Posts Tagged ‘Democratic Party’


Given how bowel-scrapingly loathsome Donald Trump is, it seems almost unseemly to attack any of his enemies, no matter how despicable. So, I’ve mostly — as have most Trump critics — been reserved of late in my criticism of the Clintons, Obama, et al.

No more.

Hillary Clinton just launched a straight-up McCarthyite attack on both Representative Tulsi Gabbard (long-shot hopeful for the Democratic nomination) and 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein, calling both of them “Russian assets.”

That strongly implies that both of them were consciously working with the Russians to undermine American democracy. Clinton’s evidence of that? None whatsoever. She makes the extreme stretch of concluding that since the Russians were sowing chaos in 2016, and now, and that some of their bots were promoting both Stein and Gabbard (along with many others on all sides of the fence — in order to sow chaos), that Stein and Gabbard are somehow “Russian assets.”

Her charge against Gabbard is that the Russians are supposedly “grooming” her to be a third-party candidate. The problem here is that Clinton offers no evidence whatsoever of this, and that Gabbard months ago emphatically stated that she will not run as a third-party candidate.

Why would Clinton launch such slanderous attacks on Stein and Gabbard? It’s obvious: She wants to destroy the most leftist candidate in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party (not that Gabbard doesn’t have major problems — she does: among other things she’s apparently a Hare Krishna, which would render her unelectable) and also to close off debate, to limit our electoral choices to the two major parties, the two wings of what Ferdinand Lundberg correctly called “the Property Party.”

Following Obama’s gross betrayal of the people who elected him — he saved the banks, not the people who lost their jobs and their homes — the corporate-Democrat/Republican good-cop/bad-cop mugging of the American public was wearing thin. It became all too obvious that the “good cop” was the junior partner in the looting of damn near all of us.

What better way to parry this growing realization than through false dichotomy.

Part and parcel of our sick parody of democracy is the pretense that the two wings of the Property Party, the Democrats and Republicans, are the only “realistic” choices, and that votes for third-party candidates against this rapacious duopoly are “wasted.” Or, even more grotesquely, that those who vote for third-party candidates or who abstain are somehow — in a classic example of false dichotomy — on the side of the “bad cop,” the Republicans (or their supposed Russian overlords).

Let’s please remember that in 2016 only 59% of those eligible to vote in the presidential election actually bothered to vote. Of the 100% of those eligible to vote, Trump got 26%, Clinton 28%, minor party candidates 5%, and 41% were so disgusted or demoralized that they didn’t even bother to cast a ballot.

Rather than address why over 40% of the American electorate found her and Trump so unattractive that they didn’t even bother to go to the polls, Clinton is attacking outliers and doing her best to tighten the Democratic/Republican duopolistic choke hold on our sad pretense of democracy.

She’s not attempting to broaden democracy, she’s attempting to strangle it.

She is utterly loathsome.

More tomorrow on her disgraceful record. (She should be locked up, but not for the reasons Trump and his minions trumpet.)

 

 


Some Trump 2016 supporters voted for him out of frustration. They were totally fed up with stagnant wages and both job and home losses during the Great Recession; Obama had betrayed their hopes — he saved the big banks but not them; and the Democrats in 2016 presented them with a Hobson’s choice: an almost equally loathsome candidate who promised more of the same, or Trump, who at least promised to shake things up.

The Democrats thought they could blackmail people into voting for their widely despised candidate, who won via a rigged primary, who openly ridiculed proposals for fundamental economic change and greater fairness, and who was the most disliked Democratic candidate since polls started tracking the matter half a century ago. Trump was even more disliked, so they thought they had the electorate in a hammer lock. It was essentially, “Vote for me suckers, or it’s Trump! What are you gonna do, punks?” Clinton and her accomplices didn’t even attempt to present  a positive agenda. Her message was pure and simple, “It’s me or Trump.”

And, surprise surprise, that message failed to inspire.

The corporate Democrats had argued that Clinton was more electable than Bernie Sanders, who had a far higher popularity rating and who was calling for fundamental (if reformist) change. (Bernie’s calling his proposals a “revolution” is ridiculous — they’re a call for mild reforms within a fundamentally corrupt system. Still, they’re the best thing going on the electoral front).

Today, another longtime Washington insider, corporate Democrat and Obama accomplice, Joe Biden, has taken up the “electability” argument. He has the same do-nothing mantra as Clinton, “It’s me or Trump,” the same lack of proposals for real change, and the same stench of insider politics. (Why has his son Hunter been receiving $50K per month for being on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, a position for which his only qualification is his name? If anything, Biden has behaved honorably there. But the fact remains that his son is trading on the Biden name.)

As well, Biden has been a faithful servant of big pharma and, especially, the big banks and credit card companies, who have royally screwed average people. He was a lobbyist for credit card giant MBNA through 2005, and worked diligently to make it harder for people to file for medical-caused bankruptcy, and all but impossible for students to discharge through bankruptcy student loan debt, which has approximately quadrupled since 2005.

One thing Biden’s supporters conveniently forget to mention in their “electability” argument is that Trump received the votes of only 26% of those eligible to vote, and Clinton roughly 28%, while 5% voted for minor party candidates (almost certainly out of frustration), and a full 41% of those eligible to vote chose not to vote.

If the Democrats have the sense to nominate a candidate calling for real change (especially in healthcare), they’ll almost certainly win. Of Trump’s 2016 supporters, especially those who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, they could likely pick up one in ten. And of the 41% who didn’t vote in 2016, even if they motivated only one in ten to vote, they’d win in a landslide.

The only way they could really fuck this up is by nominating Joe Biden.


All right. I’m bracing myself for blowback from the identity-politics wing of the Democratic Party — that part that’s more concerned about patting themselves on the back, demonstrating their virtue, and shaming their more pragmatic brethren, than defeating Trump.

Think I’m talking about Joe Biden? Wrong! Biden is a corporate sell-out hack with no discernible virtues. He backed the Clinton “tough on crime” measures in the ’90s that helped increase mass incarceration and racial sentencing disparity; as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the run-up to the disastrous Iraq War, he not only voted in favor of that disaster, but avoided calling expert witnesses who would have called Bush/Cheney’s blatant dishonesty into question. He actively abetted that crime against humanity, helped sell it, because he almost certainly thought it would be to his political benefit to do so. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he totally screwed Anita Hill at the Clarence Thomas hearings — and helped saddle us with extreme-right authoritarian Thomas — by refusing to hear Hill’s corroborating witnesses about Thomas’s gross sexual harassment of Hill.

As VP, he enthusiastically supported Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s war on whistle blowers (thus criminalizing exposure of war crimes, while letting war criminals off the hook).

He also supported Obama’s decision to save the banks while screwing the millions of people who lost their jobs and/or homes who voted for Obama, the master bullshit artist, who betrayed us en masse. (Yes, I voted for Obama in 2008, hoping that his “hope and change” promises weren’t complete bullshit, complete dishonesty — I was wrong.)

Biden also supported Hillary Clinton’s engineered Libya disaster (with no exit strategy in sight), which she thought would make her appear “tough.”

And, of course, he used his VP shoulder to prop up the Obama/Clinton policy of support for “ISIS-with-oil,” the murderous Saudi Islamic regime.

Joe Biden is a complete fraud as a representative of the working class, and a symptom of everything that’s wrong with the Democratic Party.

Most recently, however, he was ambushed by Kamala Harris on day 2 of the Democratic debates. He was like a deer in headlights.  Notwithstanding that Harris’s attack was simplistic and borderline dishonest (yes, Biden did repeatedly praise racist ubermensch John Stennis), and completely missed the point, Harris did Trump a major favor.

It’s always the same with conventional identity-politics liberals, such as Harris: they pose a false dichotomy. In this case, that the “choice” was between forcing white kids to be bussed to shitty, predominantly black schools an hour away from their homes, or be “racist.”

This totally misses the point: Why are some schools shitty, with damn near no money, and others aren’t? Unequal funding!

The bussing “solution” to this is to maintain unequal, shitty schools in black areas (and around here Mexican areas), but to subject some white students to them as well to subject most black students to them, and to give a few black/Mexican students access to better “white” schools.

Can you think of a more effective way to set black and white (and Mexican) working people at each other’s throats? Why not equal funding across district lines? Or, better, across state or federal lines.

Why not? Why not equal funding? The status quo is called “artificial scarcity.” It’s how they manipulate us.

It serves the interests of the powers-that-be very well. Divide and conquer.

