Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Long Decline of the American Left: Thoughts on Daily Kos, American "Progressives" and the PCA

Founded in 2002, hosting an enormous amount of blogging and chatter since, the Daily Kos community has become symptomatic of the decline of the American left in general. Willfully blind to their favored team's continual shift rightward, the community maintains its dogmatic allegiance to the Democratic Party and the Obama Administration. Since the start of the president's second term, the site has in fact only grown more blindly pro-establishment, its regular contributors doing their best to pretend their political goals are being realized.

As a progressive community in constant discursive action, DailyKos can be especially depressing to watch. I've followed the site for years, and since I'm in solidarity with many of the community's goals, it's been frustrating to see how easily folks there let themselves get sidetracked. How? The pattern is cyclical: 1) Republican talking points are quoted in a rage and then disproved by facts. 2) The mere fact of this typing out of the truth on the Daily Kos blog is then presented as a victory for the bloggers and the left they represent.

As if facts were what is at issue. As if the main goal of a movement of the left is refuting the idiotic and misleading cant that comes out of the GOP and Fox News. Because, hey, within days there arrives a new spate of Republican talking points, and the DailyKos bloggers all set to work mocking and refuting those.

Meanwhile the corporate coup continues, whether it's Dubya or Obama abetting it. The facts be damned.

It seems clear enough to me that for two decades now America has had just one political party. There are the Republicans (called Republicans) who are anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage, and there are the other Republicans (called Democrats) who are pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage. As Americans we get to choose between these two corporate-controlled right-wing parties: parties that pursue virtually identical policy goals--except in relation to sex and gender.

Strange, isn't it? Why is it our two parties are only allowed to offer choices in the specific areas of sex and reproduction? Have you ever stopped to think about that?

The answer is obvious. Wall Street and the big corporations don't give a damn if you're straight or gay, a mother of five or a woman who's had three abortions. All Wall Street and the corporations care about is being able to own your ass. And what d'ya know? They already do.

And why is that? Why do they? Why has the 1% gained so much control during these past decades? Why is it that in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 70s, why is it that America had strong protections for working people, truly effective public services, an actually sensible tax system? Why did our country have these things but does no longer?

In my own analysis much of the blame rests squarely with those people who now call themselves the "progressive" left. When fashionista leftists (media, Hollywood, gender studies academia) began stressing sex and gender issues, the Democratic Party proved more than willing to accommodate, because, simply put, it was no skin off their backs. It wasn't going to undermine their corporate support. After a couple decades of this, America's once left-wing party (the party of workers, farmers, teachers, civil servants; the party, in short, of the public good) had morphed into the party of abortion and gay marriage. The party of political correctness on all hot-button fashionista issues.

I refer to it in my title as the PCA, or "Progressive Corporate Agenda". The word progressive here carries a deceptive double meaning, one that, sadly, most American progressives refuse to recognize.

First meaning of progressive: American social liberals, tired of the bigotry of the Christian right, vote Democrat because they support the party's progressive social policies on abortion and sexual orientation. Holding progressive positions in these areas and actually voting for such policies, Democratic leaders then claim to be progressive as such. Which is an utter sham, isn't it? Because these particular sex and reproduction issues occupy only a small spectrum of any legitimate leftist agenda. Meanwhile, on most meat and potatoes issues, the Democrats vote with the corporate elite. And somehow they largely get away with it, election after election? Why?

In our current hyper-mediated culture, our society of the spectacle, where Lady Gaga carries more weight than any mere labor organizer or leftist scholar, Democratic candidates still get enough buzz to give them the progressive credentials they need. Offering pro-choice and pro-gay policies--namely, those things that so enrapture recent Hollywood and academic types--is enough to set them off as the "progressive party". They've won over those whose professions are in the "spectacular" industries (as Guy Debord would have it)--fashion, media, film, music. And who sets the pace in our society of the spectacle if not precisely these groups? And these groups, in their turn, continue the marketing of their "countercultural" gestures, (thus determining the progressive aura) as ever new commodities in a market which itself remains unchanged. All of which is fine for the Democratic party, who, it is painfully clear, fears any change that isn't linked to sex or reproduction.

Amazingly, the American "progressive left" pats itself on the back with each new turning of this cycle. And none of it has the least effect on the corporate coup which continues unabated.

Which brings us to the second meaning of progressive, to glimpse which we must look more closely at the actual accomplishments of this supposedly progressive party. What has been the result of these years of "change we can believe in"?

The policies pursued by the Obama Administration have only served to maintain the status quo. In terms of corporate hegemony, financial regulation, tax policy, foreign policy, the Obama Administration has been indistinguishable from any right-leaning Republican administration of past decades. It is here we can see the second, or what I would call true, meaning of "progressive" in my title. It's called the Progressive Corporate Agenda because it allows for the ongoing progress of the corporate takeover of our democracy. Shamefully, this progress of corporate power is being expedited by a party that itself holds onto power only by flattering the sex-and-gender thinking of liberal voters. On all other issues, in terms of the traditional goals of any truly left-wing platform--well, see for yourself. After six years of Obama in the White House, it's business as usual for Wall Street and the corporations and the 1%. And for the military and the NSA. In fact on some of these fronts it's business unusual--the drift is even further rightward than we've seen during any previous administration.

I too was largely taken in by Obama. I thought he would likely bring significant change--not a thorough remaking of society, but concrete change. I thought the idiocy and excesses of the Bush years, having triggered the 2008 meltdown, had shown Americans once and for all that trickle-down economics and deregulation don't work. But Obama has proven to be essentially a continuation of Bush. A few turns on health care, yes, a few turns in the culture wars, blah blah, but these things, really, do not a left party make.

If I could impose a twenty-year truce in the culture wars I'd do so immediately. Because it is the culture wars that have greased the wheels for the corporate coup that has ruined our democracy. And on the left, allowing these issues to occupy center stage with all the shit that's going down is dangerous, naive, ultimately self-destructive. That American liberals have chosen not simply to uphold LGBT rights (which was the right thing to do) but to push for same-sex marriage, a fundamental change to our culture's very definition of marriage--really, could one think of anything better for keeping the citizenry polarized? To me this move more than any other shows the subtle workings, the cunning, of the Progressive Corporate Agenda (PCA) in action. The American people are led to squabble about sex and marriage while the 1% continues to impoverish them, undermine their education, pass destructive new trade pacts, etc. When Obama came out for "marriage equality" I'm sure guys in board rooms across the country were slapping their knees in glee. And it wasn't because they'd soon be able to tie the knot with Steve or Abdul or Matt. Rather it was "Good job, Barry! That'll keep the rubes busy!" And by rubes here I don't just mean those red state rubes we all love and know--"Rube Classic"--but also the new and supremely rubish bunch that makes up most of our progressive so-called left.

In the past fifty years the American left has learned three or four neat new things. Good job. At the same time it has forgotten fifty essential old things.

This is part of the political impetus behind much of my recent writing and thinking on same-sex marriage. Though I've always been in solidarity with the struggle for LGBT rights, I'm disappointed no end to see the second-tier issue of "marriage equality" continuing to fire liberal passions. I'm despondent to see a youth culture that thinks this kind of thing is worthy of political center stage. Considering all that is going down! Gays and lesbians I can't blame for getting behind it (though some LGBT people have been against) but the heterosexual majority? Can't you people see how you're being systematically distracted and led by the nose here?

In short: The Progressive Corporate Agenda keeps you all so busy you don't notice it's really the Progressive Corporate Agenda.

The right has their Liberty, Patriotism, Christian Family Values. Which when their politicians take office simply means pushing the agenda of the 1%. And you on the left have your "progressive" issues. Which when your politicians take office simply means pushing the agenda of the 1%.

I began by writing here about one "progressive" online community, Daily Kos, but what I say obviously takes in a much wider slice of America than just that group of folks.

If they've nothing more to offer, Democratic candidates deserve to lose. Simple as that. Republican candidates don't deserve to win, but Democrats who continue to abet the corporate impoverishment of the American citizenry do not deserve our votes. If some third party or outside force is not mounted to shake up our current one-party circus, there is in effect no American left at all.

Eric Mader

No comments: