Social Democracy and Post-Capitalism: Why The Former Is A Necessary Step Towards The Latter

The argument I am going to make in this essay is that radical leftists should support the formation of a social democracy in the US as a means to more radical ends. Traditionally, radical leftists like Marxists, Anarchists and revolutionary socialists have viewed social democracy as a compromise with capital; as nothing more than left-liberalism. On these grounds, social democracy has been dismissed and even confronted as an opposition ideology by radicals.  Contrary to many of my fellow radicals, I view social democracy as a necessary step on the path to a post-capitalist America. Furthermore, I am going to argue that at this specific time in history, the building up of a social democracy in America is essential if we are going to move into the age of hyper-automation and artificial intelligence with the least amount of chaos and suffering possible possible.

I want to state at the outset of this essay, for clarity’s sake, that I am a radical socialist and anti-capitalist, I am not a social democrat. I share the consensus view of most radicals that social democracy as an end goal is a capitulation to capital, and one that fundamentally undermines socialist values. I also have a very strong premise upon which the bulk of the following argument is built, and that premise is that the socialist revolution in America (and beyond) is not going to come via a bloody revolution, instead it will come via the inevitable rise of hyper-automation and artificial intelligence. The revolution will come, as Marx predicted, via the contradictions within the capitalist system itself. By automating more and more jobs with exponentially increasing computational power, capital will sow the seeds of its own destruction by creating an environment in which human beings have to do less and less work in virtually all industries and sectors. I have written about this in more detail on my blog, but if you refuse to accept, even tentatively, this premise, then the following essay will not have its full bite.  However, even without this premise, it is my hope that this essay will have some influence on how radicals think about social democracy and the future.

Defining Our Terms: Social Democracy and Radicalism

For the sake of clarity, I will briefly define what I mean by “social democracy” and “radicalism” to ensure me and my readers are on the same page.  Social Democracy is defined by Wikipedia:

“as a political ideology that supports economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a capitalist economy, and a policy regime involving collective bargaining arrangements, a commitment to representative democracy, measures for income redistribution, regulation of the economy in the general interest and welfare state provisions.”

The easiest way to think about social democracy is by associating it with the Northern European nations that have high taxes, highly robust social safety nets, and strong regulations on capital. Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are classic examples of social democrats that many readers are probably familiar with.

Radicalism, on the other hand, is an umbrella term I am using to cover all far-left, anti-capitalist philosophies ranging from anarchism to Marxism to revolutionary socialism. These philosophers often dismiss gradualism and reformism as legitimate ways to transcend capitalism. Whether its through spontaneous revolution (anarchism) or the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (Marxism), radicals aim to overthrow capitalism from outside of the normal mechanisms of governmental change (i.e. voting, running for political office, reforms, etc.).

The great division between social democrats and radicals is precisely the means by which the two propose to implement socialism. Social democrats, as I’ve said above, favor gradualist tactics. They want to participate in party politics, elect progressive candidates who will help implement progressive reforms like universal healthcare, free higher education, guaranteed paid maternity leave, etc. (Its worth noting that on these three points, America remains one of the only countries who refuses to grant its citizens any of these benefits).  Radicals counter that by winning those gains within the capitalist framework, and depending on the government in capitalist societies to implement and maintain those gains, social democrats leave these gains open to the risk of dismemberment at the hands of the next set of politicians.  Furthermore, the vast majority of politicians that exist in a capitalist State are disproportionately, if not wholly, pawns of capital. Capital dominates any State apparatus that exists in the context of a capitalist economy. It is for this reason that even the best gains are perpetually at risk of being slashed or underfunded or otherwise undermined. Only by taking over the State, or by dismantling the State and Capitalism, can we hope to implement a lasting program that guarantees all citizens freedom from poverty and wage slavery, freedom from exploitation and domination, and freedom from the coercive and cut-throat nature of a capitalist system.

It’s with these dynamics and antagonisms in mind that I hope to construct an argument that bridges these seemingly disparate ideologies into a unified strategy.

