The Revenge of Class and the Death of the Democratic Party

My Counterpunch article in case you missed it:

The Democratic Party of my lifetime – the coalition of Wall St finance capital and identity-politics voters that arose during the 1980s and 90s – is dead. It has been killed, quite ironically, by the revenge of class politics – the kind once championed by the Democrats. Decades of economic misery and the hollowing-out of vast segments of the American economy, which the Democratic Party participated in gleefully, has led to the inchoate rage which found expression in the fun house mirror version of class struggle politics: Donald Trump.

Barack Obama’s presidency will be seen as the high-water mark of this Democratic Party. The reign of finance capital, on the rise since the 1970’s and the shift within capitalism from productive industry to the financialization of everything, grew to a point where Obama used the machinery of state to not only rescue finance capital after its 2008 collapse but to extend its rule by crushing any attempts at a left-Keynesian solution to the crisis. Occupy Wall Street, a class-conscious response to austerity politics, was exterminated by Democratic mayors under dictates from Obama’s White House.

Obama’s electoral coalition was driven by the professional class that had arisen to manage the various segments of the financialized economy. Since they derive significant benefits from late capitalism, the professionals eschew class-struggle based politics. What this group wants is a slow expansion of individual rights. The liberal illusion is that this gradual expansion of rights is inevitable, that progress is slow-but-steady, and more radical attempts to deal with the economic system are unwanted or impossible. It is a perfect illusion for professionals within capitalism to have: moderate progress and no need to mention class. Capital very well accomodated itself to these demands during the Obama years and showed itself willing to incorporate same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization, etc. The point is not that these gains are insignificant – they are indeed important – but that they do little to address the larger inequalities within capitalism and have been used to split professionals from the working class.

Thus the collective trauma of the liberal class after Trump’s win is very much that of a group illusion being violently shattered. Every subclass manifests ideological justifications for its position, and the wrenching defeat of Hillary Clinton – who had the full might of the media apparatus behind her – shows there are no longer enough votes to continue mining in new sectors of the identity-politics class. This class reaction to defeat is a comical extension of itself: talk of fleeing the country is only possible because they are credentialed professionals with portable skills across international borders. Working class individuals are to be left behind to resist, or be crushed by the new regime.

Indeed it was that working class of the Rust Belt that handed the Democratic Party its defeat. Trump is no savior of workers, but he understands what successful elites have from time immemorial: to win the backing of a disaffected working class means you acquire a strong base of support against other elite factions. The inchoate rage of the working class (many of whom voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012) is a product of a half-century of structural decline coupled with conscious policy decisions that decimated the workforce. Clinton signed NAFTA, Obama failed to press forward on card-check unionization rules, and none of them moved to repeal Taft-Hartley. It is also a product of post-war order that took apart class-struggle unions and attacked class struggle parties, making it nearly impossible to organize in the private sector. Until mid-century there was a healthy class-conscious culture buoyed by labor and socialist media, organizations and education. Its loss has opened a space for the rise of a right-wing that gives a distorted voice to working class concerns.

Many will point to Bernie Sanders as a rebuttal to the terminal decline of the Democratic Party’s drift into the party of identity politics and Wall St. It is true that Sanders voiced a social-democratic agenda warmly received by workers and a good part of left-leaning petty-bourgeois Americans. But remember: the professional identity-politics voters in the Democrats fiercely rejected Sanders. He won states with large working class populations not tied to the professional identity-politics class, and he usually needed support from independents in open primaries to do so. Class-struggle politics can be tied to expanding personal freedoms, but it is anathema to a professional class and party whose existence depends upon the largesse of finance capital.

