings and shortcomings, the fact is the Democratic Party is the only force in the U.S. standing in the way of the complete conquest of the American political and economic system by the Republicans in their Right-wing revolution.
Goodness knows, the Democratic Party has its flaws. While the Republican Party has become an ideologically consistent machine, the Democrats are still trying to be a “broad-tent” party encompassing everyone from conservative Senators like Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) to progressive Senators like Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). At least since the 1896 Presidential campaign, when William Jennings Bryan successfully challenged incumbent President Grover Cleveland for the nomination on a platform combining economic progressivism and social conservatism — a combination virtually unimaginable today — the Democratic Party has historically been split between moderates who want to suck up to Wall Street and the financial interests, and progressives who want to run the economy in the interests of the 99 percent.
The split within the Democratic Party seems to recur every time the party is out of power — between Cleveland and Bryan in 1896, between William Gibbs McAdoo and Al Smith in 1924 (that was the year the Democratic convention deadlocked after 103 ballots and ended up nominating John W. Davis, a Wall Street lawyer whose last public act was arguing for racial segregation at the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education), between Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy in 1968, between Michael Dukakis and Jesse Jackson in 1984, between John Kerry and Howard Dean in 2004, and between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in 2016. I harp on this because a lot of commentators seized on the Clinton-Sanders race as if the conflicts between the two — and the corrupt role of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in rigging the race for the nomination for Clinton and against Sanders — were something new. They weren’t.
I don’t go as far as Los Angeles Times op-ed contributor Conor Friedensdorf, who on December 27 published a column (http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-friedersdorf-vote-better-20171227-story.html) saying that in 2018 progressives should stop mounting street protests and demonstration against the Trump/GOP agenda and concentrate on electing Democrats in 2018. It seems to be a peculiar delusion of the American Left these days that the choice between electoral activism and direct action in the streets is either-or. In fact, it’s impossible to achieve social change just through elections and it’s impossible to achieve it just through street protests. It takes both, and I want to see people continue to demonstrate against Trump and the Republicans, not only because it builds public awareness of the depths of depravity to which the Republicans have sunk but because once we do elect Democrats, we will have to continue to demonstrate to keep them honest and make sure they serve the people instead of Wall Street and the corporate “interests.”
But Friedensdorf is right when he says, “Beyond the greater oversight and accountability that divided government brings, a decisive defeat of the GOP is the only tool voters have to repudiate Trump, in particular his tendency to stoke animus against minority groups to gain power.” As long as Trump or another Republican is President, and the Republicans control both houses of Congress, they will continue to be able to eviscerate all economic, social and regulatory protections against unsafe workplaces, financial scams, environmental destruction and racial and gender discrimination. They will continue on their current course of jamming through major legislation without any public hearings or input from the people who have to live with its consequences.
It would be nice if the U.S. had a parliamentary system with proportional representation, like Germany’s, where it made sense to organize the Green Party because once it got more than 5 percent of the national vote, it got a share of seats in the national legislature and a shot at real power and influence. But we don’t. We have an electoral system based on single-member legislative districts and winner-take-all elections, and that makes organizing alternative parties futile, counterproductive and a waste of time, energy and money. While the battle for social and economic justice in the U.S. will require both electoral activism within the system and street protests and demonstrations outside it, to the extent that the struggle has an electoral component it will have to be waged within the Democratic Party.
Electing Democrats won’t be a panacea. Anyone who’s lived through the successive disappointments of Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama knows that well. But the Republican Party has become so ideologically consistent and so implacably dedicated to a far-Right Libertarian vision of America’s future, that it has to be stopped — and the only force within the political system that can stop it, like it or not, is the Democratic Party. People who dismiss the Democrats as the “lesser of two evils” need to see that sometimes the greater evil is so evil that you have to do anything within your power to stop it. That was the case in Germany in 1932 — when the pointless conflicts between the Social Democrats and the Communists split the Left and helped the greater evil, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, take power — and it’s also the case in the United States in 2018.