With the U.S. midterm elections on Tuesday, Biden and other establishment politicians hope to paper over the rot and pain of the system they created with the same decorum they used to sell the country the con of neoliberalism.
The bipartisan project of dismantling U.S. democracy, which took place over the last few decades on behalf of corporations and the rich, has left only the outward shell of democracy.
The courts, legislative bodies, the executive branch and the media, including public broadcasting, are captive to corporate power. There is no institution left that can be considered authentically democratic. The corporate coup d’état is over. They won. Americans lost.
The wreckage of this neoliberal project is appalling: endless and futile wars to enrich a military-industrial-complex that bleeds the U.S. Treasury of half of all discretionary spending; deindustrialization that has turned U.S. cities into decayed ruins; the slashing and privatization of social programs, including education, utility services and health care — which saw over one million Americans account for one-fifth of global deaths from Covid, although the U.S. has 4 percent of the world’s population; draconian forms of social control embodied in militarized police, functioning as lethal armies of occupation in poor urban areas; the largest prison system in the world; a virtual tax boycott by the richest individuals and corporations; money-saturated elections that perpetuate our system of legalized bribery; and the most intrusive state surveillance of the citizenry in U.S. history.
In The United States of Amnesia, to quote Gore Vidal, the corporate press and the ruling class create fictional feel-good personas for candidates, treat all political campaigns as if it is a day at the races and gloss over the fact that on every major issue, from trade deals to war, there is very little difference between Democrats and Republicans.
The Democratic Party and Joe Biden are not the lesser evil, but rather, as Glen Ford pointed out, “the more effective evil.”
Biden supported the campaign to discredit and humiliate Anita Hill to appoint Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. He was one of the principal architects of the endless wars in the Middle East, calling for “taking Saddam down” five years before the invasion of Iraq.
He rehabilitated the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, after vowing to make the country a pariah because of the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Biden is a fervent supporter of Israel, calling the apartheid state “the single greatest strength America has in the Middle East” and declaring “I am a Zionist. You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.” His campaigns have been lavishly funded by the Israel lobby for at least two decades.
In the 1970s, he fought school busing, arguing that segregation was beneficial for Blacks. He and South Carolina’s racist senator, Strom Thurmond, sponsored the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which eliminated parole for federal prisoners and limited the amount of time sentences could be reduced for good behavior.
Biden sponsored and aggressively pushed the 1994 crime bill, which he also helped draft, calling for its passage because “We have predators on our streets that society has in fact, in part because of its neglect, created.” The bill expanded the death penalty for dozens of existing and new federal crimes and mandated life imprisonment for a third violent felony, also known as the “three strikes and you’re out” rule, more than doubling the nation’s prison population.
The bill provided funds to add 100,000 new police officers and build new prisons, on the condition that prisoners serve their entire sentences. He pushed through the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which gutted the federal writ of habeas corpus, abolished the rights of death row prisoners and mandated harsh federal sentencing rules.
Biden takes credit for writing the 2001 Patriot Act, which expanded the government’s ability to monitor anyone’s phone and email communications, collect bank and credit reporting records and track activity on the Internet.
He backed austerity programs, including the destruction of welfare and cuts to Social Security. He fought for NAFTA and other “free trade” deals which fueled inequality, deindustrialization, a significant drop in wages and the offshoring of millions of manufacturing jobs to underpaid workers who toil in sweatshops in countries like Mexico, Malaysia, China or Vietnam.
He also backed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act that, as Human Rights Watch writes, “eliminated key defenses against deportation and subjected many more immigrants, including legal permanent residents, to detention and deportation.”
Biden long opposed abortion, writing in a letter to a constituent: “Those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them. As you may know, I have consistently — on no fewer than 50 occasions — voted against federal funding of abortions.”
He was at the forefront of deregulating the banking industry and the abolition of Glass-Steagall, which contributed to the global financial meltdown, including the collapse of nearly 500 banks, in 2007 and 2008. He is a favorite of the for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical industry, which contributed $6.3 million to his 2020 presidential campaign, almost four times more money than they channeled to Donald Trump’s campaign.
