In a brilliant article title--the article itself ( http://www.opednews.com/articles/So-You-ve-Read-or-Read-Ab-by-Richard--RJ-Esko-Capital_Capitalism_Economic_Inequality-140427-592.html ) fell perversely short of its labeling--R. J. Eskow posed THE question we all should be asking. To quote that title, "So You've Read (or Read About) Picketty. Now What?"
When I read Eskow's title, I felt greenly envious; a faster-moving author had seized and plowed my desired fertile turf. See, I had taken a deeply discouraged hiatus from politics and political writing, and only the brouhaha created by Piketty's bombshell book--and the light it shed on recent news like the depraved McCutcheon decision--revived my fighting spirit. I figured nothing would suit my reenergized pen more than spelling out the activist implications of Piketty's tour de force. But the activist connotations of Eskow's own title hinted to me I'd soon be tipping my hat to a better-known writer who had rightfully staked prior claim to my coveted ground.
Imagine my relief, then, to find Eskow had simply sketched out some policy implications of Piketty's treatise on inequality and left the real, meaty grownup subject matter untouched. Say what? Yes, to merely draw out policy implications of Piketty's magnum opus on inequality--above all, in a U.S. context--is to deal in trivialities. Indeed, it virtually suggests one missed the highly explosive message of his work. Policy proposals imply one is seeking reforms from a functional, legitimate government. Whereas, for me, the high-megaton take-home message of Piketty's work for American activists is this: OUR GOVERNMENT IS ILLEGITIMATE. And if Piketty himself avoids saying so in so many French words, that at least is the lesson we should draw in applying Piketty to recent political developments. Like the McCutcheon decision.
See, if Eskow had decided to tackle the meaty implications of Piketty--and not pastry-puff matters like suggesting policies--he would have concluded that corrective policies are largely irrelevant. A far weightier analysis would have asked, with oligarchs holding such a lethal death grip over our society--and world--who is possibly going to implement corrective policies. Republicans? A rhetorical--or else, lunatic--question. Democrats? Sadly, a question almost as insane. Let me offer a personal anecdote that explains why.
Not too long ago, I was deeply impressed by a suggestion by the OpEdNews author who sails under the alias of The Pen. Given the uphill struggle Democrats face in this fall's election, why not deal a trump card Republicans can't possibly counter? In other words, why not make a Constitutional amendment overturning the psychopathic, deeply unpopular Citizens United (and now McCutcheon) decision the avowed mission of the Democratic Party? This would generate some of the same outside-the-box excitement spurred by electing a first black U.S. president; it would be infinitely sexier than the "lesser of two evils" meme that's really, ultimately, all today's donkey-brains have to offer. What a killer idea! Republicans couldn't possibly counter, since serving the plutocrats who benefit lavishly from Citizens United and McCutcheon is the entire raison d'être of today's Republican Party. Why not, indeed?
Initially, I was rendered bereft of reason by the "killer"--specifically, Republican killer--nature of the idea. But reflections on how to implement it soon brought me back to sanity. After all, wouldn't such a simple, unanswerable idea have occurred to paid Democratic Party strategists? I believe that the answer is yes--with one proviso. See, part of what these brilliant strategy mavens are paid for is to design strategies within certain parameters--like, for example, not offending Democrats' own oligarch patrons, say, the ones financing Hillary Clinton. So, if such a winning strategy idea occurred to D.P. strategists--it had to, or else they should be fired--it was rejected for failing to meet design parameters. Like not offending Democrats' controlling oligarchs.
OK, but where's the "personal anecdote" I spoke of? I'm now ready to give it, but it first needed framing: a contrasting backdrop that highlights and amplifies its sinister, depressing meaning. See, no anecdote could offer starker contrast to the scintillating frame of Democrats saddling up and boldly riding the victory steed of fiery opposition to Citizens United than the paralytic, glue-factory-worthy donation request I received from Georgia Democrat and U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn. For all the awareness of Piketty and his explosive implications Nunn's campaign showed, he should have spared us his mountainous statistics and Gallic wit and gorged himself to death on cognac and brie.
Not that the Nunn campaign was unaware of Citizens United or McCutcheon--bien au contraire, mes amis! In fact, the McCutcheon decision was precisely the premise of their funding appeal. But in a world whose political foundations Piketty had just shaken, it's impossible to imagine a more breathtakingly gauche appeal to McCutcheon than Nunn's . Whereas, with Piketty in the taillights, it should have been Rive Gauche--blood-stirringly radical.
Now granted, this is Georgia, where the Democrat establishment's sniveling fears that the blue team's electoral chances depend on self-branding as Republican Lite are exaggerated to the point of self-caricature. But given Internet cookies, universal government-corporate spying, zip-code marketing, and the plethora of other tools available for knowing one's audience, one would think the Nunn campaign might take into account that their potential electorate might include that rare, near-extinct species known as progressives. And also, given how insanely right-wing our political system has become--especially on economic issues--that this deeply endangered but hardy species might be ready to make a comeback.
Now, a little bit of research and reflection might have informed the Nunn campaign that progressive birds like me--having not yet gone the way of the dodo--do not view Citizens United and McCutcheon chiefly as obstacles to electing Democrats. In fact, for birds of our species, electing Democrats is only a secondary or derived interest--a corollary of a corrupt, rigged two-party system where it's impossible to elect, say, Greens. But our deep, abiding interest--our only interest, really--is to elect progressives. That is, those who share our peculiar, bird's-eye view of Citizens United and McCutcheon-- not as obstacles to electing Democrats, but as political abominations, acts of oligarch-corrupted Supreme Court treachery that enable crimes against humanity, like outright climate destruction. We're interested not in surmounting electoral obstacles for Democrats, but in storming the barricades humanity's oligarch oppressors cower behind. The proper way to package McCutcheon to us is not as a political hurdle for Democrats, but as the oligarch bastards' last straw.
If bastard is my chosen term of abuse here, that's based precisely and consciously on its original meaning of illegitimacy. What Piketty's mountainous economic evidence above all proves--and other high-powered academic studies, like the rigorous political science one by Ivy Leaguers Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, only corroborate--is that our current U.S. political system is illegitimate. In other words, that its claims to serve anybody but the very rich are all smoke-and-mirrors, pretense and propaganda. Given how well-documented that was before McCutcheon, how can that criminal decision be perceived as anything but the last straw? To package it to real progressives as a mere obstacle to electing Democrats is a slap in the face, virtually a challenge to a duel. Mon Dieu!
All of which proves to me that today's Democrats are largely a party of bastards-- as politically illegitimate as the government they co-run and the oligarch donors they dare not offend. And my chief point is that one can't serve bastards--in the word's other sense of "heartless creeps"--without to some extent becoming one. No one today condones "the decent, rank-and-file Nazis" who enabled Hitler. Many of Democrats' oligarch donors have strong vested interests in war, pollution, or spying, and their fossil-fuel donors even in human extinction. So evil-minded are today's worst fossil-fuel oligarchs that I consider the Koch brothers--cold-blooded conspirators to humanicide--fit subjects for the guillotine. Innocent neutrality in the class war is no longer possible, not if humanity is to live free or survive. Democrats must decide NOW whether they've taken the side of the bastards.