Why Social Democracy Is An Essential Step On The Path To Post-Capitalism

There are four main reasons why I think it is necessary for radicals to take seriously the effort to install a social democracy in America; which means dedicating time and energy to supporting candidates like Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn, not as ends in and of themselves, but as tactical means to more radical ends. The four main reasons are as follows:

1)            The organizational structures built and maintained in a social democracy are essential pre-conditions for radical change.

2)            Victories for the working class actually emboldens workers to go further, and re-contextualizes politics to left for the American mainstream.

3)            Material gains for working people is of utmost import; far more important than ideological purity.

4)            A robust social democracy will make the inevitable transition into the age of hyper-automation and post-capitalism a much smoother one

  1. Organizational Structures:

Within social democracies across the world, there are certain organizations that must be created and strengthened overtime to maintain the existence of the social democracy and to prevent roll backs. Strong unions, Consumer advocacy groups, labor representation on corporate boards, and strong grass roots organizations must all exist in robust ways in order for a social democracy to exist. It is precisely these structures, plus many more, that are desperately needed in order to wage a more radical fight.  In America today we are lacking any viable vehicles through which we can organize on a national level. The 40-year systematic deconstruction of unions has taken away a powerful traditional vehicle for radicalism; and only through the building of a social democracy can we restore unions to the level necessary for legitimate worker power. Social democracies also offer the benefit of *actual* working class political parties (as opposed to the Democratic party which is steadfastly and unapologetically a party of capital) with national organizational structures, consistent funding, and a strong platform for radicals to influence toward more radical ends.

 

2. Victories for the Working Class:

With the success of social democracies, the workers get a taste of what they can accomplish. They become less apathetic and disillusioned as they begin to see the fruits of leftist, working class politics. The systems of power and oppression in America have done a very good job at convincing working class people that leftist goals like universal healthcare or free college are either impossible or evil.  The inculcation of the myth of individualism in the general populous is a hypnotic spell that can only be broken by the real-world implementation of the very things that capitalist propaganda has convinced workers would be bad for them. Once people have universal healthcare, free college, paid maternity and the other benefits of a social democracy they will begin to see through the lies of capital in regards to these programs, and will be far less likely to give them up without a fight.

Everywhere in the world where social democratic policies exist, the populace becomes committed to defending them against attacks from capital.  In Slovenia, when they tried to dismantle free higher education, the students went on massive marches and voting campaigns to throw the people who represented capital’s interest out of their political positions, and replaced them with defenders of the program. Similar events occur in any country where the Right tries to roll back hard-fought programs that benefit working people.  Therefore, by implementing these policies, letting people benefit from them, and showing them conclusively that the fear mongering of capital in regards to these programs was just a cynical attempt for them to defend their own interests against the interests of working people, we invigorate the working class. We make them feel empowered, and in that empowerment, the inclination to unify, organize and fight back against any attempt to undermine our gains becomes natural. It is precisely this type of solidarity in defense of working class interests that is lacking in America and that is desperately needed for any radical change beyond social democratic reforms. This element must be in play before any radical project can even think about getting off the ground.

 

3. Material Gains:

I am in favor of any and all material gains for working people. The reason I am a radical and a socialist is precisely because I love working and poor people. I come from the working class, and my family, my friends, and my community are all working class. It is more important to me that all people get access to healthcare, for example, than it is that I strictly adhere to a radical philosophical doctrine or dogma. Material gains for working and poor people is vastly more important to me than ideological purity. Too often, I see radicals whose priorities run in the opposite direction. They would rather posture as ideological demagogues than compromise slightly for various material benefits.  For example, many radicals will criticize a Bernie Sanders for his position on Israel, and use that as a basis to dismiss his entire campaign and to mock his supporters as “liberals” (which is a pejorative in radical circles).  Now, of course the Israeli / Palestinian conflict is of severe importance, and any radical worth their salt better have the correct position on this issue. I think the Israeli government is an oppressive apartheid State and we should be uncompromising in our defense of the Palestinian people.  However, to give up on a real chance at social democracy in America in order to stay unsullied in regards to a single position seems counter-productive. The goal should be to rally behind the most progressive candidate possible (above a certain level, obviously. This isn’t a “lesser of two evils” argument) and then use our influence to push him or her in the right direction on the issues that we do not think they address properly.  Most social democrats will be open to that influence in ways that normal liberal democratic politicians are not.