No one — not a single one — of the Democratic candidates, not even Bernie Sanders, had the guts to point this out. Not a one had the guts to point out that the very obvious solution is to get away from property-tax funding of schools and to turn to equal state (better, federal) funding for every damn school in the country.

No one called Kamala Harris on this. No one called her out on playing the false-dichotomy, racial-division game.

All successful improvement programs (notably Social Security, Medicare), are universal. They benefit everyone. To do less, as Harris (and Biden, and Clinton, and Obama) did is to set us up for division along racial lines — perhaps deliberately. Which plays into the hands of the GOP racists.

And let’s not even start on “reparations.” The fundamental assumption of this is that things are basically okay, but for racial disparities. Really? What reality are you living in? What about the Mexicans who the border crossed? What about the Native Americans? What about the illiterate European immigrants who died working in abusive, exploitative conditions (e.g., one of my grandfathers — an otherwise horrible excuse for a human being — who died from from silicosis after working for decades in awful conditions in a foundry — I remember at five, in the 1950s, watching him hurl his lungs up on my parents’ back porch, and then die, strangling before my eyes.) Yeah, I’m “privileged.”

Please. Stop dividing us. Please stop patting yourselves on the backs for how “woke” you are, and please shut the fuck up — please get over yourselves, stop getting in the way of real change. Real change means betterment for everyone.

Unless Kamala Harris stops playing the identity-politics card, unless she starts talking about and emphasizing measures that will make life better for everyone (regardless of race and gender), she’s playing Trump’s game.

 


It’s easy enough to dismiss Trump as a buffoon, a moron, but he has lessons for us:

  • A frighteningly high percentage of Americans want a wide, blubbery butt to kiss, and once they straighten up (somewhat) and wipe the drool from their lips, want a wide, blubbery, bouncing butt to goosestep behind, so as to feel proud, one of the elect, entitled to screw over anyone and anything (including the Constitution) in their way — to put it briefly, they’re morally and ethically retarded, and will remain so;
  • Religious fanatics compose a very high proportion of those goose-steppers/butt-kissers, who comprise a frighteningly high proportion of white voters;
  • Those Christian religious fanatics are every bit as hard to reach as ISIS religious fanatics; they’re just as convinced that they’re right and righteous as the beheaders;
  • Just like those monsters, they’re convinced that the ends justify the means, and the ends are power over all of the rest of us — gerrymandering, voter suppression, whatever it takes — democracy and fair play don’t even enter into the picture;
  • They’re also deludedly convinced that they are the ones being oppressed, despite their receiving over $70 billion per year in tax breaks and near-universal obeisance to their dictates; the “freedom” they want is the “freedom” to oppress, especially our LGBT brothers and sisters;
  • Critical thinking is an endangered species in the U.S. — no one with even a sputtering bullshit detector could possibly buy into Trump’s transparently dishonest b.s., nor into the fundies’ dead-guy-walking-on-water-who-endorses-the-most-vicious-parts-of-the-Old Testament program;
  • The “concern” about life of the “pro-life” forces is hypocritical bullshit — they back corporatists whose environmental policies guarantee millions, probably tens of millions of deaths, many in the near term, especially via the unfolding climate catastrophe;
  • They also back the caging of children and healthcare neglect that have led to deaths of infants and children; they also back murderous regimes and murderous military interventions (e.g., the Saudies in Yemen) — real children? They don’t care — it’s all about controlling women’s reproductive choices;
  • The corporate, do-nothing Democrats’ mantra that “everything is okay; let’s get back to normal” is complete bullshit. Why was trump elected? Because everything was okay???
  • Identity-politics “solutions” based on race and gender will further drive the white working class into the arms of their corporate overlords — any and all progressive policies must benefit everyone, not a select relative few based on race or gender;
  • The corporate Democrats’ message that “nothing will change” (Biden said this literally, recently), and that things will get back to “normal,” is not a winning message. People stayed away from the polls in droves in 2016, in large part because Clinton ridiculed progressive ideas and promised that nothing would really change — people wanted major change, and she promised not to deliver it, as does Biden today;
  • The percentage of eligible voters sitting on their hands (41% in 2016), plus the 5+% of those voting for minor party candidates, dwarfed the votes for both Trump (roughly 26% of those eligible) and Clinton (roughly 28% of those eligible);
  • People are desperate — especially those 41% who didn’t see the point of even bothering — for something to vote for;
  • We very much need candidates who will provide an inspiring alternative to Biden’s do-nothingism and Trump’s monstrousness — again, we need something to vote for;
  • We’re extremely fortunate that Trump is so personally loathsome and incompetent — if he were a better demagogue, we’d be totally screwed;
  • Don’t let Biden and the other corporate Democrats deliver us into Trump’s hands.

