Palast, Socialism, and the New York Times

I don’t think it is the subject of controversy that Greg Palast is the reporter who first, and most completely, told the story of the 2000 election in which George W. Bush made off with the victory falsely, since Gore actually won Florida when all the counting was done, if not feloniously; too many mechanisms were employed by the Republican Party to take the time and space to enumerate here.  I am not writing about that election on election day 2020.  I am writing about several interlaced political phenomena that this sad country had better do something about if it is ever to approach the Democracy its citizens think they deserve, and a large number of them, think they already have.

The driving force behind this piece has been the failure of the New York Times to include in its pages the name Palast.  I assume the reason for his absence is the fact that he is an unabashed leftist.  He has written quite a few books, and the central theme of every one of them is that the corporate oligarch class is at work everywhere and in every way seeking to subvert the very notion of Democracy, along with any steps towards its realization.  In spite of whatever pretensions there are, the New York Times is likely the most powerful upholder/bulwark of that very corporate oligarch class.

Then along comes Donald Trump and the election of 2020 and everyone with a reasonable brain is firing in the same direction, their interests, if only temporarily, precisely aligned: Trump must be defeated.  Standing in the way of that are all kinds of problems with the machinery of our democracy, wisely or not, left in the hands of the 50 states.  Palast is a smartass; there is not the slightest doubt about that, and he uses his brand of humor to skewer pretension and its practitioners like the folks at the New York Times, though I frankly don’t remember if he has ever said something uncomplimentary specifically about them, or it.  So, whether that paper has been specifically targeted with his sarcasm or not, what is clear is that he has done the work that it should have been doing, and upon which the essential victor in Georgia this year, Stacey Abrams (though her name was not on the ballot) has relied.  In fact, just today, Nov 16, 2020, a NYT article referred to the problem to which he has directed such enormous energy in the last two decades, Republican false “purges” of legitimate voters, without mentioning his name or his responsibility for calling attention to the issue.

His most recent book, “How Trump Stole the 2020 Election,” leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination when it comes to the flaws in our elections, based on reporting from 2000 until today.  Some things are not nailed down.  For example, the case that operatives are able to change the numbers of votes in a candidate’s column, or the actual choices on the ballot, is maybe just a strong suspicion at this point.  What is not just a strong suspicion is that the purging of voters from the rolls in states, Red States, across the country is a fact, and not a trivial one.  In Georgia in 2018, Stacey Abrams would have won had it not been for unlawful purging of voters by her opponent, then election chief and Secretary of State, now governor Brian Kemp.  I can’t remember if it was 300,000 or more, very likely Democratic voters that were purged, but it was far past the margin of Kemp’s victory in an election that Abrams, bravely, never conceded.

In 2020, the purges are still in operation and Palast has demonstrated, without the slightest question, that some 198,000 Georgians have been purged from the rolls erroneously, and from this criminal trial lawyer’s perspective, feloniously.  The purgers set up an algorithm, or whatever, that knocked off everyone who had moved since the last election, knowing that 80% still had the right to vote at their new address which was around the corner in far too many cases.  There are other tricks that Palast has uncovered, and they do nothing but raise one’s blood pressure for those of us who actually think every citizen should be encouraged to vote, not just allowed.

Here is where it gets peculiar.  That last sentence or its gist could have been found in a NYT editorial.  Those people claim to want everyone to vote, too.  As do all of the Democratic members of the House and Senate.  It isn’t shocking any more the extent to which Republicans admit they don’t want people voting; the demographics are heading in a seriously wrong direction for them these days. Crime and chicanery are about what’s left in their satchel.  But the Democrats and all their power operatives clearly SAY they want everyone voting.  So they should be promoting the brilliant work of Greg Palast, advertising his books and his videos, since the more people are aware of the deeds to which I make reference, the less likely they will be to fall victim to them or vote for their executioners, i.e. Republicans.

How many times has the New York Times mentioned Greg Palast? Zero.  How many times has he testified before Congress about his election findings? Zero.  So what is going on here?  Would these centrist democratic forces prefer to lose than live in an actual democracy that might, according to some, produce a progressive agenda?  Or do they simply think they can get away without answering that question because their power in other regards is so overwhelming?  

I am now writing as Trump has lost but hasn’t, and probably won’t, concede.  The Democrats, or maybe more accurately, the oligarchic, ruling class, has achieved its greatest victory.  One of their most reliable practitioners, Joe Biden, (Iraq War, Crime bill, general corporate hegemony, Anita Hill, etc) has been elected with a diminished House majority, and likely, pending two Georgia run-offs in January, a Republican majority in the Senate.  Bingo, the perfect excuse not to accomplish anything that might discomfit the oligarchs.  Was it a gamble by the ruling class, that they barely pulled off, given the small margins in key states?  Or would they have preferred Trump to a progressive-leaning landslide, or the likes of Bernie Sanders?

How did we get here, to the place where diehard lefties like myself are doing what they can to get Trump out even though the replacement is way below unacceptable?  It all begins with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Economic Bill of Rights:

 

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries, or shops or farms or mines of the nation;  

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;  The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;  

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;  

The right of every family to a decent home;  

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;  

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment;  

The right to a good education.

 

Those are the words he spoke at his State of the Union Address on January 11, 1944. But they are the product of the attitude he expressed so vividly as he announced his Second New Deal on October 31, 1936, when he said that his efforts in the fight for what we call “economic justice” were opposed “by business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering,” propelled by a hatred of him.  To which he added, “I welcome their hatred.”  

FDR has been, at least in rhetoric, the guiding light of the Democratic Party since he took office in 1933.  He engaged in warfare as a class traitor and set down markers for a just society that resonate now as much as they did then.  So now I ask, which leader of the Democratic Party will stand for these principles now with the words “I welcome their hatred?”  Not Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer, or, importantly, South Carolina Repesentative, Jim Clyburn, who gave Biden the win he needed in the South Carolina primary with a crucial assist from Barack Obama who called Buttigieg and Klobishar to get them to drop out and endorse Biden, thereby destroying the chances of Bernie Sanders the Socialist who had won, for all intents and purposes, the first three primaries. 

So the centrist, business-friendly, ruling class Democrats managed to defeat the Socialist.  The embracer of the ideas of FDR was beaten by the forces aligned with FDR’s haters.  And who precisely are these haters today, those for whom defeating a Socialist is worth the gamble of a continuation of Trump?  The fossil fuel industry, convicted of conspiring to destroy mass transit in the first part of the 20th Century, has now been shown to have known that global warming and climate change were the inevitable results of fossil fuel usage forty years ago, and did and said nothing in light of that knowledge.  Does Joe Biden welcome their hatred?  He has actually called the climate crisis an existential threat and has pledged 2 Trillion dollars to fight it.  And who does he suppose is going to be his foremost opponent in that fight, other than the fossil fuel industry and its surrogates in the Republican Party?  You say some of their surrogates are Democrats?  You say some of Biden’s advisors and potential nominees have been lobbying for fossil fuels for the last number of years?  I suppose all of that is true.

The financial industry, scoundrels of 2008, deserve all of our hatred just as FDR expressed it in 1936, but they found impunity under Obama/Biden. Amazon and Google and Facebook are classic monopolies that should have seen the end of their reign and made plans for it, but now will fight regulation while wielding influence among the powerful.  Has there been an expression welcoming their hatred from Joe Biden?  Hardly. They love him. He, after all, carrying a card or not, is a DLC Democrat.  Clinton and it, the DLC, decided that power was with the money in politics, not the far-more-numerous people.  They picked a few wedge issues that all but the extremes could agree on, abortion, guns, gay rights, and declared them to be the heart of the Democratic Party, at the same time assuring big money that it had nothing to fear from them.  They went straight to Goldman Sachs and became the whores of Wall Street, deftly omitting any reference to FDR’s second New Deal or welcoming anyone’s hatred.

And now, 40 years later, Trump has managed to lose but only barely, while claiming seats in the House and maybe still hanging on to the Senate using as his light saber the fear of Socialism.  And Clyburn is decrying Socialism in front of a statue of W.E.B. Dubois, one of America’s premier Socialists, probably in the same month that he extolled the virtues of FDR–just guessing about that last, but Pelosi and Biden sure have within memory.  Clyburn is as strong a DLC’er as there is as a recipient of massive quantities of campaign contributions from Big Business and Big Pharma.  Might there have been another way?  How about confronting the enigma head-on instead of talking out of both sides of Democratic mouths.  FDR’s declarations about economic rights are, after all, as good a definition of Socialism as anybody needs.  What we need is a “paper of record” that will let its readers know when a Democrat extolls the virtues of FDR at the same timing shilling for big business.

Is mendacity playing a role in this debate?  Anybody reading this probably doesn’t need to be told that there are unprincipled liars who are major voices as these issues are discussed.  Jim Clyburn and Representative Spanburger of Virginia can whine about having to run against attacks on Socialism, but he should know those attacks aren’t going away whether the Left is outwardly embracing the label–Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez–or just making glancing references to FDR.  The Republican Party employs the best at doing the worst, and they have no regard for honest discourse.  Every time they step to the plate, they are either lying or dancing on the edge of the term.  And they are great at it.  And, and this part is important, there is a lot in the history of Socialism to be used, however dishonestly.  Hitler and Stalin, for example, both used the word while embodying everyone’s worst nightmare of the Totalitarian state.  But Marx would have been appalled at what was wrought in his name, because, “dictatorship of the proletariat” to the contrary notwithstanding, he was a democrat and fervently believed in the principles of democracy.

But the last thing the Republican public relations apperatus, or the DLC, corporate oligarch, Democratic public relations apperatus have the slightest concern for is that the unknowing might confuse the bad things they inaccurately associate with Socialism with the good things that are the heart of its dictates.  Obviously, and in fact, that is their aim, to play on ignorance for emotional and strategic advantage. So that is a tough fact of life for us Socialists; they lie, and they have material with which to work.

I propose a different strategy from that currently employed by left Democrats.  I think it is possible to win the debate, even among the less politically literate, just by turning around, facing the chaser, and shouting back.  The good news is that we don’t need to lie to have a truly powerful rebuttal that those, who consider themselves more astute at this business than I, have decided not to resort to.  The bottom line fact of life is that everyone loves Socialism, everyone.  It’s just a question of, in which instance?  Socialism does NOT, even if you were to hew closely to the dictates of Das Kapital, which I found unreadable, but which America’s pre-eminent Marxist of the late 20th Century, Michael Harrington, explained to me, simply mean that the state owns the means of production.  Socialism involves the long continuum of government action through the use of money, owning as in the Tennessee Valley Authority, or just affecting in the case of farm subsidies or tax breaks, or…BAILOUTS.

The whole debate about healthcare and socialized medicine is illustrative of the conundrum and the dishonesty employed in the public relations trenches.  Rush Limbaugh and his fellow travelers–why not employ their tools if you can?–shout with abandon about the perils of socialized medicine as did Trump’s campaign in the past 6 months.  What’s wrong with that?  Well, no one, no, actually, no one, is suggesting that the United States should adopt socialized medicine.  What is promoted, with a majority of citizens approving, is socialized medical insurance, the so-called single-payer, Medicare For All program that Sanders, and at one time or another, look it up, Elizabeth Warren and Barack Obama supported.  In such a system, the doctors would NOT be employees of the government, but the bill payers would be.  The provision of healthcare would be private in every meaningful sense, unlike for example, the medical attention received by the most famous current besmircher of Medicare For All, calling it Socialized Medicine, Donald Trump, when he contracted Covid and had to be admitted to Bethesda Naval Hospital where he was cared for by government-paid doctors of various high ranks.

Hypocrisy, mendacity, deception. These are really all the Right and Republicans and the DLC Corporate Democrats have when it comes to Socialism.  Who, after all, was it that came begging in 2008 when the precipice was staring them and us in the face?  It was big business, Republicans and Democrats, and specifically and principally the banks, who had their hands out, were bailed out, and then bugged out when it would have been time to calmly and rationally discuss the benefits and detractions of Socialism.  I haven’t done the study, but I feel quite certain they were at the heart of the financial embrace that defeated the public option in the healthcare debate in 2009, furiously backing the Blue Dog receptor of mountains of health insurance money, Max Baucus, while whinging about the disaster of Socialism.

For a time, the government actually had a piece of the auto industry and Obama did a wonderful bit about moving some of these Ford Taurus’s at a blockbuster sales event.  That was Socialism in its classic form, actual ownership of a company, so those decriers who were begging for a bailout in 2009 can sit down and shut up; they crave Socialism existentially.  The hypocrisy is not hard to make out; it is the foundation of the public relations effort against Socialism and its proponents.

So, in its simplest form.  The fight today appears to be between corporate America and left socialists. And it is being fought with the machinery of Democracy, elections, with one side professing support for, and the other, unabashedly in opposition to, complete citizen access to the ballot box.  But part of the army, the Decorporocrats, just will not commit to the battle, and therefore, must be considered to be in league with the enemy.  Sure, this analysis leaves out a lot of the country that can’t or won’t look beyond abortion or guns; they are unreachable to the Democratic Party, but not a large enough percentage to win the White House on their own.  What’s left of the electorate are the targets of the Anti-Socialism crusade, and the most powerful force in that effort is the New York Times which has the ability to strike its blow for the Decorporocrats and the Recorplicans just by ignoring some of the most important journalism for the vitality of Democracy that can be found anywhere–the work of Greg Palast.

 

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