The point is, the left is so defeated and marginalized in America at this point, that we have got to build radical politics from the ground up. To dismiss this necessity, and to instead retreat into ideological dogmatism is abandon real politics. The left must always be looking beyond social democracy as an end-goal, but also must realize that the journey from here to there involves steps. These steps may not always be pleasant and they will involve some compromises along the way, but that’s the cost of getting something done; and even a cursory examination of the radical left in America will show conclusively that we are not getting anything done, and we need to make some tactical changes if we hope to do anything of substance.  A tentative embrace of social democracy in the short term is the tactical change I am advocating.

4. The Inevitability of Automation and the Importance of a Robust Social Democracy:

I have written, at length, about the inevitability of automation and what that means for the future of work and socialist politics.  I have been clear that I believe it to be the most promising means by which we can transcend capitalism; far more promising than traditional notions of revolution and the seizure of State power. Any attempt to revolt in America will lead quickly and violently into either a complete bloodbath as the State brutally squashes the uprising or a devolution into Civil War as the reactionary elements in our society take up arms against the Left. Neither option bodes well for the quality of life for working and poor people. It is only through the hyper-automation of the economy that we have a real chance at upending and replacing capitalism with a more humane, sustainable, and democratic global system. I will not get it no the details of how this will happen because I have spilled a lot of ink on that topic in other essays.  The point here is to argue that by implementing a robust social democracy before the inevitable transition reaches a climax we can mitigate some of the chaos it will cause, and create a situation in which we can more easily and more smoothly move into our new political, social and economic reality.

Without a social democracy, fully equipped with all of the benefits I outlined above, the transition away from capitalism will be highly chaotic as the masters of capital try to usurp the wealth created by new automation technologies and artificial intelligence advancements. Without a strong working class organizational structure already in place, and without a confident, organized and prepared working class, we run the very real risk of being scattered and confused on how to handle the transition, allowing capitalists to benefit disproportionately from the advancements. In the worst case scenario, capital could seize the State apparatus outright, and impose a sort of dystopian techno-capitalist society marked by even more extreme wealth inequality, environmental degradation, and an accelerated and overwhelming surveillance State, as capital desperately tries to maintain itself in the face of its own internal contradictions.

An integral part of the social democracy I am advocating here is an acknowledgement, study, and discussion of the inevitability of this transition period, and a robust conversation about how best to deal with it and ease into it.  Currently, we have very little dialogue around the issue and with that comes a complete lack of preparations or plans concerning how to handle it in a way that reduces chaos and suffering as much as possible. A properly constructed social democracy in America would make it a primary issue and would work to cautiously accelerate the rate at which the transition can take place safely. There are no guarantees, obviously, that a social democracy would automatically deal appropriately with this huge issue, but it at least lays the groundwork for a context in which these things can be seriously talked about.

 

Abandon Sectarianism:

If the American left hopes to become relevant again, it must abandon its inclination to obscure sectarian battles over high-minded and abstract doctrinal differences.  Those battles can be fought later down the line, but we aren’t even close to a situation in which those battles are even slightly relevant to real-world politics.

It’s important to remember, as well, that sectarianism on the Left is not a cause of Leftist impotence in America, it is a manifestation of Leftist impotence in America. It’s precisely because the Left has very little in the way of real politics to do that we have the luxury of debating pedantic academic differences of doctrine. These differences are not wholly illusory or unimportant, but at this moment in time, they are irrelevant. And only by unifying under a common program, at least in the short term, can we ever hope to be relevant. In fact, to abandon real politics for the safety of ideological certainty is a particularly insidious form of individualism, where your specific dogmatic commitments are given higher priority than making real change for working and poor people.

Conclusion:

Radicals must always be aiming to go beyond social democracy. It must always be viewed as a step on the journey, and not itself the destination of a Leftist program. But I believe that the construction of a social democracy is a necessary pre-requisite for more radical change, and if abandon that opportunity, we do so at the cost of our own relevancy.  To build a bridge across the chasm of global capitalism starts with nailing in the first plank. There are no short cuts. We must keep our gaze on the horizon, but we must keep our feet on the plank underneath us, and work tirelessly to build, plank by plank, our path to the future.

 

What is 21st Century Socialism?

The word “Socialism” is an umbrella term, encompassing many strains of thought, laden with historical connotations, and stigmatized heavily (especially here in America). When one identifies as a socialist, one conjures up in the minds of others the image of Stalin, of the Cold War, of tyranny. This makes it difficult to have a conversation about the ideas of socialism, because the person who advocates it, and the person it is being advocated to, often have such radically different notions of what exactly is being discussed.

In light of this, I think it is important for me to lay out a brief summary of what I mean when I call myself a “socialist”. It has become necessary to lay out my vision of socialism in depth to sidestep confusion and to broaden other people’s understanding of the term.

When I say I am a socialist, I do not mean that I support Stalin or Mao. I do not advocate a small group of people running the entire society in whatever way they want. I do not believe in dictators, I do not believe in bureaucracy, I do not believe in authoritarian hierarchies, and I do not believe in adhering strictly to 19th century philosophical dogma.

Broadly speaking, socialism for me means the restructuring of society such that it operates systematically in the interest of common people as opposed to the wealthy who dominate our economic and political system. I want more democracy; in the political arena, in the economic realm, and in the workplace. I want more people to have more control over their own lives, and I want to use the power of the State to ensure that every citizen has access to a high quality education, high quality healthcare, and a robust public sphere that ensures no one lives in poverty, that promotes environmental sustainability, that reintroduces the concept of community into people’s lives, that expands public transportation and creates high paying jobs aimed at improving our infrastructure and updating the way we create, transport, and use energy for the 21st century. I support technology that replaces human workers, so that people may be freed from wage slavery, and be allowed to have enough free time to develop themselves, their hobbies, and their interests outside of any concern for money. But in order for that to happen, we need to have a political system that redistributes the wealth created by these technologies to all people, probably in the form of a basic income (a monthly amount of a couple thousand dollars for every adult American citizen). The money for a basic income will come via the massive wealth produced by exponentially evolving automation and A.I. technologies.

Under capitalism, the inevitable rise of automation will create massive wealth, but that wealth will go to a very small group of people who own those machines, while the rest of us get laid off and thrown into the welfare lines. As automation continues to replace every job, Americans will be left with nothing but service industry jobs (customer service, waiters and waitresses, etc.). And even those service industry jobs can be largely automated eventually (some already are). This will lead to even more reckless wealth inequality, it will put a huge strain on our social safety net as fewer people have jobs to pay taxes on, and more people need government assistance to get by. Only by socializing the wealth of the 21st century economy can we hope to have a stable, prosperous nation for us and our children.

Long ago Marx argued that capitalism produces the means of its own downfall. Marx couldn’t have predicted Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing, or Hyper-Automation, but he saw the vague outline of these problems, and predicted it would put too much internal pressure on capitalism, eventually resulting in its demise. Capitalism sows the seeds of its own transcendence. This is precisely what is beginning to happen now. Most people do not see what is right in front of their face: things are changing, and changing fast. There is nothing in human history that can act as a precedent to what we are starting to see emerge. Capitalism is a 18th and 19th century philosophy that has served us well in our transition away from monarchies and aristocracies, but has now begun to outlive its usefulness. In a 21st century context, capitalism continues to look less and less tenable as we move with a frightful pace into the future.

It’s time to re-imagine society; to think outside the box. And just as capitalism is an old ideology, so is 19th century versions of socialism. We do not need to recreate the Soviet Union; we do not need to adhere strictly to Marx or Lenin. We do not need to try and force the round peg of Old Socialism into the square hole of 21st century realities. Our socialism needs to be an evolved version; one that learns from the mistakes of the past, one that avoids dictatorships and tyrannies at all cost. We need to re-define socialism for our times, and that means implementing in the realities and possibilities of 21st century technology.

By abolishing the profit motive in socially indispensable industries, we can begin to move in the proper direction.  Let’s nationalize the banks, making them into democratic institutions that serve the interests of the society, and not the interests of CEOs and Stock Holders. Let’s nationalize the energy companies, and make them into sustainable institutions meant to rationally and morally fuel our civilization instead of lining the pockets of a small group of very rich people sitting atop private corporations. Let’s put money and resources into the development of automative technologies, quickening the pace in which they are installed and marrying that with an economic and political system that is ready for it; that anticipates and prepares for it. We do not need to wage a bloody revolution or Civil War in order to bring this about, we merely need to open our eyes to the reality of historical development, and stop letting ourselves be dominated by forces that we can and should bring under democratic control. We are in a transition period, perhaps the biggest and most significant transition period in all of human history. To cling to capitalism in that context is to be pathological. What socialism will look like has yet to be fully fleshed out, but that is precisely because we reject dogma and we believe that power should be in the hands of common, but informed, people, who can decide how they want their communities and countries to be structured. We do not pretend to have all of the answers, we only claim to have a solid grip on the problems and an outline of where to go from here.

When you ask Americans about socialism, they often respond negatively, because this country has a century of taboos and stigmas about socialism embedded inside the minds of its citizens. But when you ask Americans questions that leave buzz words out and which aren’t loaded with political bias, Americans routinely support socialist principles: A fair society where the most vulnerable are taken care of, a society without a massive inequality of wealth, a society where everyone is well educated and healthy, a society where everyone has true equality of opportunity, and a society that not only allows, but ensures, that every American has a high quality of life. And isn’t that a society that you want your children to live in? Where you know that when you die, and as your children age, they won’t be forced to work into their 70’s? Doesn’t everyone want their family to be protected from poverty, destitution, and crime? After all, crime is an outgrowth of poverty. When you have money, when you have a home, when you have an education, when you have healthcare, and when you have opportunities for advancement, you don’t tend to turn to crime. You have something to lose. Its only when large segments of our population have nothing to lose that we get high crime rates that put us all in danger. Only in a society that is grossly unfair, alienating and shallow do we get people who want to walk into a movie theater or a school and shoot innocent people at random. A healthy society does not have these problems, and they are symptoms of a deep structural sickness. We have it within our ability to change all of that, but we have to fight for it.

Socialism is not Utopia. There is no such thing as a Utopia. And it’s true that when we solve all the problems I discuss above, new problems will still arise. But those new problems will be the problems faced by a greater civilization; those problems will be reflections of the fact that we took the next step in human cultural development, and they will stand as a testament to our progress. Our children and grandchildren can work on them and solve them, but they shouldn’t have to solve OUR problems. It is our duty to solve our problems, and sticking with the same institutions and systems of power and wealth that we have had for over two centuries is not the way to do that. Change can be scary, I admit. But change is going to happen, whether we are ready for it or not. The best thing we can do is think deeply about those changes, and begin to fashion our society in such a way that we can face those changes confidently and with adequate preparation.

We are at a crossroads as a species: either we dramatically reform ourselves and our institutions, or we will be met with catastrophe. Our oceans are dying, our climate is changing, wealth inequality is the highest it’s ever been in modern history, and our political systems are increasingly unable to deal with the large issues that face us. We can either stand up and move boldly into the future, or we can huddle like scared animals around the status quo and wait for chaos. The decision is ours…

Super Tuesday 2016: Analysis and Predictions

This essay will lay out my analysis of the 2016 presidential elections thus far, candidate by candidate. I will also make some predictions for how the rest of the election will play out, and explore some implications of those predicted results. I will begin by analyzing the major candidates:

Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s support comes largely from white working class people who are angry about the class war that they have been losing for decades, but are radically *confused* about the causes of that deterioration for working people.

They do not understand the complexities of global capitalism, the complete take-over of our government by the ultra-rich, how certain trade policies like NAFTA and the TPP affect working people, how the wealth that our labor produces gets siphoned to the top and re-directed towards imperialism and corporatism instead of making our lives better, etc. And since they do not understand the real causes of their misery, they support the candidate who simplifies everything into “good guys vs. bad guys”, who creates convenient scapegoats, dumb-downed narratives, and who points tribalistically and accusingly to people with different skin color as the problem.

I do not blame working people for not understanding these complex causal factors, though. People are stretched thin, they must work harder for less money, they are under constant pressure and stress. Working people don’t have the time or energy to study the intricacies of policy, to read tomes on American History, to deconstruct capitalism, and to educate themselves on how the system works. I understand why Trump’s hyper-simple bullshit works on so many people, but it doesn’t make it any less depressing, and it certainly doesn’t mean we should not fight our asses off to combat that narrative and those toxic politics.

But we have to understand that the problem that working people of all colors are facing today is NOT other working people. It’s not Mexicans, it’s not Muslims, it’s not China. The problems we face are inherent features of the economic system under which we all toil, and if we are ever going to approach a solution to these complex problems, we are going to have to realize the reality of our situation, and aim our anger at the correct targets. Trump’s candidacy is dangerous because it aims that anger at other working people, and at vulnerable communities, instead of at the systems of power and wealth that dominate us all.

However, despite Trump’s far-right populist rhetoric, many of his policies tend to be pretty moderate, even bordering on liberal. Healthcare, for example, is an area where Trump refuses to be goaded into being a cliché’ Republican. He has advocated for robust government assistance for poor people, defending it even when Ted Cruz hammered him on National Television in the 10th GOP Primary debate. On war and the military Trump is also curiously moderate. He advocates a form of isolationism and an end to rampant imperialism, even going so far as to argue that we should charge countries money for having a US military presence within their borders and refusing to defend Israeli exclusively; opting instead to be a “neutral moderator” in the Palestinian / Israeli conflict. On campaign finance, Trump actually plays a very important role in these elections just by being so unapologetic about his past financing of politicians all over the spectrum, and by funding his own campaign.  Of course he is allowed to do this only because he is so wealthy, but by pulling back the curtain on campaign finance, and mocking his competitors in the GOP by admitting he has funded them in the past, Trump is making a powerful point about the role that wealth plays in American politics. Whether he is fully cognizant that he is in fact playing this role is another question, but regardless it has been instrumental in drawing supporters to him and in exposing the plutocracy of Washington even to people who do not support him.

All of this makes Trump an enigma: He simultaneously espouses fascist policies and center-left policies; all under the same broad platform. I do not think Trump has any real ideology or deep political values, which goes a long way in explaining the oddity of his platform. He is, first and foremost, an opportunist and a businessman; he sees that there is a vein in American Politics that has yet to be tapped by any presidential candidate and takes advantage of that by tapping into it arrogantly and violently. If the political winds were blowing in a totally different direction, I assume Trump would tap into *that* vein without a moment’s hesitation. This makes Trump popular and dangerous. We have no idea how he would ACTUALLY govern, and since his policies are all over the place, we have reason to believe that his government could be anything from ruthlessly authoritarian to moderate and bipartisan. One thing we do know, though, is that Trump’s main competitor on the right, Ted Cruz, would be a truly horrifying president; and we should be relieved if Trump beats Cruz in the primary.

Ted Cruz

Cruz, unlike Trump, is a true partisan. He has a clearly defined worldview, ideology and value system. He is a far-right wing, Christian zealot, and if he were somehow able to slime his way into the presidency, we would be the furthest-to-the-right president in modern US history. He would make the Bush/Cheney administration look moderate in comparison.  Cruz is the culmination of the Tea Party movement; he is an obstructionist, a free-market fundamentalist, a despiser of government and of the public sphere in general, and he is a Christian extremist. He would use his power to push for a Christian Conservative socio-economic policy platform that would bring out the worst in Americans and do lasting damage to America.

