As Populism Surges among Democrats, the Ruling Classes Step Up Their Efforts to Maintain Ideological Dominance
THE 2020 PRIMARIES and caucuses for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president begin in less than two months, and the state of the campaigns, particularly the ongoing success of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, continue to vex the party leadership and the faction of the exploiting classes supporting it.
This surge in left populism among Democrats, on a scale not seen since the days of William Jennings Bryan at the end of the 19th century, has led to all kinds of efforts to cut this movement off at the knees: whisper campaigns, media falsifications, social media hatchet jobs, intra-party bureaucratic maneuvering, almost endless talking-head gossip.
The big bogeyman, according to the Democratic leaders and their Wall Street masters, is “socialism.” It it also Trump’s favorite specter. While each side uses it for their own ends, the convergence on this line of argument should give pause.
Nevertheless, large sections of the Democratic Party base continue to cast their lot (in lieu of their vote) with the populists — either the one who is using vague socialist phraseology (Sanders), or the one who is not (Warren) — forcing the exploiters to take stronger measures to maintain dominance.
Of course, the point of their stepped-up intervention is not to engage in a great “battle of ideas” with the populists, but to close down the thinking process entirely, to narrow down the differences in opinion and solution, and restore “normalcy.”
This is why the last six months have seen numerous Democratic “superstars,” up to and including former President Barack Obama, offer up warnings to the party about “crazy stuff” like extending Medicare to all, or that the “moderate” Democrats, independents and “moderate Republicans” [sic!] “are not driven by the same views that are reflected on certain, you know, left-leaning Twitter feeds … or the activist wing of our party.”
And if it’s not Obama, then it’s someone like liberal economist Joseph Stiglitz pleading with the Democratic base, saying “don’t go socialist,” because Trump might use that in the election (as if accusing Democrats of being socialists is something never done before by the Republicans).
Certainly, someone can look at all this and simply declare it to be part of the latest temper tantrum by Wall Street. And they would not necessarily be wrong. But there is something deeper, something more institutional to these attacks.
It was revealed to a large extent by one of Obama’s comments at the Democracy Alliance donor gathering in Washington, D.C., last month.
“This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement,” Obama told the crowd. “They like seeing things improved. But the average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.”
This world view, also expressed in the famous quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” is properly known as the ideology of Whigism.
Those of you who remember your U.S. (or British) history class from school may recall hearing about the Whigs. Your teachers were referring to the political parties, which is different than Whig ideology and historiography. Whigism as an ideology is the view that human history and society is made up of a long series of incremental improvements that come together into an inexorable march toward liberty, progress and enlightenment.
While the Whigs as a political movement in the U.S. only lasted about 24 years before shattering into several factions (some of which helped to form the new Republican Party in 1856), Whigism increasingly became a dominant bourgeois ideology, especially when there was a need to defend against other world views that could destabilize
the exploiters’ order. Indeed, Whigism in America was born out of the 1832 fight against the populism of Democratic President Andrew Jackson.
For nearly two centuries, Whigism has occupied a leading position in the ideologies motivating bourgeois politics and elections. That is, until now.
For the first time in 188 years, there is a real chance that neither of the candidates of the two major parties in the U.S. will carry forward the ideology of Whigism. To make matters worse, in the eyes of the ruling exploiters, both parties’ standard bearers could be avowed and unapologetic populists.
The lack of a viable candidate standing as the torchbearer of Whigism has pushed the exploiting class toward undertaking extreme measures. (Former Vice President Joe Biden is apparently looked upon as a “Mr. Magoo” candidate who is expected to crash any time.) Enter Michael Bloomberg.
The billionaire financial services and media magnate, and former mayor of New York City, has jumped into the race specifically to counter the two populists, as well as offer a more stable “moderate” option for the exploiters to support. Bloomberg’s $37 million ad buy at the end of November was one of the largest single purchases in electoral history, especially for a primary contest. It was aimed specifically at undermining the progress made by Sanders and Warren in promoting their platforms.
In fact, looking at the strategy Bloomberg is employing, it is clear that he is conducting a campaign to ensure that the party never again falls out of Wall Street’s hands. His focus on Super Tuesday is designed to collect enough delegates to deny any candidate a majority at the Democratic National Convention next July, giving him and his fellow exploiters a veto over who will be chosen.
In the end, there’s very little that Democratic primary voters can do about this situation. In a period where the Democrats’ only real slogans are, “Anybody But Trump,” and, “Vote Blue, No Matter Who,” the rise of a slightly-more coherent and colorless version of Trump to be the party’s standard-bearer should come as a surprise to no one.