"Lesser Evils" and Other Ways of Deceiving the People
By Dennis Loo (4/20/14)
The Republicans have a fascist core in their party but that does not make the Democrats the “lesser evil.” The view that public policies’ nature is determined by the president’s party affiliation does not reflect political reality. Elites do not decide what they will do based on what the public wants them to do. The notion that elites do what the people want is what we’re constantly told and what democratic theory claims, but it is not how elites actually operate. Instead, public policies are a product of authorities’ efforts to implement their agenda without incurring too much public resistance to their moves. Thus, deception and manipulation are crucial ingredients in their recipes for rule.
If you compare Obama’s presidency to that of a hypothetical John McCain presidency or Mitt Romney presidency, it is actually likely that Obama’s policies have been more rightwing than a Republican White House would have been. It is likely that a Republican would not have been as successful as Obama in deporting more immigrants than did George W. Bush, would not have been able to keep Guantanamo open this long without massive protests, would not have been as free to openly keep and add to a “kill list” as has Obama, would not have been able to defend and disarm as many people about the NSA’s universal spying, would have met far more resistance to policies designed to further limit women’s rights to abortion, his bailouts of big banks, his energy and drilling policies, climate change inaction, and so on. Had a Republican tried to emulate what Obama has done, the protests against these measures would have been much more massive and intense in the streets because more people would have been clearer that these policies when carried out by a Republican are not in the public interest than they have been when it’s being done by a black Democrat with a silver tongue.
What matters is not, in other words, what public opinion actually is. What matters is what is presented as the dominant public opinion to the public. What people think others think matters a great deal.
Even within the US, capitalism’s heartland, the degree to which people are pro-capitalist is highly exaggerated. You would think judging from mainstream media and the comments of politicians and pundits that everyone is in love with shopping and capitalism. Given that the capitalist class is in charge, this is not surprising: if people knew how unpopular capitalism was in the US, such sentiments would spread and be more openly and boldly expressed, further contributing to those sentiments’ popularity and influence.
I’m reprinting here an article on this question that I wrote in late 2012:
By Dennis Loo (11/21/12)
Thomas Edsall, writing on November 18, 2012 in The New York Times’ series about the 2012 Election, “Campaign Stops,” in the series’ final installment entitled: “Is Rush Limbaugh’s Country Gone?”, ends with this:
the parameters and focus of the national and political dialogue as predominantly about gender, race, ethnicity and class. This is the paradigm, the template through which many Americans, probably a majority, more or less view the world, our country, and the election. It is a divisive strategy and Democrats have targeted and exploited those divides. How else can we explain that more young people now favor socialism to capitalism?
In fact, the 2011 Pew Research Center poll Bennett[i] cites demonstrates that in many respects conservatives are right to be worried:
The PRC poll is reproduced below and of particular note are the percentages among blacks, Hispanics, those making less than $30k/year, and young people (18-29 y.o.), where more of them in each group have negative attitudes towards capitalism and some of them - blacks and people under 30 - also showing a majority with a positve attitude towards socialism.
Among blacks the percent saying they’re positive towards capitalism is 41% and negative towards capitalism 51%, and when asked about socialism, black respondents are 55% positive and 36% negative. Among 18 to 29 year olds of all races/ethnicities, 46% are positive towards capitalism, 47% negative, and 49% positive towards socialism and 43% negative towards socialism.
Among Hispanics, 32% are positive towards capitalism and 55% negative towards it, and 44% positive towards socialism and 49% negative. Among those making less than $30,000 per year, 39% are positive towards capitalism and 47% negative.
In sum, among blacks, Hispanics, those making less than $30k, and people of any color 18 to 29 years old, a majority of them are negative towards capitalism.
The total for all races, incomes, ages, party and ideology is 50% positive towards capitalism and 40% negative, with 31% positive towards socialism and 60% negative.
Notably, because of the overwhelmingly negative treatment that socialism gets in the U.S., there are not surprisingly many more – 20 points more - who express negative sentiments about socialism than those who are negative towards capitalism, even though a full 40% have negative sentiments towards capitalism.
For a country more hostile to socialism and more positive towards and more a bastion of capitalism than any other in human history, the 50% positive and 40% negative towards capitalism of the aggregate is not very robust. Given the near total absence of positive media and education towards socialism (especially in K-12) and the minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, year-by-year celebration of capitalism, these numbers should concern Mr. Bennett. Imagine what the numbers and cleavages would look like if socialism were to actually emerge in a significant way through a visible movement for revolution in this country and/or elsewhere in the world, instead of being constantly censored and condemned as unthinkably bad?
As Bennett decries, the majority of those among 18 to 29 year olds’ stated preference for some unnamed socialist society than the existing capitalist one is especially troublesome for capitalism’s cheerleaders and apologists. If this is "the best of all possible worlds," then how come only 50% think so and 40% of the entire population beg to differ? If this is the new generation, then does this bode well for this system's continued existence?
Bennett doesn’t note this, but what should also be alarming to him is the much higher negative attitudes towards capitalism and “its virtues” among blacks and Hispanics, and those who make less than $30,000/year, even if Hispanics and those making under $30k are not more positive towards socialism than negative at this time.
It should be added here that what exactly people mean by "capitalism" and especially "socialism" in this poll are undefined. One should not interpret someone saying that they're positive towards socialism as meaning that they are also ready to fight for capitalism's overthrow and the establishment of socialism. But the results are nonetheless extremely intriguing and at the very least show that the conventional wisdom that everyone is a huge fan of capitalism and will fight for it to the death is untrue.
Bennett says “the parameters and focus of the national and political dialogue [are] predominantly about gender, race, ethnicity and class” and he attributes this to the Democratic Party.
But what he fails to note, either from deliberate oversight or because he doesn’t see this, the salience of gender, race, ethnicity and class is something that the right-wing has been chiefly responsible for making central to people’s political awareness and done so for the express purpose of being divisive. Without divisiveness and hate speech, people like Rush and Bill O'Reilly would be mute because they would not know what to say.
Class, of course, is not something that the Republican Party has raised directly and explicitly except to deride anyone challenging the distribution of wealth and the vast and growing inequalities as engaging in that unspeakably awful “class warfare.” But the celebration of the spoils for those who are rich that the Republicans are front and center about, that is obviously about class. The “Real Housewives of ________,” the Kardashians, the endless and nauseating repetition of how big and fancy so and so’s mansions are, as if the whole society had become like a high school and everyone was utterly infatuated with money and status, are all testimony to the rising salience of class.
As for gender, race and ethnicity, it’s been called the Culture Wars for a reason, with the right-wing specifically since the 1960s trying to use culture, color, gender and sexual orientation as wedge issues to break apart the New Deal coalition and the insurgent alliance dating from the 1960s’ upsurge between intellectuals/academia/literati and the middle and upper-middle classes and minorities, immigrants, women, young people, and LGBT folks.
What has happened is that these issues, which gave the right-wing such currency and impetus for so many years, has finally started to turn against them, most dramatically from their perspective, in what they evidently did not expect at all, the drubbing of Romney [in the 2012 election] and other reactionary candidates of theirs by the groups that they had made their gains attacking for so long. This was a shock to their systems and akin to the reaction that people have who have been isolated in an echo chamber of their own fabricated facts and truths too long, upon stepping outside of that box into the open air.
[i] I can’t help but note for those who aren’t that familiar with William “Mr. Virtue” Bennett that he made his name and fortune touting conservative virtues and deriding liberals as inherently less moral than conservatives, while secretly gambling on the slots and losing more than $8 million. My main point here is not the rank hypocrisy of people like Bennett, even though their hypocrisy is actually one of their more striking features: those who cry the loudest about sin are invariably committing acts in private that they fervently conceal.
This site aims to accomplish two related goals. First, it complements Dennis Loo's book Globalization and the Demolition of Society so that people reading the book can get more deeply into it. (See navigation bar above, labeled "GDS Book Annotations"). We believe that his book is a landmark, providing a solid foundation for politics of a new path. Taking such a path is critical to humanity and the planet's future. As his book's dust jacket states:
[F]ree market fundamentalism - also known as neoliberalism - makes us not more secure or prosperous: it tears the social fabric and undermines security, leading inevitably to disasters on the individual, regional, and global levels.
Neoliberalism is based on the mantra that market forces should run everything. It aims to eliminate job and income security, the social safety net (including welfare and other social guarantees), unions, pensions, public services, and the governmental regulation of corporations. It consequently undermines the basis for people to voluntarily cooperate with authority as almost everyone is increasingly left by themselves to face gargantuan private interests, with governmental and corporate authority ever more indifferent to the public’s welfare.
Those in charge of our collective fates in government and business personify a heartless system based on profit and plunder. They have been relentlessly instituting profoundly immoral and unjust policies even while they insist that they are doing the opposite. We, on the other hand, stand for and are fighting for a radically different system and set of values than this.
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Defeating the empire is not something that occurs only on the literal battlefield. It is also something that is determined throughout the continuum of battles over many issues, including: ideas; philosophy; forms of organization and leadership in economy, politics, and other realms; ways of arguing; ways of responding to and respecting empirical data; interest in truth as opposed to expedience; how people and the environment should be treated; the nature of relations among people (e.g., between women and men, different races and ethnicities, rich and poor countries, etc.); ways of responding to criticism and ideas that are not your own; ways of handling one’s own errors and those of others; and more, all the way up through how warfare is carried out. The contrast between the methods and goals of the neoliberals and those of us who seek an entirely different world is stark. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 326-7)