In the Senate, Biden abjectly served the interests of MBNA, the largest independent credit card company headquartered in Delaware, which also employed Biden’s son Hunter.
‘Staggering Human Cost’
Biden and the Democrats annually increase the military budget, approving $813 billion for fiscal year 2023. He and the Democrats have provided over $60 billion in military aid and assistance to the war in Ukraine, with no end in sight.
The decisions of politicians like Biden have a staggering human cost, not only for the poor, workers and the shrinking middle class but for millions of people in the Middle East, millions of families ripped apart by mass incarceration, millions more forced into bankruptcy by our mercenary for-profit medical system where corporations are legally permitted to hold sick children hostage while their frantic parents bankrupt themselves to save them, millions who became addicted to opioids and hundreds of thousands who died from them, millions denied welfare assistance, and all of us barreling toward extinction because of a refusal to curb the greed and destructive power of the fossil fuel industry, which has raked in $2.8 billion a day in profit over the last 50 years.
Biden, morally vacuous and of limited intelligence, is responsible for more suffering and death at home and abroad than Donald Trump. But the victims in the U.S. Punch-and-Judy media shows are rendered invisible. And that is why the victims despise the whole superstructure and want to tear it down.
These establishment politicians and their appointed judges promulgated laws that permitted the top 1 percent to loot $54 trillion from the bottom 90 percent, from 1975 to 2022, at a rate of $2.5 trillion a year, according to a study by the RAND corporation.
The fertile ground of our political, economic, cultural and social wreckage spawned an array of neo-fascists, con artists, racists, criminals, charlatans, conspiracy theorists, right-wing militias and demagogues that will soon take power.
Decayed societies, such as Weimar Germany or the former Yugoslavia, which I covered for The New York Times, always vomit up political deformities who express the hatred a betrayed public feel for a corrupt ruling class and bankrupt liberalism. The twilight of the Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Habsburg and Russian empires were no different.
These political deformities play the role of the Snopes clan in William Faulkner’s trilogy The Hamlet, The Town and The Mansion. The Snopeses wrested control in the South from a degenerate aristocratic elite. Flem Snopes and his extended family — which includes a killer, a pedophile, a bigamist, an arsonist, a mentally disabled man who copulates with a cow, and a relative who sells tickets to witness the bestiality — are fictional representations of the scum that hijacked the Republican Party.
“The usual reference to ‘amorality,’ while accurate, is not sufficiently distinctive and by itself does not allow us to place them, as they should be placed, in a historical moment,” the critic Irving Howe wrote of the Snopeses. “Perhaps the most important thing to be said is that they are what comes afterwards: the creatures that emerge from the devastation, with the slime still upon their lips.”
“Let a world collapse, in the South or Russia, and there appear figures of coarse ambition driving their way up from beneath the social bottom, men to whom moral claims are not so much absurd as incomprehensible, sons of bushwhackers or muzhiks drifting in from nowhere and taking over through the sheer outrageousness of their monolithic force,” Howe wrote.
“They become presidents of local banks and chairmen of party regional committees, and later, a trifle slicked up, they muscle their way into Congress or the Politburo. Scavengers without inhibition, they need not believe in the crumbling official code of their society; they need only learn to mimic its sounds.”
No Call For Democracy
Biden and other establishment politicians are not actually calling for democracy. They are calling for civility. They have no intention of extracting the knife thrust into the backs of the people. They hope to paper over the rot and the pain with the decorum of the polite, measured talk they used to sell us the con of neoliberalism.
The political correctness and inclusivity imposed by college-educated elites, unfortunately, has now become associated with the corporate assault, as if a female CEO or a Black police officer is going to mitigate the exploitation and abuse. Minorities are always welcome, as they were in other species of colonialism, if they serve the dictates of the masters. This is how Barack Obama, whom Cornel West called “a Black mascot for Wall Street,” became U.S. president.