(This is an update of a post I wrote about 18 months ago, and have updated a couple of times since.)

No, I’m not kidding. Trump has actually done a number of good things.

First, let’s list only the unalloyed positives:

  • Trump has armed the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) fighting ISIS in northern Syria, much to the annoyance of Turkish Islamist would-be dictator and ISIS enabler Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Update: As of January 2018, the U.S. is planning to keep 30,000 troops in northern Syria — the Kurdish part of Syria — and is promising to help the Kurds builda protective border wall on the Syrian-Turkish border, where for once a wall will be a good thing.)

As for the Kurds themselves, the YPG, a major part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, is the most effective military entity fighting ISIS in Syria. It’s also the only secular, democratic, libertarian (with a small “l”) force in the region in which gender equality is actively promoted. (There are all-women YPG units.)

It’s worth noting that to appease Islamist thug Erdogan, Hillary Clinton, had she won, would probably not have armed the YPG. All of the facts noted above have been obvious for years, yet Obama refused to arm the YPG. It’s a good bet that former Obama Secretary of State Clinton wouldn’t have, either.

Update 12-23-18: Trump, as was predictable, just betrayed the Kurds by announcing a US pullout from Syria. There were only 2,000 US troops there, but they served as a trip-wire preventing invasion by Ergoghan’s, Assad’s, Putin’s, and the Iranian ayatollah’s thugs. Trump just betrayed the only real allies the U.S. has in the region, the only ones effectively fighting ISIS. God help the Kurds. And god help the people in the region once ISIS comes surging back, like a virulent case of syphilis after an inadequate course of antibiotics.

(For more info, see “The Anarchists vs. the Islamic State.“)

  • Trump killed the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a “free trade” pact and mutant descendant of NAFTA. (I won’t even get started on NAFTA here; for now, suffice it to say that it screwed American industrial workers and Mexican small farmers — spurring a wave of jobless workers across the border,  desperate to provide for their families — while vastly benefiting transnational corporations.) Among other things, the TPP would have a allowed commercial “courts” to overrule U.S. laws, would have made the already atrocious copyright situation even worse, strengthening the hold of the media conglomerates, would have allowed U.S. pharmaceutical firms to force companies in signatory nations to stop producing affordable versions of life-saving drugs, and would have allowed foreign firms to sue the U.S. and U.S. state governments over “loss” of projected profits caused by environmental regulations.

Clinton was in favor of the TPP abomination, calling it the “gold standard” of trade agreements. Until she wasn’t in favor of it. If she’d won, there’d likely have been a few cosmetic changes to it which would have made it “acceptable” to her. And we’d have been further screwed. Trump just did her one better by denouncing NAFTA and then delivering . . . . . NAFTA.

Update: Trump just delivered the rather gay-sounding USMCA. (He even mimed “YMCA” in celebrating it.) It’s essentially NAFTA with minor tweaks and a few minor provisions thrown in from the TPP.  Its $16-an-hour provision might, might, serve as a very minor brake to the export of jobs overseas. (Check out what just happened with GM if you believe this.) At the same time, it contained a provision screwing Canadian and Mexican patients in favor of big pharma by increasing the length of time before generic drugs are available.

  • Trump is reportedly going to crack down on H-1B visa abuse. This type of visa allows employers to hire foreign workers for jobs for which there supposedly aren’t enough qualified American applicants. In practice, this program provides employers with indentured servants working for half the prevailing wages (often in the computer industry). Even worse, some “employers” have been more slave traders than job creators, hiring H-1B workers and then renting them to actual employers while taking part of their wages. (Ironically, in 2017 Trump took advantage of the closely related H-2B program to hire 70 low-skilled workers [cooks, maids, food servers] for his Mar-a-Lago resort.)

Update: Nothing has changed.

  • Trump, almost certainly out of personal pique against CNN, has opposed the ATT-Time-Warner merger, which would have further consolidated media control into fewer and fewer hands.

Update: The merger went through.

  • Trump, through his defeat of Clinton, has partially broken the hold of the corporate Democrats on the Democratic Party — the Republicans’ junior partner in the looting of the American working class — and made it at least possible that the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” will ascend.

For decades, the corporate Dems have had a stranglehold on the party as they’ve catered to the corporate elite (e.g., Obama’s refusal to prosecute any of the banksters responsible for the financial crash), taken massive amounts of money from the corporate elite, and refused to advance policies (most notably “Medicare for all”) favored by a large majority of Americans, and an even larger majority of Democrats.

At the same time, the corporate Democrats have been chasing the chimera of the “center” (the maybe 10% of eligible voters who are so poorly informed that they can’t make up their minds until the last minute) while ignoring the vastly higher number of those eligible to vote who don’t even bother to do it (41% in 2016), largely because of disillusionment, largely because they can’t see any real differences between the parties (at least in terms of economics).

Next, a mixed but overall positive move:

  • Trump has been pressuring U.S. allies to increase their military spending to bring it more in line with U.S. spending and thus, in theory, relieve financial pressure on U.S. taxpayers. Thus far he seems to have had some success with Canada, which will increase its military spending by 70% over the coming decade. This would be far more impressive if the U.S. didn’t already account for 43% of world military spending, and if Trump didn’t want to drastically increase that spending.
  • Trump recently signed a judicial sentencing-reform bill. It doesn’t go nearly far enough but it’s a good first step in ending America’s mass-incarceration nightmare (under 5% of world population; 25% of the world’s prisoners).

As for other good things Trump has done deliberately, none come to mind. But he has also inadvertently done some good:

  • He’s laid bare the hypocrisy of the Republican Party on healthcare. Republicans had seven years in which to prepare a replacement for Obamacare, and, after they unexpectedly won the presidency in 2016 (plus both houses of Congress), they had to scramble to come up with a nightmarish mishmash of cuts and half-measures that would have cost 23 million Americans healthcare coverage.
  • Trump has laid bare the hypocrisy of American foreign policy rhetoric. For decades, American “leaders” have been spewing the same line about “defending democracy,” while they’ve been supporting many of the world’s most barbaric dictators and authoritarian regimes. Trump’s praise for Putin, Erdogan, mass murderer Duterte, and our war-criminal, Islamist Saudi “allies” brings out in the open America’s support for dictators and authoritarianism.
  • He’s laid bare the racism of the Republican Party. For half a century Republicans have catered to racists — restricting voting rights of blacks and latinos, persecuting undocumented immigrants, promoting the war on drugs that has devastated black and latino communities, promoting “tough on crime” (tough on poor people) laws, and promoting outright slavery of the incarcerated — while at the same time hypocritically hiding behind code words and insisting that they aren’t racist. Under Trump, Republican racism is out in the open. (Unfortunately, that racism sometimes takes physical form; the assaults and murders it produces are a hideous byproduct of it.)
  • By acting as an apologist for neo-Nazis in the wake of Charlottesville, and by pointing out that Washington and Jefferson were slaveholders, he’s put a spotlight on a seamy side of American “revolutionary” history that virtually no one talks about. (For more info on this see “A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn.)
  • Trump, by announcing the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, has ended the sick charade of the U.S. government’s pretensions of being an “honest broker” in the Middle East. In regard to Middle East policy, for decades the government has been hostage to the extreme right wingers in AIPAC, and to a lesser extent the religious right (some of whom want Armageddon), and has actively aided, abetted, and financed the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. Trump just tore away the “honest broker” mask.
  • Trump has interrupted the creeping fascism that has been strangling America since at least the time of Truman, in favor of galloping fascism. The good news is that Trump is so repulsive and so inept — good only at manipulating and swindling the fearful, desperate, uninformed, and angry — that he likely won’t succeed in destroying what’s left of our freedoms.

Had Clinton won in 2016, creeping fascism would have continued; nothing would have fundamentally changed; popular discontent and resentment would have continued to fester; even while they controlled both the House and Senate, Republicans would have blamed everything that’s going wrong on the “liberal” (she isn’t) Clinton; and an overt, more competent Republican theofascist would probably have taken power in 2020, which, had Clinton won in 2016, could have meant “game over” for American democracy.

  • Without intending to do it, Trump has spurred a wave of political activism in the U.S., the like of which hasn’t been seen in nearly half a century. This is a good thing for American democracy.

