How does one fight in an Internet-infested, money-dominated political system?
The old politics is dead. Citizens United granted unlimited, anonymous political bribery to the transnational billionaire class. The legacy media has been conglomerated down to six companies, while the platform media companies (Google, Facebook, Twitter) have instituted censorship and banning. Sock puppets, trolls, doxers, and other slime have demolished the promise of honest intellectual internet debate.
But even all that has not stopped the growing discontent with the neoliberal world order and the neocon Yinon Plan wars. It didn't prevent Occupy Wall St. It couldn't completely stamp out Bernie Sanders' domestic message. It was totally blindsided by Trump's election. Still, it has pretty much kept the left away from power, albeit at the cost of letting Trump (and his corrupt, warmongering neocon/Israeli allies) have control of the executive branch.
This discontent with TPTB isn't only a US problem. Its a problem across Europe, as the recent Slovakian and Ukrainian elections have demonstrated. Here is an observer, other than myself, musing on this problem at the philosophical level:
The structures of politics have become so rigid, so distant, and ultimately so irrelevant to those who vote for them that a trend through countries can now be confirmed. Brittleness has set it. The party and election strategists have few answers, they, who saw the voter as yet another subject, another follower, another convert of a faith. The churches and their following have been turned into secular sceptics and the disenchanted. The non-politician who, nonetheless practices a craft of politics (we are all Aristotle’s creatures), has become a burning disruption.
Well aware of the discontent and cynicism about politicians, TPTB have tried to redefine progressive/liberal by overwhelming the political system with a phony media narrative of who is a liberal. We have long time corporatists now branding themselves as progressive: Corey Booker(Wall St. ass kisser, charter school champion), Que Mala Harris (black law and order). We have a slew of CIA Dems. Beyond such dubious rebranding, the latest tactic to smother honest debate is the profusion of slick neoliberal Dems (Beto, "Pete", Andrew Yang) with "millennial appeal".
Life in a post politics world
We don't have politics; we have the simulacra of politics - Kabuki politics. TPTB have the entire game wired. They control the media; they control the party apparatus; they manufacture candidates by the score. The Congressional races have long since been gerrymandered into "rotten boroughs", except for a few purple districts that preserve the illusion that we have political races.
That leaves only presidential politics, which has turned into a two year long media circus that only those with deep pockets have the stamina to survive. In 2016, TPTB blatantly cheated Bernie out of the nomination, flagrantly used the DNC as a partisan weapon. That got on some radars, so the corpo-dems have now resorted to the "zone flooding" tactic, using zombie Obama's, both black and white, to push the convention into a second ballot where superdelegates will regain their power.
After politics, there are still issues
Given all the above, it is my contention that playing inside the duopoly is a guaranteed to lose proposition. If it is futile to play inside the system, then we obviously need to go outside it. In some ways, Trump is in the WH because he went around the system.
To make any progress, the left has to completely avoid horse race politics and celebrity/savior candidates. The left has to reintroduce issues - issues that cut across party lines. Issues that are bigger than any one candidate. Above all, the left needs to be organized outside the hostile party apparatus.
To be organized, we need an issue. Polls tell us that there are majorities for things that progressives want, such as a reduction in the US military footprint, such as infrastructure spending, such as Medicare for All.
Fiinancialization is the best issue
I think there is one issue that covers a multitude of sins: financialization.
Financialization includes banks, stock buybacks, high frequency trading, asset bubbles, the 2009 bailout sans prosecutions or breakups, debt forgiveness (like OWS buying medical debt), payday loans, credit card interest rates, odious debt, debt caps, bank fees, and the general feeling that we are all being robbed by the financial industry.
Today's financial environment is a deregulated Frankenstein monster that mocks the entire 20th century attempt to prevent the super-rich from looting the rest of us. Just as Trump wants MAGA, the left wants to put the world of finance back into a cage. If the left positions itself correctly, it will have the stance of conserving the legendary America that Trump is invoking.
The key is to appear as a conservative, not a radical. You accuse the existing status quo as being the beneficiaries of the radicals who have distorted the original Fair Plan that you’re trying to restore.
Financialization is an issue that can get even rightwing troglodytes on the same side of the fence as leftists. It is not burdened with the history of labor unions and workers' rights, or with Identity Politics. Its just about money. Everyone has feelings about money.
Everyone who isn't a banker hates the banks. They hate the games banks play with fees. They hate the loan shark level credit card interest rates - even though many do not appreciate how truly extortionate they are. They would be happy to see some of the bankster crooks of 2008 swinging from lampposts. They would love some clawbacks from the arrogant bastards at Goldman Sachs.
So, the left should adopt an anti-financialization program. As fast as I could type, I came up with a thirteen laws I would fight for with this program:
- Ban stock buybacks, return to pre-1983 rules.
- Regulate derivatives.
- Reinstitute Glass Steagel separation between investment and commercial banking.
- Ban HIgh Frequency Trading (HFT), and prosecute the crooks running this criminal "digital front-running" activity.
- Put a cap of 200% of the value purchased on the total payment to credit card companies.
- Tie credit card interest rates to within a few percent of the prime rate
- Let student loan holders declare bankruptcy.
- Rewrite student loans to the prime rate, not 7-9%.
- Forgive odious (clearly unrepayable) medical debt and collection thereof.(e.g., $30k for a broken arm. $1,000 for a few stitches.)
- Ban payday loans. Prosecute them as loan sharks.
- Make banks take haircuts on bad loans, instead of supporting them with ZIRP.
- Stop Quantitative Easing (QE). Stop printing money that the banks use to buy up real assets and inflate the stock market.
- Introduce public banks! Stop letting private banks collect the interest on government loans and refuse to loan to local businesses and governments.
There is nothing in this list that could not be a party-independent program.
I am much more energized by the thirteen items in this list than I am by all the tedious, IdPol crapola that passes for politics in the Democratic Party. I think this program has a much better chance of attracting voters than the toxic corporatist garbage being pushed by the DNC. I don't need Bernie or Tulsi or AOC to undertake this program. I can challenge Trump's BS about MAGA with this issue.
Is anyone aware of any organization that is already adopting this tactic?