In Australian politics the Liberal Party is regarded as the equivalent of the Republicans in the US. In terms of its relative location on the political spectrum the Liberal Party is much more aligned with the Democrats than the Republicans. The Liberal Party of Australia is deplorable, is on the wrong side of every political issue and is the sworn enemy of the poor and working classes, but in terms of policy even it is preferable to the Democratic Party in the US.
It hasn’t always been that way. In our last post we explored a brief period where the Democrats actually enacted polices to help the poor and working classes, as they transitioned from their apartheid posture of the 18th and 19th centuries to the corrupt tools of the establishment and donor classes that they are today. How did the party return to darkness after such a brief time in the light?
The mechanism of corruption
The modern paradigm of US politics began with two Supreme Court rulings in the late 1970s. These were Buckley v Valeo (1976) and First National Bank of Boston v Bellotti (1978).
Buckley v Valeo overturned the Federal Election Campaign Act (1971) by allowing individuals to spend money to support political candidates. This outrageous decision was covered with a facade stating that individuals should still be limited on donations to candidates directly, but they should be free to spend as much as they wished on propaganda in favour of their preferred candidate. It was this case that introduced the absurd legal precedent that money was the equivalent of free speech. The court argued that it would be a violation of the billionaire’s free speech if he was not allowed to spend as much money as he wanted to favour his political candidate.
First National Bank of Boston v Bellotti extended this allowance to corporations, coupling with another absurd declaration of corporate personhood. Essentially, the court argued that since corporations were people then they, like the billionaires, cannot have their freedoms of speeches impeded, and therefore they should also be permitted to spend as much as they wished in favour of political candidates.
In two rulings over two years, the legal precedent was established that permitted limitless spending on political candidates by the wealthy elites and corporations. This Citizens Take Action website traces the path of Supreme Court decisions through to the Citizens United ruling of 2010 and beyond. Like with the Emperor’s throne to Didius Julianus, elections in the US today are open auctions.
Corruption leads to decline
The individual who is credited with convincing the Democratic Party to prioritise donor money collection is California Congressman Tony Coelho. He captured the attention of the Democrats when he outspent his opponent by 2.5 times in 1978, and they gave him the position of chairman of the DCCC in 1980. During his five-year reign he led the effort with re-purposing the party; a role he continued to pursue as party whip from 1986 to 1989 and beyond.
By 1990 the Democratic Party had been completely re-structured from a political institution to a money-making machine. The Republicans under Reagan had waged a vicious war on the poor and working classes, destroying unions, dismantling the social safety net, and re-distributing vast quantities of the state’s wealth to the wealthy elites and corporate classes. Under the shock of the Reagan regime the Democrats were able to sell the myth that they supported the poor and working classes while quietly having abandoned them. It was enough for Bill Clinton to win the 1992 presidential election on the promises of increased government spending on social programs and regulations on business.
The Clinton regime
Those who voted for Clinton in 1992 because they believed his socialist promises were in for a terrible awakening. The Clinton regime:
- Greatly relaxed media ownership restrictions, such that today more than 90% of the US media is controlled by six corporations;
- Implemented the Crime Bill, which exploded the prison population more than tenfold between 1990 and 2000;
- Passed and implemented NAFTA, destroying the working classes especially in the rust belt;
- Implemented the 1033 program allowing the free distribution of military grade weaponry to local police departments, leading to the militarisation of the police force;
- Escalated environmental destruction with tax breaks for oil companies and deregulation on logging and mountaintop strip mining;
- Supported Yoweri Museveni during the Rwandan genocide, led brutal bombing campaigns in the Balkans, continued the destruction of Iraq via devastating sanctions and repeated bombings, and supported a military coup in Haiti.
- Repealed the Glass-Steagal act, setting the scene for the rampant criminality leading to the near total collapse of the financial sector that occurred less than a decade later.
It has also been revealed that there was a secret pact between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich to privatise social security in 1997, but that it was derailed when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. In that sense, the American people owe Monica Lewinsky a huge debt of gratitude.
Remaining faithful in the political wilderness
By the end of the Clinton administration the US voters were, unsurprisingly, unwilling to support the party that had been responsible for such destruction. By the 2000 presidential election the Democrats had lost both the House and Senate, and the presidency was stolen from them. Nonetheless the corruption of the party was complete, and it played its role as the loyal “opposition” party in a way that only a completely corrupted organisation could. As with today, there were always enough Democrats voting with Republicans to ensure that the demands of the wealthy, corporations, and military industrial complex were met. To name just a few, the democrats supported:
- The US Patriot Act (48 Democratic Senate votes) and its reauthorisation (34 Democratic Senate votes);
- The illegal invasion of Iraq (29 Democratic Senate votes);
- The Bush tax cuts of 2001 (12 Democratic Senate votes) and 2003 (2 Democratic Senate votes). Note that the 2003 cuts passed by a 50-50 vote;
- The Legalisation of Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program (17 Democratic Senate votes);
- The bailout of Wall Street (37 Democratic Senate votes).
Note that the last two of these were passed after the House and Senate had been reclaimed by the Democrats in 2007.
Leaving aside the obvious consequences of the corruption and re-purpose of the Democratic party to serve the demands of the financial elites, the disastrous result of the Democratic charge to the right is the movement of the Overton window far to the right of the political spectrum. The American people has not shifted its views and the vast majority of the population remains centre-left, but the range of “acceptable” political dialogue by the establishment and mainstream no longer includes its well-being or economic interests. The Republicans, who idealogically identify themselves as being to the right of the Democrats, have moved further to the right in response; so much so that they are too extreme to be seriously regarded as a legitimate political entity as we have discussed elsewhere.
The result is that there is nobody in Congress to represent the interests of the American people. The closest they have is Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who will get nowhere if he continues to ally with a Democratic Party dedicated to his downfall.