"Bernie'd Kick Elephant Butt." "Except He Has No
In "THIS Changes Everything: Bernie as Dems' New
FDR," my OEN article
launching this series, I cited the huge, enduring electoral benefits Democrats
would reap by nominating Bernie Sanders as their 2016 standard
bearer--especially in terms of a frontal assault on the deeply unpopular Citizens United decision. Unsurprisingly, several
naysayers quickly assessed Bernie's chances of winning the Dems' 2016 presidential nomination at zero.
Given Hillary Clinton's huge advantage in name recognition, media coverage, and corporate funding, the naysayers seem right. Moreover, since exactly zero high-profile Democrats have expressed support for Sanders, and several have already endorsed Clinton (including rising progressive star Elizabeth Warren, apparently kowtowing before Clinton's dynastic claim to priority as the "first woman president"), the naysayers seem irrefutable. But given Sanders' (or Warren's) vastly greater credibility, compared to corporate gun moll Clinton's, in leading a populist crusade overturning Citizens United, the evident unwillingness of progressive Democrats to support Sanders--or even to advance a current Democrat less corporatist than Clinton--seems downright puzzling.
The Ultimate Electoral Puzzle: Why Dems Don't Trounce Repugs
I find that puzzle inextricably bound up with the ultimate electoral puzzle: why Democrats, despite the utter selfish greed and sheer lunacy of today's Republicans, don't simply mop the floor with them at the polls. When Democrats find embracing arguably winning candidates and issues not just impractical but literally unthinkable, something, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is clearly rotten in the state of "Demmark." Since that "something" poses the most formidable obstacle to Bernie's candidacy--perhaps our last, best hope for saving the planet from catastrophic climate change--it's the Democratic "mystery disease" I hope to diagnose in this essay.
In feeling the need for such an analysis, I don't mean to imply that other progressives, both intelligent and well-meaning, haven't already spilled much ink wondering aloud why Democrats don't simply trounce today's intellectually and morally repulsive Republicans. I also think there are two partial explanations for this result. One is based on voter-base distribution, the other on dirty Republican gerrymandering and vote-denial tricks. In terms of voter-base distribution, the Democrats' base tends to cluster in cities, where they form supermajorities. By contrast, the Republicans' base is widely distributed among many far smaller rural districts. This goes some way toward explaining why Republicans retain so much legislative presence, despite the Democrats' substantial absolute majority in the nation as a whole. And where Republicans dominate legislatures--above all in "red states"--they're clearly positioned to enact the sleazy gerrymandering and vote-denial laws I mentioned.
Nevertheless, given how wildly out of touch Republicans are with the popular will (even in red states)--as shown by polls on preserving Medicare or Social Security, taxing the superrich and corporate tax dodgers, or guaranteeing a livable wage--it seems obvious that the anomalies of voter distribution and "dirty tricks" don't sufficiently explain the failure of Democrats to simply trounce Republicans at the polls. It is at this point that Democratic journalists and public intellectuals, ranging from the likes of Thom Hartmann, Paul Krugman, or Robert Reich, to Andrew Schmookler and his "Press the Battle" series here at OpEdNews, usually cite a problem with Democrats' messaging--with its persistent lack of passion and clarity. Yes! But given how easily diagnosable and fixable a messaging problem is (and Democrats' evident self-interest in fixing it), a mere messaging problem also can't sufficiently explain why overwhelming public support for the policies of Democrats isn't reflected by substantial Democratic majorities in Congress. If a messaging problem were the principal cause, it would have been fixed years ago.
Democrats' "Elephant in the Room": Deep State Bullshit
I think we must probe deeper and attribute the compromised message to a deeply compromised messenger. That's precisely where my novel concept--"Deep State bullshit"--comes in.
Now, before exploring Deep State bullshit's enormous role in crippling--a better word is "castrating"--Democrats as messengers, I need to explain exactly what I'm claiming as my new concept. It is evidently not the "Deep State" itself. I, like virtually everyone else now using the term, cribbed it from Mike Lofgren's brilliant essay "Anatomy of the Deep State," first published by Bill Moyers.com. And Lofgren himself admits the term "Deep State" was first coined in Turkey. What I find so scintillating is his seizing a foreign term so strangely apt to our circumstances and applying it with incredible penetration--as only a longtime Deep State functionary, long since freed of its hothouse culture and lethal groupthink, possibly could. In a sense, Lofgren has done the Schwarzenegger share of my intellectual "heavy lifting." My only original contribution is to link Lofgren's Deep State to the concept--now even philosophically popular--of "bullshit." I hope to prove it's a fruitful contribution nonetheless.
Though I cite the current philosophical discussion of bullshit as a sign of our times--it's so prevalent even philosophers are analyzing it--I don't intend to adopt their special academic uses of the term. (For those interested, the Wikipedia entry "Bullshit" is a good start.) Rather, basing my own analysis on the longstanding popular meaning of "bullshit" as particularly egregious nonsense--"nonsense on stilts" (or steroids)--I intend to extend the popular meaning in a way that relates closely to the Deep State. So, for readers unacquainted with Lofgren's essay (which I strongly recommend), I'd better briefly explain what the Deep State is. Then, you'll be fully equipped to appreciate my "Deep State bullshit" concept.
In his essay's first paragraph, Lofgren contrasts our "visible government" in Washington with "a more shadowy, more indefinite government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol." Calling our traditional government that's "controllable by elections" the "tip of the iceberg," Lofgren speaks of "the subsurface part of the iceberg" as "the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power." Later in his essay, Lofgren writes, "Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose." And in identifying this "hybrid entity of public and private institutions," he refers to "the twin pillars of national security imperative and corporate hegemony."
In other words, the Deep State dictating national policy "from behind the curtain" consists of the military-industrial-surveillance complex and Wall Street and its government minions. Though Lofgren doesn't specifically name them, I think we can, in the interests of truth and greater completeness, include Big Gas & Oil, Big Pharma, industrial agriculture, and the Israel lobby as well. And the collaborating news media, concentrated in ever fewer oligarch hands, that--by self-censorship and outright propaganda--facilitate the Deep State. They operate like the temptress Lola of musical fame--"Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets"--and it hardly matters whether the Deep State Lola's mesmerized suitors wear a donkey or an elephant lapel pin.
Readers should by now have a pretty firm grasp of what Lofgren means by the Deep State, and you'll soon be positioned to understand how unquestioning servitude to the Deep State results in bipartisan--but especially Democrat--bullshit. But to "grok" how Deep State puppet mastery works in practice, I think readers can do no better than peruse a little, admittedly exaggerated, comic portrayal. Though OpEdNews writer Greg Maybury never mentions the Deep State by name, his article-opening sketch of "the new president's first day" (based on a skit by comedian Bill Hicks) forcefully evokes the idealism-crushing torque it must exert on Washington newbies of both parties. If we stretch the "initiation" period and imagine the threats to be subtler and less lethal, I think the compelling vignettes of Maybury and Hicks can give us a good sense of how the Deep State fraternity initiates its overmatched freshman pledges.
So, readers, now that you are in command of the Deep State concept, you can readily understand what I mean by "Deep State bullshit." I mean two related things, really: the insane, disastrous policies and policy talk that result from the readiness of both parties to dance to the Deep Staters' marionette strings; and, in the case of Democrat politicians, in particular, the public impression of self-censorship, cowardice, and insincerity stemming from the stark contrast between bandied progressive principles and actual allegiance to the Deep State.