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A bloodless revolution

Will the 2020 election become an unsavory choice between Donald Trump’s neo-fascist plutocracy versus a return to the failed neoliberal policies of the past? Either way the wealthy will maintain their stranglehold on the economy and our lives.

In Trump’s Darwinian world every oligarch is for themselves. In Joe Biden’s neoliberal world, however, things are more nuanced. Decision-making is made in consultation with “elected” party insiders, presenting a veneer of democracy. Since the Citizens United decision, elected crony capitalists increasingly derive their powers from corporate donors with assistance from corporate “liberal” media which brainwashes consumers into voting against their own interests. Biden’s election would continue the neoliberal push, instigated by the silver-tongued Clinton and sustained by the obeisant Obama, that promotes the global extraction of wealth from the bottom to the top. Neoliberalism is a destructive ideology that promotes a global economy based solely on unrestrained free markets with little government oversight; it was embraced prior to the Great Depression and our more recent Great Recession, both of which it helped to cause. The neoliberal order parallels plutocracy in that it rewards the wealthy few at the expense of the masses but is more palatable to so-called “moderate” or “centrist” Democrats than Trump’s blatant plutocracy. While neoliberals value fairness with an eye on social justice, they prioritize their personal financial portfolios.

Neoliberalism seems fairer than plutocracy, especially to those who have benefited from their allegiance to their corporate bosses. Corporations may rule the world, but one can, by “merit,” get in on the game. It’s like playing Monopoly while ignoring who actually owns the board. Meanwhile, the disenfranchised suffer from wealth inequality, a torn and discarded social safety net, hunger, homelessness, compromised health and worse. And all of us bear the burden of endless wars and climate catastrophe engendered by corporate greed, minimized and normalized by corporate media. All of us are, in one way or another, trapped in the casino of unrestrained capitalism, anxiously anticipating the next boom or bust cycle.

History has shown us that plutocracy and neoliberalism have a limited shelf life. There inevitably comes a tipping point, “in the course of human events,” when the masses of people, who’ve managed to survive incremental decimation, become increasingly distraught and rise up in often bloody revolt against the “economic royalists” (FDR’s words).

Bernie Sanders, the prophet not from our own house, speaks often of his campaign’s “political revolution.” Some liberals bridle at the word “revolution,” although, tellingly, I haven’t heard similar objection when they refer to the “Reagan revolution,” the radical government deregulation and embrace of laissez-faire free marketism. Political revolution distinguishes itself from the forcible overthrow of government that we usually associate with the word “revolution.” The “revolution” Sanders proposes is akin to FDR’s New Deal, as Roosevelt put it: “not discovery or exploitation of natural resources, or necessarily producing more goods,” but “the soberer, less dramatic business of administering resources of distributing wealth and products more equitably.”

Democrats have a clear choice: vote for neoliberal Biden whose record includes advocating for the fossil fuel industry, NAFTA, TPP, the war in Iraq, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the bailout of Wall Street, anti-busing for school integration, the prison-industrial and military industrial complexes, cuts to Social Security and Medicare, the health care industry and big Pharma, bankruptcy reform legislation stripping students and others of bankruptcy protection, states’ rights to overturn Roe v. Wade, criminalization of marijuana and the war on drugs, the death penalty, heavily armed police forces, the Patriot Act that created the surveillance state and eliminated many civil liberties, and opposition to gay marriage.

Will the realization of neoliberalism’s failure come in time to reject a Biden nomination, or will the voters aid Democratic insiders in committing what’s been described as “Democraticide?” The next few weeks will tell. Regardless, that tenacious Toto, Bernie Sanders, has pulled the curtain to expose the corporate Dems for who they really are.

With his advocacy of the Green New Deal, in the tradition of FDR, Sanders has connected the dots between economic, social, racial and environmental justice. He eclipses Biden on issues such as Medicare for all, climate change, race and gender discrimination, a living wage, trade deals, immigration reform, breaking up the big banks, reforming campaign finance, rebuilding our infrastructure, protecting and expanding Social Security, cutting prescription drug costs, providing affordable housing, canceling student debt, caring for veterans and the disabled and ending perpetual war. Will we look back on this time as a missed opportunity for a bloodless revolution?

Andy Seles lives in Ashland.