Neoliberalism is the slick salesman of fascism

If you listen to media pundits and politicians you would think that the emergence of proto-fascist forces arose in some working-class vacuum, amongst people who are infected with bigotry. Unlike their rulers.
The fault lies with unenlightened, uneducated voters who wouldn't listen to the ruling elites, thus exposing the flaws of democracy.
It's a handy, self-justifying, easy-to-understand narrative that just happens to expose class bigotry while ignoring nearly all of the important factors involved.

For example, consider the decline of the center-left and the rise of the hard-right in Sweden.

In order to survive under neoliberal hegemony, Swedish and European social democracy have moved towards the political centre under the banner of supposedly post-conflict Third Way politics. This is actually an adoption of neoliberal ideology, justifying market liberalisation, privatisation and welfare degradation as the only alternative. Over time, the move has effectively narrowed the political field and resulted in rising inequality. Today, Sweden shows the largest growth in inequality among OECD-countries.

As mainstream parties have started to look more and more the same, right-wing populists have managed to use ethnocentric xenophobia, welfare chauvinism and contempt of elites to attract those disenchanted by consensus politics.

Centrist neoliberals use social identities like race and gender in order to make themselves appear different from the hard-right. They also use these identities to avoid talking about economics and equality, because race and gender issues usually don't cost the ruling elites money and power.
As wealth inequality becomes a crisis in the U.S., politicians and the media increasingly focus on race and gender issues. It's not a coincidence. Their "solutions" to race and gender problems appears to be more race and gender diversity in corporate boards and Congress. "Diversity" never involves class.
The idea that a wealthy black man or wealthy white woman will identify by their class first and foremost never gets mentioned.

Consider the horrific example of Jair Bolsonaro’s victory in Brazil’s presidential election.

Bolsonaro, like Trump, is not a disruption of the current neoliberal order; he is an intensification or escalation of its worst impulses. He is its logical conclusion.

The plutocrats who run our societies need figureheads, behind whom they can conceal their unaccountable power...A smooth-tongued Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton were the favoured salespeople, especially in an age when the elites had persuaded us of a self-serving argument: that ghetto-like identities based on colour or gender mattered far more than class. It was divide-and-rule dressed up as empowerment.

Despite their professed concern, the plutocrats and their media spokespeople much prefer a far-right populist like Trump or Bolsonaro to a populist leader of the genuine left. They prefer the social divisions fuelled by neo-fascists like Bolsonaro, divisions that protect their wealth and privilege, over the unifying message of a socialist who wants to curtail class privilege, the real basis of the elite’s power.

It's not a coincidence that capitalist free market heroes like Hayek, Friedman, von Mises, were also fond of fascist dictators like Pinochet and Franco. When push comes to shove, a neoliberal capitalist will toss aside democracy and freedom for brutal and bloody oppression of the teaming masses in order to defend class privilege, and they won't think twice.
All of their pretty words praising liberty is empty rhetoric, because their definition of "liberty" depends on the supremacy of money.

The ultimate example of how neoliberal policies leads to fascism is Nazi Germany.


The economic measure that rose with Hitler's prospects wasn't the CPI, but 30% unemployment and economic depression.

  The Nazis only won 32 Reichstag seats in the election of May 1924, and just 12 in 1928. Five years after the hyperinflation the Nazis were a political party without a future.

  They were circling the drain of history, polling at less than 3%. They were an afterthought.

 So what happened?

Germany embraced a conservative economic policy of austerity through the finance expert Heinrich Brüning.

   Brüning's austerity policies were repeatedly opposed and defeated in parliament by the socialists and communists (an event that was considered a "failure of parliament" by conservatives), which led to pushing the austerity measures through by presidential decrees (Brüning called it "authoritative democracy").

  These austerity measures included:

* rolling back salaries to 1927 levels

* hiking interest rates

* dramatically increasing taxes on labor

* gutting unemployment and pension benefits

 Most German capitalists and landowners originally supported the conservative experiment more from the belief that conservatives would best serve their interests rather than any particular liking for Brüning. As more of the working and middle classes turned against Brüning, however, more of the capitalists and landowners declared themselves in favour of his opponents Hitler and Hugenberg. By late 1931, the conservative movement was dead and Hindenburg and the Reichswehr had begun to contemplate dropping Brüning in favour of accommodating Hugenberg and Hitler.

      What happened was center-right and center-left parties backed austerity measures that crushed the life out of the middle class. The Social Democrats in particular undermined their own supporters.

   When workers turned to any extremist party who could stop them, one that also hated communists and socialists, the conservatives jumped on board.

Neoliberalism is not fascism. It just eventually leads to fascism by destroying democracy. The process has been happening in America for generations.

A public reaction set in as the regime proposed to make radical cuts in Social Security and Medicare to make up the shortfall. But those plans failed. After that failure, Buchanan concluded, consonant with advice by Milton Friedman, that such entrenched programs could only be weakened and dismantled through disinformation campaigns. Democracy had to be squeezed. Why? The majority of “takers” will never accept open plans to curtail their benefits to reduce taxes on a minority of “producers”. The takers, let's call them for starters workers, the poor and the elderly, don’t even believe in “liberty”--meaning above all the freedom of entrepreneurs to roam freely in the market. So, you must pretend you are trying to save the very system you seek to unravel. Talk incessantly about its “crisis”. Divide its supporters into older, retired members, who will retain benefits, and younger ones who will have them cut. Celebrate the virtues of private retirement accounts. Propose to have the wealthy be removed from the system, doing all these things until general support for the social security system weakens and you are free to enact the next steps—steps not to be publicized in advance. Once you finally eliminate the system, people’s general confidence in the state will wane more.

Of course fascism is on the rise, when so much work has been done to undermine democratic institutions. It's simply a logical conclusion. Voter suppression programs, neoliberal court appointees, anti-labor laws, solidarity is a dirty word.
It wasn't a true conspiracy by the ruling elite that has destroyed our democratic institutions and gotten us to the brink of fascism, but you could be forgiven for believing it was a conspiracy since it has all of the elements.

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Mark from Queens's picture

Such an important and salient truth that needs to be repeated over and over.

Which is, the unresponsiveness of liberal governments to address income inequality and instead shred the social safety net (translates basically to socialism for the banks, capitalism for the middle class) lays the groundwork for strong-armed, authoritarian dictators to fill the void by preying on the insecurities of the the vulnerable with nationalism, xenophobia and lip service promises to make their lives great again.

Sorry to hit and run, folks.

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"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
WAS MUSIC"

- Kurt Vonnegut

@Mark from Queens Will check out the video tomorrow.
Must. Sleep.

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scum.jpg

link

The old, all so familiar, Hayek story of how socialism and social democracy are always on the “road to serfdom” is a fairy tale that has not in fact occurred. The transition, however, from neoliberalism to virulent fascist movements has occurred before and could do so again.
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The Liberal Moonbat's picture

And all this brain-melting NewTruth I've been seeing since circa 2014 that DIRECTLY contradicted the consensus I'd seen before?

I'd heard the term "political correctness" off and on my whole life - but I'd never understood it, let alone the hate.

Now I do. I guarantee you it has singlehandedly resurrected the legitimacy of a right-wing that had previously been dead to the hearts of countless young Americans. I TOTALLY get the South Park guys now.

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“The enemy wasn't men, or women, or the old, or even the dead. It was just bleedin' stupid people, who came in all varieties. And no one had the right to be stupid.”

― Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment

Pluto's Republic's picture

@The Liberal Moonbat

...language — written and spoken. And nothing more. It is a reflection upon the person doing the writing or the organization doing the publishing.

A bigot can be politically correct. A naive liberal can be politically incorrect.

Political correctness is appliance that acts as a filter to maintain speech that is inoffensive to a large and diverse audience. It is the customary language of polite society.

Anyone can use or misuse politically correct language. Such language neither reveals nor confirms the mindset or motives of the speaker.

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Wink's picture

It may be "polite speak,"
@Pluto's Republic
but it's often dishonest, effectively watering
down the language to the point of meaninglessness.
To the point of labeling people cis for christsakes.
Do we really need cis? Really?

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-1.9) All about building progressive media.

@Wink @Wink
misused words on a regular basis.
But since people began personally identifying with their "political team" they've internalized the bullsh*t.

So now when someone says "elites" or "freedom" or "diversity" or "socialism" you have to get them to define the words for you because chances are those words are code words, and you are thinking they mean something else.
In a vast majority of the cases, those code words have nothing to do with the dictionary meanings.
It almost reminds me of the biblical story of the Tower of Babel.

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Wink's picture

nice," "being polite."
@gjohnsit
"black" becomes "African American,"
"pro abortion" becomes "pro choice," "gay" becomes "LGBTQxyz."
Eventually nobody has a clue what's what becuz it's nearly impossible to keep up with the latest p.c. babble. And, lest we {gasp} offend someone we better keep up with the latest p.c. babble!
When I first heard "cis" over on ToP I had to go to Google after asking myself "wtf is cis??" to look up the word on Urban Dictionary ('cuz I knew Webster wouldn't have it). And, seriously, when p.c. gets to cis... well it's lost me. Becuz it seems p.c. is more about micro defining the language down to the DNA. And, I'm fine with the skin and bones. When we have to drag out a microscope to figure out what somebody's talking about in our mother tongue... well... we may have taken it a step too far. p.c. is b.s.

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-1.9) All about building progressive media.

@Wink

When I first heard "cis" over on ToP I had to go to Google after asking myself "wtf is cis??" to look up the word on Urban Dictionary ('cuz I knew Webster wouldn't have it).

Hah! LOL. Me too.

Eventually nobody has a clue what's what becuz it's nearly impossible to keep up with the latest p.c. babble. And, lest we {gasp} offend someone we better keep up with the latest p.c. babble!

If only it was that simple.
It's the outright redefining of words that does the damage.

Besides "elite", the right-wing has very specific definitions for "freedom/liberty", "religion", and "patriotism", that you wouldn't recognize.

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QMS's picture

@gjohnsit
what does cis mean?

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Listen to your higher mind.

@QMS
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisgender

But then I don't have to understand it. I only have to respect it.

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Wink's picture

Near as I could fathom,
@QMS
although I suspect it's something even more micro-defined, cis apparently refers to someone that identifies with themselves as the sex (gender) and sexuality they are born as.
That is, if you were born male, and at puberty (or before) identified as heterosexual, you would be considered "cis male straight" (or some such) in the LGBTQ community. But, I believe it's even more complicated than that.

The lesbian twins duo, Tegan & Sara, claim "I knew I was lesbian at 6 y.o." Now, I don't know how a 6 y.o. even knows about sexuality at 6, but apparently Tegan knew she was lesbian at that young age, despite having a crush on that boy band, "New Kids... " from the late '80s. cis just an example of how language can be broken down to its DNA, yet add very little to those of us that speak it.

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-1.9) All about building progressive media.

Pluto's Republic's picture

@Wink

I'm just calling it phony and artificial in a politically correct way.

And gj makes a good point about the definition of words. Politically correct language creates code words with special meanings.

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The Liberal Moonbat's picture

@Pluto's Republic Not so long ago, that was a trademark Republikkkan vice. Now...it feels like the GOP/Fox News mentality is the norm - and NOT because of Trump.

I seem to recall a good article from post-primary, pre-general 2016 that specifically said "the Democrats have become the Republicans", and "facts don't matter anymore" and similar Berniecrat statements that I sympathized with the gist of but thought, at the time, to be exaggeration because The Wave hadn't quite hit me yet.

Anyways, I thought it was on Salon, but I've since been unable to find it, despite favoriting it. I must've forgotten the title; anyone know what I'm talking about? I'd like to see it again. It's only gotten righter with time.