Freedom for millions of enraged Americans has become the freedom to hate, the freedom to use words like “nigger,” “kike,” “spic,” “chink,” “raghead” and “fag;” the freedom to physically assault Muslims, undocumented workers, women, African-Americans, homosexuals and anyone who dares criticize their Christian fascism; the freedom to celebrate historical movements and figures that the college-educated elites condemn, including the Ku Klux Klan and the Confederacy; the freedom to ridicule and dismiss intellectuals, ideas, science and culture; the freedom to silence those who have been telling them how to behave; the freedom to revel in hyper-masculinity, racism, sexism, violence and patriarchy.
These crypto-fascists have always been part of the American landscape, but the disenfranchisement of millions of Americans, especially white Americans, has inflamed these hatreds.
Voting for the architects of what political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls a system of “inverted totalitarianism” will not make them go away; in fact, it will further discredit liberal ideas and liberal democracy. This puts liberals in a terrible bind.
They have every right to fear the far right. All the dark scenarios are correct. But by backing Biden and the ruling corporate party, they ensure their political irrelevance.
The Democratic Party has spent millions funding far-right “pied piper” candidates assuming they would be easier to defeat, a tactic foolishly copied from the Clinton campaign, which secretly “elevated” Trump in the hopes that he would win the Republican nomination.
The Democrats have worked to censor critics from the left and the right on social media. They claim they are the last bulwark against tyranny. None of these subterfuges will work. America will descend into a Viktor Orbán-type of authoritarianism without profound political, social and economic reform.
After the Iraq war went sour, I, as someone who publicly opposed the invasion and had been the Middle East Bureau Chief for The New York Times, was often asked what the U.S. should do now. I answered that Iraq could no longer be put back together. It was broken. The U.S. broke it.
Those who ask if we should support the Democrats as a tactic to halt a descent into tyranny are in a similar dilemma. My answer is no different. We should have walked out on the Democratic Party while we still had a chance.
Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor and NPR. He is the host of show “The Chris Hedges Report.”
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Chris Hedges a habitual Truth Teller unpacks “the rot and pain of the system,” like no other b/c Hedges rocks “respect for the truth. It is not a thing to be thrown about loosely, like small change; it is something to be cherished and hoarded, and disbursed only when absolutely necessary.” (H.L. Mencken)
It’s absolutely necessary b/c The Divided $tates of Corporate America fka The USA is F.U.B.A.R.;
AND, Mr. Fish, “always paints the spirit of the times,” i.e., The Duopoly rock’n Democracy.
Today, 11.10.22, COLOR Cheney-WY., Maloney-NY, Ryan-OH, Abrams-GA, BIDEN-HARRIS, GONE! After January, 2023.
“Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule and both commonly succeed and are right.”
Gee Chris, why don’t you tell us what you REALLY think is wrong with American “democracy”? :-) Only kidding, of course. I believe we need to smile now and then through these dark times.
Your incisive article brings to mind the acronym my brother, Ray McGovern, has coined in “expanding” on Eisenhower’s “Military Industrial Complex. It’s the MICIMATT, the Military Industrial Congressional Intelligence MEDIA Academia Think Tank Complex. “MEDIA” is capitalized because it’s the lynchpin to all the others. As Ike said, the only way to counter the MIC is through an informed populace. That is a major problem today since the MSM does not inform, in fact, misinforms.
One more thing. When reading some of Chris’ writings and speeches in the past, I can be left with a dark sense of despair. No longer, because I have found a way to get through that, remain upbeat; and again I credit brother Ray for this. (I believe he credits Dan Berrigan.) When I have asked Ray does he despair when he sees so little progress, and his response I found helpful: The important thing is to be faithful to the cause; “success”, though to be longed for, is actually less important. And I would add that if enough of us are faithful, the right type of success will eventually be achieved.
It would be helpful if Hedges while he painstakingly lists all of what he’s against and everything politicians have done wrong would also define what precisely neoliberalism is as he uses it to support his diatribe. What is neoliberalism? When did it begin? What policies are concretely linked to it. And while he’s at it, please also elucidate what neoconservatism is, too. How is neoconservatism different or at odds with conservatism – if at all? Hedges certainly believes there is a difference between neoliberalism and liberalism, as he holds the latter out as an ideal, a way of thinking and life he still has hope for. Neoconservatism used to get mentioned in the press and by thinkers a lot. Then neoliberalism became the buzz word. I’ve read a lot of articles lumping certain persons as neoliberals without knowing precisely what it is. How is neoliberalism different from neoconservatism? And what are these neo terms beyond a catch all for what is negative and wrong. A lot of bad policies and personages existed in history before these terms. What are they defining specifically?
‘Neoliberalism’ is an economic, not a political term. It has nothing to do with American liberal politics. Most conservatives, as well as Democrats, are economic neoliberals. It simply means a policy of opposing government intervention in the economy, “liberal” as in “free” markets, what used to be called laissez-faire. Neoliberalism has its origins with the economist Milton Friedman and the Chicago School and was first tested out in the fascist Chile of dictator Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s before being taken up by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, from whence it has spread over much of the West, causing a huge shift of trillions of dollars from the public to a super-rich elite, which is the main aim of neoliberalism.
The US created its model state, it’s called Ukraine. Is this the future, with Biden in his bunker c/w his face mask screaming about Putin? Trying to be a cross between Julius Caesar and the Pope?
The Demoncrats and Reprobates are 2 cheeks of the same backside, complete tools of the deep state. Voting in the USA has been reduced to fake “lesser evilism”. Why vote for Biden? Because at least he will not deny the realities global warming and COVID and do something about it (only he didn’t). Why vote for Trump 2.0 in 2024? Because at least he will not lead us into nuclear armageddon (only he will).
Nothing short of revolution can save the USA and the world
I used to say, 2 sides of the same coin, but I like your statement better. 2 cheeks of the same backside. What comes out between them is …….
While global warming get worse and worse, Biden starts a proxy war with Russia and tries to start a war with PR China. Could we say he is fiddling while Rome burns?
Positive Thinkg voodoo will not save us. Neither will the Rapture or the Space Brothers.
Charlatans and grifters on the left and the right … where is a man to turn?
Perhaps we can grow up and use the clarity of the moment to realize the old maxim that power corrupts is true no matter the dressing and that looking to government for salvation is a fools game and that the best we could do is reduce harm by minimizing the power of the bastards?
There may be a solution, part of which includes getting more people to stop voting brand (D) or (R), or abstain altogether. That’s still a ways off, as I’m appalled that so many working people still live in either a conservative or liberal fantasyland, where if there team wins then all will be right with the world. Boycott the 2 puppet-parties helping to drive us all over a cliff and start over from the ground-up, somehow. We can’t solve problems within the same systems and with the same mindset that helped create them, right? No? Maybe?
Unfortunately, systems only change when the current order falls apart, often from an outside influence (2nd order change), reverts to a period of instability and chaos before regrouping in a new, and unanticipated way (the new whole cannot be predicted from the sum of its parts). Of course this means we are in for a very rocky ride. Hold on to your hats!
How do you destroy that which never existed? Electoral republics are oligarchic in nature and always have been. Nothing about voting for your own rulers entails “rule by the people”: even in the most ideal circumstances elections by their very nature select for people from a particular stratum of society with the resources, abilities, and power to run for office. I know Chris Hedges devours books; it’s about time he picked up a really old series of books by Aristotle simply called “Politics”. While Aristotle himself was an apologist for aristocratic rule, he outlines clearly what the inventors of democracy considered to be democratic and what they didn’t. To quote:
“…it is thought to be democratic for the offices to be assigned by lot, for them to be elected oligarchic, and democratic for them not to have a property-qualification, oligarchic to have one…”
To think of real alternatives it needs to be understood that the current system is a fraud from the very beginning. Let us finally disabuse ourselves of the Big Lie of the liberal revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries and at long last move forward towards Actual Democracy.
I like Chris. He has been saying this for years and calling for grass roots resistance, and what he says is true but often filled with the same outmoded language of the militarized party propaganda system he criticizes. Democracy is a crappy word for the constitutional republic adopted US history as the basic contract between state and people. And there is no single word for what people of conscience want apart from justice, equality before law and transparent accountability subject to investigation by the people and press. What Chris is really talking about is a system of transparent justice and free political discourse uncorrupted by legalized bribery and addiction to imperial war, with real checks and balances to prevent corruption, violence and secrecy. At the end of WW2 FDR and his cabinet had the country pointed in the right direction, but between the weapons dealers, corporations and anti-socialists these power brokers betrayed the will of the people and put in Truman, started the cold war (growing ever more orwellian) and initiated rule by the secret police( CIA and later NSA) modeled after fascist systems of control. When Kennedy said no to the CIA he was murdered by them and open accountable government fairly quickly disappeared. What was left is fascism: corporate corruption, silencing dissent, and ultra nationalist global imperialism with a ruling elite that is above all law.
Voting will not change anything important. Only a revolution on many fronts will end the cruel global dominance of the global elite. The future looks to be divide between 2 possibilities: 1) death for most or perhaps all by nuclear war initiated by the dying beast of US global military, or 2) a speeding dissolution ecologically, economically and politically, including destruction of the US dollar, and further military losses by the US as it pursues violence based economic competition with an increasingly formalized and internationally popular multipolar power arrangement.
The truth is that there is far more at stake than some sentimental idea that the US represented a positive force in history. ( We all grew up with a bunch of shiny dreams and propaganda and some heroic figures like MLK and thousands of others but settler colonialism followed by fascism prevails and it is time to face our real history ) What is really in question is the viability of the harmonious life systems of the earth in the face of an extractive reductionist materialist industrialism which refuses biological reality, destroys living systems for unsustainable comforts, and dreams of life without death. The problem with that is simple – life without death is life without life.
Acknowledging this grim reality while holding a sincerity for our fellow humans is deeply reassuring and I think summed up perfectly in the tone of this article.
Aie Aie Aie that sounds pretty bleak Chris, never been this afraid to be America’s neighbour … if there’s no solution does it devolve to armed conflict and civil war until either the fascists win or a new system emerges? Whenever possible I try to live by the what the late David Graeber suggested: Just ignore the current system in place and set-up new institutions, preferably in a horizontal manner. I know, easier said than done … Hard to ignore war and extortion on a global scale.
“We should have walked out on the Democratic Party while we still had a chance.”
It seems that those who tell us to walk to the train stations while making a point of warning us to take advantage of our only chance for imminent escape should always be trusted. Actually, both parties have now circled their wagons and are only waiting to decide who gets to eat the spoils, and who gets to starve in the outer darkness. An excellent takedown of the evil versus good doctrine of the Democratic party, Mr. Hedges. I expected nothing less.
Democracy has been destroyed everywhere by the same forces that destroyed it in the USA. As a supposedly fair and equitable system of government, it relied far too much on good intentions and trust – both of which disappeared long ago.
Most political scholars would have us believe that it is a balanced robust and reliable system, and that there is no need for further reform. Nothing could be further from the truth – it is a deeply flawed and corrupted system that was never intended to genuinely represent the wishes and needs of the people and electorates.
I voted in this election, not enthusiastically, but I voted. Primarily, the only thing that drew me to the polls was that for the first time in at least 20 years, we have a Sheriff running for office who actually has a brain. After participating locally in over half a dozen or so of the last election cycles while watching the Democrat Party undermine democracy by severely limiting funding and public access to legitimate progressive candidates while actively smearing their names and then seeing the scums of the earth win the primary, I’ve grown tired of the Party and their corrupt games.
To my surprise, there was a Green candidate for Senate on the ballot. I voted for the Green even though I knew nothing about them and until going to the voting booth had no idea there was a Green candidate.
There were no other 3rd party choices. With a no-care and no-hope attitude, I voted democrat even though I know they are the “More effective evil.” I regret my vote for any but the Green and the Sheriff. How the Sheriff candidate made it through the primary is a mystery to me? I wish I had left the rest of the ballot blank.