Contrary to popular belief, Trump’s victory in 2016 hasn’t been a total disaster, and in the end might turn out to be a good thing — assuming he doesn’t start a nuclear war or crash the economy. In the long run, a Clinton victory could (in my view would) have turned out a whole lot worse.

Of course, things could and probably will, for now, get worse under Trump. He and his minions will continue to degrade the environment, abet the banksters and other corporate thugs in the looting of the economy, and will continue to impose the evangelical theofascist social agenda on all of us.

Still, they’re probably too inept to stage a Reichstag Fire and get away with it. But god help us if there’s a major terrorist attack. Naomi Klein at The Intercept offers a cogent analysis of this possibility in “The worst of Donald Trump’s toxic agenda lies in wait — a major U.S. crisis will unleash it.”

For now, just be glad that Hillary Clinton isn’t in the White House, and let’s hope for a wave of new social movements; let’s also hope that in the meantime the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” will at least temporarily stave off the corporate-lackey Democrats and the theofascist Republicans until there’s an opening for real social change.


Five-and-a-half years ago we published a piece — reproduced below — analyzing whether MSNBC was as bad as Fox News. The verdict was that it was bad, but not as bad as Fox.

Since then, things have apparently deteriorated at MSNBC. (I cut the cable cord  in late 2014 and have seen little of MSNBC since then.) Former MSNBC host Ed Schultz (who died recently) revealed a few months ago that MSNBC deliberately limited coverage of Bernie Sanders’ campaign in 2016, that MSNBC president Phil Griffin “often” told hosts what to talk about on their shows. Schultz also revealed that MSNBC fired him because of his support of Sanders.

That was bad enough, but over the last year or two MSNBC’s support of Hillary Clinton and the rest of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party has become even more overt and has taken a very ugly turn: redbaiting of those on the left opposed to the corporate-lackey Democrats. This redbaiting includes the broadcasting of outright lies by at least one of the “analysts” from the intelligence agencies and Pentagon that MSNBC employs. Almost worse, when the blatantly false nature of the smears was revealed by one of the victims (highly respected journalist Glenn Greenwald), MSNBC not only took no action against the liar/smear-merchant, they didn’t even broadcast a single retraction. Greenwald has an informative post about the matter on The Intercept: “MSNBC Does Not Merely Permit Fabrications Against Democratic Party Critics. It Encourages and Rewards Them.”

At this point, MSNBC seems to have morphed into a near-mirror image of Fox “News.” Neither by any stretch of the imagination is a real news organization. They’re both propaganda machines whose primary difference is that they serve different masters.

Our piece from 2014 on MSNBC and Fox is reproduced below.

* * *

MSNBC and Fox News are comparable in some ways, but differ in others. They’re similar in that they’re primarily opinion channels, and they both have political agendas. Fox is unabashedly right-wing evangelical Republican and outright Obamaphobic, while MSNBC is moderately secular-Democratic and outright Obamaphilic. Both have hired politicians as hosts and commentators, Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin being the most prominent GOP politicians on Fox, and Washington Democratic insiders Chris Matthews and Lawrence O’Donnell being the most prominent on MSNBC.

But that’s where the similarities end. Fox at least makes a pretense of being a news channel, while MSNBC doesn’t–it consists of little but pro-Obama opinion. Fox spends about four times as much as MSNBC on news coverage, though the quality of that coverage tends to be poor. Fox viewers are the least well informed of all news viewers. They’re so poorly informed that people who do not follow the news at all are better informed, while MSNBC viewers are just barely better informed than those who don’t follow the news.

Another place in which Fox and MSNBC vary is in their approach to news and opinion. Fox “News” hosts get daily directives from the head of Fox “News,” Roger Ailes. Ailes tells them what stories to emphasize and even, apparently, the talking points they should use, as witnessed by the identical and near-identical phrasing Fox hosts routinely employ. (Catch “The Daily Show” for examples of this on a regular basis.) As well, Fox day in and day out does its best to manufacture stories that will benefit the Republican Party, reinforce Republican positions, and bolster the fears and hatreds of Fox viewers. Examples include outright false reports about ACORN perpetrating voting fraud; grossly exaggerated reports about the tiny New Black Panther Party intimidating voters; repeated reports about the relatively few cheaters using the SNAP program (food stamps–most beneficiaries are children and the elderly); and the never-ending blather about the “war on Christmas” and supposed attacks on religious freedom, which invariably turn out to be the government’s refusing to allow right-wingers to use public facilities for religious purposes or the government refusing to give bigots the right to discriminate based on their religious “principles.”

Rather than employing the same Machiavellian manipulation of the news, MSNBC takes a simpler approach: It seems to hire only hosts who share the same rather narrow, Obama-worshipping ideological views. Several of MSNBC’s most prominent hosts–Chris Matthews, Ed Shultz, Al Sharpton–virtually never criticize the Obama Administration for anything, while routinely heaping fulsome (in both senses of the word) praise on it. Other hosts will occasionally criticize Obama and his administration, though their criticisms tend to be muted, and they also routinely defend Obama. The most prominent hosts in this category are Rachel Maddow and Laurence O’Donnell. One suspects that even the most independent host on MSNBC, Chris Hayes, who dares to routinely criticize the Obama Administration from a left-leaning/civil-liberties viewpoint, mutes his criticism.

This brings up another apparent part of MSNBC’s approach: self-censorship. MSNBC hosts avoid certain topics like the plague. One very noticeable example is the Israeli brutalization of the Palestinians, and more especially the stranglehold of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) on American politicians and policies regarding the Middle East. MSNBC hosts never examine this stranglehold, and rarely mention it even when AIPAC (which represents the Israeli extreme right) and its numerous minions in Congress are trying to stampede the U.S. into war on Israel’s behalf.

Other matters that MSNBC hosts do their best to avoid include the Obama Administration’s assault on whistleblowers and civil liberties, and its massive, illegal surveillance program. Some MSNBC hosts even take the part of the Administration. Ed Schultz, for example, called whistleblower Edward Snowden a “punk,” and Lawrence O’Donnell a few nights ago smirked about Snowden’s being unable to criticize Putin’s policies in Russia because the U.S. government has trapped him there.

MSNBC is also careful to avoid critical examination of the role of the media in politics. This is especially so in its failure to analyze or to report on the role of the media in the run-up to the Iraq War. Last year’s documentary by Rachel Maddow, “Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War,” is the prime example. Remarkably, in this documentary, Maddow only analyzes the actions of Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, et al., not those of the media. This is remarkable, because without the active complicity of the media (including MSNBC), Bush and company would never have gotten away with the massive con job that resulted in the Iraq disaster.

Maddow apparently made a deal with the devil. She apparently thought that telling half the truth to a relatively large audience was better than telling the whole truth to a smaller one (that is, not on MSNBC).

Her documentary exemplifies the primary difference between Fox and MSNBC: Fox actively manufactures “news” to fit its political agenda, while MSNBC avoids news that threatens its political agenda.

Beyond that, Fox appeals to the absolute worst in its viewers: cruelty, a preening “patriotism,” feelings of victimhood, and fear and hatred of scapegoats–poor, black, brown, gay, feminist, and nonchristian human beings. By and large it succeeds in this.

MSNBC appeals primarily but not exclusively–there’s a heavy dose of hero-worship/bootlicking in the mix–to the best in its viewers:  hope and compassion. And then it strives to turn those admirable qualities into support for politicians who cynically and systematically betray its viewers’ hopes.

Which is worse, the cynicism and viciousness embodied by Fox, or the cynicism and betrayal of hope embodied by MSNBC? You decide. I can’t.

 


There have been many attempts to explain why Trump voters remain loyal to him. Given that Trump is an obvious bully, con man, hypocrite, boastful sexual predator, overt racist, pathological liar, and a rich kid who’s never done a day’s work in his life, many “analyses” get stuck at the “what in hell is wrong with these people?” stage. There are, however, some common analyses that make sense in part. We’ll get to them shortly.

But let’s first take a look at the best psychological explanation I’ve seen of why Trump voters haven’t fled him in horror. It’s “A Neuroscientist Explains What Could Be Wrong with Trump Supporters’ Brains,” by Bobby Azarian, a scientist affiliated with George Mason University. Azarian cites four reasons why many of Trump’s voters stick with him. (We’d encourage you to read the entire article.)