Class, then, has had its revenge on the illusions of the professional caste. This likely signals the terminal decline of the Democratic Party. Hemmed in by campaign donors from moving left and by the ideology of its party functionaries, there will be little room for it to maneuver in Trump’s America. The capitalism of the early 21st century also prohibits a return to the classic social-democratic bargain of mid-century. While social-democratic programs like a massive public works plan for full employment, income redistribution and social programs are still possible within capitalism, but the old alliance of labor and a section of big capital will not materialize because capital no longer needs or wants to use those programs to create and sustain profits by developing a mass of well-paid workers in production industries. Thus any group implementing reforms on the left will be immediately challenged and forced to either radicalize towards socialism or acquiesce to the demands of capital. The Democrats cannot do this and will remain boxed into their strongholds; within Congress a Sanders (or Warren) will be allowed to posture while in the minority but will not be allowed to build a platform to take the party in a more leftward direction. Trump, because he is bourgeois, will conversely be permitted to throw sops to workers in exchange for their electoral support. It is a cruel return of working class politics that cannot be won without building a radical left party capable of challenging the system at the ballot box and in the streets.

Politics Is a Racket

I don’t often like to resort to overused analogies when analyzing politics, but when talking about the U.S. presidential election I find the best way to view it is as a protection racket. A protection racket, of course, is a mafia-like scheme where a group threatens violence against businesses or people unless they are paid to “protect” said groups. You know, the old “you’ve got a nice store here, wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to it, would you?” Our political system has been carefully crafted by the Democratic and Republican parties to frighten voters into selecting what they perceive to be the best worst option, rather than the most positive outcome. Keep in mind that the opposite is true for the ruling class and donors to campaigns: they tend to get what they want because both candidates are likely to promote the interests of the people and groups who fund their campaigns and control the levers of economic power. The two major parties and their large retinue of paid staff also get what they want: political power and access to jobs/resources.

The Shape of the Racket

The political protection racket has been built and maintained by the Democrats and Republicans using a number of techniques:

  • Gerrymandering rendering the majority of the country into non-competitive Congressional and state-legislative electoral districts.
  • Use of the Electoral College, and not the popular vote, to elect the president.
  • Placing of ballot-access and electoral hurdles in the way of alternative party candidates.
  • Preventing the establishment of fully publicly financed elections.
  • A symbiotic relationship with media outlets to both indoctrinate and propagandize the voting public as an extension of the media’s role in supporting the state and ruling class ideology.
  • Extremely negative responses to attempts by voters to exit the system by voting for alternative parties and candidates: predictions of voter irrelevance giving way to constant propaganda that third-parties (which may be the voter’s preferred outcome) will prevent the voter’s least non-preferred outcome from happening.
  • Actual reprisals against districts and voters who have successfully chosen to exit the protection racket.

It’s important to examine each of these in turn.

Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering is drawing a district so that one party has an overwhelming registration advantage over all others. This makes voter rebellion (exit) unlikely because it would require the opposition to either enroll a significant number of new voters, encourage non-voters to vote, attract a significant portion of the majority party voters to vote against the party, or a combination of the three. In the United States, the Congressional district map has been so gerrymandered that there are between 16-19 races out of 435 that can truly be called competitive. That’s 4% of all House races! The Senate is slightly more competitive, with 7 seats out of 35 up for election in that category (20%), but keep in mind they are only 7% of the total Senate (7/100).

I mention this as a building-block of the political protection racket because by eliminating choice in vast majority of elections, you force voters to A.) consistently elect people from one political organization no matter what their preferences might be, B.) inevitably discourage many voters from participating in the political process, and C.) train voters to consistently vote for one particular party (no matter what) and that this is part of a democratic political order’s proper functioning.

Keep in mind this is all even worse at the level of state legislative elections.

Thus the Democrats and Republicans and their paid staff are assured a certain amount of political spoils no matter what, as exit from the system is blocked in most areas of the country. Like a company store, the voters an residents have to go because there seems to be no other option.

Electoral College

The Electoral College was designed to prevent the working class and poor from electing a radical executive who might try confiscate the property of the wealthy. Alexander Hamilton put this in an eloquent way when he wrote that the Electoral College was designed so “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” That is, because the vast majority of electors were originally chosen by state legislatures, this meant there were safeguards in place to prevent the popular will from being exercised, should it prove unacceptable to the elite.

Today the Electoral College is a part of the protection racket not because they are selected by state legislatures, but rather because it limits the truly competitive (swing) states to just 10 or 11: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. 40 of the 50 states have voted for the same party since the election of 2000.

Think about this!  Preventing a fully national electoral campaign and limiting the impact of democratic choice (in the form of the popular vote) but means there is precious little chance of voter rebellion and exit. The protection racket has tightened its grip by limiting the swing vote to merely 11 states.

On top of this the state-by-state nature of the vote means the two parties can attack alternative party candidates like Jill Stein in two ways: first for being irrelevant (they can’t win electoral votes) and second because they could be so relevant as to tip the election. They can have their cake and eat it, too, and petrify voters into choosing between two candidates even in non-swing states due to the irrelevance/relevance pretzel-logic of the Electoral College.

Those of us who fight for instant runoff-voting and the popular vote in presidential elections should bear in mind that it is the Democratic and Republican parties who love the Electoral College and the fear they can create in the hearts of voters if alternative presidential candidates gain any traction (while ignoring and disparaging them when they do not). It is a perfect example of the racket.

Ballot-Access and Electoral Hurdles

I doubt most people think of how difficult it can be to even appear on the ballot for office in the United States. There are 51 different rules (including Washington, D.C.), and the process used for independents and alternative party candidates is usually onerous. Not only that, but since boards of election issue the rules and are staffed by Democrats and Republicans by law, non-major party candidates start at a disadvantage.

As for electoral hurdles, while gerrymandering is one, the single-member district, plurality voting system tends to replicate the racket at the local level. Alternatives (which often include the disadvantaged major party candidate in that district) are either derided as a wasted vote or they are seen as a mortal threat to the party that controls the racket.

By limiting the ability of candidates to appear on the ballot and then limiting their chances of success, the racketeers rarely have to worry about serious rebellion.

Campaign Finance

The amount of campaign cash spent on elections in the United States is staggering; the Economist estimates nearly $5 billion will be spent in the 2016 cycle. Neither major party has much interest in limiting the gusher of donations available to them from the very wealthy and corporations. In fact, the political economist Thomas Ferguson developed his investor-driven theory of elections after determining that political parties set their policies and limit their rightward and leftward tilts based on investor-blocs donating to the parties. Since no investor-bloc seems interested in eliminating private funding of elections, there is no real movement to do so in Congress or at most state levels (with Maine and Arizona as rare exceptions).

Quite simply, this is part of the protection racket because A) candidates and parties unable to raise vast sums of cash cannot pay for ads, staff and mailings necessary to appear viable – which is only the case because there is no system of public campaign financing, B) voters either become non-voters due to despair or disgust (which is preferred by the racketeers in gerrymandered districts if a voter is not an orthodox party supporter) or dismiss alternative candidates and choose to keep the racket because nothing else seems viable.

Media Coverage and Propaganda

It would be easier to view the media as a crucial part of the state and ruling class’ tools for indoctrinating the population than as an independent body; it is enmeshed in the ideological superstructure of the system. Regardless, the media’s role is to be a gatekeeper for their paymasters. 6 corporations control 90% of the media in the United States! Not only does that give unprecedented control to the heads of those corporations, but given their own interests in maintaining a relationship with the racketeers (for “access”) the journalists and editors rarely take a negative view of the electoral racket, and even more rarely afford third-party and independent candidates equal, fair time and consideration.

They are in fact more likely to propagandize in whatever way keeps the racket stable for the elite; in 2016 this seems to mean almost every media outlet denouncing Donald Trump and backing Hillary Clinton (the elite consensus choice).

If one never knows about an alternative, the limitation of choice means a large contingent of voters will simply choose to become non-voters when discouraged, and the rest will remain trapped loyal party members.

Negative Response To Racket-Exit and Third-Party Votes

The main response to a concerted decision by a bloc of voters to reject the racket is to belittle their chosen candidate(s) and to shame and scare them back into line. We see this with the development of the “spoiler” mythology during, and then immediately after the election: the Democratic Party, which has helped game and rig the system almost since the inception of the United States, blamed Ralph Nader and the Green Party for their candidate’s loss. It is as if the owners of a casino (another racket) were sobbing about losses due to card counting at the blackjack table – hilarious, to be sure, since they set the rules to a corrupt game!

This is a very persuasive tactic and most people don’t like being constantly belittled for their choice of third-party candidates or “losers.” It’s ideological shaming and part of the larger indoctrination into the systemic rules that are enforced by hard and soft power.

Actual Reprisals 

Actual reprisals are rare, since the system is rigged against alternative candidates to begin with, but examining wins by Green Party state legislator John Eder in Maine (2002 & 2004) we can see that the first course of action is to redistrict (this also happened to Dennis Kucinich in Ohio even as a Democrat, albeit one very critical of the Democratic Party apparatus). Eder happened to run in Portland, Maine, a very liberal city and won his second election after being redistricted; it helps that Maine has a very good public campaign financing law as well. Matt Gonzalez, who was a GP head of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, very nearly won the mayor’s race in 2003. During the run-off election the Democrats and Republican celebrities campaigned together and there were threats to city workers to campaign for the Democrat (Gavin Newsom) on the job.

Break the Racket

The solution, of course, is to break the racket. Build alternatives by supporting them with money, time and votes – and refuse to accept the fear-based racketeering of the major parties. Easier said than done, of course, but the decay of the two-party apparatus in the United States – which mirrors the swift decline of old-guard 20th century parties in Europe – should give hope that a battle against the racket is not fruitless.

 

Why Don’t People Vote? It’s History…

The NY Times asks an interesting question: what makes people into voters and non-voters? The conclusion, though not addressed by the Times even with clear data in the article, is that non-voters are making a logical choice based on the limited amount of selection and impact they perceive their vote to have in an electoral system that is mostly rigged in favor of particular outcomes. This has a two-fold component: an historical attack on working-class organizations that dates back to the rise of mass parties, labor unions and socialist politics in the late 19th century, and modern hurdles to ensure continued flat voter turnout outside of groups that are unlikely to vote in a radical fashion: the wealthy and the professional managerial class of college-educated workers.

The Historical Assault on Voting

The 19th century was a time of robust political participation in the United States – both among groups that were enfranchised and those that were fighting for suffrage. In the 60 year period from 1840-1900 voter turnout in presidential elections fluctuated between 73%-82%, similar to high-turnout nations today like France, the Netherlands, Sweden, South Korea, and New Zealand. We can see this clearly here (and note the sharp decline after 1900):

The youth vote, unlike today, was similarly high, since:

“From children to 20-somethings, young people were considered the most wildly political Americans. The Newark Evening News declared the “great majority” of school-kids “violent little partisans,” who hollered nasty rhymes at rivals (“Democrats eat dead rats” was a favorite). Many youths joined political marching clubs—girls dressed as goddesses, boys in military uniforms, wielding torches, playing brass instruments, sometimes concealing bowie knives or revolvers. And so-called “virgin voters” turned out on Election Day, excited to cast their first ballots for their beloved parties.”

We may have to revive the “Democrats eat dead rats” slogan…

Class barriers to political entry fell away in the mid-19th century, as the Jacksonian Revolution stripped away the last property qualifications to voting. By 1840 – the year of the spike in voter turnout – they were gone in all but three states, and by 1856 in all of them. Keep in mind that this was the result of fierce struggle between the old elite and the rising petty-bourgeoisie (as well as the small but growing working class) fought over the first few decades of the 19th century much like in the U.K. (where it resulted in the Reform bill of 1832 and eventually the Chartist movement).

We know the jumble of political issues in mid-to-late 19th century America; slavery, suffrage for African-Americans (and women), labor rights, the tariff, imperial annexation. Political machines provided material benefits to supporters in rapidly expanding metropolises.

Yet the inevitability of mass political participation and growth of political parties and organizations across the United States, like much of the West, brought with it increasing class consciousness and militancy. It was the fear and inability of the ruling class to control these movements that lead to changes in electoral laws specifically designed to decrease voter turnout and strangle mass left-wing political party growth.

The crucial period is 1876-1900. Rutherford B. Hayes’ election signaled the end of Northern elite interest in Reconstruction, and the ensuing twenty-five years would be punctuated by massive economic growth coupled with boom-and-bust cycles of economic depression.

Growth, and with it unparalleled economic consolidation brought with it growing mass participation in large political organizations. The growth of (American) capitalism brought with it the rise of large bodies of people able to engage in collective action, and the passing of sectional rivalries meant political consciousness could shift to class issues.

The largest worries for the ruling class and their intellectual advance guard – the Progressives – were not truly urban-ethnic city machines (though they were hated by nativists and attacked) but three movements:

  1. Populist success in the Midwest.
  2. Socialist and Labor Union gains in the urban centers of the Northeast and Midwest.
  3. North Carolina & the poor white farmer-African American alliance

Populist organizing in the 1880s culminated in the formation of the People’s Party in 1891. Populism was a largely agrarian movement of poor white farmers in the Midwest and South opposed to large commercial and financial interests that kept farmers in perpetual debt. The party was left-wing reformist in the sense that they wanted to break up large monopolies in the railroads and on Wall St., and attempted some alliances with labor unions in large cities to do so. The People’s Party was successful at the state level in the Midwest and managed to elect a number of representatives to Congress.

Socialist and union organizing was in its formative stages during this period, but the growth of working class political parties and labor unions around the globe in the 1890s was mirrored in the United States: from the failure of the American Railway Union strike in 1894, Eugene V. Debs helped form the Social-Democratic Party of America in 1898 (later to merge in 1901 with elements of the Socialist Labor Party to form the Socialist Party of America). The SDP almost immediately began to elect members to local offices.

Finally, in North Carolina the People’s Party formed an alliance with the Republican Party (which was largely controlled by African-Americans). Poor white farmers and blacks united in an uneasy but successful political partnership from 1894-1898, instituting economic reforms intended to benefit small farmers, loosening suffrage restrictions and democratizing government.

Ruling Class Reaction and Voting Decline

There were largely three reactions to suppress voter turnout very pointedly during an era where working class and poor farmer organization was having success:

  1. Co-option of the movement and candidates.
  2. Restrictive and confusing electoral laws.
  3. Violent suppression.

Co-option is a powerful tool used to this day in various front parties (see the Working Families Party) and in mainstream candidates promising social movements legislation for electoral support; inevitably the radical edge of that organizing is blunted. Victorious parties rarely feel the need to deliver on the pledge to their working class constituency, and unsuccessful campaigns can leave the movement tied to an organization that no longer wants or needs them beyond election day. The Populist movement was famously co-opted during the Presidential election of 1896, when they decided to endorse Democrat William Jennings Bryan, who was running as a representative of the silver mining interests; after his loss the movement splintered and faded.

While the imposition of “voting reform” by Progressives has largely been seen as a reaction by middle-class nativist reformers against urban ethnic working class political machines, it can also be read as an attempt to blunt the rising potential power of radical urban working class political parties. Socialist success in the United States during the first two decades of the twentieth century potentially heralded a new electoral order that could have forced an open acknowledgement of class politics. Instead the Progressive reforms: nonpartisan elections, city-manager governments, separating local election years from national, party primaries and even the secret ballot shifted the balance-of-power from working class voters and urban machines to an educated, white, native, middle-class segment of the population.

While not all of these reforms were bad (like the secret ballot), there was no corresponding effort towards proportional representation, multi-member districts or much more than lip-service towards public campaign financing. Reformers had “cleaned up” government by blunting urban voters’ power, and with it limited the rise of groups like the Socialist Party.

In the South, especially North Carolina, the dominance of racist white elites was challenged by the success of the Populist movement’s alliances with African-American voters. In North Carolina a coalition of People’s Party and Republican elected officials held sway in the state legislature from 1894-1898 and were able to institute a series of reforms that increased voter participation, democratized government and empowered poor whites alongside African-Americans. Though the coalition was tenuous especially due to continued racism inside the People’s Party, it was only defeated by an armed white uprising in 1898 and corresponding electoral defeat by the Democratic Party, which quickly instituted Jim Crow laws to prevent another coalition from forming.

Finally, a landmark study by Piven and Cloward in 1988 showed that after the 1896 elections the anti-turnout forces succeeded in suppressing voter turnout by making participation more costly in the North and nearly impossible in the South for many; laws outside the South mandating personal registration on workdays made it nearly impossible for working class voters to register, and poll taxes in the South eliminated voting for most poor whites and blacks. Party competition nearly ceased regionally, leading to large swathes of one-party districts, further depressing turnout.

The Lingering Effects 

While there have been notable successes in extending and broadening voting rights – largely due to the women’s suffrage, labor union and civil rights movements – the effects of the broad-based attack by the ruling class on working class and petty-bourgeois electoral parties in the late-19th century lingers over a century later. Voter turnout collapsed in 1900 and never recovered to late-19th century levels; we applaud today when it approaches 55-60% in presidential elections even though in other nations there would be cause for alarm if national voter turnout dropped to that point.

The crushing of electoral movements that bring broad gains for their working-class and poor supporters has the effect of demoralizing supporters. Greece today is a perfect example: Syriza was elected in January of 2015 with a groundswell of support for radical confrontation with the Troika, against austerity budgets and with an ostensibly anti-capitalist platform. From January-June – until the betrayal after the “Oxi” vote – the populace saw the potential for a radically different future from the one offered by the Troika. Yet during this period the ruling class used its time-worn tactics: co-option of Syriza’s leadership and more right-wing elements, castigation and crushing of the left, and a threat of economic violence against the country if it did not comply.

Correspondingly, Greek voter turnout collapsed in the September, 2015 elections, declining from 63.6% in January to 56% just nine months later.

Political scientists Thomas Ferguson and Walter Dean Burnham have shown that voter turnout in the United States from 2012-2014 declined to levels not seen since before 1840. Any uptick in 20th century voting must be seen historically as that of working-class American voters during the New Deal era (1932-1972) that were mobilized by the Democratic Party because the party leadership and donor base were willing to ally with organized labor to push a Keynesian economic agenda at home and an internationalist foreign policy abroad. Once the ruling class was no longer interested in doing that, the collapse of the New Deal coalition was assured and the Democratic Party was no longer interested in mobilizing workers as a class. Voter turnout collapsed below 60% in the 1972 presidential election and has never since approached that level.

Marten Gilens and Benjamin I. Page released a study in 2014 and wrote

“In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule—at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes.

When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it…

The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

There is a fundamental political consciousness in non-voters that, more-or-less, what Page and Gilens say is true. A century of co-opting, stymieing and crushing mass social movements and we have arrived at an era where the elite no longer desire or need to mobilize vast quantities of people to vote in elections, just a small and motivated group of wealthy and educated whose interests are still catered to by the political establishment – the Occupy’s famous 1% ruling class and Thomas Frank’s 10% professional class.

What Is To Be Done?

There are reforms that clearly increase voter turnout:

  • Automatic Voter Registration: Making it easier for voters to remain registered means they are more likely to turn out on election day.
  • Proportional Representation: giving voters more choices seems to increase turnout.
  • Election-Day Holidays: By allowing weekend voting or national holidays voters would be more apt to participate, especially if the elections took place during warmer months.
  • Competitive Electoral Districts: turnout is usually higher in races with competitive elections.
  • Consolidated Elections: By eliminating multiple elections and consolidating votes onto one, or at most two days a year, turnout can be increased substantially.
  • Lower Voting Age: Numerous countries have lowered the voting age to 16 with positive turnout results.
  • Campaign Finance Reform: Giving non-corporate candidates a chance to win elections could increase voter interest substantially.
  • National Popular Vote: Electing a president by national popular vote would increase voter participation in the majority of states that are usually reliably one-party.

Of course the likelihood of any of these being achieved without a struggle against the ruling class is low, because the success of a number of the reforms would open the door for linking mass social movements and political parties, leading to electoral success. The professional class – the system-managers and ideologues – would be mobilized immediately to defend the superstructure of elite control.

Yet fighting for reforms that would increase voter turnout would also have the effect of mobilizing and educating vast segments of the disaffected into a broad radical social movement/electoral coalition of the working class. Perhaps, as Leon Trotsky opined, it is the task of the working class to expand and consolidate the democratic gains for which the bourgeoisie is no longer interested in fighting.

 

 

 

McMullin Is Not Getting on 30 State Ballots

Evan McMullin, former bagman for the CIA, Goldman Sachs and the House Republicans, announced a campaign for president today. His new campaign immediately received favorable press from the media – unlike, say, Jill Stein. As usual, though, the media has done minimal fact-checking when McMullin stated he hoped to get on 20-30 state ballots. Given the time-frame, deadlines, and signature totals needed he would at best get on 14 state ballots.

The filing deadlines for independent presidential candidates in most states have passed or would prove to be very difficult even for a well-funded campaign effort just getting off the ground. The full list of deadlines for states and signatures required is here – but keep in mind you often need 1.5-2 times the number of listed signatures in order to ensure no one challenges your petitions:https://ballotpedia.org/Filing_deadlines_and_signature_requirements_for_independent_presidential_candidates,_2016

By my count McMullin could, theoretically, get on up to 20 state ballots whose deadlines have not yet passed. This is improbable unless he has petition gatherers collecting before his official announcement, and nobody noticed at all. These include

Alabama 5,000 signatures 8/18/2016
Alaska 3,005 8/10/2016
Arizona 36,000 9/9/2016
California 178,039 8/12/2016
Colorado 5,000 8/10/2016
Connecticut 7,500 8/10/2016
Hawaii 4,372 8/10/2016
Idaho 1,000 8/24/2016
Iowa 1,500 8/19/2016
Kentucky 5,000 9/9/2016
Louisiana 5,000 8/19/2016
Minnesota 2,000 8/23/2016

Montana 5,000 8/17/2016
New Hampshire 3,000 8/10/2016
New York 15,000 8/23/2016
North Dakota 4,000 9/5/2016
Ohio 5,000 8/10/2016
Oregon 17,893 8/30/2016
Rhode Island 1,000 9/9/2016
Tennessee 275 8/18/2016
Utah 1,000 1,000 8/15/2016
Virginia 5,000 8/26/2016

Washington, D.C. 4,600 8/10/2016
Wyoming 3,302 8/30/2016

I’ve bolded the 14 states which he really has a feasible chance – assuming tons of money to hire petitioners and a campaign ready to direct them in each state. I’ve managed successful statewide petition drives for independent presidential candidates in NY State and it is not easy to do. Incidentally, although NY’s deadline is 8/23 I don’t believe 2 weeks is a feasible amount of time for 15k signatures unless they’ve been collecting already or are hiring hundreds of petitioners (I suppose possible if it’s Koch money or something similar). California is out. The states where he’d be on the ballot are eclectic at best.

In the back of my mind this is probably going to hurt the Libertarian Party and Gary Johnson more than Trump. Arizona, Ohio, Utah and Virginia are the only swing-ish states where it’s possible he could get on the ballot and matter to Trump.

From Russia (to Philly) With Love?

The hysteria behind the hack of DNC emails and subsequent leak to websites The Hill and Wikileaks is disturbing, as it is a clear sign of government-media collusion to spin away the damaging content of the leak by drumming up anti-Russian sentiment in the United States. There is no clear link between the documents and the Russian Intelligence Service (FSB) or its Military Intelligence (GRU) – but government contractors examining the email claim the purportedly sophisticated spy agency was clumsy enough to leave metadata implicating Russia all over the docu-dump. After the initial clamor about the dirty dealings of the DNC, the full-throated roar against Russian interference in US politics seems to be rather timely (though not timely enough for Debbie Wasserman-Schultz). Wikileaks (though apparently not The Hill) is now denounced as a patsy for Vladimir Putin.

If it seems rather odd that Russia – on the brink of open military cooperation between the United States and its forces in Syria – would choose this moment to embarrass the Democratic Party, you are not alone in thinking so. Risking diplomatic censure with a release of documents that do little to damage the election prospects of the Democratic Party other than cause consternation on the part of Sanders supporters (because honestly, who didn’t realize the DNC was rigging the game for Clinton) doesn’t seem to be worth the effort. It’s surely possible Russian agencies did this, but I would venture it’s also likely they didn’t, and Democratic partisans are using this to cover up the content of the emails and to stoke the fires of anti-Russian hysteria that could be used by a future President Clinton – as well as red-baiting Sanders supporters and smearing Trump supporters as anti-American (since he is supposedly pro-Russian).

Also conveniently forgotten in all this is the United States government has directed its intelligence agencies to spy on 193 countriesYou can, in fact, read this document for yourself: faa-fg-cert-2010-a-exhibit-f-foreign-power-list. Foreign Government Section 702 Certificate even allows for spying on foreign-based political organizations, i.e. political partiesEdward Snowden’s document release let us know the U.S. government spied on the now-president of Mexico when he was running for office and at least two-dozen other political leaders.

Just, y’know, something to consider when wondering what the media chooses to cover. Or not cover.

 

 

We Need A Mass Anti-War Movement

In the wake of the deaths in Nice, Jeffrey St. Clair points out:

“One of the primary elements missing from the world polity the past nine years—especially in the United States—is the antiwar movement.”

It’s maddening to be an anti-war activist in an era where the election of Barack Obama, who continued Dubya’s imperial wars, led to the shriveling up of the movement that had been millions strong from 2001-2008. There’s good research done by political scientists Heaney and Rojas that while the hard core of anti-war, anti-imperial activists were protesting US militarism, most of the protesters were simply Democrats upset that Bush was carrying out a war under a Republican banner.

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A strong anti-war movement would serve as an ideological counterweight to the rising tide of right-wing nationalism across Europe and the United States. Injecting historical context and contemporary criticism of  European and US imperial policies in the Middle East and North Africa is no small matter when millions who know nothing about this are groping around for answers and finding little but neo-authoritarian groups who provide them.

It would also provide a bulwark and breeding ground for domestic left-wing politics especially during times of great class struggle. Is it any wonder that a revolution was born in 1917 from the anti-war movement in Russia,  and the rise of the 1960s anti-war movement paralleled those for civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights? Being able to see an holistic picture of how the state and ruling class order the world for their profit can only help the left’s growth.

It’s also a litmus test for how far the left has gone and has to go; not being able to criticize the imperialism of your own government – of the global hegemon – points to the immaturity of left forces. As a Marxist and Green, it was always clear that Bernie’s entry into the Democratic party would end with his capitulation, but it was especially so given his milquetoast critique of US foreign policy and refusal to define himself as robustly anti-imperial against the former Secretary of State. If you can’t do that against the living embodiment of US imperial power, your “left-wing”campaign for president is not serious.

We are reaching – I think – a point where the illusions of the old politics are being stripped away. Building a new mass anti-war movement is not only possible, it’s probable. Unlike last time, there cannot be any wavering on the need to put a fundamental critique of US hegemony at the center of the movement. To sacrifice this is to compromise the integrity of the movement itself in the hopes attracting only moderately committed members, something that was done in 2004. We cannot let it happen again or the left will continue to wander in a wilderness of its own making.