The area in which he would do the most harm is in the Supreme Court nomination process. It is likely that the next president could be responsible for appointing up to 3 Supreme Court Justices. And since they have lifetime appointments, a Cruz presidency could continue destroying America for decades. We have every reason to expect him to appoint what would amount to three more Antonin Scalias; a truly terrifying prospect. Additionally, Cruz would likely have a majority Republican Senate, allowing him to get nominees approved and get bills through congress with considerably more ease than he otherwise would be able to.

Luckily, however, at this point in the primary process, it seems increasing unlikely that Ted Cruz will win his party’s nomination. He is behind Trump in the polls, and the only state he is slated to win is his home state of Texas. Texas is a large, and therefore important state when it comes to delegate distribution, to be sure, but even if Cruz wins Texas, he is fighting a steep uphill battle against both Trump and the GOP establishment who has rallied behind Marco Rubio in every other state. He is even losing the coveted Evangelical vote to Trump, a truly weird development, seeing as how Trump is about as Christian as a money-obsessed ego-maniac can be; which is to say not at all (See: Jesus’s teachings). But we have come to expect hypocrisy from the Christian Right in America, so perhaps it makes more sense than it initially appears to.

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio is the GOP’s last chance at securing a nomination that won’t humiliate and destroy the party. The Republican establishment does not want Trump or Cruz to represent the party in the general election; they want a more inclusive conservatism that broadens the tent a tad while still maintaining the GOP status quo: lower taxes, aggressive neo-conservative foreign policy, and “family values” (i.e. Christian Conservative values). Marco Rubio is also important for the establishment because he is their best chance at appealing to Latino voters, a segment of the population that the GOP has traditionally done poorly with, but one which is increasing important with every election cycle. While Trump plays up xenophobia and nativism, Rubio and the GOP understand that if they are to stay relevant into the future, they need to change tact, and start appealing to this huge demographic, which means playing down their white identity politics and opening their arms to diversity within the party. Too bad their base disagrees…

Rubio is representing the establishment in an election year when the establishment is precisely the target of so much anger and hatred, on the Left as well as the Right. His only hope is for Trump to fail to get to the 1,237 delegates needed for a clear primary victory, and for the GOP to go into a brokered convention (a situation in which no single candidate has secured a pre-existing majority of delegates) where the Party will be free to choose their candidate, regardless of the popular vote. What frictions and tensions that will cause between the establishment and Republican voters remains to be seen, but I predict it will cause pretty nasty in-fighting as the Party tries desperately to stay relevant in the eyes of GOP voters while also putting forth a candidate of their choice, and canning the candidate that Republican voters clearly want: Donald Trump.

 

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton

On the Democratic side of the elections, the same anti-Establishment vs. Establishment dynamic is playing out, but on a more mature and sophisticated level. As the GOP devolves into childish tantrums, name-calling, embarrassing debates, and even dick jokes (See Rubio’s comment about the size of Trump’s hands), the Democrats have managed to stay congenial, high minded, and serious. The debates between Clinton and Sanders are substantive and informative. But do not mistake the agreeableness of the debates for a lack of contentiousness; the Sanders and Clinton competition is no less important for the Democratic Party as the Trump v. Rubio v. Cruz competition is for the GOP.

Sanders is the clear progressive, employing a sophisticated populism aimed at millennials and working class folks.  His analysis is class based and consistent. But Sanders has been an independent for 30 some years, and only joined the Democrats in order to make a legitimate run at the presidency.  But within the DNC, the picture is clear: Hillary is the desired nominee of the party, and even though Sanders is ostensibly running as a member of the party, everyone knows that he is not a true Party member. The DNC wants Hillary, and with their super-delegate system, they will get Hillary. Period.

The importance of Sander’s campaign is not so much in the chance that he can win, but in a handful of facts about his strategy and message. Here are the most important aspects of his campaign (in no particular order):

1)            He refuses all corporate and special interest campaign money. He funds his campaign solely through small donations from average citizens and has still managed to out-raise all but two (Hillary and Cruz) of the other candidates. For the first time, the possibility of a truly competitive grass-roots campaign, funded solely by citizens, is being realized.

2)            Sanders identifies as a Democratic Socialist. Previously, a candidate self-identifying as a socialist would mean that candidate automatically loses all chances at running an even slightly competitive campaign. But Sanders has unapologetically accepted the label, and by so doing, has enabled millions of Americans, especially younger Americans, to revisit the term and contemplate seriously the ideology behind it.  Sander’s campaign has freed the term “socialist” from its Cold War connotations and brought it back into the American Political mainstream; this bodes well for the possibility of a Socialist Party and Socialist candidates in the future. (I am leaving aside the debate over what makes someone a “real socialist” for now, the nuances of that conversation escape the scope of this essay, but I hope to blog about it soon.)

3)            Bernie Sanders has advocated for “political revolution”.  By this he means that the people have to realize the limitations of electoral politics and organize outside the system in order to put appropriate pressure on the system. This means that voting every 2-4 years is not enough; only by organizing outside the two party system, and by taking to the streets, can working and poor people truly advance their political interests in system built by and for the wealthy elite.

These aspects of the Sander’s campaign will have a continued influence on American politics well into the future, and even if his campaign ultimately fails to get the nomination, it will not be in vain.  I fully expect to see the blossoming of an unapologetically socialist politic over the next decade or so, and perhaps in the future we can look back on the Sander’s campaign and point to it as a turning point for Leftist American politics; a turn away from the Democratic party and towards a far more progressive, working class political party.  At least that is my earnest hope.

 

— Predictions —

Finally, I want to make some predictions. Today is March 1st, 2016 (Super Tuesday), where 12 states will vote in their respective primaries and caucuses. After tonight we will have an even better view of what the likely outcomes will be, and who will be facing who in the general election. It’s a perfect time for some predictions, so here they are:

My prediction is that when the dust settles, Hillary Clinton will be facing Donald Trump in the general election. The GOP will do everything within their power to prevent a Trump candidacy, but will ultimately fail. Their only hope is to keep Trump below the 1,237 delegates line, so that they can enter a brokered convention and have far more control over who their candidate will be. But even if they manage to pull that off, they will do so at cost of their base’s loyalty and respect. The base will see this move as a cynical attempt for the party to disregard the people’s wishes, and will lead to even more fervent anti-establishmentarian politics on the Right in the future. The party will continue to fracture and disintegrate as the base and the establishment battle one another for control over the party’s future. This can only be a good thing for anyone on the Left, but specifically for the Democratic Party who will likely take advantage of the discord in the GOP. They will win the election, and get to install the first Woman president after they had 8 years of the first Black president. Making history in back-to-back presidential elections, further alienating the GOP as the party of the past, and solidifying the strength of the Democratic Party into the future.

And make no mistake: Hillary will wipe the fucking floor with Donald Trump in a general election.  She is far more experienced in politics, she is a much better debater, Trump has a large closet full of skeletons for Clinton to expose and exploit, and the GOP will split: many Republicans going for a third party candidate over trump, refusing to vote, or even going so far as to vote for Hillary; accepting the loss but preserving the Republican party as a whole into the future, hopefully allowing for some mid-term gains as the GOP base reacts to a Clinton presidency in the same way they reacted to the Obama presidency.  Its counter-intuitive but true: Hillary defeating Trump will be good for the Republican Party.  A Trump presidency would be devastating for the Party, for reasons I outlined above.

In conclusion, tonight’s results will give us a strong indication as to how the rest of the primary season will go, and if I am correct in my analysis, Trump and Clinton will win big tonight, and become all but inevitable candidates for the general election; at which point we will almost certainly have a Hillary Clinton presidency starting in early 2017.