  1. Azarian quotes psychologist David Dunning as follows regarding how woefully misinformed many Trump voters are: “The knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task — and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at the task. This includes political judgment.” Azarian adds, “Essentially, they’re not smart enough to realize they’re dumb.” (Obviously, not all Trump voters fall into this category. Azarian doesn’t add, but should, that desperation and frustration will often lead people to take a chance, even a remote chance, on damn near anything that promises relief.)
  2. The second component in loyalty to Trump is fearfulness: A great many of Trump’s followers, especially die-hard conservatives, are fear driven. As Azarian puts it, “Science has unequivocally shown that the conservative brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. . . . These brain responses are automatic, and not influenced by logic or reason. As long as Trump continues his fear mongering by constantly portraying Muslims and Mexican immigrants as imminent dangers, many conservative brains will involuntarily light up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch.”
  3. Fear of death increases the effectiveness of Trump’s fear mongering. Azarian notes, “[W]hen people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their worldviews and national or ethnic identity, and act out more aggressively towards those who do not. Hundreds of studies have confirmed this hypothesis . . . By constantly emphasizing [supposed] existential threat, Trump creates a psychological condition that makes the brain respond positively rather than negatively to bigoted statements and divisive rhetoric.”
  4. The fourth reason for Trump’s hold on his core voters is his showmanship: he’s a master at keeping his audience engaged. As Azarian says, “His showmanship and simple messages clearly resonate at a visceral level. . . . He keeps us on the edge of our seat, and for that reason, some Trump supporters will forgive anything he says. They are happy as long as they are kept entertained.”

There are other factors in Trump’s support that Azarian doesn’t mention, though many others have; the following are all commonly cited, and all have some validity.

An important factor is that conservatives, more so than progressives, tend to live inside a media bubble, that is, they seek out news and opinion outlets that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs, fears, and prejudices, and “cluster around,” as a 2014 Pew report put it, a small number of news sources or, often, a single news source: Fox News. Not coincidentally, Fox and other right-wing media outfits, such as Breitbart and Sinclair Broadcasting, deliberately and consistently trigger Trump supporters’ fear response. Trump supporters tend to live in a news/opinion echo chamber where it’s “all fear all of the time.”

Another factor in Trump’s continuing support is that a great many Trump voters are in real economic distress; many are stuck on or near the lowest level of need: basic survival. Economic insecurity is the rule in the United States now — as an example of this, approximately 60% of Americans say they couldn’t handle an unexpected $500 expense without going into debt. Billionaire trust fund baby Trump talks about “jobs, jobs, jobs,” and pretends that he’s a friend of those who work for a living, and many working people are so stressed and desperate that they grasp at the straws he throws them as they sink ever further into the economic quicksand.

This wouldn’t be such a problem if the Democrats weren’t controlled by corporatists (those funded by and serving the interests of the corporate world and the 1% who by and large own it). The corporate Democrats have controlled the party for roughly four decades, and when in power (Clinton and Obama) have done essentially nothing to address the ever-more-urgent problem of economic inequality and the despair and anger it spawns, even when they’ve had huge majorities in Congress. Instead, they’ve focused on identity politics issues that do not in the slightest threaten the financial interests of their corporate backers. (Of course, issues such as LGBT and women’s rights must be addressed — but it’s absolutely crazy to make them your primary focus while ignoring the 800-pound gorilla of economic inequality.) The corporate Democrats appear to be (and to a great extent are) elitists who are unconcerned about the economic well-being of average people, and who have been skating by for decades on the anemic message that “we’re not as bad as the Republicans,” while standing for essentially nothing.

That explains the astoundingly low rate of voter participation in American elections. In 2016, only 59% of those eligible voted — in a presidential election; in midterms the percentage is much lower — and a good majority of those who didn’t vote were low-income people, many of whom could have been reached with a message about jobs  and reducing economic inequality. The corporate Democrats wouldn’t even touch those and related issues, such as healthcare for all, and as a result huge numbers of people sat on their hands or voted for third-party candidates — or voted for Trump. (In the 2016 election, 41% of those eligible didn’t vote; Clinton received the votes of 28% of those eligible; Trump 26%; and about 5% went to minor party candidates.)

The only rays of hope are that there’s a revolt in the Democratic Party against the corporatists; Trump’s hardcore supporters are a minority of, at most, 35% to 40% of those most likely to vote; Trump is so loathsome, vicious, and dangerous that people opposed to him can’t wait to get to the polls; and Trump’s economic policies will screw his working class supporters in short order, and some of them will realize it — eventually.

These are small rays of hope, but they’re better than none.