In my fantasy I see a conversation where you bring all this up to Biden and have him explain, defend, apologize. That would be an intelligent way to proceed, where denying reality just keeps it stuck in place. We all are guilty of buying into the system. You play your part, Chris, as the truthteller. Where does that get us? Nowhere. So where to go? Right now this is just a very informative dump to add to the pile.
You make sharp observations, but I’m not sure what Chris and Consortium can do beyond truth-telling. Wikileaks, as effective as it was 10 years ago or more, has been largely strangled by Western govts and mainstream media has been targeted and co-opted by the same. Part of the reason there is not more protest in the West is how atomized and individualistic society has become. I mean, how much do we share with our neighbors ( I barely know mine), in terms of how we make a living. Our economic roles are diverse and part of a complex system that feeds, houses and entertains all of us, compared to pre-internet, pre-television modes of community relations.
In the future, if climate change or inflation fallout from the Russian sanctions causes broad, across-the-board economic and physical hardship, then I can see many of us (including myself) marching and protesting out of necessity.
I could write a book on what we could do and I keep offering this and that, but my most fundamental point is we aren’t looking for solutions. Woe-is-me, from the pundits and from us making comments, suffices. I save my comments — maybe I will write a book, but for now here’s the last comment I left for Chris:
“I characterize just about everything going on as moving those deck chairs, as long as what’s underneath, that’s causal to our situation, isn’t being dealt with. Getting power to the people is my hue and cry, and for that one thing we need is a collection of us. We need a radical change in our worldview, to where we care about each other as much as we care about ourselves, and I’m not aware of any regime on tap that’s enlightened enough to bring that about.”
That’s just a taste, where in other comments I encourage him to say what he would do if he ran the country, which would open up a conversation among us about what might be done. Why don’t you get on that bandwagon with me?
Thank you Chris, we needed to have someone say all that out loud (or in print where we can all read it.) Actually, the situation in the US is worse than you say (I’m sue you know that, you’re just trying to keep us from getting overly depressed). Lately I’ve read a few books about how our government works; each one is more depressing that the one before it. The most recent one is called “Crisis Of Conscience; Whistleblowing in an Age of Fraud” by Tom Mueller pub. in 2018. It doesn’t sound all that terrifying, but it turns out it is as Mueller recounts chapter by chapter how our government agencies and Congress along with each President and the ubiquitous Military /industrial consortium destroy every tiny bit of democracy we used to have in this country. Here is a quote from DOJ attorney Ernie Fitzgerald in 1989 ” After quite a bit of legal experience with the federal courts, I learned that the American people have no legal advocate to represent them at the federal level … the United States attorney general is the top lawyer – not for the people but for the president who appoints him. And he has a large and powerful department prepared to battle any opponents the administration might have.” Mueller later goes on to point out that the illegal and vicious use of the Espionage Act which does not allow the defendant to speak of reasons for his actions has been used almost exclusively against whisleblowers. That explains why our government gets worse and worse because it is impossible to fix it – anyone who tries is put in prison. Fraud and underhanded dealing is rampant in every area of our government from various agencies to banks, to medical care, to education to anything you can name. All you can hope is that disaster doesn’t strike you.
The way it is.
Thank you, Chris, for telling the truth. Many Democratic Party supporters will reject this truth and vote to perpetuate the rotten system, unfortunately. I stopped voting for Democrats after 1992. Guess why. Now I only vote socialist.
Gospel. Amen. Always on point – thank you Chris Hedges. As scary as this all is, I find a miniscule of hope knowing others recognize where we are at.
Nevertheless, may the cosmos help us all : |
Vidal (RIP brother) saw all this coming from a mile away.
When the only prominent official in Washington coming out against funding the Ukie Russophobes is MTG, you know we’re in big trouble.
The U.S. is a Republic (supposed to be anyway) not a democracy (tyranny of the majority).
The Left is always good at identifying the problems, not so much the solutions. So in a theoretical re-match of Trump vs. Biden, what do we do? Third parties have been all but eliminated. Not voting is of course an option but realistically, what does that do? Is there in fact no solution at this point?