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“The enemy wasn't men, or women, or the old, or even the dead. It was just bleedin' stupid people, who came in all varieties. And no one had the right to be stupid.”

― Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment

@Pluto's Republic
Everyone hates "the elites", but when I think of the elites, I think of "the ruling elite".
The people who buy the politicians and write the laws, that close factories and move them overseas.
That's the way the term is used historically.

But for Republicans, "the elites" are an attitude.

Brian Williams picked up on this blurriness when he interviewed John McCain and Sarah Palin together on NBC in 2008 and posed a brilliantly simple question. “Who,” he asked the Republican running mates, “is a member of the elite?”

Palin responded first. “I guess just people who think that they’re better than everyone else,” she said.

McCain then elaborated. “I know where a lot of them live—in our nation’s capital and New York City—the ones [Palin] never went to a cocktail party with in Georgetown—who think that they can dictate what they believe to America rather than let Americans decide for themselves.”

Thus did the son and grandson of admirals, a millionaire who couldn’t remember how many houses he owned, accuse his mixed-race opponent, raised by a single-mother and only a few years past paying off his student loans, of being the real elite candidate in the campaign.

Though they sound nearly identical, there’s a significant distinction between the Palin and the McCain definitions. Palin’s definition says elitists are those who think they’re better than other people—a category in which by Election Day, on the evidence of her autobiography, included many of the people working for her own campaign. Palin is raw with the disrespect she feels and takes offense at being condescended to by people who, she thinks, think they are better than she is. Her anti-elitism takes the part of all Americans who feel similarly snubbed, and not necessarily in the context of politics. This version is a synonym for social snobbery, with the wrinkle that it’s not based on family, ethnicity, or wealth, but rather on the status that in contemporary American society is largely conferred by academic institutions.

McCain, by contrast, defined elitism not as believing you are better than other people but believing that you know better than other people. This is Rand Paul’s point about liberals: “They think they can tell us what to do and that most Americans aren’t smart enough to take care of themselves,” he said in his recent rant against the lower-Manhattan mosque. (So much for libertarianism.) “And I think that’s a really arrogant approach to the American people.” It also seems to be what Newt Gingrich has in mind when he pops off about “government of the elites by the elites for the elites.” In the McCain-Paul-Gingrich usage, an elitist is someone who thinks the opinion of a minority should sometimes prevail over the opinion of a majority.

That's why Republicans hate college professors, but think billionaires are wonderful.

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Pluto's Republic's picture

...that makes them repeat the same mistake of greed and authoritarianism again and not remember the disastrous results. Neoliberals and Neocons are associated in my mind, at least, with the modern history of Germany.

That might explain America's desire to impose severe ausgterity upon its citizens and deny them the human rights of affordable housing and food for the sake of wealth for the plutocrats. Germans have been the predominant ancestry in the US from the beginning.

2015 Census.jpeg

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Wink's picture

on his radio show, I Know he's not talking about mine.
Or yours. Or anyone of the 99%.

'Freedom' and 'Liberty' belong to the 1%.
Being able to do any damn thing they please, the 99% be damned.
The 99% in the way of their Freedom and Liberty.
The Gov't in their way.
Both be cursed!!

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-1.9) All about building progressive media.

@Wink
they tend to mention "property rights" first.

Well, what if someone doesn't have property?

When they talk about democracy, they say its like "two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner".
There's just one little problem with that clever anecdote: it's never happened in history.

Just like Hayek's story of how socialism and social democracy are always on the “road to serfdom”. It's never happened.

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Wink's picture

a RW conspiracy of gigantic proportions,
drawn up by Birchers before the ink used to write the New Deal was even dry.
And the recent election barely slows it down,
but slow it down it does, enough to catch our breath.

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-1.9) All about building progressive media.

both have a comprehensive world view

a new idea for me is ENTRAPMENT in this interview about a book by Adam Kotsko

Adam Kotsko: The Political Theology of Neoliberalism

In political theological terms, you emphasise how neoliberalism ‘demonizes’ us, or blames individuals and populations for social problems. What is unique about the neoliberal form of demonization? How important is this concept to the neoliberal moral order?

AK: In the research for my previous book, The Prince of This World, I came up with my own particular definition of demonization, based on my understanding of the theological tradition. We are all familiar with the idea of ‘demonizing’ someone in the sense of casting them as evil, etc. What I add to that is an element of entrapment. That is to say, in my study of the theological sources, it seemed to me that God passive-aggressively creates demons by putting them in a situation where he knows they will rebel against them, then blaming them for it. The key here is the element of choice – even though their choices were artificially constrained, they did choose to do what they did, and hence they are morally responsible for it.

I see this kind of entrapment everywhere in the neoliberal order. In my own field of academia, I think of how we tell students that college is the only path to a liveable life, leading them to ‘freely choose’ to take on impossible debt loads that they can never escape. We recognize that an injustice has happened here, but a lot of people find it hard to resist saying, essentially, ‘Well, you should have thought of that before you took out the loans….’ They chose it, therefore they should bear the consequences.

And that is one of the least sinister cases – for instance, think about how blacks are entrapped into criminality and then punished disproportionately. Again, we recognize an injustice, but in the mainstream discourse the instinctive reaction is: ‘Well, they had a choice.’ Under neoliberalism, our free choice doesn’t exist to give us room for creativity and exploration – we can seemingly only ever choose wrongly. Free will is a means to generate blameworthiness, to tell us that we deserve what we get.

Familiar with terms like "cycle of poverty" but this blaming the victim is built into the ideology

With both factions working for corporations there are slim margins in elections so one only has to cheat enough to win. This election even the democratic party is noticing.

You explain that democracy is an essential part of neoliberalism, as, ‘on the deepest level, neoliberalism relies on consent for its legitimacy’. At the same time, neoliberal systems tend to demand technocratic expertise, which is at risk of disruption when exposed to the whims of the people. To what extent is democracy a weakness of neoliberalism?

AK: The neoliberal approach to democracy fits with the general strategy of entrapment: they give us just enough democracy to be able to say that we chose neoliberalism, but not enough to actually overturn it. If you look back over the neoliberal era, only Reagan commanded really strong majorities – which made sense, because he was trying to change the previous system to a neoliberal one. Once neoliberalism was firmly established, however, we saw the emergence of very narrow election results, with both parties presenting fundamentally similar programs. Obama is the only U.S. president since Bush Sr. to get more than 51% of the popular vote – a result that was pretty mediocre in previous eras.

There’s a reason we’ve had two Electoral College flukes in as many decades after a century with none, and it’s because the neoliberal strategy is intentionally to ‘eke out’ a narrow victory in order to avoid having a strong mandate for change. And under our system, very close elections can sometimes go to the loser rather than the winner – a result for which the ‘people’ are still blamed in mainstream discourse.

In terms of technocratic rule, I think it’s telling that the only alternative that has been allowed to arise is precisely the buffoonish brutality of Trump. If the people must be given a real choice between two options, it must be a forced choice – a choice between having a government and having a total shitshow. Yes, the American people chose the competent choice, though not enthusiastically enough for it to matter. And now many centrist liberals are more or less openly fantasizing about a coup, or some other outcome where the unelected bureaucrats somehow ‘take down’ Trump. When push comes to shove, neoliberals are willing to ditch democracy – but in this case, push came to shove in a way that they didn’t expect, so they were caught off guard.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@DonMidwest This is exactly what I often find myself arguing about on this site. Many people here want to blame "the people" for where we are, when, in fact, "the people" haven't had the power to make a meaningful political choice for twenty-five years. After the Clintons had control of the Democratic party and the Bushes and Newt Gingrich had control of the Republican party, it was all over. There is no meaningful choice to be made under those circumstances. And in fact, it was very difficult for "the people" to make a meaningful political choice from 1988-1994. Dukakis vs Bush was an early iteration of the same politics we faced in 1994 and still face today--sometime take a look at why the League of Women Voters stopped hosting the presidential debates. It was because they wouldn't lend their name to bipartisan corruption.

The last time "the people" made a meaningful political choice, I was twelve years old. They chose Reagan. That was a bad choice, a very bad choice. It's easy to walk into a prison--or an asylum--but it's hard to walk out. For similar reasons, once they chose Reagan, it was quite difficult to extricate themselves from the politics that had been built around them like prison walls. I still think that between 1984 and 1994 there was a chance, if enough people had been awake and motivated enough, to defeat this monstrosity. By 1994, there was no electoral way out. Nevertheless, the people tried, repeatedly. They followed Howard Dean. They followed Paul Wellstone. They followed Barack Obama. They followed Bernie Sanders. In other words, they followed two guys who were intimidated into obedience, one guy who was a Manchurian candidate working to advance the politics the people wanted to change, and one guy who was a real mensch and had to be murdered. None of these efforts availed them.

It's easier to walk into a trap than out of one.

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Keep pushing the door open. Light the corners till the melt.
--Magiamma

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal This means, by the way, that if you're under 43, you've never had the chance to make a meaningful electoral decision at any level other than the local. That's why, in general, I don't blame people under 45 for much.

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Keep pushing the door open. Light the corners till the melt.
--Magiamma

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

travelerxxx's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

... I don't blame people under 45 for much.

Neither do I blame them - much. However, I don't necessarily blame those older. The entire population has been subject to concentrated, highly scientific, focused propaganda for a long time. Few have the knowledge to combat it and clearly see through the fog of lies and manipulations.

Highly paid, Ivy League-trained professionals - the employees of hundreds of Think Tanks - crank out The Narrative all day, every day. Every bit of it is what their employers want to be disseminated to the American people. And their employers are that tiniest fraction of the population who just happen to own the USA.

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Wink's picture

@travelerxxx

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-1.9) All about building progressive media.

Wink's picture

The problem is,
@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal
that leaves the over 45 crowd, particularly the Boomers, to blame.
And the problem with that is it suggests Boomers had some way to stop the madness.

As much as we hated Reagan, we thought 1984 would correct 1980, that Americans would come to their senses and vote for {gasp} Mondale. Hell, we still believed "elections mattered" in 1984, becuz why wouldn't we? So, when Bubba finally - Finally - ended our 12 year nightmare of Repub rule, we thought that, finally, America would return to normal. That Bubba's gifts to Repubs - "Ending Welfare as we know it" - were just gifts to get better Dem stuff passed. Becuz, by the '90s we were in our 40s (like Bubba), and politics took a back seat to simply climbing the corporate ladder, "coming into our own," living the good life, and sending our older kids off to college. Politics?? Bubba's got it. Nothing to worry about.

And, it really wasn't until Algore's loss to an idiot that woke us from our slumber; here we were, again, facing off against the RW. But the transition from Carter to Reagan and an evil RW just didn't compute that we, on the ground, would have to get off our ass to fight it, becuz there still was a real Dem party to do that - do what they're s'posed to do. And by the time we Boomers figured it out that it really Was up to us, it was too late. Bush Jr. had been selected. Game essentially over. But none of us saw it coming. It was simply inconceivable that an American political party would be this evil, totally out to fuck the 99%. Inconceivable.

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-1.9) All about building progressive media.

are just the Neo Bourgeoisie staking out their turf and position in service to their 1% patrons, and they want our help to do it. Vote!!!

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

Interestingly, though, their disinformation campaigns on Social Security and Medicare--especially Social Security--have not worked. They've been trying for over 30 years.

The most powerful faction, possibly, in human history (if only due to their weapons tech)--and they keep losing a battle with a dead woman.

perkins.jpg

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Keep pushing the door open. Light the corners till the melt.
--Magiamma

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti